Bibi is sitting in the Sime Center waiting room, trying not to think about the transfer she won't be taking tonight. She knows that she has enough selyn from the shunt that she isn't in danger of attrition, but she has to keep reminding herself of that.
Bibi wishes Cristal, uselessly lowfield though he may be, were around to help her, but he's soothing Mik's nerves. It's not easy for an out-T boy to turn Sime, or anyone to become a channel. The presence of Layna with her transfer burns and Ukoh who's miserable, doesn't help. Not to mention Mik's freaked out Simephobe father.
Nervana makes her way up the steps to the Sime Center.
Bibi hopes none of the more difficult donors will show up today, but can't believe she'll get off easy. She reminds herself that expecting the worst is characteristic of need.
Nervana isn't a regular donor. In fact she's pretty hit and miss -- just when the rent is due and there isn't enough money from her sporadic work to pay it. She opens the door and peeks in.
Nervana: Anybody home?
Bibi: Oh, good morning, Nervana! Nice to see you. Come in, have some tea.
Nervana: Oh, hi Hajene Bibi.
Nervana reminds herself that the rent is due and walks in. She looks at Bibi sitting there looking normal and can almost forget what she is.
Bibi: We have peanut butter cookies today.
Bibi suppresses the surge of nausea she feels at the thought of eating anything that greasy. She's having a hard enough time drinking tea today, even without honey.
Nervana walks over to "have some tea and cookies". She doesn't want to be impolite but would much rather "get to it" than chit-chat. She is ~~ worried ~~ about the rent and other things.
Bibi zlins the donor's anxiety and hopes she's not going to have to zlin it during a transfer contact.
Nervana: Um, Hajene would you mind if -- I mean could we just...
Bibi: If you'd like to donate right now, that's fine, of course.
Bibi gives what she hopes is her usual pleasant and encouraging smile.
Nervana's anxiety is mounting, but she is grateful to have a way to pay the rent. She smiles back tentatively.
Nervana: Thank you.
Bibi: Come with me, then.
Bibi leads the way to the donation room, cringing slightly as the ~~ anxiety ~~ follows her.
Nervana follows at what she hope is a normal distance.
Nervana: I don't mean to be such a bother. I just -- well the rent is due and...
Bibi wishes Nattin were here to fetch Nervana's file for her, but he's occupied cooling Ukoh down and keeping an eye on Layna.
Nervana feels ~~ embarrassed ~~ about having to donate again just to pay the rent.
Bibi sits on the transfer lounge.
Bibi: I don't think you've been in for several months, Nervana. It's nice to have you back.
Bibi thinks it would be nicer if she weren't zlinning all that anxiety and embarrassment.
Nervana just smiles sheepishly and sits on the lounge next to Bibi.
Bibi: Most of our donors donate every month. If they don't need the money, they often give it to their favorite charity, or assign their donation to a friend or relative in-T.
Nervana: I just didn't want to learn to depend on it. What if they make you leave or something? I'm supposed to be an adult. Taking handouts isn't right.
Nervana still isn't convinced about this selyn business and she really hates the "Sime-kisser" jokes from her neighbors.
Bibi: Oh, but it's not a handout. You're selling something you produce, just like a farmer sells his crops.
Nervana: It doesn't feel like farming. That takes some real work.
Bibi: Well, I've heard of people selling their hair to wig makers. This way you don't have to go around with a hat until it grows back!
Nervana smiles at that and ~~ relaxes ~~ a little.
Nervana: I guess it is sorta like growing hair.
Bibi: Yes, and just as your hair falls out and is thrown away, your selyn just goes to waste if you don't donate.
Bibi is relieved that this line of talk is relaxing Nervana. Maybe she's nervous about the respectability of donating, not the process itself.
Nervana finds this way of thinking more in keeping with her sense of proper work ethic. Looked at that way she could donate every month and not feel like some kind of charity case.
Bibi: And of course, your donation helps Simes stay alive. There's no other source of selyn than generous people like yourself.
