Gegg finds himself headed for the one place in Hannard's Ford that he least wants to visit.
Gegg was thoroughly shamed the last time he visited the Sime Center, by his inability to muster the courage to donate, after his wife managed apparently with no trouble at all. He has long feared that he's basically a coward, but no one likes to have that sort of thing proved beyond doubt.
Gegg has his failings as a man, but he's also a parent, alas. He came to the Ford to visit his son today, and learned that Bibi wanted to speak with him, for some reason that Mik couldn't explain very well.
Gegg figures that he really ought to check it out, especially as Mik also let slip that Bibi has decided to bar him from donating. He wonders whether he's developed the Sime-perceptible equivalent of body odor, and while he can't truthfully say he's sorry not to donate, he is understandably also a bit ~~ confused ~~ about the rejection.
Gegg makes his way down the walkway of the converted farmhouse.
Bibi and Cristal are in the donation room taking a routine donation from one of Miz Brown's granddaughters.
Cristal makes the mystical passes that only Donors learn to do.
Bibi drains the selyn from all three GN levels of this experienced donor.
Cristal moves to Bibi's side and begins to massage her shoulders gently to assist in recovery. His professional excellence makes recovery quite a bit quicker and easier.
Bibi fills out the voucher, records the information in the file, and engages in a little small talk.
Gegg is glad to see, as he enters it, that the waiting room is empty. He doesn't want any further acts of cowardice to be observed, should there be any.
Bibi learns quite a bit about plans for the annual Strawberry Social, and thinks she should tell Mik to be sure not to miss it, since it may well be his last chance to eat strawberries. She opens the door for the donor and all three exit into the waiting room.
Cristal elevates his eyebrow at the last person he expected to ever see here.
Gegg ~~ startles ~~ as the door opens.
Bibi spots Gegg and her heart sinks. She moves closer to Cristal.
Cristal: ~~ intensified support ~~
Bibi: Hello, Mr. Gegg.
Gegg doesn't--quite--back away from them (Miz Brown's granddaughter is, after all, there to observe), but it isn't because he doesn't want to.
Gegg: Er, hello. I was just visiting Mik, and he said you wanted to talk to me about something? He's all right, isn't he? ~~ anxiety, this time of a parental nature ~~
Bibi: Yes, I'm glad you've come. Mik seems to be doing very well.
Bibi thinks Mik is a lot less of a nervous wreck than he was when he arrived two weeks before.
Cristal is doing his best to keep Bibi as steady as possible.
Gegg: He said you still aren't sure he's going to be a Sime?
Bibi: Yes. Unfortunately I won't be able to tell until a day or two before changeover starts, but at his age, he should change over or establish fairly soon.
Bibi wishes Mik would come up with a premonition of when his changeover will happen, but so far, nothing but a strengthening conviction that it will happen.
Gegg isn't sure whether to be ~~ relieved ~~ that Mik isn't going into changeover just yet or ~~ disappointed ~~ that the waiting will continue.
Bibi: Perhaps we can talk out on the back veranda?
Gegg squares his shoulders.
Bibi has given a lot of thought to the best venue for the discussion, and figures as long as she makes sure not to be between Gegg and the porch steps, he'll feel safest there.
Gegg: I guess...I mean, sure.
Gegg would rather not chat in the waiting room where they could be interrupted at any moment, and being confined in a small office with a Sime is something he'd really rather not try.
Bibi: Good. Just follow me.
Gegg follows at a cautious distance.
Bibi heads down the hallway, through the common room and out onto the veranda. She sits at the far end, leaving plenty of space for Gegg.
Gegg's cautious distance is surprisingly close to the distance required to minimize nageric interaction, although he doesn't think of it that way.
Gegg does feel ~~ a bit less pressured ~~ outside.
Gegg has been taught some manners by Toria over the years, even if he couldn't learn her courage.
Cristal follows Bibi, his body telling him mysteriously that it doesn't seem to matter that much just where he is.
Bibi waits for Gegg to settle, glad that he seems to be relatively calm.
Gegg edges into a seat that's within the acceptable social distance for conversation for his culture, but just barely. He isn't relaxed by any means, but he's not freaking out at the moment, either.
