Dancing Around The Problem: Episode 6

Marvin is touring Householding Teiu with a view to finding out what the ambrov Teiu are like and why on earth they would want to offer membership to him.

Marvin: Very impressive, Cterry, especially considering how new the place is.

Marvin has already learned not to say "Sosu" in-Householding.

Cterry: Thank you. This walnut tree outside the main house is what provides the dye for our cloaks. It was here when Teiu acquired the property, and nobody wanted to try and run a farm wearing white.

Marvin laughs.

Marvin: You certainly wouldn't!

Cterry: We couldn't afford to buy any dye, you see. We'd already spent more than we could afford on the cloth.

Marvin: I see. So you used something that wouldn't show dirt.

Cterry: Yes. Besides, the popular color that year was "poison green", and nobody liked it that much.

Marvin laughs again. He seems to be doing a lot of that today.

Marvin: I guess you could have gotten old corroded copper pretty cheaply -- if you had wanted to.

Cterry: We'd still have had to buy it. And then we'd have had to go around raking up the dropped walnuts in the resulting clothing, resulting in an unfortunate double-dyeing. We're not terribly fashion-conscious, but we do have limits.

Marvin: Mottled green and brown -- hmm. I guess you would have had trouble getting that past the stick-in-the-muds in the Tecton Herald's office, anyhow.

Marvin dabbled in a bit of heraldry during his enforced "vacation" after the Gumgeeville incident.

Cterry: Yes. And if we'd gone out-Territory, they'd have mistaken us for an invading army wearing camouflage.

Marvin: That too, that too. From what I understood, your people did go out-T quite a bit in the old days. What was that like?

Cterry: Lonely. Frustrating. And occasionally very worth while.

Marvin nods soberly.

Cterry: We saved a lot of lives, and lost quite a few more.

Marvin: I'll bet. That's sort of what my life as a mule is like, a lot of the time, you know? The best part is escorting the new Simes to their new homes, though.

Cterry: Yes. Although I had to leave that to my colleagues, most of the time. There weren't enough of us who could serve changeovers to allow me to leave my post very often.

Marvin would never have believed he could talk shop with any Gen, as Gen Mules are a very different critter.

Marvin: Of course. So you were stationed in one particular Gen town?

Cterry: Yes. I ran a small shop to support myself, of course, since Teiu didn't have the funds to provide a stipend. Besides, it helped that I was part of the community, not just the resident Simelover.

Marvin: Sure. How long did you spend there, if you don't mind telling me, and what was it like to leave?

Cterry: Five years. I was glad to be going back to a saner life, and sorry that I couldn't keep doing the work I'd made my life.

Marvin sighs.

Marvin: Yeah. I didn't get to choose my life work, but at this point it's as if I had.

Cterry: Sometimes you choose your profession, sometimes it chooses you. I'm not sure it matters, as long as you do it well.

Marvin: Well, some people do their jobs well even though they can hardly bear to do them. I've met a few like that out-T, but only a few.

Cterry: Poor, unhappy folks.

Cterry looks up as the door to the house opens.

Skyepar walks out into the winter air, stretching ~~ comfortably ~~.

Cterry: Sectuib! Come meet our guest. Marvin, this is Skyepar, who leads our merry crew. Sectuib, this is Hajene Marvin.

Skyepar smiles and comes over, offering Marvin his hand.

Marvin chooses to shake hands in out-T style.

Marvin: Just Marvin, please. ~~ warm ~~ impressed ~~

Skyepar: Welcome, Marvin. Has Cterry shown you everything you want to see?

Marvin: For the moment, I think. It's incredibly impressive how much you've done here on a shoestring, Sectuib Skyepar.

Skyepar: It's less of a shoestring than it was when Yilli and Roza reestablished the House. Our major crop these days is selyn and selyn workers.

Skyepar winks at Cterry.

Marvin raises both eyebrows.

Cterry shrugs ~~ innocently ~~.

Marvin: I can see how that would be true. You might also get some Tecton credits by rehabilitating bruised and battered channels. This environment is incredibly QN-2-friendly.

Marvin waves his tentacles to cover all of Teiu's grounds.

Skyepar: It's a thought, but we don't have the expertise to do more than rest cures.

Marvin: I suppose not. ~~ resignation ~~

Cterry finds a reason for ~~ optimism ~~ in Marvin's taking the trouble to suggest a possible money-making venture.

Skyepar: I'd like to go for a walk. I've been looking through the proofs of our catalog since lunch time. Would you two care to accompany me?

