Mik returns to consciousness with a start.
Mik: Bibi? Cristal? Are you there? What's happening to me?
Cristal works on calming Mik with his field so that he doesn't burn excess selyn worrying.
Mik: ~~ stage 4 transition ended ~~
Bibi: That was transition to stage 4, Mik. You're doing very well.
Bibi projects ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ encouragement ~~ although Mik can't zlin it yet.
Bibi: Bart, would you make us another pot of tea, please?
Bart: Sure, Hajene.
Bart looks at Mik, then departs for the kitchen.
Mik: ~~ still anxious ~~ How long will it be?
Bibi: Another hour or so, Mik. Maybe a little longer.
Mik: ~~ partial relief ~~
Cristal stops trying to work with Mik's fields for the moment and ~~ supports Bibi ~~
Bart: Uh, Hajene Bibi?
Bart looks sideways at Mik, trying to decide whether to talk in front of him.
Bart: Uh, Mik's dad is here. He'd like to see Mik. I told him I'd ask you if it was okay.
Bibi's heart sinks, but she maintains a calm and professional appearance and showfield. She looks at Cristal.
Cristal: Hajene, I really wouldn't recommend... He is a Sime-phobe, after all. ~~ disapproval ~~
Bibi: He's a father too. I think we can manage the ambient. Mik isn't zlinning yet.
Cristal: Very well, Hajene. ~~ concerned ~~ miffed ~~
Bibi: Mik, how do you feel about talking to your father?
Mik: Well, I guess it's okay with me if it's okay with him. ~~ resigned ~~
Bibi: You don't have to if you don't want to.
Mik: No, no, let him in. Who knows when I'll get to see him again.
Bibi: Okay. Bart, invite him in. I'll move back next to Mik, and Cristal, you stay between me and Mr. Gegg.
Bart goes back to the stairs.
Bart: Mr. Gegg? Hajene Bibi says it's okay.
Gegg is simultaneously ~~ glad ~~ to see his son, and ~~ appalled ~~ about what's happening to him.
Bart leads the way back to the changeover room at the far end of the cellar.
Gegg is pretty sure it'd be easier to just never see his son again, but he's never been good at choosing the easy path. He squares his shoulders, puts on a brave front, and follows Bart to the room.
Jed follows at a tactful distance -- one in which he can provide moral support without interfering.
Bart signals nagerically, pauses a moment, then opens the door and stands back.
Gegg steps through the door, and looks at the figure in the bed.
Gegg feels as ~~ awkward ~~ as he always does when attending funerals, sickbeds, and other such events.
Mik: Hi, Dad. Here I am. ~~ gloomy but concerned ~~
Gegg: I'd hoped, when it didn't happen for so long...
Gegg breaks off, figuring that this line of conversation isn't productive.
Gegg: Are they keeping you comfortable?
Gegg uses the traditional Gen tactic of pasting a veneer of social politeness over his churning morass of conflicting emotions.
Mik: Pretty much, yes. So far it's been -- what was it you always said? Oh yeah: hours of boredom interrupted by moments of panic. ~~ bravado ~~
Gegg did not need the reference to his military career, just now. He forces a chuckle, although it sounds more than a little lame.
Bibi notes that Mik's emotions are more clearly discernible as he comes closer to being a Sime. She's impressed at how well Gegg is handling this, despite his very clearly zlinnable emotional turmoil.
Gegg moves a little closer, and sneaks a look at Mik's arms.
Bibi makes a small motion so that Gegg won't be startled that he's approaching her too. The room is dimly lit to appeal to the instincts of children in changeover to hide.
Cristal moves as unobtrusively as possible to maintain the correct field structure.
Gegg can feel the hair on the back of his neck rising as he approaches the two Simes, and tries hard to ignore the appeal to the instincts of Simephobes to stay far away from tentacles.
Bibi is careful to prevent Gegg's field from interacting with her own.
Gegg's attempt to ignore the tentacles, of course, just fixes his attention on them, and with it, his nager.
Gegg: I... I came as soon as I got the telegram.
Mik sighs deeply
Mik: Thanks, Dad. I'm glad you could ... make it.
Gegg: I was in town when I got it. I sent it on to your mother, so she'll know what's happening, too. I barely caught the train.
Gegg doesn't want Mik to think that his mother doesn't care about him.
Mik: Yeah, I understand.
Gegg moves a little closer, then ~~ blanches ~~ at the sight of the swollen streaks on Mik's arms.
Gegg: That looks terrible! Are you sure he's all right? [to Bibi]
Cristal raises Bibi's support level.
Bibi: Yes. He's developing normally.
Bibi avoids using the word "tentacles".
Gegg is thinking it anyway.
Gegg: How... how long before...?
Bibi: Perhaps another hour. Changeover progresses faster for channels.
Gegg can't help thinking: another hour, and my son is gone. His nager is a roiling mess of ~~ mourning ~~ and ~~ growing fear ~~.
