Strangers in Strange Lands: Episode 2

Cristal wanders through the maze of the Okmed City Sime Center, looking for Room H-422-B. He thinks whoever designed this building probably went mad shortly after, if not shortly before.

Cristal eventually locates the right pavilion, the right wing, the right floor, and the right room and notes the signs on the door: DEFERMENT FACILITY and OCCUPIED.

Dillip is crouched in the corner of the sofa, rocking back and forth, an activity he has been alternating with compulsive pacing for what seems like forever.

Cristal wishes the Tecton would manage things a bit better than to leave him facing a totally unknown QN-2 whose Donor has been snatched away at the last minute, but he has to admit that the Tecton couldn't have foreseen the channel changeover that pre-empted that other Donor, whoever he was.

Cristal thinks, "All that business about 'name, order, and serial number' may be all very well for Firsts, who have to be shen-careful about transfer dependency, but the Tecton carries it too fleckin far."

Dillip has been trying to feel glad for his Donor, who had the wonderful opportunity of serving a channel in First Transfer, but it's impossible right now. He wonders if the Tecton really will be able to find him a matching Donor before he dies of attrition.

Cristal sets his field to ~~ promise ~~ and ~~ denial ~~ at the same time, reflecting that at least he never had to do that at Hannard's Ford. He opens the door and walks into the deferment room, closing and locking the door behind him. What he sees shocks him, but he successfully keeps the shock ~~ out of his field. ~~

Dillip springs to his feet, then grits his teeth and sits down carefully.

Dillip: Welcome, Sosu.

Dillip would like to grab the Gen, but he has better control than that. He can't keep his laterals from extending, however, leaking more ronaplin onto his already wet sleeves.

Cristal: Welfound, Hajene Dillip.

Dillip tries not to let the Donor see how ~~ desperate ~~ he has been feeling.

Dillip: I'm very glad you're here.

Cristal takes a deep breath and spreads ~~ calm acceptance promise ~~ around the room with a figurative spatula.

Dillip appreciates it, but really ~~ wants ~~ the friggin zlin-blind Gen to get over here where he can grab -- er, touch him.

Cristal: I'm very glad to be able to help you, Hajene.

Cristal notices the soaked condition of Dillip's sleeves, plus his yo-yo-like behavior, and figures he really is being strained at or near his limits.

Cristal sits down on the couch within easy reach of Dillip, but not actually pushing himself on Dillip physically. His Gen percipience tells him that Dillip is seriously kinked up, and he begins ~~ working ~~ to unkink Dillip's shattered showfield, not attempting to touch the primary system yet.

Dillip: Sosu, may I...

Dillip offers his hands.

Cristal immediately takes Dillip's hands in his, ~~ yielding ~~ surface control of his field, but set to ~~ deny ~~ actual transfer, if Dillip slips enough to try for it.

Dillip begins to relax a little under Cristal's ministrations. He closes his eyes and breathes easier.

Cristal: [soothingly] That's it, Hajene. All will be well ...

Dillip: It was... difficult... waiting for you.

Cristal: [still soothingly] I can see that.

Cristal takes control of his field again and starts to ~~ work ~~ on Dillip's primary system, splicing together the selyn flows torn loose by Dillip's losing his Donor so abruptly.

Dillip gradually begins to appreciate that this stopgap Donor they've found for him actually knows what he's doing and has a deliciously replete nager. Like most Simes in need without their Donor at hand, he had been anticipating the worst.

Cristal: Now I realize that I'm not quite your match, but I want you to believe that you're going to have a good transfer anyway.

Dillip is ~~ alarmed ~~. Not quite his match?!

Cristal realizes he's put his foot in it again. Wasn't Dillip told, or was he in no condition to listen?

Dillip opens his eyes and leans back. He can't manage to let go of Cristal's hands yet though. He grits his teeth and tries to act calm.

Dillip: I'm sure you'll do your best for me, Sosu.

Dillip desperately hopes so.

Cristal: It says on the paperwork that I have about 99% of your required capacity and you're a couple of tenths ahead of me on speed. But I've been working out-T with a channel that I overmatch, doing all sorts of things there, and I don't anticipate any trouble. ~~ confidence strength ~~

Dillip doesn't find it very encouraging that Cristal's been taking it easy with a channel he overmatches, but tries to convince himself that he's being unreasonably pessimistic about that, and about Cristal's rating.

Dillip: I'll be very careful, Sosu. You don't have to worry about me... exceeding your capabilities.

Cristal is worried to hear this.

Dillip hopes that reassuring the Donor that he doesn't plan to burn him will help, despite how bad he must look to him.

Cristal: Hajene, if you take that attitude, you are going to deny yourself a good transfer, and you need one.

Cristal uses "need" quite precisely.

Cristal: My sense of your situation is that you've been having marginal transfers for some time, and losing your Donor like this was about the last straw. Am I right?

