Bibi shuts the gate behind the Sime Center buggy in which Ghan is driving a much relieved child home.
Bibi woke up after midnight when the boy came to the Sime Center terrified that he was in changeover. It turned out that driving a cultivator all day had made his forearms sore, sunburn had made him feel feverish, and anxiety was turning his stomach.
Bibi hopes that he'll come back if he ever thinks he's in changeover again. She did a pretty thorough job of persuading him.
Bibi breathes deeply of the warm spring air and enjoys the scent of the lilacs which are starting to bloom. She goes around to the back door of the Sime Center and zlins through the guest bedroom's open window that Seruffin is still awake.
Seruffin is leaning out the window, gazing up at the full moon. He's in a ~~ thoughtful ~~ mood as he contemplates the developments of the past few days.
Bibi sees Seruffin at the window and signals nagerically.
Seruffin looks down at the shadow in the garden, and his mood ~~ warms ~~
Bibi sighs in ~~ delight ~~ and waves to Seruffin, beckoning to him to join her.
Seruffin recalls that what with one thing and another, he hasn't had a chance for private conversation with Bibi since his arrival back at the Ford with Marvin, Eugen, and Fridda. He finds himself very much in the mood for private conversation with Bibi; there aren't all that many pretty young women who desire his company.
Seruffin briefly considers whether it is in Bibi's best interests to explore the possibility of something more than a collegial relationship, then decides that he spends far too much considering things, and that there will be time enough to bow out gracefully when Bibi tires of her infatuation.
Bibi's heart rate goes up at her boldness. She's finding it easier not to get overwhelmed by Seruffin's sec nager, but she's still embarrassed at how attracted she is to him, and not just to his field.
Seruffin waves back, then tiptoes past the sleeping Gerrhonot, makes his way down the stairs and emerges into the garden a moment later.
Bibi smiles. ~~ welcome ~~ warmth ~~ happiness ~~ a little nervousness and embarrassment ~~
Bibi: There's a bench over by the lilacs. I thought we might sit there and enjoy them?
Seruffin smiles back with ~~ genuine enjoyment ~~
Seruffin: I would love to sit with you for a while, Bibi.
Bibi leads the way, stopping briefly at the Sime herbs bed to pick a few fresh young leaves of foxglove and monkshood to nibble later. She sits on the bench and smiles at Seruffin.
Seruffin sits down beside her, and leans back, sniffing deeply.
Seruffin: I've always loved lilacs.
Bibi is ~~ happy ~~ she's found something that pleases Seruffin. ~~ affection ~~
Seruffin: I've often thought that a lot of diplomatic problems could be resolved easily, if you just got both sides to sit down and relax in a garden, and talk things out. It's not that simple, of course...but I can't shake the delusion that it ought to be!
Bibi: Thank you for rescuing Marvin from Gumgeeville.
Seruffin: You're welcome, although I've probably left the worst of the consequences for you to deal with!
Bibi: Poor Marvin. He meant so well. Everything he did seemed like the right thing at the time. He thought he could do a reverse shunt. Fridda was augmenting in those convulsions and he didn't think she could survive to get here.
Seruffin: I know. It must have been unbearable, to finally have the chance to act as a channel, and be facing a probable fatality.
Bibi: After the disaster of his own changeover....
Bibi sighs. ~~ sadness ~~ empathy ~~
Seruffin: Yes. He identified much too closely with Fridda to allow her to die, when there was the slightest chance of saving her.
Seruffin: He was never taught how to take donations. How could he have understood the risk he was taking with Sanda? We spend so much time and energy convincing Gens that donations are simple and routine... it's necessary for political reasons, but unrealistic for a channel to depend on it.
Seruffin remembers his own recent problem donation with Ma Mullins only too clearly.
Bibi: I hope I haven't given him a false impression, telling him about my experiences here, but I think Marvin more than anyone knows what Gen panic can do to a Sime.
Bibi: I wonder... if Mik's a channel... he and Bart are third cousins... could Sanda have some Donor talent?
Seruffin considers that carefully.
Seruffin: It's possible, I suppose. In fact, given how inbred Gumgeeville is, it's likely that quite a few Gens have the right genetics.
Bibi: Like that town in Heartland. Once they put a Sime Center in, they got seven QN-3s from the first hundred changeovers.
Seruffin: I've only zlinned her high-field once, and that was through retainers.
