Preparing for Disaster: Episode 2

Gerrhonot walks towards the Hannard's Ford post office, bundled up in one of the thick wool sweaters his sister made for him, under his heavy winter Tecton cloak. He's looking for an elderly woman in a coat with patched elbows, as described by Cristal, who couldn't make it today and suggested Gerrhonot meet Virginia for a walk or jog.

Virginia's coat, despite the patches, is much less warm than Gerrhonot's. She is therefore pacing back and forth in front of the post office, half hoping that Cristal will not be able to make it today, giving her an excuse to head back to her warm kitchen.

Gerrhonot sees a woman who matches the description and approaches her.

Gerrhonot: Um. Miz Virginia?

Virginia turns, and sees a very young man in a heavy cloak with a Tecton logo, rather than a sensible winter coat.

Virginia: Yes, young man?

Gerrhonot: Cristal couldn't make it today. I was going out for a walk anyway and he suggested maybe we could walk together? My name is Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot offers his well-gloved hand to shake.

Virginia: Pleased to meet you. I'm Virginia Reel.

Virginia shakes hands, Gen style. Her gloves are a bit worn around the edges, but not yet developing holes.

Gerrhonot: Where would you like to walk?

Virginia: There's a park over that way.

Virginia points.

Gerrhonot: Okay.

Virginia's choice of direction is possibly influenced by the proposed destination taking them by the town hall, where the roads and sidewalks are generally better maintained. She leads the way.

Virginia: Are you a new hire at the Sime Center?

Gerrhonot: Oh, no. Me and my channel are just visiting on our way to New Washington.

Virginia: Your channel?

Virginia is somewhat ~~ confused ~~, since Cristal doesn't usually refer to Bibi as belonging to him.

Gerrhonot: Yes. I'm a Donor.

Virginia: Aren't you a bit young for that?

Gerrhonot smiles.

Virginia has been assuming that Donoring, like nursing, took time to learn.

Gerrhonot: I established about four years ago, and went right into training, so I've been doing it ever since.

Virginia: I see.

Gerrhonot: It's a real good job. I like it a lot.

Virginia: It's not one I would ever take, but according to Cristal, it pays well and can be satisfying. And I gather job possibilities for Gens are a bit limited, in Simeland?

Gerrhonot: Well, it depends. Most Gens can do most things. But I'm real lucky that I have a lot of Donor talent because I'm not very bright. I had a bad case of coughing sickness when I was a kid, and ended up with total aphasia and substantial cognitive impairment.

Gerrhonot was told that Virginia is a nurse, so uses the English technical terms.

Virginia: I see. And you're allowed to work as a physician? At least, that seems to be more or less what Cristal described to me.

Gerrhonot: Well, I can use my nager to help Simes who are sick or injured, but I mostly work with my channel these days. He's a diplomat.

Virginia: A diplomat? I thought channels were physicians?

Gerrhonot: They can all heal, but some of them specialize in healing, and others specialize in other things.

Virginia: Like politics?

Gerrhonot: I guess so. Hajene Seruffin is real good at being a diplomat. He's a good administrator, too. Before I started working with him he was an Assistant World Controller.

Virginia is a bit ~~ shocked ~~ at this casual admission from such an unassuming, not-very-bright kid.

Virginia: Assistant World Controller? Isn't that sort of like holding a Cabinet-level position under the New Washington President?

Gerrhonot: Um. Maybe. It's an important job. He still reports to the World Controller, but now he's her Special Envoy.

Virginia: An ambassador?

Gerrhonot: No. He's more flexible. She has him do different things that need doing.

Virginia: So, how come a young man with your... difficulties... is working with this Special Envoy? I'd think someone who was older and more experienced would be chosen.

Gerrhonot: Um. Well. It's true I can't help him with the diplomat stuff very much, but we get along together really well and we like each other a lot. There aren't all that many Donors as high rated as I am, and we're a good match nagerically.

Virginia: High rated? In what sense, if you can't help him with his work, and you don't have a lot of experience due to your age?

Virginia has not quite grasped that a Donor's qualifications are primarily limited by his or her nager, not other abilities.

Gerrhonot: Well, we're both high Firsts. I outrate him a little, but we're a pretty good match.

Gerrhonot can see that Virginia is confused.