Bibi, in hard need, obliged to give up the only Donor in many many kilometers, finds Gegg's fear very hard to take. She signals Cristal to increase support.
Gegg: I expect you'll be glad to have it over with, Mik?
Mik: That's for sure, Dad. In fact -- unhhhh! ~~ sudden pain ~~
Bibi tries not to wince visibly.
Mik: Sorry, Hajene. I know it hurts you as much as it hurts me... hey, I do know that, I'm not just saying it.
Bibi: It's all right, Mik.
Gegg: What's wrong? ~~ increased anxiety ~~
Mik does wince visibly.
Mik: Dad, you've got to calm down. You're hurting me. ~~ anxiety ~~
Bibi gropes for Mik's developing field and interposes ~~ calm ~~ between the boy and his father's nager.
Gegg is momentarily ~~ confused ~~
Mik: I'm starting to feel your feelings. All of that anxiety and fear and ... umm, something else too, I don't know what it is, they're just all mixed up, and, well, it's like a light that's too bright or a noise that's too loud.
Gegg was able to accept Bibi's discussion about how his emotions affected her as normal for an alien Sime. He finds the same discussion coming from his own son to be ~~ tragic ~~
Gegg: I'm sorry, Mik.
Mik: Oh. That's what it is. Sorrow. ~~ earnestly ~~ Dad, don't worry. I'm not gonna die. Today.
Gegg: I know that.
Gegg hopes so, anyway.
Gegg: And you won't have to kill anyone to do it, so we did right sending you here.
Mik tries gritting his teeth, but finds it doesn't help.
Bibi signals to Cristal to protect Mik. She feels much worse with Cristal's attention diverted but with Mik zlinning, it's time to develop the rapport essential for a good transfer. She wishes Bart would come in, just to interpose his mid-field nager between herself and Gegg.
Gegg: And afterwards? What happens then?
Gegg has never had to consider anything after changeover but at least one funeral.
Bibi: Mik will be here for about a week, and then a Donor will take him in-T for his First Year training.
Cristal: [brightly] And then he'll be able to start helping people and saving lives.
Gegg: He'll be able to start that quickly? It takes a doctor years of study.
Cristal: Simes -- and Gens too -- can learn things very quickly in First Year. And channeling is a matter of learning how to use an inborn talent, not like learning things out of books.
Gegg is momentarily distracted by the factoid.
Bibi: Yes. Of course, at first Mik will be working under the supervision of experienced channels, and will be able to consult them about difficult cases.
Gegg shakes his head.
Bibi catches Bart's eye and beckons him to her (no tentacles) from the doorway.
Gegg: I always thought you'd take over the farm from me, Mik. ~~ sorrow ~~
Bart slips past Gegg and goes to Bibi.
Mik: Well, Sanda'll get married someday, and you can settle it on her and her kids, then.
Gegg: She's not as good a farmer as you would have been.
Bibi signals to Bart where to stand and to provide a steady field to support her. She's not asking him to do more than she knows he can.
Mik: Well, make sure her man is, then!
Mik smiles again, trying to jolly his father a bit.
Bart is ~~ pleased ~~ that he understands the signals, and ~~ happy ~~ that Bibi is letting him help her. ~~ steady ~~ calm ~~ safe ~~
Bibi leans lightly on Bart's field. Just having him physically interposed between herself and Gegg helps.
Mik: ~~ mock-snarky ~~ Do I have to solve all your problems for you?
Gegg takes an ~~ alarmed ~~ step backwards at the snarl, then collects himself.
Mik: ~~ wounded ~~ Hey, Dad, I didn't mean it, y'know?
Gegg: You know your sister. Do you think she'll marry where I want her to?
Mik: Well, no. Maybe she'll marry another channel or something.
Mik laughs outright.
Mik: But somehow I doubt it.
Bibi wonders what Sanda is doing right now. Probably bouncing up and down trying to talk Toria into driving to the Ford.
Gegg: I should hope not!
Gegg would rather not lose a second kid to the Tecton.
Mik yawns widely and stretches his arms over his head.
Bibi anticipates stage 5 transition, considering that Mik is starting to zlin.
Gegg flinches at the sight of the shifting red streaks on Mik's arms.
Mik relaxes, puts his arms down, and appears to nod off again. ~~ stage 5 transition ~~
Gegg: Mik? Are you all right, Mik?
Gegg's parental instincts momentarily win out over his Gen ones, and he ends up a step or two closer to the bed.
Bibi: Yes. He's going into stage five transition now. I think it would be better if you left until the changeover is complete. You're welcome to stay the night, and to help yourself to anything in the kitchen. There's another bed in the room Jed is using.
Gegg experiences a ~~ pang ~~ of grief and loss.
Mik experiences this ~~ pang ~~ as a pain in his chest.
Gegg has to swallow before he can make his voice work properly.
Mik: Bibi, am I all right?
