Cristal is carrying a plate of Gitl's best snacks out to the front porch in order to take a break. He does not, despite what Simes tend to believe, trip and drop the plate or otherwise make a Gen fool of himself.
Cristal gets himself settled in the swing with the plate next to him, and starts to nibble and rock, both slowly.
Cristal thinks it's been one fleckin month. First Transfer to an unexpected out-T channel, a resulting crisis with his regular assignment, and now the calm before the next storm. He would never consider that there might not be a next storm for a while. For a Gen, he's quite the pessimist.
Cristal chews and rocks meditatively.
Mari, a plump young woman, opens the front gate and strides up the walk towards the Sime Center.
Mari: Um, hello.
Cristal: Hello, and welcome to the Sime Center. How can I help you?
Mari: I'm looking for someone named Hajene. Uh, (consults envelope) Hajene Bibi.
Cristal: Ah. "Hajene" is a title, like Miz. Hajene Bibi is just inside.
Mari: Good. I've got an envelope for her. The postmaster asked me to drop it off, since I was going this way anyhow.
Cristal: By all means. Do you want to deliver it directly into her ... hand, or shall I take it for you.
Cristal barely prevents himself from saying "into her tentacles", as would be idiomatic in-T.
Mari: The postmaster said I was supposed to deliver it only to the designated recipient.
Cristal: Follow me, then.
Bibi puts on her pleasant, harmless look, as she hears Cristal offer to guide the Gen in.
Cristal gets up, carrying the plate with him, and goes in through the front door -- or rather the curtained-off hole where the front door was.
Mari follows Cristal into the building.
Cristal: [mutters] Gotta get that fixed.
Mari pauses to glance ~~ curiously ~~ at the splintered door frame.
Mari: What happened to your door?
Cristal: [dryly] Someone came through it in a hurry. Their intentions were good, though.
Mari shrugs and turns her attention to her surroundings.
Bibi smiles in a friendly, encouraging and harmless manner.
Mari smiles at Bibi.
Bibi: Good morning. I'm Hajene Bibi.
Cristal: Despite the absence of a sign, I have to inform you that this is legally Sime Territory.
Mari glances at Bibi's forearms and experiences a moment of ~~ alarm ~~, which dissolves almost immediately into ~~ intense curiosity ~~.
Bibi: Would you like some tea and cookies?
Bibi falls back on out-T custom and gestures, tentacles in, to the refreshments table.
Mari takes a step towards Bibi, staring in ~~ fascination ~~.
Mari: Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to be rude.
Cristal steps to the table and puts his plate down on it, then moves to the neutral point.
Mari: I've just never seen a live Sime before.
Mari blushes with ~~ embarrassment ~~ as she realizes what she just said.
Bibi: That's all right. It's natural to be curious. I'm glad you aren't afraid of me.
Bibi brushes over the non-reference to non-live Simes.
Mari: Um, if you're Hajene Bibi, then this envelope is for you.
Bibi decides it's safe to reach for it and extends her hand to take the envelope.
Mari stares more closely at Bibi's forearms.
Mari: Do you mind if I ask...?
Bibi: No, please do.
Mari: How do those work?
Bibi laughs pleasantly.
Mari: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm always too nosy.
Bibi: No, it's okay. I have them retracted into the sheaths right now.
Mari: Uh, that's those?
Mari reaches towards Bibi's forearms to point.
Cristal raises an eyebrow, but ~~ holds his field steady at light support ~~.
Bibi: I can extend them like this.
Bibi slowly extends a dorsal tentacle, positioning her forearm so Mari can see the sheath and tentacle clearly.
Mari: Neat! How flexible is it? Where do the muscles run?
Bibi demonstrates the tentacle's flexibility, then extends the other three handling tentacles.
Bibi: Would you like to touch them? Go ahead.
Cristal ~~ raises support a bit.~~
Mari tentatively touches one dorsal, then strokes it lightly.
Bibi thinks this Gen is remarkably high field for a non-donor, and her simple curiosity, completely devoid of fear, is refreshing.
Mari: How strong are they? What can you do with them?
Bibi isn't going to say that the tentacles are strong enough to immobilize a big powerful adult Gen for the Kill, although the thought would have been running through her head this time yesterday.
Mari: Oh, I'm sorry, I'm being a nuisance.
