How The Other Half Lives: Episode 14

Feffer sits with his friend Janeen at a table in Boonmeen, the student cafe of Capital University.

Janeen has traveled in-Territory over the Year's Turning break, in hopes of having an adventure.

Feffer's in need, so he doesn't have much interest even in the Sime munchies, but he's not immune to the general student requirement for xanthines of one sort or another. Trin tea just doesn't cut it.

Feffer: Another coffee, Janeen?

Janeen: Thanks. And how about one of those muffins? The coconut ones look very good.

Janeen is ~~ hungry ~~.

Feffer: By all means.

Feffer gets up, walks to the bar, orders and gets two coffees and a muffin, and what the shen, a Sime blondie too. He carries them back to the table in his tentacles, puts the things down appropriately and reseats himself. He uses Janeen's hunger to induce himself to nibble on the blondie.

Janeen consumes a big bite of the muffin.

Janeen: Thanks. It was a long trip, and there isn't a lot to eat on the train. I had a choice of donating or going for groceries, and they'll let you across the border without food.

Feffer: I should think so, indeed. We are quite happy to feed our Gens, especially ones who donate, even though it is Year's Turning and not Faith Day.

Feffer smiles somewhat possessively.

Janeen flirts her eyelashes at Feffer.

Janeen: Oh, really? What's for dinner, then? Better yet, what's for dessert?

Janeen really is ~~ attracted ~~ to Feffer. She's of the age and inclination to enjoy adventures, and certainly no one else in her circle of friends would consider dating a Sime.

Feffer: Well, this is Capital: we have almost every kind of restaurant you might want. There is a very fine Gulf Territory place that will open in one hour and 22 minutes, if you like.

Janeen: Gulf Territory? What is Gulf Territory cuisine like?

Janeen is feeling ~~ appetite ~~ even with most of the muffin inside her.

Feffer: Well, they cook food in hot vegetable oil and -- I do not know your name, in Simelan we call it tempura.

Janeen: Is that some sort of coating, and then you drop it in the oil?

Janeen is a student, and fried food has been a staple of student life since Ancient times.

Feffer: Yes, that is it! Inside are pieces of vegetable or fruit.

Janeen: Fried fruit? Now, that's not what I usually see in New Washington. Most fried-food places there serve meat, onions, and some vegetables.

Feffer: Apple or pear pieces are usual, or sometimes, the small round sweet fruits. And there is a sauce made with apples to push them in just before eating.

Feffer overlooks the mention of meat; he's broad-minded for a Sime.

Janeen: That sounds suitably exotic.

Janeen winks. She's ~~ enjoying ~~ her adventure.

Feffer is ~~ enjoying ~~ Janeen's company.

Feffer: It is unusual for us from Nivet also.

Janeen: Then we'll have a culinary adventure.

Feffer nods and smiles.

Janeen: And I'll have a possible idea for the next food competition.

Feffer: Mostly I think it will be you eating and me enjoying your eating, although tempura is good for Simes because the pieces are small. And we do have a sweet tooth, as you say.

Feffer waves the blondie about illustratively.

Janeen notices that Feffer doesn't seem to be actually consuming his blondie.

Janeen: Did you have a big lunch?

Feffer laughs.

Feffer: Simes don't eat lunch! No, it is that I have no appetite when I am in need, even a little bit.

Janeen's eyes widen a little bit, and her eyes go to Feffer's arms.

Janeen: You can be a little bit in need? I thought Simes either were, or weren't?

Janeen finds the idea a little bit ~~ titillating ~~; if she didn't enjoy risk, she wouldn't have traveled to Sime Territory in the first place.

Feffer: Um, yes. I mean, I have not even a little bit of appetite when I am in need. I have been in need now for almost six days.

Janeen: For six days? I didn't think the Tecton let Simes get into need?

Janeen's knowledge of Simes and Sime Territory comes largely from Tecton propaganda, which is designed more for reassurance than strict scientific accuracy.

