Going to Nivet: Episode 13

Huffard shifts from foot to foot ~~ impatiently ~~ as he waits for the tour group to gather.

Huffard is unused to waiting for anyone, so he's out of practice. He considers himself Important, and the employees at his factory agree or find other jobs.

Huffard is still a tad ~ miffed ~ that his daughter refused to follow his plan for her future, but since the middle manager he'd picked out as a husband for her is showing signs of interest in her younger sister, he's getting over it.

Jed watches Bart until he passes out of sight behind a building. He's glad Bart will stay with his mother and have a good long talk. Ma has been longing for it.

Huffard wouldn't have been surprised or upset at Synday getting a job in New Washington, but he does consider that running across the border was a little too far. He decided to cross the border himself and attend her graduation to make it very clear to her that she is still a member of the family, and therefore has responsibilities.

Jed looks around the assembled group. Simes and Gens both. He wonders if he's going to annoy anybody with his emotions, but figures they can just move away. Especially after they sucked him dry at the border.

Huffard looks at his fellow tourist, who is very obviously not the tour guide.

Huffard: You'd think that they'd be able to get someone here on time, after we've come so far.

Jed: They're not on time? Well, maybe all the parents aren't here yet either.

Jed usually doesn't need any more accurate timing than "next week" or "tomorrow afternoon".

Huffard looks around.

Huffard: I don't see anyone else coming...

Huffard is ~~ irritated ~~.

Huffard: They're wasting our time.

Huffard doesn't have anything else to do, particularly, but as a man who pays assembly workers, he takes "down time" seriously.

Jed: I don't have anything else scheduled, myself. Sort of a vacation, eh?

Jed finds the concept of a vacation ~~ amusingly ~~ novel.

Huffard: It's the principle of the thing.

Huffard really doesn't like be contradicted, especially when the person doing the contradicting is right.

Gikku walks up briskly -- well, not so very briskly for a Third Order Channel, but fast enough to make most of the rest of the group with him struggle a bit to keep up.

Gikku: Ah, there you are. Sorry about the ambiguous directions, you were meant to meet us -- well, back there.

Gikku points.

Huffard: Humpf.

Gikku: Anyhow, here we all are at last, and that's what counts, doesn't it?

Gikku zlins to see if anyone is going to get difficult, and picks up on Huffard's irritation.

Gikku: As I said, my apologies for the confusion. But to get right up to the point, this is Deer Lake Donor Training Camp, as you all know, and it's the largest Donor training center in this part of Nivet Territory, and the one with the best reputation. So you can all be proud, very proud of the achievements of your sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, and what not.

Jed smiles. It's good to hear, even from a biased source. He'd be proud of Bart anyway.

Huffard takes it for granted that any daughter of his would be in a suitably elite place.

Gikku: Anyhow, as I said before back there, my name is Gikku and I'm a Third Order Channel attached to Deer Lake. That means I have enough time off from channeling to do other jobs, like tour guide. And of course it's important to have a channel playing that role just in case anything should go wrong, which I can say has never happened in the four years I've been doing this job, so there's nothing at all to worry about. Ha!

Huffard is glad that they are being shown around by someone with an appropriate degree of status.

Huffard checks to see that his clothing is still neat, as befits a man of his station.

Huffard: So which one of the graduates is your Donor, Hajene?

Huffard shows off his sophistication by using the correct honorific.

Gikku: Ah. This is Sosu Fred from New Washington City.

Gikku says "Fred" and "New Washington City" with an impeccable Crescent Hill accent.

Huffard: Sosu Fred.

Huffard nods a courteous greeting.

Jed nods, too, since it seems polite.

Gikku: And the rest of you are sisters or cousins or aunts or what not of new Donors, so I leave you to introduce yourselves to each other as you see appropriate.

Gikku: But anyhow. Over there --

Gikku waves in a different direction

Gikku: -- are dormitories, where the students live, so I think I will show you those first.

Gikku leads his pack off to the long, low building across the way. It is apparently built of bricks salvaged from older buildings, since they are every possible shade of red, yellow, and gray.

Huffard: What was here before the Donor school? That looks like old brick in a new building.

Gikku: Ah. In Ancient times this was apparently some kind of upper-class dwelling area, but it was deserted when the Ancient civilization broke down and the water stopped flowing. At some time during the Ages of Chaos, the dam also broke, which is why Deer Lake doesn't have a lake today. At the needed scale, however, we have no difficulty taking enough water from the river for the camp.

Gikku has answered that question dozens of times, but still manages to make the reply sound fresh, which is why he's kept this job. He's genuinely enthusiastic about teaching the public.

Huffard grunts to show his comprehension.

Huffard: I'm surprised you're not taking better advantage of the river. That falls I saw a bit downstream could power a factory.

Gikku: I'm sure it could, sir. However, Sime civilization is not yet dependent on mass production. Maybe someday.

Huffard huffs and falls silent, not sure how to respond to someone who doesn't appreciate the necessity of exploiting every possible business opportunity.

Jed wonders why this guy has to keep pushing himself forward. He'd rather listen to the guide.

Loomet moves farther away from the huffing Gen, whose tendency to take offense at anything different from his expectations is ~~ wearing ~~ on her tentacles. She mutters to a nearby fellow tour member whose clothes at least show that he's not a stranger to hard work:

Loomet: What's wrong with leaving the river as a nice place to go swimming? A factory would spoil that.

Loomet is bilingual, but found the Genlan tour more convenient to take.

Jed: Sure.

Jed notes that Loomet's a Sime, but she seems like a nice enough woman. Her hands show she's not afraid of work, either.

Jed: Name's Jed Mullins. From out-T.

