Travel Broadens: Episode 19

Cristal is sitting on the veranda waiting for the train from the border to come in. He's looking forward to Bibi's return with ~~ enthusiasm ~~.

Cristal: [to himself] Not that it hasn't been .... an interesting experience.

Darrel can't help but zlin how much the Donor is looking forward to getting rid of him, as he comes out on the porch himself.

Cristal realizes what he's doing and forces his nager to ~~ neutral ~~.

Darrel: You've missed Bibi, haven't you? ~~ inadequacy ~~

Cristal: I have, Darrell. Not that working with you hasn't been good for me. ~~ support comfort ~~

Cristal: I had pretty serious troubles my first month in this posting too.

Darrel winces at the implication that his tenure has been less-than-spotless, even though he agrees with the analysis.

Darrel: I just don't understand these people, no matter how much I try.

Cristal: Well, it is a different culture, that's for sure.

Darrel: Definitely. I don't think I'm very well suited for it.

Cristal: We can't all be equally adaptable. Think of all the out-T Simes you've met that haven't adjusted so well to life in-T. I still make plenty of mistakes myself.

Darrel: When was the last time a client of yours got scared and ran away from you?

Cristal laughs gently.

Cristal: In my case, they don't get scared, they get angry and stomp off in a huff. Anyhow, this wasn't a punishment and you aren't a failure.

Darrel: Humph. I hope my Controller agrees with you.

Cristal: I'll be sending him a copy of my report. ~~ reassurance ~~

Darrel is Sime, and therefore susceptible to nageric manipulation. He therefore gradually relaxes, at least as much as he ever does.

Bibi is riding from the train station to the Sime Center in the Sime Center's buggy, driven by Ghan, and accompanied by the Donor who will turn around and escort Darrel back in-T. She enjoyed the usually long and arduous trip more than she expected because of Marvin's company. He's stayed on the train, continuing on to the other end of his route with his own Donor.

Cristal: Bibi should be here about now, shouldn't she?

Darrel: If the train schedule isn't a figment of the Transportation Authority's imagination...

Darrel extends his laterals and zlins.

Darrel: Ah, here they are, now.

Cristal fades his nager to ~~ neutral ~~ again.

Bibi hops off the buggy, opens the gate for Ghan, and closes it behind her. She hops back on, but hops off again when the buggy passes the veranda on the way to the stable.

Bibi: Hi, Cristal! Hi, Darrel!

Darrel: Hello, Hajene Bibi.

Cristal: ~~ happiness ~~ Welcome home, Bibi.

Bibi smiles and waves as she walks toward the veranda, then stops to remove her retainers.

Darrel steps aside, so that Cristal can get past him to help with the retainers. He's a bit ~~ envious ~~ at Bibi's fortune, in having a Donor so glad to see her.

Bibi: Thank you. I'm so glad to be back home. I had a wonderful time but it was exhausting. ~~ tired and happy ~~

Cristal eases off the retainers and begins to gently massage Bibi's handling tentacles.

Bibi pulls away from Cristal after a few moments, puts her arm around him and climbs the veranda steps. She sits on the swing and smiles.

Bibi: I asked Ghan to look after Sosu Gordo, get him fed and settled. He's really exhausted, poor man.

Darrel: It looks like he took good care of you, on the train.

Darrel is ~~ hopeful ~~ that this is a sign of competence that will make the return journey easier for him.

Bibi: Yes. And Marvin was in the same car, too!

Cristal raises one eyebrow.

Cristal: That must have made things easier.

Bibi: It was a pleasure to see him again. ~~ happy ~~

Bibi settles herself comfortably, stretching and wiggling her freed tentacles, and beams at Cristal and Darrel.

Bibi: So how were things here?

Cristal: Well.... Interesting. ~~ carefully neutral ~~.

Darrel shoots Cristal an ~~ apprehensive ~~ glance.

Cristal: The Acting Controller here should really tell you.

Darrel smiles ~~ weakly ~~

Darrel: Well, the good news is that the townsfolk did not show up with torches and pitchforks to burn the Sime Center down.

Cristal: [entering into the spirit of the thing] Nor have we had an epidemic of kills or new Sime shootings.

Bibi can tell from the ambient that there was no serious disaster, so nods.

Darrel: There were a lot of young women coming in to donate. Some of their fathers and husbands came later on, although they weren't into donating.

Cristal: I did my best to shield Hajene Darrell from the ambient in those, umm, meetings.

Cristal thinks "confrontations" would be more accurate, if tactless.

Bibi: Oh, dear. How embarrassing.

Bibi wonders if the townsfolk would have been less upset if her locum had been a grandfatherly sort. But then they might have objected to a 'dirty old man'.

Cristal: But as you can see, he'll be taking plenty of selyn back in-T, which is good, and it's possible that some of those new donors will become regulars.

