Ma Mullins looks around the big room where the graduation ceremony is to be held.
Ma: Look, Jed. There must be almost 40 people here to see our boy graduate! That's a few more than were at our wedding, if you remember.
Jed: You're right.
Jed recalls that many of Ma's relatives didn't attend the wedding because they weren't very happy about who she was marrying.
Ma: I guess Bart's made quite an impression on them, to have so many here when we're the only family.
Jed: I suppose some of them are here to see the other two Donors graduate.
Jed looks around.
Jed: A lot of them are probably their friends or other students here. They're about Bart's age. Younger too.
Ma: Well, this is a school. Of course it's mostly kids.
Jed: That guy over to the left there -- he's a stuffed shirt from New Washington City. His daughter is graduating.
Ma: Really? He's important?
Jed: He seems to think he is. Some kind of rich bastard, owns a factory or something.
Ma: A factory?
Ma has to ~~ respect ~~ the wealth that represents.
Jed: So he says. A lot. Full of himself.
Ma: His clothes are a cut above what you see in Gumgeeville, anyway.
Jed is wearing a new shirt and his best trousers, but they are definitely working clothes in style.
Ma is wearing the new dress that she made with fabric purchased with money from her aborted first donation, and socks that she knit herself. She looks like what she is: a subsistence-level farm wife, aged before her time, and very much out of place.
Jed thinks Ma looks great, all dressed up. He's ~~ happy ~~ that she's not only resigned herself to Bart's choice of career, she seems to be very proud of him.
Ma is both proud of her eldest and unhappy with his career choice. She is also, however, determined not to spoil Bart's day with her misgivings.
Allagat: Very well, Vart, do you have any last-minute questions before I give you your final briefing?
Bart: No, Hajene.
Allagat is a harried QN-2 who hasn't been involved in pledge transfers before, but who was the only channel available due to a last minute reshuffle when one of the school's regular channels came down with the double scrud.
Bart is providing ~~ solid, level support ~~ to the needy channel. He'd like to add more comfort and compassion, but knows the channel wants a clear head more than comfort right now.
Allagat overmatches Bart somewhat, but then he isn't in very hard need either, so the school's Controller hopes things will even out.
Bart isn't too concerned, since he trusts the Controller. He'd have preferred to serve a channel he's had some time to get to know, but understands the emergency. At any rate, he's keeping any concern out of his nager.
Allagat is glad this is just the formal Tecton pledge, not an actual qualifying transfer -- Bart is already officially perfectly competent to serve his need.
Allagat: [hurriedly] As you know, Vart, you'll be giving me transfer out there on stage. If you just pretend that there's nobody there, everything should be fine, just fine. Now I'm sorry that I haven't had as much time to work with you as either one of us would like, but I'm sure you're completely professional and will have absolutely no problem giving me a satisfactory transfer.
Bart: Sure, Hajene. I'm not worried. I know I can serve you -- I ~~ want to serve you ~~.
Allagat: Ahh. Excellent. And I have plenty of ~~ need ~~ for you.
Allagat knows that Vart can't feel the projection, of course, but he does it anyhow. He's been working dispensary for most of the last month, so projection is automatic.
Bart offers a bit more ~~ support ~~ flavored with ~~ calm confidence ~~ and ~~ compassion for the Sime's need ~~. He actually feels a bit heroic about the situation -- he's stepping up to the challenge in the way the Tecton hopes he will now and in the future.
Bart is now familiar with the edginess of a Sime in hard need, and the common responses, like Allagat's: reassuring the Donor to reassure himself.
Allagat: Tell me, have you had practice giving transfer in, well, next to, a crowd? Because there are techniques, things you can do to shut out the nagers out there, although of course all of them will be just GN strength, we've made sure of that.
Allagat sounds a little more nervous now as need begins to bite.
Bart gently touches the channel's shoulder and imagines his nager spreading out like a warm blanket around the channel's body. His nager, well-trained, follows the image.
Bart: I'll protect you. Don't worry. Everything will go well. ~~ compassion ~~ comfort ~~ calm ~~ lots of selyn for you ~~.
Bart also feels a subtle ~~ joy ~~ that he can help this poor needy Sime when he so much needs it.
Allagat: Ah, yes, of course, good, good. Thanks, Sosu.
Allagat senses the joy -- he could give a report on it -- but he can't truly feel it himself.
Bart: Just let me know what you want. I'll give it to you.
Allagat: I'll do my best. Just as you'll do your best for me.
Bart opens his field and ~~ invites ~~ the channel to engage.
Allagat takes Bart up on that and locks their fields together short of trautholo but enough not to be affected by surrounding fields very much.
Bart concentrates on ~~ steady, reassuring support ~~, restraining his ~~ need to give ~~ to avoid tempting the channel.
Bart: We're second to go. It won't be long now.
