Strangers in Strange Lands: Episode 15

Pigasso approaches the heroic statue which forms the centerpiece of a certain New Washington park. He's fortunate in that the bagpipe is long gone. He gazes in admiration at the famous work, which is usually viewed as the best of sculptor Mik Anjello's career.

Pigasso sets aside his moment of sheer aesthetic appreciation and pulls out a small sketchpad. He industriously begins to sketch the statue from several angles not usually featured in photos, with special consideration of the Sime figures.

Gerrhonot walks briskly to the park. He doesn't feel right if he doesn't get some exercise daily, and it's not easy when your channel is engaged in a complex diplomatic negotiation with numerous interminable meetings and cubic meters of background reading to cover.

Gerrhonot sees a man looking at the weird statue of a Gen on a horse fighting off Sime-like demonic creatures. The man is writing something on a pad. Strange.

Pigasso approaches the statue to do a close-up of one "Sime" arm, which is extended towards the Gen Hero, eight three-foot tentacles extended.

Gerrhonot wonders if the statue is falling apart, and the man is figuring out how to repair it. He approaches the statue and starts looking for structural defects.

Pigasso is carefully reproducing one of the most egregious of those structural defects on his page. He reaches up with his hand to estimate the exact length of the pythons... er, "tentacles"... on the Sime's arms.

Pigasso: That's six handspans, life sized....

Pigasso shakes his head.

Pigasso: Where do they put 'em when they're not grabbing for something, I wonder?

Pigasso has a very good grounding in Gen anatomy, and muscles are muscles, after all.

Gerrhonot laughs. Imaginary creatures like demons don't have to have biologically plausible anatomy.

Pigasso looks up, ~~ startled ~~

Pigasso: What's so funny, Mister?

Pigasso is a bit ~~ defensive ~~, believing it's his sketches that are being laughed at, not the statue.

Gerrhonot: Demons are imaginary, so it's funny to think about what they do when they're not doing demon things like attacking people.

Pigasso: Demons? They're not demons, they're Simes.

Gerrhonot: They look a little like Simes, but the tentacles are all wrong. And the faces, too, sort of.

Pigasso looks at Gerrhonot sharply. He notes that 1) Gerrhonot doesn't look wealthy enough to be a profitable art patron, but 2) the Donor's uniform does imply that he has at least some familiarity with live Simes.

Pigasso: Wrong? What's wrong with them?

Gerrhonot: Um. There's too many of them and they're much too long. They look like whips on the statue.

Pigasso: Much too long, eh?

Pigasso inspects the statue again.

Pigasso: How long should they be, then?

Gerrhonot: Yeah. On a Sime they just extend about as far as the ends of the fingers, maybe a little longer in some people. I mean, your forearm isn't much longer than your hand, right?

Gerrhonot has observed and participated in enough transfer grips to be aware of this proportion.

Pigasso flips to another page in his sketchbook, quickly roughs in a (Genishly hefty) hand and arm, and then sketches in a rope-like kind of thing on the arm and hand.

Pigasso: Like that?

Gerrhonot: Um, sort of, I guess. But a tentacle doesn't just stick out like that. And tentacles don't really look like that either.

Pigasso: ~~ frustration ~~ What's wrong with them?

Gerrhonot doesn't know where to start.

Gerrhonot: Um. It's hard to describe in words. Why don't you ask a Sime to show you his arms?

Pigasso: There aren't exactly a lot of Simes in New Washington. And none of them seem to work for the modeling agencies. I checked.

Gerrhonot: I guess you'd have to go to the Sime Center or the Embassy, then.

Gerrhonot is not going to volunteer Seruffin's services.

Pigasso: Well, I suppose... do you really think I could recruit a few models there?

Pigasso is ~~ warming ~~ to the idea.

Gerrhonot: Maybe. Of course, they have to wear retainers outside the grounds.

Pigasso: That wouldn't do me any good, then.

Gerrhonot: Well, they could show you their arms inside, then.

Gerrhonot thinks it's idle curiosity. He doesn't realize the guy is an artist.

Pigasso: Inside the Sime Center? That's allowed? I thought they were like hospitals.

Gerrhonot: Well, ordinary people go in to donate all the time.

Pigasso: Yes, but I didn't think those Simes had time to pose for a sketch.

Gerrhonot: Some of the renSimes might, if you catch them on a tea break in the cafeteria.

Pigasso: Really? I didn't think they were allowed to associate with people. Would I have to get some kind of permission?