Bibi gets up, turning away from Mari and toward the refreshments table.
Bibi: See, I can pick up the teapot in my hand, and four cups in the tentacles!
Mari: That would be so neat! And to think that just a year ago, I was afraid of turning Sime! Now I almost wish I had.
Cristal: Without Gens there would be no Simes, though.
Bibi: Do you live here in Hannard's Ford?
Mari: I'm staying with my cousin Charity, just down the road. But I'm from Gumgeeville. I'm in town looking for work.
Bibi: I don't believe I've met her.
Mari: Charity Weems. Tall woman, red hair. She has three kids, all boys. I guess, come to think of it, you don't get out socially around here much.
Bibi: Yes, most of the people I know here are donors and their families.
Mari: Charity's far too conventional to do anything like that! ~~ amusement ~~
Cristal: It's dangerous for Bibi to leave the Center, what with new Simes arriving at any hour.
Bibi: As Cristal says, I have to be here in case a child arrives in changeover. Do you know the Mullinses and the Geggs, then?
Mari: Yes, I know the Mullinses. In fact, it was Mr. Mullins that suggested I come here and find a job, so I can save up enough money to go to the city and get a real education. I do like learning things. And I hate farming.
Bibi: What kind of work are you looking for?
Mari: Anything. Well, anything that's not pigs and chickens and corn. I asked at the apothecary's shop because I thought I'd really enjoy that, but they didn't need anyone. So, any kind of work, so long as it pays enough that I can save up for university. And so long as it doesn't involve pigs.
Bibi: Have you thought about donating? Many university students do. It's good money and doesn't take as much time as a regular job would. Of course, you can do it and hold a job as well.
Mari: Donating what?
Bibi: Selyn. To a channel.
Mari: Oh. You mean like the Mullinses are doing?
Bibi: Yes, and several other people in your town.
Mari: Sorry. When I heard the word, 'donate' I thought of charity bazaars.
Bibi: It's a donation, but you get paid for it!
Mari: I never thought of it. But hey, why not?
Bibi: Come with me, then.
Mari: ~~ amusement ~~ Hey, maybe I could finally get Bart to smile back at me!
Bibi: He is a serious young man, isn't he?
Mari: He's one of the smartest boys.
Mari follows Bibi.
Bibi leads the way to the donation room, charmed that Bart has an admirer.
Cristal follows the two of them.
Bibi: Here, have a seat. First we have to fill out some paperwork.
Bibi gestures to the client chair and sits at the desk, opening a new file of forms.
Mari: What, for taxes? ~~ resignation ~~
Bibi: No, no. Just information about you, your health and so forth.
Mari: Oh. I'm healthy, except I need to lose twenty pounds.
Bibi: Good. I just need to run though this list of questions.
Mari: ~~ boredom ~~ Okay.
Bibi goes through the forms, noting that Mari just turned sixteen, and probably established less than a year ago, since she started menstruating six months ago. She notes with some concern that Mari's mother died in childbirth nine years ago. With one higher order channel just come out of Gumgeeville, she wonders whether Mari's nine-year-old kid brother might be one as well. There's plenty of time yet, however.
Bibi: Since you're a reader, Mari, perhaps you'd like to read this booklet on donation and let me know if you have any questions.
Bibi hands the booklet to Mari.
Mari takes the booklet and leafs through it quickly, with the intense focus of a speed-reader.
Mari: It looks simple enough. Actually I have a thousand questions, but I guess most of them will get answered eventually.
Bibi: We'll go slowly and we can stop for questions as they come up, okay?
Bibi leads the way to the transfer lounge, shows Mari where to sit, and sits herself.
Mari is intensely ~~ curious ~~ and a bit ~~ eager ~~.
Cristal walks once more to the neutral point, which his body says is rather closer to Bibi than usual.
Bibi is pleased to have such an anxiety-free first time donor. She offers her hands.
Mari reaches out and takes Bibi's hands.
Mari: ~~ anxious ~~ Are you sick? You seem to have a fever.
Cristal: Simes are naturally warmer than Gens.
Mari: Oh, okay.
Bibi: Yes, I'm quite well.
Mari: That's good.
Bibi is feeling very well, after last night, but pulls her thoughts away from that immediately.
Bibi: Now I'll move my hands into position... extend my handling tentacles... just hold your arms lightly.
