Bibi is standing in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil and gazing out the back door into the garden. It's after midnight. The moon is full with some clouds drifting by in the light breeze.
Bibi had a good transfer, but she's finding her post condition more of a nuisance than a pleasure this month. She's thinking about lost opportunities, and the unfortunate fate of cycle-crossed Sime lovers.
Bibi finds that she remembers things about Seruffin she was only subliminally aware of when he was present: his broad shoulders and narrow hips, his smooth warm skin, how charming he looks when happy and relaxed, the way he looks at her...
Bibi watches the silver moonlight brighten and wane as clouds cross the moon, and wishes Seruffin were here.
A balloon drifts across the moon, a large silvery disk beneath the clouds. It has a box dangling beneath it. It bobs in the wind, then hits a downdraft, barely clearing the Sime Center's hedge.
Bibi is startled at the sight and goes out to investigate.
The balloon rises, then hits a tree branch, and snags.
Bibi approaches the tree and wonders what's in the box.
The balloon bursts, and the box falls.
Bibi jumps back gracefully.
The box deploys a parachute, but alas it fails to open before it, too, snags on a branch. The box swings fifteen feet up in the air. The box is a wooden crate with "Vern's Apples" painted on the side, basically sound but showing signs of age.
Antrew runs down the rise from the slaughterhouse towards the Center's hedge.
Bibi eyes the box somewhat suspiciously as she zlins a Gen rapidly approaching from the direction of the abattoir. She wonders if she's going to feel like an idiot trying to explain why she did this. She augments to jump up and pull the box free.
Antrew peers through the hedge just as Bibi makes her jump, and his eyes widen with ~~ astonishment ~~
Bibi turns as she zlins the Gen's astonishment.
Antrew is a carrot topped, very young Gen, who will not be considered an adult in Gen Territory for at least three more years. He's obviously ~~ conflicted ~~ as the best course of action to take.
Bibi: Hello! Is this your box?
Antrew sees that he is found out, and being a basically honest kid, 'fesses up.
Antrew: Well, sort of.
Antrew smiles weakly.
Antrew: The box is mine, but the rest I sorta... borrowed. ~~ guilt ~~
Bibi slowly, nonthreateningly, approaches the voice behind the hedge.
Bibi: Oh, dear. I'm afraid the balloon is ruined.
Antrew: My brother'll kill me.
Antrew is speaking metaphorically, of course.
Bibi has no problems with the colloquial use of 'kill' in this context, in English.
Antrew: I should have used more hydrogen. Or a lighter box.
Bibi: If you'll come around to the front gate, I'll bring the box to you. I don't think I can push it through the hedge.
Antrew's nager brightens as he realizes that Bibi isn't mad at him, and therefore the reckoning for his escapade can be postponed a bit longer.
Antrew: Gee, thanks! Did the instruments get hurt?
Bibi: I don't know. Would falling four or five meters damage them?
Antrew's nager turns ~~ glum ~~ again.
Antrew: Maybe. The thermometer's fragile.
Bibi: Would you like to come in? I was just making some tea. We can have that and some cookies, and you can examine your instruments in better light.
Bibi peers into the box and sees a bunch of apparently random objects taped to the inside.
Antrew is of an age where cookies are always welcome.
Bibi: Come around through the front gate and onto the back veranda then.
Antrew trots off down the hedge.
Bibi picks up the box and carries it to the veranda and into the common room. She lights some of the brighter lamps, then dashes into the kitchen where the kettle is about to boil dry. She refills it and puts it back on, adding a little more fuel to the fire.
Antrew jogs around the Sime Center, climbs the stairs onto the veranda, and taps politely on the door. He might lack a sense of proportion, when engaged in scientific investigation, but there's nothing wrong with his manners.
Bibi zlins his approach but doesn't speak until he knocks.
Bibi: Hi, come on in. I didn't ask your name. I'm Hajene Bibi, the channel here.
Bibi hasn't known whether to be impressed at his fearlessness, or apprehensive that he hasn't realized that she's a Sime.
Antrew: Really? Cool! I never met a channel, before. ~~ intense curiosity ~~
Antrew inspects Bibi closely.
Bibi is charmed by the curiosity.
Bibi: Well, I'm the only channel for quite a distance around!
Antrew isn't so much fearless, as so singleminded in his scientific curiosity that nothing else registers.
Bibi smiles in a friendly and encouraging manner.
Antrew has gotten himself into trouble many times through this unfortunate trait.
Antrew: Do you really have two nervous systems, like conjoined twins?
Antrew's knowledge of channels is all theoretical, and lacks the human element.
Bibi is taken aback. She's never thought of that view of things.
Bibi: Well, no, it's not like conjoined twins. It's more like, umm, your circulatory system and your lymphatic system.
