Talagra, who is ten days pre-turnover and has little to fear from even the wildest of low-field Wild Gens, is enjoying a moment of rare solitude in her office. She picks up Ma Mullins' file and leafs through it.
Talagra scans the thin sheaf of documents, raises an eyebrow at the report of the border channel -- ambrov Zeor, she notes -- then sets down the folder and goes to the office door.
Talagra: Mrs. Mullins, you may come in now.
Ma Mullins comes in, a bit ~~ warily ~~.
Talagra: Please, have a seat.
Talagra gestures not to the hard wooden chair in front of her desk, but the cluster of sofa and armchairs in the other corner.
Ma is dressed in her second-best dress, with the bit of homemade lace she tatted.
Ma sits on the sofa and inspects this channel who has the power to allow or disallow her attendance at her own son's graduation. She's a little ~~ doubtful ~~ that such a young woman can have any true concept of what it means to see one's child safely launched into his adult career.
Talagra, all too aware of how young she looks to a Gen, squares her shoulders and pulls herself up to her full five feet, one-quarter inch.
Talagra: Would you like a cup of tea?
Ma starts to refuse, then it occurs to her that accepting might be a test.
Ma: Er, thank you.
Talagra pours a cup of trin, places it on a small tray with milk and honey, then tops up her own chipped mug and brings the lot over.
Talagra carries her own mug in her left hand, but deliberately lifts the tray with her right ventrals. She sets it down in front of Ma and lifts the lid from the honey pot with a graceful, and gratuitous, flourish of her outside dorsal. She zlins Ma closely as she does so.
Ma calls on a lifetime discipline gained from living in a small town with nothing to do in the winter but gossip about each other, and limits her visible reaction. She's aware that this is the channel's office, and not her cozy kitchen back in Gumgeeville. She's ~~ relieved ~~ when the channel sits back down, however.
Talagra has zlinned the hidden ~~ flinch ~~ , and also the discipline used to contain it. She sips at her own mug, zlinning Ma's shifting nager.
Ma sips at her tea, which is at least hot, even if the flavor is strange.
Talagra sets down her mug on a stained coaster, again with a deliberate display of a graceful handling tentacle.
Ma reacts less this time, since Talagra is farther away.
Talagra: You're trying very hard, aren't you, Mrs. Mullins?
Ma: I was raised to be polite, no matter what some say about country folks.
Talagra: I appreciate the effort you're putting into this. But are you aware that your external reaction, which is the only one you know how to control, is scarcely noticeable to Simes? It's your actual feelings we notice.
Ma: So my boy Bart tells me, although it makes no sense to me.
Talagra: Hmm. You know that we can perceive what's going on in your body? For example, if you have a headache, or an upset stomach, we can spot it?
Ma: Yes, that's how Hajene Farris knew about those migraines.
Talagra: Zlinning something like that isn't like seeing it. It's more like... I become a mirror for it. I feel an echo of it in my own body, and by noticing the details of that, i understand what's happening in your body.
Talagra is aware, for the thousandth time, of just how inadequate Genlan is for expressing these concepts.
Ma: A useful talent, I suppose.
Ma is not all that interested in zlinning; she just wants to see Bart graduate.
Talagra: But it also means that I feel your pain with you. That's not just a turn of phrase; it's a literal fact.
Ma: I'm not hurting today.
Ma isn't, really, except for some stiffening in her knees and hands, and who doesn't have that at her age?
Talagra: Not consciously, perhaps. You're used to your various chronic aches and pains, so you only notice when something's worse than usual.
Ma: The work won't wait while I coddle myself.
Ma is largely ~~ indifferent ~~ to her aches, which after all, are neither unusual or noteworthy in Gumgeeville.
Talagra can ~~ sympathise ~~ with Ma's sentiment. The work won't wait, while she shelters herself from zlinning what's happening in the Gens she works with.
Talagra: True. So you ignore the pain, and get on with your day. But I can zlin the ache in your fingers, and it's not something I'm used to, so I notice it.
Ma: We probably shouldn't have left the farm to come here, but Bart's our oldest, and nobody in Gumgeeville has ever graduated from a real advanced school program.
