Mik is talking with Hajene Bibi in her office.
Mik: Well, I've been trying to spend the time that I'm hauling around the milk cans really listening to my body, to see if it's telling me anything about changeover. And in the last few days, I have been getting a definite feeling that something's going to change, and soon. And in my dreams, too. Sometimes I dream about being Sime, sometimes about ... well, about trying to give transfer.
Bibi: That's very encouraging. Do you dream of yourself as a Donor, or as a channel giving transfer to a renSime?
Mik: Sometimes one, sometimes the other. But usually a Donor, I think. I haven't really kept count. ~~ earnest ~~
Bibi: These are all very good signs, very promising.
Mik: Um, good. Umm, Hajene Bibi, could we maybe go for a walk? On the grounds, I mean? I mean, do you have to put on your retainers for that?
Mik is more ~~ embarrassed ~~ than this request seems to call for.
Bibi: No, as long as we stay inside the fence, we're in Sime Territory. Let's go out back to the garden. It's a beautiful day.
Bibi rises and leads the way down the hall, through the common room, out onto the veranda and down the steps.
Mik follows, feeling a bit ~~ relieved ~~ that things are going so well.
Mik: It is a beautiful day, isn't it. I wanted to come out here so that, well, so that nobody could hear us. Except us, I mean. I mean, you are a channel, which is like being a doctor, and all, so I can tell you things in, in confidence, right? ~~ acute embarrassment again ~~
Bibi: Of course, Mik. Let's go back by the fruit trees then.
Bibi strolls between the garden beds toward the back of the lot.
Mik does his best not to actually run there, but to accompany Bibi in a decorous and grown-up fashion. It isn't easy.
Bibi stops under an apple tree and turns to face Mik with an encouraging and concerned expression.
Mik starts to walk back and forth in front of Bibi ~~ nervously ~~
Bibi lets him work off his nerves by pacing.
Mik: The thing is, that I'm kind of young for this, I know, but people are supposed to be pretty different, aren't they? In how they mature, I mean?
Bibi: Yes, definitely.
Bibi is mystified by what a late developer like Mik thinks he's too young for.
Mik: [all in a rush] Well, it's that in addition to these Sime and Gen dreams, I'm starting to have other dreams. You know? Guy dreams. And I know you're not supposed to be, well, mature until after you establish. Or change over. But, well, it's happening. At least in my head.
Mik: [pause] Well, not just in my head.
Bibi: It's okay, Mik. The different parts of growing up don't happen in the same order for everybody.
Mik: ~~ surprise ~~ It is? I mean, they don't? I mean, nobody tells you these things. Out there.
Mik waves his arm to indicate Gen Territory generally.
Mik: And I thought that might mean that, well, if things are happening in one way, they'll probably be happening in another? Don't they?
Bibi: Well, out here, nobody knows when they establish, except that girls gets the Blessing, usually within six months or so after they establish.
Kitten reaches down from her perch on a branch in the apple tree and bats at Mik's hand.
Bibi: If your sexuality is developing, it's a very good sign that the rest of you is also developing rapidly.
Mik: Yeah, and I guess when guys actually can grow a beard, then they're not likely to change over either, right?
Bibi: Right. Beards are usually fairly late in the process.
Kitten misses the hand, and crouches lower on her branch. She's at the developmental stage when everything looks like a cat toy.
Bibi: Else people out here could use body hair to tell whether they had or were going to establish.
Mik: They always tell us, you can't tell until the fever starts. But of course with you here that's not really true, is it. ~~ mild hero-worship ~~
Bibi: I wish more young people could come to a channel and find out whether they could stop worrying about changeover because they'd already established. I remember what the waiting was like.
Bibi looks at Mik, and realizes she's looking farther up than she did when she first met him.
Kitten's haunches wiggle.
Bibi: I think you've grown more than a few centimeters in the past few months.
Kitten reaches out a paw to bat at a leaf that's moved by the breeze.
Mik: Centi-wha? Oh, ce'meters. Yeah.
Bibi smiles at Mik and pats his shoulder.
Bibi: You're doing very well, Mik. How have you been feeling?
Kitten launches herself onto Bibi's hand.
Bibi augments to grab the kitten by the scruff.
Mik is having ~~ trouble ~~ telling Bibi just how he feels.
Mik: I feel, well, fine. Except when....
Mik sputters to a halt.
Kitten mews indignantly.
