Changeovers and Consequences: Episode 15

Marvin is not actually enjoying the train ride -- no Sime can do that -- but he's enjoying the anticipation.

Marvin's favorite stop is Hannard's Ford, both because he gets to relax there for a day or so, and because he gets to see Bibi. He considers Bibi the best friend he has, even if some of the, umm, benefits haven't been available lately, thanks to the unfortunate deficiencies of Sime physiology.

Marvin has Eugen assigned to him again, and decides that doing something interesting would be a good idea about now.

Marvin: Hey, Eugen. You wanna see a trick? Nothing nageric.

Eugen has been staring out the window watching trees go by and trying not to fall asleep again. He shakes himself as he realizes that Marvin is talking to him.

Eugen: Sorry, what? ~~ slightly dazed ~~

Marvin: I said, do you want to see a trick? It's not nageric, just -- prestidigitation.

Eugen grins at the channel and nods. This should be interesting.

Eugen: Sure.

Marvin opens his traveling bag and rummages through it until he finds a small bag with a drawstring. He loosens the drawstring and takes out a deck of cards.

Marvin: Here, shuffle these.

Marvin hands Eugen the deck.

Eugen is ~~ curious ~~ as he takes the cards and shuffles as requested.

Eugen: Now what? [still shuffling]

Marvin: Give it back to me when you feel ready.

Eugen figures the cards are as randomized as he can make them. He hands the deck back to Marvin.

Marvin: Okay. Now I'm going to look through the deck quickly ...

Marvin turns the deck face-up, fans them, takes a quick look, and closes the deck and turns it face-down again.

Eugen raises an eyebrow in question.

Marvin: Okay, I'm going to name a card: the Two of Cups. Now you pick a number between 1 and 39 -- the card is in the top half of the deck -- and I'll magically make the Two of Cups appear that many cards down in the deck.

Eugen manages not to roll his eyes. Simes! He smiles to himself and picks a number, 38, just to keep things interesting.

Eugen: Do I tell you the number or is not knowing part of the "magic"?

Marvin: No, you tell me. I'm not that magical.

Eugen: All right, 38.

Marvin gives Eugen a look, but duly counts off 38 cards, face-down, from the top of the deck into another pile. He turns up the next card... only to see that it is not the Two of Cups. It's the Ace of Wands.

Marvin: Shen. I screwed up somewhere.

Marvin turns the Ace of Wands over and throws the pile of rejects back on the deck.

Eugen tries not to laugh at his channel's "magic".

Marvin: Yeah, yeah, I know.

Marvin: Ah, I have it. The card is really in the bottom half of the deck. I screwed up when I turned the deck face-down. So can you give me a number between 40 and 78 instead? Sorry about that.

Eugen: Sleight of hand is supposed to be easier with tentacles.

Marvin: [ruefully] So they say.

Eugen: 45

Marvin dutifully, though gracefully, counts out 45 cards into his reject pile. He turns up the next card... but it's the Fool.

Marvin: Shenshay! I screwed up again!

Marvin turns the Fool face down and throws the rejects back on top.

Eugen chuckles quietly but the ambient is lit by his humor.

Marvin: I guess the magic isn't working too well today, is it.

Marvin snaps out of his gloom.

Marvin: Ah, I have an idea. Let's try subtracting your first number from your second one. That would be, hmm, 45 minus 38, which is 7.

Marvin counts off seven cards from the top of the deck.

Marvin turns up the next card. Sure enough, it really is the Two of Cups this time.

Marvin: AHAAAAAAA!!!

Eugen blinks and smiles. He should have known Marvin would never take the straight route.

Eugen: Well done!

Marvin: Yeah, I'm "done" all right.

Marvin smiles his thousand-Genpower smile.

Marvin: Anyway, we should reach Hannard's Ford in 38 minutes, or is it 45? Just time for a hand of gin rummy. Interested?

Eugen continues to be ~~ impressed and laughing ~~

Eugen: I don't know if I can trust you after that trick. How do I know you won't be dealing off the bottom or something? ~~ kidding ~~

Marvin: [mock pompous] What, you doubt the integrity of a Tecton channel?