Bibi can see a number of defects in the analogy, but it's all she can think of on the spot.
Antrew: Oh. So the selyn can go back and forth between them?
Bibi: Yes. Channels have a special structure called the vriamic node that connects the two systems.
Bibi wonders where this kid out of nowhere got all this technical information about Sime anatomy.
Antrew: Is that how it's pronounced? I always thought it was something closer to "vrammik".
Antrew realizes that he's let himself get carried away again.
Bibi: I hear the kettle boiling. Have a seat, I'll be back shortly.
Antrew goes over to his box instead, and busies himself inspecting the instruments.
Bibi makes tea, and puts the pot, two mugs, and a plate of goodies on the tray. She sets it on the low table in front of the sofa next to the Gen's box.
Antrew checks one of them and ~~ blanches ~~
Antrew: Oh, no! Uncle Dug's gonna lock me out of the lab for weeks! Look at this.
Antrew carefully withdraws half a thermometer from the box.
Bibi: Oh, dear.
Bibi pours two mugs of tea.
Bibi: Here, have some tea and goodies. You haven't told me your name yet.
Antrew: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Antrew Kliss.
Bibi: Nice to meet you, Antrew. I don't think we have any donors named Kliss.
Antrew: Nah, the only one of my family who's done it is my older sister, and she's away at university.
Antrew is sorting through the other instruments in his box.
Bibi wonders if Antrew's blase' attitude toward Simes is due to a better educated family, or whether he just assumes he's still a child, so is in no danger.
Antrew: Well, I got the windspeed, but it's the same I got on the ground. The balloon didn't go high enough. ~~ disappointment ~~
Bibi wonders if she should tell Antrew that he has established.
Bibi: So you were trying to figure out the air conditions above ground?
Antrew: Yes. I wanted to see if there were any indications that it's going to rain.
Antrew helps himself to three cookies.
Bibi: There's no ring around the moon.
Antrew: I know, but when there are fast-moving clouds like this they often bring rain later on. I wanted to compare the readings.
Bibi: So you're interested in predicting the weather?
Antrew: Well, yeah, but it's really part of the project I'm doing with some of my friends.
Bibi: A project?
Antrew: We're designing a demonstration garden with lots of plants native to the mountains. But they won't do well unless they get more rain than we usually get here. So I was trying to figure out if we're getting a wet summer.
Antrew's interests tend to switch disciplines with astonishing regularity.
Bibi wonders whether the friends have anti-Sime parents, and whether it will be possible to reach them through Antrew, to let them know they can come here to survive changeover without killing.
Bibi: Some of the farmers have been complaining about too much rain, especially the ones on the other side of the pass, from Gumgeeville. Have you been using a rain gauge?
Antrew: Yeah, we've got four set up around town, and we get the Farm Bureau readings as well. Did you know it rains more on the west side of town?
Bibi: No, I didn't. Why is that?
Antrew: It might be the hills, chilling the clouds as they rise to pass over them.
Bibi: Antrew, do you and your friends ever talk about turning Sime?
Antrew looks up from his instruments.
Antrew: Well, sometimes. We've got time before we really have to worry about it. Right?
Bibi: Well, people often grow up as young as twelve.
Antrew: But most are older, I read. And boys can't be sure until they're sixteen, since they don't get the Blessing.
Bibi: Did you know that you've grown up?
Antrew's eyes widen.
Antrew: I'm turning Sime? I don't feel any different.
Bibi: No, you've established. You're a Gen.
Antrew: I'm making selyn?
Bibi: Yes. You've grown up. Congratulations.
Antrew has another cookie to celebrate.
Bibi smiles and sips her tea.
Bibi: If your friends would like to come by sometime, I can tell them whether they've established yet, too.
Antrew: And maybe if I tell Uncle Dug, he won't be so mad at me for breaking his thermometer. They're expensive, you know.
Bibi: Yes, they are. What does your uncle think of Simes and channels?
Antrew: He doesn't think of them very much at all. There aren't exactly a lot of them around to study here in Hannard's Ford, you know. And he's only interested in things he can study.
Bibi: I see.
Bibi wonders what Antrew's parents would have done had he gone into changeover -- bring him in, or shoot him?
Antrew: He's a bit single-minded that way, actually.
Antrew ought to know, as he shares a good measure of that trait.
Bibi: Antrew, will you tell your friends that they can come here any time of the day or night if they think they just might be starting to turn Sime? I don't mind at all if it's a false alarm.
Antrew: Sure. Do you get many false alarms?
Bibi: Oh, yes. But I'd far rather have a thousand false alarms than one tragedy. I can give you some booklets to give your friends, if you like.
Antrew: Oh, they already know what to look for. We've all read Uncle Dug's books. It has some neat pictures, too.
Bibi: Oh, that's good. I wondered where you'd learned so much about channels.
