Strangers in Strange Lands: Episode 10

Cristal and Bibi are sitting in her office discussing his last transfer.

Cristal: So as I was saying, I visualized what I took to be my TN-1 reservoir as a deep well of boiling fluid with a glass cover.

Bibi: Uh huh.

Cristal: And then the cover broke when Dillip drew the last little bit, and then he was flooded with selyn, primary and secondary both. I think. So I wanted you to see how things zlin to you now. If you don't mind.

Bibi: So you felt like you were pushing selyn at him?

Cristal: Definitely. I knew he'd come up short again if I didn't.

Bibi: Well, I'll be glad to deep zlin you, but I don't know how much I'll be able to figure out.

Cristal: Well, I thought I could try to let down the barrier again, and you could zlin what's what if possible. When we're not in a transfer situation.

Bibi: Sure, let's try it.

Bibi offers her arms.

Cristal gets up and walks over to the settee.

Cristal: I thought we ought to be comfortable.

Bibi follows, sits and takes Cristal's arms.

Bibi: Just hold a neutral field for now.

Cristal closes his eyes and centers himself. ~~ neutral ~~

Bibi extends her laterals and zlins Cristal's selyn system carefully.

Bibi: Everything seems normal. Your production level and rate are nominal for this time of month for you.

Cristal: Okay, let me try to recapture the visualization I had.

Bibi closes her eyes and concentrates on her Sime senses.

Cristal moves to ~~ deeper relaxation ~~ and visualizes his selyn field as a field, with little hills and valleys and a stream running through it.

Cristal's point of view moves up the little stream, watching the water in it get more and more turbulent as he moves to the source. The stream is the overflow of a dug well, built of rough stone, with a wooden cover on it.

Cristal murmurs "I think this is it."

Bibi concentrates harder. So far she hasn't noticed anything strange, but is enjoying Cristal's relaxation.

Cristal imagines himself moving the cover back. It's heavy and doesn't want to move easily. He exerts himself in his visualization, while ~~ relaxing ~~ further, as the cover slides off the well and onto the ground.

Bibi zlins something move inside Cristal's selyn system.

Cristal sees very clear water, very deep, bubbling rapidly. Some of the bubbles leap up and burst with a perceptible ~~ pop ~~. He looks closer and sees definite signs of a whirlpool in the well.

Bibi zlins something reminiscent of a kid who showed up late one night, afraid of being in changeover, but actually with a bad case of food poisoning. The same churning, but in a part of Cristal's selyn system, rather than his digestive system.

Bibi: That is strange. Maybe I should make a lip contact.

Cristal gives the "yes" signal.

Bibi presses her lips to Cristal's, and finds the extra clarity doesn't help her understand what she's zlinning any better. His selyn system seems... larger... but... not really.

Cristal feels the closer presence of the channel, and observes that the liquid in the well is bubbling harder, leaping and dancing and jumping out of the well with big sloshes.

Bibi breaks the lip contact and withdraws her laterals.

Cristal lets the visualization fade and opens his eyes.

Cristal: What did you think? And are you all right?

Bibi: I think you may have lowered your TN-1 barrier, Cristal, but I can't really tell. The selyn behind it... I guess you could call it turbulent... It's strange.

Cristal: ~~ disappointment ~~ Oh well. I had hoped ....

Bibi: I couldn't really tell what was going on. I just don't have the sensitivity or the experience. I'm sure Seruffin could understand it better than I can.

Cristal: Well, I'm sure he could ... as a First. But I'm ... not exactly used to working with him. ~~ embarrassment ~~ Still, I could try, I guess.

Bibi: It's up to you. I think he'd be interested and willing to oblige.

Cristal makes the "reluctant agreement" gesture, second degree of intensity.

Seruffin has finished unpacking and gone down to enjoy a blissfully retainer-free breath of fresh air on the veranda.

Gerrhonot follows, hoping to get something from the kitchen that Seruffin will enjoy.

Seruffin settles onto the porch swing, extending his handling tentacles with ~~ gratitude ~~.

Bibi: I could do with some fresh trin. Would you like some?

Cristal: I'll go with you.

Cristal goes to the door and holds it open.

Bibi follows him and heads for the kitchen.

Gerrhonot: Hi, Hajene Bibi.

Bibi: Are you hungry, Gerrhonot? There's some carrot cake in the box.

Gerrhonot: I'm looking for something for Hajene Seruffin. I'm making a pot of tea, too.

Bibi: Gitl has a bowl of cut up vegetables on the counter there.

Gerrhonot: Oh, good. Um, Hajene Seruffin is on the veranda. Do you want to have some tea with us?

Seruffin decides he hasn't been getting nearly enough fresh air. New Washington is a lot of things, but rural isn't one of them.

