Stalking the Wild Gen: Episode 1

Tedia plonks down on a green hummock and stares at her aptitude test results. The list of possible types of jobs they say she's fit for is very short -- only a few items.

Keddrin limps out to join his friend, zlinnably ~~ depressed ~~ over his own recommendations.

Tedia zlins Keddrin coming and notices the shared ~~ misery ~~.

Tedia: What did they give you?

Tedia wants to see if everybody got as bad as she got. ~~ curious ~~

Trisha studies the list in her hands. It's much longer than she'd thought it would be. What had seemed like a limited, but safe future now swirls with possibilities. Now she's ~~ confused ~~ . She zlins her classmates gathering on the lawn and walks over to join them.

Tedia zlins Trisha's confusion as it swirls all around them.

Prill joins the group, zlinning faintly of ~~ contempt ~~.

Keddrin: They suggested I try for a position as a tailor's assistant.

Tedia snorts. That would be better than road maintenance.

Prill: Does everybody have "agricultural laborer" and "janitorial work" on their list?

Tedia: Yes!

Prill: I thought as much.

Keddrin: No. I guess they figured that with this leg, I'd never get hired for that.

Trisha: Yeah... and nineteen other things.

Trisha counts again.

Trisha: How do I pick one?

Keddrin: I don't know how I'm going to pay my taxes. How likely is it that any tailor is going to hire someone outside the family as an apprentice?

Tedia: Nineteen? I only got three other things and all of them involve moving heavy objects from one place to another place.

Trisha: Yeah. Seamstress, potter, jeweler,... hey, these are all things involving fine hand work.

Trisha glances at her wrists.

Trisha: Er, tentacle work.

Keddrin: Prill, what did they recommend for you?

Prill: It doesn't matter. I'm going to do what I want.

Keddrin: And what's that? Goof off until you die of attrition?

Prill: No, I'm going to go to Konawa where there are lots of rich people and get a job like my mother did in Cago. Cook for rich people.

Keddrin: You're gonna have a hard time finding a position: people here think Gens are the best cooks, and people from our backgrounds are dubious former carnivores.

Prill: Once they taste some of my mom's recipes they won't care that I'm Sime.

Prill is going to have to figure out new forms of some of the specialties involving certain foods. Jostaberry shortcake, maybe?

Keddrin thinks Prill will be lucky if she ends up with her own lunch cart, five years from now.

Prill: I used to help her a lot, so I know how to cook and bake stuff for rich people, all fancy looking and with lots of expensive ingredients.

Tedia: Prill, I wish you well.

Prill: My mom always said that a cook never starves.

Trisha: I was going to just do what you want to, and be like my mom. But now I don't know. Some of these look a lot better than "farm wife."

Prill: It doesn't look to me like they have farm wives here. Both men and women are farmers.

Keddrin: I expect the work's the same, either way.

Keddrin reflects that most of it requires an able body, which he alas doesn't have.

Prill: Yeah, but you get paid the same whether you're a man or a woman.

Prill isn't too concerned that you don't get paid the same whether you're a Sime or a Gen, now that she's on the winning side.

Trisha: At least farms are something I understand. I don't know anything about apprenticing to a trade. Keddrin, you got "tailor" and I got "seamstress"... maybe we could apprentice together?

Keddrin: It's those darned selyn taxes that worry me. They're going to eat up almost all our salaries, no matter what we do. How can we ever expect to get ahead?

Prill: Marry a rich Gen?

Keddrin: Now, that would do it. Money and selyn in one neat package.

Trisha: It's the same anywhere. You think I would have gotten rich on Dad's farm?

Keddrin: Maybe not, but you'd have been independent. No matter what happens, we'll never be that.

Trisha: Most Gens live a few meals away from starvation. Most Simes are one transfer away from attrition. What's the difference?

Keddrin: Starvation is slower? ~~ ironic ~~

Prill: They won't refuse you transfer. You just get into debt. And they wouldn't let a Gen starve, either. The selyn is too valuable.

Keddrin: It's just... not dignified.

Prill: Better than being dead. Or junct and then dead.

Tedia: Dignified says he. Well, let's see, I can be a road maintenance worker, or apprentice to a bricklayer, or I can haul freight for some company called SimeQuick. Nothing dignified about any of that stuff.

Keddrin: At least if I'd turned Gen, I wouldn't be a cripple.

Keddrin's knee was shattered by a shotgun blast when he was in changeover.

Trisha: Any honest work is dignified.

Prill: Yeah, like my mom said, it's all in your own head.

Tedia: No it's all on my back!

Prill: Look, Tedia, you can travel around with some of those jobs, keep your eyes open until you find something better.

Trisha reaches out to twine tentacles around Keddrin's wrist.

Trisha: You're alive, Keddrin. You have a future.

Keddrin: But not a family. And as a foreigner and a cripple, chances are I'll never be able to marry.

Trisha doesn't want to face the confusing larger world that's opening in front of her, all alone.

Trisha: I'd marry you, Keddrin. We could work together, and if things work out between us, we could get married. I like you a lot. ~~ shyness ~~

Keddrin is ~~ astonished ~~ at this offer.

