Jilvanna plods ~~ wearily ~~ down the Sime Center's front walk.
Jilvanna is a young Gen dressed in once-fine clothes, now much trail worn. She's carrying an improvised pack on her back, but the change of clothes inside is in even worse shape. Her field is Donor-strong, but the rest of her is rather small.
Jilvanna climbs the stairs to the front porch and opens the door with ~~ relief ~~
Jilvanna: Hello? Anyone home?
Gerrhonot was in the common room, but comes out when he hears the door open.
Gerrhonot: Hi. Can I help you?
Jilvanna switches to heavily accented Simelan.
Jilvanna: I'm Sosu Jilvanna, sent here to take care of the kid who's going to change over. Sorry it took so long. Am I in time?
Gerrhonot: No, but he's okay. Hajene Bibi's Donor Sosu Cristal served him and it went really well. I'm Sosu Gerrhonot.
Jilvanna: Pleased to meet you, Sosu Gerrhonot. Were you sent here to replace Hajene Bibi's Donor?
Gerrhonot: No, I'm a TN-1. Me and my channel are visiting. Hajene Seruffin is Bibi's friend, so when we heard she was in trouble, we came here from New Washington. Bibi was three days late, and Hajene Seruffin served her.
Gerrhonot looks Jilvanna over carefully.
Gerrhonot: You look really tired. Are you hungry? Come on back, there's lots of good food here.
Jilvanna: Food. That sounds marvelous. I ran out of money yesterday.
Jilvanna gives a wry smile.
Gerrhonot: That sounds awful. I'll get you something to eat.
Jilvanna: Thank you. It appears I'm not needed here, after all.
Gerrhonot leads the way back to the common room.
Jilvanna follows, limping slightly.
Gerrhonot: Well, Mik needs a Donor to help him, and to take him in-T. He's a good kid. You'll like him. Have a seat, I'll get the food.
Jilvanna: I'm glad that things worked out without a disaster. But... I've never had the chance to serve a First Transfer before. Have you?
Jilvanna sits, leaning on the table.
Gerrhonot: [calls from kitchen] No, not yet. Cristal hadn't either. He said it was wonderful.
Jilvanna: Just my luck, that I miss out. ~~ glum ~~
Gerrhonot figures she'll feel better once she has eaten. He returns with a plate loaded with Gitl's baked goods, a glass of milk, some cheese, a plate of veggies, hard boiled eggs and a pitcher of cold trin.
Gerrhonot: Here you go.
Gerrhonot puts the tray on the table and pours cold trin for both of them.
Jilvanna looks at the plate for a long moment.
Jilvanna: It... looks like home. I haven't seen food like this in a long time.
Gerrhonot: The cook here, Miz Gitl, is really good at it. I guess you're from out-T. I am too.
Jilvanna takes a bite out of a muffin.
Jilvanna: Yes, I'm from out-Territory. Where are you from?
Gerrhonot: Out west, up in the mountains. Near a village called Fir Ridge.
Gerrhonot's family's sheep ranch was half a day's ride from this, the closest village, but that's near out there.
Jilvanna: I don't know it, I'm afraid. I'm from Maple Grove.
Gerrhonot: Oh, nobody knows Fir Ridge except people who live around there. Where's Maple Grove?
Jilvanna: It's on the other side of New Washington. It might as well be on the moon, for all the contact it has with the outside world. That's why I left.
Jilvanna speaks with the world-weariness of someone who's not quite out of her teens.
Gerrhonot: So how did you become a Donor then?
Jilvanna: It seemed like a good idea at the time. Yourself?
Gerrhonot: My parents sent me to stay with my aunt and uncle in-T in case I changed over. But when I established the channel said I had Donor talent, so I went in for it.
Jilvanna: You were lucky.
Gerrhonot: I think so. Especially now that I'm working with Hajene Seruffin. I really like being his Donor.
Jilvanna: Your channel is Hajene Bibi's friend?
Gerrhonot smiles very happily. He's really glad that things have worked out so well for the two channels.
Jilvanna: What's she like?
Jilvanna gives a good imitation of casual interest, but it wouldn't fool a channel for a moment.