Bibi does these things as she describes them.
Bibi: Okay so far?
Bibi: Now I'll tighten my grip and extend my laterals. Be careful not to move now, or you can hurt me.
Mari: ~~ solicitous concern ~~ I won't budge.
Bibi thinks this Gen is not only very calm but really remarkably high field for a first time donor.
Bibi: Good. Now the lip contact. I'll let you do that.
Bibi leans forward.
Mari: ~~ amusement ~~ You know, I somehow thought my first kiss would be a boy, not a girl.
Mari makes lip contact.
Cristal chuckles audibly.
Bibi zlins Mari carefully, confirming that she is indeed in good health and quite fit, despite being a bit overweight. Most channels believe some extra fat is healthy on a Gen, however.
Mari opens her eyes to stare ~~ curiously ~~ at Bibi.
Bibi begins to slowly and carefully draw from the donor's GN-3 level.
Mari feels a surge of ~~ strong selyur nager ~~, followed by a moment of ~~ embarrassment ~~ and then a deliberate ~~ calm self-control ~~.
Bibi is startled as the donor suddenly hits her with a blast of need-to-give and almost as suddenly returns to a well-controlled calm. She continues to draw slowly, cautiously waiting for some other aberration to manifest, really glad that she's high field
Cristal clutches his stomach as the fields lurch, then lurch again.
Bibi doesn't appreciate zlinning Cristal's reaction on top of the donor's.
Cristal pulls himself together and returns to professionalism.
Bibi tentatively speeds up a little, but immediately encounters resistance so slows back down.
Mari reacts to the momentary increase in draw speed with a ~~ warm happy tingle ~~, and begins actively pushing selyn at the channel.
Bibi zlins the donor's reaction with surprise, and when Mari tries to seize control of the draw, alarm. She resists the push and continues to draw at a speed that doesn't evoke a response.
Mari: ~~ disappointment ~~
Bibi has never heard of a Gen experiencing slilbliss at this kind of speed, and intends to talk to Seruffin about it.
Bibi notes that the donor has dropped the GN-2 barrier even before she's reached it, and her GN-3 is extremely full. It's going to take more than the standard one minute to draw it all at this speed.
Mari: ~~ tentative eagerness ~~ and another ~~ push ~~ of selyn
Bibi resists the push and persists at the Tecton-mandated donor-imperceptible speed. Yet Another Weird Gumgeeville Mutant?
Mari pushes harder. She may be slow, but she's strong, and for a moment manages to take control of the flow. ~~ slilbliss ~~ slilbliss ~~
Bibi does not like this and slows further, intending to terminate the draw if this struggle for control continues.
Mari: ~~ disappointment ~~
Bibi approaches the GN-2 barrier and terminates without completely emptying the GN-3. She never takes more than the GN-3 from a new donor, and is a little nervous about what might happen if she gets too close to the barrier, which is down flat.
Bibi breaks contact, and leans back against Cristal. She's not as completely recovered from the past few days as she'd like to think, and does not need any more stress.
Mari is both ~~ elated ~~ and ~~ disappointed ~~.
Mari: So I have to wait a whole month before I can do that again?
Cristal wraps his arms about Bibi to provide physical as well as ~~ nageric support ~~.
Bibi thinks about what she can say that is both tactful and definite.
Mari: Oh, dear. Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?
Bibi: It takes me a few moments to recover from taking a donation.
Bibi: Mari, you did very well in that you were relaxed and unafraid.
Mari: ~~ happiness ~~
Bibi: But at a couple of points there, you were trying to push your selyn at me. You shouldn't do that. You can hurt me that way.
Mari: ~~ fear ~~ regret ~~ I'm sorry. I didn't know.
Bibi: I know you didn't. Very few people are able to do that, so we don't mention it unless it happens. As it was, you did no harm, but it made it harder for me to take your donation. But next time you'll know.
Mari: It felt so good, I thought... well, never mind what I thought. Obviously I was wrong.
Bibi: I could tell you enjoyed the sensation of selyn movement, and that you were able to detect it at a very slow speed. That's also very unusual.
Mari: Oh. ~~ disappointment ~~ I suppose the part where I thought it felt good was the part where I was hurting you?
Bibi: Well, I was gradually increasing speed, as I usually do, but when I could tell that you could perceive the draw, I slowed down again. It was then that you tried to take control of the draw, pushing for greater speed. You didn't hurt me, but you could have.