Cristal ~~ looks on the bright side ~~

Bibi: I'm very glad to hear it. And perhaps they'll encourage more children to come to us too.

Darrel: Maybe with you, their fathers and husbands won't think you're out to seduce them.

Bibi smiles and blushes.

Darrel found that particular accusation highly ~~ confusing ~~. He didn't grow up referring to a transfer contact as a "kiss".

Bibi: Some of them may be motivated to apply a saying they have out here - "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander".

Darrel: Sauce... you mean, for eating the poor bird?

Cristal looks ~~ mystified ~~

Bibi: It means if it's suitable for the women it should be suitable for the men. Or vice versa.

Bibi figures she'll let these two men sort it out from there.

Darrel: Well, of course Gens of both sexes can donate. Why would they think otherwise?

Cristal: [helpfully] They think all kinds of intimacy are basically sexual, and they have this strong taboo on same-sex intimacy of any kind. Especially the men.

Bibi: It's not quite that, Cristal, it's that if the men are upset that the women are donating to a man, they can sort of retaliate by donating to a woman themselves.

Darrel shakes his head.

Darrel: I don't think I'll ever understand these people. Not really.

Bibi: Well, if we get more people donating, it's all to the good.

Cristal: Provided they stick with it.

Darrel: By convincing them that donating is some sort of... sexual substitute?

Cristal: Not substitute exactly, just a sort of side benefit. A way to break taboo without really breaking it.

Bibi: Yes, like Uncle Tony for example. He's a very old man, and he's secretly delighted at getting to "kiss" a young woman like me. But that's not the real reason he donates.

Bibi smiles. She likes Uncle Tony a lot.

Cristal: True. He did come in this month -- at the full moon as usual.

Darrel: He seemed very disappointed that you weren't there.

Cristal: Yes, he was. But he didn't turn around and walk out.

Bibi: Did some of the donors refuse to donate to you? ~~ concerned ~~

Cristal: Well, there was that young fellow -- I've got his name here somewhere. But he was new, not one of our regulars.

Cristal has a detailed report he's prepared, as he knows Bibi will want to know what's what first thing.

Cristal: Ah yes, Barrysboy Fox.

Darrel: He said he wanted to donate, then wouldn't let me near him. He wouldn't say why, either.

Bibi: What did you zlin?

Darrel: He seemed to be expecting... well, I don't know what he was expecting, exactly, but it wasn't what he found.

Cristal: He was expecting a young woman, almost certainly.

Bibi: Fox... I don't think I've met any people named Fox around here...

Cristal reflects once again on how Simes insist on using their Sime senses instead of their eyes, ears, and common sense -- except Bibi, of course.

Darrel: He was a farmer of some sort, I gather.

Cristal: Probably from one of the more remote farms. His accent in English was different, too.

Cristal is ~~ proud ~~ of his ability to pick up on this subtlety.

Bibi: Hm. What do you think was the problem, Cristal?

Cristal: I think he was mostly curious, and then intimidated when he met two men.

Bibi shrugs. You can't win them all.

Bibi: Well, perhaps he'll be back some time.

Cristal: Maybe so. Then there was Huipil -- excuse me, Mister Huipil. Very young, very much on his dignity, very annoyed that the channel was a man. That one was definitely about sex, or kissing anyway. He'll be back for sure, at least the next time he gets to town he will.

Bibi makes a dismissive gesture.

Darrel: I'm not sure if Tilly, Milly, Annie, Susie, and Ethyl will be back, however.

Cristal: Nor Methyl, Propyl, or Butyl either.

Bibi: Time will tell. Did you have any problems with any of the more unusual donors, like Virla from Gumgeeville?

Darrel: She is... very odd, isn't she?

Cristal: No odder than she ever is, and she didn't exhibit a recurrence of the cataplexy or anything.

Cristal: [tolerantly] After all, does it really matter what a general-class donor's beliefs are?

Darrel: Well, yes, if those beliefs are uncomfortable to zlin, or make the donor unpredictable.

Cristal makes a gesture of deference to his Acting Controller.

Bibi: Her beliefs enable her to accept her daughter as a Sime, something she would never have considered even last winter. But I was more concerned about whether you had any technical difficulties with her, or some of the other donors like Toria Gegg, and Mari. Or Vrian Mullins, for that matter.

Darrel: Your notes were quite detailed, so they didn't catch me by surprise. I managed.

Bibi: That's good.

Darrel: I don't think Toria Gegg was very impressed with me. Vrian Mullins was a bit shy at first, but he managed well, with a bit of coaxing.

Bibi: I don't think Toria Gegg is very impressed with many people. I'm glad you managed with Vrian. You must have met Bart. What a lovely nager.

Darrel: Yes. He'll be a very good Donor, when he's had some training.

