Ma Mullins is sitting in a comfortable chair in the training camp's guest quarters, knitting the second of a pair of socks. She firmly believes that no one can have too many pairs, and Bart always was hard on his socks. She hasn't yet come to grips on the reality that Bart is no longer spending his days wading through the mud in leaky boots.
Ma is waiting for Bart to return after showing his father where to join the campus tour for the out-Territory guests. She decided she would rather have an uninterrupted chat with her son than see how Simes do things.
Ma does have to concede that Jed might have a point about Simes knowing how to make a decent profit from a farm: certainly Toria Gegg was impressed by Sat'htine, and this place is wealthy enough to have hot and cold water in the same season. She was enjoying some of it earlier, in a purpose-built tub.
Bart taps on the door.
Bart: Ma? It's me.
Ma: Bart, come in. You're just in time. Get that boot off, and let me see if this is long enough.
Bart would have enjoyed going on the tour with his father, explaining things to him, but his mother wanted to talk to him, and he's doing his best to please her. He knows how hard it was for her to even consider coming in-T for a visit.
Bart closes the door behind him, sits near Ma and takes his boot off.
Ma leans down to measure the fit.
Bart is wearing Tecton-issue socks, which are made on machines in a factory somewhere. They are uniformly knit and of uniform color.
Ma: Where did you get those fancy socks? They look like machine work.
Bart: They don't just give us uniforms, they give us socks and underwear, too.
Bart examines his sock, thinking what to say to placate his mother.
Ma: Oh. Well, I guess they keep you too busy to knit socks yourselves.
Bart: I guess so. I never did learn to do it, anyway. But these socks are kind of boring. They come in just one color, and there's no love knit into them.
Bart smiles at his mother.
Bart: It's good of you to make me another pair of real socks.
Ma smiles back.
Ma: Well, then, I'll have to make these extra fancy. I've got a bit of turquoise yarn in my bag, left over from that shawl I made two years ago. How about I put some fancy trim on the tops?
Bart: Sounds good. Nobody else has socks like that.
Ma is ~~ happy ~~ that her son will be better dressed than his classmates.
Bart doesn't intend to wear them on duty.
Ma: They'll be nice and warm, too. Those ones you're wearing are a bit thin.
Bart: Yeah, they are. It'll be nice to have a new pair of good warm ones.
Ma: I should make you mittens to match. That way you'll be warm when you travel.
Bart: I've got a pair of gloves to go with my uniform, but mittens will be good for when I'm not trying to look like a Tecton professional. Mittens are warmer, too.
Ma: Yes, they are. Gloves are fancy, but not very sensible.
Ma works on the heel, needles clicking busily.
Ma: Bart, are you happy with what you've learned? Is it really something you want to do every day? Because if you don't want to, I want you to know that you can come home to Gumgeeville any time.
Bart: Ma, I really like it. I'm really looking forward to doing it full time after I graduate.
Ma is ~~ trying ~~ to understand her son, but she still has ~~ doubts ~~.
Bart: They all tell me I've got real talent for it. I learned real fast, and I'm good at it.
Ma: I understand that, but having this "talent" doesn't mean you don't have a choice. Not everyone who can hold a tune wants to sing in the choir, and your talent is yours to use or not as you choose, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Bart: Yeah, I know. But it's not just that the farm isn't big enough for all of us, and I can't get into another trade, and I don't want to work in a factory, or that this job pays well and gets a lot of respect. I just really want to do it. It makes me happy to be able to, to be good at it.
Bart doesn't think that he can go into any detail without having a negative effect on his mother's stomach. For example, he doesn't see how he can describe the ecstatic fulfillment of giving transfer to a needy channel without disgusting her.
Ma: I guess that's the part I don't understand. How this "talent" can give you pleasure, give Gegg nothing but terror, and a little bit of it give me...
Ma presses her lips together and shakes her head.
Bart: You have Donor talent?
Bart is ~~ amazed ~~.
Ma: Well, I've never felt half of what you said you were feeling, and none of it was pleasant, but the channel at the border said you got some of your talent from me.
Bart: Wow. I thought it was all from dad's side, since Mik's a channel and Mr. Gegg could have been a Donor.
Ma: It was something about my knowing when it was actually happening.
Bart: You can sense selyn flow? I guess that would explain why you had trouble that time you donated to Hajene Seruffin. You weren't expecting anything like that.
Bart plans to ask some of his teachers about this phenomenon.
Ma: The odd thing was, I couldn't really "feel" anything, either time. Which didn't make a bit of difference.
Ma is still ~~ confused ~~ about the whole thing.