Bibi: Yes, stage five transition is starting now. ~~ calm ~~ encouraging ~~
Cristal: [softly] Relax, Mik. Relax.
Bibi wants to deep zlin Mik, but won't do it in front of Gegg.
Gegg can take a hint when he's bludgeoned over the head with it.
Gegg: All right, I'll go. Mik, I love you.
Gegg's voice cracks, and he frantically blinks back tears. Real Men don't cry. He scrubs at "an itch" on his cheek, then turns for the door.
Jed: C'mon Gegg, I'll show you where they're putting me up.
Gegg: Yeah, okay.
Mik: I love you too, Dad. ~~ sorrow fades to relief ~~
Gegg pauses in the door to take one last look at his son, then stumbles after Jed.
Bibi sighs with relief as the ambient smoothes out with Gegg's departure.
Jed puts his arm around Gegg's shoulders.
Jed: He'll be fine. They're taking good care of him. You can talk to him again later.
Gegg: He'll be a Sime by then.
Gegg barely manages to get the words out.
Jed: He'll still be your son. He'll still love you.
Gegg: Yeah. And I'll still love him. That he'll scare me spitless is a minor matter, I guess.
Jed slaps Gegg on the back.
Jed: You did real good. You put up a good front. Nobody but a Sime would know how you really felt in there with Bibi.
Gegg: A Sime like Mik?
Jed: He's family, Gegg. There's stuff no man can hide from his family, Sime or Gen.
Gegg's gloom deepens at this reminder that Toria will see right through his act without benefit of tentacles.
Gegg: Yeah, I guess you're right.
Bibi releases Mik's arms after deep zlinning him.
Mik: How do I, umm, look?
Bibi: You're doing very well. You have plenty of selyn -- you've done an exceptionally good job of conserving it.
Mik: I thought if you were worried you used up too much? I've certainly been worried!
Bibi: Well, a certain amount of worry is expected.
Bibi: Bart, from now on, Cristal will be supporting Mik. I'd like you to provide some light support for me, but it still may be necessary for you to leave before breakout.
Bart: Yes, Hajene. ~~ pride ~~ oops ~~ calm, steady support ~~
Cristal thinks "may be necessary" is a gross understatement.
Bibi: [Simelan] Is there a problem, Cristal?
Cristal: Not at all, Hajene.
Bibi is doing a pretty good job of suppressing the panic of a Sime in hard need with no Donor in sight. She took a shunt earlier, so she knows she's at no risk of attrition. She may be overdoing the "everything is under control" act, but that's the channel's role.
Cristal: Well, I wouldn't have thought Gegg had it in him.
Bibi: He showed a lot of courage, coming here to see Mik.
Cristal: He certainly did.
Mik hears this but decides to say nothing. ~~ anger annoyance ~~
Bibi looks at Mik inquiringly.
Mik does the Tar Baby routine.
Bibi: What do you think, Mik?
Mik: [to Bibi, pointedly] I think Sosu Cristal shouldn't assume people have no courage just because of what's happened to them, that's all. ~~ resentment ~~
Bibi thinks that resentment is a potentially very dangerous attitude for a channel in changeover to have to his Donor.
Bibi: It's hard for Cristal to imagine what it's like for your father. I admire him a great deal for the way he's repeatedly confronted Simes in support of his children.
Mik: [chuckles] Sime demons, you mean? Yeah. It is impressive. Yeah.
Bart tries to keep his field ~~ steady ~~ and ~~ supportive ~~ while listening to this conversation between and about grownups. He still doesn't feel like a grownup, and wonders if he will when he turns sixteen.
Cristal: [subdued] Sorry, Mik. Yes, your father is impressive, considering what he went through.
Bibi: I could zlin how much he cares for you. You probably couldn't interpret that yet with the other emotions, but it's there. Try to keep in touch with him, so he'll know he hasn't really lost you, Mik.
Mik: I'll do my best, Hajene.
Bibi: You may be stationed out-T some time, and your father can visit you then.
Mik: Fair enough.
Mik feels all the muscles in his body tense suddenly and completely as the first breakout contraction hits.
Bibi: Good, Mik. Very good. Cristal is in charge now, and he'll see you through.
Cristal moves between Mik and Bibi so as to be in position when Mik breaks out, while still leaving Bibi room to work if necessary.
Bibi steps back and signals to Bart to leave. She won't risk his uncertain control in the impending intense situation, despite the help he could provide to her.
Bibi feels an irrepressible ~~ horror ~~ as Cristal fully engages his nager with Mik's, leaving her without a source of selyn, in hard need.
Mik relaxes for a bit, then knots up again as the second contraction hits.
Bart exits, closing the door behind him, with ~~ regret ~~
Cristal tries to hold down his ~~ glee ~~ at finally getting to serve First Transfer.
Mik's last thought before the process consumes him is "At last, at last", as the violins play "Night on Bald Mountain".....