Gerrhonot: I guess you should ask. The cafeteria is for staff.

Pigasso: How long would it take to get permission? I've got to get some sort of a preliminary sketch done by the end of the week.

Pigasso realizes that he's been remiss in etiquette.

Pigasso: I'm Professor Pigasso, from the Art Department of New Washington University. I'm applying for a commission to paint the new headquarters building at the Handerson Military Academy.

Gerrhonot: I'm Sosu Gerrhonot. Do you know Professor Pistareen?

Pigasso: Pistareen? Isn't he the one who plays those obnoxious things that sound like a cat in heat?

Gerrhonot laughs.

Gerrhonot: That's what my channel Hajene Seruffin said.

Pigasso: I've decided to propose a mural of the Battle of Shen -- that's a suitably martial theme, don't you think?

Gerrhonot: Yes. It's very famous. Both my grandfathers were there. Um. You should probably donate before you ask to go to the cafeteria. It would be more polite.

Pigasso: What?

Gerrhonot: Um. If you don't know how to control your nager you can be really irritating to Simes without realizing it. If you donate you won't have as much effect.

Pigasso had planned to put a "Faith Day" section in the mural, to appeal to any liberals who might otherwise object to how the Simes were being portrayed in the rest of the mural. He hadn't planned on conducting such a personal form of research on the issue, however.

Pigasso: I know some of the students donate -- well, they're young and foolish, and always desperate for cash. But I'm a respectable professor, even if the Art Department doesn't get the respect it deserves.

Gerrhonot shrugs.

Pigasso: I wouldn't want word to get out that I'd done something so, well, less than respectable.

Pigasso doesn't want to lose the commission, however.

Pigasso: Do you really think it would help me find some models?

Gerrhonot: I think so. Do you want me to come with you? I know a lot of people there. I can probably round some renSimes up while you're donating.

Gerrhonot still hasn't figured out what these Gens think is so unrespectable about donating.

Gerrhonot: You don't have to tell anybody you did it.

Pigasso: True. And I doubt any of my colleagues will be around to see me. Or at least, they'll keep quiet if they do! I would certainly appreciate your assistance in finding some models, though.

Gerrhonot: Sure. I don't have to be back at work for another hour or so. Do you want to go now?

Pigasso views that as the warning it is: that the offer of help is time-limited. He reminds himself that it is the fashion for an artist to suffer for his Art, although that suffering is traditionally depicted in the form of attic accommodations and elderly apparel.

Pigasso supposes that risking a Sime's clutches would qualify, however, and it might help alleviate the more traditional risks of his profession for a while, if it lets him land the commission.

Pigasso: If now is convenient for you, I have already allotted this afternoon for sketching.

Gerrhonot: Okay. Let's go.

Pigasso follows Gerrhonot towards the unknown territory of the Sime Center.

Gerrhonot walks briskly and the two soon arrive. He leads the way to the Collectorium and is pleased to see that few people are waiting. He approaches the duty channel for this shift, Hajene Crynwyr.

Pigasso is busy inspecting the other two Gens, whom he is glad to see are unfamiliar to him. He is also a bit surprised to see that they look frankly bored as they wait.

Crynwyr looks up and sees that First-Order Donor, what's-his-name, with some obvious out-T loon in tow. What will it be this time?

Pigasso had never associated boredom with donating, and wonders if he'll have to modify the stiff-upper-lipped Heroes he'd planned for the Faith Day corner.

Crynwyr: How can I help you, Sosu?

Crynwyr sounds as bored as the donors look.

Gerrhonot: [Simelan] Hi, Hajene. This guy is an art professor and he wants to learn how to draw Sime arms. So I figured I'd get some of the renSimes to help while they're on break if you'll take his field down for us. ~~ friendly ~~ encouraging ~~

Crynwyr shakes his head, not in disagreement, but rather not quite believing what he's hearing

Crynwyr: Well, I suppose so.

Gerrhonot: Great, thanks! ~~ approval ~~ happiness ~~ thanks ~~

Gerrhonot: Just go with Hajene Crynwyr, Professor. I'll meet you back out here in maybe ten minutes, okay?

Gerrhonot can see that Pigasso isn't upset or afraid at meeting a real live Sime, so figures the donation should go smoothly.

Crynwyr: Okay, your name what?

Pigasso is staring at his first ever Live Sime.

Pigasso: I see what you mean about the face. It's a lot thinner, isn't it?

Crynwyr is annoyed by the lack of answer to his question.

