Bibi and Cristal lead the way into the donation room with Toria following. Cristal shuts the door, cutting off Gegg's frantic nager in the waiting room.
Bibi: Please, have a seat.
Bibi gestures to the chair at the side of the desk and sits in the desk chair. She opens a file folder with a fresh set of forms.
Toria moves to the chair and seats herself.
Toria: [tartly] Paperwork, I see. I guess it figures.
Bibi: Yes. There's an awful lot of it, unfortunately.
Toria: ~~ tension concern ~~
Bibi often wonders whether the purpose of all the new donor paperwork is to lull the nerves of the donor into a state of flaccid boredom.
Bibi: Most of the questions are fairly straightforward, but if you don't have an answer that's all right.
Toria nods. ~~ mild annoyance ~~
Bibi runs through the easy part, name, address, birth date, etc.
Toria balks a bit at giving her age, looks closely at Bibi, and decides she can be trusted with that information.
Bibi: All this information is confidential. Only I and my staff have access to it, and then only as necessary to do our work. And of course, it's all in Simelan.
Bibi smiles encouragingly.
Toria ~~ bites her lip ~~, and gives her birth date.
Bibi: Next is the medical history part. Have you ever been seriously ill?
Toria: N-no. A few childhood fevers, of course. ~~ worry curiosity concern ~~
Bibi: That's good. And you have two children. What were their birth dates?
Toria gives the dates with ~~ no reluctance ~~
Bibi: Any other pregnancies?
Toria: One. Just, just a few months. ~~ shame regret ~~
Bibi: I'm sorry. When was that?
Toria: Before I married Gegg. But he doesn't know. ~~ worry ~~
Bibi decides not to ask whether the pregnancy terminated itself or otherwise.
Bibi: All this information is confidential. You can trust us with it. Were your pregnancies with Mik and Sanda normal? Any complication then or during labor?
Toria: No, none. ~~ "get on with it!" ~~ ~~ embarrassment ~~
Bibi: That's good. Now this part is really boring. I have a list of diseases and conditions, and I'd like you to tell me if anyone in your family has had them.
Bibi does a quick riff through the list and manages to acquire a fairly complete list of what Toria's entire family tree suffered and/or died from.
Toria answers all the questions quickly and unhesitatingly.
Bibi: Toria, I know it's difficult for most people the first time they donate. I'll describe to you in detail the entire process.
Bibi does so.
Bibi: Do you have any questions?
Toria: ~~ tense ~~ How long will this take?
Bibi: The donation itself takes about a minute. But it may take a while for you to get comfortable enough for us to start. That's the usual case.
Toria: Okay. Go ahead. ~~ tense ~~
Bibi: Let's sit on the transfer lounge.
Bibi gets up, takes the channel's position and gestures to the donor's position.
Toria: My God, what is this thing? ~~ amazement ~~ I've never seen anything like it.
Bibi: It's very strange looking, isn't it? But it lets us do a donation without bashing our knees together or twisting our backs.
Bibi smiles, looking friendly and harmless.
Toria nods again. She sits on the lounge and ~~ forces herself to relax ~~.
Bibi: I don't suppose you've ever had a chance to see a Sime's tentacles. Would you like to examine mine?
Bibi offers her small, feminine hand, palm up.
Toria: ~~ reluctant but curious ~~
Bibi carefully extends her handling tentacles.
Bibi: You can touch them if you like.
Toria extends one finger, and experiences the usual ~~ surprise ~~, but manages to say nothing.
Bibi notes that Toria seems to be completely unaware that her surface appearance has no effect on concealing her emotions from a Sime.
Bibi: Do you think you can take my hand, Toria?
Toria ~~ compels herself to comply ~~.
Bibi: And the other one?
Toria finds it easier this time.
Bibi: That's good. You're doing very well. May I move my hands onto your wrists, now?
Toria begins to suspect that she doesn't actually have to say anything, and tries thinking "Yes".
Bibi waits for a verbal or gestural indication of consent.
Toria abandons the experiment.
Toria: Go ahead.
Bibi: Okay, good.
Bibi slides her hands into position.
Toria: ~~ still tense ~~
Bibi: I'd like to just lightly hold your arms with my tentacles now. I won't hold you very firmly at all. Is that all right?
Bibi does so.
Bibi: You're doing very well. Many people need a great deal of time before they can let me touch them like this. It's normal for an out-T adult to be very nervous the first time a channel touches them. How are you feeling now?
