Travel Broadens: Episode 22

Cristal is sitting in a chair on the back porch, tapping on the chair arm rhythmically. He's finding it difficult to cope with having nothing to worry about; everything seems to be going just fine, and he's not used to that. He forces himself to relax.

Cristal decides that sitting is futile, and gets up and paces about the porch instead, then forces himself to sit down and keep his hands in his lap this time.

Cristal is feeling rather ~~ empty ~~, and wonders if there isn't something that needs doing. He can't think of anything, unfortunately.

Bart comes out on the veranda with a snack and a glass of milk.

Bart: Hi, Sosu.

Cristal refocuses his attention with a ~~ jerk ~~.

Cristal: Oh. Hello, Bart. Have a seat. ~~ no appetite ~~

Bart sits near Cristal and sets down his plate and glass.

Cristal: What's new?

Bart: Not much. Hajene Bibi was letting me practice on her a little, but now she's doing paperwork so she told me to get something to eat.

Bart drinks some milk.

Bart: What's new with you?

Cristal: Um, oh. Yes, the Tecton life is filled with paperwork. Of course, Controllers have more people than other paper.

Bart smiles at Cristal's flub.

Cristal flushes.

Cristal: [stiffly] More paper than other people, I mean. More forms to fill out, anyway.

Bart: I guess so. She's writing a report.

Cristal: In any case, to answer your question, or rather not to answer it, I don't know anything. Things are so quiet here now; it seems very strange after all that hubbub the month before last, and then having to lead Hajene Darrel around by the ---

Cristal chokes himself off.

Cristal: In any case, it seems very familiar today, I mean this month. Quiet this month.

Bart wonders why Cristal is having so much trouble with words, and acting so twitchy.

Bart: I guess it was hard for Hajene Darrel to get used to the way things are out-T here.

Cristal: Yes, it certainly would be, wouldn't it.

Bart eats half a carrot muffin.

Cristal: Do you know the story about the two border guards?

Bart: I don't think so.

Cristal: Well, they're sitting on guard through the night, waiting for someone to try to cross the border. Nothing happens for hours and hours.

Cristal: Then one of them says, "Sure is quiet out there; sure is quiet out there."

Cristal pauses for a laugh.

Bart is puzzled. So far it isn't particularly funny.

Cristal: Umm, the idea is that it was quiet until he started saying something twice.

Cristal pauses.

Cristal: Not funny, I guess. I never was any good at telling jokes. Especially in English.

Bart wonders whether he should ask for an explanation -- why did the guy say the same thing twice? Did that make it funny? He decides to let it go.

Bart: I know a joke about some border guards. Between two Gen territories, I guess.

Cristal gestures "Go on"

Bart: The guards are supposed to stop people and collect taxes on what they are bringing across the border. This guy shows up one day with a wheelbarrow full of sand.

Cristal nods; he doesn't think he's heard this one before.

Bart: Sand isn't worth anything so they let him through. He shows up with another wheelbarrow of sand the next day, and they let him through again. And the next day and the next day.

Cristal nods again.

Bart: After a while, the guards get worried, so they search through the sand in case he has something hidden in it, but there's nothing. This keeps going on for weeks. Then the guy stops coming, and they almost forget about him.

Bart drinks some milk.

Bart: After a long time the guy comes back with no wheelbarrow, and gives them a bottle of whiskey. They sit down and get drunk together. One guard asks the guy why he brought the whiskey and he says to thank them for helping him make a lot of money.

Cristal's eyebrow rises.

Bart: The guards are upset because they figure they were fooled, and they might get into trouble for it. One of them asks him: "All you ever had was sand! How could you make money from that?" The guy looks at them...

Bart pauses for dramatic effect. He's his father's son, after all.

Cristal makes the "Go on" gesture again, with third-level intensity.

Bart: And he tells them: "I was smuggling wheelbarrows!"