Bibi wonders just what kind of books these are. The only out-T literature she's seen on Sime anatomy was from the more conservative churches, and far from accurate.
Antrew: Do tentacles really look like blisters when they're growing?
Bibi: Well, the tentacle sheaths look like long swellings, and the places near the wrists, where the openings will be, gradually thin out and look somewhat like blisters before they open.
Antrew: Cool! They don't look like blisters after they open, do they?
Bibi: No, they don't. Would you like to see mine?
Antrew: Sure! ~~ eager ~~
Bibi moves her wrist into the lamplight, and slowly extends her handling tentacles and then withdraws them.
Antrew watches wide-eyed.
Antrew: They're a lot more flexible than I thought they'd be.
Bibi: Oh, they're quite flexible.
Bibi extends her tentacles again and demonstrates.
Bibi: They're like extra fingers or hands, in a way. I can pick things up and carry them, like mugs.
Bibi holds her mug in a tentacle, sips tea and smiles at Antrew.
Antrew: Gee, if I had tentacles like that, I could do all sorts of stuff.
Bibi: They are very handy. Would you like to touch one?
Bibi sets down her mug and offers her hand again, tentacles extended.
Antrew: Uncle Dug's books didn't say anything about mugs and things.
Bibi: You should see a Sime knitting!
Antrew reaches out to take the offered tentacle and subjects it to a very close inspection on all sides.
Bibi gently curls the tentacle around Antrew's fingers.
Antrew pulls a little, to see how far out the tentacle can extend.
Bibi releases her hold.
Antrew follows the muscle back into the sheath, until he loses it in the arm.
Antrew: They go way back, right?
Bibi: Yes, most of the length of the forearm. You can see how the sheaths lie along the arm muscles.
Bibi turns her arm in the lamplight to display the anatomy.
Antrew is in full scientist mode, so interested in seeing something new that he hasn't any attention to spare for the more mundane concerns that might otherwise preoccupy him.
Antrew: Uncle Dug's books didn't say much about the big ones. Only the little ones on the side. They take selyn, right?
Bibi: Yes, but I also have to have a fifth contact, usually a lip contact, to actually draw.
Antrew: The Kiss.
Bibi: Well, it's not really much like a kiss, but it is lip to lip.
Antrew: A kiss.
Antrew hasn't yet discovered GIRLS, and therefore avoids all lip contact offered, usually by elderly aunts and such. He will no doubt grow more discriminating with time, if he manages to avoid blowing himself up, poisoning himself, electrocuting himself, or some such disaster.
Antrew: What's it feel like, to take selyn?
Bibi: The Gen doesn't feel anything, because when I take a donation I do it very slowly, and only from the surface levels. As for me, it's hard to describe.
Antrew waits for Bibi to try.
Bibi: Maybe something like getting a full bucket of water to trickle very slowly into a cup.
Bibi thinks that's a very poor analogy, but can't come up with anything better.
Antrew: So it feels like water dripping?
Bibi: Not really. More like a very slow, but very smooth, even stream.
Antrew: Is it like that always, when you take selyn? Even from your Donor?
Bibi: Well, when I take personal transfer from a Donor, it's quite different. There's a lot of emotional interaction, and it feels very good for both of us. I'm drawing into my primary system then, at a much higher rate, and I draw from the deeper levels as well.
Antrew: So it's like a whole river?
Bibi: It can feel like that, and when it does, it feels really wonderful, for both of us.
Antrew: The books didn't say anything about it feeling good.
Antrew is ~~ interested ~~
Bibi: I suppose it depends on what the purpose of the books is. Are they medical texts?
Antrew: Some of them. Some are translations he got from a colleague in Sime Territory.
Bibi: I suppose in-T everyone knows that transfer feels good, so the books don't bother to mention it.
Antrew: I bet there's a lot of things the books don't tell.
Bibi: I guess so. Have some more cookies. Would you like more tea?
Antrew looks at his box one more time.
Antrew: Thanks, but I'd better be going. I'll be in enough trouble already; if my mother catches on that I've snuck out, I'll be grounded forever.
Bibi: It was nice meeting you, Antrew. Good luck with your demonstration garden.
Antrew is struck by inspiration.
Antrew: Say, there's a bunch of things I've been wanting to know. Is it all right if I come back to visit? That is, if I'm ever allowed outside again.
Bibi: Sure. I'm usually busiest on market days, but if I'm not working, I'll be glad to talk to you or your friends.
Antrew picks up his box.
Antrew: Thanks for the cookies.
Bibi: You're welcome.
Antrew trots out the door, his thoughts once more turning to a popped balloon and a broken thermometer.
Bibi thinks Antrew is a strange kid, but talking to him was probably better for her than ... mooning ... over Seruffin. She takes the tray into the kitchen, and blows out the lamps.