Mik: Well, I think about girls a lot, too.
Mik belatedly notices what's going on.
Bibi holds the kitten against her shoulder and pets it.
Mik: Hey, where'd the kitten come from? Is she one of yours?
Bibi: Yes, the stable cat had a litter recently. I didn't know she was letting them venture this far yet.
Kitten gives Bibi an unbelieving "Don't you understand that I'm trying to slaughter you?" look, then, on further consideration, starts purring.
Bibi wiggles a tentacle in the air well out of the kitten's reach and wonders what to tell Mik.
Kitten gathers herself to pounce.
Bibi: In-T, you'll find that people have a more relaxed attitude about sex than they do out here.
Kitten stretches with one paw to bat towards the tentacle.
Mik: Boy, it couldn't be any less relaxed than in Gumgeeville. ~~ emphatic ~~ Say, was it the same where you grew up?
Bibi: I'm pretty sure it was. I changed over younger than you, however, so I didn't run into it personally.
Bibi decides not to tell Mik that a channel requires periodic sexual activity of a particularly satisfying kind in order to maintain health. Not only might it make him more nervous about the whole issue, it would raise the question of what she's doing about it, herself.
Kitten chitters in frustration as the tentacle remains out of reach.
Bibi taps the kitten on the nose with the tentacle.
Kitten blinks large green eyes and sneezes.
Mik laughs, ~~ letting go of his anxiety ~~ for the time being. He makes the gesture that keeps the kitten's soul in its body.
Bibi hooks the kitten onto Mik's shoulder, knowing that stroking a little furry animal is very soothing to the nerves.
Mik: ~~ tentative curiosity ~~
Kitten mews indignantly at the unauthorized change of accommodations, then settles down on Mik's shoulder.
Mik reaches up to pet the kitten.
Kitten inserts her nose as deeply as possible into Mik's ear and starts to purr.
Mik wiggles his ear involuntarily in an attempt to get rid of the ~~ tickling sensation ~~.
Kitten thinks this is great fun, and bats at Mik's earlobe.
Mik decides he's ~~ had enough ~~ and gently unhooks the kitten from his shoulder, moving it to the palm of his hand. He goes on petting the kitten.
Kitten settles down on Mik's palm to purr loudly.
Mik grins almost involuntarily.
Mik: She's quite a kitten, isn't she? Or is it a he?
Bibi is pleased at how relaxed and comfortable Mik is with her compared to when he first came to the Ford.
Kitten starts blissfully chewing on Mik's thumb.
Bibi: I don't know -- I haven't checked.
Bibi strokes the kitten with a tentacle.
Mik figures that channels can sex animals by just zlinning them.
Bibi probably could, with a good bit of effort, but it's easier to just check whether there's a ! or a : in the relevant area.
Kitten flops over to its back in order to grab the tentacle and chew on it instead. She appears to possess a !.
Bibi wiggles another tentacle in front of the kitten to make her let go of the first one. Pulling it away would cause more damage.
Kitten goes for the bait.
Bibi pulls back her scratched and bitten tentacle with minimal injury.
Mik feels a sudden sharp stab that he can't localize to anywhere in his body.
Mik: Ouch! ~~ surprise, pain ~~
Bibi zlins Mik, trying to figure out what happened.
Mik shows the signs of ~~ being in pain ~~, but there's no physiological reason for it.
Mik: Hajene, what happened? When the kitten bit you, I got a sharp pain ... well, somewhere.
Bibi hasn't a clue and wonders whether (or dreads that) this is a symptom of Weird Gumgeeville Mutantness.
Mik: [quickly] Anyhow, are you hurt? ~~ child-level sympathy ~~
Kitten looks as innocent as only a kitten getting into mischief can look.
Bibi: I'm fine. The kitten didn't even break the skin. How about you?
Mik: Well, the pain's gone. But what's weird is, it wasn't a pain in my fingers, or anyone else, really. I mean anywhere else, of course. It's like, I knew there was a pain somewhere, but I wasn't sure where it was.
Mik: ~~ enlightenment ~~ Or whose it was. Is it possible I was feeling your pain? I mean, not like we say, "I feel your pain", you know, but actually feeling it? Somehow?
Kitten, ~~ shocked ~~ at her delinquency, starts to redeem herself by inserting her kitten fangs into Mik's hand.
Mik: Ow. Now that was a pain in my hand, and no fooling.
