Bibi is huddled on the settee in her office, reminding herself that if Mik hadn't changed over, she wouldn't have taken transfer until tomorrow night anyway, so there's no reason to feel so desperate.
Bibi is thankful that Mik's changeover and transfer went smoothly, and all her patients and guests are in bed: Layna, Ukoh, Mik, Jed and Gegg, as well as Bart.
Bibi wonders how soon her Controller can get her a Donor either from in-T or from New Washington. She wonders if she should have asked Nattin to send Seruffin a telegram as well, but doing so isn't policy, and she doesn't want to look like she's begging.
Bibi drifts into a reverie of Seruffin, high field and with a full secondary, glowing with repletion and indescribably sec, holding out his arms to her, inviting her to take transfer.
Cristal decides it's past time to go and see how Bibi is holding out.
Cristal searches the semi-public areas and even the veranda with no luck. He's a little reluctant to invade Bibi's office, but figures she might be holed up in there waiting to be relieved, and although Cristal isn't the ideal person for the job, no one else is either.
Cristal is still high -- or at least what he thinks is high -- on the experience of giving First Transfer for the first time. He thinks it was just amazing to see, up close and personal, how Mik went from absolute desperation to absolute satisfaction, much more deeply and profoundly than any channel Cristal has ever served before.
Cristal reaches the office door and taps on it lightly, just as a social convention -- Bibi will have no problem zlinning his field, even depleted, through the wooden door.
Bibi: Come in, Cristal.
Cristal opens the door, lets himself in quietly, closes the door, and sits down in a chair across from Bibi ~~ calm satisfaction ~~
Bibi suppresses an irrational pang of ~~ betrayal ~~. Her Gen, drained, and happy about it.
Bibi: How's Mik doing? Asleep, I hope.
Cristal: When I left him, yes. ~~ fades to neutral field ~~
Bibi: Good. You did well, training him. I've almost forgotten what changeover is like for a child who is prepared for it.
Cristal: [cautiously] It was ... very inspiring
Bibi: You served him well.
Bibi didn't zlin it as carefully as she had hoped to, as she was fighting a surge of the instinct to grab her Gen away from the competing Sime. She hopes she kept it hidden from Mik. The strength of it surprised her.
Cristal: ~~ careful sympathy ~~ I hope you were able to protect yourself from the ... more unsavory aspect of the situation.
Bibi: It was more difficult than I expected, but I think I kept it all behind my showfield.
Cristal: Ah, good. Mik certainly didn't seem distracted, but then he wouldn't, would he?
Cristal chuckles weakly.
Bibi smiles with effort, although it's too dark for Cristal to see it anyway.
Bibi: Do you want to talk about it? Tell me what it was like for you?
Cristal is none too sure how safe this is as a conversational topic.
Cristal: Hmm. Well. It was certainly the most intense experience I've ever had, not excepting my first transfer or my qualifying transfers.
Cristal warms up to his theme a bit.
Cristal: There he was, right at the very end of his rope, and then I was living it with him in empathy, at least; then I was coming down from the peak and he was utterly transformed. My nerves are still singing with the sheer experience of it... but you know that.
Bibi: I knew you could do it, Cristal. I'm so glad it worked out well for you, too.
Bibi wouldn't be falling back on the out-T custom of papering over emotionally difficult situations with formalities, would she?
Cristal's not out-T, fortunately.
Cristal: ~~ sincere ~~ I'm so sorry it had to be at such a price, Bibi, and that it was you who had to pay it.
Bibi: Oh, well, it will be a bad few days, but so it goes. I just hope I can keep working until my Donor arrives. It would cause comment if I stopped.
Cristal: Oh, I'm sure the staff and I can cover for you there. Perhaps we could tell them it's, what do they call it here? Oh yes, the Blessing.
Bibi: Uh, well, we can talk about what to do if it happens that way.
Bibi knows that Cristal telling the donors, especially the male donors, that she can't work because she's menstruating will be... uh... culturally inappropriate.
Bibi: Let's hope we don't have any more changeovers for a little while.
Cristal: [quizzical] I think the word is "Amen", isn't it?
Bibi reaches out and pats Cristal's hand.
Nattin has been working late, a habit he got into during his years on campus, as it let him work undisturbed, which was impossible during the day. He's making his way down to the kitchen for a late night snack, and notes that Bibi's office is occupied.
Nattin pauses and ~~ signals ~~
Bibi: Come in, Nattin.