Bibi looks to Cristal. No time like the present.

Cristal makes up his mind.

Cristal: Thanks, Sosu. We would.

Bibi smiles at Gerrhonot and heads for the veranda with Cristal close behind.

Seruffin looks up as Bibi comes out, and ~~ smiles ~~

Bibi smiles back, ~~ delighted ~~ to see him although she's still pre-turnover and he isn't. But she's still glad that he's come to visit.

Seruffin: Ah, Bibi, it's good to be back here.

Bibi smiles harder, showing her dimples to best advantage. ~~ happiness ~~ welcome ~~

Bibi: You're always welcome here.

Seruffin is a diplomat, and that requires a minimal degree of courtesy. He therefore manages not to look too reluctant as he turns to Cristal.

Seruffin: And Cristal, I believe you went in-Territory for your last transfer? Did you enjoy the break?

Cristal: Well, it was an experience, certainly. In fact, I wanted to ask you to do something for me, if you wouldn't mind, connected with my last transfer.

Seruffin raises an interrogative eyebrow.

Cristal: The channel I was serving had a capacity requirement slightly in excess of mine, and I -- believe -- I lowered my TN-1 barrier in an attempt to satisfy him.

Gerrhonot puts the large teapot on the tray and adds some of the top quality trin Bibi bought specially for him and Seruffin. He finds four matching cups and puts them on the tray too.

Cristal: I was doing some visualizations at the time and I'm pretty sure that's what happened.

Seruffin: You lowered your TN-1 barrier? Have you been feeling the sort of frustration you would have felt just before Qualifying Second Order?

Cristal: No, not in general. But I was concerned about Hajene Dillip. It seemed clear to me, though he denied it, that he'd been shorted repeatedly. I didn't want him to be shorted again.

Gerrhonot puts a few slices of carrot cake on a plate and adds a couple of forks. The bowl contains a variety of vegetables cut into ornamental shapes, mostly flowers. He takes some out and arranges them on another plate.

Cristal: Hajene Bibi and I were just attempting to explore it, but ...

Cristal turns to Bibi with an "Over to you" gesture.

Seruffin turns his attention back to Bibi, with no visible reluctance.

Bibi: Cristal tried to demonstrate what he'd done, and I could definitely feel something happening, but not exactly what. Of course, I'm not very sensitive, and not at all experienced with the TN-1 level.

Gerrhonot patiently waits for the water to boil. It sounds like it's getting there.

Seruffin: I see. Well, Cristal, why don't you sit down and I'll take a zlin?

Cristal sits down next to Seruffin and extends his arms.

Bibi is ~~ curious ~~ about what Seruffin will discover.

Seruffin ignores the offered arms for the moment and just zlins Cristal from a distance.

Cristal: ~~ neutral field ~~

Seruffin: I don't perceive any particular increase in your field strength or capacity. Bibi, you know his specifics better than I do. Did you zlin a difference?

Bibi: No. As far as I can tell, everything is the same as always for this length of time after transfer.

Seruffin: When was the last time you were in-test, Cristal?

Cristal: Last year.

Seruffin: Who did the testing?

Gerrhonot notices a cat and four kittens walking down the laneway towards the stable. The cat looks like she's losing patience with the way the kittens keep pouncing on her tail.

Cristal: I'm sorry, Hajene, I don't remember. I had never met him before or since. I'm sure it's in my file, though.

Seruffin makes the probably justified assumption that if Cristal had been tested by a Householding Sectuib, or a member of one of the great channeling families like the Tigues or the Farrises, the status-conscious Donor would remember.

Seruffin: Well, we can look later if it seems important. How long after you established did you Qualify Third?

Cristal: Practically right away. And Second a year or so later.

Seruffin: Were you ever evaluated for further training as a potential First?

Cristal: As far as I know, no.

Gerrhonot sometimes regrets that his peripatetic life as a First Order Donor pretty much precludes having a pet, but taking care of Seruffin satisfies some of the same nurturing urges.

Seruffin: And you're how old, now?

Cristal: Ten.

Seruffin: Are your transfers as satisfying now as, say, eight or nine years ago, when you were recently Qualified Second?

Cristal: Absolutely. ~~ enthusiasm ~~

Gerrhonot hears the water boiling and fills the tea pot. He assembles everything onto the tray and carries it to the veranda, opening the door with his elbow.

Cristal is beginning to find this grilling somewhat intimidating, not that he isn't already intimidated.

Seruffin automatically turns to ~~ greet ~~ his Donor.

Gerrhonot sets the tray on the table and goes to stand behind his channel. ~~ calm ~~ comfort ~~ appetite ~~

Seruffin is a professional, however, and shortly turns his attention back to Cristal.