Gerrhonot: Um. She's really nice. She's about ten years older than us. She's from out-T too.
Jilvanna: Does she have a family here?
Gerrhonot: No. I don't think her family has had anything to do with her since she changed over.
Jilvanna: That's not unusual.
Jilvanna looks unaccountably ~~ guilty ~~
Gerrhonot: Yeah. It's too bad. But Mik's family still cares about him. They let him stay here at the Ford so he'd be safe if he changed over.
Jilvanna: I hope he appreciates having parents that can get along with Simes.
Gerrhonot: I think he does. His little sister is real proud of him.
Gerrhonot isn't going to talk about Mik's father. Too much of that is confidential.
Jilvanna: If I'd had a family that was like that... well, a lot of things might have been different. I'm sure Hajene Bibi would agree. Where is she, anyway? I should pay my respects, even if I'm not needed here.
Gerrhonot: I think she's out in the garden.
Jilvanna takes a last bite of muffin.
Bibi comes in from the veranda with a handful of flowers and immediately zlins ands sees a midfield TN-2.
Gerrhonot: Hi, Bibi. This is Sosu Jilvanna.
Bibi wonders who she would have strangled if Jilvanna had showed up while she was still in need, too low field to serve her.
Jilvanna: Thank you. It's Jilvanna Hotkins, by the way. From Maple Grove.
Bibi: Maple Grove? I come from a Maple Grove too.
Bibi smiles at the coincidence in names.
Jilvanna isn't quite sure what sort of welcome to expect.
Jilvanna: I know. We're cousins of some sort.
Bibi: We are? Hotkins? Not the ones south of the river?
Jilvanna: Yes. My father's Jermy.
Bibi: Jermy... Melven's son? Melven is my mother's first cousin once removed.
Jilvanna: Yes, Melven's my grandfather.
Bibi has wondered whether her channel genes came from both sides of her family. Her paternal uncle was almost certainly a channel, briefly. She's also flabbergasted that anyone from her home town would show up in the form of a Donor.
Jilvanna gives a crooked smile.
Bibi: Heavens. You're tired and hungry. Have some more to eat.
Bibi looks at the flowers in her hand and sets them down on the table.
Jilvanna: Thanks. It's been a long time since I had food like this. Not since I left home.
Bibi: We've got a wonderful cook here. We're really lucky.
Gerrhonot is rather ~~ charmed ~~ by this reunion.
Jilvanna looks at Bibi with ~~ open curiosity ~~
Jilvanna: You really do look a lot like Uncle Milar, you know.
Bibi smiles at her.
Jilvanna: He doesn't have dimples, but there's something about your chins.
Bibi: Yes, and the green eyes, too, like half the people around Maple Grove.
Bibi sits at the table.
Bibi: I haven't seen him since I was fourteen years old. He was a weedy little teenager then.
Bibi had one answer from her brother Milar to her annual letters recently.
Bibi: I understand he has three children now.
Jilvanna: Yes. Berl, Alwyn and Filbert. They're nice enough kids, I suppose, but sometimes they're a bit much. You know what I mean?
Bibi: Well, if they're much like my brother and me, I know exactly what you mean!
Jilvanna: That's... well, that's why I'm here, in a roundabout sort of way.
Bibi is very curious about this.
Gerrhonot looks forward to hearing Jilvanna's story. She was pretty reticent about it with him.
Jilvanna: It was Year's Turning, two years ago. It was Uncle Milar's turn to host, and there was the usual mob scene. You remember how it is, I'm sure.
Bibi: Your "Uncle" Milar is a year older than me. He was in no position to host mob scenes before I left! But yes, I remember the Year's Turning parties.
Bibi refuses to find any pain in the nostalgia.
Jilvanna: Well, the kids were banished to the great outdoors, as usual. Filbert managed to break Alwyn's sled, by smashing it into Berl's new milking stool. All three of them were at each others' throats, as you can imagine.
Jilvanna: Well, they kept bickering and yelling, and the other kids who'd been out with them took sides, and I couldn't stand it any more. I escaped and hid in Uncle Milar's study.
Jilvanna: While I was waiting for things to quiet down, I did some poking around, and I found some letters in the desk. They were from an aunt I'd never heard of before, for a reason I think you can guess.
