Tracking the Wild Gen: Episode 5

D'zoll and Shorsh, having settled in a bit at Hannard's Ford, seek out Nattin and Bomor on the back porch.

Nattin has been reviewing with Bomor the potential for fieldwork in the Hannard's Ford area. He looks up as the Big Nagers arrive.

Bomor has been working very hard all day at impressing Nattin, and welcomes the break.

Nattin: Greetings, Naztehrhai. Have you found everything you require?

D'zoll: We have, thanks.

Shorsh: May we join you?

Nattin: Certainly.

Nattin gestures towards the swing.

D'zoll sits down on one end, and waits for Shorsh to settle his aged bones on the other.

Shorsh arranges himself ~~ comfortably ~~.

Bomor: Would you like some trin, Hajene? Sosu?

Shorsh: Yes, please.

D'zoll nods as well.

Nattin is glad that the boy has learned some manners in the past decade, anyway.

Bomor pours for both guests, and offers a plate of Miz Dilson's raisin cookies.

Nattin remembers him as an awkward child with a talent for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Shorsh takes a cookie and projects ~~ appetite ~~ to D'zoll without affecting Bomor.

Shorsh: Thank you, naztehr.

Bomor: You're most welcome.

D'zoll: (somewhat belatedly) Thanks.

Nattin: I must say, between you two and Hajene Seruffin's visits, we're feeling quite cosmopolitan these days. Before this spring, I don't believe that any First had ever set foot here.

Shorsh: And now you've got two Farrises. ~~ amused ~~

Nattin: Yes. I hope our quiet little town here can stand the excitement.

D'zoll: Well, Firsts may see a lot of the world, but that doesn't necessarily make them any less narrow-minded.

Bomor shifts his mug to a dorsal tentacle and takes a cookie with his fingers.

Bomor: Narrow-minded, Hajene?

Nattin wonders if D'zoll dislikes Seruffin, for some reason.

D'zoll: In our society, Firsts tend to live in a bubble, you might say: surrounded mostly by their "own kind" ~~ irony ~~

Nattin: Well, your stay here should be a change from that, for good or ill.

D'zoll nods again.

D'zoll: So I hope. It's hard to build up any sort of perspective when all you do is rush about solving crises. You never get to learn anything from the people you work with when you're expected to dispense received wisdom.

Shorsh sips his tea, wondering when D'zoll last rushed around and solved a crisis.

D'zoll half-bows to Shorsh.

D'zoll: Present company excepted, of course.

Shorsh smiles ironically.

Bomor raises an eyebrow thoughtfully and stares at Nattin, who has been dispensing wisdom all day.

Nattin: I doubt more than a handful of the natives have any conception at all of what a Farris channel is. In fact, they're likely to view you as less trustworthy than Hajene Bibi, simply because you're a stranger to them.

Nattin is a professor, and dispensing wisdom comes even more naturally to his breed than to Farris channels, since he's seldom called upon to solve crises.

D'zoll notes the flavor of the nageric string joining Bomor and Nattin.

D'zoll: I wouldn't be at all surprised, Professor Nattin.

Shorsh thinks about Sosu Roger's advice to provide rock-solid trusting Gens as donors for a channel engaged in breaking... er, acclimating newly purchased Wild Gens.

Nattin: Tell me, how were you received in Gumgeeville? They'd never seen a channel there before last spring, you know.

Nattin is ~~ interested ~~ in collecting data for his monograph on the introduction of channels' services to a Gen town previously unexposed to them.

Shorsh: I thought it best that I do most of the talking.

Nattin: Hajene Seruffin didn't have that option. How well did it work?

Shorsh: I managed to hire a farmer with a wagon to take us and our mobile treatment unit to the Gegg farm. D'zoll sat in back of the freight, with me to keep him from going berserk and attacking the farmer.

Nattin: I see. Who was the farmer?

Shorsh: His name was Ralf. I don't know if he'd have done it if he hadn't been drunk.

Nattin: If he's the person I'm thinking of, I understand that he's usually drunk.

Shorsh: Could be. He didn't look very healthy.

Nattin: You made it safely to the Gegg farm, though?