Bibi gets up and lights a lamp for the Gens.
Cristal shields his eyes from the light.
Nattin nods at Cristal, then looks at Bibi with ~~ concern ~~
Nattin: How are you doing, Bibi?
Bibi: So far, so good. After all, I wasn't due transfer until tomorrow night anyway.
Bibi wonders how well her forced optimism will go over with Nattin.
Nattin isn't fooled, being old enough to have seen a great deal.
Nattin: Yes, but at that time you had a highfield Donor around. Has there been any word about when Cristal's replacement will arrive?
Nattin is careful not to say "if".
Bibi: No, but it's too soon to expect it.
Nattin: How long will you be able to hold out? ~~ concern ~~
Bibi forces another smile.
Bibi: Channels have gone a full month on shunts. Even several months. And not just Rimon Farris in the legends.
Cristal rolls his eyes heavenward.
Cristal: That doesn't make it a good idea, Hajene!
Bibi: Well, it's not like I'm doing it on purpose like some shenned Farris masochist!
Bibi: I'm sorry, Cristal, I didn't mean to snap at you.
Nattin: Surely they'll find you someone soon. How long will you be able to work?
Bibi: I don't know. As long as possible. I can avoid new donors for a few days. I don't want the public to get the impression that I'm dangerous or anything.
Bibi doesn't point out that she'd serve a changeover on the brink of attrition if necessary.
Nattin: Yes. It's going to take careful handling to prevent the day's events from being a public relations disaster.
Bibi: Ukoh. And Layna. Jed the raconteur and Gegg the Simephobe.
Cristal: ~~ maintaining low profile ~~
Nattin: Yes. And to make matters worse, according to Layna, Ukoh's father is a leading critic of Jed Mullins's decision to have his family donate. That's why Jed has taken to using the smith here at the Ford.
Bibi signals to Cristal to sit next to her and gestures to the chair.
Bibi: Have a seat, Nattin.
Cristal sits on the settee next to Bibi. ~~ professional neutrality; support ~~
Nattin also sits, being old enough not to stay on his feet when he doesn't have to.
Bibi sighs. Why does everything have to happen at once?
Nattin: Ukoh's father will be grieving over his son; that might make him want to lash out at us.
Bibi: If they had made it here before he broke out, it would have been so much simpler. Now the people in Gumgeeville will believe that bringing a child here is suicide, or at least more cruel than to just shoot him and have done with it.
Cristal: ~~ increased support, as much as he can ~~
Nattin: Layna's injury certainly won't help make a case for bringing changeovers here from Gumgeeville.
Bibi moves closer to Cristal and leans on him physically as well as nagerically, although the Sime-in-hard-need in her finds his depleted state contemptible.
Cristal is fortunately oblivious to this second level of the situation.
Nattin: She meant well, I know, but she's far too prone to act without thinking.
Bibi: Oh, Layna. What are we going to do about her?
Cristal: Eh? I thought she was mending nicely; we should be able to send her in-T in a few days, no?
Nattin: But if we send her away, there are sure to be rumors that she's died.
Cristal is taken aback; he hadn't thought of that.
Bibi: Oh, she'll recover well enough. She doesn't have to go home for medical reasons, although when her Sectuib finds out...
Bibi shakes her head.
Cristal: ~~ outrage ~~ But what about her demonstrated lack of responsibility?!
Bibi: I had no idea that the Dar had that training. I'd have thought she'd just murder Ukoh when he started burning her. With her hands.
Bibi finds it impossible to talk about crushed lateral nodes at the moment.
Nattin: One way or another, no doubt her Sectuib will explain to her, in excruciating detail, that if she wants to follow obscure House traditions, she'd better learn them.
Bibi: What did she tell you, Nattin?
Nattin: The technique was originally developed, long before Unity, for emergency use by Dar security guards away on assignment, when no channel could be reached.
Nattin: Dar was almost unique in that respect, you know: their fighters spent a great deal of time living among the juncts whose persons and property they guarded.
Nattin: In those days, if no channel was available, a renSime Dar fighter had the choice of trying a transfer with one of his colleagues, or killing a Gen from the Pens. Or committing suicide, of course.
Nattin: On the other hand, that last options would also have been a death sentence to the Sime's Gen colleague, as even a Dar-trained Gen would not get far alone through junct territory. That, of course, made the relative risk of trying a transfer somewhat different than Layna faced.
Nattin looks from Bibi to Cristal to see if they are following his discussion.