Gerrhonot: We're a good match for transfer, and for nageric interaction. I'm strong enough to protect him nagerically. And I have a lot of Donor talent, so I can do precision work for him too.

Virginia: I see. And that's all he cares about?

Virginia is still under the illusion that channels more or less choose their Donors like doctors choose nurses. She blushes as she realizes that her question wasn't the most diplomatic one possible.

Gerrhonot: Well, that's the work I do. But we like each other a lot. He's real good to me. He explains things to me and helps me a lot, and he appreciates what I do for him.

Virginia: It doesn't bother him that you can't help him with his own work, much?

Gerrhonot sighs. It's a bit of a sore point with him.

Gerrhonot: Well, I wish I could, but I can't. He knows I'm doing the best I can for him, maybe better than a smart person could. And I'm real good at helping him with the channeling work.

Virginia: I see. Still, it must be frustrating for both of you.

Gerrhonot: I guess. I've kind of gotten used to being stupid. Hajene Seruffin helped me see that I can do more than I thought with what brains I've got, though. And having a really compatible Donor isn't something most high-order channels can count on.

Virginia: Donors come in flavors?

Gerrhonot: Flavors? You mean rating?

Virginia: Well, maybe. Or maybe not. What you just said implied that compatibility was more than a rating.

Gerrhonot: Um. Well, it's like some people get along better with some people than with others. And some people just barely get along with each other, but with other people they become really good friends. It's sort of like that, but the nageric part is important.

Virginia: The nageric part? So Simes find some Gens "tastier" than others?

Gerrhonot is taken aback. Another Wild Gen who sees it all like food. Weird.

Gerrhonot: Um. Not just attraction for transfer. It's how we get along, how we work together. Like some people you get along better with and work better with, and some it doesn't work out as well.

Gerrhonot thinks about it some more.

Gerrhonot: Like people sometimes say in English that two people just click? It's like that, sort of.

Virginia: Is that what you were looking for, when you decided to become a Donor?

Gerrhonot: Um. Sort of. Mostly I went into it because I could. And then I found out how wonderful it is, especially with a compatible channel. But transfer is really good even with a channel you don't get along with so well.

Gerrhonot thinks some more.

Gerrhonot: If I didn't have Donor talent, I'd probably be a shepherd on my parents' ranch out-T. But I like this a lot better, and I can send them money and stuff.

Virginia is a bit ~~ surprised ~~ at this admission.

Virginia: You weren't raised in Simeland?

Gerrhonot: No. Out west, in the mountains.

Virginia smiles.

Virginia: Well, that explains your excellent English.

Gerrhonot: Even though I had to learn it twice.

Virginia: Practice makes perfect. I expect you only had to learn Simelan once?

Gerrhonot smiles.

Gerrhonot: Yeah. So far.

Virginia: Cristal has tried to teach me a few words, but I'm too old to be a good student, I'm afraid.

Gerrhonot: Probably if you really needed to learn it, you could. Like if you wanted to live in Nivet or Gulf.

Virginia: I don't see that happening. This is farther from Cago than I ever expected to get. Besides, the entrance fee is a little steep, in my opinion.

Gerrhonot: Cristal said you don't want to donate.

Virginia: He and Bibi tried to show me how it works, and I lost my lunch.

Gerrhonot: Yeah. He said.

Virginia is still ~~ embarrassed ~~ about it.

Gerrhonot thought that was a very strange reaction, but as everybody tells him, you never know what a Wild Gen will do.

Virginia: Under the circumstances, I doubt I'll be visiting Simeland any time soon.

Gerrhonot: It's not easy to get used to Simes if you've lived your whole life out here. It's wonderful how many people Hajene Bibi has donating now. And all the kids whose lives she's saved.

Virginia: She has done some good work, here.

Gerrhonot: Me and Hajene Seruffin admire her a lot. Not many channels could stand to live here so long, isolated like this, or get along with out-T people like she does. He says she's an excellent diplomat.

Virginia: Well, anyone in medicine has to be diplomatic, at times. Do you know if Bibi's going to pursue a career in diplomacy?

Gerrhonot: No, she's a Second, so she'll just do Sime Center work, mostly. She wants to work out-T like this, and most channels don't so she'll probably work here or in another town like this for most of her career.

Virginia: That's sad. All that wasted potential.

