Strangers in Strange Lands: Episode 16

Pigasso follows Gerrhonot through the Sime Center, just as glad that the donation thing is over, so he can get down to some serious sketching.

Pigasso doesn't usually bother with amateur models, but the local agencies don't have Simes. He hopes that they can at least understand the importance of holding their poses until he's got at least a reasonable sketch.

Gerrhonot enters the cafeteria, holding the door for Pigasso.

Pigasso follows Gerrhonot through the door, looking ~~ eagerly ~~ around for the promised models.

Gerrhonot: Hi, guys. This is Professor Pigasso. Professor, this is Rellow, Vee and Norbom.

Pigasso inspects his raw material carefully.

Vee is a perky young woman with curly hair tied back with a ribbon, wearing a short sleeved summer uniform.

Vee: Hi, Professor.

Vee offers her hand to brush tentacles.

Pigasso: Hello. It was kind of you to agree to...

Pigasso's voice breaks off as he looks at the offered tentacles. He finds that the sight makes him a bit ~~ queasy ~~.

Vee picks up on the queasiness and withdraws her hand. ~~ embarrassed ~~

Gerrhonot: Um, in-T people don't shake hands. They brush fingers and tentacles, if they have them.

Pigasso: Er, I see.

Vee: Uh, sorry.

Pigasso shakes his head, recalling himself to the job at hand.

Pigasso: That's perfectly all right, young lady.

Pigasso looks at the other two models.

Norbom: [native English accent] Don't worry, Prof. They'll make allowances for "out-Territory barbarians".

Norbom pronounces the last two words with a Simelan accent.

Pigasso: I see.

Pigasso has met contempt for his Art often enough, particularly from his father, who wanted him to take up a sensible, profitable career in law.

Norbom: I'd shake hands with you, but somehow I don't think you'd appreciate it much. They call me Norbom, by the way.

Pigasso: Norbom. Then this must be Rellow?

Pigasso looks at the third Sime, a tall, scrawny young man who nods silently in greeting.

Vee: What would you like us to do, Professor?

Pigasso doesn't think that any of these three models have the sort of features and builds he had in mind for the Simes in his panoramic mural, but beggars can't be choosers. He reminds himself that at least these models are anatomically correct Simes, and more to the point, they're free.

Pigasso: Well, to start off, I'd like to try a few simple poses, so I can start getting tentacles down. I've never had occasion to draw them before. I'm working on a large mural of the Battle of Shen, though, and that's got to have plenty of Simes in it.

Vee has seen such murals in-T: the ambrov Dar fighting in mixed-larity teams, the channels and Companions attending the wounded, the Householders' brilliantly colored capes streaming in the wind as they heroically battle for Unity side by side with the Gen Army and the Army of Nivet.

Pigasso: To start off, why don't we try a small scene I've planned. It's just outside the command tent, and the generals of the mixed armies are consulting over a map table. Let's say this is the table -- can one of you set the chairs aside?

Norbom moves them.

Vee: Do you want me to be Risa Tigue, then?

Pigasso: Yes, that's better. Now that placemat is the map, and General Madison -- will you be General Madison? (to Gerrhonot)

Gerrhonot: Um. Okay.

Gerrhonot wonders who is going to be Hugh and Sergi.

Norbom: Hmm. You're going to need a Gen to stand in for Sergi.

Pigasso: No, no. This is the generals, not the medics. Now, General Madison, you're behind the table.

Pigasso gestures for Gerrhonot to assume his place.

Gerrhonot goes where Pigasso indicates. ~~ cooperative ~~

Norbom: Prof, that isn't gonna fly. In that situation, a Companion would have been standing by his channel.

Pigasso: His channel?

Vee: Like Sergi would be with Risa, and Hugh with Klyd.

Pigasso's research on the battle didn't include some of the details that were considered less savory out-T.