Shorsh: Yes. And Toria Gegg was very hospitable, although she and her daughter had to leave shortly after.

D'zoll: It was after that, while we were assembling the module in the Gegg barn, that our troubles began.

Nattin raises an eyebrow.

Nattin: The neighbors objected to your presence?

Nattin is both ~~ concerned ~~ and ~~ curious ~~

Shorsh: Mr. Gegg had been away for some days working on a relative's farm.

D'zoll: But he returned about two days before he was expected, and reacted adversely to my presence.

Bomor sets down his mug and leans forward to listen and zlin more closely.

Nattin: Oh, dear. I can see how he might be upset.

Shorsh: He was able to sense D'zoll's presence from a substantial distance.

Bomor: What did he do?

D'zoll: He locked us in and went to get his shotgun.

Nattin winces.

D'zoll: And like a typical channel ~~ self-deprecation ~~, I hid in one of the side rooms and left Shorsh to face him alone.

Shorsh makes a dismissive gesture.

Bomor: It was a shotgun, then, and not a rifle?

D'zoll: Sorry, I don't know one weapon of Sime destruction from another.

Bomor had been hoping to get another data point for his current pet theory. ~~ disappointment ~~

Nattin: That must have been pretty tense.

Shorsh: I took off my shirt and displayed my forearms, and told him I was Gen and not to shoot.

Shorsh looks, sounds and zlins ~~ casual ~~ to anyone but a Farris.

Bomor: Took off your shirt? ~~ puzzlement ~~

Shorsh: So he could see my arms and chest hair clearly.

Nattin: He didn't shoot, I assume, or you'd not be sitting here now?

Shorsh smiles.

Shorsh: No, he didn't.

D'zoll: I wondered why you'd taken your shirt off. I should have thought of that.

Nattin: With all due respect, Hajene Farris, I doubt Mr. Gegg would have found it reassuring, in your case.

D'zoll laughs.

D'zoll: No, indeed. But call me D'zoll, please.

Nattin: Certainly, D'zoll.

Bomor isn't sure whether the invitation extends also to a lowly grad student, and decides to play it safe.

Bomor: So what happened then, Hajene?

Shorsh assumes the renSime wants to hear about how it all zlinned, so leaves it to D'zoll to continue.

D'zoll: Oh, nothing much. Shorsh discussed the matter with him, then I negotiated a withdrawal from the feed room, and then I made the acquaintance of the Gegg pig, who I believe is named "Orange Flower". Finally, I explained to Mr. Gegg that he was not, as he believes, a coward.

Nattin: I don't suppose you succeeded in convincing him of that?

D'zoll: No. But I hope I planted the seeds of some new thinking.

Nattin: It does sound as if your introduction to Mr. Gegg was a bit... extreme. I assure you, under most circumstances, the people here aren't in the habit of threatening guests with guns.

D'zoll: Doubtless Mr. Gegg thought he was doing the right thing, but it would be helpful to me if I knew the right thing that he thought he was doing.

Shorsh: He thought the Sime he perceived in the barn was a berserker and it was his duty to dispose of him.

Bomor: That's why I asked what kind of gun it was. In that case, yes, it would have been a shotgun by choice.

D'zoll: I understood about the berserker. But what does the type of gun have to do with it?

Bomor: A shotgun is the Gen weapon of choice for dealing with a berserker, or with Simes in general, because it requires less precise aim than a rifle, and is therefore more useful if a berserker is coming at the Gen. It also typically has two barrels, allowing for a second shot if the first one misses.. assuming there's time, of course.

D'zoll: I see. Very interesting. ~~ sincere ~~

Shorsh nods. He noticed the two barrels, but had too much else on his mind to wonder about it at the time.

Bomor: A rifle has more precise aim and would be used for hunting game, or for military applications.

D'zoll: And yet the Gen armies in the old days were armed with rifles, were they not, even though Simes were their principal targets?

D'zoll believes in encouraging younkers, if not taken to extremes.

Bomor: As I said, the rifle is the military weapon of choice, because of its more precise aim, especially at a distance. The Gen military usually confronted Simes at greater than point blank range.

