Seruffin quietly descends the stairs to the first floor, courteously refraining from making any noise that might disturb the Gens. He knows Gens require their sleep, and he is a channel, after all.
Seruffin is in such a ~~ joyous ~~ mood, after his transfer with Gerrhonot, that he'd really rather slide down the banister, but dignity must be maintained, somehow.
Seruffin is tempted to go dancing through the rain in the Center's back garden, but he knows the dampness would make him feel twice his already substantial age.
Gerrhonot follows at a distance, also feeling ~~ joyous ~~. He always enjoys transfer, but giving transfer to Seruffin, whom he loves like a grandfather, is even more wonderful.
Seruffin prudently decides to settle for a cup of good trin and a slice of that chocolate cake with the cherries on top.
Gerrhonot: I'll get the fire going for tea, Hajene.
Seruffin: Thank you, Gerrhonot. Would you like some cake?
Gerrhonot: Maybe after the tea is ready.
Seruffin reflects with some ~~ amusement ~~ that for a change, he's hungrier than his Donor.
Gerrhonot had a great meal last night, as usual when they stop here, so he's nothing like as hungry as Seruffin, who eats much less when in need.
Seruffin wonders with some ~~ guilt ~~ whether he's been so demanding while in need that he's run his Gen ragged.
Gerrhonot opens the firebox, shakes the grate, and puts some kindling on the coals. He soon has a small hot fire going. He fills the kettle and puts it on the stove.
Seruffin gets out cups, plates, and forks. Also the cake, which seems ten times as luscious as it did when he was in need.
Gerrhonot: Gitl told me Bibi bought some special trin for us. It's in this can here.
Seruffin: A Narosian blend! She shouldn't have.
Gerrhonot takes down a small teapot and adds trin leaves. He smiles ~~ happily ~~. It's very clear how much Bibi likes Seruffin.
Seruffin likes Bibi, too, and the discrepancy in their cycles is starting to get frustrating.
Gerrhonot leans against the stove and smiles at his channel in the early light of dawn. ~~ happiness ~~ love ~~ joy ~~ memory of slilbliss ~~
Seruffin slices two pieces of the cake, serves them onto plates and sets one plate near Gerrhonot.
Seruffin: There you are, although it's small exchange for the sustenance you just provided me.
Seruffin strokes Gerrhonot's arm with a handling tentacle.
Gerrhonot: You know I love sharing transfer with you. ~~ joy ~~ memory of ecstatic slilbliss ~~
Bibi comes down the stairs, dressed in a robe over her flannel nightgown. She has a hard time sleeping in the week before transfer.
Seruffin: You flatter me shamelessly, Gerrhonot.
Bibi heard her guests moving around, and figured she might as well join them.
Gerrhonot caresses Seruffin's arm, delicately running his fingers over the lateral sheaths.
Seruffin zlins her approaching, and reaches for a third mug. He does so, naturally, with the arm that Gerrhonot isn't monopolizing.
Bibi comes into the kitchen and sees Seruffin about to eat a surprisingly large piece of cake.
Seruffin has an almost Gen-like greed for chocolate, after transfer.
Bibi surmises the transfer must have gone very well, judging by the cake as well as the extremely happy nagers she zlins.
Seruffin: Bibi, my dear, you're up early.
Seruffin extends a ~~ supportive ~~ nager to help counteract the effects of need.
Bibi, as a Sime in need, can't help but feel a little ~~ jealous ~~ and ~~ grumpy ~~ about it, but she tries to suppress it as well as she can.
Seruffin, with Sime amnesia, can hardly remember what need feels like, right now. Not that he's trying.
Bibi: Yes, I don't sleep well this time of month.
Bibi realizes that that sounds awfully sour.
Seruffin: No one does. ~~ kind ~~
Gerrhonot also offers some ~~ comfort ~~ and ~~ support ~~ from his depleted system.
Bibi finds the kindness and comfort very ~~ soothing ~~
Seruffin: Come, join us in a cup of tea.
Gerrhonot hears the water come to a boil, and fills the teapot.
Seruffin moves closer to Bibi, the better to help her with her need, and the better to enjoy her delicate face, even if the dimples aren't visible at the moment.
