Bart trots along the road to Sat'htine from where the horse-drawn omnibus dropped him off. Fortunately, it's not far, since the weather is still pretty cold. But Bart wears good, new, warm clothing these days.
Bart has taken a slightly indirect route to his new school, in order to visit the Geggs. He's completed the first part of Donor training in the school for out-T Donor candidates, and now that he's Qualified TN-2, and competent in Simelan, he's going to finish his training at a regular school.
Gegg is waiting just inside the gates, without an escort because Hiram took his field down earlier that morning. He's wearing an in-T style cloak, his Sime hosts having decided that his own coat wasn't warm enough to keep him from shivering.
Bart reaches the gates and spots Gegg.
Bart: Hi, Mr. Gegg!
Gegg: Hello, Bart! Come on in!
Bart comes in, looking around curiously at the snow-covered buildings and grounds.
Bart: So this is Sat'htine. Mik said it was really big and impressive.
Gegg: It is. And rich -- richer than anybody in Gumgeeville, anyway.
Bart: Well, that doesn't take much, does it.
Gegg: No, I don't suppose it does.
Gegg makes the admission ~~ ruefully ~~.
Bart: I guess it's better now that more people are donating. Dad wrote me that a lot of people are.
Gegg: Yes, more than I'd ever have thought would do such a thing. Your parents must be close to settling their worst debts by now, even though your mother won't donate.
Bart: I think they're pretty clear by now. I've been sending them as much as they were getting from my donations before I left. I sent them a big package of stuff for Year's Turning, too. It was really nice to be able to do that.
Bart sent them dried fruit and nuts and spices and candy and other things they could never afford to eat before. And cloth for Ma to make dresses, and wool shirts for Jed and Vrian.
Gegg: You certainly look like you're doing well for yourself. Those are new clothes, aren't they?
Bart: Yes. They gave me uniforms for when I'm working, so I could buy stuff for when I'm not.
Bart still feels the luxury of having really good clothes that weren't cut down from somebody else's discards.
Gegg: How are you liking the work itself? Is it what you hoped?
Bart: So far it's great, most of the time. Transfer is really wonderful, like Gerrhonot told me.
Gegg: You like it, then?
Bart: Yeah. I'm really glad I'm here, doing this. You've got to admit that there aren't many opportunities in Gumgeeville, unless you've got a good farm.
Bart finds himself falling back on the economic argument he used to justify himself to out-T people, even though his real reason was his irresistible attraction to Simes.
Gegg: The opportunities aren't exactly great even when you have what passes for a good farm. Which I thought I did, until I saw the land here.
Bart: Yeah. There's a lot of good land on both sides of the border. Just from the train I could see all these huge fields, level and with no piles of rocks. Not like around Gumgeeville at all. Even better than around Hannard's Ford.
Gegg: Somehow, though, I don't think you're doing this primarily to get away from Gumgeeville and its marginal farmland. You'd be in Donor training even if your family farm was right outside these gates, wouldn't you?
Bart looks down.
Bart: Uh, I know you can't understand it, but... there's a vocation... I really like being with Simes, especially channels. Working with a channel... it's like it's what I was born for. It just feels so right.
Gegg looks down himself.
Gegg: Actually, I think I understand what you feel better than most. I've felt it myself. Once.
Bart looks at him, reluctant to pry.
Gegg leads the way down the short walk to the door of the stone guesthouse, and opens the door.
Gegg: Come in and warm up. Toria and Sanda are working at sewing today, but they'll be in later.
Bart goes in.
Bart: It's nice here.
Gegg: Yes. Nicer than either of our homes in Gumgeeville, anyway.
Bart goes over to the stove and takes off his cold cloak to let the heat in.
Bart: Doesn't take much to be better than the Mullins house. Although it's a lot better now that the roof doesn't leak. But you've got a proper house in Gumgeeville. I always liked it. Especially that big veranda.
Bart: And a barn fit for two Farrises.
Gegg: I'm proud of the house my family built -- but there are lots of families here, and they work better land.
Bart: Well, there are a lot of them, and they've been accumulating wealth for centuries. And now they get all the salaries of all those super high-rated selyn workers.
Gegg: As for the barn -- well, the Farrises were too polite to complain. Much. But there's no denying that they were all very glad to leave Petunia's company.
Bart: Who'd live with pigs if they had a choice? No pigs in-T, I think.
