How The Other Half Lives: Episode 1

Seruffin has found an afternoon free from his duties to show Bibi around New Washington.

Bibi is enjoying being a tourist, since she missed the tour when she changed over on the school trip over fifteen years ago.

Seruffin's tour has ended at the campus of New Washington University, which is currently semi-deserted as the students celebrate the end of finals. He finds the parklike grounds soothing, when there aren't mobs of insecure young Gens migrating from building to building every hour.

Gerrhonot has been ~~ enjoying ~~ the tour, especially since Seruffin is taking time off to enjoy himself with Bibi.

Bibi would like to hold hands with Seruffin, but it's not only unprofessional, it's uncomfortable in these friggin retainers.

Seruffin even thought to bring some stale bread to feed the flock of ducks which inhabit the obligatory campus pond, an algae-filled, slightly odoriferous pool with a charmingly romantic, highly improbable bridge placed across it.

Gerrhonot leans against a tree watching the ducks and the channels. He isn't really supporting them, just letting his nager be ~~ present ~~ and ~~ ready to help ~~ if necessary.

Seruffin noticed, however, that Gerrhonot's stomach was grumbling at the sight of the bread, and so when the bread is gone, he steers Bibi towards the edge of campus, and a row of bookstores, coffee shops, pizza joints, sportswear outlets, and other student oriented businesses.

Gerrhonot's ~~ support ~~ becomes much more evident, as he stays close to the channels, ready to ~~ protect ~~ them from potentially frightened or hostile Gens.

Bibi stays close to Seruffin and Gerrhonot. She's not accustomed to being out and about in a out-T city.

Seruffin pauses outside the Moonbean Cafe, noting the odd dress of the student behind the counter.

Seruffin: This place appears to cater to iconoclasts, counterculture enthusiasts, and other nonconformists. Do you think they might be willing to serve a few Tecton employees, if we asked nicely?

Seruffin is in a ~~ whimsical ~~ mood.

Bibi: It's worth a try, and we can all do with a bite to eat.

Bibi is too polite to point out that it's Gerrhonot who's hungry, although he can be hungry enough for all three of them, if he wants to be.

Seruffin leads the way, ~~ protecting ~~ Bibi as well as he can, while zlinning for the reaction of the inhabitants. He's glad that these are relatively few: the unusually dressed individual behind the counter, and only two tables with customers.

Gerrhonot smells coffee, something he's cautious about, although not as cautious as he is about alcohol.

Gerrhonot: Um. Maybe you can sit down, and I can get the food?

Gerrhonot wants to protect these two channels as best he can.

Seruffin does not suffer from Iron Farris Syndrome, lacking the extra-large nose and nager, and so he nods agreement to this common-sense precaution.

Seruffin: I'll have some coffee: I doubt they have trin tea, here.

Seruffin raises an eyebrow at Bibi, inviting her to state her preferences.

Bibi: The same for me, Gerrhonot. Thank you.

Gerrhonot heads for the counter.

Seruffin leads Bibi towards an isolated table near one wall, which is decorated by a mural.

tPOW is practicing drum beats on the counter, filling in the rest of the percussion section with his voice.

Gerrhonot waits to be noticed. The guy at the counter doesn't seem to have reacted to having two channels stroll in.

tPOW is, as befits an aspiring rhythm man in search of a garage band, dressed in black, with multiple earrings, long hair that hasn't been washed in a week, and coffee stains on his apron.

Gerrhonot: Hello?

tPOW brings the current riff to an inspiring climax, then comes out of his creative fog long enough to notice the customer.

tPOW: Yeah? What'll it be?

Gerrhonot: Um. Two coffees and a peppermint tea.

Gerrhonot examines the pastries in the case.

Gerrhonot: And a cinnamon bun and one of those little pie things with all the fruit on top.

tPOW: Sure thing.

tPOW starts assembling the order, putting it on a tray.

Gerrhonot wonders if he should have mentioned that the other two are Simes, in case the guy doesn't want them here. He hopes they won't have to abandon these rather tasty looking goodies.

tPOW: You don't look like a student.

tPOW takes a closer look.

tPOW: In fact... are you a model, by any chance?