Toria: ~~ surprised ~~ I'm not nervous? I feel nervous.
Toria doesn't realize that she's constitutionally incapable of nervousness in any situation that wouldn't send other people into a full-blown panic attack.
Bibi: You're nervous, but you're not overwhelmed by it.
Toria laughs and ~~ relaxes ~~ from her tension.
Toria: Whatever you say!
Bibi: That's excellent, Toria.
Bibi smiles warmly.
Toria catches Bibi's eye and smiles back.
Bibi: I'd like to extend my laterals now, but first I'll have to tighten up my handling tentacles. If you move when I have the laterals extended you can hurt me, so I have to trust you to stay still. Do you think you can do that?
Toria thinks about it a bit.
Toria: I think so. Yes.
Bibi: Good. I'll just tighten them up now.
Bibi does so.
Bibi: And now the laterals. Remember, this will feel a little strange, sort of tingly.
Toria recognizes Bibi's technique as a variant of the one Toria used to get her kids to eat their dinners.
Bibi extends her laterals carefully, zlinning for a reaction.
Toria: Wow. My own voice sounds funny in my ears. It's like I had a cold and just got over it, snap, like that. When you put those little tentacles on my skin, it changed something inside my head. ~~ puzzlement ~~ Is that supposed to happen?
Bibi: It happens sometimes, but it's uncommon.
Toria: Nothing to worry about, then. ~~ resolution ~~. Carry on.
Bibi wonders whether Gumgeeville is located over an Ancient toxic waste dump and the groundwater is full of mutagens producing new and strange Gen types. But maybe it's a vestige of Donor Talent. She hopes Seruffin will have a chance to zlin Toria.
Bibi: Okay, we're ready to go now. We'll make the lip contact and the donation will take about a minute. If you want me to stop, just tap my arm. It will take me a second or two to stop, but I'll do it as soon as I can, okay?
Toria: Okay. ~~ determination resolution ~~
Bibi leans forward, offering the lip contact. Cristal does his routine.
Toria presses her lips against Bibi's. Her overall ~~ clarity ~~ continues.
Bibi carefully zlins Toria and detects... hmm... oh dear. Well, she'll decide what to say about it later.
Bibi begins a slow draw from the GN-3 level, speeding up as no resistance develops.
Toria doesn't feel a thing.
Bibi notes that Toria has more selyn in her GN-3 than most first time donors, especially adults of her age. She reaches the GN-2 barrier, and estimates that she will be able to take it next time, if all goes well. She relinquishes contact, leans back and smiles.
Bibi: You did very well, Toria.
Toria: All done?
Bibi: Yes, I'll just write up your voucher now.
Bibi moves to her desk and makes some notations in the file. She fills out a voucher and offers it to Toria.
Toria signs it without looking at it much and hands it back to Bibi.
Bibi: You'll have to take it to Nattin, he handles the money.
Toria: You'll keep this and pay the Greenwoods as needed? And that young man, Bart?
Bibi: Oh, the Greenwoods don't want pay, they want Mik as a farmhand. They'll pay him. The money is yours. You can use it to hire Bart, or whatever you'd like.
Toria: Very well, then, I'll make my own arrangements. Shall we go?
Toria walks toward the door, holding the folded-over voucher.
Bibi: Yes, but one more thing... Toria, have you ever thought about having more children?
Toria's eyebrow goes up.
Toria: No, we ... [pauses] No. ~~ mild embarrassment ~~ Er, why do you ask?
Toria is glad Bibi doesn't seem aware of what she's thinking.
Bibi: When I take a donation, I do a sort of medical exam... It's very early, and it may not amount to anything... but you're about ten days pregnant.
Toria: ~~ astonished bewildered ~~ But, but, but ...
Bibi thinks she zlinned twins but doesn't trust her acuity enough to say anything. If it is, it will be more obvious soon enough.
Toria: Are you sure?
Bibi: Well, it's pretty common for a pregnancy to terminate in the first few weeks, with no sign other than perhaps a late period, so there's no telling whether this one will progress further. But, yes, given that, I'm sure.
Bibi: So you may want to make an effort to take especially good care of yourself now, for the sake of the baby, if there will be one.
Toria nods abstractedly.
Toria: Of course. But I have to say, I am surprised.
Toria isn't thinking that of course Bibi already knows that.
Bibi: I can certainly understand that.
Toria: Because Gegg and I, well, I would have been quite sure that, well ...
Toria finds herself at a loss for words, which almost never happens to her.