Eugen laughs out loud.

Marvin laughs too.

Eugen: I would never trust a Tecton channel any farther than I could throw this train. ~~ still kidding ~~

Eugen: How about I teach you a new game?

Marvin: Oooookay.

Eugen: Ever play "Love Thy Neighbor?"

Marvin: [puzzled] I don't think so. Does it use cards?

Eugen: Yup, the object of the game is to make your opponent eat all the cards in the deck while you get rid of all the cards in your hand.

Marvin starts to have a laughing fit.

Eugen: The Eight of Swords is wild and allows you to reverse whenever you place... What's so funny?

Marvin: If you think you're going to get me to play a game where I even might have to eat the playing cards, you've got another think coming, and maybe another five thinks.

Marvin continues to chortle throughout this remark.

Eugen stares at the channel for a moment and then bursts out laughing himself at the mental image of Marvin choking down the cards.

Eugen: Not literally you nut.

Marvin: Oh.

Marvin continues laughing as we fade to....

Bibi is sitting in her room, or deferment suite, staring at the floor.

Nattin makes his way up the stairs to Bibi's room, ~~ deeply concerned ~~ about her increasing need.

Bibi has been trying to suppress the intrusive thoughts prolonged hard need has invoked in her, intrusive thoughts of attacking.... by singing songs in her head. Unfortunately, she's got one stuck and just repeating over and over....

Bibi thinks it must have been triggered by Cristal's relentless efforts at cheerfulness.

When you're drowning in the waters
Of some shark-infested bay
Just give a little whistle
And whistle your cares away.

Bibi shakes her head and tries to sing something else, but the tune carries on.

When you're standing on the gallows
At the fated break of day
Just give a little whistle
And whistle your cares away.

Bibi stands up and begins pacing, like a rather stressed out tigress.

When you're verging on attrition
And the Pen's a week away
Just give a little whistle...

Nattin pauses in front of her door to ~~ calm ~~ his nager before signaling.

Bibi zlins Nattin and firmly suppresses the thought of how he'd react if she flung open the door and grabbed him by the arms.

Bibi: Come in, Nattin.

Nattin opens the door slowly, to give Bibi time to adjust to his field.

Bibi sits on the bed and tries to look calm and harmless.

Nattin: Driver just returned from the train station. There are no telegrams, from either direction.

Bibi nods stiffly.

Nattin: Apparently, yesterday's thunderstorm was enough to disrupt service from New Washington, even though it didn't put the fire out.

Bibi refrains from troubling deaf heaven with bootless cries and nods again.

Nattin: The express train from New Washington is being held a few miles out, so that a train carrying firefighters and equipment can be brought in on the other track. The local will be on time, though.

Nattin is aware that the chances that the local will have an emergency Donor for Bibi is very low, given the communications disruption.

Bibi sighs.

Nattin: Hold on, Bibi. There's still a chance of getting you a real Donor.

Bibi: I don't know if I'll be able to work tomorrow, at this rate. I'll have to see how I feel then.

Bibi didn't like the increasing wariness behind the sympathy she zlinned from today's donors.

Nattin: If there's still no news by tonight... perhaps you should try a full shunt? Have you sufficient selyn for that?

Bibi: Yes, I have enough. If I can't work anyway...

Nattin: Yes. You're the only channel here.

Bibi: Well, I'm sure I could serve transfer for a changeover, and Driver, of course. It won't be my best work, but I can do it.

Bibi puts her hands over her swollen ronaplin glands and shivers.

Nattin is careful not to let himself fully feel his sympathy; that would make his nager more tempting, and Bibi does not need that just now.

Bibi: The local should be in by now. I wonder...

Bibi calculates how long it should take a Donor unfamiliar with the Ford to find the Sime Center.

Nattin: Shall I get Cristal for you?

Bibi: No, I'm all right. Thanks anyway.

Bibi imagines her Donor, the replete one, wandering around the Ford, getting lost, the locals giving him a hard time...

Nattin thinks Bibi is using some new definition of "all right", but there's nothing he can do about it.

