Changeovers and Consequences: Episode 24

Mari moves slowly up the front walk of the Hannard's Ford Sime Center. She's wearing a backpack and dragging two huge suitcases. From her wrist dangles a string bag full of books. She drags the suitcases up the front steps with much banging and thumping.

Mari sets down both suitcases to open the front door, which still moves a bit stiffly after its recent repairs. She drags all her luggage through the doorway and sets it down with a sigh of relief.

Bibi comes out of the kitchen with a fresh pot of trin, which she intends to take out onto the back porch to share with Cristal, and zlins Mari.

Mari: Hi! Anybody home?

Bibi sets the pot down and goes up the hall.

Bibi: Hello, Mari.

Bibi surveys the luggage with trepidation.

Mari: Hajene Bibi! Hi. I was wondering...? Do you mind if I leave this here for a few hours until I find a new place to stay? ~~ embarrassment ~~

Bibi: Oh, dear. Let me help you carry it back to the common room.

Mari: Oh, thank you.~~ relief ~~

Mari picks up one suitcase and grabs the backpack by its strap.

Bibi picks up the heaviest looking items, and augments slightly. She hasn't quite decided if she can justify augmenting herself back to her former schedule, since she's now even further out of synch with Seruffin.

Mari awkwardly grabs for the bag of books, but drops it.

Bibi: Let me get that. Simes are strong.

Mari: Oh, thank you.

Bibi leads the way back to the common room.

Bibi: Let's just put it all in the corner here, out of traffic.

Mari drops the baggage with a sigh of relief.

Mari: Thank you. I don't know what I would have done. I couldn't just leave it in the street.

Bibi: Have a seat. Are you hungry? I just have to take this pot of tea to the veranda, and I'll be right back.

Mari: Food! I haven't even thought about food since... uh, yes, please.

Bibi is slightly amused at two hungry young female Gens showing up in one day.

Mari is ~~ ravenous ~~ now that she thinks about it.

Bibi gestures to the kitchen.

Bibi: There's plenty to eat. Help yourself. I'll be right back.

Bibi picks up the teapot and goes out onto the veranda.

Cristal: Who was that, Hajene?

Mari surveys the kitchen, then hesitantly takes a slice of bread. She doesn't want to impose any more than she already has.

Bibi: Mari. She's brought all her belongings, and says she has to find another place to live. I gather the cousin she's staying with doesn't approve of her recent actions.

Mari relaxes into a chair. With a moment to relax for the first time in hours, she bursts into tears.

Cristal hears the crying.

Cristal: [English] Oh boy. [Simelan] I'm going with you.

Bibi: Sure.

Bibi looks at the teapot in her hand, and heads back in without setting it down. Instead, she puts it on the table in the common room and goes into the kitchen.

Mari sees Bibi arrive and immediately struggles to bring her ~~ fear ~~ upset ~~ exhaustion ~~ confusion ~~ under control. She does a fairly decent job of it, for someone with no experience in nageric control.

Bibi: Here, Mari, let's get you more than just a slice of bread.

Bibi loads a tray with Gitl's baked goods, some leftover bean and vegetable loaf, a hard boiled egg, some cheese, tomatoes and other vegetables.

Bibi: Let's sit in the common room.

Mari: Okay. Thanks.

Bibi picks up three cups in her tentacles, takes the tray out and sets it next to the teapot.

Mari follows Bibi into the common room, struggling to become ~~calm~~. She's now trying very hard to act and emote as if nothing were wrong.

Bibi: Tea, Cristal?

Cristal: Yes, please ~~ moderate support ~~

Bibi pours three cups of tea.

Cristal has moved to the neutral point, one of those Donor stunts he's always so good at.

Bibi gestures encouragingly at the food, and waits for Mari to eat and/or talk.

Mari accepts a cup gratefully, then takes a sip. She's never tasted trin tea before. ~~ surprise ~~ She reaches for the honey, stirs in three large spoonfuls, then takes another cautious sip. ~~ better ~~

Mari sets down her cup, then folds her hands ~~ nervously ~~ in her lap. She stares at her hands, ~~ reluctant ~~ to burden these wonderful people with her problems any more than she already has.