Bibi sighs. She's pleased that her brother kept the letters, and wonders if she can hope that he'll do something about his children when they reach the dangerous age.
Bibi: So what did you do then?
Jilvanna: Well, I got interested, and gradually managed to weasel the story out of various people who knew.
Bibi: And what's the view in Maple Grove of the Sime who got away?
Jilvanna: They'd rather not talk about it. You don't fit their preconceptions, you see. But some of them are glad that you didn't die. Oh, they don't say so, but you can see it in their eyes.
Bibi: That's good. It would have been hard on my parents, if they'd had to shoot me.
Jilvanna: Yes, it would.
Bibi: My father... well, you probably got that story, too.
Bibi's father, as a young boy, was the one who found the bodies of his mother and sister, dead of the Kill, and of his brother who had committed suicide immediately afterward.
Jilvanna: Yes. That, and the letters from you, made me start thinking that there must be a better way. No one was interested in hearing that, of course. Not in Maple Grove.
Bibi: Not yet, alas.
Jilvanna: Well, after that, I decided that Maple Grove was too small for me. I was thinking about where I could go, and I thought I'd try following your example and join the Tecton. I was thinking of getting a job as a clerk or something, but it seems I've got some of the family talent.
Bibi: Indeed. I'm glad.
Bibi smiles widely.
Jilvanna smiles back.
Jilvanna: I have to admit, it's nice to have at least some family again. My own folks haven't responded to any of my letters. I expect they've told the rest of the family that I ran off to work in a brothel or something.
Bibi: I'm amazed, Jilvanna. I never thought I'd meet a Donor from Maple Grove.
Mik knocks on the veranda door, not remembering that it isn't necessary to do that any more.
Bibi: Come in, Mik. Your Donor has just arrived.
Mik comes through the door.
Mik: [blurted] I'm sorry I know I'm not sposed to go outside without an escort but Cristal is asleep and the sunshine just looked so good I couldn't stand staying in.
Bibi: It's all right, Mik, you're safe on the grounds. Jilvanna, this is Hajene Mik Gegg.
Bibi projects ~~ kindness ~~ and ~~ supports ~~ Mik, signaling to Jilvanna to take over .
Jilvanna: Pleased to meet you, Mik. I'm sorry I was too late for your changeover.
Jilvanna is quite ~~ sincere ~~
Mik is not sure what to say to this.
Mik: I'm sorry you had trouble getting here.
Jilvanna does a very creditable job of taking up the ~~ support ~~, even managing to keep most of her sore feet out of her projection.
Jilvanna: It was a mess, with the fire and all. They diverted my train off to Quibly, and I had to work my way here in stages, catching rides when I could and walking the rest of the time.
Mik smiles reminiscently.
Mik: Nobody could have done a better job than Cristal did, though.
Bibi smiles, ~~ charmed ~~. She feels the same way about the Donor who served her in First Transfer.
Mik suddenly realizes what he's said and blushes.
Mik: No offense, Sosu. I'm sure you know exactly what you're doing too. I mean when you're doing it.
Jilvanna: I'm envious. I've never had the chance to serve First Transfer. Someday, I may be lucky enough to have another chance.
Jilvanna is a bit ~~ wistful ~~
Bibi: I'm sure you will. Our Controller must think highly of you to send you out here for such an important task.
Bibi is encouraging, but figures her Controller just got whoever she could: an out-T Gen, without enough seniority to complain about it, and too idealistic and inexperienced to do so anyway.
Jilvanna: I wish. I got the impression that she didn't think your request was very urgent, though.
Bibi sighs and doesn't say "not for lack of my trying" or "out of sight, out of mind".
Jilvanna: But when I discovered the assignment was to the same Cousin Bibi that those letters were from... well, I was glad to take it. I do miss having a family, even if the kids did drive me crazy sometimes.
Bibi: Perhaps you'll end up in a small Sime Center where everyone is as close as family.
Jilvanna: Maybe. I've got a lot to learn before I land an assignment like that, though. They'll keep me where I can keep learning for a while yet, I think.
Bibi: Yes, it's good to move around a lot when you're young, get a wide range of experience if you can.