Cristal wishes he could do something about Gegg's state of mind, but working with full-grown Gens is more than a bit beyond him.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, I know you're very uncomfortable being here with me, and I'm really glad that you've made the effort to come here.
Gegg: Mik seemed to think it was important.
Bibi: Yes, I think it's important for both you and your son. First I want to tell you that I have no intention of trying to persuade you to donate. It would be bad for both of us so I want you to know that I refuse your donation.
Cristal: Please don't take offense, Mister Gegg.
Gegg is both ~~ relieved ~~ and ~~ deeply ashamed ~~ at this confirmation.
Cristal is trying his best to follow Seruffin's suggestions.
Bibi: I'm sorry I didn't tell you this when you were in last time. It would have been less stressful for you.
Cristal thinks that Gegg was about as stressed out as anyone can be that day, and another load might have been more than he could bear.
Gegg wonders if Toria would have accepted such a verdict.
Gegg: I...would like to know why. I've never heard of such a thing, before.
Cristal is glad he isn't the channel. ~~ additional support ~~
Gegg is getting more ~~ stressed ~~ as the situation veers farther from what he considers "normal".
Bibi: For a donation to be successful, the donor has to be able to cooperate with the channel. Not everyone can do that. If the donor can't, it's too difficult for me to take a donation. In my judgment, you are one of those people who wouldn't be able to donate successfully.
Gegg: Because I'm too much of a cow....not able to "cooperate"? ~~ defensive ~~
Cristal: Not at all.
Bibi: No. It has nothing to do with cowardice or courage. Some people are so uncomfortable with Simes that they can't reduce their resistance to draw to the point where the channel can take the donation effectively.
Bibi: It would be very unpleasant for you, and it could injure me. I'm telling you this mainly so that you'll know that I have no intention of persuading you to donate.
Cristal tries to look as if he agrees with every word of this, as indeed he does.
Bibi thinks this is not going as well as she'd hoped. Her efforts to defuse Gegg's fears are just making him uncomfortable.
Gegg looks at them closely, as he ponders whether they really are accusing him of cowardice, under all the fancy euphemisms about "reducing resistance" and "cooperation".
Cristal: ~~ sympathy for Gegg ~~
Gegg finally gives up on the conundrum, and tries accepting Bibi's refusal at face value.
Gegg: All right, then, you don't want my stuff, because it's not worth it.
Gegg wishes that another Sime had shared that opinion, many years ago.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, I think I know one reason that you are so uncomfortable around Simes, and I think if I tell you about it, it will help you understand it better. It will also make it easier for you to get along with Mik if he changes over.
Gegg's eyes widen with ~~ alarm ~~ at this hint of Sime mind-reading.
Gegg: What are you talking about?
Bibi: The tendency to change over as a channel runs in families so we're pretty sure it's at least partly hereditary. Of course, we don't know if Mik will be a channel, yet, but it seems likely.
Gegg stares at Bibi, and finds himself ~~ drawn ~~ towards her, despite her promise to keep her tentacles off him.
Gegg: You said you weren't sure, yet.
Bibi: No, we're not sure. We won't be sure until it happens.
Bibi zlins Gegg's attraction and hopes he won't freak out.
Bibi: In-T, in the Householdings, there are families in which most of the Simes are channels.
Gegg: Like those...what are they, Farrishes?
Gegg wasn't much of a student in history class.
Bibi: The Farris families are one example, but there are many others. In the same families, the Gens often have the innate talent to become Donors.
Gegg's eyes widen.
Bibi: So we think that the same genes are involved. It's much like the way musical talent can run in families. In this case, it comes out as Donor talent in Gens, and a tendency to become channels in Simes.
Gegg isn't stupid, even if his scholarship is shaky at best.
Gegg: You mean...me? But you said I couldn't even donate properly. ~~ confusion ~~
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, you've had a feeling that the channels you've met, me and Hajene Seruffin, have been somehow trying to draw you in, to get our tentacles on you. And you think other people feel the same thing, no?
Gegg: Stands to reason, the way everyone that spent time with that Seruffin fellow ended up in his tentacles.
Cristal is finding it hard to control his impatience with this methodical slogging.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, people with Donor talent often feel a sort of attraction to Simes, and to channels in particular, perhaps the way a young man might feel attracted to a pretty young girl.
