Nattin heaves a sigh of ~~ relief ~~ as the Sime Center buggy finally turns the last corner, and he spots the Sime Center ahead.
Nattin: Home sweet home, at last.
Nattin is not as young as he used to be, which makes long buggy trips exhausting.
Bibi hears the buggy and zlins Nattin and Driver. She goes out to greet them.
Bibi: Welcome home!
Nattin: Thank you, Bibi.
Bibi zlins Driver's discomfort at prolonged wearing of retainers and Nattin's general discomfort.
Bibi: Driver, Ghan's out at the stable, let her take care of the horse. Get the retainers off and come in and warm up.
Driver: Thanks, Hajene Bibi. I think I require more extensive rest than that, though. I'll deal with horse and retainers and take a short sleep.
Bibi nods ~~ agreement ~~ then reaches up to help Nattin get down.
Nattin isn't too proud to accept the assistance; in-Territory Gens, even the male ones, are much more practical about such things than their out-Territory counterparts.
Nattin: It was a very long trip, but a successful one, I think.
Bibi: Oh, good. Let's go in so you can warm up and have something hot to drink.
Bibi leads the way, not too fast, while Nattin eases the kinks out of his joints.
Nattin: That sounds marvelous.
Nattin is limping, but less and less severely as he approaches the porch.
Bibi: Trin with honey and a bit of rum? And some of Gitl's goodies?
Nattin: That sounds like paradise, to me.
Bibi opens the door.
Bibi: You go ahead and get settled by the fire.
Bibi heads into the kitchen to fulfill her promise.
Nattin: Ah, warmth.
Nattin takes off his coat, and settles down in a comfortable armchair, holding his hands out to the flames. He can feel himself gradually ~~ thawing ~~ as the heat soaks into his bones.
Bibi returns with a tray. She sets it down within reach and hands a mug to Nattin, taking the rum-free one for herself.
Nattin wraps his fingers around the mug ~~ gratefully ~~.
Nattin: I've been daydreaming about this for the past three hours.
Bibi zlins Nattin surreptitiously for damage due to exposure or overexertion.
Nattin is tired, stiff, and some of his joints ache, but there is no permanent damage that hot food and rest won't cure.
Bibi: I hope you didn't get too badly chilled. This cold snap is a bit unexpected this early.
Nattin: I'll live. And apart from the hours in the buggy, it was a most interesting trip.
Nattin's ~~ academic enthusiasm ~~ is among the first parts of him to thaw.
Bibi hands Nattin a raisin tea biscuit.
Bibi: Tell me about it.
Nattin takes a bit of the biscuit and chews, considering how best to phrase his report.
Bibi sips her tea. She's very curious, but knows that Nattin is best not rushed.
Nattin: They're an interesting community: isolated, of course, but a much more coherent community than, say, Gumgeeville. In many ways, they remind me of a Householding, albeit a Householding organized for a purpose unrelated to selyn distribution.
Nattin: Their committee of elders do seem to serve much the same purpose as a Sectuib, in guiding the community towards its goals, although they have a sacred book instead of a Virtue to unite them. I found them easier to deal with than many out-Territory Gens, although a non-Householder might not feel the same way.
Nattin spreads his hands in acknowledgment of Householding peculiarities.
Bibi: Did you speak with this committee?
Nattin: Yes, and with its leader, Elder Maycom. We were able to work out a proposal, although you may have to bring in Hajene Seruffin to get the Tecton to go along with it.
Bibi is ~~ concerned ~~. She really doesn't like using her relationship with Seruffin, even though Seruffin is usually more than willing to do things on her behalf.
Bibi: What sort of proposal?
Nattin: The basics are this: If the Tecton will send a channel out once a month, to zlin their children for signs of establishment or changeover, the adult Submissionists will provide sufficient donations to make the trip economical for the Tecton.
Bibi is ~~ startled ~~, then ~~ doubtful ~~.
Bibi: I wonder. Barrysboy Fox was very easy to take a donation from, but how many of the others would really be willing, and able?
Nattin: I couldn't zlin them, of course, but Driver didn't appear too uncomfortable. Overall, they seemed just as much curious as frightened. I'm sure there will be exceptions, but I believe there is a decent chance that sufficient willing donors can be found. I would certainly recommend that a specialist be sent, the first time, however.
Bibi: Remember, Fox came here twice -- the first time, he went away because he didn't like the way Darrel zli... He didn't feel comfortable with Darrel.