Mari: So, if it starts feeling good, I should sort of pull back from the feeling?
Bibi: Well, I'll pull back, but you shouldn't try to increase the speed yourself. Do you remember doing anything that felt like that?
Mari: Well, I remember... um... for a while I didn't feel anything at all. And then... it started to feel kind of warm and tingly. Really nice. And almost immediately that feeling went away... But it felt so good that I wanted it back, so I just kind of reached for it... it's hard to describe...
Bibi: Yes, that's when you were pushing.
Bibi wonders whether Mari could have a career as a Donor or a Gen mule. She figures now is not the time to bring the issue up, however.
Mari: it was like you were hungry, and I could feed you and feel all warm and happy and chocolatey myself by feeding you. But you say that's when I was hurting you, so I guess what I thought I was feeling was all mistaken. I've never been very good with feelings. I'm better with books and ideas.
Bibi: No, I can zlin your feelings, and that's what it felt like to me too. You didn't hurt me, but you could have if you'd persisted in struggling with me for control.
Cristal would like to put in his oar here, but he's afraid of upsetting the applecart (though not of mixed metaphors). He has evidently learned a thing or two.
Bibi: I know you weren't trying to hurt me. I could zlin that you wanted to help me, to give me your selyn.
Mari: Oh, so if I just sat back and let you keep making it feel good....?
Mari turns to Cristal.
Mari: You're a Gen. Can you make sense of any of this to me?
Bibi wonders what Cristal will say with considerable trepidation.
Cristal: There's a difference between donors and Donors with a big D. What you are describing is what big-D Donors, the people like me who serve a channel's personal need for selyn, experience.
Mari: What kind of difference?
Cristal: Small-d donors don't feel anything, and channels make sure to keep it that way. Until big-D donors get training, however, they can hurt channels unintentionally by trying to take control -- and then not knowing how to use that control when they have it. You don't have that training, so you must be very very careful.
Mari: Oh. So if I could study to be a big-D Donor, I could learn how to do it properly? How much does it cost to go to Donor school?
Cristal: It's unusual for anyone who has been a Gen for more than a year to be flexible enough to adjust. Not unheard-of, though.
Mari: I've only had the Bles.... I've only been grown up for six months.
Cristal: Oh. I must have misunderstood you, then.
Mari: And everyone says I'm a quick learner. ~~ eager, hopeful ~~
Cristal: But you might have established as a Gen some months before that, too. Only a channel is competent to judge whether you would benefit from Donor training.
Cristal gestures a hand-off to Bibi.
Bibi: If you think you might be interested, we have some booklets about the Donor profession. Training is free, but only people with enough innate talent are accepted for training.
Mari: I'd like to audition, then.
Bibi: There's another channel who will be here for the next few days. Perhaps you can come by tomorrow or this evening and he can examine you for potential.
Mari: Sure. What time?
Bibi is glad she can shuffle this off to Seruffin. Experiencing slilbliss at this speed is nothing she's ever heard of.
Cristal: You also don't know enough yet about being a Donor to know whether you'd really be suited to it. Being a Tecton Donor is a lifetime commitment.
Mari: Hey, I hadn't figured out what I wanted to study yet. Maybe this will turn out to be it. I mean, it's using your mind as well as your body, isn't it?
Cristal: It certainly is.
Mari: It might be just the career I want. And it would let me get away from home.
Mari is beginning to ~~ warm ~~ to the idea.
Cristal: It might. But don't get your hopes up too much, just yet.
Bibi reaches for a voucher pad, fills one out and hands it to Mari.
Bibi: Here you go. You'll make more on subsequent donations, possibly quite a lot more.
Mari: Holy!!!!! Sorry, I didn't mean to emote at you like that. I've just never seen that much money in one place before.
Bibi: That's okay. It was certainly a very happy kind of surprise.
Mari: Hey, if I do this every month, I'll be able to afford university in less than a year. But, if I keep doing this... I'll be going to Donor school instead of university. But... Oh, I'll figure it out. But one question...?
Bibi: Many university towns have a Sime Center. Your question?
Mari: Uh, I don't have quite the words I need, but... I'm feeling, well...
Mari is feeling the selyn in her GN-2 and GN-1 levels for the first time, and her GN barriers are still down.