Cristal: You'll probably feel better if you tell us the story. We are here to listen, you know.

Mari takes a deep breath.

Mari: Well, when I was here the other day, I went to professor Nattin's office to cash my voucher, and we got talking. It was so neat talking to a real professor, and we talked for hours, about all kinds of things. And then he showed me his library, and I was amazed at all the books, and he said I could borrow some if I wanted.

Mari remembers this part ~~ happily ~~.

Bibi figures the bookcase in Nattin's office plus the shelves of Tecton materials for distribution to the public would look like a library to somebody from Gumgeeville.

Mari: So I borrowed these.

Mari holds up her string bag. It contains "On Becoming a Donor", "Intro to Simelan", a Simelan-English dictionary, and a catalog listing (in Simelan) all the colleges and universities in Nivet.

Mari sets down the bag and out spill several of the pamphlets from the front waiting room as well. A copy of "Simeland Manners for Genlanders" flutters across the floor.

Bibi augments to catch the pamphlet before it drifts out of reach.

Cristal is concerned about "trivial uses of augmentation", but tries to be understanding.

Bibi is ambivalent about whether she can really justify augmentation to get back onto her previous schedule. Perhaps she should get Seruffin's objective opinion.

Mari: Wow! Was that augmentation? ~~ amazement ~~ curiosity ~~

Bibi smiles.

Bibi: Yes, it was.

Mari: I'm jealous. ~~ sparkling humor ~~ Do you know how easy it would have been to get away from the school bully with that?

Cristal: It costs a lot of extra selyn, and even channels can't afford to do it very often, you know.

Mari ~~ sobers ~~

Mari: So where were we? How much had I told you?

Bibi: You'd borrowed the books.

Mari: Right. Oh, and the Professor mentioned that he was going to be going to some conference soon, and it got me wondering whether you might be hiring someone to cover the bookkeeping while he's gone. I was good at bookkeeping in school, and I've kept all my dad's farm records for the last year and a half. But maybe you'd want someone older.

Cristal raises an eyebrow at the sheer audacity of this.

Mari shrugs, trying not to seem too ~~hopeful~~.

Mari: Anyway, by the time the Professor and I stopped talking, I was late for supper, so I hurried home. And I was planning to come back later in the evening like we'd talked about, to see the other channel. ~~ apology ~~

Mari: But when I got home, there was a message that my dad had been injured out with the firefighters, and I was needed back home to take care of him. So I borrowed a fast horse and headed back. I got there that same night, but Dad said he was fine, just a bit of a burn on his arm, and he didn't need me. So this morning I came back to the Ford.

Mari: It got me thinking, though. Dad said they didn't have nearly as many medics as they need out on the fire lines, and hardly any medical supplies. And I know channels are kind of like doctors. So if you could spare anyone to send out there...? ~~ hopeful ~~

Bibi: Mari, if I take off my retainers anywhere outside the grounds, anyone can legally shoot me. And I can't work without my tentacles.

Cristal: And none of the rest of the staff has any medical training, except what's specialized to the problems of channels. Which wouldn't help.

Mari: Oh.~~ chagrin ~~ I hadn't thought about that. I'm sorry. This is all so new to me, and I'm seeing things in ways I wouldn't have thought of just a few days ago, and already I'm forgetting other people don't think this way about Simes. And I don't understand a whole bunch of things yet, and I guess I've been leaping to conclusions. I do that a lot, and it gets me into a lot of trouble. ~~ embarrassment ~~

Bibi thinks Mari is rather talented at it. The Sime Center's records are in Simelan, and must adhere to Tecton accounting methods, also in Simelan. Not to mention issues of confidentiality.

Mari: I'm sorry. I'll try not to have any more stupid ideas.~~ brink of tears ~~

Bibi: It's all right, Mari. I know you mean well.