Keddrin: Do you really mean that? I don't have any real prospects, you know. A girl like you could probably do better.

Trisha: You're a sweet guy. If you're a tailor, and I'm a seamstress, we could save up, open our own shop... And have kids with your eyes and my hair!

Trisha knows her natural curls are her best feature.

Prill is impressed at how little Trisha seems to mean those "ifs".

Keddrin thinks he hears bells ringing.

Keddrin: Well, if you want, we could at least try to find positions together.

Keddrin thinks it sounds a lot better than going it alone.

Trisha: Or it doesn't have to be sewing. Anything else on your list that matches something on mine?

Prill wonders if this is that fourth month thing they've been warned about, and resolves again not to let herself get carried away by it when it hits her.

Keddrin: Well... clerk's assistant, although there's a warning that I'd better improve my Simelan a lot before I apply for such a position.

Trisha: Hmmm... nothing like that on mine... except I could be a janitor in the same building. Janitor's only a little bit better than slopping hogs.

Keddrin: Well, I'll try for the tailor first, then, and leave the clerk possibility for now.

Tedia: Oh, what to pick, keep my tentacles nice and clean pushin' papers or sewin' pretties for the rich Donors.

Tedia rolls her eyes.

Trisha: Anything else on your list?

Keddrin: Not really. I mean, who's gonna hire me as a musician, the way I sing?

Trisha: Hey, I got musician too! I just wasn't taking it seriously because I've never played. I've only sung. You could play and I could sing. I could learn to play too.

Trisha pauses in ~~ confusion ~~ . Her options are multiplying again, just when she thought she had them narrowed down.

Keddrin knows, objectively zlinning, that his childhood attempts to make drums and cymbals from his mother's pots and pans hardly qualify him as a musician, but he's zlinning Trisha's sense of possibilities closely, and that's addictive to a young man.

Keddrin: We'll come up with something.

Trisha: Anyway, whatever we do, let's do it together.

Keddrin tentatively reaches out for Trisha's hand, not quite sure what to do with his tentacles.

Trisha twines her tentacles with Keddrin's, thinking briefly of Fridda's awkward tentacles, and how they taught her to see beyond crippling injuries to the whole person.

Trisha: We will.

Tedia listens with ~~ disgust ~~. These two have so much to choose from.

Sazerac joins the group holding his papers. ~~ astonishment ~~

Prill: Hi, Saz. What's on your list?

Sazerac: "Fire watcher, rural." Can you believe it? No other choices. Go and spend my life at the top of a fleckin tower in the middle of a cold-ripped-dependency forest. ~~ anger ~~

Prill listens with ~~ interest ~~ to a new, and incomprehensible, bit of Simelan profanity.

Sazerac: Look out every hour or two to see if I see smoke. If so, get on the telegraph key. What kind of a life is that? ~~ outrage ~~

Prill: Well, you don't have to do it. Fall harvest is coming up. You could get a job digging potatoes or something.

Sazerac: Not what it says here. This isn't just a recommendation, it's a Controller's order.

Sazerac waves the paper about, showing the fancy printed background and sealing wax.

Trisha: What?! Why?

Keddrin: A Controller's order? Why? Fire watch isn't a selyn distribution thing.

Trisha starts thinking.

Prill wonders if they think Sazerac is "unstable" and want to keep him isolated from tempting Gens.

Trisha: They want to keep you away from... everyone but channels?

Sazerac: It says here, well, it's a lot of shenning gobbledygook, but it amounts to "We don't think you're fit for civilized Sime society, but we can't send you home, and you haven't done anything wrong to go to prison, but..."

Sazerac: Here, one of you read it.

Sazerac holds out the paper to each person in turn.

Sazerac: I mean, what's the matter with me? Do I smell? ~~ sarcasm ~~ Or am I too nagerically loud, and no one will tell me? I suppose there must be some way to appeal this ... this outrage.

Keddrin: Did your counselor hint to you about why the Controller would be concerned?

Sazerac: He was, ummm, evasive. I was sort of hoping that one of you ...

Sazerac trails off. ~~ embarrassment ~~

Sazerac: Can't someone give me a clue? ~~ hopeful sad ~~

Prill: Well, if they didn't think you were safe around Gens, they'd have told you, I'm sure. Like, warned you to stay away from them and stuff.

Keddrin: Yeah. They didn't, did they?

Sazerac: Umm, no. Not in so many words, anyhow. Just vague warnings about "being careful". ~~ flash of annoyance ~~ How can anybody be careful if they don't know what they're supposed to be careful about? ~~ back to his previous state ~~

Keddrin: Well, if you can't figure it out, try asking them? If they're worried enough about you to do something like that, they ought to be willing to explain it, right?

Trisha frowns, considering.

Trisha: There are lots of jobs that would keep you away from Gens. This seems to be about keeping you away from everyone. But I've never noticed anything... ~~ puzzlement ~~ Keddrin's right. Go ask.

Keddrin: Maybe there was something... odd... about your First Transfer?