Seruffin: Well, let me take a zlin, and see what I can find. Give me a nice, neutral field, first.

Seruffin holds out his hands, tentacles spread in invitation.

Cristal takes Seruffin's hands and ~~ relaxes ~~ ~~ neutral ~~.

Gerrhonot watches for signals, hoping that Seruffin won't get so involved in channel's work that he won't eat.

Bibi observes closely. She's impressed that Seruffin is taking the problem so seriously. She didn't expect such a thorough investigation.

Seruffin: That's good. I'm going to run a few quick and dirty tests of your sensitivity, now. Let your field respond however it wants.

Cristal relaxes his field control as much as he's able, given his conditioned reflexes on the subject.

Gerrhonot provides a ~~ calm ~~ supportive ~~ field, enhancing his channel's sensitivity and protecting him from outside influences.

Seruffin could wish for a bit more flexibility in Cristal's control, but then, he's used to working with Firsts.

Seruffin starts projecting ~ need ~, very "quietly", gradually increasing the strength of his projection as he zlins for a response from Cristal's field.

Gerrhonot can feel Seruffin's projection and carefully prevents his own field from responding.

Bibi is very interested in what Seruffin is doing, but keeps her showfield as ~~ neutral ~~ and ~~ steady ~~ as possible, so as not to interfere.

Cristal feels his field tracking Seruffin's projected need.

Seruffin notes the point at which Cristal first responded, then tries a few other projections to pinpoint Cristal's sensitivity, response speed, and several other arcane Tecton traits.

Cristal tries to drop his self-restraint still further, if possible.

Seruffin leans back a moment as he considers the results of his investigation.

Seruffin: Well, as near as I tell, your sensitivity and responses are still comfortably within the normal range for a Second.

Cristal: I'm not surprised. I still feel like a Second, or at least I don't feel different like I did when I qualified Second.

Seruffin: You said you thought you dropped your TN-1 barrier? What did the channel you were working with think?

Cristal: He was ... in a considerable hurry. I filed my report, but I haven't seen his. But my impression is that I frightened him.

Seruffin: I'm not surprised. Few Second Order channels have worked much with a First. And those who have often find the extra field strength a bit overwhelming.

Cristal raises an eyebrow, Seruffin-style.

Bibi concurs. The time Seruffin asked Gerrhonot to help her with her need, she found his support overwhelmingly wonderful.

Cristal: I'd like to demonstrate for you what I was doing, or thought I was doing.

Seruffin: Certainly.

Cristal extends his arms again, more tentatively this time.

Seruffin is glad that Gerrhonot is present; Donors who don't know what they're doing can be as dangerous as Wild Gens, despite their care.

Cristal ~~ relaxes ~~ and resumes his visualization. He's not surprised to see that the cover is back on the well.

Gerrhonot ~~ steadies ~~ his field and ~~ intensifies ~~ his support. He's not too happy about Cristal trying something frightening on Seruffin.

Seruffin makes the contact, and zlins carefully.

Cristal goes through the necessary not-striving in order to remove the cover, and looks down into the boiling liquid. It doesn't look much like water any more; it's thicker, though still completely clear.

Bibi crosses her arms. glad that she can't really zlin what Cristal is doing.

Cristal: [dreamily] This is what I saw, only the cover was glass, and it broke, and Dillip was satisfied.

Seruffin zlins Cristal's TN-1 barrier waver, weakening enough for a sludgy trickle of selyn to leak through into his more depleted TN-2 level.

Cristal tries to will the liquid into boiling over as it did before, but it won't cooperate. There are just a few ~~ pops ~~ as bubbles emerge and burst.

Seruffin is well used to zlinning that barrier move, so he doesn't find it particularly frightening, but the slow, irregular propagation of the selyn-trickle across the five other barriers is enough to make him feel slightly ~~ nauseated ~~

Seruffin breaks the contact, and leans a little on Gerrhonot's nager, where the TN-1 barrier is either up or down, but not vibrating halfway.

Cristal opens his eyes, sees Seruffin's face, and is immediately ~~ concerned ~~. He hopes Gerrhonot is taking care of it.

Gerrhonot steps up his projection of ~~ comfort ~~ and adds some ~~ safety ~~

Seruffin: Well, you were right. You were manipulating your TN-1 barrier.

Cristal: Hajene, when you feel better, perhaps you could elaborate a bit?

Seruffin has a First's recovery time, and Cristal's odd effect was more unpleasant than challenging. He pours tea all around, offering the first cup to Bibi, and the next two to the Donors, before taking one for himself.

Gerrhonot sits next to Seruffin and puts his arm around him. Seruffin is a week from need, but still.

Seruffin: You're a Second, Cristal. Your TN-1 barrier doesn't lower normally. It just...thins a bit. Enough to let a trickle of selyn through, if there's a sufficiently large gradient between your TN-1 and TN-2 levels.