Bibi: You examined her after she donated. Was she at all nervous about touching you?
Seruffin: No, she was far too busy being a misunderstood romantic heroine. Her mother's nager didn't respond to mine at all. You've zlinned the father, I believe?
Bibi: Oh, yes. I wonder... he has this sort of... hmmm....
Seruffin raises an inquiring eyebrow.
Bibi attempts to emulate Gegg's nager ~~ fascination ~~ revulsion ~~ fear ~~ attraction ~~ suspicion ~~ dread ~~
Bibi: I'm probably not doing it very well.
Seruffin: Quite a muddle.
Seruffin rubs his chin thoughtfully.
Seruffin: It could be the remnants of what might have been a Donor's sensitivity, in his youth. But twisted and perverted by the society he's lived in.
Bibi: Yes, I think that may be the case. And he has this theory that Simes can somehow magically attract Gens, so perhaps he still feels something subliminally, and assumes other people do too.
Seruffin looks at Bibi with ~~ concern ~~
Seruffin: What's that? A theory of attraction?
Bibi: Yes, Jed Mullins told me about it when we were trying to figure out how to get Mik here. Apparently Gegg thinks you did something magical to lure Jed and Bart and Virla to donate, some weird seduction into your tentacles, no matter how many times Jed told him they all had straightforward practical reasons.
Seruffin buries his face in his hands.
Seruffin: Bibi, I believe I've blundered badly.
Bibi strokes his back. ~~ sympathy ~~
Bibi: It can't be too bad. We've discovered Bart, we'll likely save Mik...
Seruffin: Yes, but...Bibi, I told you that Toria Gegg said that she'd bring Mik here to stay until his future was decided, one way or the other.
Bibi: Yes. I'm so glad.
Seruffin: What I didn't mention, because I didn't think it would be a problem, was that she is determined that she, and her husband, will donate to pay Mik's keep.
Bibi: Oh, dear. Well, I can refuse Gegg's if I think it's too difficult. I've lined up several farmers who will be glad to have Mik work for room and board and a bit of spending money. It's a very busy time of year for them.
Bibi strokes Seruffin's back again.
Bibi: Don't worry. I've got several ways of turning Gens down without harming their egos.
Bibi has a selection of comforting analogies, like the one about people who are natural musicians, others who can learn to sing, and the few who can't carry a tune in a bucket no matter how hard they try.
Seruffin: I know, but it's such a waste. From what I've zlinned, he could really use some therapy. I don't suppose there's any chance of talking him into that, though.
Seruffin gently catches Bibi's stroking hand and twines two handling tentacles around it.
Bibi: I'm willing to try taking his donation. I've managed some difficult cases, but they all really wanted to overcome their difficulties. If he feels forced into it...
Bibi twines her own tentacles around Seruffin's hand with ~~ pleasure ~~.
Seruffin: Yes. It's one thing if it's just his wife. I suspect he's quite used to taking orders from her, and from what I saw, they're usually sensible. It's quite another thing if you're right, and he's got just enough of a Donor's sensitivity to feel drawn in against his will. With his background, he wouldn't have the faintest idea what's happening to him.
Bibi: If I were one of those old Sectuibs, I could exploit that attraction, but here and now... well, it could backfire, badly, unless he understood what was happening.
Seruffin zlins Bibi ~~ thoughtfully ~~
Seruffin: What do you think would be the best way to handle him, if you didn't have to worry about Tecton regulations and angry lynch mobs?
Bibi: There were those books published at Rialite twenty years ago, describing all those old Householding methods. I've read the one on taking donations from Wild Gens.
Seruffin: I'm intrigued. When they were training my generation of channels, they were so busy trying to make the rules uniform across the Householdings that they didn't cover such material.
Bibi: I guess I'd use my usual methods, talking until he relaxes a bit, edging him into considering holding my hand and so forth, but I might try projecting a little need and seeing if it attracts him.
Seruffin: That would be safe enough, if Cristal was forewarned.
Bibi: One of the authors had the fairly heretical notion that all Gens can respond to a projection of need with a corresponding need-to-give, but I've never tried it. If he does have some suppressed Donor talent, it might work. But finding himself incomprehensibly attracted to an object of fear like a Sime might really shock and terrify him. The loss of control, the feeling of being helplessly manipulated mentally... It's not like I own him, having bought him at auction!
Seruffin laughs out loud.
