Bethida is heading as quickly as she can down the road towards Senator Pollovic's house, telling herself over and over that there is absolutely no reason to panic until she knows for certain what's going on.
Bethida is trying hard not to hyperventilate, since it won't exactly help her in getting from here to Pollovic's.
Saag is looking down the road after the carriage, careful to stay inside the gate since he doesn't have his retainers on. He's frantic and doesn't know what to do.
Bethida stops every few feet and calls out Naoyu's name, waiting and listening for any response from the darkness on either side of the road. She's thinking of all the times he disappeared during the day and didn't come back for dinner, and turned out to be wandering around town or playing at a friend's.
Saag zlins a Gen approaching from down the street and hastily retracts his tentacles and holds his hands behind his back, hoping not to be seen as a Sime.
Bethida approaches the gate at Pollovic's, noticing tracks in the road by the light of the lantern she's carrying. Hopefully, this means the Senator and his new wife have returned from their reception. She feels awkward at the prospect of possibly interrupting their wedding night... but...
Bethida follows the tracks to the gate, and finds it standing wide open. She spots someone standing in the drive, but can't recognize them in the darkness. She stops to call out Naoyu's name one last time.
Bethida: Naoyu? Are you out there? Please, come home! Your father and I are so worried.
Saag, who didn't get the name of the boy in changeover, realizes from this that the woman is probably not calling her cat.
Bethida doesn't get any response, and finally turns to the figure in the driveway. She assumes it's one of the hired staff at Pollovic's.
Bethida: Excuse me, have you seen a boy? About twelve, dark hair, wearing a white shirt and brown pants... I'm so sorry to ask this of you! I just don't know where he is, and it's so late.
Saag: Uh, I think Senator Pollovic took him to the Sime Center, if it's the same boy.
Saag is too flustered to be other than direct.
Ettil finally catches up with her charge, hobbling as well as she can and hoping that the darkened driveway doesn't conceal any potholes.
Ettil: Saag? Where are you?
Saag: I'm over here, Sosu. Be careful -- it's dark.
Saag is quite flustered and expresses his natural concern over his Gen Escort's well being somewhat tactlessly.
Bethida: The -- what? Why on earth would he take him there?
Saag realizes he could be in for a real nageric jolt, and drops hypoconscious.
Bethida also fights down her fear of another, equally horrific possibility: that even if her son is safely Gen, the rumors she's heard about the Tecton kidnapping Gens and forcing them to serve may all be true.
Saag: Uh, there was a boy here, turning Sime. In the bushes. So he wanted to rescue him.
Bethida: H-how could you tell? Did you look at him closely, or was it just a fever?
Ettil has the presence of mind to shield her charge.
Saag is very ~~ grateful ~~ and comes duoconscious again.
Bethida is definitely blasting the ambient with ~~ shock, horror and denial ~~, which should be obvious for some distance around to anyone who can zlin.
Saag: I don't know -- I didn't see him. But it must have been clear or they wouldn't have charged off like that.
Bethida: Why in the world didn't you try to stop them, or ask what they were doing?
Bethida projects a sudden stab of ~~ anger and outrage ~~.
Saag: I was upstairs in back. I didn't know until they'd gone.
Saag takes a deep breath.
Ettil: Besides, whether the boy is in changeover or just sick, a channel will be able to help.
Saag: They don't mind false alarms.
Bethida: But I... I don't even know if that boy was my son. It could have been anybody!
Bethida says this very firmly, to reassure herself.
Saag: Uh. I guess you could ask one of the servants who saw him?
Bethida: Who saw him? Where are they?
Bethida looks around frantically.
Saag waves his arm in the general direction of the front door.
Bethida raises her lantern and notes the man's odd, lumpish-looking arm. She wonders if Pollovic hired a deformed man as a servant out of pity. She shrugs, wraps her coat around her and heads into the driveway, towards the house.
Ettil looks after the woman, then at the coach that is waiting further down the drive for her.
Bethida heads up to the door and rings the bell, more frantically than she'd intended.
Saag is ~~ relieved ~~ to be away from her emotions, but still very ~~worried ~~ about his sister.
Ettil: I brought your retainers. Do you think we could convince her to give us a ride to the Sime Center?
Saag starts putting on the retainers, with Ettil's help.
Saag: Maybe you could? I'm really worried about Pametta. She's three-quarters field. The senator shouldn't have taken her along. And he's about a quarter field himself. They're crazy! If I were along at least I could keep him away from them by force!