Crynwyr: Okay, your name what, you?

Pigasso inspects Crynwyr's features closely, then recalls himself.

Pigasso: Oh. I'm Pabulo Pigasso, artist.

Crynwyr: Pablo Picasso, good.

Crynwyr writes down this garbled version of Pigasso's name on his paperwork.

Pigasso bows with a flourish, not deeming it necessary to admit that he can't make a living at Art, and is reduced to teaching the color wheel to freshmen.

Crynwyr: Age? Height? Weight?

Pigasso: I'm, well, not quite as young as I used to be. I'm just a bit taller than you, as you can see, and my weight doesn't upset my wife, so why should it bother you?

Pigasso is a bit sensitive on the subject.

Crynwyr doesn't understand a word of this tirade, but he zlins that Pigasso is being evasive. Unfortunately, his English skills don't let him do much but try again.

Crynwyr: You need tell me, age, height, weight, or no taking donations.

Pigasso really hates having his show of Artistic Temperament bomb due to the inability of his audience to follow it. He sighs.

Pigasso: I'm thirty-seven, five foot eight, and one hundred eighty pounds or thereabouts.

Crynwyr writes down these numbers and checks the box for "Obsolete out-T Units".

Crynwyr: Okay. Now you follow me, sit on special chair, I sit too. We hold hands, I hold you arms tentacles. Then I make contact points, you hold still, feel nothing, three minutes. All done. Okay? Okay?

Pigasso: Fine, I suppose.

Crynwyr detests plodding syllable by syllable through this foul language, but the pleasure of speaking his own flexible and sensitive native tongue is now strictly for off-duty periods.

Pigasso is a bit ~~ dubious ~~, but he really, really wants that commission.

Crynwyr gets up from his desk and leads the way to Donation Room #5.

Pigasso follows the channel, looking around curiously at the in-Territory version of Institutional Decoration.

Crynwyr doesn't normally handle inexperienced donors, but Hajene Duberi (who has more English and more tact) is handling someone else at the moment, so Crynwyr's on the hook.

Crynwyr closes and locks the door, and plops down on the channel side of the lounge.

Pigasso is a bit ~~ taken aback ~~ by the locked door.

Crynwyr notes Pigasso's concern.

Crynwyr: I lock door, keep other people out, show room is, uh, using. Like with crapper.

Pigasso really has little idea about the real mechanics of donating, or he wouldn't have been inspecting the statue for clues.

Crynwyr pats the donor side of the lounge.

Crynwyr: Okay, down sit. Time to get a move.

Pigasso is starting to get a little ~~ nervous ~~ as it sinks in that he's locked into a very small room with a tentacled stranger who is planning to do something not-quite-respectable to him.

Pigasso: Umm...

Crynwyr: [comfortingly] Relax. Not feel a thing, as I am saying.

Pigasso squares his shoulders: this is for Art, and also for the landlord, who can get quite difficult at times. He sits on the indicated spot.

Crynwyr: Good. Like we say in meeting, umm, how you say? Oh yes. Fake it till you make it.

Pigasso sneaks a look at Crynwyr's arms, but there are no tentacles in view, only lumps on his arms.

Crynwyr extends his hands to take Pigasso's.

Pigasso: Fake what?

Crynwyr: Not fearing me.

Pigasso thinks that would be easier if the Sime wasn't so, well, different.

Crynwyr: First step is, not fear, hold my hands.

Pigasso looks at his own, normal, Gen arms, encased in a traditional long-sleeved shirt with an artistically eccentric pattern of swirly purple pinwheels on a red background. He then compares that with Crynwyr's naked, lumpy arm, which looks both undernourished and prone to large blisters.

Crynwyr wiggles his fingers a bit.

Crynwyr: [persuasively] Come on, hold hands. You can do.

Pigasso gets the hint and braces himself, then takes Crynwyr's hands.

Pigasso tells himself that if that awful bagpiper, Pistareen, can do this for what he likes to think is art, how can a true Artist do less? Anyway, it falls firmly under the category of research for his application.

Crynwyr quickly, so Pigasso doesn't have time to react, extends his handling tentacles, pushes Pigasso's sleeves up and wraps them around the Gen's forearms all in one motion.

Pigasso gives a loud yelp and jumps at this sudden movement.

Crynwyr: There. Second step done. Two more to go.

Pigasso looks down at his tentacle-twined arms, and at Crynwyr's, which no longer look nearly as harmless as they did a moment before.

Crynwyr: Sorry. All done now. You can relax, truly.