Gegg: It's not anything like being attracted to a pretty young girl!
Gegg finds the latter clandestinely exciting, or sometime not-so-clandestinely exciting, when he can be pretty sure that Toria won't find out about it. He finds his attraction to Simes frankly horrifying.
Cristal: Well, no, not now it isn't, not for you. That's because of the overwhelming trauma you received back in the swamp.
Bibi: If you hadn't had the bad experiences with Simes, and if you hadn't been raised to hate and fear them, it would have been different for you.
Gegg's jaw drops, and his eyes widen with ~~ shock ~~
Gegg: How...how did you know about that? Even my wife doesn't know.
Bibi: You told Tony Grelbix about it, last time you were in.
Gegg: He told you? ~~ betrayal ~~
Bibi is getting worried that this is going to be another fiasco that makes the whole situation worse.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, I can't express how much I admire your courage in being willing to deal with me to help your son, after that terrible thing happened to you.
Gegg: It was a lot worse for my buddies. The Simes killed them.
Gegg still feels ~~ guilty ~~ about that, years later.
Bibi: Yes. The Kill is a tragedy. I've devoted my life to preventing the Kill here out-T.
Cristal: As bad as that was, at least they didn't have to live the rest of their lives with a permanent disability.
Gegg: A permanent disability? They only bruised me a bit.
Gegg would rather not think about how he acquired those bruises, thank you very much. He spends far too much time reliving that episode in his dreams.
Cristal: Your ability to respond to Simes as you were most probably born to do.
Bibi: They tortured you, Mr. Gegg. People don't easily recover from the effects of torture on the mind.
Gegg hangs his head.
Gegg: They didn't have to torture me. At they had to do was look at me that way, to get me screaming. ~~ shame ~~
Cristal: Of course. That's only natural for someone from Genland.
Bibi: You had good reason to believe that they would kill you, as they killed your comrades. That was torture, even if they didn't touch you.
Gegg: ...they did touch me.
Gegg starts to shake.
Bibi intensely wishes she could comfort Gegg.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, they repeatedly threatened to kill you. If they grabbed your arms, you had every reason to believe that they would follow through and kill you. Any bruises they left were the least of your injuries.
Gegg: They didn't hurt me, much, but...
Cristal: They didn't have to, believe me. Your ability to learn to react naturally around Simes was permanently damaged, perhaps destroyed.
Gegg is finding Cristal's explanation ~~ confusing ~~, mainly because he has a very different idea of what "reacting naturally around Simes" entails.
Gegg: What do you mean by that?
Bibi: Cristal means that your Donor talent made you more attractive to them, and you probably felt a kind of attraction to them while they were torturing you. I'm sure that must have made it far worse for you.
Cristal: In my professional judgment, you could have made a superb Donor -- that's capital-D Donor, the kind I am -- if you had been trained at the right age, before that happened to you. In that case, of course, you would have had nothing to fear.
Gegg: It was...unnatural. To feel drawn to the creatures who were...
Cristal: [interrupting] Trying to harm you, yes, of course. That's natural.
Bibi: Yes. I can understand that. It must have been terrifying, to find yourself reacting that way.
Gegg looks at Cristal ~~ incredulously ~~
Gegg: What's natural about that? It's sick, in my book.
Cristal realizes that he's gotten carried away here.
Cristal: No, I don't mean it's natural to be drawn to people who are trying to hurt you. It's natural for you to be drawn to Simes, though. It's a bodily response, not something you have any control over -- at least, not without training.
Gegg: You mean it can be turned off?
Cristal: You aren't a candidate for training now, any more than you are for donation, and for the same reason. It would be like asking an old man to become an athlete.
Bibi: We hope that if you understand why you feel the attraction, you'll feel better about it. It's your own body doing it. The channels aren't trying to seduce you into donation.
Bibi: It's natural to feel attracted to pretty girls, but you don't have to act on your attraction, or feel unnatural or guilty about it.
Cristal: In addition, it makes it easy for you to believe, like most of us, that the way you feel is also the way other people must feel. But they don't, not necessarily.
Gegg: Jed sure seemed to like that Seruffin fellow.
Cristal: He liked Seruffin's money. Most of the people you know are motivated to donate by straightforward need. Or greed, or political beliefs, or their family situation.