Gerrhonot: Um, I did model once. But it was just to help this guy out.

tPOW: Well, that's the biz. You gotta know the right people, and even then, you spend most of your time waiting tables.

Gerrhonot: Uh huh.

Gerrhonot doesn't see any point in mentioning that waiting tables is not his occupation.

tPOW: An actor, then?

Gerrhonot: Um. No. I work for the Tecton.

Gerrhonot hopes he hasn't just kissed that fruit tart goodbye.

tPOW: The Tecton. No kidding?

Gerrhonot: Yeah.

Gerrhonot brushes a hand over the Tecton logo on the left breast of his uniform.

tPOW: You work at that little clinic they opened two blocks over?

Gerrhonot: No. Mostly at the Embassy.

tPOW: Ah.

tPOW reaches for the tart.

tPOW: You really do look like the guy on the....

Gerrhonot turns to check that the channels are okay, that nobody has come in and started affecting them nagerically or anything.

tPOW points towards the mural, then gapes at Seruffin and Bibi.

tPOW: When did they come in?

Gerrhonot: Um. With me?

Bibi and Seruffin are carefully holding hands, arms on the table to prevent torque.

Gerrhonot: Um. They're both channels. No problem, right?

tPOW eyes the Simes, then the tip glass, which is almost empty due to the dearth of thirsty students on campus. He has rent to pay, and there's a really cool set of bongos at his favorite pawn shop that he has his eye on.

Gerrhonot notes the second target of the gaze.

tPOW glances at the other occupied tables: two amateur poets, probably working out how to monopolize the open mike that evening, and a nerd grad student slogging her way through a hundred exams. He figures there's not likely to be any trouble about the Simes.

tPOW: No problem. They match the decor.

tPOW nods towards the mural, then his eyes narrow.

tPOW: The one guy there really matches it. See the bit over there? He might have posed for that mural. With you.

Gerrhonot turns and studies the mural. It has a lot of strange people sitting at tables like the ones in the cafe. In the corner is a channel-Donor pair that does sort of resemble Seruffin and himself. It's hard to tell since their faces are somewhat obscured -- they're in a full transfer contact.

Gerrhonot: Yeah. They do kind of look like us, I guess. That's funny.

Gerrhonot knows that the figures are not really engaged in transfer, or any real functional, since none of the painted Sime characters are reacting to the effect on the ambient a transfer, or even a donation would cause.

tPOW: The guy who painted it was working from sketches. And a photo or two, for some of them.

Gerrhonot figures it must represent a donation, since neither of the pair look particularly emotionally involved.

Gerrhonot: Was it Professor Pigasso? I modeled a little for him once, with some renSimes.

Gerrhonot doesn't want to bring up the subject of Pollovic's donation. The artist probably got Seruffin's image from the newspaper photos.

tPOW: Pigasso? I think so, but he didn't say he was a professor. It figures, though. If he were a real artist, he couldn't afford paint.

tPOW ought to know; he's dating one. He finishes assembling the order and rings it up.

tPOW: Eight and a half, please.

tPOW adds extra forks to the tray, hoping for a big tip.

Gerrhonot pulls out his wallet and pays, putting a large tip in the jar. He figures it will make the guy less inclined to cause his channel trouble.

Gerrhonot: Could I have a knife, please?

tPOW: Oh, sure.

tPOW notices that the table knife basket is empty, and so he sacrifices the extra-sharp paring knife he keeps under the counter for cutting open packages.

tPOW: There.

Gerrhonot: Thanks.

Gerrhonot appreciates the sharp knife, since he's planning to dissect some tiny Sime-appealing portions from the goodies. Simes will eat two eighths more readily than one quarter. He heads back to the channels with the tray.

Seruffin hasn't noticed Gerrhonot's extended conversation with the aspiring drummer, as he has been far too busy having a very satisfying conversation with Bibi about not much of anything.

Bibi has almost forgotten the misery of wearing retainers in the pleasure of Seruffin's company.

Gerrhonot sets the tray on the table and serves the Simes their coffee. He sits, with the tea and goodies in front of him.