Nattin: I know.
Bibi is feeling rather negative today. It's that time of month.
Bibi: I can see why you want to invoke Seruffin. Getting Controller Ravven to send someone out -- perhaps a week-long excursion -- every month wouldn't be easy, and if it requires a specialist....
Bibi is tempted to volunteer to do the runs herself, if Ravven will send someone to take her place in Hannard's Ford, but she doesn't like to be away from her community, and the prospect of all that retainer-wearing is very unappealing.
Nattin: All other things being equal, and completely disregarding the Tecton schedules, I think the ideal choice would be a Householder with some out-Territory experience. At least the first few times, until they are comfortable with the routine.
Bibi: A Householder is a good idea. He'd have to be at least a Second, to haul the selyn. I assume they'd prefer a man? Or would it matter to them, do you think?
Nattin: A man would probably be less controversial, although a woman who met the other conditions would be better than someone like Hajene Darrel who lacks the necessary cultural flexibility.
Bibi: Perhaps a woman would seem more harmless, and they wouldn't feel as uncomfortable to have her interact with their women. Perhaps a female channel with a male Donor.
Bibi suspects that they'd consider the Donor to be in charge then, which might make them even more comfortable about the strangers.
Nattin: A mixed-sex pair would have more flexibility in interacting with them.
Bibi: Well, considering the trouble I've been having getting Ravven to arrange pickup for all the extra selyn I've been getting due to D'zoll and Hiram's upgrades...
Bibi scratches her head with her tentacles.
Bibi: I'll think about how to approach her.
Nattin: It's Controller Ravven's job to facilitate selyn distribution, not just to blindly follow what her predecessor did.
Bibi has a thought.
Bibi: Unless... did you have some of your naztehrhai in mind? Perhaps a selyn worker pair who would have become anthropologists if they hadn't turned into a channel and Companion?
Nattin: There are a few people in Frihill who might handle the Submissionists well, but there are other possibilities, as well.
Bibi hands Nattin a cheese turnover and waits to hear his ideas.
Nattin: I'm not a proper judge of who could handle the technical side of the task, but I think Seruffin might know a channel-Donor pair with the proper skills and background. He'd do a better job than Ravven, certainly.
Bibi: I don't like him intervening, Nattin. I'm sure Ravven resents it.
Nattin: Perhaps something more subtle, then. I could write to Sectuib, and see if anyone is available to be reassigned.
Bibi: It might be difficult to get this started, with winter coming on. What are the roads like up there?
Bibi: I wonder if the livery stable has a sleigh to rent. I'd hate to try to ski in retainers.
Nattin: I did warn the Elders that I don't have the authority to make a binding agreement, only to help them format a proposal that might actually be acceptable to the Tecton.
Bibi shakes her head.
Bibi: Perhaps the best we can do is send Driver up there now and again, perhaps with Ghan. How did it work out, him zlinning the children?
Nattin: The zlinning went well. Sending a renSime when we can would be acceptable to the Elders, although I warned them that any such visits would be erratic. The Elders did express concern about their ability to control cultural contamination. Quite apart from the distance involved, they refuse to bring their children here because of what they might see on the way through town.
Bibi: I suppose I can understand that. And it is a long trip for that many people to make that often, although I suppose they can use the money.
Nattin: Actually, they plan to give their donation payments to charity.
Nattin: Apparently, a large influx of wealth would disturb the balance of their community. Particularly when the wealth comes without anything they view as work.
Bibi: I can see that... but it seems like extortion on our part: we can't help their children in changeover, but we demand their selyn before we'll do the little we can.
Nattin: It will at least allow them to know when a child establishes, and if we can get a channel out there, any child who is lucky enough to change over at the time can be saved. Besides, can you see the Tecton agreeing to send someone out there every month without a substantial number of guaranteed donations?
Bibi nods again.
Bibi: I wish there were a way to get them a channel. A low-rated Third should be more than adequate. Or... remember Sosu Robur? There must be a lot of inactive or retired Third Order Donors. I wonder if any would be willing.... Well, I'm no Sectuib Yilli.
Nattin: Bibi, an outsider living among them would almost certainly destroy what they're trying to build, simply by being someone who wasn't one of them.
Bibi: You're right, of course.
Nattin: The only way they'd accept such a person is if he or she was one of their own: born and raised in their community.
Bibi: What do you suppose they really want? Why did they send Fox to us? He said he needed the money, but that doesn't appear to be the whole story.