Toria: That I couldn't possibly have, well, caught. Live and learn, I guess. ~~ puzzlement embarrassment confusion ~~
Bibi stands and offers Toria her hand, in a friendly woman-to-woman manner.
Toria takes the offered hand and leads Bibi out the door.
Gegg's eyes widen as he sees his wife holding hands companionably with Bibi.
Gegg feels a burst of ~~ stark terror ~~ at this fresh demonstration of Sime Seduction.
Gegg: Toria! Are you all right?
Bibi cringes and drops hypoconscious. Where the friggin hell is Cristal when she needs him?
Gegg is torn between the urge to rescue his wife from the Dreaded Clutches, and the urge to get the hell out of there.
Bibi drops Toria's hand and takes a step backward, toward Cristal and the insulated room.
Cristal belatedly emerges from the room, having been sufficiently goggled from the sight of an out-T untrained Donor holding hands with his channel to lose track of what he's doing.
Gegg is practically dancing in place as he tries to choose between the two imperatives.
Cristal immediately moves to the correct spot and provides ~~ strong support ~~, even if belated.
Toria spots her husband, frozen in indecision as usual.
Toria: [firmly]. Gegg. Get a grip on yourself.
Bibi relaxes slightly and cautiously comes duoconscious. She tries to avoid shivering at the panic and terror in the ambient.
Toria thinks something rather stronger than that, but doesn't want to upset Bibi further, who is obviously intimidated by her husband, though God only knows why. She decides to risk giving Gegg a moderated Look.
Gegg gulps, and manages to beat his fear for Toria down to the point that he can stand still.
Toria: That's better. [solicitously, to Bibi] Are you all right, dear?
Gegg: Are you all right, Toria?
Toria ignores this remark and keeps her ~~ attention ~~ firmly on Bibi.
Bibi: Yes, I am.
Bibi leans on Cristal's support.
Cristal has been trying to make his field dance about to neutralize Gegg's random movements, and is glad he doesn't have to keep that up any more, especially as he is working by instinct alone.
Bibi: Perhaps I can examine Mik for signs of changeover now. Nattin's office is the second door on your left, down the hall.
Toria: Oh, good. [to Gegg] As you can see, there's nothing at all wrong. Now do sit down and try to behave properly.
Toria: Thank you, Bibi.
Toria lets go of Bibi's hand and exits left.
Bibi: You're welcome, Toria. Mik?
Gegg looks at Toria and gulps, then meekly walks over to the couch, which happens to be further from Bibi than the chairs.
Mik takes this as an indication that he should go ahead, so he gets up and approaches Bibi. ~~ curiosity concern ~~
Bibi beckons Mik and goes into the donation room, staying very close to Cristal.
Bibi sits on the transfer lounge as Cristal closes the door.
Bibi: How are you, Mik? I'm so glad you'll be staying here at the Ford.
Mik: [all in a rush] I've been thinking and thinking, but I just don't have any idea of when it's coming, and by now I've been thinking about becoming a Sime so much I can't even tell if it's a feeling I really have or just something I expect of myself so I make myself feel it, if you know what I mean?
Bibi: Yes, Mik. But you're safe now, whatever happens. You can walk here from the Greenwoods' in fifteen minutes. You can come here every day if you like. Everything will be okay.
Mik: ~~ relief, nervous exhaustion ~~
Bibi: Here, sit down with me.
Mik goes over to the lounge with ~~ relief ~~.
Mik: [confidentially] Dad was really having a cow there, wasn't he.
Bibi: He was terrified, Mik. He was really suffering.
Mik: I know, I know. And he has this cockamamy idea about it, too. He tells it to anyone who'll listen.
Mik: You haven't heard? He thinks Simes can make Gens want to donate, even Genland Gens, just by some kind of mysterious Sime hoodoo.
Bibi: Mik, I want to tell you something about channels. But I'd like you to keep it confidential, just between us, for a while, okay?
Cristal smiles to himself.
Mik: Of course. ~~ a little excited, a little apprehensive ~~
Bibi: We don't know much about why a person becomes a channel, but we do know that it runs in families, so genetics is important, or maybe it's all genetics. In-T, in the Householdings, there are families where most of the Simes are channels.
Bibi: In the same families that produce channels are Gens who have the talent to become Donors. So we think it's the same genes - in a Sime they make a channel and in a Gen they give Donor talent.
Mik: ~~ light begins to dawn ~~ You really think that ....