Gerrhonot: Oh, she likes it. It's what she wanted, from when she first found out that she was a channel. Besides, women don't really get to be big wheels out-T here. It's not like in-T where it doesn't matter so much which sex you are.

Virginia: I'll have to tell my friend Nanette, when she says that Gen Territories have nothing to learn from Simes.

Virginia takes a moment to admire a nice topiary in the park.

Gerrhonot thinks it's kind of cool the way they've pruned the trees into all these pretty shapes.

Virginia: I can see why you would become a Donor, rather than a shepherd, but why did Cristal choose such a life?

Gerrhonot shrugs.

Gerrhonot: It's a good job. It pays well and you get a lot of respect from people in-T. But if you have Donor talent, it's hard not to want to do this instead of anything else, too.

Gerrhonot wonders how he can put it in words.

Gerrhonot: There's this pull, sort of, this attraction you can feel... that makes you really want to do it.

Virginia: A mystical "call"?

Virginia has met a few clergymen who described their vocation that way.

Gerrhonot: Maybe it's like someone with a lot of musical talent. They love to listen to music. And music sort of plays in their heads even when there's nobody else around. And they can make up music too. They would hate it if they lost that.

Gerrhonot puts a hand over the center of his chest, where his vriamic node would be if he had one.

Gerrhonot: I guess that's how I feel about nageric interaction, and working with channels. Helping them. Sharing transfer. Maybe Cristal feels like that too. But he probably has different words.

Virginia: It sounds very strange. Much as I loved working as a nurse, I didn't have any mysterious attraction towards doctors, or strange yearnings to help patients with bedpans. It was a job -- a satisfying one that paid pretty well, but a job.

Virginia's brave statement is somewhat disingenuous, because she does miss even the part time work she was doing for Dr. Tavis.

Gerrhonot: I think maybe it's mostly higher order Donors who feel that way, Seconds and Firsts. I think a lot of people can become Thirds without having real Donor talent, but a lot of them do too.

Gerrhonot smiles.

Gerrhonot: But there are a lot of good things about the job besides that. Like it's good to help people, and see that what you do matters to them.

Virginia: Yes, it is.

Virginia sighs. She's starting to feel almost as frozen as the iced-over puddles in the path.

Gerrhonot: And Hajene Seruffin really appreciates my work, and that makes me happy too. And I get to travel around with him and see things and stuff.

Virginia: A much more attractive life than herding sheep.

Gerrhonot laughs.

Gerrhonot: Yeah, sheep are boring. And they never appreciate anything you do for them.

Gerrhonot notices that Virginia is shivering.

Gerrhonot: Are you cold? Do you want to borrow my cloak?

Virginia shakes her head.

Gerrhonot: Really, I'm warm enough with this sweater. My sister made it for me. She spun the wool and knitted it herself.

Virginia takes a moment to admire the thick, warm cloak, so much like the coat she had intended to buy.

Virginia: No, thank you. I think I've had enough exercise for the day. Tell Cristal I'm sorry to have missed him.

Gerrhonot: Okay.

Gerrhonot feels a little bad that Virginia would have preferred Cristal to himself. Oh, well.

Virginia wishes she could spare the coins to buy a hot cup of tea for the walk home, but she'll be back in her own kitchen warming her teakettle soon enough. She's not so far gone in self-pity that she can convince herself that the tea is hotter at the Cafe, even if it is tastier than the stuff she can afford.

Gerrhonot: Um. We could get some tea or coffee at the cafe there. Cristal won't go there because they don't like Simes. My treat? They have good muffins.

Virginia thinks that it's not ethical to take advantage of this sweet, not particularly smart young man's offer.

Gerrhonot: We could warm up. And the lady there can try to convince us to join the Church of the Purity.

Gerrhonot smiles.

Virginia takes another look at the cloak, which makes it quite clear that the offer isn't any hardship at all to said amiable subgenius.

Gerrhonot: I think she's decided that I'm too stupid to follow theological arguments.

Virginia chuckles.

Gerrhonot winks.

Gerrhonot: Oh, I can make a virtue of being stupid, you know. Just watch.

Virginia: Now, this I have to see. I accept your invitation, Gerrhonot, and thank you.

Virginia demurely lays a hand on Gerrhonot's arm, the better not to slip in her worn shoes as they cross the street.

Gerrhonot escorts her across to the Maple Leaf Cafe, smiling.

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