Cristal's jaw drops, and he snorts.

Cristal then chuckles, and finally breaks out into outright laughter.

Cristal: Smuggling... wheelbarrows. Shuven.

Bart smiles, glad that Cristal enjoyed the joke.

Cristal: That's a good joke. I'll have to try to remember that.

Cristal feels a bit calmer. He makes an effort to change the subject, since he doesn't have another joke to tell.

Cristal: So what are your plans now?

Bart: Same as before. Spend as much time as I can here, and go in-T after I turn sixteen and we finish bringing in the potatoes and stuff.

Cristal is still annoyed by this, and decides it's time to exercise his well-known skills of persuasion.

Cristal: Is it really necessary for you to spend your First Year as a Gen on, on picking potatoes? I mean, anyone can do that; not anyone can be a Donor.

Bart: I am learning stuff here. Simelan, too.

Cristal: Sure, but in First Year camp you'd learn that and get proper Donor training too. Not that working with Hajene Bibi isn't good for you, helpful for you, I mean. But it's not the same.

Bart looks down.

Bart: My mother isn't very happy about me going to Nivet. If I wait until my birthday, she'll have less of an argument. With my father.

Cristal: I understand why your culture has to have an arbitrary border between childhood and adulthood, since out-Territory Gens don't know when they establish. But why do you all have to be so rigid about it?

Bart: I dunno, Sosu. My dad and I just think it will be easier on my mother if we do it that way.

Cristal grimaces and nods his head, recognizing an immovable object when he sees one.

Cristal: Well, I can understand that. But it's going to make a substantial difference to how good a Donor you are -- which will make a substantial difference to how much you can do for the channels you'll be working with. Isn't that more important in the long run?

Bart: I guess so. But... my family is important too. I'm lucky my dad is all for me trying it, and my mother willing to let me go once I'm of age without being pissed off at me for it.

Bart looks away unhappily.

Bart: I wish I could go sooner. But they are letting me come here to learn instead of working on the farm all the time.

Cristal: That's true, at least.

Bart: Is there stuff you remember from training that you or Hajene Bibi could teach me? Since it's not too busy this month?

Cristal: Well, I don't want to fleck up the regular training sequence, which assumes you come in knowing little or nothing. But then again, you already do know quite a bit about some things. Has Hajene Bibi been having you practice meditation? That certainly can't hurt and might help.

Bart: Like centering and clearing and stuff? Yes. She said I'm doing it right.

Cristal smiles.

Cristal: Excellent. I'm glad to hear that.

Bart: But I don't really understand what it's for. Except getting calm when you're upset.

Cristal: Well, that, certainly. But it makes your field practically disappear from a Sime's point of view.

Bart: When would you want to do that?

Cristal: Simes are easy to distract. Sometimes it's important to let them think for themselves without having to struggle for it.

Cristal winks.

Bart: But you're not supposed to... uh... influence their thinking all the time, are you?

Bart thinks this is ethically questionable.

Cristal: No, no, by no means. But when you feel strongly about something -- and everyone does, especially when they're young -- you can create a mob of Simes who feel just as strongly and may be able to act on it.

Cristal: Have you done any walking meditation yet?

Bart: No.

Cristal: Well, we could practice that, if you'd like. You sit down, ground and center, enter the state, and then get up and walk.

Bart: Uh, okay. Now?

Cristal gestures "Why not?"

Bart assumes a relaxed stable posture, closes his eyes, grounds himself and finds his center. With somewhat more effort he clears his mind of the chatter of internal monologue and enters the state. He opens his eyes and looks at Cristal with a detached smile.

Cristal: Excellent. Now, when you're ready, [drone] staaaand up.

Bart rises with less awkwardness than is usual in a rapidly growing adolescent. He starts to lose the state and closes his eyes briefly while he recovers it. One can't be as relaxed while standing as sitting.

Bart calmly and dispassionately awaits further instructions.