Seruffin: Ah, Gerrhonot. Thank you.

Gerrhonot smiles and nods.

Bibi: I haven't had coffee in some time. It smells wonderful.

Seruffin takes a cautious sip of the coffee, which is pretty good, as one might expect from a place where many customers drink the stuff by the gallon.

Seruffin: It is good. The Gen Senate ought to get their coffee catered from someplace like this; the stuff they serve is horrible.

Gerrhonot divides the tart in half, then cuts one half in half again, and one quarter into two pieces, which he puts on a plate between the channels.

Bibi sips the coffee.

Bibi: It is good. Thanks for bringing me here. ~~ charmed ~~

Gerrhonot eats one quarter of the tart, then cuts the cinnamon bun in half, makes four slices of one quarter, and puts them on the plate between the channels. ~~ delicious ~~

Seruffin: I like places like this. It's comforting to be among young people whose definition of a disaster is doing poorly on an exam.

Bibi strokes the back of Seruffin's hand with her fingertips.

Bibi: Yes. I hadn't thought of that.

Bibi looks around.

Seruffin wishes he had a tentacle free to return the favor, but the retainers make that impossible, alas.

Bibi: There doesn't seem to be much of a crowd here today, fortunately.

Seruffin: I believe the university is between sessions at the moment.

Bibi nods and has another sip of coffee. ~~ pleased ~~

Seruffin absently reaches for a bit of bun, to see how the cinnamon goes with the coffee.

Gerrhonot adds a little ~~ enjoyment of delicious food ~~ to encourage the channels.

Bibi finds herself attracted to a sliver of fruit tart. She picks it up and nibbles.

Bibi: This is quite good. Thank you, Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot: You're welcome. ~~ happy ~~

Bibi smiles at Gerrhonot and at Seruffin, also ~~ happy ~~. She strokes Seruffin's hand again, and remembers the previous night. And this morning. ~~ sexual desire ~~ pleasant memory ~~

Seruffin echoes Bibi's emotions, carefully muting them to ensure that his First Order nager doesn't overwhelm her.

Bibi sighs with ~~ pleasure ~~ and gazes at Seruffin ~~ affectionately ~~.

Gerrhonot hopes Seruffin won't notice the picture, so it won't bring back bad memories of that awful media event with Senator Pollovic. Seruffin seldom takes time to enjoy himself, and Gerrhonot doesn't want it to be spoiled.

Fennik is tired of reading essays from his graduate courses, and wants to evade his teaching assistants' annoying questions about how to mark the undergrad exams. He goes for a walk, away from campus, but hasn't gone far when he decides he needs some caffeine and a few calories to cheer him up. He finds exams to be one of the least enjoyable parts of the professor's life.

Fennik notices a student coffeehouse. He usually avoids such places, but it seems to be almost empty, so he should be safe from students there. He goes in.

Gerrhonot hears the door open, sees that it's just one person, and watches his channel in case his help is needed.

Seruffin blinks at the unexpected zlin of a familiar nager.

Seruffin: It's Professor Fennik!

Gerrhonot turns to look again. ~~ surprised ~~

Bibi also turns. Fridda's father? What a coincidence!

Fennik spots Seruffin and Gerrhonot, with a Sime woman. He approaches the table.

Fennik: Good afternoon.

Seruffin: Professor Fennik, it's good to see you again.

Fennik: Indeed. It's been a while. ~~ friendly ~~ curious ~~

Seruffin: You know Gerrhonot, of course, and this is Hajene Bibi. Bibi, this is Professor Fennik, Fridda's father.

Bibi: Pleased to meet you, Professor.

Bibi offers a charming, dimpled smile, but not her hand.

Bibi: Would you care to join us?

Fennik is ~~ charmed ~~ by the dimples. This channel is a remarkably attractive woman. He doesn't notice that the idea of finding a Sime woman attractive would have been unimaginable to him only a few months ago.

Fennik: Yes, if you wouldn't mind.

Seruffin: Not at all.

Fennik figures that if anyone notices him with the Simes, it will just add to his urbane, cosmopolitan image.