Talagra: I'm not saying you shouldn't have come, Mrs. Mullins. I'm trying to help you understand what the situation is, so you can work with me on dealing with it. I want to find a way for you to be able to attend that ceremony; I know how important it is to you.
Ma: I don't see what the problem is. When I donated at the border, they said that would keep me from disturbing nearby Simes.
Talagra: It means your nager has less impact, yes. It doesn'r mean that it has none. It's as if you're whispering now, rather than shouting.
Ma: In a room full of people, a whisper is pretty hard to hear, even when you're trying to do so.
Talagra: But the people nearest you can hear it. If you're saying nothing in particular, they can probably ignore it. But if you're saying something interesting, it's much harder to tune out. And the same inborn talent that lets you perceive selyn movement also make your nageric "voice" more noticeable to Simes, even when it's quiet.
Ma: I haven't noticed Simes paying particular attention to me.
Talagra: Most of the Simes here are channels. That won't be true at the graduation ceremony; a lot will be ordinary parents just like you. And your emotions haven't been particularly strong most of the time, either, though I'm sure they will be at the ceremony.
Talagra is beginning to think she's going to have to give Ma a "no"; if the woman isn't even interested in trying to co-operate, this isn't going to work.
Ma: My emotions will be pretty much the same as everybody else's, I expect. Their children will be graduating, too.
Talagra: Ah, but there's a difference. You'll be feeling joy and pride, and so will they. Those emotions will be building and encouraging each other, back and forth among all the parents in the room. They'll be strong emotions, and therefore very "loud", but that's okay because they'll be good and happy ones. Do you understand me so far?
Talagra: But you'll be feeling something else atrongly, besides the joy and the pride, won't you?
Ma: Do you mean I'll be able to feel Bart's donation? The channel at the border said there might be a problem because I felt what she did, but she didn't explain why.
Talagra: It's possible you might link in with that, nagerically, though I've never seen it happen before.
Talagra has never seen a Gen without true Donor potential who has such a strong ability to sense selyn movement, either.
Ma is ~~ relieved ~~, until she looks at the very young channel, whose experience can't be more than a few years.
Talagra: But if it does happen, the sharing of feelings will go both ways. And even if it doesn't reach all the way up to the platform, what you feel will at least reach some of the other parents sitting near you.
Ma: Isn't that borrowing trouble, if as you say you've never seen it before?
Talagra shrugs, in a graceful rippling of handling tentacles.
Talagra: I've only been channeling for ten years; I'm sure there are a great many things I haven't seen yet. But you seem to be dodging my question: what emotions, besides joy and pride, are you likely to feel when you watch your son serve transfer to a channel?
Ma: I don't know. I've never seen such a thing before.
Talagra: Then are you willing to try a small experiment with me, to try to find out?
Ma: What sort of experiment?
Ma is a little ~ wary ~.
Talagra: I'll try to help you picture what you'll see at the ceremony, vividly enough to let you find out what you might feel at such a moment.
Talagra is already aware that Ma doesn't let herself have much of an imagination, and she might not be able to make this work.
Ma thinks this through, and decides that she might as well learn what's going to happen, in case she isn't allowed to see it in person.
Ma: All right.
Talagra: Then lean back into the cushions and close your eyes, and try to picture everything as I describe it to you.
Ma takes a last sip of her tea, sets it down, and leans back. She closes her eyes, like she did when imagining her kitchen.
Talagra: Are you comfortable? Good... now picture yourself sitting in a large auditorium, with your husband beside you, and the families of all your son's classmates seated all around you. The room is fairly plain, but it's been decorated for today with some colourful cloth banners, and there are big baskets of flowers at the corners of the platform at the front.
Ma pictures a room like the Gumgeeville school house, but plainer: unpainted walls of rough boards, with no decorations except a vase or two of spring flowers. She actually finds this visualization more ~ relaxing ~ than her current surroundings.
Talagra: There's a murmur of happy excitement all around you, a sense of anticipation. Then everyone starts to settle down. Someone comes out and starts making a speech, but since it's in Simelan all you understand is the tone of voice. The channel who's speaking seems to be proud and happy, just like everyone else in the room.
Ma imagines Reverend Kallan with tentacles, delivering a long, incomprehensible sermon.
Talagra: The speech ends and there's a murmur of applause. After a few moments, a young woman about the same age as your son walks out onto the stage. She turns to grin and wave at her parents, who are sitting right next to you.