Cterry looks at Marvin ~~ inquiringly ~~

Marvin: I certainly would. What are "proofs"?

Skyepar: A sort of first print run of our catalog. We make a few copies and check them for errors, so they can be fixed before we print the ones we'll send out.

Marvin: Ah, I see. And the catalog describes your seeds?

Marvin follows Skyepar away from the main buildings and out toward the fields.

Cterry trails along after them.

Skyepar: Seeds, nursery stock, some tools and gadgets we've invented, our booklets on various farm, garden and kitchen topics, and so forth. The catalog includes some tips and recipes and jokes, too.

Marvin: Jokes, you sell jokes? Maybe I should become a subscriber.

Skyepar laughs.

Skyepar: No, the jokes are just to liven up the catalog. Cterry can tell you a few. Some are real groaners.

Marvin: In that case maybe I should become a contributor. I have a good supply of those -- it keeps the new Simes distracted on the train, y'know.

Cterry: Whatever you come up with, it has to be better than, "What color was Klyd Farris's white horse?'

Skyepar groans.

Marvin: Out-T it's the old gray mare, but whatever.

Marvin tells them the one about smuggling wheelbarrows.

Skyepar laughs.

Skyepar: That's a good one.

Marvin: Isn't it? Cristal, the TN-2 at Hannard's Ford, told me that one. He picked it up from an out-T Donor trainee that I took with me on one of my little trips. Hannard's Ford, I should say, is my main stopover. The channel there is my closest friend.

Skyepar: We have some older members who joined us from out-T. They worked in the Church of Unity out-T missions until they were closed down.

Marvin: So I heard from Cterry. The work reminded me a little bit of what I do out-T, though I've only ever served one changeover there.

Skyepar: Good for you, although it must have been some emergency if you're still working for the Tecton afterwards. ~~ wry ~~

Marvin: Well, yes, though I had some help in high places there. I got a reprimand and some retraining. It was one of those "It seemed like a good idea at the time" situations.

Skyepar smiles.

Skyepar: Teiu couldn't have been resurrected without a disjunct QN-2 who joined us as Yilli was refounding the House here. He still works, but only with members, of course.

Marvin: Wow. Impressive.

Skyepar: He does mule our surplus selyn into Konawa as well.

Marvin: I take it that your Householding has certain -- useful connections -- as well?

Skyepar: Well, after all these years we've gotten to know the hierarchy and its foibles fairly well.

Cterry: It helps that we have absolutely nothing that an envious politician might want.

Skyepar: Indeed. A very bucolic lifestyle, and although we have many Companions, almost all of them are Thirds.

Cterry: With Thirds so common, the Tecton doesn't watch us as closely as they watch other Houses.

Marvin: I see. ~~ enlightenment ~~

Skyepar: After the first decade or so they came to believe that we really had no intention of joining the Distect, and calmed down a great deal.

Skyepar smiles at Cterry.

Skyepar: Nobody but a channel ever takes selyn directly from a Gen in Teiu.

Marvin: ~~ mock indignation ~~ I should hope not!

Cterry: We don't feel compelled to mention just how our channels take that selyn. There isn't a spot for that on the form, after all.

Skyepar displays a nageric image of simulated transfer.

Skyepar: Our Companions are constantly in training, right, Sosu?

Cterry: Yes. Just in case. Besides, it makes life more interesting.

Marvin: It does. I believe Bibi -- the channel friend I mentioned -- and I reinvented that technique independently.

Marvin winks.

Skyepar is ~~ startled ~~.

Skyepar: I hope you haven't been using it on Gens!

Marvin: ~~ conciliating ~~ No, no, only for mule transfers, and only incoming ones.

Skyepar nods.

Marvin: I have developed, what with one thing and another, a number of non-standard functionals that are more for, well, fun, than any practical utility.

Skyepar smiles.

Cterry: Entertainment has a practical side to it.

Marvin: Sometimes, yes.

Marvin spins up one of his selyn balls -- a small one -- and tosses it at Skyepar's tentacles.

Skyepar catches the ball, spins it into a toroid and tosses it back.

Skyepar: Cute.

Marvin loops the toroid around both arms and lets it reabsorb slowly.

Marvin: Trivial.

Marvin grins.

Marvin: So, shall we [English] talk turkey, [Simelan] Sectuib Skyepar?

Skyepar: If you like.

Marvin: I just can't understand what your Householding, with its bucolic lifestyle and Gen-high population, wants with a disjunct mule like me. I'm not going to retire any time soon, and except on duty, most of your members seem to be residents.