Jed is ~~ happy ~~ to use a sort-of Simelan phrase.

Loomet: Loomet. Born and raised not ten miles from here.

Jed: Your kid graduating from Donor school too?

Loomet: No, it's my sister's kid. All mine were distressingly ordinary.

Jed smiles.

Jed: That's what I thought about my kids too. Well, not that they were ordinary, but not that one would have this Donor talent stuff. And before this I'd never been very far from where I was born and raised, either.

Loomet: I've always thought it would be nice to travel and see the world. I've never had the money to go anywhere interesting, though, and of course it's a lot harder for a Sime to travel across the border than a Gen. ~~ wistful ~~

Jed: I suppose it would be.

Jed doesn't think it would be tactful to mention that they only have the money for this trip because of donation payments, since this woman obviously can't do the same.

Gikku carries on, explaining about the service staff in the dormitory and refectoria, who are all renSimes.

Huffard has very little interest in service staff, except that they are efficient and seldom seen.

Gikku: You might not think so, but these posts are considered extremely desirable and are very much in demand. Ordinary Simes don't get to spend a lot of time around Donors-with-a-capital-D, and they find it very enjoyable to be able to make a tiny bit of use of the massed Donor-quality field that continually surrounds this place. Assignment here is mostly by lottery, but the lot does seem to fall on the promising renSime children of successful business families rather more often than the laws of chance would strictly allow. Ha!

Loomet: Tell me something I don't know [muttered].

Jed: Something else that that's the same on both sides of the border.

Loomet: I'm lucky if I zlin a Donor once a month -- not all channels work with one all the time, you know.

Gikku: Now if you like we'll move along to see the classrooms. Of course we won't be able to go into all of those, but there are some that are not occupied at present and some lecture halls that have visitor's galleries. I think we'll be able to see Professor Kosimi doing a presentation on comparative Gen anatomy --

Gikku zlins the crowd again to see if any guests have visceral objections to this: some do.

Gikku: -- or on second thought, perhaps not today, eh?

Huffard: Why not? Something you don't want us to see?

Huffard, of course, can't zlin the responses of others' viscera.

Gikku: No, not at all. Just some of you don't care for the idea of seeing Gens from the inside, as you might say.

Jed wonders if they use live, er, dead Gens in these classes, and is glad Ma isn't along on the tour.

Gikku: Of course it's true that there are some parts of the camp that simply aren't open to visitors for reasons of safety, but anatomy classes are not one of them. Donor practicums, that's different -- it wouldn't be appropriate to have outsiders present.

Huffard: Got to preserve the trade secrets, eh?

Gikku: Not really secret. You could study them in books. But the presence of your field would be an interfering factor. You wouldn't allow outsiders to stand next to the machines in your factory, would you?

Huffard: Not close enough to get tangled in them. Or to distract my workers, for that matter. Idle workers make no goods.

Gikku smiles.

Gikku: Exactly!

Gikku loves it when the guests move from confusion to understanding.

Huffard can't help feeling like he's being had, but he can't quite figure out how. He's temporarily silenced by the dilemma.

Gikku zlins to confirm his beliefs, and unfortunately the guest is just as confused as before, though presumably about something else. He moves on literally and figuratively.

Gikku: So instead, since many of you wouldn't understand the lectures anyhow, we'll move on to the gardens. It's a bit early to see much, but you might be interested in some of the Sime high technology.

Gikku moves the crowd along until everyone is gathered in the greenhouse.

Jed is ~~ interested ~~, in a theoretical sort of way, since he'd never be able to afford the glass to build even a small greenhouse.

Huffard looks at the black, muddy dirt in the beds, spilling over onto the floor in places, and thinks that it's no fit place for food plants. He thinks food appears magically on his plate, through some mysterious process known to his wife.

Jed observes the densely planted beds of healthy salad vegetables with ~~ pleasure ~~ .

Gikku: The purpose of a greenhouse is of course to allow plants to be grown indoors where they are protected from frost. The panels on the ceiling let in the sun's heat and then keeps it trapped, which is why it's so much warmer in here than outside even though there is no fire or other direct source of heat.

Huffard: It would be cheaper to light a stove. Glass is expensive.

Gikku: Ah, I was just about to explain about that. It's also heavy, which means that normally we'd have to use expensive metal to hold it up. However, these panels are not glass, but a special material derived from the chemical processes of the Ancients as rediscovered by Householding Frihill here in Nivet Territory. They weigh less than half what glass weighs and are far more shatterproof.

Gikku takes a pebble and throws it against the ceiling with Sime accuracy but without full Sime strength. It ricochets off a panel and winds up in an unoccupied corner of the greenhouse.

Gikku: People who live in glass houses, as they say on both sides of the border, shouldn't throw stones. But in this greenhouse, it's quite a different story. Ha!

Huffard fails to see any particular value to tossing pebbles at the ceiling.

Jed wonders if the stuff is available back home. He's never heard of it before. But he probably couldn't afford it even if it was. He'll ask Gegg if he saw any when he was in Nivet.

Gikku: So for example we are completely protected from hail among other things, not to mention our workers are safe from falling glass due to thermal expansion and contraction or what not. Which translates to less lossage, which translates to lower cost for vegetables.

Huffard likes the idea of less loss and lower cost, but he doesn't have any interest in agriculture: farming is too unpredictable. He thinks that anyone who would depend on farming to put food on his table is doomed to starve.

Jed thinks this is very interesting, but completely irrelevant to his style of farming -- cheap and dirty, and more for subsistence than for profit.

Gikku takes his crowd on to the gym, the last stop before the cafeteria and a meal.

Gikku: Physical training is extremely important to Donors, partly so they can keep up with channels on the run ....

Next Previous Table of Contents