Gegg: None here, anyway. Not much good for anything but eating, really.
Bart: Yeah. But they are real good for that.
Bart has adapted to vegetarianism but he does occasionally wish for a bit of bacon or ham.
Gegg pours tea from a waiting kettle, and offers Bart a mug.
Gegg: Here. This will warm you up, after your walk.
Bart: Thanks. I only had to walk the last kilometer or so. I took the omnibuses from the train station.
Bart would like to know more about Gegg's cryptic remark about understanding his attraction to Simes, but doesn't want to be rude or bring up bad memories for Gegg.
Bart: Uh, how's it been for you, here at Sat'htine?
Gegg: It's been hard, although it's worth everything to have the twins safely born and Toria healthy.
Bart nods. He knows that Toria would likely have died without skilled channels to help her.
Gegg: I don't know if I'll ever be really comfortable around most Simes. Even the ones who've been working with me. But... Did Mik tell you that he came here for a visit?
Bart: Yeah. He was so happy about how it worked out.
Gegg: Most of the time, when I'm around Simes, I feel, well, like a very plump rabbit strolling through a pack of wolves, who may or may not be looking for dinner. It's not just paranoia, either. I can feel Simes when they're around.
Bart: I know what you mean.
Gegg: I expect you do, at that.
Bart is being trained to interpret what he feels as well as possible.
Gegg: Anyway, usually that feeling scares me silly, but with Mik -- well, it was different, somehow. It felt, well... right. He was still Mik, still family. It didn't overwhelm me, the way it usually does.
Gegg is still a little unclear about the difference between the nagers of a Second Order channel-in-training and a top-ranking Farris First.
Bart: He could zlin the way you felt. He told me about it. I guess... maybe it's not just that you love him. Maybe it's that he's a better match for us than these Farrises. They really feel different than Seconds. Like when I compare Hajene Bibi or the Seconds I work with to D'zoll or Sectuib Hiram, or even Hajene Seruffin... there's a big difference.
Bart is a little embarrassed at how strongly Seruffin affected him, now that he has some perspective on things.
Gegg: He did feel different. I don't know about other channels -- I only work with Hajene D'zoll, mostly, and Sectuib Hiram when D'zoll's not available.
Bart: How about renSimes?
Gegg: They don't seem to affect me, much, but I'm told that's because there's always a Donor with me, unless I've just donated.
Bart: I guess so. But you're not as nervous around them as you would have been, right?
Gegg: I can manage pretty well, these days. I've learned enough about Simes to judge when I'm likely to be in danger, and most of the time, I can control the fear when I'm not.
Gegg gives a wry smile.
Gegg: The exception, of course, is the one time I'm in the least danger, logically speaking.
Bart tries to work that out.
Bart: When you're donating?
Gegg: Yes. There's something about it that triggers every irrational nightmare I've ever had, all at once. You'd think my undermind would have tired of that game by now.
Bart: If you're donating to Farrises, maybe it's because they're so much stronger than you are. But I guess they wouldn't want you to donate to a Second, because you could hurt him.
Gegg thinks about it.
Bart remembers Mik's description of how his father grabbed hold of his nager and overpowered him.
Gegg: I think I could have donated to Mik, and not found it so frightening.
Bart thinks Mik might have found it more frightening than Gegg would.
Bart: Maybe they could have you try donating to one of the experienced Seconds here. Then when you go back home maybe you could donate to Hajene Bibi. Uh, if it would be safe for her.
Gegg: I don't think Sectuib Hiram would allow that. He's awfully -- conservative -- about such things.
Bart: Yeah, but I'd sure take his advice over mine!
Gegg: Well, you're still learning. It would be convenient to have the extra money, but if I can see Mik now and then, that's the important thing.
Bart: He was so happy that you could hug him like that. He thought he might never be able to get close to you again. He really misses his family.
Gegg: I know. You chose to leave Gumgeeville. I think Mik would have been quite happy to stay.
Bart: I think so. He really didn't want to change over, even if he wouldn't have to be shot for it. But he's getting into being a channel now.
Gegg: I'm glad. Since he has to be Sime -- I'm glad he's not just another refugee from Gen Territory.
Bart is too tactful to mention that Mik told him that when he handled that situation with Gegg, he felt like a real adult, a competent channel, for the first time.
Bart: Channel is about the most prestigious job you can have. I mean, I've been out in the regular towns and places here, and people really respect channels. And Donors too.
