Spring Fever: Episode 3

Seruffin has been enjoying his pause at Hannard's Ford immensely. He has not only had two full days without travel or diplomatic duties, he's had an excellent transfer. He would be feeling ~~ contented ~~ even without the dimple factor.

Seruffin has retired to the kitchen for a cup of tea, since the dimples have retired to grind through some paperwork. He pours himself a steaming mug and takes it out onto the porch.

Seruffin settles back onto the porch swing and wraps his tentacles around the mug ~~ thoughtfully ~~ (Two guesses what--or rather, who--he's thinking abut...)

Cristal comes out the other door, grabs one of the chairs on the porch and pulls it over to the swing. He doesn't feel comfortable sitting on the swing with Seruffin, since he isn't his Donor.

Cristal: Hello, Hajene.

Seruffin zlins Bibi's donor ~~ curiously ~~

Cristal: ~~ tense determined concerned hopeful ~~

Seruffin: Hello, Sosu. Beautiful day, isn't it?

Cristal: Just what I was about to say myself.

Seruffin: Is something distressing you, Sosu?

Cristal: Well, not exactly distressing me. I think it would be better to say that I'm concerned about Bibi.

Seruffin is immediately ~~ concerned ~~ as well.

Seruffin: Is she having a hard time of it, this month?

Cristal: Yes, rather. I would in fact be with her right now, except that I thought we should, well, have this conversation ~~ embarrassment ~~.

Seruffin blinks, unable to figure out what Cristal could have to say to him that was important enough to desert a channel in trouble.

Seruffin: Do you wish my advice on how best to help her?

Cristal smiles tightly.

Cristal: On the contrary, Ha ... Seruffin. I think it's you who may perhaps require ... advice. Although I realize it's not my place to interfere as an ordinary matter, nevertheless ...

Cristal trails off, ~~ more embarrassed ~~

Seruffin may be a diplomat, but he's no telepath.

Seruffin: Come, Sosu. I haven't bitten anyone in years. Just what is troubling you?

Cristal: Well, as you know, the relationship between Bibi and Hajene Marvin has been ... disrupted, due to the, ummm, unfortunate necessities of, er, physiology. And in accordance with our earlier conversation, there's nothing that I, umm, can do about it. Directly. And due to the special circumstances out-Territory ...

Cristal ~~ hopes ~~ Seruffin begins to catch on.

Seruffin works his way through this convoluted explanation and is ~~ not happy ~~ about where the labyrinth is leading him.

Seruffin: Are you asking whether I have taken up where Marvin is no longer able to, due to "physiology"?

Cristal: Umm, no. But I would urge you to, er, seriously consider the idea. It's very evident to me, even as a Gen, that, well, ...

Cristal stops abruptly this time, wondering whether he has gone too far.

Seruffin: Yes?

Seruffin's previously cheerful tone has suffered a dramatic cold front.

Cristal: The idea is, ah, not entirely unwelcome. On Hajene Bibi's side, that is. But you know that. ~~ embarrassment becoming terminal ~~

Cristal: I hope you understand that I am speaking, ah, entirely as a Donor. Concerned with his channel's well-being.

Seruffin: You have asked her about her feelings towards me?

Seruffin is not at all happy about this skirting of the spirit of his previous instructions.

Cristal: ~~ shocked ~~ No. No, of course not. No. But we Gens, ah, because we can't zlin, we are, ummm, able to notice things in people's facial expressions. And tones of voice.

Seruffin's own expression and tone of voice would warn off a more perceptive Gen.

Cristal: As I am sure you are aware. Hajene.

Seruffin: I am well aware that Gens rely on voice and expression, Sosu.

Cristal: As I am too painfully aware, for example, that you don't, umm, care for, umm, aren't pleased by this conversation. But I felt, umm, that I had a duty to speak.

Seruffin: Do you think Bibi incapable of expressing her own opinions in this matter?

Cristal: Incapable, no, certainly not! ~~ embarrassed, but with a bit of indignation too ~~ But, perhaps, unwilling to speak, for whatever reasons. She is after all from out-Territory.