Bibi was about to suggest that they move to the common room or the back veranda, but doesn't want to do anything that will take her farther away from Seruffin's beautiful and comforting field.
Seruffin: It was kind of you to get in special tea for us.
Bibi: You're welcome. I rather enjoy it myself, for a change.
Bibi is trying to act cool, but she's blushing.
Seruffin smiles, and strokes Bibi's cheek with a handling tentacle.
Bibi closes her eyes briefly and sighs.
Gerrhonot sometimes worries that Seruffin doesn't do enough to avoid the CDs, and thinks it's very unfortunate that Bibi is in need at a time when Seruffin is in the mood.
Gerrhonot: I think the tea is ready. Should we go to the common room, or the veranda?
Seruffin: The veranda, I think. We'll be able to see the sunrise, shortly.
Bibi is ~~ charmed ~~ at the romantic suggestion.
Gerrhonot puts the teapot, mugs and cake plates on a tray.
Seruffin adds napkins and a pair of forks.
Gerrhonot heads for the veranda with the tray.
Seruffin offers Bibi his arm, Gen style.
Bibi takes the arm, and smiles up at him, with dimples, despite her need.
Seruffin leads Bibi after Gerrhonot. He decides that he much prefers Bibi dimpled. He seats her on the porch swing with a flourish, then sits beside her.
Gerrhonot puts the tray on a table and pours three cups of tea. He offers cups to the others.
Seruffin takes a cup, nostrils quivering at the aroma.
Seruffin: Thank you, Gerrhonot.
Bibi accepts a cup and smiles her thanks. She moves as close to Seruffin as she can without looking... indelicate.
Seruffin is too far gone to consider Bibi anything but delicate, no matter the circumstances.
Gerrhonot sits across from them and digs in to the cake.
Seruffin obligingly steps up his ~~ support ~~, and samples the cake himself.
Seruffin: This really is delicious.
Bibi: Gitl's a wonderful cook. I'm so glad you're here at a time you can enjoy her efforts.
Seruffin: They'd be worth the trip, even without the other attractions.
Bibi blushes. She's starting to relax and feel a lot better, with Seruffin managing her need.
Seruffin strokes Bibi's arm with a free tentacle.
Bibi strokes the tentacle with one of her own.
Seruffin is a top-notch manager, which is why he has been stuck with so many Controllerships over the years.
Gerrhonot smiles ~~ happily ~~ at the two channels, finishes his cake and drinks his tea.
Bibi feels Gerrhonot's happiness and approval like warm sunshine, despite his low field. She's starting to get mesmerized by Seruffin's sec nager and wishes she could just burrow into it for the next week.
Seruffin: So, Bibi, have there been any further complications from Marvin's rescue?
Bibi tries to pull herself a bit more together.
Bibi: Fridda's uncle, the Senator, came out here to visit her.
Seruffin: Senator Tsibola? Came here? ~~ astonishment ~~
Bibi: He came in what he figured was a disguise, which quite amused the locals. That authoritative act doesn't go well with the artistic ne'er-do-well costume! But nobody identified him, as far as I know.
Seruffin shakes his head in ~~ wonder ~~
Bibi: He wouldn't come in, or even onto the grounds, so they talked through the hedge at the back there.
Bibi gestures with a tentacle.
Bibi: Apparently he makes election promises that he'll never sully himself by entering a Sime Center.
Seruffin: He's built his career on rejecting the Tecton, and I've zlinned nothing that makes me think the man is a hypocrite.
Bibi: Well, according to Fridda, his party isn't opposed to making as much money as possible trading with Nivet and Gulf.
Seruffin: Personal association is different. There are plenty of Gens who are willing to deal with Simes only in the abstract. I'm surprised he was able to summon the flexibility to talk to Fridda through the hedge. He must love her very much.
Bibi: Yes, I believe he does. He was pretty gruff with Cristal and me, but very kind and loving with Fridda. It did her a lot of good, that he took the risk of visiting her, even if he refused to see her except through the hedge.
Seruffin: He was concerned enough to summon Gerrhonot to his office to give an account of her changeover.
Gerrhonot: When I talked to him he was like that too. He cares about her, but he's afraid people will find out she survived changeover and cause him trouble.
Seruffin: His fears are justified, I expect. He will face difficulties if his continued association with her is discovered.
