Mr. Ambassador: Episode 12

Sanda tramps through the slush to the front door of the Hannard's Ford Sime Center, the first time she's been there since she returned from Nivet.

Sanda came into town on the train with one of her neighbors. Her mother doesn't trust her to travel alone, which is hardly fair.

Sanda wipes her feet and opens the door.

Nattin is in the waiting room, replenishing the tea.

Sanda: [Simelan] Hello, Tuib Nattin.

Nattin: Hello, Sanda. How was your trip to Sat'htine?

Nattin replies in the same language, although he tries to keep his vocabulary simplified.

Sanda: Very educational!

Nattin laughs.

Sanda's Simelan is quite good, for most practical purposes.

Nattin: I'm sure it was. I assume you're here to donate today?

Sanda: Yes. My mother didn't want to leave the babies, or travel any more with them. It's pretty cold. Maybe next month.

Nattin: Perhaps. It should be warmer in a few weeks.

Sanda: I hope so. It was practically spring at Sat'htine when we left.

Nattin: I'm afraid you'll have to wait today, though. Hajene Bibi has been called away to assist a changeover who's too far along to move.

Sanda: Wow. Lucky for the new Sime she could go to him!

Nattin: In the mean time, have some tea and cookies.

Sanda pours herself some tea and studies the cookies. She decides which kind looks best and takes only one.

Nattin pours himself some tea to keep her company.

Sanda: So how have things been here this winter?

Nattin: Relatively quiet. We haven't had any distinguished visitors, except for Hajene Seruffin, since your family left.

Sanda nods, figuring the onslaught of Farrises before they left would have been enough for one year and more.

Sanda: Is Hajene Seruffin well? He really changed our lives by getting stuck in Gumgeeville last year. A lot of peoples' lives. A lot of people have started donating, I think.

Sanda has heard this mostly as gossip, but once it was pointed out to her, she could see how much more prosperous people around Gumgeeville look these days.

Nattin: We have been getting a surprising number of donors from Gumgeeville, especially considering the difficulty of travel in winter. Hajene Seruffin is well, although he made the headlines in the Gen newspapers again.

Nattin ~~ doesn't approve ~~ of the circumstances.

Sanda: What happened?

Nattin: He was at some function or other when some Gen politician had heart trouble. He was asked to provide assistance, which upset a number of people, including his patient.

Sanda: I guess it would, but you'd think the patient would be glad to have somebody help him.

Nattin: The patient was a very conservative Senator. He has made his career out of fighting Unity. You can hardly expect such a person to set aside his principles.

Sanda: So he refused the help?

Nattin: Fortunately for him, he was incapacitated. His wife gave permission. And Hajene Seruffin was able to save the man, with Gerrhonot's assistance.

Sanda: So people are upset that they saved him, now? Did they want him to just stand there and let the guy die? I mean, he's a channel!

Sanda shakes her head.

Sanda: It's hard getting used to the way things are here, again. I guess I can see how a lot of people would think that way though.

Nattin: You can't change attitudes overnight. Sometimes you can't change them at all. People can only adapt so far.

Sanda: Yeah.

Sanda sighs.

Nattin: How is your father?

Sanda: He's pretty good. He's glad to be back home.

Nattin: I'm sure he is. It must have been very difficult for him, to be among so many Simes.

Sanda: Yeah, especially at first. But when Mik came to visit, he was really happy to see him, and he did okay with him. Mik was really happy about that, too.

Nattin: I'm very glad it worked out for them.

Nattin is all too aware that things might easily have worked out differently, despite the best efforts of all concerned.

Sanda: Everybody at Sat'htine was really happy about it too. They were all pretty nice to us, and a lot of them thought we should pledge.

Nattin: Well, all Householders tend to think that everyone would be better off in a House. Despite plenty of evidence otherwise.

Sanda: My parents wanted to come home, and raise the twins here, and I don't think I could get used to living in a Householding permanently. I do want to go back to Nivet some time. One thing I liked was everybody treated me as a grownup because I'm a Gen.

Sanda isn't fully aware how being treated as an adult has caused her to mature a great deal more than she would have had she stayed at home.

Nattin: That's right, you're still a child on this side of the border, aren't you?

Sanda: Here most people still treat me as a kid, and the other kids my age still act more like kids. I guess I got used to acting more grown up because people expected me to. Like, I don't mind looking after the twins as much as I would have, because I can see that my mother gets pretty tired with doing everything else she does too.

Nattin: Looking after even one baby is hard work.

Sanda: My mother says it will be even more work for some time to come. Years.

Sanda sighs again.