Gerrhonot: Um. Risa and Klyd were really high-rated, and Klyd was a Farris. So they'd need to have their Companions with them to protect them from the out-T Gens' nagers.

Pigasso waves that off.

Pigasso: He's the commander in chief of the combined forces. He's directing the battle, in conjunction with the other generals.

Norbom bursts out laughing.

Norbom: Yeah, I heard that in school too.

Pigasso: Now, (to Gerrhonot) you're leaning over a map -- let that place mat be the map.

Gerrhonot obligingly leans over the placemat, which is printed with information encouraging good nutrition.

Pigasso: You can put one hand on the table to hold your weight, so you can hold the pose. Use the other hand to point to something on the "map".

Gerrhonot rests one hand on the table and points to the picture of dark green and yellow vegetables.

Pigasso: That's good. Now, you two are the Sime commanders. (to Rellow and Norbom) You stand on either side, looking at what he's pointing out.

Norbom decides to let the artist have it his way. He moves to the left side, Rellow to the right side.

Pigasso: Good. A little bit farther back, please, (to Norbom) so it's balanced.

Norbom complies.

Pigasso surveys the results of this rearrangement, and nods in ~~ satisfaction ~~

Vee: But what about Risa? She was one of the commanders.

Pigasso: She'll be in the mural, don't worry, young lady. Just not in this section.

Vee wonders if she'll be stirring a pot of porridge or something. She's had some exposure to these weird out-T ideas about distributing work by gender instead of larity.

Pigasso: Now, you're a messenger coming with a note for General Madison. That napkin will make an acceptable message for our purpose, I believe.

Norbom: [to Vee] Out-T folks can't deal with the idea of female generals.

Pigasso: Quite apart from that, Risa Tigue was a foreign dignitary from an allied Territory, not a general.

Pigasso doesn't count running a Householding as combat experience, which shows how much he knows about the subject.

Vee picks up a napkin, holding it between thumb and fingers.

Pigasso: No, roll it like it was a paper. Stand... there, I think.

Pigasso points to a spot in front and to the right of the table.

Vee rolls the napkin with her tentacles and holds it in the loop of one of her ventrals.

Pigasso: Look at our "General Madison" there, and hold out the message towards him.

Vee offers the napkin to Gerrhonot with a cute smile.

Gerrhonot looks up and smiles back. ~~ happy ~~

Pigasso looks at the tentacle holding the napkin with ~~ interest ~~

Pigasso: That's how you would hold a message?

Vee thinks about it.

Vee: Maybe like this?

Vee holds the rolled up napkin in her hand, as a Gen would.

Gerrhonot wonders if he should look nervous, like General Madison must have been, flanked by junct Simes.

Pigasso: I want you to hold it the way a Sime would naturally hold a piece of paper with an important message you were delivering.

Vee has never dealt with rolled up messages. Usually they come in envelopes, and are a lot more than one page, at least at work.

Pigasso: And you two (to Rellow and Norbom), where a Sime would use his tentacles, you should too, when you're posing.

Vee thinks about the paintings she's seen and the pictures in the history books. She holds the napkin in her hand with her tentacles gracefully arranged around it, and tries to give a heroic impression with her face and stance.

Pigasso: Yes! That's excellent.

Norbom extends his tentacles into a more natural stance; Rellow nods and does the same.

Pigasso: The rest of you, you're generals directing the most important battle in history. The whole future of the world rests on your decisions. Let your expressions show that.

Gerrhonot imagines himself in that situation and looks really worried.

Norbom: [softly, in Simelan] You're overdoing it, Sosu. You need serious, not panicky.

Pigasso: A little more heroic, please. (to Gerrhonot)

Gerrhonot thinks about the Householding-before-Unity stories he's read, and tries to look like an Heroic Companion.

Pigasso surveys the result for a moment, then nods in satisfaction.

Pigasso: Good. Just hold that for a few minutes, while I do a quick sketch.