Seruffin really doesn't mind, as this provides a perfect excuse to move his chair closer to Bibi's.

Fennik: Just let me order, then.

Seruffin: Of course.

Seruffin waits until Fennik is at the counter, and bends closer to Bibi's delicately shaped ear.

Seruffin: He's grown a great deal more confident around Simes, since he went in-Territory to visit his daughter.

Fennik goes to the counter, orders a large coffee with cream and a slice of spinach quiche, regretfully passing up the pastrami, so as not to spoil the Simes' appetites.

Bibi: He does zlin genuinely pleased to see you.

Bibi doesn't mention Fennik's masculine reaction to herself.

Gerrhonot: He's tried real hard to learn nageric control.

Seruffin: He's done remarkably well, too, given that most of the time, he doesn't have Simes to practice on. He's kept donating after his return, too.

Gerrhonot figures Fennik's best is none too good, so he projects his ~~ willingness to protect ~~ them when necessary.

Bibi: Fridda is a very fortunate young woman, despite her traumatic changeover.

Seruffin: Any child from Gen Territory who survives changeover is fortunate, despite all the Tecton has done.

Bibi: Indeed. ~~ sadness ~~

Fennik returns with his tray. He doesn't usually patronize places where he has to deliver the food himself.

Fennik: I'm very pleased to meet you, Hajene Bibi. Fridda told me about how you helped her after her changeover.

Seruffin: How is young Fridda doing?

Fennik: Oh, very well. She completed the university preparation program in time to start classes in the fall term. She says she's doing well with the work, despite the new language. I suppose it's the First Year effect. She's enjoying it very much. ~~ pride ~~

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I don't think anything much could slow that young woman down.

Fennik: ~~ even more pride ~~

Bibi: She's very intelligent, and determined too.

Fennik: When I think... how it could have gone... ~~ sorrow ~~ gratitude ~~ determination ~~ I'm very glad it didn't.

Seruffin: We all are.

Bibi tentatively reaches to pat Fennik's hand. ~~ compassion ~~

Seruffin reaches in ~~ support ~~, just in case Fennik doesn't respond well to being touched by a strange Sime.

Fennik reacts to Bibi's touch as if she were a respectable woman of the other larity.

Seruffin notes the change in Fennik's attitude with ~~ interest ~~.

Fennik: The channel who served her in First Transfer, Hajene Marvin, how has he been?

Seruffin: He has managed to escape the worst potential consequences to his career, I'm glad to say.

Seruffin made sure of it himself.

Bibi: He's well. He rescued a pair of identical twins not long ago, and they turned out to be Third Order channels. He zlinned that one of them was in changeover on the train. This time he was able to arrange more acceptable First Transfers for them.

Seruffin chuckles.

Fennik: He saved two more children? And they're channels? How marvelous! ~~ surprise and pleasure ~~

Seruffin: Trust Marvin to find a way to pull success out of impending disaster.

Fennik: I'm very glad he was there for Fridda. ~~ gratitude ~~

Seruffin: If he keeps on like this, the Diplomatic service may decide to take him off the Selyn Transport Service, and put him to work finding ways around your esteemed brother-in-law.

Fennik: Has Ruthven been causing you difficulties again?

Fennik laughs.

Fennik: I suppose I don't have to ask that.

Seruffin spreads his hands -- carefully, due to the retainers -- to concede the point.

Fennik pauses and smiles.

Fennik: Do you know, he was present when you accepted Senator Pollovic's donation, and was rather curious about the process afterwards.

Gerrhonot increases his ~~ support ~~ of Seruffin at the mention of that event, adding ~~ confidence ~~ and ~~ comfort ~~.

Seruffin: He was? I didn't notice him; it was quite a crowd. I hadn't thought he had any interest in donating; he's certainly never brought the subject up with me, and he's had opportunities.

Fennik laughs again.

Fennik: Well, of course, he can't donate, it would ruin his political stance, but I think witnessing a donation and imagining someone he knows, me, engaged in one, evoked a, shall we say, prurient interest in the process. ~~ amusement ~~

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: It was a bit different than he'd imagined?

Fennik: I explained that the lip contact was about as intimate as dentistry, but I don't think I convinced him.

