Changeovers and Consequences: Episode 20

Seruffin sits up in Bibi's bed and stretches in ~~ complete contentment ~~.

Seruffin lacks the stamina of his younger days, Sime physiology notwithstanding, but likes to think that experience counts for something. He didn't note any complaints from Bibi, at any rate.

Bibi snuggles closer, smiling in her sleep.

Seruffin thinks that Bibi looks completely charming, cuddled under the red and white quilt. He leans back against a pillow, laces his hands behind his head, and starts to contemplate the local situation, as Bibi blurted it out just after he gave her transfer.

Seruffin hopes that with the primary problem -- no Donor for Bibi -- solved, the other problems will be more accessible.

Bibi stirs in her sleep and reaches for Seruffin, resting her hand on his chest.

Seruffin frees one hand from its current employment, and uses to far better effect by putting it over Bibi's and lets his handling tentacles emerge to interweave with hers.

Bibi sighs and smiles. ~~ contentment ~~ happiness ~~ affection ~~ sleep ~~

Seruffin decides he hasn't been making nearly enough time for this sort of thing, in recent years. He hopes that the forest fire will continue to burn (far away from any habitation) for a little while longer, so he will be avoidably delayed in Hannard's Ford.

Bibi opens her eyes drowsily, looks at Seruffin, and grins.

Seruffin feels his lips lifting in an answering, and decidedly undignified, grin that would ruin his reputation as a diplomat if it were seen in New Washington.

Seruffin: Good morning!

Bibi: [murmurs] I still say you're amazing.

Seruffin leans down to kiss Bibi, taking his time about it.

Bibi puts her arms around Seruffin's neck. ~~ pleasure ~~ happiness ~~

Seruffin: I love you for saying so.

Bibi: Thank you, for everything. The transfer... you're so skillful...

Seruffin: I'm very glad I was able to get here before you were desperate enough to try a full shunt. Hannard's Ford is going to need you in good condition, from what you told me.

Bibi: Oh, shen.

Seruffin, reminded, turns to a small table that is pulled up within reach of the bed, and pours Bibi a glass of water from the pitcher.

Bibi sits up and takes the glass. She drinks the water right down and hands it back for a refill.

Seruffin obliges.

Bibi drinks this one more slowly.

Bibi: Thanks. I let myself get dehydrated. And starved. And sleep-deprived.

Bibi's mood darkens.

Bibi: It was awful.

Seruffin: It's amazing that you handled it as well as you did, with no Donor and no idea where your next transfer was coming from. I've known plenty of Firsts who wouldn't have showed so much control.

Seruffin's ~~ admiration ~~ of Bibi's stamina is plain.

Bibi: I don't know how long I could have continued. Some of the thoughts I was having... it was getting to be a constant battle fighting them off. Every Gen I zlinned...

Bibi shakes her head.

Bibi: It's hard to believe I was thinking that way, now I'm back to normal.

Seruffin: I know. Believe me, I know.

Bibi kisses Seruffin's shoulder, which is within reach.

Seruffin: It will take you a while to recover from this. Don't be surprised if you find need more upsetting than usual, for a while.

Bibi: I suppose it might be. It's hard to even imagine need right now.

Seruffin is ~~ glad ~~ that his transfer did that much good, at least.

Seruffin: What you really require is a vacation. Preferably in-Territory, to a place where there are plenty of Donors available.

Bibi smiles.

Bibi: I'd been thinking about that. Perhaps in Capital?

Seruffin: There will be a conference on changeover complications there, in a few weeks. Would you like to go?

Bibi: I wonder if I can get a replacement here that soon. And let my donors know... and get the replacement up to speed... ~~ worry ~~

Bibi would like to know whether Seruffin will be in Capital at the same time, but doesn't want to look too, uh, forward.

Seruffin: By the time they've got the trains straightened out, we should be able to get word on a temporary replacement for you.

Bibi: Yes. Although the way my Controller dragged her feet on getting an extra Donor out here for Mik, after I told her his changeover must be imminent... Poor kid zlinned like someone who can't quite manage to sneeze. And he felt that way, too.

Seruffin: That should mean that she's well-rested enough to get a replacement here promptly, as soon as the trains are running again.

Bibi chuckles.