Sazerac: Nothing I can think of. You're right, I need to ask. And if that doesn't get results, I'll appeal.

Sazerac figures there must be some kind of appeal process even from a Controller's order.

Sazerac: Anyhow, what did the rest of you get? Anything interesting? ~~ forced cheer ~~

Trisha shrugs. It seems like a bad time to talk about how many options she's got, or about her plans to be with Keddrin.

Fridda sees a number of people from her group sitting on the grass and talking. Most of them have their "recommendation" forms with them.

Fridda has been trying to downplay her unusual background since she got to the camp in order not to inspire envy in the other new Simes, most of whom have no money, no prospects and no familial support.

Sazerac: Hi there, Fridda. Come sit with us!

Fridda: Uh, okay.

Fridda joins the group and sits on the grass.

Trisha smiles ~~ warmly ~~ at her friend.

Fridda smiles back.

Keddrin: So what did they recommend for you, Fridda?

Sazerac: Yeah, what's the word on employment?

Keddrin suspects that with her tentacles, she got some different choices than Trisha.

Fridda: Uh... I'm going to go to school in Capital.

Keddrin: To school?

Sazerac: Law school, is it?

Fridda: No, probably not law school.

Sazerac has always suspected that Fridda's going to be something inter-territorial.

Fridda: My Simelan would have to be a lot better first.

Trisha begins imagining a little tailor shop in Capital, where she and Keddrin can be close to their friend.

Sazerac: There is that.

Keddrin: So what are you going to study?

Fridda: Well, first I have to do this program to get me up to the level of people who grew up here. Then probably economics and business management.

Fridda is rather ~~ bashful ~~ about her opportunities, compared to all her fellow camp inmates.

Trisha: ~~ teasing ~~ You're going to get rich and employ us all!

Fridda blushes.

Keddrin: Really... how will you support yourself, while you're studying?

Fridda: Uh, my dad... uh, after I changed over... uh, well I have some money from the family, and he made sure I got it even though I'm Sime. And then after a while, he started donating and assigning his selyn credits to me...

Fridda is ~~ embarrassed ~~ at her good fortune.

Keddrin: You've got a Gen giving you selyn? ~~ envy ~~

Fridda: Yeah. He never would have donated before. I mean, the way I was raised... it's not the sort of thing we'd do.

Trisha senses her friend's discomfort, and tries to put a different spin on it.

Sazerac: Donation's only for the poor, eh?

Fridda: Yeah. And people like college students, who will do anything to outrage everybody else.

Fridda smiles tentatively.

Fridda: I was planning to try it myself.

Trisha: Hey, you're lucky there's at least something you can do. You wouldn't be able to manage any of the stuff on my list, or Tedia's.

Sazerac tries to think of something to do to outrage everybody else, but fails.

Fridda: What did they recommend for you?

Trisha: Seamstress, woodcarver, potter... all kinds of dexterity stuff.

Fridda: I see what you mean. Nothing like that on my list.

Sazerac: I got told to go off to the forest and watch for fires. I'm going to request an explanation.

Sazerac hands his document to Fridda.

Sazerac: I mean, this can't be right.

Fridda scans the document without taking it from Sazerac.

Fridda: It does seem rather strange. You certainly deserve an explanation.

Sazerac chuckles hollowly.

Sazerac: I just hope it isn't going to be one of those explanations you would really rather you hadn't asked for.

Keddrin: There is that.

Sazerac: I mean, do I really want to be told just why and how I'm a potential junct?

Trisha: Maybe they'll take another look and say, "Oh, sorry, that was supposed to be for Secazar."

Keddrin hopes so, at any rate. Fire watch doesn't sound even as interesting as tailoring.

Sazerac: Who's Secazar? ~~ puzzled ~~

Trisha: My point exactly. Some guy at another camp.

Sazerac: Oh, I see. Maybe they just think I'm one of the few Simes who could do the job without cracking up. I mean, someone has to do it. But you'd think they'd look for someone who might actually want it, someone who's basically rather asocial.

Keddrin: Yeah. Still, I think it'd be a good job for a Gen. Right?

Sazerac: Why a Gen?

Keddrin: A Gen wouldn't be worried about getting to the nearest Sime Center in time.

Sazerac: There is that, as you say.

Keddrin hears bells ringing again, but this time they're real bells, indicating that free time is over, and it's time to get back to afternoon classes.

Sazerac: Oops. I'd better run by the administration building and make an appointment with, umm, whoever.

Trisha: Simelan class. I hate Simelan class.

Sazerac: Me too, but what the hey, missing yet another review of the passive voice won't hurt me -- and this thing will, if it stays on my record.

Fridda got so far ahead of the rest of the class she's been doing "independent study", i.e. reading and writing at a university level.

Keddrin: Well, if we have to go out there and make a living, we've got to speak the language, right?

Keddrin starts towards the classroom building. He doesn't let go of Trisha's tentacles, bringing her with him.

Trisha: Yeah, but.... hey, it's not for much longer anyway, right?

Sazerac: That's the spirit, Trisha! ~~ optimism ~~

Sazerac heads off for the administration building.

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