Kitten growls, then lets go and starts licking instead of chewing.
Bibi: I don't see how you could zlin without laterals. Well, Donors can sort of.. well, they're not zlinning... but they can sometimes act as if they are...
Mik: ~~ eager ~~ Really? So that means instead of being a channel, I could also be a Donor? What's that part like? Well, I guess you don't know, not from inside or anything, but ...
Mik trails off again. He begins to pet the kitten absently.
Kitten promptly falls asleep.
Bibi keeps a calm demeanor while wondering what the shen is going on. She's reluctant to tell Mik that it was his imagination. After all, she zlinned him feeling the pain. But maybe imagined pain is zlinnable?
Mik doesn't know what else to do except keep on petting the kitten. He feels a bit ~~ disillusioned ~~ by Bibi's failure to provide a prompt explanation for everything.
Bibi: Don't worry, Mik. Things are going well. Something should happen soon, especially if you're getting the feeling that changeover is imminent. And whatever happens, you'll be safe with us here.
Mik tries to whip up a little ~~ confidence ~~, without any too much success.
Mik: I guess.
Bibi intends to write to her Controller again, requesting a spare Donor, in case Mik's changeover really is imminent, but isn't going to tell Mik until she gets back a positive response from in-T.
Mik is beginning to realize that even channels don't know everything, and in fact are as fallible as any adult. ~~ drop in confidence ~~
Mik: [politely] Well, anyhow, thanks for talking to me, Hajene Bibi.
Bibi: Any time, Mik. How's your father doing?
Bibi starts to stroll back towards the Sime Center.
Mik doesn't know how to answer that.
Mik: I guess he's doing a bit better, maybe. ~~ doubtful ~~
Bibi: He loves you very much. I think he's trying to spend all the time with you he can, now.
Mik: Yeah, I guess so. ~~ realization ~~ You mean because -- He thinks -- Oh.
Bibi: I believe he's afraid that if you zlin his reaction to you... you'll lose respect for him.
Mik: Well, I mean, well, he can't help being a Sime-phobe, can he.
Mik unconsciously stops petting the kitten.
Bibi: No, not after what happened to him. But he's deeply ashamed of his fear.
Kitten wakes up and starts to purr.
Mik: Umm, yeah, I can see that. It's a guy thing, you know. We aren't supposed to be frightened.
Mik believes that women, even Sime women, aren't going to understand this.
Bibi: Yes. But although any sane person would be frightened in a dangerous situation, people here try to hide the visible evidence of their fear. So everyone is afraid, and everyone thinks he's the only one who is.
Mik's eyebrows go up.
Mik: I guess that's right. I never heard that before. I guess it helps to have the, umm, outside point of view.
Bibi: I've zlinned many first time donors who were very much afraid, but looked and sounded calm. If I couldn't zlin, they'd have fooled me.
Kitten stands and stretches, arching her back into a U.
Bibi: It's so much harder for people here. They're so alone, each thinking everyone is a fearless hero but himself. I tell people that courage isn't fearlessness, it's acting despite your fear. If there were no fear, there would be no need for courage to overcome it.
Kitten decides that if there were no fluff, there'd be no need for a tongue with which to groom it, and proceeds to demonstrate.
Mik starts to lose track of what Bibi's saying, ~~ distracted ~~ by the kitten.
Mik: [brightly] Right, I see that.
Kitten vigorously chases a flea.
Mik puts down the kitten in an attempt to collect himself.
Kitten decides to chase a leaf instead of the flea.
MomCat comes out from under the veranda and chirps at the kitten.
Kitten mewls loudly, complaining of terminal starvation and other forms of kitten abuse.
Mik watches the cat byplay with ~~ amusement ~~.
MomCat stalks over to the kitten and begins to wash its face, holding it down to avoid knocking it over.
Mik belatedly remembers his manners, more or less.
Kitten mewls even louder at this rough treatment, as she was more interested in sustenance than hygiene.
Mik: Well, anyhow, Hajene Bibi, I've gotta go. Thanks for the walk and talk.
MomCat flops down and presents the milk bar.
Bibi: Any time, Mik.
Kitten greedily takes advantage of the offer.
Mik ~~ tears his attention ~~ away from this lubricious (to him) scene and goes over to the Sime Center gate, managing to shut it behind him without too much difficulty.
Bibi heads into the Sime Center, hoping that Mik will have a normal changeover and become a normal channel.