Portia is sitting on the couch in the reception area, holding baby Luanna as she waits for Dilena to return. She is ~~ eagerly anticipating ~~ the future.
Dilena comes out of the room, ~~ distressed ~~ but not showing it, instead rubbing her forehead even though it doesn't actually hurt. She takes Luanna from Portia's arms and sits down heavily on the couch.
Portia: How did it go, dear?
Dilena sighs and ~~ comforts ~~ herself.
Portia is ~~ instantly concerned ~~.
Portia: What happened? Did you only get a small payment?
Dilena: No. It turns out I'm -- I'm scared.
Pansy hesitates before leaving the donation room to let the vertigo and nausea settle down a bit.
Portia: That's normal, or so I've read. At least at first. It gets better as you keep doing it.
Dilena: By scared I mean terrified. I panicked. I think the channel had to stop in the middle, but I'm not sure. ~~ fear ~~ embarrassment ~~ shame ~~
Portia: Oh, Dilena!
Portia hugs her, with due care for the baby.
Portia: It isn't supposed to be like that. I think.
Portia is starting to ~~ doubt ~~.
Portia: Believe me, I wouldn't have asked it of you, if I'd known. I should have gone first.
Dilena: Yes, but don't you see? ~~ anguish ~~ If I panic when I donate, we can't live here. I'll have to go back to Herb. And even if you don't have a problem, we'll be sep-sep-separated.
Dilena refrains from sobbing, but tears start to run down her cheeks.
Portia: No! We'll find a way. Somehow, we'll find a way.
Portia kisses the tears away.
Pansy is feeling even queasier as her secondary system refuses to settle. She figures she better go out and drink some fosebine as soon as possible. She drops hypoconscious to avoid zlinning the emotional turmoil out there, and leaves the donation room.
Pansy: I'll be with the two of you shortly, ladies!
Pansy heads for the back room where they keep the fosebine, tea, water bucket et al.
Allenvy comes in the back door, looking around to see if there are any clients whom his assistance is needed for. He's a fairly recently qualified Donor, and is a bit nervous but also relishing the chance to get in some good practice standing in for Pansy's usual Donor.
Pansy: Oh, Allenvy. Help!
Pansy reaches for the stand-in Donor's arms.
Allenvy holds out his arms to support her, wondering what happened.
Pansy takes his arms in a four-point contact and rests her head on his shoulder.
Pansy: First time Gen -- panicked part way through. Awful shock, most unpleasant.
Pansy gives the Donor a few instructions on how to help her sort out her selyn systems.
Allenvy supports her as well as he can, trying to help her balance her systems and return them to a more stable state.
Pansy: Thank you, dear. Well done.
Pansy believes in encouraging the young, and the young man did do his best.
Allenvy relaxes slightly. ~~ pride mixed with concern ~~
Allenvy: Is the... panicked donor still here? Or did they run out?
Pansy: She and her partner and their baby are still here. I'll just drink this fosebine I've made up and we'll go talk to them.
Pansy firms up her will, gulps the fosebine, and tries to suppress the shudder at the taste.
Allenvy tries to mitigate the effects of the nasty taste for Pansy.
Pansy: Let's go.
Pansy heads into the main room, doing her best to look undamaged by the recent experience.
Pansy: This is my assistant Sosu Allenvy. Sosu, this is Portia and this is Dilena. The baby is Luanna.
Portia glares at Pansy.
Pansy can do without the zlin of Portia's attitude. She moves closer to Allenvy.
Portia: What did you do to Dilena, anyway?
Dilena looks up at her lover.
Portia puts a ~~ protective ~~ arm around Dilena.
Dilena: I'm sh-sure it's not her fault.
Allenvy: Hajene Pansy has years of experience in doing what she does. You must have panicked for some reason other than what she was doing to you. ~~ a touch defensive ~~
Allenvy tries to block as much of Portia's hostility as he can.
Pansy: It's always difficult for first time donors who've grown up out-T, Allenvy. It can take a great deal of courage for them to even come near a Sime, much less let one take a transfer contact.
Portia turns her ~~ glare ~~ onto Allenvy.