Bibi: I think she'll do well, just knowing that her family accepts her in secret. She has a very strong character. Once she stopped being overwhelmed by the pain and adjusted to her situation, she had a number of constructive ideas about her future.
Seruffin: Good. How about your other problem youngster? Mik? Any sign of establishment or changeover?
Bibi: Ah, Mik. No signs, yet. No feeling for timing, either. But the poor lad has calmed down a lot, now that he's within walking distance of a Sime Center. He's been coming in frequently to be checked, and Cristal is giving him some changeover training.
Seruffin: It's the waiting that's hard.
Bibi: Yes, but it can't be much longer. He'll be sixteen this winter. I only wish he'd get a feel for the timing so my Controller will send us another Donor for him.
Seruffin: Yes, you shouldn't be left Donorless on short notice, and living with the possibility isn't doing you any good, either.
Seruffin has a rather proprietary interest in Bibi's well being, these days.
Bibi: Oh, well, he may change over at a time when Cristal isn't replete enough to serve him. I just hope his mother's strange reactions don't mean that he'll be some kind of aberrant channel with problems in changeover.
Seruffin: Yes, you're not set up for dealing with changeover complications.
Bibi shrugs. She knows she can't save them all, but she does save almost all of them.
Bibi: I read all I can, I keep up with the journals...
Seruffin: Is there any chance that if he does develop a sense of the timing, his parents will allow him to go in-Territory for better care than he can receive here?
Bibi: I don't know. With enough warning, we can work on them. The relationship is still a bit delicate. His father has been visiting him often. I think he wants to be with his son as much as he can while it's still possible.
Seruffin: Yes. He has no business associating with any new Sime, even his own son, as long as he's high field. And getting him low field isn't an option, really.
Bibi's need depression is starting to come back, thinking about Gegg and his troubles.
Bibi: Poor Mr. Gegg. I wish there were something we could do for him. At least now he has a better understanding of the reasons behind his troubles.
Seruffin: How did he take the news?
Bibi: He had a hard time swallowing it. For twenty years he's been convinced that he's a hopeless coward and some kind of pervert for feeling the nageric attraction to the need of the Simes who were tormenting him. But I think over time, it will help him. He'll be able to think it through and gain a new perspective.
Seruffin: Do you think he will reach an accommodation with his past?
Bibi: Probably not one that will let him donate, but he may gain more self-respect and self-confidence. I told him that I wouldn't accept his donation, thinking that would relieve his tension, but his immediate reaction was that he was being rejected for his inferiority.
Bibi sighs. ~~ sad ~~ frustrated ~~
Gerrhonot leans forward and touches Bibi's hand. ~~ kindness ~~ comfort ~~~
Seruffin: Bibi, there are only two ways that Gen could donate: under heavy sedation, which is hardly a practical solution, or after intensive therapy. And that last...well, I can understand why the techniques were developed, but I don't have to like them. And they're simply not worth it, for an out-Territory Gen.
Bibi: Oh, it doesn't matter if he can donate, really. I'm just sorry about how his experiences have twisted his personality and caused him so much pain over the years.
Seruffin: Yes. Let's hope he can come to terms with it.
Bibi: I'm sorry, it's need, I'm painting everything black.
Seruffin: Gens are surprisingly flexible, more so than Simes, I think.
Bibi: Perhaps Simes are more flexible than most people think, too. I've certainly developed and changed after my First Year. I'm sure you have too.
Bibi thinks about the junct-minded farm boy who became the urbane diplomat committed to the welfare of the Tecton.
Seruffin: Perhaps. It's an interesting idea, anyway. What do you think, Gerrhonot?
Gerrhonot: I've learned and changed a lot in the past year, even though I'm not smart. You helped me learn to do more with what brains I've got, Hajene. ~~ gratitude ~~ devotion ~~ remembered slilbliss ~~
Gerrhonot: I think Simes can keep learning and changing too, after First Year. It's just an excuse when they say they can't.
Seruffin: Perhaps it's not a matter of absolute flexibility, but of ease of change. Look at Gumgeeville. Even Gegg, crippled as he is, has adjusted very well.
Bibi: We've tried to make Mik, and Gegg himself, understand how courageous Gegg has been, dealing with Simes to help his children.