Cristal: I see. So it would be ... inadvisable to let it do that, then?

Cristal isn't usually this inarticulate, but he feels ~~ humbled ~~ again. Seruffin seems to do that to him, somehow.

Seruffin: You can't lower the barrier, really, so the selyn comes through with a lot of turbulence.

Cristal: I see.

Seruffin: As a last resort, if you had to serve a channel who outrated you so much that stripping your TN-2 level wouldn't even result in a shorted transfer, it might be worth trying. But if you think you might have to, I'd recommend warning the channel ahead of time.

Bibi is glad she doesn't overmatch Cristal, hence is unlikely to provoke that kind of behavior from him. She was also glad to hear that he's finding transfers with her very satisfying, despite the mismatch.

Cristal nods slowly.

Cristal: Thank you, Seruffin.

Seruffin: You're welcome, Cristal.

Seruffin turns to Bibi, zlinning her conflicted emotions.

Seruffin: You found it disturbing to zlin, Bibi?

Bibi: I couldn't detect much when he was demonstrating it for you, but directly, I found it very strange.

Cristal is ~~ embarrassed ~~ by this.

Seruffin: Part of that may simply be that you're used to zlinning the TN-1 barrier as the end of his nager.

Bibi: Perhaps. When he had the barrier down, his field seemed... larger, but the selyn in that part... I can't really describe it.

Seruffin: It's just not in balance with the rest of his field, since it can't move across the barrier easily. Otherwise, it's not too different from... Gerrhonot, would you mind demonstrating?

Gerrhonot: Sure, Hajene.

Gerrhonot waits for instructions ~~ willingly ~~

Seruffin: Give Bibi a transfer contact, if you would.

Gerrhonot gets up, approaches Bibi and offers his arms.

Cristal feels quite ~~ itchy ~~ about this, though he knows perfectly well that Gerrhonot outclasses him.

Bibi takes his arms, extends her laterals and stretches to make a lip contact.

Gerrhonot leans forward to compensate for Bibi's short stature. ~~ kindness ~~ safety ~~ willingness ~~

Cristal finds himself ~~ drawn ~~ to Seruffin as the unattached channel, though he ~~ resists ~~ it.

Seruffin: All right. Gerrhonot, can you do that training exercise where you lower each barrier in succession, then raise them in the reverse order?

Bibi feels safe with Gerrhonot, who may not be bright, but is talented, well-trained and well-meaning.

Gerrhonot projects ~~ assent ~~ then runs through the sequence slowly so that Bibi can follow it easily.

Cristal realizes that Bibi isn't noticing his ~~ discomfort ~~, and looks at Seruffin ~~ appealingly ~~.

Bibi is zlinning Gerrhonot's actions carefully. His manipulation of his barriers is smooth and easy, and dropping the TN-1 is very similar to dropping the TN-2 and -3.

Seruffin signals Cristal for light support, of the sort that doesn't demand too much dependency from himself.

Cristal assumes ~~ light support ~~.

Seruffin: Gerrhonot's a lot smoother at it, and his TN-1 barrier goes down all the way so there isn't the turbulence, but it's the same thing.

Bibi breaks the lip contact.

Bibi: Yes, I see what you mean. Thank you, Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot smiles and nods. ~~ you're welcome ~~ He goes back to sit beside Seruffin, signals to Cristal, and resumes his ~~ support ~~. He's kind of surprised that Seruffin used Cristal, but he must have had some reason to.

Seruffin does, but it's not that he required support. Cristal was the one who required it, and Seruffin saw no reason to refuse. He much prefers the support of a Donor who matches him, however.

Bibi, like most channels, including Seruffin, also appreciates the support of a Donor who overmatches her. Gerrhonot overmatches her by a lot, and she finds his nager extremely beautiful and attractive.

Bibi has some manners, however, and is careful not to drool over Seruffin's Donor in front of her own, and makes an effort to conceal her attraction from Seruffin behind her showfield. It doesn't work, but it's the thought that counts.

Seruffin can easily zlin that Gerrhonot has no particular interest in Bibi, which is what counts for a channel.

Gerrhonot likes Bibi and is glad that she can make Seruffin happy, but his nageric attraction to her is no more than he feels for most Simes. He offers Seruffin a radish cut into the shape of a rose. ~~ crunchy ~~ spicy ~~ delicious ~~

Seruffin shoots Bibi a long-suffering "see how Gen-pecked I am" look, but accepts the radish, and obediently begins to eat.

Bibi smiles and takes a sprig of monkshood to nibble.

Gerrhonot reaches for a slice of carrot cake, projecting ~~ appetite ~~ to all.

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