Bart: I guess I can see what you mean. Like, when I first donated to Hajene Seruffin, it wasn't like I could feel it happening, but it made me want to give him something, sort of push something from me to him. It made me feel good, just to be in contact with him.
Bart: It felt good with Hajene Bibi, too, but I knew by then not to try to push.
Ma: It wasn't like that for me. More like a nightmare of being drained, with no way to stop the leak or even slow it down.
Bart: That must be awful.
Bart thinks it's a terrible perversion of the natural instinct of a Donor to give. It's also really unfair -- it's better not to feel anything than to feel something like that.
Bart: Ma, I really appreciate what you were willing to go through to come here to visit me. I see now why it's a lot harder for you than for almost anybody to donate.
Ma: It wasn't as bad the second time, when I knew a little what to expect. And I do want to see you graduate. No one from Gumgeeville has ever graduated from a real college, except Reverend Kallan, of course, and that was a seminary.
Ma is ~~ proud ~~ of her son's accomplishment, even if she doesn't care for his major.
Bart: Well, this isn't exactly a real college, but people who graduate from it get a lot of prestige. And I'll keep learning for a long time, too. There's always something new to learn in this trade.
Ma: That's true of most trades. Even farmers keep learning, or their crops fail.
Bart: They teach us a lot here, and we get some practical experience, but the next couple of years I'll be learning a lot about real life as a Donor. I'll be in Capital, a really big city, where I can get really wide experience. I might make First Order, too, and then I'll have a chance to work with the best channels who do really interesting things.
Bart is thinking of medical or other channeling tasks, not upper level administration.
Ma's face falls as her unspoken dream of having her son return, if not to Gumgeeville, at least to Hannard's Ford, is dashed.
Bart notes his mother's reaction.
Bart: Once I've got more experience I might be able to get a position out-T. If I like it, I could even specialize in it.
Ma gives a ~~ tremulous ~~ smile.
Ma: Oh, Bart, it would be so good to have you closer to home.
Bart: They don't like to send people out-T until they have a lot of experience, so it wouldn't be for a few years. But maybe I can get the occasional rotation out-T before that. Just a month or so. You could come visit me then.
Ma: Your father and I would like that very much, and it would be good for Vrian to run the farm by himself for a while.
Bart: How's he doing? I bet he's growing fast and filling out now that he's established.
Bart is too tactful to mention the improved diet the family is no doubt enjoying.
Ma: He is. And he's a lot more serious about looking after the farm now that he knows it will be his some day. Jed's even thinking about trying to buy more land, once we can afford it.
Bart: Oh, that would be good. Dad said that his father always wanted to buy back the land his mother lost when she was widowed. Maybe we can, now. Or some of it, anyway.
Bart resolves to put some money aside especially for that purpose. He also wonders whether his mother will be able to contribute by donating, now. The money could really pile up that way.
Ma: Yes. With more land, Vrian will be able to marry well, despite, well...
Bart: Despite his Sime kissing family and his even worse brother?
Ma doesn't want to impose guilt on her son for a career choice she reluctantly endorsed due to the nonexistent options.
Bart: From what dad wrote, by the time Vrian's ready to pick out a wife, the whole town will be Sime kissers.
Ma: Your father is an optimist, Bart. You know that. Most people in Gumgeeville have no intentions of ever kissing a Sime, although there are quite a few who are at least willing to admit that doing so isn't necessarily immediately fatal.
Bart: Dad says that a lot of people are donating for the money, or at any rate, a lot of people have money that they sure didn't get from their farms, now.
Ma: It's not only the folks who donate who have more income, Bart. Money doesn't improve anyone's life unless it's spent, and that means someone else has to sell them something.
Bart: I guess so.
Bart figures a lot of that money is being spent in Hannard's Ford. After all, people have to go there to donate, and there's a lot more there to buy than in Gumgeeville.
Bart: Anyhow, Vrian can always tell his prospective bride that none of their children will have to be shot, because they can come in-T when they hit the dangerous age, and I can look after them.
Ma is a little ~~ startled ~~ at the thought.
Ma: Well, I suppose you will be a grown-up, responsible uncle by then, won't you? And I'll just be an old grandma, if I'm still around at all.
Bart: It's a long way down the road, but not all that long, when you think of it. He's not getting married for some years yet.
Ma: His youth isn't stopping him from noticing the girls, Bart. He's the image of his father, that way.
Bart doesn't want to touch that mention of his father with a fork. He's been aware for some time that he was conceived before his parents married.
Bart: Yeah? Like Sanda Gegg, for example? She's a Sime kisser and her brother's a channel. She can't object to me. The Geggs have a good farm, too, and Sanda's the heir. Well, good for Gumgeeville, that is.