Fennik is, himself, convinced that that's the case, although his nager doesn't show a complete conviction of that sort during a donation. Still, he doesn't give the channel much trouble.

Seruffin: Well, he's in good company, I suppose. A good portion of the New Washington press corps seems to have the same misconception, and they had a much closer view.

Seruffin refrains from explaining that the lip contact of a real, primary-system transfer is far more intimate than dentistry, although completely asexual.

Fennik: It must have been very difficult for you, though, working in a crowd like that. With all those untrained high field nagers.

Bibi and Gerrhonot both offer ~~ sympathy ~~ to Seruffin at this thought.

Seruffin: It was. Fortunately, Gerrhonot was up to the task of shielding me from the worst of it.

Fennik: I'm sure you were, Sosu.

Gerrhonot nods politely, ~~ mildly embarrassed ~~ at the public praise.

Fennik doesn't mention his discussion of personal transfer with Tsibola, since he figures it's a private matter, not something to discuss his speculations on with people who engage in it.

Seruffin: Perhaps some day, your brother-in-law will be in a position to indulge his curiosity.

Fennik: It's hard to imagine what kind of position that might be. Ruthven can be a very stubborn man, as I'm sure you've discovered. ~~ humor ~~

Seruffin: To my misfortune, I have.

Seruffin's own ~~ humor ~~ -- and respect for a worthy opponent -- are obvious.

Fennik finishes the rather boring quiche, and ~~ savors ~~ the coffee.

tPOW comes over with a refill for the coffee.

tPOW: Coffee?

Bibi is inspired by Fennik's enjoyment to nod.

Bibi: Yes, thank you. ~~ unfailingly civil ~~

tPOW fills the cups all around, then focuses on Fennik.

Bibi is ~~ enjoying ~~ the ~~ buzz ~~ someone who seldom drinks coffee gets from even one cup.

tPOW: Professor Fennik, I was wondering, about that paper? I'm not quite sure I can manage to get it done by the end of the week, since there's a new open mike at the Paragon on Wednesdays, so could I get it to you next week, instead?

Fennik: I'm sorry, young man, but I had my teaching assistants make it plain from the beginning of the course that no late papers would be accepted, without a serious reason.

Fennik ~~ detests ~~ being whined at by students outside of class. It's one reason he normally avoid places like this.

tPOW: But it's my career! I'll never get into a band if I don't get exposure.

Fennik makes a dismissive gesture.

Fennik: You'll never succeed in anything if you don't learn to manage your time effectively.

Fennik pointedly turns away from tPOW and sips his coffee.

tPOW pouts -- no mercy, and a lousy tipper, too -- and slumps back to his place behind the counter.

Fennik belatedly realizes that his detestation must have been unpleasantly clear to the channels.

Fennik: My apologies, for my uncontrolled nager.

Fennik has been feeling so natural in the company of the two channels that he's forgotten to maintain control.

Seruffin: One of the hazards of teaching an introductory course?

Fennik sighs.

Fennik: Yes, and unfortunately not just introductory courses. But give them an inch and they'll take a furlong, as the Ancients said. They have to learn responsibility and self-discipline somehow.

Seruffin: I suppose as long as students have to take courses outside their areas of interest, they will find excuses to neglect that coursework.

Seruffin takes a calming sip of his coffee.

Fennik: And not just outside their majors. Some of them don't seem to realize that university is for responsible adults, not irresponsible children.

Gerrhonot finds Fennik's large vocabulary and complex syntax somewhat hard to follow. He automatically maintains ~~ support ~~ for the channels, and examines the mural. Is that supposed to be Klyd Farris there, with the military guy with all the medals and stuff?

Seruffin: I admit, I find it a comforting thought, that there are university-age students whose lives have been easy enough that they haven't had to learn life's more unpleasant lessons. There are so many children who have to grow up far too early.

Fennik recalls Seruffin's personal history, and feels ~~ sympathy ~~ for him.

Fennik: Well, I suppose I come from the same privileged background, but I don't recall whining to my professors quite so self-indulgently.

Fennik smiles.