Feffer: Oh! No, we say we are in need when half our selyn supply is gone. What you mean is called "hard need". I will not be at hard need for another eight days and a little, and before then I will have transfer. The changes in feeling start at the half point.

Janeen: Oh, I see.

Janeen doesn't, really, but what she doesn't know, she doesn't know she ought to know.

Feffer: When we feel our selyn half gone, that is turnover, and we start to lose interest in other body functions. Like eating food. But of course we still must drink!

Janeen: Well, of course. Students run on caffeine, both sides of the border.

Feffer works on his coffee.

Janeen raises her latte in a toast.

Feffer chuckles.

Feffer: Yes, we must.

Feffer copies Janeen's gesture.

Fridda enters the cafe, and brushes snow off her cloak. It's thick, warm and well-made, but elegantly simple in design. She knows quality on either side of the border, and is willing to pay for it.

Fridda heads for the counter and buys a pot of trin. She's learned by now to distinguish the good stuff from what they serve in camps for new out-T Simes.

Feffer zlins a familiar nager at the bar.

Feffer: A friend of mine is here. Will you meet her for me?

Fridda looks around for a place to sit. The place is pretty full.

Janeen: Sure.

Feffer switches to Simelan and raises his voice.

Feffer: Fridda! Over here!

Fridda turns, recognizes Feffer, smiles, and heads towards him, making her way through the crowd with effortless grace.

Fridda: Hi, Feffer! Cold today, isn't it?

Fridda smiles at Feffer's Gen friend. ~~ friendly ~~

Feffer: Out there, yeah. In here it's warm enough.

Feffer: This is my friend -- oops.

Feffer: [English] This is my friend Janeen. This is my friend Fridda.

Janeen: Hello, Fridda.

Fridda: Hello, Janeen. Pleased to meet you.

Fridda's English is, of course, flawless in accent.

Feffer: Janeen and I met at that conference I told you about.

Fridda sets her tray down but doesn't offer her tentacles to brush. She can tell Janeen is from out-T and may not be comfortable with touching Simes, and she's also rather self-conscious about her deformity.

Janeen cocks her head.

Janeen: Either you're a fantastic linguist, or you grew up not too far from New Washington.

Fridda smiles.

Fridda: Yes, I'm from there. Are you in Ancient Studies like Feffer?

Feffer looks back and forth at the two women, wondering if this is some sort of out-Territory mystic power.

Feffer: Janeen, how did you know that?

Janeen: Her accent. There are regional variations in English across New Washington Territory.

Feffer scratches his head with a right dorsal.

Feffer: I see. I could not tell that.

Janeen: Doesn't Simelan have regional variations?

Feffer: I do not know. I have not noticed them much if there are any. But yes, Janeen studies the Ancients. With a Professor Veenek, I think.

Janeen: Fennik, actually.

Janeen corrects for Feffer's atrocious (if charming) accent.

Fridda ~~ startles ~~ but keeps a straight face. She hasn't lost all her out-T habits yet.

Feffer: [concerned] Fridda, you are distressed?

Fridda: No, no.

Fridda is tempted to ask Janeen what she thinks of her supervisor, but restrains herself.

Janeen looks at Fridda with a bit of ~~ concern ~~.

Fridda wraps her hands around her mug of trin, tentacles in.

Janeen: You do look a little stressed.

Fridda is a bit ~~ nervous ~~, since she knows her father is, well, not concealing but not publicizing her survival, under pressure from her uncle.

Feffer concludes that he has made a mistake somewhere.

Feffer: But there is no reason that we should talk of school now. It is Year's Turning, we should be happy.

Fridda smiles and has a gulp of tea.

Fridda: Is this your first visit to Capital, Janeen?

Janeen: Yes, but not my first trip to this side of the border.

Feffer: As I said, that conference in Arreven is where we met, Janeen and I.

Feffer ~~ enjoys the reminiscence ~~.

Janeen: I had a great time there, although my major professor wasn't nearly as enthusiastic. Actually, I was kind of surprised that he was willing to come at all.