Sanda: But we're setting aside some of my donation money every month so I can buy a sewing machine. I learned how to use one at Sat'htine.

Nattin: Will you start a business, or just sew for your family?

Sanda: Sewing for the family will help out, but I hope I can make some money with it. I'll have to start slow, of course.

Nattin: Your family will have more money when your mother can donate again.

Sanda: Yeah, but I want to do more than just donate to bring in some income. I have to stick around home to help with the twins so I can't work elsewhere.

Nattin: We don't have a channel here who can handle your father, unfortunately.

Sanda: My dad feels bad about that -- that we're donating and he can't now.

Nattin: I'm sure he does. On the other hand, I expect he felt equally bad when he was donating, for other reasons.

Sanda: Sat'htine is giving us this maize sheller for its scrap value, and they're giving us credit for the selyn we all donated there, so it will only cost us the shipping. A lot of the other farmers are interested in using it, so they're being careful to be nice to Dad. Otherwise they'd probably hassle him about going to Nivet.

Nattin: I'm glad of that. After all that he went through, it would be unfortunate if his neighbors couldn't accept his decisions.

Sanda: Well, a lot of them are donating too, now. And a maize sheller will save everybody a lot of boring work, so people are interested in it. We never had anything like it in Gumgeeville. But dad has to adapt it -- it's geared for a Sime to crank it. Mr. Mullins is going to help him.

Nattin: Good. Are you enjoying being back home, with your friends?

Sanda: I guess. But some of them seem so childish. And one girl got murdered this winter, for turning Sime. I mean, they had to shoot her, they couldn't get here, but the way my friends talk about it... I don't know.

Nattin: They don't view what happened as wrong and unnecessary?

Sanda: It's like they don't want to think about her as a person any more. Especially not as a person like themselves.

Nattin: Have your friends established yet?

Sanda: Probably some. Bernia knows, because she came here with us that time she thought she was changing over last summer. And a few of them asked Hajene Katsura when she was staying with Miz Virla, although they had to sneak in. And Bella knows, too, of course. She and her dad donate now. But the rest of them, they won't find out until they get the Blessing, the girls that is. Or they start to change over.

Nattin: That's why they can't talk about their dead friend as a person. Because to do so would be to admit that they, too, might go through changeover.

Sanda: Yeah, I know. I told them that but they didn't want to hear it. I told them to come here and get checked next time they're in Hannard's Ford, but they all acted like I was telling them to do something dirty.

Sanda thought they did so in a very silly manner, too.

Nattin: They know that some of them will end up hearing news they don't want to hear.

Sanda: Well, the worst they can hear is "nothing yet", right? Unless they're just about to change over, and if that's happening, a Sime Center has to be the best place to hear it!

Nattin: If they can't face that possibility, they can be sure that by staying away, they'll never hear it.

Sanda: They'll hear it all right, but it will be too late to do anything but let somebody shoot them!

Nattin: If they can't bear thinking about changeover long enough to see if they're Gen yet, do you think they're willing to think about what will happen if it happens to them? People are surprisingly good at ignoring things they don't want to hear.

Sanda nods.

Sanda: I'm trying not to let it bother me. But they act so silly about donating and having anything to do with Simes, and they just keep trying to believe changeover won't happen to them or anybody they know.

Nattin: To get them to stop, you first have to convince them that they can handle any consequences that might occur from... having something to do with Simes. The more you tell them about your experiences across the border, the more comfortable they'll be with the idea. At least, if you make it sound harmless and perfectly natural.

Sanda shrugs.

Nattin: I know that's not as much fun as telling them the parts that will really impress them, however.

Sanda: I don't know. They seem to enjoy squealing and acting all titillated when I tell them about Simes and channels. Maybe I just have to wait for them to grow up more. Those that do.

Sanda is pretty depressed at the thought.

Sanda: Or maybe their parents will smarten up and bring them here to be checked.

Sanda hopes so, but none of them took advantage of the channels who have visited Gumgeeville over that past year.

Nattin: Perhaps. But you might be able to get some of them to come on their own, if you can convince them that channels are just as safe to be around as to hear about.

Sanda: I was trying that even before I went in-T. I'll keep trying, but I don't expect much.

Sanda misses being close to her former friends, but she's seen a wider world and doesn't plan to spend her whole life in Gumgeeville any more. Once the twins get to the age of reason, she'll be out of there.

Sanda: When I was at Sat'htine, I asked them to teach me to serve transfer, but they said they wouldn't unless I was going to be a TN-3 for the Tecton. I thought about lying, but they'd know.

Nattin: Yes, they would. You can't lie to a channel.