Saag hopes he could -- but he remembers the desperation of First Need himself.
Ettil considers, then nods.
Ettil: If it comes to that, remember that I'm carrying enough selyn for a renSime. Get the boy focused on me, and nobody will get hurt.
Ettil is unaware of the dog chain currently connecting the boy and the Senator.
Saag: But anything could be happening -- none of us know what stage he was in.
Bethida runs down the driveway towards them, actively ~~ panicking ~~ now and not even trying to hold back.
Ettil: Or, frankly, whether or not he was in changeover at all.
Ettil has come to the conclusion that while Pollovic is enthusiastic about Simes, he really doesn't know a great deal about them.
Bethida stumbles and turns her ankle a little in the gravel driveway, but quickly resumes her pace.
Saag winces at the ankle pain.
Ettil sees her charge's response and offers ~~ support ~~.
Bethida: Please, please, you have to help me. Please...
Ettil: Calm down, please.
Bethida: The man who came to the door said that the Senator did take a boy to the Sime Center, and his name sounded like it could have been Naoyu. I have to find out what happened to my son! Please help!
Bethida is holding back tears.
Bethida: I'm going down there in my own coach.
Ettil looks at the coach, and it looks better for chasing after the foolish Senator than the proverbial Shank's Mare.
Bethida gets definite "creepy feelings" at the idea of going to a Sime Center alone in the middle of the night. She doesn't know what exactly it is they do to the Gens who go there to have their life force sucked out, and fears she might be mistaken for one of those insane sorts.
Ettil: A fine idea. If you want, we'll help you down the drive. You're limping.
Bethida: Th-thank you...
Saag would normally assume that he, as the young Sime, is the one to help the limping woman, but if he offers his arm, she'll see that he's wearing retainers. But he doesn't want Ettil taking a chance on getting hurt. ~~ indecisive ~~
Ettil takes one arm, and gestures for Saag to fall in on her other side to steady her if necessary.
Saag nods and goes where he's bid, staying close, and glad to have the Donor between him and the distressed Wild Gen.
Ettil: Come, now. There's no reason to panic right now.
Bethida is a little appalled to see that the old woman is the one trying to help her walk, but thinks that perhaps whatever made the young man's arms so deformed makes him unable to help her, too.
Bethida accepts Ettil's help gratefully, limping down the drive.
Ettil slows as they approach the coach.
Ettil: There, now. Are you sure you'll be all right? Or would you like us to come with you, and explain what you are doing there?
Bethida: If... if you could come with me, please... I don't want to go there all alone. I don't exactly feel safe, you understand.
Bethida attempts to give Ettil a knowing glance, assuming she'll sympathize with the sentiment.
Ettil understands it far less than Saag, being a Householder born and bred.
Saag gives the driver the street address of the Sime Center without stating what's at the address.
Ettil: I'm sure there's nothing to be afraid of.
Bethida is somewhat relieved when Saag does it for her; she hadn't known the address, and hadn't been looking forward to trying to prevail upon the driver to take her there.
Ettil climbs into the coach, hoping that they -- and more importantly Pollovic and his charge -- will reach the Sime Center in good time.
Bethida: Oh, I hope it's not Naoyu. It can't be, it just can't. I'm sure he must have come back home by now, but just to be certain...
Bethida is on the edge of breaking down in ~~ despair ~~.
Saag figures the servants all know that it's the kid next door, and this woman is in serious denial. He's not at all surprised, however.
Ettil: Try to be calm. Getting upset won't help your son. If he's at the Sime Center, he'll be perfectly safe.
Saag wants to hold Ettil's hand to cope with that despair, but figures it would look too weird to Bethida.
Ettil prefers not to dwell on what will happen if the boy doesn't reach the Sime Center in time.
Bethida doesn't believe most of what's in those Church of the Purity pamphlets that turn up on their doorstep sometimes, but still firmly believes that losing a child this way is something that happens to "other families," not hers. She's not at all sure that anyone would be really safe at a Sime Center.
Bethida dabs her eyes with a handkerchief.
Saag: Uh, I'm Saag Doyle, Pametta's brother, and this is Sosu Ettil.
Bethida recollects her manners, and introduces herself properly. She's quite embarrassed at the realization that she mistook the Senator's new brother-in-law for a mere household servant.
Bethida: Oh my! I do apologize. I had no idea; I thought you were one of Pollovic's staff. Please forgive me, Mr. Doyle.