Jilvanna: Well, professionally, yes, but it doesn't do good things for your love life.
Mik looks a bit surprised at the notion.
Bibi: Well, that's life in the Tecton. We Seconds have it better than Firsts that way, but it's mostly Thirds who manage a relatively normal family life.
Jilvanna: Well, it's not like we could hold a traditional big family wedding anyway, right?
Bibi: We'd have to count on the families of our spouses and on our friends to make up the crowd.
Jilvanna: I suppose so. But there are times when I miss even that brat Alwyn so much that I have to find a quiet place where I can cry. Does it still hit you that way?
Bibi: It was hard at first, but in-T I had a new life. Since my family wanted nothing to do with me, I learned not to think about them, except for those annual letters you found.
Jilvanna: You didn't have a choice about leaving. I did, and they're never going to forgive that.
Bibi: Of course, you can always take a brief leave of absence and visit your home again. They'd have a hard time snubbing you to your face.
Jilvanna: I can just see my father's face, if I were to waltz up to him in full Tecton uniform.
Bibi: Ah well, it might be better to be a bit more discreet about it.
Jilvanna: You're right. Maybe by the time I've managed to get a leave of absence, I'll have the maturity to do it right.
Jilvanna: Have you ever thought about going back for a visit?
Bibi: It wouldn't really be possible. But I would like to see my brother and his children. I... hope that by the time they're at risk of changeover... there might be something we can arrange so they'll be safe.
Gerrhonot lightly engages Bibi's field and provides ~~ comfort ~~
Bibi smiles at him and gestures her thanks.
Mik shivers slightly at the shift in the fields.
Bibi turns her attention to Mik.
Bibi: Mik has been sharing Cristal with me since his changeover, and he's had some help from his friend Bart who will be going for Donor training soon. It will be good for him to have a full time Donor, and you'll have the privilege of teaching him how to use your services effectively.
Jilvanna: You've got a Donor Trainee here?
Bibi: An unofficial one, but with great talent. He's been spending some time here when he can be spared from the farm work, and he'll go in-T in the fall when he turns sixteen and the harvest work is over.
Jilvanna: I look forward to meeting him. What's his family like?
Jilvanna is keeping her support of Mik light, as she's afraid that any attempt to really work the fields will just impose her own exhaustion on a helpless new Sime.
Bibi: Interesting people. Mik grew up with Bart. They're third cousins. Like you and me, I guess! I'm sure Bart will have a lot of questions for you too.
Jilvanna: Well, I'll answer what I can. I haven't been a Donor for all that long, myself. But if he wants to know how many things are going to strike him as very strange once he crosses the border, I guess I can tell him!
Bibi: Mik will benefit from that as well.
Jilvanna: You know what the hardest thing was, about going in-Territory? [to Mik]
Mik doesn't have a clue, of course.
Mik: Not really.
Jilvanna: No coffee. Trin tea just doesn't have the same bite, in the morning. It seems silly, I know, but that was what I missed, even more than being able to talk to people. Learning a new language was an exciting adventure, but not being able to have coffee in the morning was just aggravating.
Mik: I don't know. I never really drank it much.
Mik in fact has never had coffee at all -- too expensive.
Jilvanna: It was my mother's favorite thing, so my father indulged her shamelessly.
Bibi is glad to see that Jilvanna is engaging Mik's interest.
Mik: [obscurely embarrassed] Well, I guess so. My dad didn't -- doesn't -- do things like that much.
Jilvanna: Hey, why don't you show me where I can stay, and I'll tell you more about moving to Simeland?
Mik: Okay, that's fine. Maybe I can show you and then we can walk outside?
Jilvanna is a Donor, after all, and therefore conditioned to put her channel's needs before her own feet.
Bibi: She can share your room for now, Mik. It's common for channel and Donor to share a room.
Mik blushes furiously.
Mik: Are you sure? I mean, you know....
Jilvanna: It'll be fine, Mik.
Bibi: You'll get used to. Jilvanna will help you.
Gerrhonot: It's okay, Mik.
Mik looks at Jilvanna uncertainly.
Jilvanna gets to her feet.
Jilvanna: Come on, show me the way.
Jilvanna follows Mik towards the stairs.