Gegg: And that's really all it is?
Cristal: Really and truly, Mister Gegg.
Bibi: Well, Bart has Donor talent. He's your second cousin once removed, isn't he? So perhaps you've inherited it from a common ancestor.
Cristal is proud of his ability to use the English word "need" idiomatically.
Bibi: He's young and adaptable, and hasn't had your terrible experiences, so it isn't horrible for him, as it is for you.
Gegg: He's crazy, is what he is, wanting to run off and leave Gumgeeville.
Cristal: Believe me, Mr. Gegg, any Gen with Donor ability who isn't able to work with channels is like a brilliant violin player who gets his fingers chopped off.
Gegg: Do you mean, he wants to because he's pulled towards Simes like...like I am?
Cristal: Exactly. But for him, there's no pain and fear mixed in.
Gegg: The kid has no idea what a Sime could do to him, that's for sure.
Bibi: If he goes in for training, Simes won't be able to harm him.
Cristal: Provided, that is, he gets his training before anything traumatic happens to him. Fortunately, there's no reason at all why anything traumatic should happen to him.
Bibi hopes so. Should Bart try to help a child in changeover...
Gegg: And when he gets this training, he'll be immune?
Gegg: I could've used some of that immunity.
Cristal: Yes, indeed.
Gegg looks at Cristal.
Gegg: So what would you do, if a bunch of killer Simes slaughtered your buddies and dragged you off for dessert?
Cristal: I'd let one draw from me, just a tiny bit, and then prevent him from drawing any more. He'd almost certainly drop dead of the shock -- it damages Simes to have that happen to them, and killer Simes more than ordinary ones.
Gegg: How'd you stop him from taking what he wanted?
Cristal: It's a technique we Donors learn.
Cristal looks to Bibi for confirmation.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, one reason I won't accept your donation is because you could injure me. Your Donor talent makes you quite dangerous to a channel in transfer contact with you. We would have to trust each other quite a lot for it to be safe for me.
Bibi hopes that thinking of himself as dangerous rather than incompetent or inferior will help Gegg's ego in the matter of donating.
Gegg: But I don't have any of this training Bart wants, and if just wanting to hurt a Sime was enough, well, I wouldn't have had such a hard time, before.
Bibi: You don't have control over your talent, and because you didn't develop it when you were younger it isn't as strong as it could have been. Imagine that you owned a rifle, but had never seen one before or knew what to do with it. It wouldn't be much use to you.
Gegg: That's for sure.
Bibi: But you could shoot someone if you pulled the trigger.
Gegg: At least, if it was loaded.
Bibi: And you wouldn't expect that person to be hurt.
Gegg: But nothing happened to the Simes who had me. Wouldn't they have been hurt, if my talent was dangerous?
Bibi: You weren't able to use it effectively. But you did fascinate those killers so much that they didn't realize that another squad was approaching until it was too late for them to escape.
Gegg is wondering why this alleged Donor talent that makes it too dangerous for a channel to take his donation didn't protect him when he needed it to.
Gegg: Or they were just careless.
Gegg has believed himself a coward for so long, he's having trouble getting his mind around the concept that he was fighting back, albeit unknowingly.
Bibi: You were holding their attention so strongly that they couldn't zlin the other Gens. Normally they would have been aware of them long before the Gens could see them.
Gegg: They sure knew where my squad was. Picked us off one by one, chasing us through that damned swamp.
Bibi: It was wrong for the army to send you in like that. The Tecton has special tactical squads that are experts at capturing bands of killers. They'll go anywhere they're invited.
Gegg, fortunately, hasn't made the connection between his proto-Donor field and the ease and eagerness with which his particular squad was targeted.
Gegg: Well, things were different, back then.
Cristal: I'm afraid your field was probably in the way of a blazing beacon to them. But of course you couldn't have known that, and neither could your superiors.
Bibi makes a "shut up" gesture to Cristal, sans tentacles, of course.
Gegg: You mean...it really was my fault that my squad was targeted?
Cristal: [hastily] No, no!
Gegg: They were after me, all along?
Cristal: Let's say that the light of your field made your squad more noticeable than most. But when they were close up, you were shining brightly enough that they just didn't notice the dim lights of the other squad.