Pigasso pulls out his sketchpad and starts scribbling busily. He is, as usual, quite ~~ absorbed ~~ in his work. He approaches the posing models, intent on getting the tentacles right.

Norbom is grateful Pigasso seems to have donated very recently, as his field is moving about in the most erratic -- and potentially enticing -- way.

Gerrhonot notices that Vee has rather pretty tentacles.

Pigasso peers closely at Vee's tentacles, which look to him like deformities on an otherwise human, if scrawny, arm. He carefully notes how the tentacles are extended, and how far they wrap around the napkin.

Pigasso moves on to the "map table", turning to a separate page for a close-up of Norbom's tentacles. ~~ combination of artistic excitement and nausea ~~ He's finding his first chance at sketching a live Sime an interesting professional challenge, but the tentacles are a bit hard to cope with.

Gerrhonot keeps the ambient ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ pleasant ~~ more or less by reflex.

Pigasso finishes a rough sketch of the tentacles, then flips back to his first page to add a few last lines to the main sketch.

Vee is ~~ surreptitiously enjoying ~~ Gerrhonot's First Order nager, and twiddles a pretty tentacle tip at him coquettishly.

Pigasso: There, I think that'll do for a start. You can break your pose, now.

Norbom is beginning to relax and enjoy the ambient. Of course, it's not like he could ever affect a Donor in any way. Still, he moves a bit closer to Gerrhonot after breaking his pose.

Gerrhonot stands straight and stretches, and smiles at Vee in a friendly manner that doesn't encourage further flirting much.

Pigasso: Now, I'd like to try a pose or two from the main battle scene, that will be directly opposite the entrance. For this, I'd like a Gen soldier on a horse... perhaps that chair might give you the necessary height?

Gerrhonot turns and sits on the chair, then gets up, turns the chair around, and sits on it backwards.

Gerrhonot: Like this?

Pigasso: Not quite, a horse is taller. Maybe if you stood on the chair?

Gerrhonot gets up and stands on the chair. There isn't room enough on it to position his legs like he was on a horse.

Pigasso: That's better. Now, as a cavalry officer, you'll need a rifle.

Vee snickers. One thing you won't find in a Sime Center is a rifle.

Pigasso looks around, then scavenges an abandoned mop that is leaning against the wall.

Pigasso: Here. You can use this.

Pigasso hands the mop to Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot takes the mop and holds it fairly expertly. He learned to use a rifle to protect the sheep from predators and the garden from groundhogs. He's careful not to get any dirty water on himself, using the non-business end as the stock, and the wet, grimy strings as the muzzle.

Pigasso: Now the rest of you, you're Simes from Norwest Territory. You're trying to pull him off the horse.

Vee approaches Gerrhonot, thinking that it would be nice to touch him, if she can avoid that yucky mop head.

Pigasso really has only a vague idea of what an attacking Sime looks like, as out-Territory Gens who see such things tend to have short life expectancies.

Gerrhonot swivels at the waist to point the mop head at Vee, who recoils in ~~ disgust ~~.

Pigasso: Ah, that's good. Hold that, but reach out as if you'd been trying to grab him.

Vee thinks about it, and tries to pose as if she really wants to grab Gerrhonot but not get shot, or get dirty water on her. She positions her arms and tentacles artistically.

Pigasso: Very good! Now the rest of you move in. You're trying to surround him, remember.

Gerrhonot smiles at her over the mop. ~~ fun ~~

Vee does the flirtatious tentacle tip twiddle and smiles back.

Pigasso watches as Rellow assumes a pose behind Gerrhonot's "horse", reaching with all four handling tentacles of one arm as if to grab his belt and pull him out of the saddle.

Norbom removes his belt, doubles it up to stiffen it, and holds it like a junct-style whip.

Pigasso: Good. What about a knife in the other hand?

Norbom: What would a junct need with a knife, Prof? Not likely.

Pigasso is ~~ confused ~~

Pigasso: It's a weapon, isn't it? Why wouldn't they use them to fight?