Seruffin: Yes, those old Sectuibs did have a few unfair advantages in dealing with problem Gens. If nothing else, they could just lock them up until they were willing to see reason. And if they didn't...
Seruffin: I met a few pre-Unity Sectuibs who hinted at even stronger measures, when they'd had a bit too much porstan.
Bibi offers a little ~~ comfort ~~
Seruffin: Admittedly, the Choice Auctions were expensive enough that they couldn't afford to lose any Gen they'd purchased, nor could they let a high-field Simephobe loose among their Simes.
Bibi: Nattin claims his Sectuib would just keep talking until she persuaded them. Maybe that counts as a kind of psychological torture... they'd be willing to donate just to avoid hearing another polemic on Unity. ~~ forced cheerfulness ~~
Seruffin: I've met Nattin's Sectuib, Bibi, and I can see her doing just that!
Bibi: A persuasive talker, or an insufferable bore?
Bibi: Oops. I guess I'm not phrasing that very diplomatically!
Seruffin: I've found her to be the latter, I'm afraid. Although few people zlin at their best during the sort of interminable small talk one finds at a formal diplomatic function.
Bibi: Well, it's good to know that there's a use for every...uh... talent.
Bibi is ~~ happy ~~ that she's got Seruffin relaxed and laughing. She strokes his hand with her tentacles. ~~ affection ~~~
Bibi: There are a lot of advantages to being a Second.
Seruffin: Yes, and difficulties, too.
Bibi: ~~ inquiry ~~
Seruffin: Bibi, it's important not to alienate Mr. Gegg, but don't take unnecessary risks, please.
Bibi: Maybe I should see if he can get through a dry run, like I did with Vrian. That will be safe for me, for both of us.
Seruffin: Well, safer, at any rate.
Bibi: I know I'm a lot less sensitive than you, but it can be an advantage in a case like this. It's harder to hurt me. I'm tougher.
Seruffin: If he's a true Simephobe, with some trace of Donor sensitivity, it won't be pleasant.
Bibi: I'll be careful. And I'll definitely discuss it with Cristal in advance. Speaking of Cristal... Most likely he'll be serving Mik, unless Mik can come up with a date.
Bibi: My controller says he can't spare an extra Donor unless we have some idea of when the changeover will occur. So it will be Cristal, or me, if Cristal is too low field.
Bibi: Of course, the reasonable thing to do is send Mik in-T, but it was so hard to get him to the Ford.
Seruffin: He doesn't have a sense of timing, yet. It could be a few months, still.
Bibi: Yes. And some channels never get the sense of timing.
Seruffin: I know. Given time, his parents might be persuaded to let him go in-Territory.
Bibi: I'll have Cristal work with him, give him some changeover training, ideally develop some rapport.
Seruffin: Can he handle such an assignment? Not the technical part, the social aspect. He isn't the most...tactful of individuals.
Bibi: I hope so. I'll work with Mik, too, and see how things go. I'm going to have to have a talk with Cristal. I doubt he's served First Transfer before. It's very different from serving an ordinary transfer, and it's so important it be done well.
Bibi: What's your opinion on channels taking First Transfer from another channel? Just how harmful do you think it is?
Seruffin: It depends on the channel giving the transfer, I expect. The statistics were mostly collected just after Unity, when the Householders took care of their own channels, and the disjunct and semi-junct channels took care of most everybody else.
Seruffin: There would be some impairment, but Mik would be able to function as a channel with relatively little difficulty. He wouldn't be trapped, unable to use his secondary system for its intended purposes, like Marvin. If that's how it works out, Bibi, don't hesitate.
Bibi: I had such an excellent First Transfer myself, despite the circumstances leading up to it. I try to emulate it when I serve the renSimes. I wonder whether it would be better than what Cristal could provide? I suppose I could nagerically reinforce Cristal, to make up for any emotional lack.
Seruffin: Has Cristal ever served First Transfer before?
Bibi: I don't think so. Few have.
Seruffin: He enjoys a professional challenge, I've zlinned that. Talk it over with him, but I think he'll probably be as enthusiastic as you could wish.
Bibi: I hope I can explain to him what it's like for the Sime... the desperation and lack of any control... I suppose it's as if they're junct. If he reacts badly to that, it could be very damaging.
Seruffin: As long as he hasn't alienated the boy, and he wants to do it, it would probably be best for Mik to let him try. You'll be there to intervene if it doesn't go well, in any case.