Bart has had to get used to the way people treat him just because of the way he zlins. It was really uncomfortable at first.
Gegg: I've seen that, too. And... they didn't complain about it, but I think Hajene D'zoll and Sectuib Hiram were both a little surprised when Gumgeeville folks didn't respond that way.
Bart: Yeah. I guess they weren't used to being just anybody, not big stars just because of their nagers.
Gegg: Well, to be strictly fair, Hajene D'zoll's reception, at least, would have disturbed anyone.
Gegg looks a little ~~ ashamed ~~.
Bart: I guess the guys around the station would have been real surprised when he and Shorsh got off the train with all that stuff.
Gegg: Oh, they had to settle for Ralf and his wagon for transportation, but that's not unexpected, considering.
Bart wonders if Ralf was too drunk to realize that D'zoll was a Sime.
Gegg: The problem came because they arrived earlier than planned. Toria and Sanda were out that afternoon, and I'd been gone a week helping clear some land. When I opened up the barn, I "felt" Sime, and since last I'd heard my guests weren't going to be arriving for another week or more, I jumped to the logical conclusion.
Bart: A berserker.
Gegg: Yes. So the first time Hajene D'zoll and I met face to face, he was at the wrong end of my shotgun.
Bart: Wow. What did Shorsh do?
Bart is naturally interested in how an experienced Donor would handle such a situation.
Gegg: He explained what was going on, and in the end, nobody got hurt.
Bart: Wow. Go to your barn expecting pigs and instead there's this monster Farris Sime nager....
Gegg: I might have responded differently if I'd had any idea what a Farris nager was, much less how to identify one.
Bart: I'm kind of looking forward to running into some Farris channels again, now that I have more idea about what different Simes feel like. It's almost all Seconds at the school.
Gegg: There are plenty of them here, if you want to meet some while you're here.
Bart: I've got to get back to the train station in a few hours.
Gegg: Do all Seconds "feel" like Mik?
Bart: Uh. I guess so. Sort of. Well, they feel a lot more like Mik than D'zoll or Hiram do!
Gegg: I found Hajene Bibi, well, intimidating. But I don't know if I'd still find her so, or if I've made that much progress, at least.
Bart: After donating to Farrises I think you'll feel the difference. But Bibi is so nice, so polite. And she looked after Mik in changeover... Maybe you'll be more comfortable with her now.
Gegg: Maybe I should stop in to see her, when I get back home. If I can tolerate her better, now... well, maybe I can get that extra income, after all.
Bart: Yeah. But she may be afraid of you, now. Actually, she was afraid of you before, I think.
Gegg: She did refuse to take my donation. But I thought that was because she didn't have training as a mind-healer, and didn't want to make things worse?
Bart: I suppose. But she probably didn't want to take a chance that you'd slam her or something.
Gegg: I guess that's going to be a constant problem, when I leave here, isn't it?
Bart: Well, once you're back home, there mostly won't be anybody to slam.
Gegg: I guess you're right. I wonder if I'll relapse, without Hajene D'zoll to keep me in practice.
Bart: Have to invite him back to Gumgeeville, to visit the family and pigs.
Gegg: From his reaction when we got here, I think he'd do just about anything to avoid another trip to Gumgeeville. Something about "washing that reek out of his hair, no matter how hard it was going to be to get the tangles out afterwards".
Gegg: Of course, with a nose like his, I guess you can't blame him for being a little sensitive about having to live next to Petunia and her brood.
Bart: At school one of the teachers always says "a nageric shift like that would stun a big nosed Farris" when we're not smooth enough.
Gegg: Well, I don't know. I expect a lot of what I've been throwing at D'zoll was anything but smooth.
Bart: Well, he's got a Donor to protect him from you!
Gegg: And Shorsh has been earning every cup of tea he drinks.
Gegg: Honestly, he's been very patient with me, especially given my lack of progress in some areas. I don't enjoy a lot of the therapy we do together, but I do like him personally.
Bart: He seemed like a good guy when I saw him in Gumgeeville. I liked the way he and D'zoll were always joking with each other.
Gegg looks through the window.
Gegg: Here comes Toria, and the twins.
Bart: Good. I want to tell her about Mik too.
Gegg: She'll want to hear everything you can tell her. Help yourself to more tea, while I help her with the babies.
Bart nods and reaches for the tea pot.
Gegg hurries for the door.