Bibi: But a nonjunct renSime could at least try to control himself -- he'd be aware when he was hurting the Gen and try to shen himself rather than kill. A changeover doesn't have a clue what's happening, and can't even perceive the Gen's pain as pain. And the Gen would have strong positive feelings toward a comrade and naztehr, which would make it easier for him to succeed in giving transfer.
Nattin: Yes. Layna overlooked those small details. At least she did manage to shen Ukoh without killing him, and before he managed to kill her.
Bibi: Quite an accomplishment. And perfectly legal out-T.
Nattin: Legal, yes. Which hardly means that it was a good idea. Fortunately, I don't think she'll be in any hurry to repeat the experience.
Bibi: I don't know what she'd do if she found herself in a similar situation. A few days feeling rotten isn't such a big price to pay for someone else's life, you know. After all, she's proved she can now.
Nattin: Yes. But having been burned once, isn't there a greater chance that she will resist sooner next time?
Bibi: I don't know, Nattin. I don't have much expertise in the area. It certainly could go that way.
Nattin: Layna never tested out as having any true Donor ability.
Bibi: Well, the Distect believes that most Gens can serve renSimes. Maybe it doesn't take true Donor ability.
Bibi finds herself zlinning Nattin for his potential to serve her, and pulls herself away from the idea.
Nattin: Maybe it doesn't. Although it appears that in the absence of ability, a youthful belief in one's own immortality is helpful.
Bibi: Layna certainly has a lot of self-confidence.
Nattin has donated every month since he established, decades ago, but has never been curious enough about direct transfer to want to try it, even as a thought experiment.
Nattin: If she had the knowledge and ability to match her confidence, she'd be a genius.
Bibi: She's your student. Do you want to send her home as soon as she can travel readily?
Nattin: I think it might be valuable to let her Sectuib talk some sense into her, before she has a chance to convince herself that "all's well that ends well", to use an Ancient phrase.
Bibi reflects that she's going to have no difficulty treating Layna nagerically for her burns, considering that projecting need to encourage the nerves to step up selyn production is the usual therapy.
Nattin: On the other hand, you shouldn't send her home until she's recovered sufficiently to stem any rumors that she's died, or been permanently maimed.
Bibi: Definitely. And being sent home will be a punishment as well as having to face her Sectuib. It will set her research back, or even require her to start over in a different area of the field, won't it?
Nattin: It depends on how long she stays. If she can convince her Sectuib that she's learned her lesson, she might be able to return.
Bibi: I'm worried about Ukoh, too. I won't be able to work with him as much as I should. He feels very guilty about burning Layna, on top of all the other confusion and misery of an out-T child turned Sime.
Nattin: Would you like me to spend some time with him?
Bibi: I wish you would. He'll be feeling physically ill until he gets a good transfer, in perhaps three weeks or so. Poor kid. Shorted and shenned - transfers will be a problem for him for a long time.
Nattin: It could have been worse. At least he won't have to live with having killed someone.
Bibi: I can't tell whether he's imprinted on pain, or on Gens, or whether the two effects will cancel out - the pain giving him an aversion to Gens. But yes, he won't have to go through the hell of disjunction, and the life-long guilt.
Bibi sighs again.
Nattin: How much of his father's anti-Sime attitude has he picked up?
Bibi: I don't know. He certainly won't get support from his family. I hope his father doesn't cause us any trouble here.
Nattin: Yes. We have enough of our own, I think.
Bibi thinks about the other big problems that seem so small beside the huge one of how she is going to take transfer and feels ~~ overwhelmed ~~
Nattin sees Bibi start to wilt under the pressure.
Nattin: Bibi, that's need talking. You'll view it as a challenge, not a threat, once you've had transfer.
Nattin tries to project a convincing degree of ~~ confidence ~~, although under it, he's ~~ worried ~~ about Bibi.
Bibi suppresses the urge to shout "That's easy for you to say!"
Bibi: Yes, but we've certainly got a lot of trouble happening at once. We'll all just have to do our best to manage it.
Nattin: We will, Bibi. Your Donor will arrive, and in the mean time, we will cope. Because the alternative is not coping, and that's not acceptable for any of us.
Bibi is in no condition to feel optimistic, but tries to hope for the best.
Bibi: Thank you, Nattin. I know I can always count on you.
Nattin: You just do what you can, the next few days, and let the rest of us run interference, when necessary.
Bibi nods, and forces a smile.