Cristal: Goooood. Now turn right and walk.

Bart slowly walks along between the railing and the chairs toward the end of the veranda. He feels like his center is floating, taking him with it.

Cristal: When you get to the rail, turn and walk back to the opposite rail.

Bart reaches the end and slowly turns with almost Sime-like grace. He floats the length of the veranda to the opposite end and turns again, smiling faintly at Cristal.

Cristal: Goood. Now come back here and sit down again.

Bart returns and sits, still in the state.

Cristal: Excellent. Now notice that you were able to walk around and even take direction while continuing to meditate. With some practice you can even carry on a conversation.

Bart closes his eyes again and returns to normal consciousness. He's surprised that it takes a little effort to do so.

Bart: That was strange, Sosu. I felt like I was walking by making my center float along the way I wanted to go.

Bart puts his hand over where a channel's vriamic node would be, where he feels his center is.

Bart: What would all that zlin like?

Cristal shrugs theatrically.

Cristal: Ask Bibi some time.

Bart: Okay. But I mean, what effect would that have on a Sime? Whether or not his nager was engaged with mine?

Cristal: He wouldn't be engaged with you after that, unless he was a channel of a higher order than you. A meditating Donor doesn't give a Sime's senses anything to fasten onto.

Bart's forehead wrinkles.

Bart: So if my channel doesn't want me to interact with him, but he still wants me there...?

Cristal: Yes. For example, if he's having a meeting in the corridors and doesn't need nageric support. You can't exactly fall asleep and keep walking at the same time, but this is the nearest thing to it.

Bart: You mean I can't just have my own emotions quietly, I have to sort of erase myself?

Bart uses the Simelan term for the nageric equivalent of "quietly".

Cristal: It depends on the sensitivity, not only of your channel but of other channels nearby.

Bart: And I tell by reading their body language, or they signal me, or my channel does?

Cristal: And also, as I said before, on the strength of your feelings on the subject.

Bart: It sounds hard, figuring out the right thing to do all the time.

Bart hopes there's a fair bit of leeway for learners.

Bart: But I guess if Sosu Gerrhonot can do it, I can learn too.

Cristal: That's part of the point of the training. It builds into you the reflexes to do the right thing -- or at least the safe thing -- without having to take time to think about it.

Bart: Yeah. I can see that a Donor would need that.

Bart thinks about all he needs to learn to be someone who can support one of these fragile, dangerous, powerful, delicate, fascinating and irresistible creatures. ~~ yearning ~~

Cristal reaches out and grips Bart on the shoulder.

Bart: I really want to do it, Cristal. I really want to be a Donor. ~~ fervent ~~

Cristal smiles broadly.

Cristal: Yes, I know all about it. You will be.

Cristal doesn't even notice that Bart left out his title.

Bart: When Bibi was late for transfer... I... I could really feel it. I wanted to do anything to help her... really anything.

Bart isn't going to say "even if I died", but hopes Cristal understands what he means.

Cristal: That would be an excellent time for you to enter meditation.

Bart: I guess. I wish I could have helped her somehow, but I couldn't control myself and support her too, so I just tried to stay out of zlinning range.

Cristal: Well, you can certainly do that in such a situation, especially if you feel your control is at risk. The Tecton talks a great deal about Simes needing to maintain control, but it's every bit as important for Gens.

Bart: I don't have any idea how to support a Sime without tempting her in a situation like that, where her control is being... challenged. I mean, a lot of support is letting the channel know that there's selyn for him if he needs it, but in this case, she really needed it, but she couldn't have it.

Cristal: I hate to be saying the same thing all the time, but ... training, training, training.

Bart: Yeah. With a channel who can tell me if I'm doing it right, and how to fix it if I'm not.

Cristal nods enthusiastically.

Cristal: That's how it's done.

Bart thinks he'll have another talk with his father about whether he can go in-T sooner.

Return to Table of Contents