Portia: I know Dilena very well, and she's no coward.
Dilena: I wasn't afraid until she started, ask her! ~~ defensive ~~
Allenvy: Trying not to be afraid, when you know your fear is still there, isn't a good idea.
Pansy: She certainly isn't a coward. She did very well until I'd almost finished.
Allenvy shrugs. He has the characteristic almost-stubborn cluelessness of someone just out of Donor training, who finds the idea that someone could not want to be around channels almost incomprehensibly alien.
Pansy: She wasn't afraid, Allenvy, she was very cooperative. But toward the end a lifetime of fear of Simes caught up with her unexpectedly. It sometimes happens that way.
Allenvy tries to calm down a bit, and to accept the out-T mindset.
Dilena: Hajene Pansy? The letter you were going to give me, what does it say?
Pansy: It will tell the channel what happened, so she'll know to work with you a bit before the donation, so you'll feel more comfortable.
Pansy doesn't add that it will help the channel to know just what might happen again.
Portia: What do you mean, "work with her"?
Dilena: I -- I just don't think I can face that happening again. It was horrible, just going through the experience. I mean, not the experience itself, I didn't feel anything when you did it, but experiencing the fear.
Portia remembers rumors she's heard about how Simes "work" with Gens. She hadn't thought they were credible, but...
Pansy: If the channel spends more time talking to you, Dilena, so you get to know each other better, so you feel more trusting, it will be less likely that you'll panic. And you can learn some breathing exercises to help you stay calm, too.
Dilena: I totally trusted you! It was like, like someone dropped a bug down my back. ~~ sincere ~~ emphatic ~~
Pansy smiles encouragingly.
Pansy: After you spend more time among Simes, so they seem more like ordinary people to you, you'll be less likely to panic as well.
Dilena shakes her head.
Dilena: It wasn't you, or Simes, or anything -- well -- sensible.
Pansy: I know, dear. That's why it came as such a surprise. It wasn't really you, it was what we call your undermind.
Dilena: It had to be the donation itself. It had to be.
Portia: It is an unnatural sort of thing to do, Dilena. No one can blame you.
Allenvy: It's not unnatural! ~~ touch of offense ~~
Dilena: Aren't there people who grow up here, around Simes and all, and still have problems with donating? I can't be the only one.
Allenvy: It only seems that way to you because you never got to see it, growing up.
Allenvy tries to calm himself back down and remind himself, yet again, that he is dealing with out-T thought here.
Pansy: Many Gens are a little nervous at their first donation -- mostly they don't want to look foolish, like all youngsters. The ones who have more trouble are rare, but most of them get over it with help.
Portia: What kind of help?
Pansy: As I described -- talking to the channel, taking things slowly, learning to relax and so forth.
Portia: And that works for this sort of thing? ~~ doubt ~~
Portia: All of the time? Or just some of it?
Pansy: There's the rare Gen who prefers to move out-T rather than donate every month.
Allenvy: Well, I think it's selfish to never even try, but...
Dilena: [acerbically] I have tried.
Pansy: Of course, it's your decision. Neither of you seem to be afraid of Simes so I'm willing to let you into Nivet as visitors, once Portia donates. If you stay more than four weeks, however, you'll have to donate again, so you don't have to decide right now.
Pansy turns to her Donor.
Pansy: Allenvy hasn't had much experience with people from out-T. Sosu, we'll have to talk about how different things are out there.
Allenvy nods, and tries to curb his frustration. Trying to grasp out-T mindsets for him, most of the time, just results in frothing outrage.
Pansy goes to the desk and writes up the letter and a selyn voucher, then realizes she's zlinning a child in stage three changeover heading toward the border.
Pansy: Oh, dear. I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave you ladies for a bit. Allenvy, please give them the usual set of booklets for immigrants and visitors and answer their questions.
Pansy continues to her Donor in Simelan.
Pansy: There's a kid in stage three coming through the woods from the other side. I'll take her up to the customs shed and send someone with her to the Sime Center, after I calm her down.
Allenvy: Okay. Good luck, Hajene.
Pansy leaves at a calm walk but speeds up as soon as she's out the door.