Bibi: Yes, although I can't see putting it to her that way.

Seruffin can.

Seruffin: Seriously, she messed up. She owes it to you to give you the time you require to recover.

Seruffin fully intends to see that Bibi's Controller views the matter that way, anyway. And will apply pressure as necessary until she does.

Seruffin: Have you spent much time in Capital?

Bibi: No. I've passed through a few times.

Seruffin: It's a pleasant place to spend a week or two. There's a particular restaurant a few blocks from the main Sime Center... you'll love it, I think.

Bibi: Gosh. Real Nivet cuisine!

Bibi laughs.

Bibi: It's been a long time!

Seruffin: You've been deprived; I'll have to remedy that.

Bibi: Will you be in town then yourself?

Seruffin: I have some business to attend to with the World Controller, with regards to the current trade negotiations. I wouldn't mind looking in on the conference, either.

Bibi: Tell them about Magit?

Bibi is getting a little ~~ silly ~~ with happiness and relief.

Seruffin: Possibly, although in truth, you should be the one to present that case. You are far more familiar with the people here than I am.

Bibi: I wonder how she's doing. Her second and subsequent transfer went quite smoothly, I was told.

Seruffin: I'd like to get another opinion or two as to how I should have managed her case. Some of the most talented healers in the Tecton will be there, including a delegation from Sat'htine.

Bibi: Oh!

Bibi sits up.

Bibi: You won't believe what happened with Mr. Gegg.

Seruffin: Mr. Gegg? Mik's father? The Simephobe?

Bibi: Yes. As soon as he got our telegram that Mik was in changeover, he jumped on the train and came here.

Seruffin: He wanted to see his son before the changeover was complete?

Bibi: Yes, he wanted to say good-bye to him, while he still could, I think.

Seruffin: That must have been very difficult for him, even if he knew it was probably going to happen.

Bibi: Mik was in stage four, and the two of them talked for a bit. It was very good for Mik -- he was zlinning a little, and he could perceive how strong his father's love for him was. As well as his fear, and regret, and sorrow...

Seruffin: That would have been quite a bit, for a Sime's first zlinning. I hope it wasn't too much for him?

Bibi: He took it well. His changeover was remarkably smooth. He had plenty of selyn conserved. I'd almost forgotten what a changeover was like, when the child is well prepared for it.

Seruffin: Yes. Ideally, it shouldn't be a trauma. Perhaps, with Mik's example in front of them, the people here will come to accept changeover training for their children.

Bibi sighs.

Bibi: I hope it will encourage some people in Gumgeeville to consider bringing their children to me in changeover, but with the example of Ukoh and Layna, I'm dubious. ~~ discouragement ~~

Bibi: Oh! Let me continue about the Geggs.

Seruffin: By all means.

Bibi: Mr. Gegg stayed overnight and the two of us talked in the morning. He was full of regret that he might never see his son again. I told him Mik might work out-T some time, and he might visit him then.

Bibi: The poor man was reacting to my need, it was horrible. His field kept reaching for mine, against his volition. He was terrified and courageously trying to act as if he weren't.

Seruffin: I can imagine. You must have been evoking every bit of latent Donor talent that his tormenters twisted and perverted, decades ago.

Bibi: Still, he asked me if there were some way he might be able to donate, so he could go in-T and visit his son.

Bibi: I told him that it might be possible, but it would be a long and difficult process, and I'm not qualified to do it. I said that I'd look into getting someone out here to evaluate him and advise me if he'd like, and he said he would.

Seruffin: Bibi, don't try to handle Mr. Gegg on your own, or even with advice. A case like his would challenge a Sat'htine mind healer.

Bibi: Toria Gegg and Sanda came in on the morning train and visited Mik. She and her husband had a long talk and seemed to be getting along well. Then later, Nattin told me that they'd decided they would go in-T if possible, to get treatment for Gegg's Simephobia!

Seruffin: Go in-Territory?

Seruffin is ~~ astonished ~~

Bibi: I was boggled, too!

Seruffin: Have they any idea what that will mean for them?

Bibi: Well, they would get a relative to look after the farm, and all three of them would go. I must say that having good support for Toria's pregnancy would be a very valuable extra benefit. I can't tell if she might be bearing channels myself.

Seruffin: Yes, if she will accept it. Do you think she will?