Mari: I'm feeling full. I thought you were supposed to be emptying me?
Bibi: You're just more aware of your selyn now. I only took part of what you have, your GN-3 level, like it explains in the booklet. Next time, I'll take the GN-2, and perhaps the GN-1 as well, and you'll make a lot more money.
Mari spikes another burst of ~~ happy shock ~~.
Cristal raises his eyebrow, and wonders what Bibi will do with the excess selyn.
Mari: I'll be rich. Hey, maybe I'll even be able to afford a few books of my own!
Bibi: If you'll go down the hall, the second door on he left is Professor Nattin's office. He'll cash your voucher for you.
Mari: Professor? Is he a real Professor? Like from a university? ~~ excitement ~~
Cristal damps the Wild Gen's wildly surging emotions as best he can.
Bibi: Yes. He's a professor at West Nivet University, an anthropologist. He's also a Householder, ambrov Frihill.
Cristal: He's here studying the Wild Gens of this area, so he'll probably have a professional interest in you, given your unusual attitudes.
Mari: Ooooh, neat! I can't wait to meet him. Thank you so much!
Bibi: You're welcome. See you this evening, or tomorrow.
Mari: Thank you, thank you! I'll be back right after supper!
Mari absently stuffs the voucher into her pocket and heads down the hall in search of knowledge.
Bibi turns to Cristal after Mari leaves.
Bibi: That was weird.
Cristal raises both eyebrows.
Cristal: How so?
Bibi: Just as I started, she hit me with a blast of selyur nager. You perceived that, didn't you?
Cristal: [cautiously] I certainly perceived something: a kind of double-barreled shock.
Bibi: Yes, she did it, got embarrassed and clunked back to calm. I increased speed a little, more cautiously than usual, and she began to experience slilbliss! I've never heard of such a thing at that speed.
Cristal's jaw drops. Slilbliss!
Cristal: Neither have I. That suggests that she's very sensitive to speed, and possibly that her maximum speed is also very low. No way to be sure without a proper test, though.
Bibi: Yes. So I slowed and she started pushing selyn at me. I resisted and she stopped.
Cristal: Potential Donor material for sure, then. Provided...
Cristal trails off.
Bibi: After a bit I cautiously increased speed, and it happened again, but this time she did grab control. Fortunately only briefly. She's strong.
Bibi begins to shiver.
Bibi: I don't think I've quite recovered yet, Cristal.
Cristal turns up the warmth, metaphorically, and holds Bibi closer as well.
Bibi isn't going to criticize Cristal for giving the donor the idea that it's clear sailing to Donor school.
Bibi: I wonder what Seruffin will think of her. She might make a mule of some kind, if not a real Donor.
Cristal: Not unless she has the capacity for it. Anyhow, that's no life for anyone.
Cristal knows Eugen isn't in earshot.
Bibi: Well, she's got about twice the selyn in her GN levels that you'd expect from a first time donor, so she can have a nice little income there in addition to whatever else she does with her life.
Cristal: At worst, yes. She seems like an assertive type who'll figure out what works best for her.
Cristal, by contrast, has a tendency to drift through life.
Bibi: She's still quite young, especially by out-T standards, and she seems very determined to get more education.
Cristal: That can't hurt in any case. Bibi, I've been meaning to tell you ...
Cristal can't go on.
Bibi leans back against Cristal and strokes his forearm.
Cristal: ... how sorry I've been for you, and how sad I've been that I couldn't help you more. Mik aside.
Bibi: I know. You tried very hard, but there are limits to what anyone could do so low field. I'm sorry I snapped at you all the time. I know it made it worse for you but I couldn't always stop myself.
Cristal: ~~ sympathy ~~ I understand. It was a horrible strain, relinquishing me and then still functioning with such deep need. I really ~~ admire ~~ you for managing it all so well.
Bibi: I appreciate all you and Nattin did to help me. I couldn't have held together without you. I don't know what would have happened next. I think I'd have had to stop working.
Bibi laughs ironically.
Bibi: If Seruffin hadn't come trotting in on that huge white horse...
Cristal laughs too, not ironically.
Bibi turns and hugs Cristal.
Cristal hugs back.
Bibi: You did well, Cristal. You did very well.
Cristal: ~~ gratitude admiration affection ~~