Bibi: Hajene Seruffin and I think that maybe, if you turn out to be a channel, you may have inherited it from your father. So if your father had had the opportunity to develop it, when he was your age, he might have been able to become a Donor. But that didn't happen, and out here he learned to hate and fear Simes.
Mik: So Dad could have been a Donor, if [giggles] you had caught him young? But why would that make him believe ... hmmm. ~~ lack of clarity ~~
Bibi: Maybe Bart has told you a little about how he feels with channels, how he feels attracted to us, and wants to help us. Cristal can tell you more. Possibly your father still feels a little of that attraction, now that he's meeting Simes for the first time.
Mik's jaw drops as the full impact -- and irony -- of the situation is borne in upon him.
Bibi: But this goes against everything he thinks and knows, so it terrifies him. It feels like something the Simes are doing, not something that his own body is doing to him.
Mik: [jumping to conclusions] So that means I will be a channel, if Dad's a Donor, then!
Bibi: Well, it's still not sure, but this makes it more likely.
Bibi: But, Mik, think what a tragedy it is for your father. He may have been born with a talent, but his life has prevented him from ever using it. His life has made it impossible to do what he was born to do. It's made him hate and fear what he could have been an artist at.
Mik: ~~ sorrow sympathy ~~
Cristal, perhaps picking up on the ambient, feels sorry for Gegg for the first time.
Mik: So are you gonna tell him? Not now, I mean, but later on?
Bibi: I'd like to find some way to let him know why he has these terrifying feelings, but I haven't figured out how. Please don't tell him until we figure out the best way, and don't tell your mother or anyone else, either, okay?
Mik: Cross my arms. [does so]
Cristal is confused, but decides not to put his foot in it.
Bibi: Would you like me to zlin you now?
Cristal raises the support level just a ~~ tad ~~.
Mik: Yes, please.
Bibi takes Mik in position and zlins as intensively as she can.
Bibi: Nothing, yet, Mik.
Mik: ~~ disappointed but resigned ~~
Cristal smiles at Mik.
Bibi: You'll come in to be checked every second day, at least, and I've told Mr. Greenwood that you'll be coming in so Cristal and I can give you some changeover training.
Mik: Absolutely. I ~~ look forward ~~ to it.
Bibi: I'd like you and Cristal to get to know each other well. He may be giving you your First Transfer.
Mik: Do you have some time now, Sosu? ~~ eager ~~
Bibi: I think your parents will want to meet the Greenwoods and see you settled in there. You can come back here this evening if you like, after supper. How's that?
Mik: Oh, yeah, of course. Is that okay with you too, Cristal?
Cristal: I think we can arrange that. I'm usually free in the evening, at least at this time of the month.
Bibi: We have several young people working here who come from in-T. You can get to know them, too, and they can tell you more about life in-T as well.
Mik: Oh, good.
Bibi: You're safe now, Mik. It's just a matter of time. At your age, it won't be long before you change over or establish.
Gegg has managed to compose himself, at least outwardly, by the time his wife returns to the waiting room, albeit only as long as he doesn't let himself dwell on the fact that he's going to be the next victim into that little room.
Toria comes through the other door, tucking the money ostentatiously into her bag.
Gegg sees the ostentation and gulps, as his last shred of hope fades.
Toria pauses meaningfully.
Toria: Have you made up your mind?
Toria raises her eyebrows in an exaggerated way.
Gegg's face looks distinctly green.
Gegg: I'm...not sure...
Gegg's voice trails off weakly. He looks at his wife to see how she's taking this waffling on her decision.
Toria looks up at the ceiling, as if appealing to Heaven.
Toria: [briskly] Just what, or whom, are you not sure of, Gegg?
Gegg essays a smile, which comes out looking a bit more like a grimace.
Toria gives him the Look.
Toria: Do you see anyone else?
Gegg looks around, just in case there is someone. He shakes his head dumbly.
Gegg: It's just...I'm not like you, Toria.
Toria presses her lips together.
Toria: We all know that.
Gegg: It's not as easy for me.
Gegg has absolutely no intention of explaining why.
Toria: We all know that, too.
Gegg: We've got lots of money from you and Sanda. Maybe...
Gegg checks his wife's face to see if that excuse will fly.
Toria loses it abruptly.
Toria: Oh, for God's sake, Gegg. It's not about the money. We've got plenty. As you say. It's about what it has always been about. Your attitude. You make good things bad and bad ones worse.