Bibi suddenly leaps to her feet and augments to the window, laterals out and zlinning furiously.

Nattin ~~ startles ~~, then quickly controls it.

Nattin: Bibi, what is it? Not another changeover?

Nattin thinks there have been far too many, these past few days.

Bibi: Marvin's coming, with a Gen...

Bibi's hopes rise irrationally.

Nattin: A Donor? His own, or yours?

Bibi: Oh, it's Eugen.

Bibi's hopes plummet.

Bibi: He's no good to me this time of month.

Bibi realizes how rude that sounds but there isn't much to say to make up for it.

Bibi: Nattin, I'm seeing every Gen just as a potential transfer partner. I hate this!

Nattin: Shall I send Marvin up to see you? He's good company, if nothing else.

Nattin feels better when Bibi isn't alone with her need.

Bibi: Yes, please send Marvin up. He can help me, I think.

Nattin: Very well.

Nattin leaves the room, careful to move slowly, and to close the door slowly. He hurries up a bit as he goes down the stairs to meet Marvin and reaches the reception room just as the door opens.

Nattin: Marvin, I'm glad you're here.

Nattin is ~~ glad ~~, but he's also ~~ very worried ~~

Marvin: [concerned] What on earth is wrong, Nattin?

Nattin: Young Mik Gegg decided to change over, after all. And without sufficient warning to get a Donor out here for him. Bibi gave him Cristal, and now with the forest fire her replacement Donor can't get through, and we've had several other changeovers, and Bibi's three days late for transfer and getting worse by the hour, and ....

Marvin winces violently.

Nattin realizes he's babbling.

Nattin: I'm sorry. It's been a rough few days.

Marvin: I'm on my way.

Marvin augments, following the huge trough in the selyn field, and bounds up the stairs three at a time.

Marvin: [calls back] Grab a bite, Eugen.

Eugen is very worried about Bibi and silently curses the fact that he's just off loaded his extra selyn.

Nattin looks after him with ill-concealed ~~ relief ~~ then turns to Eugen.

Nattin: Come, at least the kitchen is functioning. For now.

Eugen: I think I just lost my appetite.

Nattin: You and every other Gen staying here.

Eugen follows Nattin anyway.

Bibi is tensely waiting for Marvin to come to her.

Marvin slows down to normal, so he doesn't kick the door off by mistake, and goes straight into Bibi's room without knocking.

Marvin: ~~ concern ~~ ~~ Donor-class showfield ~~ Bibi!

Bibi: Marvin!

Marvin: It's me. I'm here. It's me.

Marvin knows he's babbling, but it doesn't really matter.

Bibi begins to tremble. The Donor simulation is enticing, but she knows it's futile. She reaches towards Marvin, imploringly.

Bibi: Help me, Marvin.

Bibi struggles to remain duoconscious.

Marvin wraps himself around Bibi with both arms and squeezes her to saturate her tissues with his showfield.

Marvin: [murmurs] I know, I know it's been just awful.

Bibi hugs Marvin back and begins to cry with choked sobs.

Bibi: It has. And it's still going on.

Bibi shivers harder and clings to Marvin.

Marvin deep-zlins Bibi and sees that despite the need she has sufficient selyn. He begins to stroke Bibi's back with one arm.

Marvin: You took a shunt, eh?

Bibi begins to relax a little. It's so good to have someone here she can dare to touch.

Bibi: Yes. Twice. I'll have to do it again tonight, or maybe a full shunt.

Bibi sighs deeply.

Bibi: Lie down with me? I need to relax.

Marvin: You betcha.

Marvin augments just a touch and lifts Bibi onto the far side of the bed, lies down next to her, and wraps himself around her with all available limbs.

Bibi continues to shiver and gropes for the "Birds in the Air" pattern quilt.

Marvin: This should help a little.

Marvin takes the quilt and tosses it into the air; it comes down spread out exactly where it's most needed.

Bibi: It's bad. It just doesn't stop. I know I'm at no risk of attrition, but it doesn't feel like it.

