Travel Broadens: Episode 10

Darrel is sipping a glass of cold trin on the Sime Center's veranda, waiting for the afternoon lull, and the afternoon heat, to draw to a close. He could wait inside, in the reception area, but he has had a strong aversion to anything that smacks of lobby-ism for several years now. Instead he's left Cristal inside, with a request to call him if a donor arrives.

Darrel is starting to get just a little stir-crazy at being effectively confined to one building, under threat of torture or death. He's also starting to get restless about the amount of selyn he's carrying around, with no opportunity so far to get rid of any of it.

Marvin gets off the train, whistling as usual, and walks over to the Sime Center. He's aware, long before he actually reaches the gate, that something's different about the Center.

Marvin is a bit puzzled, then slaps his head. He's zlinning how the Sime Center's field looks when a different Sime is the sec of it; obviously Bibi is having her much-needed vacation. He sucks it up.

Marvin walks up to the door, casually admiring his handiwork.

Darrel zlins an approaching field, Sime and adult, and feels ~~ relief ~~ that the anticipated mule has apparently arrived. He takes one last sip of his tea, and gets to his feet.

Marvin: [in a voice meant to be heard, but not a shout] Marvin Gardener, Selyn Transport Service.

Marvin: [more quietly, to his Donor] Go on, I'll be fine. Go make friends with the Wild Gens. He won't eat me and they won't eat you.

Terpena: Yes, Hajene. Very well, Hajene.

Terpena decides to find somewhere to get off her feet, which are starting to tingle.

Darrel stretches, then opens the back door and enters the Sime Center.

Darrel: Back here, Marvin. Welcome. I'm glad to zlin another Sime at last.

Marvin zlins the channel's nager and goes into the Center by the front door.

Darrel meets up with Marvin in the staff dining area.

Marvin: Respect, Hajene.

Darrel: And to you, Hajene. I'm Darrel, Bibi's temporary substitute.

Darrel offers a tentacle to brush.

Marvin does it.

Darrel: I was just having a glass of cold trin on the back porch. Would you care to join me?

Marvin: By all means.

Darrel leads the way into the kitchen, where he pours a tall glass of tea from a pitcher and hands it to Marvin.

Marvin drinks it a little faster than is usual in Sime society.

Marvin: Thanks. I needed that after the train.

Darrel: It's good to zlin a friendly nager. It's been lonely here, with only Sosu Cristal for company.

Marvin snorts.

Marvin: Cristal has his points, but I wouldn't consider him, er, company.

Darrel: He's a bit stiff, but at least he speaks Simelan. My English is supposed to be fluent, but that leaves a lot of room for interpretation, I've discovered.

Marvin nods enthusiastically.

Marvin: It's my native language. It wasn't till I went in-T that I found out how difficult it really is. But I suppose you can tell that from my accent.

Darrel: Yes. I suppose it's a matter of culture as well as fluency. I keep coming across little things that every native assumes that of course I'd know, or agree with.

Marvin: Indeed it is, Hajene. By the way, I wasn't given your name -- a mild shen-up in the assignment, I suppose.

Darrel sighs.

Marvin: In fact, I wasn't even told that Hajene Bibi had been reassigned.

Darrel: I gather that there was some doubt as to who would be sent out to cover for Bibi, up until I was drafted.

Marvin: I see. It must have been a shock to you, coming out-T -- it is for the first time?

Darrel: Well, I've been assigned to border Centers often enough, and traveled through Gen Territory a few times. This is the first time I've stayed this deep in Gen Territory for an extended period of time, though.

Marvin nods again ~~ sympathy ~~

Marvin: Well, to business. How about if I relieve you of some of that excess selyn sloshing through your system, eh?

Darrel: Thanks. It's getting uncomfortable.

Darrel offers his hands.

Marvin: Quite. And that should make you more relaxed as well.

Marvin takes Darrel's hands and extends his laterals to capture Darrel's when he's ready.

Tony strolls around to the veranda with a package of goodies his nephew's wife Arora sent for the inhabitants of the Sime Center. He suspects that she found the male channel rather attractive, and wants the excuse of picking up her plate to ogle him again.

Tony may be projecting a little bit -- he finds Bibi quite attractive, and he's 72 years old.

Darrel extends his laterals smoothly, and offers a businesslike lip contact.

