Melly tops the rise behind the slaughterhouse and starts slowly down it towards the Sime Center, weaving methodically back and forth, her eyes on the ground. She is a pretty fourteen-year-old who has only recently started to develop curves, and isn't quite sure what to do with them yet.
Melly's uncertainty doesn't extend to her older interests, and so she is able to correctly identify most of the weeds and butterflies she passes. She reaches the hedge, absently pegs it as consisting of Thuja occidentalis from the smell, and looks for a gate.
Melly finds a somewhat thinner section, perhaps caused by the drainage patterns down the hill, but it isn't thin enough to give her a good look through, much less climb through. She considers the situation for a moment, then sighs in ~~ resignation ~~ and follows the hedge around to the front of the Sime Center.
Melly hesitates partway down the front sidewalk, debating whether to just go around, but good manners have been drilled into her from an early age, and ~~ shyness ~~ is no excuse. She decides that it won't be trespassing if she asks permission from the receptionist. She opens the door and slips through, blinking at the sudden (relative) darkness.
Bibi is in the kitchen getting a fresh mug of trin.
Melly doesn't see anyone in what's obviously a reception area.
Melly: Is...is anybody there?
Bibi comes out into the common room and zlins a young Gen in the waiting area.
Melly is half hoping that her query will go unanswered.
Bibi heads down the hallway towards the front of the Sime Center, trying to make good speed without looking like she's charging at the Gen.
Melly holds her ground, although she's a bit ~~ socially awkward ~~ about it.
Bibi enters the room slowly, smiling charmingly, tentacles in, looking small and harmless.
Melly: Um, hi.
Melly looks at the sheathed tentacles, and ~~ interest ~~ starts to overcome her shyness.
Bibi: Hi. I'm Hajene Bibi. Did you come to find out if you're safe? You are, you know. You're a Gen.
Melly hasn't had a previous opportunity to look at real tentacles.
Melly: Um, I guessed that, pretty much, when the Blessing came.
Bibi: I see. Would you like some tea and cookies? Please help yourself.
Melly: Gee, thanks!
Melly looks at the offerings with ~~ appetite ~~, but recalls her errand.
Melly: I was wondering...has anyone here found a sort of dial? About so big?
Melly indicates the size with her hands.
Bibi: No, I don't think so. Where did you lose it?
Bibi doesn't want to mention Antrew's box of weather instruments, in case it isn't common knowledge in his cohort.
Melly: I didn't. My friend did. You met him, I think: Antrew.
Bibi: Yes, I did. His balloon got stuck in one of our trees. Did it fall out of his box?
Melly: Well, it wasn't there when he got it home. He's already grounded for a week for breaking the thermometer; he wants to get the barometer returned before his uncle figures out it's missing.
Bibi: Come with me, I'll show you where it came down. Take some cookies with you if you like.
Melly: Thank you.
Melly snags two molasses cookies and one almond tea cake, and follows Bibi, looking around ~~ curiously ~~
Bibi leads the way down the hall, into the common room and out onto the veranda, picking up her mug of tea as she passes through.
Bibi: You can see some shreds of balloon and parachute up there. I jumped up and pulled the box down.
Bibi points to one of the large shade trees behind the Sime Center.
Melly squints up at the tree, noting the branch in question, and starts quartering the grass underneath.
Bibi watches from the veranda, sipping her tea, reluctant to return to her office on such a nice day.
Melly's foot hits something metallic. She bends over and retrieves her friend's missing equipment.
Melly: Aha! I found it. Thank you very much, Ma'am.
Bibi: You're welcome. I'm Hajene Bibi. What's your name?
Melly: Oh, I'm sorry. I was so worried for Antrew that I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Melly Kalikimaka. I live next door to Antrew; we've been friends forever.
Bibi sits on the top step, to avoid towering over the girl, although she seems completely unafraid.
Bibi: Are you involved with the garden project too?
Melly: Yes, the garden was my idea originally. Antrew was the one who decided to collect weather data, though. I wish he'd asked me before sending the instruments we borrowed up in a balloon. He's always getting into scrapes over his experiments.
Melly says this with the tolerant and affectionate air of an old friend. She looks up at the remains of the balloon once more, estimating the distance.
Melly: Did you really jump that high?
Bibi: Well, not as high as the balloon. The box put out a parachute when the balloon burst and it fell, which also got hung up, so it was hanging much lower, maybe four or five meters up, when I pulled it down.
Melly: Four or five meters? I know Simes are supposed to be able to do things that even the best Gen athletes can't match, but that's more than I'd have expected. Are you a Sime athlete?
Bibi: No, I'm no athlete. I augmented to do that jump. It takes extra energy, so I can only do that sort of thing rarely.
Melly studies the distance again.
Melly: Extra energy? You mean like hysterical strength: the mother who lifts a whole wagon off her kid, and things like that?
Bibi: It's the same sort of thing, but Simes have conscious control over it.
Melly: Really? How does that work? You just think "I've got to jump that high", and it happens? ~~ rampant curiosity ~~
Bibi: It's hard to describe, but I do sort of prepare myself, and then turn it off afterwards.
Melly: How do you keep it from happening when you don't want it to?
Bibi: How do you keep from holding your breath when you don't want to?
Melly: I can control that while I'm awake, but what about the people who tend to stop breathing while they're asleep? Do you get strong like that when you have a bad dream or something?