Dillip: My recent transfers have been adequate, but I was looking forward to my next one with Sosu Larkin, who overmatches me. When I had to give her up a few days ago, it was... disappointing.

Dillip says "a few days" instead of "two days 4 hours and 27 minutes", in order not to look too desperate.

Cristal: [gently] I think it was a bit more than "disappointing", Hajene.

Cristal continues to unkink Dillip's seized-up primary system.

Dillip sighs, relaxing further.

Dillip: You're very skillful, Sosu. I'm sure you can serve me adequately.

Dillip wonders whether he should ask Cristal if he'd like to be upgraded, but doesn't want to be greedy. Or greedier.

Cristal: I feel ~~ confident ~~ that we can do something much better than that!

Dillip hopes so, but isn't really able to feel optimistic. Cristal's confidence is encouraging, however.

Cristal realizes that in the channel's condition, optimism is entirely up to Cristal.

Cristal: Hajene, with your permission, I'd like to do something a bit ... unusual. I think it might be helpful in your current condition.

Dillip reacts with fairly well-concealed ~~ nervousness ~~. He doesn't know anything about Cristal, having never seen his file. He zlins okay, but if he were deluded about his abilities, he would zlin confident too.

Dillip: Umm. What did you have in mind?

Cristal: Well, I don't know how to explain it exactly. It's something I learned at my last assignment, though.

Cristal sets his field to ~~ enticing ~~ while still maintaining a core of ~~ denial ~~ underneath.

Dillip resists the urge to run his hands up Cristal's arms into a transfer grip.

Cristal: I'll need you to let go of my hands for a moment, Hajene.

Dillip nods and reluctantly releases Cristal's hands.

Cristal gets up from the couch, holding his field steady, and slips onto his knees in front of Dillip. He leans his head on Dillip's chest, aligning his forehead with Dillip's vriamic node, and wrapping his arms around Dillip. ~~ confidence enticement optimism ~~

Dillip puts his hands lightly on Cristal's shoulders, laterals in.

Cristal: That's good, Hajene. Let's hold it here for a while, not too long, but ...

Cristal's voice fades to a murmur.

Dillip is enjoying the feel of the Gen's arms encircling him, and the corresponding effects on the ambient. He's also becoming intensely aware of the rich zlin of selyn in Cristal's neck and shoulders.

Cristal feels his body reacting to the channel's need with ~~ need-to-give ~~

Dillip begins to raise intil which he tries to suppress as his ronaplin soaks into the shoulders of Cristal's uniform.

Cristal: [almost a whisper] That's it, that's it. Let yourself feel.

Dillip goes hyperconscious and his laterals lick out to touch Cristal's neck. He's finding it very hard to resist raising intil.

Cristal, feeling the buzz from the laterals, slowly slowly fades the enticement and replaces it with ~~ promise ~~.

Cristal: [as before] All will be well, all will be well.

Dillip forces himself duoconscious.

Cristal: Gently, Hajene. Gently. Allow yourself to relevel naturally.

Dillip feels not quite shenned, a bit nauseated, a bit dizzy. He shivers.

Cristal: ~~ warmth comfort ~~

Dillip leans on Cristal's offered comfort.

Cristal: [still softly] Just because you can force your fields around, doesn't make it a good idea, you know.

Dillip: I was raising intil. I'm not scheduled until tomorrow evening.

Dillip really doesn't want an unauthorized transfer on his record.

Cristal looks up into Dillip's eyes.

Cristal: You know you won't take me until the schedule says to. You're not helpless.

Dillip figures this Gen could probably shen him, but he doesn't want an unauthorized transfer attempt on his record either.

Cristal: [almost hypnotically] You are in control here. You are ... in control. ~~ conviction determination ~~

Cristal: [after a long pause] How do you feel?

Dillip gives a deep sigh.

Dillip: Much better. Perhaps I'll be able to do my evening dispensary shift. You must be tired from your journey. Could we lie down together so you can rest for a few hours?

Dillip thinks he could get a bit of rest himself, in the Donor's replete and sleeping field.

Cristal: Of course, Dillip. Whatever you need.

Dillip: Let's go to my quarters then. I'll ask someone to bring your luggage to you. You'll want to change your shirt, after that.

Dillip lets go of Cristal, and looks ruefully at the wet patches on his shoulders.

Cristal smiles at Dillip.

Cristal: Well, perhaps. ~~ but he doesn't mean it ~~

Dillip tries to smile back.

Cristal: A few wet spots don't embarrass me.

Cristal carefully withdraws his arms and stands up, extending his hands to Dillip again.

Dillip stands and takes one of Cristal's hands.

Cristal: Shall we? ~~ enthusiasm ~~

Dillip: Yes. Thank you, Sosu. You've been very helpful.

Cristal: [English] Dillip, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Cristal opens the door and escorts Dillip out, flipping the OCCUPIED sign back to VACANT.

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