Seruffin: She has been a Tecton channel all her adult life, Sosu. And she has yet to suffer the consequences of prolonged...deprivation, of that sort. Is that not so?

Cristal: Yes, Hajene. But there is, well, the matter of her, er, happiness. With which I am, both professionally and personally, well, concerned. ~~ sincere ~~

Seruffin: I think, Sosu, that you are forgetting the limits of your professional responsibilities, and what personal privacy your channel deserves.

Seruffin: However, since I'm aware that you have been assigned to Bibi for longer than usual, and that small Sime Centers tend to be much less formal than large ones, I will answer the question you are so carefully not asking.

Cristal makes the "I'm listening" Simelan gesture.

Seruffin: I very much enjoy Bibi's company. She's a delightful young woman, as you know.

Cristal nods.

Seruffin: Since we happen to be, how did you phrase it? victims of "the unfortunate necessities of physiology" at present, nothing more than that has been possible. If that should change, then it would be Bibi's choice what, if anything, else might happen. Not mine, and certainly not yours.

Meanwhile, back in the Sime Center...

Bibi is sitting in her office, doing her paperwork, and wishing she were out on the porch with Seruffin. She's glad Seruffin is around, but disappointed that she's in no condition to ... take advantage... of his post condition. She really enjoys zlinning him in his happy mood, though.

Bibi gets up and takes a heavy volume of Tecton reference material from the shelf to check that she's including all the required details in the report she's preparing.

Nattin is toting a report himself, that being the easiest excuse he could find to track Bibi down. He was a bit ~~ concerned ~~ when Cristal asked him where Seruffin was, at a time when the Donor ought to be attending to Bibi, instead.

Nattin is also a nosy old busybody of a Gen, from a tight-knit Householding culture where everybody's business is public knowledge, and double that for channels.

Nattin signals in front of Bibi's office door.

Bibi: Come in, Nattin!

Nattin does so, observing Bibi closely for signs of ill health sufficient to send Cristal running for the expert.

Bibi looks pretty normal for a channel four days before transfer, who's stuck doing office work indoors on a beautiful summer day, when she could be out on the porch with someone she likes very much who has a beautiful, powerful nager and is in a great mood.

Nattin: Bibi, I've brought those statistics you asked for, on normal variation of changeover rates.

Bibi: Oh, thanks. I appreciate you digging that out for me.

Nattin: You're welcome. Let me put them where they'll be most useful, at the moment.

Nattin drops the report neatly into the circular file.

Bibi is startled and reaches for the report as it falls. She looks up at Nattin, wondering why he did that.

Nattin: Bibi, you know how difficult it is to concentrate when you're in need. That report doesn't have to be sent out for another week. Why are you making yourself miserable in here, when you could be sitting on the porch?

Bibi: I hate to let things pile up. There's no telling how busy I may be next week. We've had so few changeovers lately, the stats could catch up with us any time.

Nattin: So, if they do, you'll be a day late with your report. What do you think the Tecton will do? Fire you?

Bibi smiles, as best she can, in need.

Bibi: One thing I've got, is job security. Have a seat, Nattin.

Nattin smiles back, with considerably more success, being Gen and immune to need.

Bibi would rather have one of Nattin's "wise old man" lectures than continue with the dratted report.

Nattin sits down.

Bibi: Do you want a cookie? I think I've got some here....

Bibi turns and rummages in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet, extracting the box of cookies, which she offers to Nattin.

Nattin waves away the offer, aware that it's the effect of Sime Gen-nurturing instinct and a hefty dose of wanting-to-change-the-subject.

Bibi is even more likely to feed Gens reflexively than the average channel, given her out-T upbringing, in which food is always offered to guests.

Nattin: Now, Bibi, why aren't you outdoors spending time with our distinguished guest? You haven't quarreled, have you?

Bibi smiles, showing dimples.

Bibi: No, not at all. Seruffin is in such a splendid mood after his transfer than I don't think he could manage to quarrel with a Freeband Raider or a Church of the Purity minister!

Nattin chuckles.