Saag: No problem. It's pretty dark out there. Pleased to meet you.
Bethida tries to remember if she saw him at the wedding or reception. She can't quite place him...
Saag's arm twitches as he counteracts the reflex to either shake hands or brush tentacles.
Ettil reaches out with a Companion's reflex to put a hand over the retainers.
Bethida sees him twitch backwards, and thinks of his lumpy arms; she wonders if perhaps something is wrong with his hands, too, and decides it would be better not to shake hands.
Bethida: Oh, Madam Sosu, and Mr. Doyle, thank you so much for helping me. I can't tell you how grateful I am.
Bethida is trembling a little, trying to relax. She can't remember if she got the old woman's name right -- all she remembers is that it sounded a little bit like Susan, but wasn't.
Ettil: You're quite welcome, but Sosu is a title. My name is Ettil ambrov Havril.
Bethida: Oh, what does your title mean, Miss Havril?
Bethida is curious, despite her panic. The old woman seems to be very calm, which is putting her a bit more at ease.
Ettil: Sosu? It means I'm a Companion. Or a Donor, as it's called these days.
Ettil prefers the traditional Householding designation.
Bethida: A companion of whom?
Ettil: Mostly, whichever channel requires my assistance, although at the moment I'm looking after young Saag, here.
Bethida pauses a minute, trying to parse that. Channels are some sort of Sime, aren't they -- the "special" ones?
Ettil: As a diplomatic courtesy, so he could attend his sister's wedding to Senator Pollovic.
Bethida is distinctly uncomfortable with sharing a small coach with someone who associates with Simes, even if they appear to be nothing but a nice old woman.
Saag braces himself, preparing to drop hypoconscious.
Bethida realizes she has agreed to let this woman escort her to the Sime Center, and has a horrible thought.....
Bethida suddenly wants to get out of the coach right now! ~~ rising panic ~~
Ettil: Is something the matter?
Bethida: No! You can't take me there! I won't let you!
Ettil: ....What? I thought you wanted to find your son?
Bethida is absolutely certain she's going to be kidnapped into the Sime Center as soon as she arrives, and trapped there as some kind of selyn-giving slave, or something even worse. Her head is full of the plots of the trashy dime novels she secretly reads in her spare time, only there doesn't seem to be any strapping hero around to rescue her.
Saag cringes, wishing the retainers would let him retract his laterals tightly.
Bethida has all kinds of terrible visions floating before her eyes. If they waited in the Senator's driveway to ambush her, and the Senator is in on the conspiracy.....
Bethida calls out to the driver.
Bethida: Stop! Please stop the coach!
Ettil: What is wrong?
Bethida is now convinced that the Senator must have a whole basement full of Gen slaves chained up.
Bethida grabs the door as the driver slows down, opens it, and jumps to the ground, wincing as she lands on her injured ankle.
Saag grimaces with her pain, then looks out, trying to spot signs or landmarks to tell him where they are.
Ettil: Careful! You'll hurt yourself.
Ettil hasn't lived her life among channels without picking up a few of their more annoying habits.
Saag: Uh, maybe we should get out and give her back her coach. I think I know how to get to the Sime Center from here. I can carry you on my back. Augment a little.
Bethida stumbles on her injured ankle again, and collapses to the ground, panting heavily.
Ettil gets stiffly down from the coach, gesturing Saag to remain inside.
Bethida realizes there really isn't any way for her to get away -- even if the old woman can't catch her, the young man can, and she already has some terrible suspicions about him.
Ettil: Come, now. Do be sensible. You can't run on that ankle. Let me help you back into your coach, then we can go find your son.
Bethida sighs resignedly, thinking that once she gets there, even if they lock her up, she can try to concoct some daring plan to escape. She may as well pretend to go along with it for now, and once she gets out, she can leak the entire story to the press...
Ettil has the "take charge" aura of an experienced Companion.
Bethida lets Ettil help her to her feet, and limps back towards the carriage.
Ettil: There, now. We can get that ankle taken care of, too.
Bethida thinks that sounds like a very clever lure, but tries to boldly resist and not fall for their claims.
Ettil feels it best to plant the idea early and often, because she's pretty sure that the channels won't let a sprained ankle walk out the door untreated.
Ettil grips the door handle as the carriage lurches back into motion.
Bethida huddles into her coat and resigns herself to her fate, for now.