Marvin accepts the contact and draws secondary-to-secondary, steadily, evenly, and with no Marvinisms.

Tony is ~~ startled ~~ to see, through the screen door, two men kissing.

Marvin breaks the contact, leaving Darrel with just a prudent reserve.

Tony observes, as they break the clinch with visible satisfaction, that both are Simes. The kissing is weird, but then again, Simes are weird, aren't they?

Marvin looks up at the ~~ startle ~~, but sees it's only a local donor.

Tony decides, nonetheless, to go back around the front.

Darrel: That feels much better. ~~ relief ~~

Marvin: [English] You betcha. [Simelan] That's an idiomatic affirmative.

Darrel chuckles.

Darrel: Yet another idiom that wasn't covered in my "idiomatic English" class.

Marvin: Hmm, I think you have a customer, Hajene Darrel.

Marvin reflects on the illogicality of life: the donor's selyn will eventually wind up in his secondary system, but he is forbidden to draw it directly.

Tony climbs the front steps, pie plate wrapped in a linen towel in hand. He opens the door, which seems to be a bit crooked on its hinges.

Darrel zlins, then nods.

Darrel: I'd better take care of him, then. Make yourself at home.

Marvin: Thanks, I will.

Darrel hurries out to the reception room, suppressing the tendency to cringe at the approach of any lobby inhabitant.

Cristal returns belatedly from the privy and looks in at the back door.

Cristal: Darrel?

Darrel is somewhat reassured that this prospective donor at least looks sane enough.

Marvin: It's Marvin, Cristal. He's in the reception room, and a donor's just arrived.

Cristal is a bit surprised at Marvin's voice, but goes on to the reception room.

Darrel: Good afternoon. I'm Hajene Darrel, substituting for Hajene Bibi while she's on vacation.

Darrel zlins Uncle Tony surreptitiously, trying to determine how he is taking the news of the substitution.

Tony: G'day. My nephew's wife sent you guys this sour cream apple pie she made. It's one of the big years for our yellow summer apple tree. Gonna be eating applesauce every day this winter.

Cristal: I can see you will, Mister Grelbix. Thanks for bringing the pie along, and thanks to Miz Arora for making it.

Darrel is only gradually starting to get used to the continual flow of food into the Sime Center.

Darrel: It's very kind of you to bring us such a treat.

Tony: Better eat it fast, what with this hot weather.

Darrel can't imagine eating that much of anything, and even Cristal's Gen appetite has its limits.

Darrel supposes that they can hold back a piece or two, and put it out on the refreshments table for the other donors to eat.

Tony sets the pie on the table.

Darrel: We will.

Tony: So you're the one looking after things while Bibi's gone, then.

Tony wonders whether this guy knows anything about dairy farming, like Bibi does.

Darrel: Yes, I am. She'll be back when she's finished her vacation, I understand.

Tony: Wonderful young woman, Bibi is. We're real happy to have her here.

Cristal: [loyally] Well, I can assure you that Hajene Darrel is perfectly competent, Mister Grelbix.

Tony: Heard she was sick last month. Arora wanted me to bring in some chicken soup for her but we were all so busy with the second cut hay and I didn't know if it was good for Simes, too, like it is for Gens.

Darrel shudders at the mention of animal broth.

Cristal ~~ damps the ambient ~~

Cristal: Unfortunately it isn't.

Darrel: Er... Simes don't generally eat meat.

Cristal: Not even poultry.

Tony: Well, chicken soup is more like medicine, isn't it?

Cristal: It's just one of those things, like not being able to eat strawberries. I never saw strawberries growing till I came here.

Darrel: Strawberries are actually poisonous to Simes.

Tony: I knew about the strawberries. Arora made her a strawberry cream pie one time and she told us.

Darrel: Well, animal flesh and its derivatives aren't eaten in Sime Territory, either.

Tony: Yeah, my niece told me that. Not even the Gens eat meat. She's a Sime.

Cristal: Not that they're poisonous, they just upset Sime, er, stomachs. So we don't eat them either. Excuse me a minute.

Cristal goes over to the file to consult the donation records.

Cristal: You're a few days early, Mister Grelbix, but while you're here anyway, would you like to donate?

Tony: Bibi's okay now, isn't she?

Darrel: She's fine. I expect she's enjoying her vacation a lot -- it's been years since she was in Sime Territory.