Mari remembers about Simes and emotions, and struggles to hide her ~~ upset ~~.

Bibi is glad that Cristal is with her. Mari's volatile emotions and efforts to control them could get wearing.

Bibi: Don't worry, Cristal is looking after me. Have something to eat.

Mari picks up a bit of cheese and nibbles on it halfheartedly.

Mari: Thanks. ~~ sadness ~~ withdrawal ~~ loneliness ~~

Cristal: The only way to not jump to conclusions is to learn, and the only way to learn is to ask questions. Don't be afraid of stupid ideas, Mari.

Cristal: Anyhow, I still think you'd feel better if you tell us just how you ended up, evidently, on your own. And then let us think about what we might be able to do to help.

Mari puts down the cheese she's been crumbling onto her napkin.

Mari: Well, I got back here, and cousin Charity had found the books I'd borrowed. I didn't think to stop and put them away when I rushed off to see Dad. And she said she couldn't bear the thought of what her friends would say if they found out she was letting a Sime-kisser stay at her place.

Mari: So she told me I had to either bring back the books and then promise never to come back here, or find somewhere else to stay. So I packed my bags and now I don't know what I'm going to do. But I did promise I'd come back so the other channel could take a look at me, so I figured I'd do that first, and then go look for a new place.

Bibi: I suppose we can put you up here overnight, and you can look for a place tomorrow.

Bibi is glad Mari has her donation money for the purpose. She isn't sure where to put her, with the mixed crowd staying here, but figures she can stick her somewhere for one night.

Mari: But I don't know anyone else in town. I don't have any ideas where to go.

Mari picks up the cheese and takes another bite.

Cristal: Hmm.

Mari: Do you know of any boarding houses or anything like that?

Bibi: Whose turn is it to deliver cookies tomorrow, Cristal? The church ladies know everything that's happening in town.

Cristal tells her.

Bibi: Well, we can ask her for advice.

Cristal: [Simelan] Is it going to be safe to keep her her tonight, do you think?

Bibi: [Simelan] All the renSimes are high field. Mik's got his Donor to protect him. I'll have Ghan keep an eye on her.

Seruffin comes down the stairs, ready for a break after roughing out a scathing report that he knows would get Bibi's Controller severely disciplined if he sent it as is. He will revise it later, when it's toned down enough that the primary result will be to get Bibi a month's vacation in-Territory.

Gerrhonot follows, glad to be moving.

Bibi's nager ~~ brightens ~~ with ~~ happiness ~~ when she zlins him.

Seruffin is glad that there are no other Simes present, so he can wrap Bibi in ~~ affection ~~ without embarrassing her.

Seruffin: Good afternoon, everyone.

Bibi is ~~ delighted ~~ but defers to Seruffin, the high First, in a manner suitable in Tecton culture to a mediocre Second like herself.

Bibi: Hajene Seruffin, this is the young woman I told you about, Mari.

Cristal feels the shift in Bibi's fields and ~~ grins ~~ inwardly.

Gerrhonot is glad that there's more work for his channel.

Mari nods politely but says nothing.

Seruffin: Of course. I'm pleased to meet you, Miz Mari.

Cristal: And this is his Donor, Sosu Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot smiles and nods.

Mari: Hello, Hajene, Sosu. Pleased to meet you.

Mari reaches out to shake hands, then remembers and pulls her hand back.

Seruffin scolds himself silently for neglecting to introduce Gerrhonot, but he got distracted trying to get a good zlin of Mari without appearing to untrained Gen eyes to do so. He smiles, and offers his hand.

Seruffin: It's Gen Territory here, let's follow the Gen traditions.

Gerrhonot watches carefully, in case this weird Gen does something to his channel.

Mari hesitantly reaches out, clasps Seruffin's hand briefly and withdraws.

Seruffin, of course, took the opportunity to zlin Mari more closely during the skin contact. He looks ~~ thoughtful ~~

Mari offers her hand to Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot shakes Mari's hand briefly but firmly.