Cristal: It's just one of those things that happen when people need to do something they aren't actually suited for, but that has to be done anyway.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, they were juncts, killers. They would have captured and killed any Gens they could find.
Gegg: But if my buddies hadn't been with me, the Simes wouldn't have bothered with them? ~~ grief ~~
Cristal: [beginning to realize what he's done] No, not at all. They would have targeted you anyway. You were the advance squad, right?
Gegg: Well, one of three. The others only lost three between them, and two of those were accidents.
Gegg doesn't place death by gator or death by drowning in the same class as death by killer Sime.
Bibi: These Simes must have been in need, desperate to kill. Your squad must have been the nearest, so they targeted you.
Gegg: Or at least the nearest they could see easily?
Cristal: They would have found your squad in any event. When a bunch of blind men are trying to sneak up on an enemy with a torch, it doesn't really matter that one of them happens to be waving a mirror, too.
Gegg is at least ~~ somewhat reassured ~~
Gegg: So what does this mean for Mik?
Bibi: It means that it's even more likely that he will become a channel. And I hope it means, that when you talk to him after he changes over, if he does, that you'll understand why you feel attracted to him, in addition to the love you feel for your son.
Gegg: And, if he turns Gen, instead?
Bibi: Do you mean, if he establishes and shows Donor talent?
Cristal: As he most probably will.
Gegg: Yes. Will I lose him anyway, when he runs off like Bart?
Bibi: He'll have to decide that for himself.
Gegg: And what about Sanda?
Bibi: I haven't met her yet. I have no idea whether she has Donor talent, or if she does, whether it's strong enough to affect her decisions about her life.
Gegg: Toria's normal, isn't she?
Gegg ~~ hopes ~~ at least one member of his family is unaffected by the curse.
Bibi: Well, she didn't show any of the characteristics of Donor talent, as far as I could tell.
Bibi thought there were a few strange things about her reactions, but wasn't sure how to interpret them.
Gegg: She didn't understand why I couldn't manage to let you... She said we could really have used the money.
Bibi: If she didn't know about what had happened to you in the army, and how much worse it affected you because of your talent, she couldn't appreciate how much she was expecting of you.
Gegg: I never could tell her. She doesn't hold much with mysterious feelings.
Bibi: To us, these feelings aren't mysterious.
Cristal: No, indeed.
Gegg: Even so, what woman in her right mind would want a husband who was rescued because he was screaming loud enough to be heard by half the army?
Bibi: I think you've shown tremendous courage coming in here four times now to talk to me, to help your son.
Cristal: [compassionately] An untrained out-Territory Gen facing six killer Simes? Anyone with sense would be screaming in that situation.
Bibi: Your shouting enabled the other squad to find you, and the enemy.
Gegg: Toria wouldn't have broken.
Gegg is perhaps not being quite realistic with regards to his wife's fortitude.
Bibi: Toria would likely have been killed right off, like your comrades.
Cristal decides to try the trick that worked so well on the kids.
Cristal: ~~ firmness ~~
Cristal: Mister Gegg. Listen to me. I'm a professional Donor. No Gen in the world in that situation could have done anything but "break". If I hadn't had my training, I would have done exactly what you did. And I grew up in Sime Territory around Simes. But not killers. Facing six killers, alone with no training, I would have screamed my head off. Not because I thought it would help. But just because I wouldn't be able to help it.
Gegg's jaw is threatening to drop again, as he takes in Cristal's tirade.
Gegg: You mean that, don't you?
Cristal: ~~ absolute sincerity ~~ Of course I do. A killer Sime is nature's worst and most dangerous predator.
Gegg: When the squad who rescued me made their report, the only thing that saved me from being drummed out of the Army as a coward was a technicality: I hadn't been physically able to run from the enemy. Instead, the major had to discharge me for "battle fatigue".
Cristal: Mister Gegg, we have a saying in Simeland. It goes something like this in English: the person who can run away from a desperate situation is still alive to fight the next battle. Your next battle came when your children began to grow up.
Gegg: I guess Simes are better equipped to run away. In the Army, we were taught that no matter how desperate the situation, breaking and running would make it worse.
Cristal: I guess that could be true; after all, you can't point your guns at people you're running from. But I'm not really talking about the army here.