Bomor is beginning to warm to his topic.

Bomor: On the other hand, city police officers typically would carry a revolver or some other sort of handgun. It's more compact and lightweight, and can be carried for an entire work shift without getting in the way of other duties.

D'zoll: So we're unlikely to meet up with handguns in Gumgeeville, then. ~~ mildly dismissive ~~

Shorsh wonders what D'zoll, as a psychiatrist, thinks of a young renSime Householder with an enthusiasm for firearms and an intention to live out-T.

Bomor: I doubt it. Not in so small a town.

Nattin: As I understand it, in isolated towns like Gumgeeville it is the absolute responsibility of any Gen adult who discovers a changeover to... resolve the problem. Mr. Gegg could not have passed that duty onto anyone else and remained a member in good standing of the community.

Bomor is just getting started on one of his favorite subjects, and is broadcasting increasing ~~ excitement ~~ .

Bomor: Virtually every adult Gen in such a town would own and carry a shotgun.

D'zoll: In that case, how does your theory account for the fact that Mr. Gegg had gone on a journey without his?

Bomor: If he was mostly traveling through the countryside, he might have chosen a hunting rifle for the trip instead.

Nattin: Animal flesh is a staple food out here, a major source of protein.

D'zoll: But he had me locked in the barn. Surely he could have backed off to a safe distance and used the rifle if he was carrying it?

Bomor: If you were safely locked in the barn, he had time to go and get the preferred weapon for the job. And it would have given him a few minutes to calm himself before tackling the distasteful task, without seeming to stall.

Shorsh is feeling ~~ uncomfortable ~~ at Bomor's enthusiasm for shooting children in changeover, much less channels.

D'zoll: And yet that barn couldn't have held an augmenting Sime, and Mr. Gegg ought to have known that.

Bomor: Few out-T Gens know how to estimate accurately the strength of a Sime. The superstitious will vastly overestimate it; those who believe Simes are as human as they are tend to underestimate it.

D'zoll ~~ admits the force of this point. ~~

Bomor: Besides, a barn designed to contain horses and bulls probably seems more than sturdy enough to a Gen.

Shorsh's limited experience with farm animals tells him that they aren't nearly as motivated to get out as is a Sime facing attrition.

Bomor has seen a Dar Gen wrestle a bull to the ground and knows large animals are no match for a Sime, even a deskbound one like himself.

Nattin: In any case, Mr. Gegg is not one to shirk his responsibilities, especially when his family is potentially in danger.

Bomor: When seconds aren't critical, I believe there's also a certain ceremonial aspect to "going for the shotgun."

Shorsh can't figure out why Bomor is trying to one-up D'zoll on the topic of weapons.

Bomor hopes he has been impressing Nattin with his display of specialized knowledge, and his ability to hold his own in discussion with a First.

Shorsh: It would take tremendous courage for any out-T Gen to face a berserker like that, and all the more so for one who had had Mr. Gegg's experiences with juncts.

Nattin: Indeed. Although it would also have given him a stronger motivation than most to proceed, and thus protect his family from a similar fate.

D'zoll: I agree entirely. But in fact this wasn't what I came out here to discuss -- or perhaps it was, but I think I require a broader perspective on the local culture. In particular, if there are any Gen traps -- er, Sime traps -- that I'm likely to fall into in Gumgeeville, I would very much appreciate forewarning.

Nattin: Indeed? Well, I'd be happy to share my observations with you, such as they are.

Nattin is ~~ appropriately modest ~~, but ~~ confident ~~ in his knowledge.

D'zoll: Please do.

Shorsh nods. ~~ attentive ~~

Nattin: The situation in Gumgeeville is rather complicated, because the town has only been exposed to channels recently, and many of the inhabitants haven't had time to adjust yet.

D'zoll: ~~ go on ~~

Nattin: For instance, take the proprietor of the local saloon, which doubles as one of the social centers of the town. Hajene Seruffin succeeded in saving the man's granddaughter when the girl went into changeover. His daughter, the girl's mother, decided almost immediately to leave the family's religious organization and start preaching that it was everyone's religious duty to donate.