Bibi: Yes, I think so too, if he's high enough field. I'll just have to use my judgment on that. I'll talk to him about whether he's willing to risk a burn if it's a close call.
Bibi: Out here on the wild frontier...
Seruffin: Yes. Life is simpler, because there are fewer choices, but those choices are too often life or death. In this case, Mik's; I don't think Cristal would allow himself to be killed.
Seruffin knows very few Gens who would make that particular sacrifice, and most of them were among the most fanatical Householders.
Bibi: I wouldn't consider letting Cristal serve him if I thought it was too close. Certainly taking First Transfer from a channel can't be as damaging as causing a serious burn or being shenned!
Seruffin: No, it isn't. Have you thought about what it might do to you if Mik changes over when Cristal is high field?
Bibi: Yes. It could be very difficult. It would really test my control, wouldn't it.
Seruffin: Yes. It could be several days before a replacement Donor could be sent out here, and you might even be stuck with a channel.
Seruffin has a brief fantasy about being that channel, and having a post-transfer Bibi on his tentacles.
Bibi: Well, I can take a shunt, of course. And if I'm proposing giving Mik First Transfer, I can hardly object to channel's transfer myself.
Bibi wonders whether Seruffin just might be that channel and finds the thought appealing in a perverse sort of way.
Bibi: It could be unpleasant. Shen, it could be friggin' awful, but so it goes.
Seruffin revises his fantasy: he doesn't want Bibi to associate him with anything "friggin' awful".
Bibi: Not to mention the public relations, if I have to stop working for a few days.
Seruffin: If you do end up taking transfer from a channel, don't let that channel leave until you're recovered. You're site Controller. You have that authority.
Bibi: Is it that bad? Have you ever had to take channel's transfer?
Seruffin: Twice. And I've had to give channels transfer a few times, as well. It's never quite as good as a proper Donor, but it doesn't have to be completely debilitating.
Bibi slides her hand onto Seruffin's wrist, lightly clasping his arm with her handling tentacles.
Bibi: I hope, if it comes to that, that it's you.
Seruffin is ~~ touched ~~
Bibi blushes intensely. ~~ attraction ~~ embarrassment ~~
Seruffin: If it comes to that...
Seruffin lets his field assume a hint of Gen promise.
Bibi adds a flavor of ~~ need ~~ trust ~~ attraction ~~ to hers.
Seruffin adds ~~ reassurance ~~ to his projection.
Bibi sighs and adds ~~ gratitude ~~.
Seruffin plucks a lilac inflorescence with his free hand, and places it in Bibi's hair.
Seruffin: There. Let that be a symbol to remind you that I'm here for you. At least as much as the Tecton's scheduling allows.
Bibi smiles and offers a light engagement of fields.
Seruffin: You deserve better, I know, but...
Seruffin spreads the tentacles on his free hand in a gesture of helplessness.
Bibi squeezes Seruffin's arm lightly with her tentacles.
Bibi: I can't imagine a channel I'd rather take transfer from.
Seruffin smiles wryly.
Seruffin: I expect you can imagine any number of Gens you'd rather take transfer from.
Bibi might comment on Gerrhonot's luscious nager if Seruffin weren't approaching need. She has some manners, after all.
Seruffin: Do make sure you impress upon Mik that he's to tell you the moment he thinks he's got a date.
Bibi: Yes, I will. Seruffin, do you have an impression of how long ago Bart established? I wonder how much of his first years we've lost.
Seruffin: He still doesn't have any beard worth mentioning, and his nager's filled out a lot since I first zlinned him. Probably not less than a month, but not much more either, when I first zlinned him, I'd guess. If he's serious about training as a Donor, the sooner he pursues it, the better.
Bibi: That's good. How's he doing? He seemed very interested in coming here when he can to work with me.
Seruffin: I let him work a little on my handling tentacles, after I took off my retainers. Do you think his father will try to stop him?
Bibi: No, his father is for it, or at least he thinks Bart should try it if he wants to.
Seruffin: He didn't do badly.
Bibi: ~~ interest ~~ That's great.
Bibi is somewhat ~~ concerned ~~ that a sensitive and delicate First like Seruffin is letting an untrained kid work on him.
Bibi: I hope he was careful.
Bibi really means: "I hope you were careful ".