Bibi: Oh, I'd think so. She's very practical, and is completely unafraid of me.

Seruffin: That will help.

Bibi: Apparently it was her idea that they go in-T if necessary.

Seruffin: Of course, she may feel a bit differently when she finds herself living with large numbers of Simes, rather then making a long journey to talk with just one.

Bibi smiles wryly.

Bibi: Perhaps I can interest a Sat'htine specialist in Gegg's case when I'm in Capital. It's challenging enough to interest a Farris, don't you think? And if they can stay at Sat'htine while they're in-T, it would be a more sheltered environment for them.

Seruffin: Yes. The older Householders still remember what it was like to bring Wild Gens into their community. Of course, Mr. Gegg is wilder than most of those who were auctioned as Choice Kills.

Bibi: Nattin thought some of the expertise in taming Wild Gens might still be there and be useful.

Seruffin: Yes, it would be. Of course, those techniques aren't much fun for the Gen. He does realize that it's not going to be pleasant, doesn't he?

Bibi: Well, when I talked to him, I told him it would be difficult. At the time, of course, I had no idea he was considering going in-T. He seemed very determined. He said he was tired of being a coward, that he wanted his twins not to have a coward for a father as Mik and Sanda had.

Seruffin shakes his head.

Bibi: His whole personality has been twisted around his belief that breaking when tortured by juncts makes him a coward.

Seruffin: I believe he's one of the bravest people I've ever met, of either larity.

Bibi: If only he could believe that.

Seruffin: I've known some people who've pulled through worse situations, but to voluntarily put himself in Sime hands after what he went through... I don't think I could do that.

Bibi nods.

Bibi: And to do it for love of his children. He told me that he wants to be able to hug his son again.

Seruffin: I do think that the case is challenging enough to interest one of the better mind-healers. If you throw in possible twin channels... well, that's bait to snare a Sectuib.

Bibi smiles.

Seruffin: The Sectuib in Sat'htine, to be precise. He'll be at the conference.

Bibi: Will he? Do you know him?

Seruffin: Not well, although we've talked a few times.

Bibi: I'll prepare a detailed report to present to him, or other potential therapists.

Seruffin: Do that, but I think you'll have most luck just bringing Gegg up in conversation.

Bibi: Okay. I really appreciate your advice.

Bibi also appreciates Seruffin's connections. Firsts travel in much more elevated circles than Seconds.

Seruffin: These conferences are as much about having a chance to gossip as they are about passing on current techniques. When was the last time you had a chance to talk shop with more than one other channel at a time?

Bibi: Not since I came out here, nearly five years. And talking shop with mules isn't usually very instructive.

Seruffin: Yes. Delightful as Marvin's conversation can be, his job is very different from yours.

Bibi smiles again, full dimple mode.

Bibi: One more reason I appreciate your visits so much.

Seruffin takes a moment to properly appreciate Bibi's dimples.

Bibi runs a tentacle along the line of Seruffin's collarbone.

Seruffin takes a small, Sime-friendly, bite-sized nibble of apple off the plate that's next to the water pitcher, and feeds it to Bibi.

Bibi smiles and chews simultaneously.

Seruffin always knew Bibi was talented. He waits politely until she swallows.

Seruffin: So, what must be accomplished before you can leave? Besides getting your replacement out here -- I'll handle that part.

Bibi: I'd like it if he could arrive well in advance, so I could introduce him to some of the donors, show the community that I approve of him.

Bibi frowns. ~~ chagrin ~~

Bibi: Assuming they will send someone I can approve of. It's not like the best channels are lined up waiting for this sort of job. They sent me a Donor a while back who spoke no English.

Seruffin: I believe your Controller will find someone competent, who speaks the language and has some tact. If not, well, if the Controllership is so overwhelming, perhaps a short stay out-Territory would restore some perspective.

Bibi is ~~ aghast ~~

Seruffin is pretty sure that Bibi's Controller will find an acceptable replacement, rather than become that replacement personally.

Bibi: No! You wouldn't!

Bibi has the sudden ~~ paranoid ~~ thought that her Controller was getting back at her for Seruffin's meddling with the selyn pickup schedule on her behalf when she put off sending a spare Donor for Mik.