Seruffin: And the Mullins clan...you'd think from talking to them that they'd been associating with Simes for years.
Bibi refrains from mentioning Ma Mullins.
Bibi: Bart was here for over a week. It's too bad you missed him.
Seruffin: Yes, it is.
Bibi: He's a pleasure to work with. So willing, so eager, so careful.
Seruffin: Has he been making progress learning to handle fields in a controlled fashion?
Bibi: Yes, he's at least as good as a new in-T Gen at avoiding causing annoyance. It's still pretty early for him to have a real control of fields, but he can do simple things by imagining a situation with the appropriate emotions.
Seruffin: He'll be a good Donor, once he's trained.
Bibi: His caution is good too. He's always asking if he's annoying you, or if he might accidentally hurt you.
Gerrhonot: He did that when he was working with Hajene Seruffin that time. It made me feel better that he was like that.
Seruffin: Have he and his family decided when he's going to go in-Territory for full training?
Bibi: He still plans to wait until he turns sixteen this fall, and the harvest work is over.
Bibi: I upgraded him to GN-1. I'm sure I could have kept drawing into his TN levels and he wouldn't have resisted, if I'd asked him to. Marvin was here, in hard need, and Bart was able to help him eat and sleep without tempting or annoying him. Marvin and I were both impressed.
Seruffin: I don't like to think of him missing a chance for early development, but you're doing as much as you should, under the circumstances.
Bibi: Yes, I don't like to think of the consequences if I were to try some of those old Householding Donor training tricks on him!
Seruffin: The Householdings had a great deal of freedom that we don't enjoy today. How else could they have gotten away with some of the chances they took?
Bibi: I don't suppose they always got away with them, but their lives were so much at risk in general that these other risks looked relatively safe.
Seruffin: Yes. And we reap the benefits of their innovation.
Bibi: Well, many of them. I sometimes wish the Tecton were a bit more flexible about what's permitted, but a channel of my rating seldom runs into a situation where such methods would be valuable.
Gerrhonot gathers the cups and plates onto the tray.
Gerrhonot: I think I'll go for a walk, okay?
Gerrhonot figures his channel is in good hands.
Seruffin: The really exotic techniques usually required a First... Certainly, Gerrhonot. We'll be fine.
Gerrhonot smiles at Bibi and leaves.
Bibi snuggles a little closer to Seruffin and sighs. ~~ attraction ~~ affection ~~
Seruffin lets his own ~~ attraction ~~ show, suitably modified to avoid irritating Bibi's need.
Bibi curses the timing, but not out loud.
Bibi: So what have you being doing in New Washington, if you can talk about it, that is?
Seruffin: Well, the details of the official negotiations have to stay confidential, but there was an interesting unofficial incident I can tell you about.
Bibi: ~~ interest ~~
Seruffin: I was taking donations one afternoon, and drew a novice client who was a long way from home. He was from the Cordvain Valley, and he said he'd come to investigate the practicality of putting in a Sime Center there.
Bibi: The Cordvain Valley.. that's the Tsibola family fiefdom, isn't it?
Seruffin: Yes. And this Gen worked for them, or at least he did until recently, when he was fired for trying to help organize his colleagues to promote their interests with their employers.
Bibi: Let me think... they're mining some ruins and some big landfills there, aren't they? General Metals and Machinery, the Tsibola empire?
Seruffin: Yes. Apparently, the labor organizers see a Sime Center as a chance for them to build up their finances so they can strike.
Bibi: That's very clever, if it works. Do they think such isolated people would be likely to support a Sime Center, especially with donations?
Seruffin: Well, this Gen seemed to think so, and he put his own arms behind it in proof. I had to explain how long it can take to get a new Sime Center approved, though. That was apparently too long for their time frame, so we discussed alternatives.
Bibi: ~~ interest ~~ inquiry ~~
Seruffin: We finally settled on an application for a team to clear the ruins of junct Simes.
Bibi is ~~ startled ~~
Bibi: You mean they have a problem with juncts? And they're only now asking for help? ~~ appalled ~~
Seruffin: There may or may not be any juncts, but General Metals maintains a private, armed force to take care of any who survive changeover. When they're not doing that, apparently, they're available for other security purposes, such as keeping the labor movement contained.