Nattin: I don't know for sure: I'd have to study them for years, I expect, before I could know them that well. However, I expect that they want what any parent wants: to see their children grow up. And they're desperately seeking a way to do that, without giving up everything they've built together.
Bibi: It appears we can't help them there, can we? But Fox was jubilant after his donation -- his proof that Simes need not kill. I wonder if there's some religious question they have about the meaning of larity.
Nattin: It's possible. Elder Maycom told me that their community has only fragments of their religious book; the rest has been lost. I believe that one of my naztehrhai may have a fragmentary copy, which may have pieces that the Submissionists don't. They found that prospect very exciting.
Bibi: It could be a good deal more disruptive than either money or resident selyn workers, if it disagrees with their present beliefs.
Nattin: I know, but if more of their Book exists, they feel they must at least consider the contents.
Bibi: I suppose so.
Bibi laughs ruefully.
Bibi: If they accumulated their donation payments, they could move the whole community in-T. Then if they ever have even a Third change over, they might be able to constitute themselves as a Householding. I suppose a generation ago the Tecton would have been eager to help them. Move in-T, that is.
Nattin: Possibly, although a Householding where nobody speaks Simelan would be a stretch.
Bibi: Well, any Simes who change over could easily become fluent in a few weeks.
Nattin: Leaving the vulnerable youngsters to handle all interactions with the outside world? It would be a good solution, but I don't think it's one they could accept.
Bibi waves her hand.
Bibi: It was just a thought, and not much of one.
Bibi sips her tea.
Nattin: For now, I'd be happy if their children can be screened for establishment or changeover every month or so.
Bibi: Yes, it's better than nothing, though not much. How did they react, finding that some of their children were already safe, and some weren't?
Nattin: They were relieved, or disappointed, but they had a very fatalistic attitude that dampened the negative responses.
Nattin: They call themselves "Submissionists" because their central belief is that they must submit to the will of their deity. This basically means accepting all the good and bad things that happen as that deity's will. It is considered in bad taste to rejoice too strongly at good happenings, or grieve too strongly at bad ones, because that shows a lack of faith in this master plan. Or so I gathered: I'm hardly an expert on their culture.
Bibi: I don't suppose they have colonies in-T, do they? And I wonder whether any of their out-T communities have any relationship with the Tecton.
Nattin: I don't know of any other such colonies, although I wouldn't. They go to a great deal of trouble not to attract attention from the outside world.
Bibi sighs again, depressed by need, and frustrated at how little she can do to help people with the deadly serious chronic problem of changeovers.
Bibi: I shouldn't let it get to me. There are millions of other Gens with no access to channel's services when they need them most.
Nattin: Look at it this way, Bibi: if the Submissionists make a collective decision to donate, it will bring them one step closer to adding channels to the limited part of the outside world they accept.
Bibi: Yes. And if we can save only a few of their children, it's better than none.
Nattin: It may take a while, before a channel happens to be present during a changeover, but once that happens, do you think they're going to be satisfied with anything less? They'll find a way: people always do, when they decide something is really necessary.
Bibi: But the Tecton can't give them a full time channel, so where do they turn? Don't we end up either making them bitter or damaging their culture by forcing them to change?
Nattin: All cultures change, Bibi. Those that don't, don't survive.
Nattin: Elder Maycom understands that. He just wants to be able to control the changes enough to avoid destroying the core values of his community. I think that's possible, although it won't be a painless process.
Bibi: I hope things work out for them.
Nattin: I think they will do a great deal to make sure it does.
Bibi: Let's write up a proposal for Ravven. Did you get any firm numbers on how many donors they can provide?
Nattin: About two dozen to start with. More later, perhaps, when they get used to the idea.
Bibi nods, doubtful that so few donations are going to be worth a week-long trip for a channel, at least from Ravven's point of view.
Bibi: Well, we can only try.
Nattin: I do think that the potential for donations is much larger than that, potentially. Two dozen was Elder Maycom's minimum. Shall I draft the proposal for you?
Bibi: Yes, please. I can add some information about that meditative state Fox went into so readily that made his donation so easy to take.
Nattin nods in ~~ satisfaction ~~.
Nattin: That's bound to attract some interest, in itself.
Bibi: Oh, dear. I hope it won't call down a lot of psychologists on them.
Nattin: I'll get started on it... tomorrow. Tonight, I'm going to finish this lovely tray, and then coddle my old bones with a hot bath and a real bed.
Bibi: A very good idea.