Nattin: Then, why aren't you out there enjoying it with him?

Bibi: Oh, well... I don't want to always be hanging around him. The poor man deserves some time to himself. I find his nager so hard to resist, I'm afraid I'll be too clinging.

Nattin: Has he indicated any particular desire for privacy?

Bibi: I'm trying to be polite, Nattin. He's here to rest up, not support me.

Nattin: What's polite about hiding in here and leaving your guest to his own devices?

Bibi: Well, I am Controller of this little outpost. I do have work to do.

Nattin dismisses that excuse with a an eloquent gesture.

Nattin: We've already confirmed that you could spare the time. You enjoy his company, don't you?

Bibi: Yes.

Nattin: Then why not indulge yourself? Seruffin's a diplomat, he'll find a way to let you know if your presence becomes unwelcome.

Bibi: Well, being in need... and he's feeling so good... my nager is a bit of a downer, and he'd feel obliged to support me.

Nattin: That wouldn't be a bad thing for you, Bibi. Cristal is competent enough, but you have to admit, he can be irritating at times.

Bibi: Yes, but it's not very hospitable to make Seruffin work like that. And being out of phase as we are... it's frustrating for both of us.

Nattin hasn't forgotten his youth, and he hopes he never will.

Nattin: You're hoping for more than a friendship, then?

Bibi blushes and nods.

Bibi: I think it would be good for both of us. Of course, as Tecton channels, it's our duty to keep ourselves in good working condition.

Nattin chuckles.

Bibi can't hide her smirk, and blushes harder.

Nattin: You can't know how often I wished I had that excuse, when I was your age.

Bibi: Well, it's not always that easy. Here I am, Marvin is completely out of phase with me, and my only alternative, until Seruffin showed up, was Cristal. Uh, and you, of course.

Nattin: I'm flattered.

Bibi now has to refrain from saying: "The situation hadn't gotten that desperate yet." Oops.

Nattin: Still, it's obvious you have a firm preference on the matter.

Bibi: Nattin, if you were in my place, how would you feel about Cristal?

Nattin considers the question for a moment.

Bibi: Worse than nothing, perhaps?

Nattin: It's hard for me to guess. I'm a Gen, I can afford to wait until I'm satisfied. But where a clearly better alternative exists... you mustn't let yourself be bullied, Bibi. And from what I've seen of him, your diplomat is well worth pursuing.

Bibi: I'm okay for some months yet, Nattin. And I think Seruffin and I may have reached a sort of... unspoken understanding. If we can only work the timing out.

Bibi tries to remember what sexual desire feels like. She can certainly remember the wonderful feeling of floating in Seruffin's golden field.

Nattin: You can't just wait for the Tecton's schedule to throw you together. If you do, you'll be as old as me before you get him.

Bibi: Well, he does seem to be arranging to drop in rather often, isn't he? He didn't need a break on his travels before he met me, right?

Nattin chuckles.

Nattin: Strangely enough, he didn't. He must be getting old, don't you think?

Bibi: That's what he keeps telling me. But I'm an out-T kid. I know how old old people are, and he's not.

Nattin: You'll have some doing to convince him of that, you know.

Bibi: I'm trying. Maybe I'm succeeding.

Nattin: You've lived so much in Gen Territory, you tend to forget that only Householders reached middle age, in Sime Territory, before Unity.

Bibi: I know. I found it very strange when I first went in-T, that everybody, even the big shots, was so young, except for Householders.

Nattin: The juncts died young, Bibi, even before we sentenced them to death by transfer dysfunction. Seruffin grew up assuming he'd be dead by ten, or at most fifteen, years past his changeover.

Bibi: I realize that Seruffin is among the oldest of the non-Householders in-T. I think he should compare himself to the Householding channels, not the general population. There's no reason he shouldn't live and continue to work as long as they do. He's in good health, and has had Donors to make him look after himself.

Nattin: He can't, Bibi. He was taught as a child that we were perverts.

Bibi: Well, he certainly doesn't think of you as perverts now!

