Jordy has decided to take Dr. Tavis' advice and check out the Sime Center. Despite the doctor's urging, he's not at all sure this is a good idea. He reflects that, nonetheless, this is for his children, and nothing's more important than that.
Jordy climbs the steps of the Sime Center with as much ~~ courage ~~ as he can muster.
Seruffin sets aside the paperwork he's been reading with some ~~ relief ~~.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, it appears we have a customer of some sort. Not a regular donor.
Seruffin has volunteered to take over the day shift for Bibi, so she can go visit Miz Brown.
Jordy knocks at the door.
Seruffin winces at the bashed knuckles.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, it appears our guest isn't familiar with in-Territory conventions, and so is probably not a part of the Brown clan.
Gerrhonot: Okay, I'll get the door. ~~ soothing ~~ ~~ reliably protective ~~
Seruffin: Thank you. He may find you less threatening.
Jordy, who considers bashed knuckles to be all in a day's work, is oblivious to the sentiment and knocks louder.
Jordy: Hi! Anybody home?
Gerrhonot goes over to the door and opens it, keeping his body between Seruffin and the Wild Gen.
Gerrhonot: Hello. Welcome to the Sime Center.
Jordy: Hi. I'm Jordy Phipps.
Gerrhonot: Hi. I'm Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot opens the door wider and gestures the man in.
Jordy examines Gerrhonot's forearms, sees no tentacles, and offers his hand for a shake.
Gerrhonot shakes hands.
Seruffin stays where he is, giving Jordy plenty of room so he won't feel crowded.
Gerrhonot: This is my channel, Hajene Seruffin.
Jordy: Hello, sir.
Seruffin approaches slowly, zlinning for signs of distress.
Seruffin: Greetings, Mr. Phipps. How may we assist you today?
Jordy glances at the channel's arms and hopes it won't be taken as too rude if he doesn't offer another handshake.
Seruffin gives a diplomatically polite nod of greeting, in lieu of the handshake.
Jordy: I just wanted to ask a few questions, that's all. Dr. Tavis suggested I should come here. I'm not here to, um, do anything.
Seruffin: Of course. Sosu Gerrhonot and I would be happy to answer your questions.
Seruffin recalls Bibi's highly effective brand of out-T hospitality.
Seruffin: Come in and help yourself to some refreshments. The chocolate bars are particularly nice.
Seruffin steps back out of the way, and not coincidentally closer to Gerrhonot, so that Jordy doesn't have to get too close.
Jordy lets himself be led farther into the room. He's not sure whether he should accept the chocolate; to him it's a considerable luxury, and he doesn't want to put himself in a position of being indebted to a Sime.
Gerrhonot moves closer offering ~~ as much support as you want ~~ to his channel.
Seruffin: There is coffee today, or trin tea, if you're feeling adventurous.
Jordy: Coffee, please.
Jordy has used up all his adventurousness just walking in here.
Gerrhonot: Help yourself.
Gerrhonot gestures at the refreshments table and guides Seruffin back to a sofa where the two can sit close together.
Jordy pours himself a half cup of coffee, then cuts the rare luxury with lots of cream and a dollop of honey.
Seruffin sits and waits ~~ patiently ~~ for Jordy to sample the offerings, zlinning him ~~ cautiously but curiously ~~.
Jordy glances ~~ longingly ~~ at the chocolate but decides to pass. He takes his coffee to one of the straight-backed chairs and sits. He fidgets with his cup but doesn't drink from it yet.
Jordy: I guess you're wondering why I'm here. I mean, if I'm not going to... you know.
Seruffin: We're always ready to welcome guests, whatever their reason for coming.
Jordy is ~~ nervous ~~ but ~~ determined ~~ .
Seruffin: But we can assist you more easily if we know what yours is.
Jordy: I've got kids. And the oldest are coming up on... that age.
Seruffin notes with a First's offhand sensitivity that Jordy is relatively healthy, for an out-Territory Gen, with the exception of some bruises and a few splinters.
Seruffin: Changeover or establishment?
Jordy: Yeah. So, when I was in seeing Dr. Tavis, I asked him about the Black Pill. And the alternatives to it. I want to know how to make the right decision, when the time comes. If... if it happens. I want to be ready.
Seruffin: I see.
Seruffin looks at Jordy with the ~~ respect ~~ he feels for any out-Territory Gen who is willing to make the effort to reach out to a Sime.
Seruffin: So what do you wish to know about the alternative that the Sime Center represents?
Jordy: I want to know... if I bring him here, what would happen to him? Would it be... compared to the Black Pill, I mean, would it be...?
Jordy realizes his hand is shaking and sets his coffee cup down.
Seruffin tries to look ~~ reassuring and professional ~~.
Jordy: What would it be like for him? How would he be? What kind of... of thing would he be?
Seruffin: If you bring your son here, the first step would be to determine whether he really is in changeover. There are a number of diseases with similar symptoms, and sometimes these are mistaken for changeover.
Jordy nods. He's heard stories about things like this.
Jordy: You mean, like, if you shoot your kid one day, and the next day your six-year-old has the same symptoms, and it turns out it's the flu?
Seruffin: Yes. An unfortunate and unnecessary tragedy. Even early on, changeover has one symptom that is definitive: the new Simes starts to consume selyn. Unfortunately, only another Sime can detect that.
Jordy has the feeling, between the chocolate and the coffee and this Sime's manner, that he's in way over his head here in class and status.