Nervana begins to really warm to the idea. With donation money every month she could afford to move to a better part of town and get new neighbors.
Nervana smiles and ~~ relaxes ~~ completely.
Nervana: Thank you Hajene Bibi.
Bibi suppresses a sigh of relief at the much more tolerable ambient, and offers her arms.
Bibi: Thank you, Nervana. You'll be giving someone the gift of a month of life.
Nervana can now be ~~ happy ~~ about donating. She puts her hand in Bibi's. This isn't the odd part.
Bibi gives her usual friendly smile as she slips her hands into position and extends her handling tentacles. She hopes the smile is convincing.
Nervana reminds herself that this is nothing to worry about -- it never has hurt and she's pretty ~~ certain?? ~~ that it won't this time.
Bibi: Now remember to hold still when I extend my laterals so you don't hurt me, okay?
Bibi tightens the grip of her handling tentacles, extends her laterals, and leans forward offering her lips for the fifth contact.
Nervana hesitates for a moment. This is the odd part. She reminds herself that she isn't actually "kissing" Bibi.
Bradford slams open the door to the center, chipping the wall with the door handle. BOOM! He stomps angrily over to the desk.
Bibi maintains her grip on Nervana's arms in case the donor jumps at the sound.
Nervana jumps at the sound and looks around to see what made it.
Nervana: What? What was that?
Bradford fumes quietly.
Nattin comes down the stairs, hurrying at the noise, and enters the reception area.
Nattin: Can I help you?
Bradford is a lanky, muscular teenager with shaggy brown hair in need of cutting. He glowers at Nattin, folding his arms.
Bradford: I want to donate!
Bibi wonders what the shen is going on and is relieved to hear Nattin out there.
Bibi: Sounds like Nattin is handling matters. Shall we continue?
Nervana: Um, yeah sure. ~~ heart still beating fast ~~
Nattin is a professor on sabbatical, and not easily intimidated by youngsters. He raises an eyebrow.
Nattin: Is there some reason you shouldn't?
Bradford's clothes are worn and dusty, a plaid shirt and sturdy cotton pants over scuffed boots.
Bibi really wishes she had a Donor present to manage the ambient for her, with all that sullen aggression she's anticipating out there.
Nattin: Well, then, what's the problem?
Bradford: Nothing! I get money for this, right?
Nattin: Yes, donors are paid in proportion to the amount of selyn they provide.
Bradford shifts his weight from one foot to the other, glaring at the floor.
Bibi makes the fifth contact and carefully zlins Nervana for health problems.
Bibi can zlin that Nervana isn't very well nourished, and hopes that she'll use some of the donation money for healthy food. With her sensitivity increased by need, she can detect some uterine fibroids that aren't large enough to cause problems yet. She hopes that at Nervana's age, menopause will intervene before the fibroids become too much of a nuisance.
Nattin: If you would care to have a seat, Hajene Bibi will see you shortly.
Bradford stomps over to a couch, and throws himself down on it, fixing a glowering stare at a framed picture hanging on the wall.
Bibi carefully collects the selyn from Nervana's GN-3 level and tentatively probes at the GN-2 barrier. She wonders if she can upgrade the donor, who really does look like she could use the money.
Nattin raises an eyebrow at this rudeness.
Nattin: There are refreshments on the table there. Peanut butter cookies today, I believe.
Bibi is surprised that Nervana has taken her word for it that Nattin is in control of the commotion in the waiting area, and is relaxed enough to drop her GN-2 barrier with a little effort on Bibi's part. She collects the selyn from the GN-2 level successfully, then wonders if she should have taken such an action in her present condition. She isn't motivated by that dark instinct to enjoy Gen pain, is she?
Bradford shoots a fiery glance at the cookies, and continues staring at the picture. Moments later, one hand darts out to grab one of the treats, almost without volition. He munches angrily.
Bibi releases Nervana and gives her another hopefully convincing smile.
Nervana smiles back.
Bibi: There you go. You did very well, today. I was able to collect more selyn than previously so you'll be making more money.
Nervana: More? More money?