Cristal nods enthusiastically

Darrel: Just when was he planning to start training, anyway?

Bibi: He'll turn sixteen this fall, and plans to go in-T after the harvest is finished. We're trying to give him a little training here in the meantime. Of course, I can't authorize a transfer for him, so he'll have to wait for that, poor young man.

Cristal: ~~ sympathy ~~

Darrel: He wants to be a Donor -- anyone with tentacles can zlin that. Why wait, and lose such a large part of his First Year?

Cristal: Family loyalty is very important out-T.

Darrel: I thought his family approved of his choice of profession?

Bibi: His father is in favor of it, but his mother is reluctant to see him do it. It's what they've decided among them. Compromises, I suppose. It's only a few more months, and Gens aren't as limited by their First Year as Simes are.

Cristal has his own opinion about that, but what's the use?

Darrel: Still. I don't see any point to the delay.

Bibi: We do what we can. Last winter the family would never have imagined talking to a Sime, let alone donating. And to serve one in transfer?

Darrel: That's another thing I don't understand: how these people can change their principles so dramatically, with relatively little cause.

Bibi sighs.

Darrel's Sime principles are based, to a much greater extent than those of any Gen, on what's required to make sure that all Simes have a transfer. Especially himself.

Bibi: The causes may not be apparent to someone who isn't familiar with the culture. These people were resigned to the horror of raising their children, then having to murder some of them. It's hard for them to believe that there's really another way, but when they grasp that they often undergo a kind of conversion.

Cristal: It's my notion that this Territory is in the very early stages of a dramatic transformation that won't become apparent for a long while yet, when there are really enough channels to set up enough Sime Centers.

Darrel: I've been worried the whole time I was here, that I would make some irredeemable error that would prevent such a transformation, because I didn't understand what was going on.

Cristal: ~~ reassurance ~~ I don't think social forces like this are going to be disrupted by one person's actions.

Bibi: You would have seen almost entirely people who already agree that Simes are human, the kill is an aberration, donation is a good thing, and murdering a child in changeover is murder, if she can be taken to a channel.

Darrel: Well, yes.

Darrel doesn't zlin anything in these statements that any reasonable person could disagree with.

Bibi: A small faux pas on your part isn't going to change their views.

Cristal: We're not expected to be Klyds and Hughs.

Bibi: Did you have any changeovers?

Cristal: Two. Both normal and uncomplicated, and waiting for Marvin to arrive.

Bibi: Oh, good. Challenging for you, Darrel?

Cristal looks at his report.

Cristal: Fle Persue and Higgs Brogan.

Bibi laughs.

Bibi: Fle has been trying to get her parents to let her visit her cousin in Iburan.

Cristal: Well, here's her chance.

Darrel: I've had some experience with children who never got changeover training, so I managed Higgs, as well.

Bibi: Good. His mother is a donor, but his father won't come near the Sime Center. How did they take it?

Cristal: Umm, we haven't told them, and they haven't asked.

Bibi: He came here on his own?

Cristal: Yes, he did, and with time to spare. He really is a very clever child. Or was.

Bibi: Yes. He's the one who persuaded his mother to donate, so she'd have some money of her own.

Darrel: Well, he managed to get around insufficient changeover training all right. Very cooperative.

Cristal nods in agreement.

Cristal: He's only been here for two days, and he's full of questions about Nivet.

Bibi: He'll do well. He has a strong character.

Cristal: His mother is due in ....

Cristal rattles the papers again.

Cristal: ... a week, so we can fill her in then, if she doesn't come in early.

Bibi: I hope she'll come see him before he goes in-T. Perhaps Nattin can go out and talk to her when he gets back.

Darrel: How do you think she'll react to having a Sime son?

Bibi: It will be a loss for her. She's intimidated by her husband, and I think Higgs has been protecting her from him. But she certainly wants the best for her child.

Bibi wonders if the woman might leave her abusive spouse and join her Sime son in-T, but these things only happen in magazine stories. In-T magazines, of course.

Darrel: If she donates, she'll have the minimal financial independence to leave her husband, if he's that bad.

Bibi: Yes. We'll have to see what happens. Higgs can send his letters to his mother here, and we'll see that she gets them.

Cristal: After all, the fact that she's become a donor indicates that she's beginning to move away from being a [English] doormat.

Bibi: I'm not sure what will happen if her husband finds out she's been donating.

Cristal: [brightly] I guess we'll have to make sure he doesn't! ~~ bloody-mindedness ~~

Darrel: If the fathers and husbands of some of those young Gens who came in are any indicator, he's not likely to take it quietly.

Cristal: That may well be true.

Bibi sighs and spreads hands and tentacles.

Bibi: We do what we can.

Darrel: Yes. Even the Tecton can't ask more of us than that.

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