Bibi: I don't think so. I might dream that I am, though.
Melly thinks about that for a moment, then nods.
Melly: Yeah. Although if you were one of those people who sleepwalks, I guess it might be different. Do Simes sleepwalk?
Bibi: I suppose a few do. I've never met anybody who does, I don't think.
Melly: It's rare, I read.
Melly studies Bibi again, noting how harmless she appears.
Melly: Is it true that Simes can spot a Gen a mile off?
Bibi laughs again.
Bibi: Well, maybe a Farris channel can, but most Simes aren't anywhere near that sensitive.
Melly nods with the decisive air of someone who's won an argument.
Melly: That's what I told Snitha, but she wouldn't believe me. I mean, it stands to reason that there'd be variation, right? Just like with eyesight?
Bibi: Yes. Channels are more sensitive than renSimes, and the higher order channels are more sensitive than the others.
Melly: Why is that?
Bibi: Well, one of the factors used to rate channels is their sensitivity, so I guess it's tautologous.
Melly: How do you get sensitive? Practice?
Bibi: Practice helps a little, but it's mostly something you have or don't have, like good hearing.
Melly: Is that why channels make good doctors?
Bibi: That's one reason.
Melly: What are the others?
Bibi: Well, channels have a secondary selyn system that renSimes don't have, so we also have a secondary field, which we can control and shape. That lets us interact with the patient's field, and help heal him.
Melly: I want to study to be a doctor myself, when I'm old enough. That's why I was so glad when I got the Blessing: channels are rare, aren't they?
Bibi: Yes, they are quite rare, especially high order channels.
Melly: It must be hard on people who want to be doctors, if they grow up and suddenly they're a Gen.
Bibi: I suppose so. Of course, they can still be nurses, or apothecaries or other medical specialties. Or perhaps Donors, if they have the talent.
Melly: It takes a special talent to donate?
Bibi: No, most Gens can donate selyn to a channel, but it takes talent to be a channel's Donor, who gives transfer to the channel and helps her in her work. Donors like that can learn to use their fields to heal Simes, like channels do.
Melly: It sounds a lot more complicated than just prescribing a drug or setting a bone, like doctors do out here. Of course, I expect surgery will be a challenge, when I get that far.
Bibi: In-T, we don't have surgery, but channels are exceptional diagnosticians because they can zlin what's going on inside a person. Channel's methods are especially good for healing injuries and for helping the body heal itself. But of course, we set bones and prescribe drugs, too.
Melly: You can see what's going on inside a person? Like those x-rays the Ancients were supposed to use? The pictures with the bones and lungs showing, and it's cloudy if they have pneumonia?
Bibi: What we zlin are the currents of selyn in the person's body, and the selyn production and consumption in the cells. We learn what these things are like in healthy people, and how they change in different kinds of sickness.
Melly: It might almost be worth being Sime, to see something like that. ~~ wistful ~~
Bibi: There aren't many people around here who wish they could be Simes.
Melly: I think Antrew does, sometimes. Or did, anyway. Just because it would be an adventure.
Bibi: Growing up is an adventure whether you establish or change over. And like most adventures, it's a lot better in retrospect than while it's happening.
Melly: Of course, he could be a scientist over in Sime Territory too, couldn't he? So it's not the same thing.
Bibi: Yes, both Simes and Gens are scientists in-T. We have a Gen scientist working here, Professor Nattin.
Melly: Really? What does she study?
Bibi: He's an anthropologist. He's studying how people here react to people from in-T, and their ideas and attitudes. Some of his students are studying how young people who change over here adapt to the change, compared to people in-T.
Melly is a little ~~ disappointed ~~
Melly: Oh. I'm more interested in biology than culture myself. Culture is so... messy.
Bibi: It is much harder to come to strong conclusions when it's so hard to get solid data.
Melly: Yeah. And let's face it: how butterflies and plants and things grow is more interesting than why groups of people do different things.
Bibi: Well, different people have different interests. I bet some of the girls you know are only interested in clothes and boys.
Melly's not-quite-ladylike snort demonstrates her opinion of such idiots.
Melly: They're silly.
Bibi: They probably just want to get married and settle down and have kids. They're not interested in a career like you are.
Melly: It's still silly. Although I guess changing clothes all the time is good practice for babies. They need changing all the time. Especially the lower part.
Melly wrinkles her nose.
Bibi: Yes, they do. Of course, doctors have to deal with some pretty yucky things too, working with sick people.
Melly: That's for a purpose, and if you do it right, most times the mess doesn't go on all that long. Babies make messes no matter what you do.
Melly looks at her watch.
Melly: Oh, gee, it's getting late. I'd better go, if I'm going to get this dial back to Antrew before his father gets home.
Bibi: It was nice meeting you, Melly. Say hello to Antrew for me.
Melly: I will. Thanks again for the cookies, Ma'am.
Bibi: You're welcome. And please tell your friends they are welcome to come by if they want to know if they're Gens yet, or if they think they might possibly be starting changeover. Or if they just want information.
Melly: I will.
Bibi: Thanks, Melly. You might save some lives that way.
Melly trots off around the Sime Center this time, rather than going back through it.
Bibi finishes her tea, and wonders how many of these young amateur scientists are resident in the area. She heads back to her office to resume her bureaucratic duties.