Ma: Sanda's feeling much too sophisticated these days to notice a Gumgeeville boy. I give it another month before she realizes that, unlike the boys she met on her travels, the Gumgeeville boys are there.
Bart: Sanda the world traveller. How did she like living in-T?
Ma: Very much, to hear her speak, but I expect she was just as busy while she was gone telling the Sat'htine boys all about how interesting Gumgeeville is.
Bart: She's a talker, all right.
Ma: Truth to tell, I expect she'll be happy in Gumgeeville, with a good farm and a lot of tales to tell.
Bart: I guess so.
Bart pauses, then takes his mother's hand.
Bart: Are you sure you'll be all right at my graduation ceremony? I'll be giving transfer right there in front of everybody. If it's going to upset you, you don't have to watch.
Bart: I'll be too busy to notice who's watching, anyway.
Ma: It's your graduation, Bart. Your mother should be there. Besides, we don't know if they'll allow it, yet.
Bart: Well, just remember, no matter how you'd feel in my place, for me it feels... glorious.
Ma: I'll try to do that, Bart.
Bart: When I'm with a channel in need, when I can help him... I can't describe how it feels. It's like I was born to do this. This is really what I want to do with my life, Ma, strange as it seems to you.
Bart squeezes his mother's hand.
Ma: I know that, Bart. Just tell me, do they teach you how to make a Sime stop, when he's taking too much or too fast?
Bart thinks about it.
Bart: The channels would never do that on purpose. And if a renSime tried to attack me, I could stop him, or serve him, because he can't go too fast for me. I could probably stop any channel who didn't outrate me, and they'd never give me a channel who outrated me by much.
Bart considers further.
Bart: The only Sime who could cause me trouble would be a berserker channel who outrated me. The chances of running into someone like that are astronomical, but if it did happen, I could stop him, probably without killing him.
Bart hopes so, anyway. Killing a channel is almost unthinkable.
Ma considers that for a moment.
Ma: I suppose it wouldn't be nearly as unsettling, if you knew you could stop things when you'd had enough. It was not being about to do anything about the situation that made it so bad, with Hajene Seruffin.
Bart refrains from explaining to Ma that Tecton policy is for the channel to control the transfer, except in therapeutic transfers.
Bart: They teach us signals, too, so we can tell the channel directly to ease off, although the channel can zlin for himself what's happening. I can see how scary it would be for you. You'd have no way to tell him to slow down, if he didn't realize right away that he should.
Ma: Yes. It was just going on and on.
Bart figures Seruffin not only slowed down but stopped, but his mother was too panicked to wait for him to dismantle the contact.
Bart: Well, you managed at the border. That's what's important.
Ma: Yes. That's what important. Now all I have to get through is this screening.
Ma still isn't quite clear what it is or why it's being demanded of her.
Bart: My room mate is graduating next month, so he's more than competent. Maybe I can get him to sit next to you and control the ambient if you get upset. Uh, that means he can prevent your emotions from having a bad effect on any Simes around. If he'll do that, you should be okay. We'll talk to some of the channels and see what they say.
Bart thinks over his words.
Bart: Uh, 'bad effect' doesn't mean they'd attack you or anything. It would be more like a loud noise when everybody's trying to listen to soft music. Disruptive.
Ma: I thought that's what donating at the border was supposed to prevent? If it doesn't work, why do they make you do it?
Bart: It should be enough, if a Donor is around to make sure. I think some of the channels are just nervous. There's a saying I hear a lot that you can never tell what a Gen from out-T will do next. Most channels don't have much experience with people from out-T.
Ma: So they assume we're monsters?
Ma is being a little unfair, as any Gen parent of a Donor candidate is potentially a Gen with Donor talent him or herself.
Bart: Not monsters, just unpredictable. We'd probably figure they're unpredictable too. Different cultures. And channels tend to be awfully cautious about everything, whether it's justified or not.
Ma: That's not a way to change the world.
Bart: Well, they did, somehow, on this side of the border. Now they're more cautious.
Ma: I guess they can't afford another war. Not when they depend on their potential enemy for an essential supply.
Bart: Nobody wants a war. Not any more. All the juncts are dead, even before I was born.
Ma: Well, all the juncts in Simeland, anyway.
Bart: Yeah. I hope that changes, but it's a long haul. Maybe I can do something about that, if I work out-T.
Ma: You'd be good at it, Bart. You don't think people from our Territory are insane or rude by definition.
Bart: I've got a lot to learn first, though.
Ma: Nobody ever knows everything, Bart. At some point, you just have to work with what you know, or what you have.
Bart: Yeah, but I'm not ready to work in a place like Hannard's Ford yet. Someone like Hajene Bibi needs someone she can trust to know what to do and when and how to do it.
Ma: I suppose so.