Fridda: I see. I suppose it's difficult for an older person to come in-T for the first time.

Fridda isn't going to ask about his motivation.

Janeen: Yes, and he's pretty set in his ways. On the other hand, he likes to hear himself talk. That's pretty standard, for a prof.

Fridda smiles.

Fridda: On both sides of the border, as far as I can tell!

Janeen: What are you studying?

Fridda: Economics and business management.

Janeen: Ah, a capitalist type.

Feffer taps his head softly, not with enough force to upset anyone.

Feffer: Far beyond me!

Fridda shrugs, spreads her hands (not tentacles) and smiles.

Fridda: I don't want to be an academic like Feffer does.

Janeen: Well, just about anything else pays better, well, among people with college degrees.

Fridda: One of my ancestors went to New Washington from Nivet and founded the family business, so perhaps I'll do the same in reverse here.

Janeen: What sort of business would you found?

Fridda: I don't know yet. I'll have to learn a lot more economics first!

Janeen: So where exactly did you live, before..., well, before you moved here? From your accent, I'd guess, hmm....

Fridda smiles but zlins ~~ nervous ~~. She's already lost most of her ability to lie.

Janeen: It's almost Crescent Hill.

Janeen names a posh neighborhood not that far from where Fridda actually grew up.

Fridda: Yes! Quite near there. You're very good at accents.

Feffer is trying to keep his jaw from dropping.

Janeen: Thanks. It's fun, and a university is a good place to practice. Also, your accent is almost exactly like my major professor's.

Janeen winks.

Fridda smiles back, but it's a ~~ strained ~~ smile that poorly covers a ~~ sinking feeling ~~, not to mention one of ~~ guilt ~~ at her... well, it isn't really dishonesty, is it?

Feffer: I had no idea anyone could do anything like this. Talking is just, well, talking. You understand or you do not understand.

Feffer decides not to say anything this time about what he zlins.

Fridda refills her mug from the pot and has another gulp to cover her ~~ nervousness ~~.

Janeen: Is something wrong, Fridda?

Fridda decides to try a social lie.

Fridda: It's hard to think about my childhood back there... after all that's happened. ~~ lying ~~

Feffer looks at Janeen and rolls his eyes by way of trying to indicate that he doesn't believe Fridda.

Janeen is a bit ~~ skeptical ~~ herself.

Janeen has, however, just consumed two double lattes, and the effects are beginning to make themselves known.

Janeen: Excuse me a moment.

Janeen knows the effects of the coffee will also be perceptible to the Simes, before long, and would rather avoid such embarrassment.

Fridda is ~~ relieved ~~, and decides to use the opportunity to brief Feffer. She waits until Janeen is out of earshot.

Fridda: Feffer...

Feffer: Fridda?

Fridda: Uh... Janeen's prof... Uh, that's my father. Uh... look, don't tell her, okay?

Feffer: Okay, fine, I won't. But what's the big secret about? You were radiating deception there.

Fridda tries to figure out how to explain this to a nice young man who was born and raised in Nivet by parents who were also born and raised in Nivet.

Fridda looks down and ~~ blushes ~~.

Fridda: See, my uncle is a politician, and it would be really bad for him if people found out I survived, so he's got my father to promise he won't tell anybody. ~~ embarrassment ~~

Feffer winces at the thought.

Fridda: I know it sounds stupid, but it's like that out there. Janeen seems really nice, but if she found out, she might slip....

Feffer: But surely you don't need to care what an out-T politician likes or doesn't like, uncle or not. What difference can it possibly make to you on this side of the border?

Fridda scratches her head, forgetting that she doesn't like people to see her tentacles.

Fridda: Well, it makes a difference to my dad. And my uncle. I mean, I still care about them. I don't want to cause them trouble.

Feffer: Ah. You're loyal to them. But are they loyal to you? It doesn't sound that way.