Ma has found witnessing the first transfer of the afternoon much more difficult than she'd imagined. She couldn't help thinking that the situation -- especially the Sime -- looked far less under control than she had been led to believe. Her composure wasn't helped by the fact that the channel looked barely older than the student she was attacking.
Jed thought it was interesting, somewhat different than a donation -- no friendly chitchat like with Bibi. Both channel and Donor looked very serious and intent, but they seemed very happy and relieved afterwards. Stage fright, probably.
Jed: Bart's next, now, Ma.
Ma reaches out and clutches Jed's hand.
Jed can't understand the Simelan oath the previous Donor is repeating after the guy in charge of the school, so ignores it.
Jed: Don't worry, he'll do fine. He's looking forward to it.
Ma: It just seems so...
Ma thinks "brutal" might be overstating it, but not by much. She thought the channel was almost drooling over the graduate, and far more interested in her own hunger than her Donor's comfort.
Jed: Look at that girl -- she's ready to cry with happiness.
Jed nods toward the Donor taking the oath.
Ma looks at the new Donor, who is indeed wiping tears from her eyes.
Ma: Or something. Look, here comes Bart now.
Bart and Allagat approach the transfer lounge, Bart's attention focused on the channel.
Ma: Why, that Sime isn't all that much older than Bart is.
Jed: Looks a bit older, more than a bit, really.
Ma: Not near as old as Hajene Seruffin.
Bart lets his ~~ need to give ~~ and his ~~ replete ~~ state become more zlinnable as he sits with his channel.
Ma is ~~ worried ~~ about whether the relative lack of experience will make a difference.
Jed: Most of the channels we've met here have been younger than we are. The older guys are probably all off being important like Hajene Seruffin is.
Ma: What's more important that making sure this works for Bart?
Ma is starting to actively ~~ fret ~~.
Jed: He's done it before. He knows what he's doing, or they wouldn't be graduating him. Look how confident he is.
Ma: He was just as confident that he could get the blackberries from the Sporess farm, despite their bull.
Ma mentions a childhood escapade in which Bart failed to distinguish himself for good judgement.
Jed: He's a bit older now, and wiser, I'd say.
Allagat "listens" to the seconds ticking off in his Sime sense to the preplanned moment. Fortunately, the preceding pair hasn't caused a delay of any sort. He counts down fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, and extends his arms and tentacles.
Bart takes the channel's hands and ~~ invites ~~ a transfer grip. ~~ eagerness ~~ compassion ~~ need to give ~~ confidence ~~
Allagat counts eight, seven, six, and plants his handling tentacles, four, three, and his laterals feel the cool arms of the Gen,
Allagat counts one, zero, presses his lips to Vart's and starts to draaaaawwwwww.
Bart drops his barriers and ~~ glories ~~ in the ~~ pleasure ~~ of selyn flow and serving the Sime's need.
Ma: Jed, it's taking too long. He's taking too much.
Jed: They're just getting started. Don't worry.
Jed wonders if he should be worrying, but figures all those other channels would do something if Bart was in any danger.
Allagat's draw reaches peak intensity and then declines in a perfect Gaussian curve.
Ma is, of course, oblivious to his Gaussian curve and far too aware that her boy is being drained by a strange Sime.
Bart's ~~ pleasure ~~ peaks with the channel's draw and turns to ~~ joy ~~ as the transfer continues.
Allagat eats up Vart's feelings with his selyn, glorying in them, and storing them for replay to his Sime clients in the month to come.
Bart feels ~~ love ~~ for this channel who has not only given him slilbliss, not only enabled him to do this sacred act he was born for, but made it possible for him to be certified as a Tecton Donor. His emotions ~~ intensify ~~, gifting the channel with his ~~ fulfillment, gratitude and joy ~~.
Allagat is 99% replete and got all the speed he needed. He dismantles the contact carefully and lets his emotions run free, laughing and crying at the same time.
Ma is still clutching Jed's hand, ~~ painfully ~~ tight.
Ma: Look at him! He's hysterical.
Bart hugs the channel, sharing his joy.
Allagat hugs back for all he's worth.
Jed: They both look real happy to me. Bart must have done a real good job.
Ma: It's... not proper.
Ma fields what she knows is a ridiculous argument, since by Gumgeeville standards, any association with Simes is by definition "not proper".
Jed wonders what his son has felt. He knows he'll never experience such emotions himself. For the first time he feels that his son has left him for a world he'll never really understand.
Jed: They do things differently here.
Ma: They certainly do.
Jed looks around.
Jed: Look at all them Simes, Ma. They zlinned what Bart did, and they all look real happy too.
Bart comes forward to be congratulated by the Controller of the school and take his Tecton Oath.
Ma settles down to ~~ fret ~~ again, until she can determine for herself that Bart is unharmed.