Bibi gets up, fills out a voucher for Nervana and hands it to her.
Bibi: Yes. Here you go.
Nattin follows Bradford's gaze to the picture on the wall, a rather poor quality reproduction of Klyd Farris signing the First Contract.
Nattin: A terrible likeness of Klyd Farris, don't you think? It doesn't look at all like him.
Bradford glances sideways at Nattin, lips curled downward in a scowl. He doesn't know Klyd Farris from his Aunt Mari.
Nattin: For one thing, he never wore his hair like that.
Nervana takes the voucher and can't believe her eyes!
Nervana: Oh, thank you!
Nervana now has enough for both rent and food.
Bibi: Thank you. I hope you'll be back next month too.
Nervana: Oh, yes. I will!
Bradford finishes masticating the cookie, brushing away crumbs on his already abused pants.
Nattin: And that brooch holding his cape closed is anachronistic: he won it off Risa Tigue some years after the First Contract was signed.
Bradford isn't even listening. He's too busy concentrating on staying good and angry, and besides, the history explanation is horribly boring. He notes that Nattin sounds like his teacher in history class, in school... droning on and trying to make things that happened generations ago sound interesting and relevant, when they aren't.
Nervana gets up to go redeem her voucher and catch the landlord before her belongings hit the sidewalk.
Bibi braces herself for the ambient in the waiting area and opens the door.
Bradford flinches slightly as the door opens, then scowls harder at the picture.
Nattin takes a step towards Bibi and Nervana, not incidentally putting his nager between her and Bradford.
Bradford is broiling with anger, and rising nervous fear.
Nattin: Bibi, this young man wishes to donate.
Bibi is almost floored by the fear underlying the facade of anger and boorishness. She moves close to Nattin, for all the good his non-Donor's field will do her.
Nattin: [to Nervana] If you would like to cash that voucher here, you can come with me now.
Nervana: Yes thank you.
Bradford also has five cuts, seven bruises, six abrasions, and a hairline fracture in his humerus. His eyes dart repeatedly over at Bibi, lingering over her arms, and he folds his own more securely across his chest.
Bibi wants to grab Nattin and use him as an insulating shield rather than deal with this young man while she's in hard need without a Donor, or prospect of one.
Nattin leads Nervana down the hall, towards the room where he keeps the cash box.
Bradford wants to say something, but suddenly realizes that he's about to actually put himself into a Sime's hands. His parents had always warned him never to come near here.
Bibi forces herself hypoconscious and stays as calm as possible. The physical pain underlying the fear and anger is really hard to take.
Bibi: Good morning. I'm Hajene Bibi.
Bradford opens his mouth to return the greeting, but nothing comes out. He closes it, and swallows hard.
Bibi gives him a friendly, encouraging and slightly strained smile, while remaining hypoconscious.
Bradford is feeling far more terror than anger now, and tries to remember why he decided to do this. He scrubs his sweating palms furiously against his pants, then becomes angry at himself, and forces himself to speak.
Bradford: H-h-hi. I'm here to donate.
Bradford breaks into a fresh cold sweat as his heart runs a marathon.
Bibi: That's very good of you. My Donor isn't here to help me this morning, so I won't be taking donations from first time donors today.
Bradford blinks as that information settles into his brain.
Bibi: We have some booklets here that will explain the process, as well as some about changeover and other topics.
Bradford's heart slows to a more reasonable jog.
Bradford finds having his plans ruined even worse than the prospect of touching a Sime.
Bibi: If you'll come back in a few days, I'll be happy to take your donation then.
Bibi doesn't expect to actually be happy about it, but it's her job, and civility almost always pays.
Bibi: Would you like some tea and cookies?
Bradford: I came all this way, and now you're not gonna do it??
Bibi: I'm sorry.
Bradford is working his way up toward really angry again. He grabs a flyer off the table, and stands abruptly. He flings the flyer furiously at the floor.
Bradford turns and storms toward the door.
Vannil is opening the door, humming a happy tune. He's a regular donor, a middle-aged railway worker.