Norbom and Rellow chorus: "A junct Sime is a weapon."

Norbom: The point of the whip [he waves the belt] is to hurt the prey to make it more attractive as a Kill.

Vee wonders if her pink hair ribbon would be useful to represent Norbom's whip wrapping around the poor Gen soldier.

Rellow: It is useful for getting Gens within grasp, also.

Pigasso is under the popular out-T misconception that the Norwesters were waging a war of conquest, not attempting to steal their neighbor's livestock.

Gerrhonot hopes these guys aren't giving Pigasso the wrong impression about Simes.

Pigasso feels a sudden ~~ chill ~~ at this matter-of-fact discussion of killing techniques among these wholesome-appearing (apart from the tentacles) youngsters.

Norbom puts the whip down.

Pigasso: I, um, I see.

Norbom: It's just history, Prof. Recent history is what our House specializes in.

Vee: Things aren't like that any more. We just read about it at school.

Pigasso: Your House?

Norbom bows.

Norbom: Norbom ambrov Kimber at your service. [gestures at Rellow]

Rellow: Rellow ambrov Kimber at your service, respected teacher.

Pigasso: You're historians?

Rellow: We are. We are also ...

Rellow can't think of the word, so defers to Norbom.

Norbom: Advisers. To the government.

Rellow: Yes. We remind them of what didn't work last time. Not highly paid, but...

Norbom: It's a living.

Pigasso: Your government actually hires historians?

Norbom: Why not? They hire tacticians from Householding Dar, after all -- they specialize in the martial arts.

Gerrhonot lowers his mop. This could take a while. But at least Pigasso isn't as upset.

Pigasso: You must have some pretty dramatic political campaigns, out there.

Pigasso shakes his head.

Pigasso: Now, can I have the entire pose, so I can sketch you all together?

Gerrhonot resumes his hold on the mop, fending off Vee.

Norbom and Rellow return to the attack.

Vee resumes her gracefully choreographed stance.

Pigasso sketches busily, drawing in Norbom's whip and deleting the dripping, dirty grey strings from Gerrhonot's mop. He takes a few liberties with the expressions on the faces, as well.

Pigasso makes Gerrhonot both heroic and alarmed, and puts the suggestion of a snarl on the Simes' faces. He figures he can add the skull-like, demonic grimaces later.

Pigasso finishes his main sketch, and a few tentacle detail close-ups, then steps back from the model.

Pigasso: That's all I need, for that pose. Thank you. Do you have time to do one more?

Norbom: Sure, Prof.

Rellow makes the equivalent tentacle gesture, which is complexly graceful.

Vee knows she should get back to work, but this is more fun than filing.

Vee: Maybe a short one?

Gerrhonot gets off the chair and replaces the mop in its former location.

Pigasso: Perhaps a few close-ups for the Faith Day section of the mural?

Vee imagines lateral contact with Gerrhonot and blushes.

Pigasso: Young lady, you wanted to be Risa Tigue. Gerrhonot there can be a New Washington soldier who's been ordered to donate.

Vee blushes more intensely.

Vee: Um...

Pigasso: Go on, then.

Pigasso motions ~~ impatiently ~~

Gerrhonot: Um, Professor, it's not... people don't... for renSimes....

Norbom: You're asking them to do something as private as having sex, Prof. In a public place, with strangers watching.

Vee almost says "we could sort of fake it, without the laterals" but doesn't want to sound gross.

Pigasso: It's a pose. Surely there's something appropriate you can manage, without offending your sensibilities?

Pigasso spent many hours as a student sketching nude models with a dozen or more other artists, and thinks such scruples are really unprofessional in a model. He reminds himself that these aren't professional models, or they wouldn't be arguing with him so much.

Gerrhonot studies Vee. She's clearly high field, and he can keep his nager flat and neutral.