Mari: I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch your name, Sosu...?

Gerrhonot: Gerrhonot.

Mari smiles brightly.

Mari: Hi.

Gerrhonot: Hi, Mari.

Mari finds Gerrhonot somehow less intimidating than his channel.

Seruffin zlins Mari's intimidation, and tries to look as harmless as possible.

Gerrhonot hopes Mari isn't trying to flirt with him.

Mari turns her attention back to Bibi

Mari: Is this the other channel you wanted me to meet, Hajene Bibi?

Bibi: Yes, Mari.

Mari suddenly thinks how much Seruffin looks like the pictures of her maternal grandfather, whom she never knew.

Mari smiles.

Seruffin sits down at the table, hoping that will make him appear less threatening.

Seruffin: Bibi tells me that you're a very interesting young woman.

Mari nods politely and says nothing.

Gerrhonot sits next to Seruffin, and spreads his field around him protectively.

Seruffin: You don't happen to have family in Gumgeeville, do you? There seem to be a lot of unusual Gens in that town.

Mari: Actually, I'm from Gumgeeville. I came here just a few days ago. The only family I've got left is my dad, and my kid brother.

Seruffin: Your brother? How old is he?

Mari: Nine. As bratty kid brothers go, he's pretty good.

Seruffin is glad that there is at least one kid in the area who is unlikely to go through changeover in the next few days.

Seruffin: Professor Nattin tells me that you were quite interested in what life is like in Sime Territory.

Mari: Yes. You see, I came to the Ford looking for work, so I could save up money to go to university.

Seruffin: What field of study interests you?

Mari: Anything. Everything. I'd probably take a general program in first year, until I figure out what really interests me. But, well...

Mari hesitates.

Seruffin: Yes?

Seruffin cuts back on the diplomatic dignity in favor of harmless kindliness.

Mari: After I tried donating the other day... I'd like to know more about it before I decide, but I think I'd like to audition to go to Donor school.

Cristal sighs, but holds the fields steady for Bibi -- not that it's really necessary, with Gerrhonot's First Order nager blanketing everything.

Mari: ~~ timid hopefulness ~~

Seruffin: Not everyone has that sort of talent, or wants to live that sort of life.

Mari: I guess you'd have to test me for the talent, but so far everything I've read about the life sounds good. Traveling a lot, meeting lots of different people, using a lot of skills.

Seruffin: It is that. On the other hand, there's rather little privacy, and less opportunity to have much of a family life. You don't get to choose where you travel, and you usually can't settle down, if you find a place you want to call home.

Mari: I'm not in a hurry to get married, if that's what you mean. And I've been settled down all my life, and I'm sick of it. Maybe when I'm really old, say thirty or so, I might want to settle again. But I don't think so.

Seruffin: There are other professions that would allow you to travel.

Mari: But... how do I explain this? I don't know the words in Simelan yet.

Seruffin: Try English.

Mari: Donating the other day felt really good, and the parts that felt best were the parts Hajene Bibi said were the things I shouldn't try to do unless I'm trained as a Donor, and, well, it would be worth a lot to me to be able to feel those things again and again, and be doing something worthwhile at the same time.

Mari: ~~ wistful ~~ eager ~~ memory of need-to-give ~~ I think the book said sell-yoor nagg-er?

Seruffin: Donors only give transfer once a month, you know. The rest of the time, they have to put up with a channel without that benefit.

Seruffin looks at Bibi.

Mari: No job is perfect. Anything I might do is better than slopping hogs.

Seruffin: What is your opinion? Was it selyur nager?

Bibi: Yes, of a sort.

Mari mouths the correct pronunciation silently.

Seruffin is ~~ intrigued ~~. He gestures for Bibi to elaborate.

Bibi: Her draw characteristics were... most unusual.

Seruffin thoughtfully warns Gerrhonot with a tentacle signal, then projects ~~ moderate need ~~ in Mari's direction.