Jordy: I'm, um, yeah, but I wouldn't want to bother you unless I'm sure it's the real thing. I mean, he means a lot to me, but to you he'd still be just a carpenter's kid.
Jordy realizes he's babbling. ~~ embarrassment ~~
Seruffin: Mr. Phipps, your son is a person, and that means he's important enough to bring him here as soon as you suspect there may be a problem.
Seruffin is quite ~~ sincere ~~.
Jordy feels like he's just had the attention of something very large and powerful focused on him and his kids. He's not sure he likes the feeling. He takes a tiny sip of his coffee.
Seruffin: There is always someone awake here, just in case someone has exactly that problem.
Jordy: So, okay, suppose I bring him. What happens?
Seruffin: He would go through changeover here, assisted by Hajene Bibi. That can take a day or more, depending on how early you got him here. Hajene Bibi would give him his First Transfer, so he wouldn't have to endanger a Gen.
Jordy: Hajene Bibi. That's the, um, lady Dr. Tavis was telling me about?
Jordy isn't sure whether words like "lady" apply to a Sime, but he's doing the best he can with the vocabulary he's got.
Seruffin: Yes. I'm sorry that you missed her, but Miz Brown's rhumatiz was hurting her, and she asked Hajene Bibi for assistance.
Jordy: The doc says she's... nice.
Seruffin: Very nice. Although I admit I'm not in the least objective on that matter.
Jordy entirely misses the nuances of this.
Jordy: So she gives him what he needs so he won't hurt anyone, and then?
Seruffin: He would stay here in the Sime Center for anywhere up to two weeks, until arrangements can be made to send him to Sime Territory. During that time, it would be perfectly safe for you or your family to visit him here.
Seruffin zlins Jordy to see how he responds to this suggestion.
Jordy: Would we still recognize him? Would he still be the same boy we knew? Would he still have his soul? Do Simes believe in souls? ~~ fear ~~ worry ~~
Seruffin: Some Simes are religious and some aren't. We're much like Gens, in that way.
Jordy: So would my boy still have his soul?
Seruffin: I'm told the theologians are still debating whether anyone has a soul, and if so, what that means in the grand scheme of things. I'm afraid I'm just a channel, though, so I'm not qualified to venture an opinion on that subject. I do know that if your boy were to go through changeover, he would still have the same memories, enjoy the same virtues, and suffer from the same faults. He would love his family as much as he ever has.
Jordy tries to puzzle his way through this.
Seruffin: He would have tentacles, and some new senses he didn't have as a child, but in every other way he would remain the son you raised.
Jordy: You're saying he'd have as much soul as he ever did, but you're just not sure if he ever did?
Jordy thinks sometimes education just makes things more complicated.
Seruffin: Yes, at least in my opinion.
Jordy: Okay, then.
Jordy knows, beyond doubt, that his kids all have souls.
Jordy: I guess the other thing I need to know is how I pay for all this, if you take care of one of my kids. I don't have a lot of money. Would I have to... you know?
Jordy gestures vaguely towards the channel's forearms.
Seruffin: No, that's not required, although some parents want to support their child in that way. If you wished to visit your son here before he went to Sime Territory, he would be more comfortable if you were lowfield, but as I said, it's not required.
Jordy: Who pays for it, then?
Jordy silently adds, and will I owe them something I can't afford?
Seruffin: The medical services provided here, including helping children in changeover, are paid for through taxes on selyn paid by Simes.
Jordy understands taxes. Responsible folks pay, and freeloaders benefit.
Jordy: I wouldn't want my kid to turn into one of those. ~~ contempt ~~
Seruffin: Excuse me?
Seruffin is aware that Jordy doesn't want his son to be Sime, but is wondering why the sudden contempt.
Jordy: Freeloaders who live off of taxes.
Seruffin: Ah. As I see it, everyone requires help now and then, and there's no shame in accepting it, as long as you're prepared to give when the time comes.
Jordy: You mean, everyone helps everyone else? Neighborly, like?
Seruffin: Yes, in essence. Taxes are supposed to pay for public services, and to help those whose neighbors and family can't assist them.
Jordy thinks any kid of his had damned well better know how to take a turn at giving back.
Jordy: So Simes sound pretty much just like people, then.
Seruffin: Yes. Simes have jobs, get married, pay their taxes, and eventually die, just like Gens.
Jordy: It could be a decent life for my kids.
Jordy is ~~ struggling ~~ towards acceptance.
Seruffin: I won't deceive you. It can be very difficult to learn a new language and start a new life in a strange land. But if your boy is willing to work at it, then yes, he can make a very good life for himself.
Jordy: It's a chance. Better than a Black Pill, to have a chance. A chance is all anyone gets anyway.
Seruffin: Very true.
Jordy: Thank you. I think you've helped me sort out some things.
Jordy abandons his almost untouched cup of coffee and stands.
Seruffin: You're welcome. I'm glad that I was able to answer your questions.
Jordy bites his lip, then offers his hand for a handshake.
Jordy: Thank you very much, sir.
Seruffin signals Gerrhonot for support as he stands, too. He reaches towards Jordy's hand, pausing to let the Gen complete the grasp.
Jordy's spike of ~~ fear ~~ , as he clasps the channel's hand, is less than half what it would have been an hour ago
Seruffin is able to ignore the spike and clasps back with the approved firmness, while keeping his tentacles firmly sheathed. He figures that Jordy has enough to think about, without getting a closer view of them.
Jordy avoids looking too closely at Seruffin's forearm as he shakes briskly, nods, then turns to go. His heart feels a little lighter, somehow, than it did before he came here.