Bibi doesn't see the connections.
Seruffin: Since General Metals has a vested interest in maintaining their security force, they can hardly complain that there is no justification for the Tecton to honor the request for a team. With the team, of course, will be sent a channel or two, and such arrangements always require the local population to support the efforts with sufficient selyn. Since the selyn is purchased at the usual rate, the labor movement will have the equivalent of their Sime Center, at least while the Tecton team is present.
Bibi: So they'd be able to see just how many of the local Gens would be interested in donating, and whether the rest of them would come out with torches and pitchforks.
Bibi thinks about it some more.
Bibi: That's very clever. ~~ admiration ~~
Seruffin: Thank you. I hope that the presence of the Tecton team will discourage General Metals from taking any concerted action against either their employees or the channels.
Bibi: Those ambrov Dar can be very impressive. Well, some of them.
Seruffin chuckles, remembering some of the trouble Sylma and Sedel got into.
Bibi thinks Layna has her virtues, but she wouldn't trust her life to her. Well, Layna is young and inexperienced. The tactical team will be more reliable.
Seruffin: They're certainly not the sort of people one wants to try to bully, that's for sure.
Bibi smiles, charmingly, with dimples.
Seruffin: And often the presence of an outside observer does a great deal to convince both sides of a family squabble to be on their best behavior.
Bibi: It sounds very dangerous, going into a situation like that, especially if any of the local Gens are hostile to Simes, but I suppose they wouldn't be doing that kind of work if they didn't like danger.
Seruffin: Those tactical teams are usually pretty large: up to fifty or sixty people, depending on the size of the ruins to be cleared. That's a formidable military force.
Bibi: Yes, but a sniper...
Bibi grew up in, and now lives in, a culture where every adult is armed and prepared to shoot Simes.
Seruffin: There's risk in everything, Bibi.
Bibi: Of course.
Seruffin: Given the sort of publicity that would accompany any attempt at murder, I expect the greatest danger will be to the channels, who will be facing a large number of novice donors. You know how tricky that can be, even when they think they want to donate.
Bibi nods. She's gotten hundreds of adult Gens started as donors, and some of them were... challenging.
Seruffin: The risk is real, but the potential benefit is enormous: to open up an entire section of the Territory that has previously been closed to the Tecton.
Bibi: Yes. There must be a lot of people living at the site. A lot of children could be saved.
Seruffin: And if my contact was correct about the conditions there, a lot of their parents will benefit as well. Proper nutrition and health care alone can make a huge difference.
Bibi: I wonder what the Tsibola family will do to stop them. If the Senator gets in every time on a policy of never darkening the door of a Sime Center, what will he do if his constituents want to bring one in?
Seruffin: With luck, he'll accept the inevitable once it's happened.
Seruffin: General Metals still holds the advantage, negotiating with its employees, even if they do have donation payments. The Tsibolas have been in politics a long time. Long enough to know that they can't always win, and that it's not worth it to fight to the death when a compromise can be reached.
Bibi: I suppose so. The Senator certainly showed a lot of flexibility in coming out here to talk to Fridda, even if it was through a hedge.
Seruffin: They'll play every dirty trick they can to get their way, but they probably won't resort to any crime serious enough to spark an investigation. Not in front of interterritorial witnesses.
Bibi: Do you think you might get drawn into the conflict, as a diplomat?
Seruffin: It's possible, if General Metals decides to take the high road and officially protest the presence of the tactical team.
Bibi takes Seruffin's hand.
Bibi: Do be careful. ~~ concern ~~
Seruffin: I won't be running the risks, Bibi. That will be left to the ambrov Dar, and the Gens who invited them to the Cordvain Valley. The Dar tactical teams are all volunteers, and the Gens, well, I doubt they'd have considered inviting Simes in if they weren't desperate.
Bibi can't shake the image of a single Sime-hating Gen, taking up his rifle and shooting Seruffin like a deer, from cover. ~~ shiver ~~
Bibi: I'm sorry. I know I'm being unreasonable, but I worry about you. I... care about you.
Seruffin: Bibi, even if I'm called in to handle the diplomatic part, it will almost certainly be in New Washington, miles from any trouble.
Bibi: Of course.
Seruffin: But...thank you for caring. ~~ warmth ~~