Mari: ~~ strong need-to-give ~~

Gerrhonot provides a ~~ strong ~~ steady ~~ reliable ~~ field for Seruffin to take refuge in if necessary.

Mari moves a bit closer to Seruffin

Cristal concentrates on protecting Bibi, assuming that Gerrhonot is now focused on protecting Seruffin.

Bibi carefully prevents her fields from interfering.

Mari edges closer to Seruffin again, then hesitates.

Mari: Are you doing something? I'm feeling... um, like I want to wrap myself around you and melt down and pour myself into you. ~~ embarrassment ~~

Seruffin raises a ~~ thoughtful ~~ eyebrow.

Gerrhonot strengthens his ~~ protection ~~

Mari watches her hand rise as if it had a mind of its own and reach towards Seruffin.

Cristal is ~~ impressed ~~ by this.

Mari pulls the hand back.

Mari: Sorry.

Seruffin drops the need projection.

Mari gasps. ~~ loss ~~

Seruffin: Well, you appear to have some of a Donor's sensitivity to selyn fields, at least. I'm more concerned with what Bibi told me about your donation. How fast were you drawing, Bibi?

Bibi replies in Simelan technical terms.

Seruffin nods.

Seruffin: And what exactly did you feel, Mari?

Mari: Well, at the very beginning, I felt just like what I was feeling a moment ago, if you were... zlinning?

Mari tries out the unfamiliar word.

Seruffin: Yes, I was.

Mari: ... what I felt then. And then I realized that Hajene Bibi wasn't really desperately hungry, she was just making it seem that way so she could take my donation. So then I felt embarrassed that I'd done something inappropriate, and tried not to feel it. And then I stopped being embarrassed because I figured that's what everybody probably does at that point, and it's normal.

Mari: It felt like there was this empty place I wanted to pour... something... into.

Seruffin: And so you pushed to fill it up?

Mari: Not right away. I'd read the booklet that said to just sit quietly and not do anything, so that's what I tried to do. But then it started feeling really good, kind of warm and tingly. And then the feeling went away again. So I tried to get it back. Hajene Bibi says that was when I was risking hurting her. But I didn't know that. I only knew it felt good, so I tried to push for more.

Seruffin: I see.

Seruffin offers his hands.

Seruffin: Do you mind if I take a closer zlin?

Mari looks at Seruffin's hands, then reaches out and grasps them carefully.

Seruffin extends handling tentacles to wrap around her wrists.

Mari: Please do. Let me know if I'm hurting you.

Gerrhonot does not intend to let this Gen hurt his channel. ~~ strength ~~ reliability ~~ safety ~~ protection ~~

Seruffin: Just hold still for a minute or two, and try to stay passive while I run a few tests. I may take a bit of selyn, to get an idea what's going on. Is that all right?

Mari: Sure.

Seruffin feels he ought to clear it with Mari first, after the problem with Vrian's pre-donation.

Bibi zlins attentively.

Mari takes a deep breath, and drops into a pretty good state of relaxation for an untrained beginner.

Seruffin: Very good. Hold that, if you can.

Mari: Mmmhmmm.

Seruffin completes the transfer contact in a businesslike fashion, zlinning deeply. He conducts a few simple tests of sensitivity, confirming that Mari does test out in the Donor-trainee range.

Mari: ~~ warm floating ~~

Seruffin isn't an expert on Donor training, but thinks that she can probably be worked up to Donor field strength, as well. He's a bit concerned about Bibi's report that Mari experienced slilbliss in response to a routine general-class donation, however.

Seruffin notes that Bibi didn't quite finish drawing all the selyn from the GN-3 level, and decides on an experiment. He lets his showfield drop gradually, starting a very slow selyn draw.

Mari's GN barriers drop completely flat as soon as Seruffin begins to draw.

Seruffin lets his draw speed gradually increase, zlinning carefully for any response. He doesn't like those pre-flattened barriers.

Bibi notes that this happened earlier in the draw and at a lower speed than last time.

Mari: ~~ warm floating ~~

Seruffin tries increasing his draw speed a little more.