Nattin: And I admit, after hundreds of years of being slaughtered by juncts, a lot of Householders aren't any more accepting of the children of juncts. He's not one of us, and he never will be.

Bibi: I doubt he'd want to join a Householding. But there's no reason he shouldn't be as healthy and long-lived as a Householding channel, despite his junct parents.

Bibi admires the Householdings and their role in bringing about Unity, but like most people who grew up after Unity, doesn't see them as the only right way to live. They no longer have the role they once did, now that everyone can live nonjunct without joining one.

Bibi: How do you feel about such people, Nattin? Seruffin can't help who and what his parents were. He had to undergo a real change of heart, but he's been dedicated to the welfare of the Tecton for a long time.

Nattin: I have spent a lot more time with non-Householders than many of my Naztehrhai, it's true. Many of them have become friends, but none have become family, in the sense that those who are pledged to my House are family.

Bibi: So how do these conservative Householders feel about people like me? I come from a long line of nonjuncts, too. Does this make me better than another person my age whose grandparents were juncts?

Nattin: No, of course not. It's not a matter of inherited human worth, it's a matter of inherited culture. You're the product of your culture, just as we all are. It's allowed you to function here much better than most Householding channels could manage. You instinctively understand the values and choices that the people here make because they're your own values and choices, for the most part.

Nattin: On the other hand, I expect that every time you go in-Territory, you keep tripping over things that seem "wrong", from artistic taste to manners. Right?

Bibi: Well, I spent my First Year in-T, which indoctrinated me into Nivet culture pretty effectively. And I did live mostly in-T for the ten or so years before I came here. I think I can move between the two cultures quite well, but I do notice the differences when I move across the border in either direction.

Bibi flexes her tentacles.

Bibi: Of course, the world zlins very different through retainers.

Nattin: You see? The Householding culture has elements of both Territories, but ends up with a lot of its own traditions, as well. As with any culture, it's easy to tell the difference between those who grew up in it, and those who didn't.

Bibi: Nattin, you've got to admit that a good many Householders regard themselves as superior to the common herd, and that the common herd is often amused or annoyed by their assumptions.

Nattin: At least on the Householders' part, I think it's less an assumption of superiority than one of apartness. We were utterly rejected by junct society for hundreds of years. We couldn't be part of it now, even if we wanted to. And as long as our own culture works for us, we've little incentive to exchange it for another that's still trying to design itself.

Bibi: I realize that I'm an outsider, but with every new generation, more of the vestiges of junct culture fade. The semi-juncts are long gone, and so are many of their children. It's a different world in-T. It's no longer a junct society.

Nattin: I know, but it's not a Householding society, either. Nor should it be.

Bibi: Nattin, what do you think will happen with the Householdings in the future? The Sectuib in Zeor burned down her House and the members are all out in the world now.

Nattin: I don't know what will happen, in detail. I expect that the Householdings will continue to be gadflies, promoting Unity in ways that the Tecton can't and won't.

Bibi: Well, the Tecton certainly needs gadflies to keep it from getting too hidebound.

Nattin: Exactly. And if the Householdings allow themselves to be absorbed by the Tecton, how can they exercise that function?

Bibi: The Tecton ordered the Distect Houses to replace their Sosectus with Sectuibs only a few years after Unity, and most complied.

Bibi absorbed a lot of Tecton history during her First Year training.

Nattin: The Distect Houses existed for only a few years before Unity. They were never really part of the pre-Unity Tecton. Not culturally.

Bibi: Chanel was a daughter of Zeor.

Nattin: Klyd Farris was trapped in an orhuen with Hugh Valleroy, who wasn't shy about demanding support where his channel would rather not have given it.

Bibi realizes what she's doing.

Bibi: I'm sorry, Nattin. I'm arguing for the sake of arguing.

Bibi isn't going to attribute it to need irritability.

Nattin: It's part of need. Why don't you go find your diplomat, and enjoy yourself instead?

Bibi: Good idea. The report can wait.

Bibi gets up.

Bibi: Thanks, Nattin. Your advice is always worth listening to.

Nattin: I wish more of my students had felt the same, but...thank you.

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