Sanda: It didn't seem fair. After all, it's not illegal to serve transfer to a renSime out-T. But they said what if the kid was a channel? He could kill me. And considering that my brother is QN-2, it's not so unlikely some other kids in Gumgeeville might be channels.

Nattin: That's true, and you don't seem to have inherited your father's Donor talent.

Sanda: So they figure it's better for the kids I could save to die than risk that one might kill me. And even though I'm an adult Gen, they wouldn't let me decide to take the risk.

Nattin: Partly. Mostly, though, it simply takes too much of an investment to train a Donor, to have one sitting around a small town like Gumgeeville waiting for a few changeovers a year. It makes a lot more sense to have a Donor take care of a channel, who can help many more people.

Sanda: Yeah, but they wouldn't send a channel here anyway. And I don't have enough Donor talent to serve anyone but a renSime, probably. They wouldn't have to teach me everything a Donor does, just how to serve transfer.

Sanda shrugs.

Sanda: Oh, well.

Nattin: Look at it this way. By not becoming a Donor, you'll remain free to choose your own path. Donors have to go where the Tecton sends them, and quite often it turns out to be a place they'd rather not go.

Sanda: Yeah. I don't want to be a Donor. I just thought they could teach me enough to look after anybody who changes over in Gumgeeville, but they wouldn't.

Sanda shrugs again.

Sanda: Well, it's their decision. It's not like they owe us anything -- just the opposite, really.

Nattin: You can't force change on people, Sanda, even when it's to their advantage. They've got to want it for themselves. If they don't want it, then it would do more harm than good to force it on them. Believe me, I've seen it.

Sanda: I wasn't forcing anything, just asking them. They said no, so no it is.

Nattin: Good. By accepting their refusal, you also showed them that you will accept their decision gracefully if they should change their minds. There's nothing worse than someone saying "I told you so."

Sanda: Well, I'm stuck here helping look after the twins for some years now, so I can't go in-T to learn. And once the twins are more independent, I don't plan to stay in Gumgeeville. So having them change their minds doesn't really matter.

Nattin: Of course it matters. They're the people you grew up with. They'll always be important to you, even if you leave Gumgeeville and hardly ever see them.

Sanda: I mean the selyn workers at Sat'htine. Changing their minds about teaching me to serve transfer.

Nattin: Ah. No, they won't change their minds. What you asked is a crime, in-Territory.

Sanda: But not out here.

Nattin: No. Not out here. But they can't teach you out here.

Sanda: Right. And they wouldn't teach me while I was in-T. I mean, I wouldn't have had to give transfer to a renSime in-T. A channel could fake it for me. But it's selyn spent in augmentation now. Or water under the bridge as we say out here.

Nattin: Yes.

Sanda: So for the years I'll be in Gumgeeville, three or four kids will change over every year, or start to, and they'll die, most of them. Some will even kill, first.

Nattin: Yes. But if a few get help first -- as has already started to happen -- than gradually fewer and fewer will die, or kill. And perhaps by the time the twins are your age, it will be normal, and they won't lose very many friends.

Sanda: The twins will go in-T, before they turn twelve. I guess Mik will look after them, or maybe I will, if I'm in-T or living in a place with a Sime Center out here.

Nattin: Good. Perhaps the arrangements that are made will encourage other families in Gumgeeville to make similar ones.

Sanda: People can't afford to board their kids elsewhere for years, and they need their work at home. The twins are an exception, because we know at least one and maybe both will be channels.

Nattin: Yes. It's easier to plan for an event you know will happen, rather than one that might happen. Tell me, has Sat'htine offered to take the twins in?

Sanda: I think they'd have let us all pledge. Maybe even Mik. But my parents would never just hand the babies off to them, even if we can only raise them for twelve years.

Nattin: I'm not surprised. Your parents are very responsible people.

Sanda looks through the window and sees Bibi, Cristal and another person, who's even smaller than Bibi, coming up the walk.

Nattin follows Sanda's gaze.

Sanda: Here comes Bibi and Cristal and the new Sime.

Nattin: Ah, good. They were in time. Six years ago, you know, that girl would be dead. Change may happen slowly, but it happens.

Sanda adjusts her nager to be ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ neutral ~~, figuring the poor kid doesn't need any more nageric input.

Sanda: Yes.

Sanda gives in. Even if everybody in Gumgeeville supports Unity, the Tecton won't be able to send them a channel, and kids will continue to die when the pass is impassable and the train schedule doesn't suit.

Nattin: Have another cup of tea while I get our latest arrival settled, and Hajene Bibi will be in to take your donation shortly.

Sanda: Okay. Thank you.

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