Mari: ~~ warm floating happy anticipation ~~

Seruffin continues to increase his speed, now reaching something close to what he'd use during a routine donation.

Mari: ~~ slilbliss ~~

Seruffin holds just long enough to confirm that it is, indeed, true slilbliss, then terminates the flow and breaks lip contact.

Mari: ~~ disappointment ~~

Seruffin: Interesting. I've never zlinned that sort of response in a Gen before.

Mari: I tried not to push when you stopped this time. But I wanted to.

Seruffin: You did well. Hold still a moment while I break lateral contact.

Seruffin suits actions to words. He sits down again, looking ~~ thoughtful ~~

Bibi: The slilbliss started at a somewhat higher draw speed this time.

Mari: It felt good. And ... smoother than with Hajene Bibi.

Mari darts an apologetic glance at Bibi

Seruffin: I was expecting it, while you caught Bibi by surprise.

Bibi smiles, ~~ amused ~~.

Seruffin: Most Gens wouldn't feel a thing at that draw speed, you know.

Mari: That's a shame. It feels so good.

Seruffin: That you do... well, I'm not sure quite what it means.

Mari: ~~ hopeful ~~ a bit worried ~~

Seruffin: You have some of the responses I would expect to zlin in a Donor: sensitivity to selyn fields, for instance, and a sympathetic response to a need projection.

Mari: And Hajene Bibi said I had a lot of selyn. ~~ hopeful ~~ eager ~~

Seruffin: You do. The question is, can you release it quickly enough to satisfy a channel. That "good feeling" of yours is usually something a Gen feels when the selyn flow is reaching the maximum she can deliver safely.

Mari: So it's not a good thing to feel it so easily? I could try to not feel it. ~~ regret ~~

Seruffin: That would cause resistance, which could get you burned, in a direct transfer situation. I'm only a diplomat, not an expert on Donor training. I know that a Gen's comfortable delivery speed can be increased, but I don't know by how much.

Mari: Where could I go to find an expert? ~~ eager ~~ hopeful ~~

Seruffin: Sime Territory. There are schools for Donors; you'll want to try one of the larger ones. Rialite, possibly.

Mari: How do I apply to go there? Or if it's just for testing, could I just show up?

Seruffin: In a case like yours, it's best to make haste slowly, and make sure that you see the proper expert. There is a conference for channels in Capital next month that will bring together some of the people who could give you a more certain answer.

Mari: I don't know if I'll have enough travel money by next month. I don't have a job yet, just my donation money.

Seruffin: I plan to attend; I could try to find someone with more expertise than I have in that area.

Mari: There are always farm jobs. I could stand slopping hogs for a month. ~~ disgust ~~ resignation ~~

Seruffin: By the time you've got travel money together, we'll have a place to send you. Donor trainees get paid a small stipend, so if you're accepted for it, you won't be hoeing beans.

Mari: And, the book said something about getting more selyn from deeper levels? Could I earn more from donating?

Seruffin: Perhaps eventually. For now, however, I think it would be better not to push matters until an expert can evaluate you.

Mari: Oh.

Mari struggles to feel ~~ patient ~~, with only partial success.

Seruffin doesn't want Bibi taking unnecessary risks with such an odd Gen.

Seruffin: It's only for a few months.

Gerrhonot is glad that his channel isn't going to try anything potentially dangerous.

Mari: I guess it's hogs, then. Farm jobs pay more than town jobs.

Bibi: The church ladies may have some ideas on temporary work for you. This time of year the cheese factory is very busy. Perhaps they might hire you, since you understand bookkeeping.

Seruffin: You've got your donation payment. That will help, too.

Mari: Cheese wouldn't be as bad as hogs, even if I end up on the factory floor.

Seruffin: I'm sure something can be worked out.

Bibi: Ghan, one of Professor Nattin's students, will be home soon. She'll show you where you can sleep. Meanwhile, finish your supper.

Mari: ~~ warm grateful ~~ Thanks.

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