Gerrhonot: Do you want to try it, Vee? Without laterals? I'll be really careful.

Norbom sports a wry grin.

Vee is ~~ embarrassed ~~, but really does want to touch Gerrhonot. She nods, a bit timidly.

Gerrhonot offers his arms. ~~ neutral ~~ flat ~~ kind ~~

Pigasso thinks that the channel who did his donation didn't show any of this bashfulness. Or allow him any, for that matter.

Vee slowly approaches and takes his arms. ~~ nervous ~~

Gerrhonot leans forward and gently almost touches lips with her. ~~ calm ~~ safe ~~ neutral ~~ kind ~~

Pigasso grunts in satisfaction, then gestures to the other two.

Gerrhonot doesn't in the least resemble a nervous Gen soldier, reluctantly donating under threat of being shot for mutiny.

Vee shows none of the assertive competence that would be standard for any channel, and most especially for Risa Tigue.

Pigasso figures he can alter the expressions later; there isn't time to handle that today.

Rellow: [Simelan] This man is a fanatic for his art, eh, naztehr?

Rellow raises an eyebrow at Norbom.

Rellow: I suppose you know what's coming next, don't you? ~~ uneasy ~~

Pigasso: I want a reminder for the cadets of why this was necessary, in the background. Let's have the two of you: one of you is a channel, getting ready to give some of the selyn you've taken to one of the Sime Army soldiers.

Pigasso starts sketching Gerrhonot and Vee.

Norbom steps away from Gerrhonot and Vee. He can turn away, but the only way to reduce the impact of what he's zlinning is to move away. Fortunately, this Donor is not only First Order but extremely competent.

Pigasso approaches Gerrhonot and Vee to sketch Vee's tentacles (handling tentacles only). He doesn't fully realize that part of the transfer grip is missing, as he was a bit distracted during his own donation.

Norbom takes Rellow's hands and extends his handling tentacles to lock with Rellow's, which are already extended.

Norbom: ~~ suppressed giggle ~~ Straight out of the Valleroy Catalog, eh?

Rellow: Well, good enough for him.

Pigasso then approaches Rellow and Norbom.

Gerrhonot lifts his head and smiles at Vee. ~~ safe ~~ calm ~~ happy ~~

Vee reluctantly lets go of the Donor's arms. She's trembling a little.

Vee: Thank you, Sosu.

Gerrhonot: It's all right, Vee.

Vee: Uh, I have to get back to work.

Vee smiles tentatively, turns and leaves.

Pigasso leans in closely to inspect the tentacles. There seem to be a bewildering number of them, and he wonders how the Simes can keep them straight.

Pigasso's reaction to the sight is part artistic detachment, and part the reaction of an out-T Gen who has never seen real tentacles until today, and would probably have preferred to keep it that way.

Pigasso is, fortunately, low field, or he might become more closely acquainted with the scene than he'd intended. He has not, alas, spent any time learning in-T nageric etiquette. He therefore doesn't think to control his reaction.

Gerrhonot, fortunately, is controlling the ambient to keep it comfortable for the renSimes by blocking most of Pigasso's effect.

Pigasso finishes his close-up of the entwined tentacles, without losing his lunch, which he considers a double accomplishment. He then steps back.

Pigasso: Thank you very much, gentlemen.

Rellow nods.

Norbom: Sure, Prof. Glad we could help.

Gerrhonot: Thanks, guys.

Norbom: Back to mining old paperwork. Come on, Rel.

Norbom and Rellow leave the cafeteria.

Gerrhonot smiles at Pigasso.

Gerrhonot: Better than drawing that old statue, right?

Pigasso: Much better, thank you. Having live models is a tremendous help.

Gerrhonot: I can show you where to cash your voucher if you like.

Pigasso: Oh, I'd forgotten about that. Thank you.

Gerrhonot leads the way to the cashier.

Pigasso follows, fishing for the voucher in his pants pocket.

Return to Table of Contents