Pigasso: You're finished?

Pigasso has never bothered to learn anything much about donating, but that doesn't sound quite right, somehow.

Crynwyr: No. All done starting. Now is donation time.

Pigasso's emotions flip-flop from hope to apprehension at this clarification.

Crynwyr: Relax, relax. Now come side tentacles out, feel a bit wet, no worry.

Pigasso braces himself.

Crynwyr extends his laterals, keeping a firm grip on Pigasso's arms so he can't move them.

Pigasso tries to twitch away from the extending tentacles, but discovers that it doesn't work that way.

Crynwyr: Okay. Now we press lips to lips, wait three minutes, take everything apart. You are ready?

Pigasso is ready to get out of this room, and away from this Sime, the sooner the better.

Crynwyr repeats the question with all his channel's patience.

Crynwyr: You are ready?

Pigasso is revising his ideas for the Faith Day corner of his Battle of Shen mural.

Pigasso: Umm, well, I suppose so.

Pigasso is feeling less and less in control of the situation.

Crynwyr makes the fifth contact and draws smoothly and steadily from Pigasso's GN-3 level. No surprises here.

Pigasso is resisting, but like most untrained Gens, lacks the knowledge and control to truly block his GN-3 level. His other barriers are locked tight, however.

Crynwyr clears out the GN-3 reservoir and doesn't even attempt to touch the barrier. Pigasso will be plenty low-field enough to avoid upsetting anyone.

Pigasso is growing increasingly ~~ upset ~~ himself, however.

Crynwyr dismantles the lip contact, the laterals, and the handling tentacles, in the process healing Pigasso's slight bruise on his left forearm and the cut on his left forefinger where he was a bit too casual with a palette knife.

Crynwyr: There. All done, no worries. Also fixed cut on finger there, just to be careful with.

Pigasso is ~~ relieved ~~ to be released.

Crynwyr: Good. Feel all better now, huh?

Pigasso looks at the cut, which has been irritating him all morning, as minor cuts on fingers often do.

Pigasso pokes at the healed cut cautiously.

Pigasso: You did that?

Crynwyr: Sure. Channels fix cuts, bruises, no problem.

Pigasso: That cut was annoying me all morning.

Pigasso pauses a moment.

Pigasso: Thank you.

Crynwyr: Please. Umm, you're welcome.

Crynwyr never can get these smalltalk rituals in Genlan straight.

Pigasso: What? Oh.

Pigasso figures out what Crynwyr meant to say.

Crynwyr is out of recovery now. He gets off the couch and unlocks the door.

Crynwyr: Okay. Questions?

Pigasso relaxes a bit more with the door unlocked.

Crynwyr: No questions? Okay, come back to desk, I give you paper, you take, get money from casher.

Crynwyr opens the door and leads the way back to his desk.

Pigasso: Oh, certainly.

Pigasso assumes the paper is to certify that it's okay for him to recruit the Sime models, and that the cashier will change his money so he can pay them.

Pigasso: I don't have much on me, though. What's the going rate per person here, anyway?

Crynwyr: Eh? You weight healthy your height. No worries.

Crynwyr fills out the voucher and hands it to Pigasso.

Crynwyr: Rate, depends on selyn draw. You -- average.

Pigasso: I wasn't planning to draw their selyn. I just want some sketches of proper arms and things. Well, a few poses as well, to block in some larger scenes.

Crynwyr doesn't understand a word of this, but emotionally everything seems fine.

Pigasso is fully in Artist Mode now, and has relegated unpleasant facts of life like landlords, freshman classes, and such to insignificance.

Crynwyr: You wait here, Sosu come back, take you to casher, get money. No worries.

Pigasso: Certainly, certainly.

Gerrhonot enters and is glad to see that Pigasso doesn't look any worse than before the donation.

Pigasso has already taken out his sketchbook and is trying to reproduce Crynwyr's grip on his arms.

Gerrhonot was a little worried that he'd assumed too much about how easy any first donation is likely to be.

Gerrhonot: Hi, Professor. I got Rellow, Norbom and Vee to model for you. They're in the cafeteria on their tea break. They've got another 10 or 15 minutes, okay?

Pigasso: Marvelous! What are their fees?

Gerrhonot: Um. I don't know. I thought they'd just do it for fun.

Pigasso: They will? Even better!

Gerrhonot observed that these three clerical workers were very happy to have something different to do to liven up their day.

Pigasso figures that the lessened expense will more than make up for the amateur models.

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