Bradford walks right into Vannil, cracking his head sharply. He shoves Vannil away with a snarl.
Bibi stiffens as she hears the crack, really glad she's hypoconscious.
Vannil: Whoa, there, young fellow.
Bradford: Watch where you're going!
Vannil: No reason to snap. You were the one who wasn't watching where you were going. You'll fall down the steps and break your neck if you go on like that.
Bradford: What?! You ran right into me, old man!
Bibi can see where this is heading.
Bradford steps up into Vannil's face.
Bradford: I think you better apologize for that!
Bibi advances on the two men.
Bibi: Good morning, Mr. Vannil. This young man was just leaving.
Bradford doesn't notice her approach, focusing his testosterone laced rage on the hapless rail worker.
Bibi gestures with a tentacle.
Vannil: I should hope so. Young Mr. Lanza may be upset, but that's no reason for discourtesy. And I expect your father would say the same, so don't scowl at me like that.
Bradford suddenly realizes that Bibi is standing right next to him, and backpedals reflexively, tripping over the doorstep and falling backward down the stairs. He cracks his fractured arm on the railing as he goes over.
Vannil shakes his head in ~~ disbelief ~~
Bradford stares upward at the suddenly spinning sky, and wonders where he is.
Vannil: I used to think that kid would outgrow his clumsiness, but now, I wonder.
Bibi is uncertain whether rushing to help the boy will do more harm than good. She dithers, unlike her usual channel's decisiveness. Oh, for a Donor to protect her!
Bradford begins to struggle feebly, rolling over onto his stomach, noting that his head feels really heavy, all of a sudden.
Bibi: Would you like some help, Mr. Lanza?
Bibi slowly approaches him, offering a hand, tentacles withdrawn.
Bradford blinks at her dazedly, his vision slowly clearing. He begins to shuffle backward as he remembers where he is, who she is, and what just happened.
Bibi remains hypoconscious, which is very uncomfortable, afraid of what would happen if she were to zlin. If she weren't a Tecton channel, she'd run away (under low augmentation) and hide.
Bradford stumbles uncertainly to his feet, fueled by the extra burst of adrenaline. He squints as a violent stab of pain shoots down the center of his head.
Bradford: Uh, uh.. I'm fine.
Bibi: You might want to have a doctor look at some of those injuries. You had a hairline fracture in your left humerus when you came in.
Bradford wonders what is so humorous, trying to make sense of that.
Bibi is not going to do any diagnosis that requires zlinning right now.
Bradford: Yeah, sure... uh. I'm fine.
Bradford musters a bit more bluster.
Bradford: I'll... be back in a few days, then!
Bibi feels guilty that she isn't offering to work on the injuries, but she doesn't dare.
Bradford looks unsteady, but unlikely to actually fall down again.
Bibi: Okay, good. Thanks for coming!
Bradford backs away, unsure about turning his back on a Sime. He finally turns slightly, looking mostly back at her, and heads off in a fairly random direction.
Bibi thinks it would be more honest to say "Thanks for going". She goes into the Sime Center.
Vannil is shaking his head.
Vannil: That young man's had a chip on his shoulder for years, Bibi, so don't feel bad about him.
Vannil's nager is ~~ habitually cheerful and relaxed ~~
Bibi: He's got a number of injuries, but between the pain, fear and hostility... I really don't feel up to offering to help him without Cristal present.
Bibi goes duoconscious and relaxes as she zlins Vannil's cheerful nager.
Vannil: Where is that young man? It's not like him to just leave you stranded.
Bibi: Mik Gegg changed over as a channel last night, and Cristal is helping him.
Vannil: Ah, I see. Well, I hate to impose on you, and I know it's a few days early, but I'd like to donate today, if I may.
Bibi: It's all right. We can do that.
Vannil: I'm off this afternoon to help clear the tracks.
Bibi: Oh, dear. There aren't going to be any interruptions in service are there?
Bibi wants to scream in horror.
Vannil: You haven't heard the news?
Bibi: No, what?