Marvin: Yeah, I can zlin you gritting your teeth -- nagerically speaking.

Marvin draws in a deep breath and blows it out.

Marvin: [tentatively] Bibi, I know it wouldn't be what you need, altogether, but I could try... ~~ need-to-give ~~

Bibi jerks away.

Bibi: No! No, it just makes it worse.

Marvin: ~~ soothing ~~ Hey, hey, I'm sorry.

Bibi pants a little.

Bibi: Sorry, I'm overreacting to everything.

Bibi: Marvin... I'm starting to find Gen pain and fear more and more attractive. ~~ deep shame ~~

Marvin: Bibi, just because you find ... that ... attractive, doesn't mean you're anywhere near acting on it. The difference is huge. I know.

Bibi: Yes. But I never have, before. I've had it pretty easy most ways. Now...

Marvin: ~~ coaxingly ~~ Oh, you can do it.

Bibi: Yes. I have to.

Bibi sighs again.

Bibi: I'm so glad you're here. I've been afraid to touch anybody.

Marvin: No problem there!

Marvin begins to run his hands over Bibi's back and arms again.

Bibi: Bart wants to help me but he can't control his need to give. Cristal is driving me crazy with his depleted nager and his shidoni-doomed efforts at friggin cheerfulness.

Marvin chuckles

Marvin: Yeah, I can see that. Cristal means well, but ...

Bibi sighs again with the hint of a faint chuckle herself.

Marvin: Y'know, I bet it never occurred to him to do this.

Marvin deftly rotates himself head-to-foot, pulls off the slippers Bibi is still wearing, and begins to massage her feet.

Bibi looks at Marvin's large booted feet with ~~ consternation ~~

Marvin chuckles.

Marvin: They slip off, if you use about 120% augmentation for a few seconds. You can afford it.

Bibi thinks she'd find Marvin's large sweaty feet even less appealing.

Marvin zlins Bibi's reaction to this.

Marvin: [quietly] No problem.

Bibi would like Marvin to just hold her, so she can rest on his nager. She draws her feet up.

Marvin takes the hint and rotates himself again, wrapping up Bibi once more.

Marvin wriggles out of his boots with a touch more augmentation.

Bibi: It's been one shenned thing after another here. Jed Mullins tried to bring me a boy in changeover. His wagon broke down, and Layna tried to serve him. They both survived. Layna's got some ugly burns and the boy is in terrible shape.

Marvin: ~~ sympathy ~~

Marvin mutters under his breath: "Do, or do not. There is no 'try'."

Bibi: Shidoni, Marvin, I never thought it would be so hard to hand Cristal over to Mik. Part of me just wanted to rip Mik's throat out rather than let him take my Gen.

Marvin elevates an eyebrow.

Marvin: That's instinct and nothing but. No shame in it.

Bibi: I know, but it was still horrible to experience first hand.

Marvin: Ah, Bibi. [lightly] Life has spoiled you rotten, hasn't it. ~~ heightened sympathy ~~

Bibi gives a ghost of a laugh.

Bibi: Yes, the soft life in the modern Tecton.

Bibi: Mik's father was here. Poor man. His field was responding to my need - I couldn't block it completely. It terrified him. Of course, he has no control.

Marvin: Naturally not, considering what's happened to him. You should keep him away from you while you're in need.

Bibi realizes that she's dumping all her troubles on Marvin, and pulls herself more together.

Bibi: I shouldn't dump it all on you, Marvin. You've made me feel a lot better.

Marvin: [mimicking Bibi] Oh yes you should dump it on me, Bibi. You need to let it out once in a while, y'know, and not just in postsyndrome.

Bibi: But if I strangle Cristal, will they send me anyone better?

Marvin: What, and just when you were telling me his sense of humor was coming along so nicely, too? What a waste.

Bibi: You're right. I won't strangle him. I have been snarling and snapping at him these past few days, and he bears it heroically.

Marvin: Well, so he can be heroic about something? Good.

Bibi: Be fair, Marvin, he's very serious about his profession.