Fennik: Of course, my memory isn't perfect. ~~ humor ~~

Seruffin: You strike me as a born academic. Perhaps you complained about mandatory sports? Or was it arbitrary rules for dormitory life?

Fennik: I never cared for team sports, hated football, but I didn't mind racquets. As for the dorms, well, we managed to get around the rules we found too irksome.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: For me, it was keeping my butterfly collection under the bed. At least for a while; the mice got it eventually.

Fennik: You were interested in natural history then?

Seruffin: Mostly, I was used to a less urban life. Butterflies were available, while marbles were hard to come by.

Fennik: I see.

Seruffin: I still remember some of the names, but I haven't done any collecting for decades.

Bibi imagines Seruffin as an impoverished young junct-thinking high order channel, practically imprisoned in a Tecton training camp, with a butterfly collection under his bed. ~~ compassion ~~ She covers Seruffin's hand with hers. ~~ affection ~~

Fennik observes this and realizes the two channels are more than just colleagues. ~~ surprise ~~ embarrassment ~~

Seruffin never thought of his relationship with Bibi as something that was secret; such secrets aren't secret, around Simes. He smiles at Bibi.

Fennik realizes that his reaction is obvious and clumsily tries to control or suppress it. He has a flash of ~~ prurience ~~, wondering how sex is different for Simes than for Gens. He does find Bibi quite attractive, himself. ~~ worse embarrassment, somewhat better controlled ~~

Fennik: I apologize...

Fennik blushes.

Seruffin: Not at all. Your control has improved tremendously.

Bibi smiles consolingly at Fennik.

Bibi: We're not offended.

Fennik: Thank you... I realize my control is nothing like it ought to be.

Seruffin tactfully changes the subject.

Seruffin: How long a break do you have, before the next round of classes?

Fennik: A month, but the faculty ends up spending much of the first week completing the grading. Speaking of which, I should get back to it.

Seruffin: Of course. I'm glad we had this chance to converse.

Fennik: So did I. A pleasure to have met you, Hajene Bibi.

Bibi: And I, you. I'm delighted to have met Fridda's father.

Bibi offers her fingertips to brush.

Fennik tries to brush them in the style of someone who does this every day.

Seruffin offers Fennik a second chance to practice the in-Territory gesture.

Fennik does so.

Gerrhonot politely offers his own fingers and brushes Fennik's.

Fennik: Farewell. Perhaps we can get together again, some time, on purpose?

Seruffin: I would be glad to.

Fennik: And you too, Hajene Bibi, if you're still in town?

Bibi: Why yes, Professor Fennik.

Fennik nods and departs.

Gerrhonot is ~~ amused ~~ at Fennik's reaction.

Seruffin shares the ~~ amusement ~~, but it's mixed with ~~ sympathy ~~

Bibi: Don't worry, Seruffin. As I told you, I much prefer channels. ~~ affectionate teasing ~~

Seruffin: Have pity on the poor man, Gerrhonot. It would be inexcusably rude for him to publicly "notice" an affair between unmarried individuals in his own culture, and he's learned just enough to realize that he might as well have commented verbally.

Gerrhonot: I think you're going to have to get used to people being jealous of you and Bibi. Other men, I mean. ~~ happiness ~~ teasing ~~

Bibi blushes.

Seruffin gives a ~~ somewhat smug ~~ smile.

Seruffin: I expect I can learn to live with that. Somehow. With lots of practice.

Bibi: I suppose I should be more discreet. I've compromised your reputation.

Seruffin allows just a touch of ~~ desire ~~ to mix with the smugness, and a good dollop of ~~ good humor ~~.

Bibi takes Seruffin's other hand.

Bibi: Although right now I'd prefer to "make a lip contact".

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I always try to oblige a lady. Gerrhonot, if you could help me collect the dishes, we can return to the Sime Center.

Gerrhonot: You stay here and look after Bibi. I don't want you hurting your tentacles in those retainers.

Seruffin gives in with the grace of a channel who's been happily Genpecked for quite some time.

Gerrhonot gathers the dishes and leaves the two channels to fend for themselves. ~~ affection ~~ happiness ~~

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