Toria's real problem with Gegg is that he won't grow up, and she despairs of ever getting him to. But being a determined type, she never stops trying.
Gegg really, really wishes that Toria's temper had chosen to snap over some other issue, like the leak in the barn roof over the feed room that he hasn't gotten around to fixing yet. He shuffles his feet, looking thoroughly cowed.
Gegg: Toria, please.
Toria's fit of bad temper abruptly drains away.
Toria: Gegg, Gegg, Gegg. When will you ever learn?
Toria steps up to Gegg and wraps her arms around him.
Gegg hugs back.
Toria ruffles Gegg's hair and then looks up into his eyes.
Gegg feels about ten years old, which is fine with him, since that's a pre-Establishment age.
Toria pushes her own needs down again, as usual, and tries to comfort her husband for the fix he's gotten himself into, as usual.
Gegg: It's just... She's a Sime, Toria.
Toria: I know, dear, I know. But she's also a very nice young lady, and very sensible too.
Gegg doesn't see how that makes any difference to how frightening Bibi is.
Toria: [singsong] Relax, relax. Nothing's going to hurt you here.
Gegg: I know that, sweetheart. But I don't feel it.
Gegg feels instead the same deadly, horrifying pull he felt towards the Sime who was torturing him, years ago.
Toria feels in Gegg's body language that there is, really and truly, nothing to be done. She's not used to having to accept failure like this. She releases Gegg.
Toria: [dully] All right, Gegg. Mik will be fine here at the Ford. Let's just go home.
Gegg feels a different kind of fear as he looks at his wife. He isn't any more used to seeing Toria defeated than she is to losing. His ability to cope with life is fragile enough, without his primary means of support crumbling.
Gegg: Go home? Now?
Toria: Please. For once in your life. Please.
Gegg: All right, sweetheart, if that's what you want.
Toria: [at the end of her rope] Yes.
Gegg wishes "winning" felt better.
Toria: [hollowly] Mik? Are you ready yet?
Bibi: I guess your mother is getting impatient, Mik. Let's go out now.
Mik knows what his mother sounds like when "impatient", and this isn't it, but he's disinclined to argue.
Bibi signals to Cristal to stay close and give her strong support.
Cristal picks up on it this time.
Bibi gets up and opens the door, holding it for Mik.
Mik gets up and follows Bibi and Cristal out.
Toria: [in a feeble parody of her usual take-charge tone] Mik, we have to leave now.
Toria looks at Bibi and hopes she won't ask any questions at this point.
Gegg nods in defeated agreement.
Cristal does his best to shield Bibi from the intensely depressive ambient, but feels that no matter how much ~~ support ~~ he provides, the situation is getting away from him.
Bibi: Thank you so much for coming and bringing Mik. I'll make sure things work out well for him.
Bibi retreats to the kind of formality that's traditional to paper over fraught situations in this culture.
Toria recognizes the method and follows it, even if her heart is ~~ very much not in it ~~.
Cristal wonders what on Earth is going through Bibi's head.
Gegg looks at Bibi one more time, hoping that she will magically have stopped being Sime, or that Simes will magically have stopped being frightening, but neither appears to be the case.
Bibi feels intense ~~ compassion ~~ for Gegg in his suffering, but of course he can't perceive it.
Toria: Thank you, Bibi. I have every confidence in your efforts to assist us in this present difficulty.
Gegg clears his throat, and attempts a normal tone, with about as much success as could be expected under the circumstances.
Gegg: We'll...stay in touch.
Gegg does not, of course, mean that literally, particularly where Bibi is concerned.
Bibi: Yes. I'm sure Mik will want to see you whenever you can visit him.
Toria: Thank you.
Toria extends her hand to Bibi. ~~ anticipation determination ~~
Gegg: Yes. Thanks.
Bibi leans on Cristal's nager and shakes Toria's hand firmly.
Gegg tenses in ~~ protective alarm ~~ as Bibi touches Toria.
Toria feels just an echo of the miraculous ~~ clarity ~~ she felt during the donation. She puts her other hand on Gegg's shoulder as if to bridge the two incompatible worlds.
Bibi would like to give the formula "It was a pleasure meeting you" but she can't manage it.
Gegg has regained enough self-possession, now that he's been exonerated of his duty to donate, that he doesn't try to interfere.
Toria lets go of both Bibi and Gegg and crooks her arm on Gegg's side.
Gegg puts his own arm around Toria in ~ apology ~, and leads her out the door of the Sime Center.