Marvin: ~~ thoughtful ~~ Yes. Yes, he is. Anyhow, he'll be rotated out soon enough and you won't have to see him any more, won't he?

Bibi: No, he was in-T for a cycle, but now he's back, because he wants to be. The replacement they sent me didn't speak any English.

Marvin: ~~ indignant ~~ How fleckin stupid. That's the Tecton for you.

Bibi: Well, it was better than what they're doing to me now! ~~ flare of anger ~~

Bibi takes a deep breath and forcibly calms herself.

Marvin: ~~ soothing ~~ From what I understand, it really is an act of God this time.

Bibi: I don't know what to do, Marvin. I can't trust my judgment.

Marvin croons "Lean on Me"

Bibi: Should I take a full shunt, or wait? Would it be any better if I took transfer from you? Or a partial from Eugen?

Marvin: I don't think shunts are going to keep you going. You're not actually short, you know: it's transfer you need.

Marvin uses "need" precisely.

Bibi: Yes.

Marvin: I can offer you that, and I will -- if there's no alternative. What I went through before was bad enough: I couldn't bear it if the Tecton decided you were contaminated and revoked your out-T licenses.

Bibi sighs, and wishes she had some good bad language to mutter.

Bibi: Nattin sent Seruffin a telegram when Mik went into changeover, and then another yesterday, but we haven't heard anything from him.

Marvin: I expect the thunderstorms have something to do with that. Seruffin wouldn't leave you in the lurch.

Bibi: ~~ flash of anger ~~ He promised he'd come to me if he could, if I needed him. He could at least have sent a telegram.

Marvin: He probably did. But if it got garbled by static -- electrical, that is, not nageric -- you wouldn't have received it here.

Bibi: Why won't my Controller tell me what the friggin hell is going on! I can't stand not knowing.

Marvin: Same answer, Bibi, I'm afraid.

Bibi is not really listening to Marvin. She's getting more than a bit irrational.

Marvin realizes he's operating on the wrong level here, and ~~ relevels ~~ Bibi's emotions.

Bibi isn't easily manipulated by Marvin since the two channels have about the same rating, and she isn't cooperating. She isn't sure whether she wants to get up and pace, curl into a fetal ball, or throw something at the wall, hard.

Marvin: Bibi, Bibi. Let me help you. ~~ trust warmth safety ~~

Bibi closes her eyes and performs a breathing exercise.

Bibi: I'm sorry, Marvin. I.. it's getting so I can hardly stand myself.

Marvin: ~~ affection devotion ~~ Funny, isn't it, how I can still stand you just fine.

Bibi tries to smile.

Marvin strokes Bibi's hair gently.

Bibi: You're good to me, Marvin.

Marvin: ~~ earnestly ~~ You deserve it, Bibi.

Bibi hugs Marvin and thinks he deserves a good deal better than he gets from the Tecton, with most of his talents wasted. ~~ warmth ~~ affection ~~ gratitude ~~ underlying desperate hard need ~~

Bibi closes her eyes and tries to relax, while hard need thrums DO something DO something DO something in time to her heartbeat.

Birds In the Air Quilt, circa 1870

This quilt came to me from my aunt Margaret, who got it from her parents' attic in the Hawley Avenue house in Silver Spring, MD. It is too old to have been made in Maryland, however, and therefore was almost certainly made in Duncannon, PA.

Quilt appraiser Marilyn Maddalena says that this quilt is machine pieced, at least in part, and hand quilted. The cloth is probably recycled from scraps left over from making clothes, but was never worn, i.e. is not from cut-up clothing. There is a poison green scrap from around 1850, and another square made of the same material used in the Feathered Star quilt. Workmanship is very good.

The workmanship is better than that of the woman who sewed the crazy quilt, and not as good as that of the one who sewed the feathered star or Civil War top. Again, assuming that quilts are mostly passed from mother to daughter, the most likely candidate for making this quilt is Margaret Smith Reutter (1835-1879). She was the mother of Catherine Cora Reutter, and grandmother of Grace Hawley Duncan and Catherine Hawley Mendum (my grandmother).

Mary Lou Mendum

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