Seruffin: I sincerely doubt it will be necessary. Seconds, even Seconds who speak English, aren't rare, in the Districts close to the border.

Bibi decides Seruffin was kidding her, although she's still a bit ~~ dubious ~~. She reaches over him, picks up a cherry tomato and offers it.

Seruffin obediently leans forward to nibble it out of her hand.

Bibi is ~~ delighted ~~ by the feel of his lips on her tentacles. ~~ happiness ~~ affection ~~

Seruffin chews and swallows, careful not to let any of the juices spurt out to stain the quilt.

Seruffin: How do you think the local Gens, and those in Gumgeeville, will react to the whole mess with Layna's injury?

Bibi's spirits fall.

Bibi: It's hard to say, very hard. I think Layna should make an appearance in Gumgeeville before she goes back home, to scotch any rumors that she was killed.

Seruffin: I agree. And I hope that while she's there, she'll discourage anyone from trying to follow her example. If she had gotten herself killed -- well, far more than one changeover victim would have died.

Bibi: From an out-T Gen point of view, one sympathetic to getting kids to a channel if possible, Jed acted very reasonably, right up to the point where he opened that nailed up crate and let Ukoh out. It seems Layna convinced him that Ukoh couldn't kill her, that she had the training to prevent him.

Seruffin shakes his head.

Seruffin: I don't know where she came up with that idea. She's no Donor, in training or potential.

Bibi: Well, she was right, when it comes down to it, although I'd have expected her to crush his lateral nodes rather than shen him like that. Apparently the Dar had a tradition of direct Gen transfer when a Sime/Gen pair were out working, and found themselves too far from a channel in an emergency.

Seruffin: Yes, between colleagues of long standing, where they can prepare properly, and make the attempt while the Sime still has some control. That's a bit different from trying to serve a berserker.

Bibi: Yes, it certainly is. But I can also understand Layna being willing to risk it rather than see Jed shoot the boy when it became impossible to get the wagon through. I suspect she wasn't considering the wider repercussions if she failed.

Seruffin: No, I expect she wasn't. An older Householder might have had that perspective, but Layna grew up after Unity. She isn't used to the idea that a mistake of hers could destroy other lives than her own.

Bibi: Yes. Perhaps her Sectuib will impress that on her. But still... foolhardy or not, she saved the boy's life. That's worth something, for her and for him.

Seruffin: Yes. And she did survive, in spite of herself, so we don't have a kill to explain away.

Bibi: Yes.

Bibi imagines writing to her Controller and the Sectuib in Dar and is even more relieved that Layna survived with nothing worse than a painful transfer burn.

Seruffin picks up a bit of cheese, breaks it in half and holds one half in front of Bibi's lips.

Bibi nibbles the cheese, managing to nibble Seruffin's fingertips a bit in the process.

Seruffin watches ~~ fondly ~~

Bibi picks up a walnut meat and brushes it over Seruffin's lips.

Seruffin snaps at it playfully.

Seruffin: It'll be another week before the trains are running again. That gives us time to straighten out the situation, before your donors have to contend with a new channel. Although the ones I've dealt with haven't seemed to mind. Much.

Bibi: You'll need work, won't you? You can take as much as you like while you're here.

Bibi is glad that Seconds aren't as driven by entran avoidance as Firsts are.

Bibi: Would you be willing to work on Layna and Ukoh?

Seruffin: Certainly. I'm not a specialist in transfer shock, but I'm at least a bit closer to need than you are, now.

Bibi: It doesn't take much to be more of a specialist than I am.

Seruffin: You did well enough. If Layna wanted to be looked after by a Farris channel, she should have waited until she was in-Territory to pull her stunt.

Bibi: It's Ukoh I'm more concerned about. I don't know what will happen to him, after a First Transfer like that. And on top of it, he's seriously depressed, and I haven't been in condition to work with him more than briefly. I hope Marvin can help him, there.

Seruffin: Marvin can break him out of his depression, if anyone can. He's a natural comedian.

Bibi: I hope Marvin's experience as a disjunct will help too.

Seruffin: There's nothing that makes it harder to feel sorry for oneself than to meet someone who's far worse off, and doing fine in spite of it. Marvin will be very good for him.