Seruffin: Don't worry. Gerrhonot was standing by, and Bart's nager is nothing, beside his. Bart did seem to grasp the basic principle of directing his attention, although he's not sure what to do with it yet, of course.
Bibi: I thought I'd first have him work with Driver, learn the basics of control that an in-T Gen picks up in his first month after establishment. I'd like them to become friends, so Bart can learn more about Sime biology from a Sime. If it seems safe, I'd like them to room together, get Bart exposed to Driver in need to build up his capacity. Driver is a very stable young man, but I don't want to overstress him, of course.
Bibi: I'll try to keep Bart near me when I'm in need too, but it wouldn't be culturally appropriate for him to sleep with me, unfortunately.
Seruffin: No, it wouldn't. He'll have enough new things to worry about, as it is.
Bibi: Yes, I don't want him to have to keep any secrets. Out here, "to sleep with" is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. There could easily be misunderstandings.
Seruffin: I know.
Bibi: One thing I hope to do for Bart is to give him some exposure to a wider world. I'd like him to go into town and meet people he's never seen before, who aren't his tenth degree relatives. He's lived in a village all his life. The Ford is no metropolis, but it may help him adjust to living in larger centers.
Seruffin: It will be a new experience for him, certainly. As long as there aren't so many of them that it overwhelms his sense of adventure, he'll do fine.
Bibi: I'm babbling. But I'm really excited about having him here. I hope I can help him get a taste of the profession. I've ordered some books from the District library.
Seruffin smiles wryly.
Seruffin: He'll have to learn some Simelan before he can properly appreciate them.
Bibi: Well, I need some ideas on how to work with him. And I hope he'll get a start on Simelan from the students and me.
Bibi: We've got some English material here, more than just "What Every New Sime Should Know". It's great on what not to eat and how to wash your tentacle sheaths, but the stuff about life in-T is rather simplified and idealized.
Seruffin: What he requires first is to learn how to direct his attention. Away from the nearest Sime, as well as towards. If he can really master that much before he arrives for training, he'll be off to a good start.
Bibi: He did very well when I took his donation. He was able to stay very steady and resist the urge to interact despite the full contact.
Seruffin: I think it likely that he'll make Second before too long.
Bibi: Do you think he has potential to be a First?
Seruffin: I couldn't guess, this early. It will depend on how his nager develops.
Bibi, like any channel, can't help wondering what Bart would be like as a transfer partner.
Bibi: Well, I'll do my best for him. He seems to have many of the character traits that make for a good Donor.
Seruffin: Yes. If he can survive the culture shock--and nothing I've zlinned suggests that he can't--he'll be a valuable resource for the Tecton.
Bibi: I hope speaking with, and learning Simelan from, Nattin's students will help ease the culture shock.
Bibi notes how Seruffin always has the good of the Tecton at the front of his mind. He must have undergone a profound conversion at some time after his changeover.
Seruffin has seen more of the Tecton, good and bad, than Bibi can imagine, and has long since convinced himself that it's the best chance for long-term human survival.
Seruffin: It should help.
Bibi thinks that Seruffin must have experienced an even more profound culture shock as the culture he was born and raised in was obliterated in a few years time. ~~ compassion ~~
Seruffin smiles and lets his handling tentacles (and nager) entwine more deeply with Bibi's.
Bibi sighs with ~~ pleasure ~~ and smiles back.
Bibi: It's lovely, out here in this beautiful night, with you.
Bibi moves closer, hoping Seruffin will put his arm around her, which will, among other things, intensify the nageric effect.
Seruffin daringly lets one handling tentacle brush a dangling lock of hair back behind Bibi's ear.
Seruffin lets his hand slip down to Bibi's shoulder. The opposite one.
Bibi smiles up at Seruffin and her free hand moves up his back to rest lightly on the nape of his neck, over the nuchal node.
Seruffin smiles into her eyes, although neither one of them is paying much attention to visual information, at the moment.
Bibi is floating in the golden glow of Seruffin's field. She daringly allows her laterals to touch Seruffin's arm and neck.
Seruffin can't resist the temptation to let his lips lightly brush Bibi's, intensifying the contact.
Bibi presses her soft lips to Seruffin's and relinquishes her field to him. She's beyond words. ~~ intense pleasure ~~ nageric abandon ~~ joy ~~ trust ~~ affection ~~
Seruffin delicately enfolds her nager with his own.