Ma imagines a girl in pigtails; she still thinks of Bart as a boy.
Talagra: A channel walks out on stage and suddenly all the young woman's attention is on the channel; it's almost as if she's glowing with eagerness and anticipation.
Talagra isn't sure if "glowing" is the right word or not; she's never stopped to think about what a Gen looks like visually when she zlins eager for transfer.
Ma imagines the pigtailed girl facing a grey-haired, dignified professor type. She gives the professor a face sort of like Seruffin's.
Talagra: The student and the channel seat themselves on a transfer lounge, turned so that the student is the one nearer to the crowd. They lean towards one another, and the channel takes the student's wrists in a transfer grip.
Ma imagines the formal, disinterested, relatively safe clasp of a channel taking a general-class donation.
Talagra can zlin that Ma isn't really involved in this little scenario yet.
Talagra: Even from where you sit, you can see the young Gen quivering with eagerness. Beside you, you can feel her mother's shoulder trembling against yours as she clasps tentacles with her husband and stares up at her daughter with shining eyes. There is a breathless hush all through the room.
Talagra isn't sure how much more she can do to create vivid realism; storytelling isn't usually part of her job.
Ma can at least understand the ~~ tension ~~, remembering how closely the whole family watched Jed's first donation.
Talagra: The student leans forward and makes lip contact with the channel. You know, whether or not you can sense it, that selyn has begun to flow in a vast rush like nothing an ordinary donor ever experiences.
Ma remembers watching Jed donate, which wasn't too bad, except that she was next. She figures the "vast rush" business is just exaggeration, of course.
Talagra: After just a few seconds it's over and the channel sits back, retracting her tentacles. The young Donor stands up with a proud but slightly dreamy-eyed grin on her face and walks to the front of the platform, where the presiding channel touches tentacle-tips to her fingers, then gives her a gold ring and a certificate. Everyone's applauding, her parents most loudly of all.
Ma imagines the dazed girl in pigtails, a bit shy at the attention. She visualizes the ring as cheap brass painted "gold", of course. Why would they give kids real gold?
Talagra: The new Donor and her channel leave the stage, and now your son Bart walks out. Can you see the look on his face, as he looks out across the audience until he spots you?
Ma imagines Bart's grin, and her nager warms with ~~ pride ~~ and ~~ love ~~.
Talagra smiles as she zlins this.
Talagra: Now another channel walks out on stage, and suddenly all of Bart's attention is on her. He has an eager, almost hungry look on his face.
Ma imagines Bart as a little boy, coaxing a bit of fresh bread just out of the oven from her. She once again imagines the dignified Seruffin in the role of the channel.
Talagra: He and the channel seat themselves on the lounge. He reaches out to her, and her tentacles settle around his wrists in a transfer grip.
Talagra has always found the pronouns easier to use, in Genlan, if you assume the two participants in an interaction are of opposite genders.
Ma pauses as her visualization is momentarily disrupted, then puts Bibi's face on the channel.
Talagra: He leans towards her, and makes the lip contact. What do you see, what do you feel as the selyn begins to flow?
Ma: I see my boy, going where I can't follow. I don't understand why, but it means so much to him...
Talagra makes a small, encouraging noise.
Ma's ~~ pride and love ~~ are edged with a ~~ bittersweet ~~ tinge.
Talagra: The transfer ends, and after a few moments your son stands up and walks to the front of the platform. He looks across the audience and into your eyes. What's the look on his face?
Ma: Pride. He's worked so hard for this.
Talagra: And what do you feel, as you watch him speak the Tecton oath and receive his ring?
Ma: Sadness. I'd hoped he would marry a nice girl and settle in Gumgeeville, although truth to tell, his brother is a better farmer.
Talagra: You know it's far too late for that, Mrs. Mullins.
Ma: Yes, it is. But I can at least wish him well on his chosen path.
Talagra eases back on the intensity of her zlinning.
Talagra: That you can. And I see absolutely no problem with having you attend the graduation ceremony. You have a wonderful son, Mrs. Mullins; he's been a joy to teach. And he is most fortunate to have a mother like you.
Ma is ~~ relieved ~~.
Ma: Thank you.