Bibi: I hope so. I've got Ukoh sleeping in Driver's room. I think there's a real risk of suicide. The boy comes from a religious background, and his family no doubt regards him as damned. He probably does, himself, on top of all the misery from being shenned and shorted.

Seruffin: I will be happy to zlin him, though, and to do what I can about his physical problems. I'm not an expert in out-Territory religions, however.

Bibi: I think Marvin can handle that part.

Seruffin: Is it possible that we could bring in a less reactionary, Gen clergy?

Bibi: Good thought. Perhaps the local minister will talk to him, the one from the church so many of our donors belong to. He's a young man, very friendly and enthusiastic. A donor himself, of course.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: That ought to make an impression. I normally frown on trying to foster religious conversions, but in this case, well, it doesn't appear, from what you say, that Ukoh's current religion has any place for a live Sime. And it would be truly unfortunate if he decided to become a dead one, after Layna's been through so much to save him.

Bibi: It's bad, the way they can poison a child's mind. One of Sanda's friends came here with her and told me that Ukoh was irrevocably damned, and any church that disagreed with that was obviously in error. She insisted that children of the devout don't change over, if they're good.

Bibi laughs ruefully.

Bibi: She came here because she thought she was in changeover herself -- actually she was establishing -- but she must have forgotten that by the time she explained doctrine to me.

Bibi strokes Seruffin's upper arm, then trails her tentacles down to his hand.

Seruffin: Of course. When she knew she was Gen, that doctrine no longer meant that she was facing death.

Bibi: Yes, her goodness had been rewarded, unlike Ukoh, who no longer matters.

Seruffin: Indeed. Someday, she or her descendents will learn to accept Simes as people, and free themselves from centuries of unnecessary grief.

Seruffin is pre-turnover, he's in bed with a beautiful young woman, and anything seems possible.

Bibi: She may well herself. She's still very young.

Seruffin: Well, if she can be talked into expanding her horizons, young Sanda is the one to do it.

Bibi: If the Geggs do go in-T, I suspect that Sanda may not be content with Gumgeeville for the rest of her life.

Seruffin: Possibly. Or she may eventually decide that she enjoys being the best-traveled person in Gumgeeville.

Bibi chuckles.

Seruffin: I expect she'll find that life in Sime Territory is a bit different from what she's used to.

Bibi: And probably different than what she expects.

Seruffin: Yes. If nothing else, nobody is going to be scandalized or amazed that she donates. I hope it's not too much of a disappointment. ~~ amused ~~

Bibi: I'm sure once she picks up some Simelan she'll acquire a circle of young friends who will be amazed and scandalized at her stories of life among the Wild Gens.

Seruffin: Yes, indeed.

Bibi: She's very proud of Mik, especially now that he really is a channel.

Seruffin: Yes. How many of the other girls have such an exotic family? It must make up, somewhat, for having a father who's viewed as something of a coward, however wrongly.

Bibi: Bart has been working with Mik. I believe they're doing well together. Bart is very cautious, so it was a bit of relief for me, knowing he was there for Mik. I wish I could have let him witness the culmination of the changeover.

Seruffin: Given the shape you were in, it wouldn't have been advisable.

Bibi: Yes, when Cristal fully engaged his nager with Mik's and I knew I really had given him up... ~~ shudder ~~

Seruffin: Bart will have the chance to see a real transfer soon enough. And to participate in one, too. I expect he'll enjoy it a great deal. You wouldn't have wanted to spoil that for him, and you couldn't have monitored the situation properly after giving up your Donor.

Bibi: You should have zlinned him, the way his nager responded to my need. Really beautiful. Once he learns to control it, he'll be an excellent transfer partner.

Seruffin: I'm sure he will.

Seruffin thinks Bibi is really beautiful, too, and can't stop himself from running a tentacle over the fingertips of the closest small hand.

Bibi snuggles closer and kisses Seruffin's throat.

Bibi: Your skin is the most beautiful color.

Seruffin chuckles, and kisses Bibi's dimples, one after the other.

Seruffin: Surely the whole Unity treaty won't collapse if we wait just a little longer, before taking care of the problems of the world?

Bibi: You're the diplomat. I defer to your greater knowledge.

Seruffin laughs in delight, and starts to demonstrate his knowledge enthusiastically.

Return to Table of Contents