Skyepar: Robur thought you might like to visit us, and think about whether you might like to join.

Marvin: Well, I see the advantages to myself just fine. It would give me a recognized, if small-scale, position in the Tecton, a place to go on leave very occasionally, and a home for retirement.

Marvin looks around ~~ merrily ~~.

Marvin: And a lot of new friends, I think! But Robur, well, Robur strikes me as a guy whose nature involves enthusiasm more than judgment, outside selyn work at least.

Marvin knows Robur isn't at Teiu just now, and doesn't worry much about putting things tactfully anyhow.

Skyepar's impression, from Robur, was that Marvin is a good man much hard done by by the Tecton, and deserving of a better life.

Skyepar: Note that any trouble you get into would be trouble you'd be getting us all into, but we may be better at getting you out than you can yourself.

Marvin blows out his breath.

Marvin: Quite so, on both counts. But you sound like you expect me to be more trouble than I'm worth. I certainly wouldn't want to be a net burden on any Householding, particularly not one as worthy as this one.

Cterry: There are some burdens that are worth taking on, even if they complicate life.

Skyepar: Being a Householder means giving up a lot. You no longer make many of the decisions a person on his own makes about his life. Everything you do has consequences for the whole House. That can be very constraining, very hard to get used to.

Marvin nods soberly once again.

Marvin: I understand. I'm not nearly as insistent on playing the free spirit as I was a year ago, I have to tell you. That Tecton retraining was No Fun At All. But, you know, it's already the case that I've lived most of my life under powerful constraints. My original choice of career was definitively closed off when I changed over.

Skyepar: Enjoy your visit here, and visit us again. At some point it will become clear to all of us if you really are a member, but unpledged. Then we can make some real decisions.

Marvin knows a dismissal when he hears one.

Marvin: That sounds sensible to me. Thanks, Sectuib Skyepar.

Skyepar: May I deep zlin you?

Marvin: Of course.

Marvin drops his showfield, which is probably not necessary, but he figures it'll show good faith.

Skyepar offers his arms, and allows Marvin to make the contacts.

Cterry takes a few steps back to avoid cluttering the ambient.

Marvin links as deeply as he can with the powerful QN-1.

Skyepar examines Marvin thoroughly, noting the abnormally stretched secondary of a mule, and the disjunction marks. He notes that Marvin is in good health, especially for a disjunct. Disjuncts are more likely than nonjuncts to neglect their health, even now, long past Unity.

Marvin mostly just luxuriates on the support of Skyepar's field, but can't help noticing the intense dedication and feelings of deep contentment.

Skyepar gets a feeling for Marvin's personality he wouldn't get from conversation alone. He relinquishes the contact, and smiles.

Skyepar: Thank you, Hajene.

Marvin hates to let go, but all good things must come to an end.

Marvin: Thank you.

Skyepar: I'll see you at supper, then. Perhaps you and Cterry can join Roza and me at our favorite table.

Marvin: Honored to.

Cterry is smiling broadly.

Skyepar: None of our own children are at home right now, but perhaps you'll meet them another time.

Skyepar mentions that because the next Sectuib and First Companion are likely to come from his and Roza's offspring.

Marvin: I look forward to it. In any case, I look forward to meeting some of the other children of the Householding.

Marvin likes teens, and suspects that he'd like younger kids if he had had anything to do with them since leaving home.

Skyepar: Oh, there are plenty of those here!

Skyepar isn't too concerned about Marvin's own genetic potential, since the female Companions have had no difficulty in bringing home excellent germplasm from all over Nivet to improve Teiu's younger generations.

Cterry: Better watch out -- some of them are convinced that all visitors carry toffee on them at all times.

Marvin: Toffee, eh? Was that one of your personal contributions to Householding tradition, Sectuib Skyepar?

Marvin heard the story of D'zoll's run-in with the stuff from Bibi, though toffee and taffy have gotten mixed up somewhere in the telling.

Skyepar: Oh, no, don't blame it on me! Although we do use quite a few out-T recipes that the have been brought home to us over the years.

Marvin: That figures.

Cterry: We just aren't important enough to get many visitors.

Marvin: In any case, I should let you get back to your proofs. I'm sure Cterry has more things to show me and more people for me to meet.

Skyepar: Good, then.

Cterry: If you're in the mood for a little green after the winter, Hajene Marvin, I could show you the greenhouses.

Marvin: Sure I am.

Marvin goes off with Cterry, softly singing an out-T kid's song called "It's Not That Easy Being Green".

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