Nattin: Mister Henree might or might not be glad his granddaughter is still alive--that's unclear--but he's mortally embarrassed by his daughter's public spectacle. He also can't afford to alienate the local preacher, Reverend Kallan. On the other hand, the man also has to stay on the good side of people like Jed Mullins, who rented a room to Hajene Seruffin this spring.

Nattin: Mister Henree is an extreme case, but I expect you'll find that many of the locals aren't sure what to do about you.

D'zoll sighs.

D'zoll: A situation I'm more than familiar with at home, alas.

Bomor: ~~ inquisitiveness ~~

Shorsh: Well, at home they aren't likely to seriously threaten violence.

D'zoll thinks, "No, they confine themselves to sarcasm."

Nattin: I don't think you're in much physical danger, at least not as long as you're wearing retainers, and they have a chance to see you coming. Surprising them might not be a good idea, though. Not all of them have the self-control of Mister Gegg.

D'zoll: So you're suggesting I try to walk like a Gen?

D'zoll chuckles.

Nattin: It wouldn't hurt to appear as harmless as you can, in any case. Mister Gegg is far from the only Gen in his town who's afraid of Simes, and that's always a factor.

Shorsh: Is religious fanaticism much of a problem in Gumgeeville?

Shorsh has no direct experience of same, but knows it's a serious endemic problem in many parts of Genland.

Bomor is listening carefully, realizing that all of these cautions will apply to his own research fieldwork, too.

Nattin: The local religious leader declined to take action against Hajene Seruffin, although he criticized the Gens like the Mullins family who welcomed him. As long as you don't cause too much of a disturbance, I expect he'll leave you alone.

Nattin is perhaps being overly optimistic.

Shorsh: I'm thinking less the leader than his followers. Might they justify violence against us as demanded by their religion?

Nattin: Reverend Kallan has specifically forbidden his followers to take action against Simes who are wearing retainers. He's smart enough to understand how much legal trouble that would make. As for his followers, I'd avoid them when they might be drunk, at least until they get used to you.

D'zoll: I suppose Shorsh can expect to be called names, if nothing worse?

Nattin: Well, yes. That is, if you consider "Sime-lover" an insult.

Shorsh smiles. The mothers of his children are all channels.

Shorsh: I think I can manage the hecklers.

Bomor: And what do they call Simes?

Nattin looks at Bomor.

Nattin: Are you sure you want to know?

Bomor: (shrug) I'm going to have to get used to it.

Nattin turns back to D'zoll and Shorsh.

Nattin: Seriously, my student Layna got harassed a bit, but there were no serious threats.

Nattin doesn't stop to think that a martial arts expert might not have quite the same standards for what constitutes a threat as most people.

Shorsh: She was the one who got burned serving First Transfer? What did the town think of that?

Nattin: I think most of them preferred not to think of it at all. The rest think she was either crazy or an irresponsible idiot, and I'm not sure I disagree with them.

D'zoll: Quite so.

Nattin: The best recommendation I can make is to give people time to get used to the idea of a Sime living among them, before they have to deal with you in person.

D'zoll: Perhaps I should have Shorsh put up posters in strategic locations?

Nattin: It's not necessary. By the time you get back there, I expect everyone in town will have heard some version of your mission.

D'zoll: But perhaps not the most, shall I say, useful version?

Nattin looks thoughtful.

Nattin: It might not hurt for you to have a friendly porstan in the saloon, Sosu.

D'zoll: Porstan!?

Nattin: Yes. Apparently, Mister Henree's secret family beer recipe is for a rather good porstan. Or so I'm told; I haven't sampled it, myself.

Bomor: ~~ thirst ~~

D'zoll: Well, I will be a roasted pumpkin. That's the last thing I'd have expected.

Shorsh: I'll be sure to bring you some, should I leave your side to partake with the locals.

D'zoll: Perhaps we'll drink to success in the local brew.

Nattin: Indeed. I do hope you can help Mister Gegg.

D'zoll looks Farrisly mysterious, though he doesn't expect to fool Shorsh, of course.

D'zoll: So do I.

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