Cristal doesn't know much about armies.
Gegg: If my squad could have found a defensible position, or even a large enough patch of dry ground that we could make a circle and guard each others' backs, some of them might have survived.
Gegg doesn't know much of the capabilities--or desperation--of hunting juncts.
Cristal: But you didn't find one. And anyhow, the Swamp Simes had the, what do you call it? Oh yes: "advantage of surprise".
Bibi: It was stupid to send you in there. Cruel and wasteful and stupid.
Cristal thinks this is a little over the top.
Cristal: Even so, Bibi, his superiors didn't have anything else they could do. Or thought they didn't. It was, after all, a number of years ago.
Bibi: If they wouldn't ask the Tecton for help, they could have used more intelligent tactics, instead of just throwing away people's lives on a brute force approach.
Cristal: Doubtless. But that's nothing to do with Gegg here. He had to go where he was told.
Cristal does understand that much about the military -- not unlike the Tecton in this respect.
Bibi: Yes, but he shouldn't feel guilty because his squad couldn't accomplish the impossible.
Gegg thinks Bibi is overlooking a crucial element of Gen Army tactics: each Sime can only get one Gen, and after that, the brute force is mainly on the Gen side.
Cristal: Surely not the impossible. If the Army thought the job was impossible, they wouldn't have sent Gegg and his friends, surely. Wasteful, yes.
Bibi thinks losing more Gens than you get juncts is not a very good bargain.
Gegg: It's the way Simes have always been cleaned out of places like that.
Cristal: [to Gegg] Bibi is a Sime, and of course Simes, especially channels, can hardly stand to think about anything that puts Gens -- the source of life for them -- at risk. That's just the way they are.
Cristal is hoping to create Gen-Gen rapport on this point.
Cristal: No matter how necessary the risk may be. ~~ nageric wink ~~
Gegg: It didn't seem to bother the Swamp Simes any. And Bibi said she didn't want my stuff.
Cristal: Killer Simes feel the same way, right up until they kill you. Think how ranchers feel about their stock. For modern Simes, it's more like shepherds and sheep.
Bibi thinks this is definitely the wrong approach.
Cristal: She didn't want to take the chance that you personally could injure her. That doesn't mean she can respond rationally to the idea of someone else trying to hurt you. Or any Gen.
Gegg: Huh. Not sure I like being compared to a sheep. Abysmally stupid animals, they are.
Bibi: I'm not exactly delighted at the idea of the life of a child or a Sime being wasted either, Cristal.
Cristal: Oops. I seem to have put my foot in it both ways, haven't I?
Cristal laughs softly.
Cristal: I'll shut up now.
Bibi: Mr. Gegg, we buy food from farmers, and selyn from Gens. That's how I see it. I'm buying a product, something Gens make, surplus to their needs.
Bibi has no difficulty using the English word 'need' idiomatically.
Gegg can grasp that, in the abstract, although the practical reality gives him the willies.
Gegg: I guess that is more civilized than the alternative.
Gegg has to grant that Simes aren't going to give up their desire for selyn any time soon.
Bibi: We all hope that someday there will be no more kills. I'm at the Ford so that no child here will have to kill or die, so those children can live good lives, never having to kill.
Gegg: Like Mik.
Bibi: Like Mik.
Gegg: I guess I can accept that, although I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with Simes. Even Simes like you.
Bibi: I understand.
Gegg: It's nothing personal.
Bibi: Yes, I know.
Gegg gets to his feet, feeling far more ~~ tired ~~ than he should, after indulging in nothing more strenuous than half an hour of conversation.
Bibi wishes she dared offer to shake hands.
Gegg: I'd better go. Toria will be wondering what's happened to me.
Bibi: Please feel free to come back and talk some more any time.
Gegg nods, and makes his way down the stairs to the grounds, rather than going back through the Sime Center.
Bibi breathes a sigh of relief. She thinks it worked out pretty well, when it could have been a disaster.
Bibi was impressed by Cristal's ability to empathize with Gegg's difficulties, and his efforts to comfort him. Cristal seems to be developing a heart as well as an understanding of what life is like out-T.
Bibi: You did well, Cristal. You did very well.
Cristal: Thank you, Bibi.