Tony: Yeah, I guess. She was born out here, but I guess she likes to be with other Simes sometimes too. It's hard on her, always having to stay around this Sime Center. She never gets to go anywhere.

Cristal: She'll be back in a few weeks.

Darrel is counting the days, himself.

Tony: I'll tell Arora that.

Tony figures this will give Arora plenty of time to pick up her pie plate.

Darrel: Do you wish to donate today, Mister, um, Grellibix?

Darrel is not as good as Bibi at pronouncing out-Territory names.

Tony: Guess I might as well.

Tony figures since Bibi won't be back for some time, he can avoid wasting time on another trip into town and do more farm work.

Darrel has noticed that Cristal seems to be familiar with this donor, yet unconcerned, and so felt safe making the offer.

Darrel gestures towards the donation room.

Darrel: Let me just get your file.

Cristal hands Darrel the already-fetched file.

Darrel: Ah, thank you, Sosu.

Darrel leads the way towards the donation room, flipping the file open with two handling tentacles to skim the more important entries.

Tony follows.

Tony: I donated to a man once before. That Hajene Ruffin who was out here last spring, time of that big snowstorm.

Tony thinks this guy is probably okay, even if he lacks Seruffin's dignity and Bibi's dimpled charm.

Darrel: Hajene Seruffin, the famous diplomat? Yes, I see the notation. He qualified you as a GN-1, it says?

Tony: Yup. Upgraded me. I thought he was some kind of inspector, sent out to see if Bibi was doing a good job. I told him she was.

Cristal smiles.

Cristal: No, no. He's an ambassador from Sime Territory to New Washington.

Darrel: The Diplomatic Corps handles things like high-level treaty negotiations.

Tony: Yeah, found that out later.

Tony doesn't much like the condescending way Cristal is smirking at him.

Darrel zlins Uncle Tony's irritation and steps between him and Cristal, out of habit, since it works with Simes.

Darrel: It looks like everything's in order here.

Darrel hands the file to Cristal, and gestures for Uncle Tony to sit.

Tony sits on the transfer lounge and pushes up his sleeves.

Darrel sits down beside Uncle Tony and offers his hands, tentacles courteously sheathed.

Tony takes the channel's hands and waits ~~ patiently ~~ and ~~ calmly ~~

Cristal makes the well-schooled motions that the well-schooled Donor makes at this point.

Darrel lets his handling tentacles extend to wrap around Uncle Tony's arms, zlins for any potential upset, and extends his laterals when he doesn't observe any.

Tony wishes he were going to be kissing Bibi, but so it goes.

Darrel leans forward in a businesslike fashion to make lip contact.

Tony leans forward to meet him. ~~ mild disappointment ~~

Darrel has zlinned a lot of that sort of disappointment in Hannard's Ford donors, lately. He's glad that Bibi is apparently well liked, but he's getting a bit tired of being considered a distant second choice.

Tony wonders how long the repairs he made to the fence this morning will keep the heifers out of the alfalfa field.

Darrel gently but efficiently gleans the selyn from Uncle Tony's GN levels.

Tony is a bit ~~ annoyed ~~ that the fence isn't holding. There must be an unusually intelligent heifer in the group this year.

Darrel zlins the annoyance and hastily strips the last of the available selyn, then breaks lip contact.

Darrel: There, I'm finished now.

Tony: Yeah? Good.

Darrel hopes that fact will curb the annoyance.

Tony rolls down his sleeves and gets up.

Cristal moves to support Darrell, turning ~~ his field up ~~.

Darrel gives Cristal a "what the shen did I do to upset him?" interrogative look.

Cristal makes the hand gesture "I'll explain later".

Tony waits ~~ patiently ~~ for his voucher, wondering which heifer it is. If he can identify the culprit, he'll have to dehorn her. He hates dehorning cattle. ~~ disgust ~~ aversion ~~

Darrel fills out the voucher and hands it to Uncle Tony, bracing himself against the projection.

Darrel: Are you all right?

Tony: Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks!

Tony takes the voucher and heads for the door of the donation room.

Darrel is ~~ dubious ~~ about the denial, but has learned enough to save his questions for later.

Cristal can see something is wrong, but he has no idea what and little hope of getting anything useful out of Tony Grelbix, who's had it in for him for months.

Darrel is glad that Cristal, at least, has some understanding of the locals. He's therefore probably doomed to disappointment.

Return to Table of Contents