Bibi clutches her arms, and forcibly keeps her laterals from extending.
Vannil is ~~ genuinely amazed ~~, as he has some idea how fast gossip travels, having given it many an accelerating nudge himself.
Vannil: There was a big fire, over past Gumgeeville a ways. Trees all over the tracks, and some of the tracks warped. With the extra crews, though, full service should be restored in a week or so.
Bibi really wants to scream. She feels faint and sits on the nearest chair.
Bibi: Oh, dear. I suppose the railway will provide carriage service past the damaged area, then.
Vannil is ~~ concerned ~~
Vannil: Are you all right? You look pale.
Bibi hopes her Controller will give her Donor funds to hire a fast horse.
Bibi: I didn't have much breakfast.
Vannil: Here, let me get you some of that tea you keep prescribing for my nervous stomach.
Vannil bustles over to the refreshments table.
Bibi didn't have any breakfast. Simes don't usually lie, but this isn't a lie, and Bibi has been living among Gens so long she's regained the skill.
Bibi: Oh, thank you. You're very kind.
Vannil: I'm sure that there will be some sort of detour around the blockage, although the roads in that section are very poor.
Bibi's need is demanding "do something do something do something" much louder now.
Vannil brings over a steaming mug of tea, his ~~ concern ~~ alas carried on a not-quite-highfield GN-2 nager.
Bibi finds the concern soothing, and finds herself evaluating Vannil's potential as a transfer partner. She stops herself before she gets intrusive thoughts of how it would feel if she forced him into transfer.
Vannil obliviously presses the steaming cup into Bibi's hands.
Vannil: Here, take a sip, now. You don't look well at all.
Bibi: Thank you.
Bibi holds the mug and lets her tentacles wrap around it, relieving some of the pressure on her swollen ronaplin glands. She sips.
Bibi: Won't you have some yourself?
Vannil: I think I will, thank you kindly.
Vannil moves over to the table, taking his almost-replete field with him.
Bibi feels a mild urge to get up and follow him.
Vannil pours himself a cup of tea, and returns to Bibi.
Vannil: You look like you've been working too hard, Bibi.
Bibi: Perhaps I have. I've been thinking about going in-T for a few weeks, now that Mik has changed over. The Tecton will send another channel to take my place.
Vannil is not used to thinking in terms of need, and therefore doesn't draw the wrong -- or rather, right -- conclusion as to Bibi's state.
Vannil: Well, you'd be missed, but no one can say you haven't earned a vacation. How many years has it been?
Bibi: Almost five now. I came here in early fall.
Vannil: You're overdue for a chance to visit your home, then. Or just to go to the big city and see the sights, if that's what you prefer.
Bibi: I've been very happy here. This is the work I've wanted to do every since I changed over as a channel. I guess this is my home now. But, yes, it would be nice to go in-T for a while, be able to walk around in public without retainers, not have to be tied to one building in case a child in changeover turns up suddenly.
Vannil: I can see it would be.
Bibi sips her tea, thinking about how nice it would be to visit Capital when Seruffin is there, enjoy the cultural events, have some time together... his beautiful nager....
The sound of splintering wood announces the visitor, as frustrated hands throw the wooden obstacle aside.
Bibi leaps to her feet as she zlins a Sime in attrition tearing the door off the hinges.
A berserker steps into the lobby, dripping laterals licking out of their sheaths, sightless eyes staring.
Vannil turns towards the door in ~~ astonishment ~~, trying to track what's happening.
The berserker zeros in on Vannil hungrily.
Bibi: Don't move, Vannil. Try to stay calm.
Bibi leaps across the lobby in high augmentation, flaring ~~ repletion ~~ intense Gen need-to-give ~~~
The berserker flashes toward the Gen, then pauses as the second field intervenes. She hesitates.
Vannil freezes, ~~ paralyzed ~~ by the sight of the berserker.
Bibi seizes the berserker's arms and establishes a transfer contact.
The berserker draws desperately at her top speed.
Vannil calms a little as Bibi takes charge. He has never seen a Sime take transfer, before.