Fridda: Well, they are in their way. Especially my dad. He came to visit me when I first came in-T -- that's why he was at the conference. And he made sure I got my inheritance and stuff. He didn't have to.

Feffer is ~~ surprised ~~.

Feffer: Things must have really changed out-T since my grandfather's day.

Fridda: Well, some have and some haven't. It depends a lot on who.

Feffer nods understandingly.

Feffer: Okay. I won't tell anyone. But you know Janeen knows there's a Gen in the woodpile.

Fridda: Yeah. Even without zlinning, eh? I must be acculturating -- I can't lie worth lentils any more.

Feffer: Janeen is a most insightful person. When we met, she understood me much better than I understood her, Sime senses or not.

Fridda: I really should just go. I can't keep this act up. Give her my regards, okay?

Feffer: [resigned] If you must. I'll see you later, then?

Fridda has another gulp of trin and gracefully flings her cloak over her shoulders, accurately missing everyone at the adjacent tables.

Fridda: Yes. It's all right, Feffer. Sorry.

Fridda brushes his hand with a tentacle, and heads for the door.

Janeen comes back from the ladies' room.

Janeen: Where's your friend?

Feffer: Umm, she had to leave. I promised I would not tell why.

Janeen: She's going somewhere embarrassing?

Janeen tries to think of what would embarrass a Sime.

Feffer: No, she has a secret. I think it is foolish, but it is her secret.

Janeen: And that made her leave?

Feffer: I think perhaps she thought that you would want to know it too much. It is very hard for Simes to lie, even to protect. Please do not be offended.

Janeen: Feffer, I'm from out of town. We'll quite likely never see each other again. So why should it matter so much if this "secret" is kept from me?

Feffer: I do not know. But you remember that Ancient saying, "Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead"? I myself will do my hardest to forget what Fridda told me already!

Janeen: It was that earthshaking? She seemed normal enough.

Feffer: I should not say more. It belongs to Fridda.

Janeen: Now you've really got me ~~ curious ~~.

Feffer: [imperturbably] I think if we start to walk now, we should reach the restaurant I told you of just when it opens. I zlin that muffin was not enough. Do you want this?

Feffer offers the blondie.

Janeen is ~~ distracted ~~, at least temporarily, by the prospect of food.

Janeen: Don't you want it?

Feffer: No. As I said, a Sime in need does not desire most bodily pleasures much.

Janeen: What, you'd rather eat gruel?

Janeen hasn't made the connection between this statement and the rest of their evening, yet.

Feffer: In the old days before Unity, Simes often did not eat at all between turning over and, er, killing. ~~ embarrassment ~~

Feffer: Except sweets. That is one reason out of many that they died so soon.

Janeen: And had bad teeth too, I expect.

Feffer: Bad teeth or even no teeth, yes.

Janeen: Hard to get any nutrition that way, it's true.

Feffer: But modern Simes, we eat just what we must after turnover, most of the time. And that is only because there are Gens around to make us feel hungry.

Janeen grins.

Janeen: Well, I'm certainly hungry enough for two!

Feffer is startled, and zlins Janeen closely.

Feffer: Do you mean you are pregnant now? I zlin nothing of it.

Janeen chuckles.

Janeen: No, silly. I mean I'm hungry enough to get both of us eating, at least if what I've read about how it works is true.

Feffer: Ah. I understand. We will see.

Feffer stands up and offers Janeen his hand.

Janeen puts her hand in Feffer's.

Janeen: And while we eat, you can tell me more about your friend Fridda. You've got me ~~ curious ~~ about her.

Feffer smiles.

Feffer: I think I will not. But we will find things to talk about not the less.

Janeen accepts the implied ~~ challenge ~~ with a grin.

Feffer zlins Janeen's hunger and decides to do his best at the tempura pot. And if Janeen wants what Feffer zlins she wants, afterwards -- he may be in need, but his fingers, tentacles, tongue, and toes are certainly still in working order.

Feffer will be quite happy to make Janeen happy, especially if he gets to wallow in her nager too.

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