Bibi pushes selyn at the berserker. ~~ a boundless supply of selyn ~~ joy in giving ~~ love ~~ kindness ~~ caring ~~ joy ~~
Vannil finds the sight interesting, if a great deal more violent than a donation.
The berserker reaches her peak in relief and pleasure, draw dropping off slowly to nothing.
Bibi maintains the contact. ~~~ safety ~~ comfort ~~ joy ~~ relief ~~
A tired girl stares up at Bibi in astonishment as her eyes refocus.
Vannil ~~ relaxes ~~, now that the excitement is apparently over.
Bibi: It's all right. You got here in time. You didn't kill. All will be well.
The girl's eyes lower to their joined arms and widen. She tries to retreat, but the new tentacles refuse to cooperate for several moments. She finally manages to get them sheathed, and takes a step away. She is confused and a bit alarmed, but not really frightened.
Bibi: You're safe here. We'll look after you. Everything's all right.
The girl looks around the lobby.
Bibi reinforces her words with ~~ comfort ~~ safety ~~ calm ~~
Vannil clucks in ~~ mild disapproval ~~
Vannil: Daffodil, you shouldn't have left it so late. You know better.
Daffodil looks over at Vannil. She hadn't noticed he was there...
Bibi is quite distraught, horrified at the tragedy that could so easily have occurred, and in recovery from the functional. She conceals it behind her showfield, although the new Sime is hypoconscious.
Daffodil: Miz Bibi, I just... I didn't realize. And then I heard people arguing in here, and...
Bibi: All's well now. Come, sit down with me for a minute.
Bibi, herself, needs to sit down.
Daffodil: I just wanted to wait until nobody was around, so I... I... hid in the bushes. I don't know how I got in here....
Daffodil looks around at the lack of a door.
Bibi guides the girl to a sofa and sits down with her.
Bibi: Yes, Simes in changeover have an instinct to hide and avoid people.
Daffodil sits down, blinking as exhaustion from her ordeal hits in force.
Bibi shudders internally, thinking how the timing was so close. She could have killed Bradford or Vannil, and on the Sime Center grounds.
Vannil looks at Bibi's obvious exhaustion, and Daffodil's confusion.
Vannil: Bibi, you aren't well, and it looks like you'll be occupied for a while. Perhaps I should come back another day?
Daffodil feels gooey and sticky, and grimy, as well as very tired.
Bibi: Yes, I think that would be better. I'm sorry for your inconvenience.
Vannil: Not at all, and I hope you're feeling better soon. Daffodil, I'll let your father know where you are, although knowing Ranunculus, he won't believe it until he sees you for himself.
Daffodil notices the picture of Klyd Farris, and thinks he looks very handsome.
Vannil: Good day, Bibi. Get some rest, when you can.
Daffodil looks up at Vannil.
Bibi: Thank you so much for your help, Vannil.
Daffodil: Oh, yeah... okay. Thanks. Dad will be worried!
Bibi is relieved. She really doesn't have anyone to spare to go tell the girl's parents.
Vannil waves at them both, and takes his ~~ cheerful ~~ and almost high-field Gen nager out the door.
Bibi sags as the Gen departs. Even a high field GN-2 is better than nothing. Nothing, shen it!
Daffodil wonders if the handsome man in the portrait is writing a letter to his parents, telling them about how he turned Sime.
Bibi: Daffodil, we have two other young people here who just turned Sime too.
Daffodil tries to look interested, though she's so tired she practically thinks she's talking to the man in the picture.
Bibi groans internally as she tries to figure out how to shift the sleeping arrangements, since it looks like Jed will be here for a while, until he gets his wagon fixed.
Daffodil loses her battle with full consciousness.
Bibi knows she can't have girls and boys sleep in the same room without offending local manners, even if they are all headed for Sime territory, where it isn't as important.
Bibi: Come, Daffodil, I'll show you where you can wash up and then you can take a nap, okay?
Daffodil snores softly.
Bibi picks the girl up and effortlessly carries her back into the depths of the Sime Center.