Allenvy starts looking around for where the booklets are kept, hoping that they'll take the place of having to answer too many questions directly.
Herb storms into the border station, his empty hands clenched. The damn guard relieved him of his shotgun on his way in.
Herb: All right, where is she? Where's my wife?
Portia looks ~~ alarmed ~~.
Portia: Dilena! It's Herb.
Dilena: I know!
Dilena clutches Portia's arm hard enough to ~~ hurt ~~.
Allenvy hears the sound of someone coming into the room, and turns around.
Allenvy: Hi, sir. Umm, are you here to...
Allenvy may not be able to zlin, but knows a dangerously angry person when he sees one.
Herb: I want my wife!
Allenvy clenches his fists and curses a little under his breath.
Dilena: Herb, please! Don't make such a scene.
Dilena finds herself replaying a wearisomely familiar pattern of interaction.
Herb crosses to where Dilena stands and grabs her by the bicep.
Portia: Let go of her!
Allenvy: Hey! ~~ sudden outrage and fear ~~ What are you doing to her?
Portia, being a practical sort, reaches out to rescue the baby.
Dilena relinquishes the baby to Portia and wriggles to try to get free. It doesn't occur to her to return force with force.
Allenvy storms over to Herb and Dilena, attempting to pry his hand off her.
Dilena: I told you I was leaving you, so leggo of me.
Allenvy: No violence here! I don't know what happened between you, but she came in here willingly.
Herb glares at the other man.
Herb: You stay out of this! This is between me and my wife!
Dilena: No it's not. You're not my husband any more.
Allenvy: We weren't holding her here!
Herb: I bloody well am, bitch.
Herb shakes Dilena, hard.
Portia: She's my wife now. Let her go.
Herb: And that's my baby, too. Give me the kid.
Portia steps back, with the baby.
Herb reaches with his other hand to grab the infant, but misses.
Allenvy is ~~ shocked and upset ~~ to see the way he's treating her. He's just glad that Pansy isn't here to have to zlin all of it. On the other hand, as much as his upbringing and Donor training instilled a deep loathing for Gen-on-Gen violence in him, her absence does leave him a little more free to be forceful.
Allenvy interposes himself between Herb and Portia.
Herb: I told you, mister, stay out of this!
Allenvy: Listen, I don't know what your problem is, but don't you hurt her or that child!
Herb: I'm not gonna hurt the baby. But this is my wife and my kid, and you can just butt out.
Portia: You don't own Dilena. She owns herself. And her child.
Herb: Our child. My wife.
Allenvy: If you want her back, you might try not acting like such a lorsh!
Portia: Yes. We're in Simeland, now. And that means you can't make her go with you.
Herb: I know what you two little "girlfriends" have been up to all these months, but it stops now. She's coming home with me. You can go to bloody Sime Hell if you want, Portia, but my wife is coming home!
Dilena: Luanna is mine, mine, mine, and you'll never touch her again! And you'll never touch me again, either. Now leggo, or I'll -- I'll hit you.
Herb snorts and shoves Dilena in the general direction of the entrance, then reaches for the baby in Portia's arms.
Allenvy shoves his way between them again.
Allenvy: You'll have to go through me, too.
Herb gives the Donor a right cross that connects hard.
Allenvy falls back, clutching the side of his face.
Herb: I told you to stay out of this!
Dilena staggers, recovers, and starts to make her way around Allenvy, going toward her husband when he's being violent, for the first time in her married life.
Portia steps up to stand with them.
Herb makes another grab for the baby.
Portia dodges again.
Portia: You can't overcome all three of us. Give it up. Go home.
Dilena wades her way right up to Herb and delivers a roundhouse slap to the side of her husband's face, then backpedals to escape his reaction.
Herb turns to stare at Dilena in astonishment.
Herb: Why, you little bitch!
Herb goes after her, fist raised.
Portia takes advantage of his surprise to reach out a foot and trip him.
Herb hits the floor with all the momentum of his beefy frame and lands with his face inches from Dilena's foot.
Allenvy finishes checking to make sufficiently sure his nose isn't broken, and looks up to see Herb sprawled on the ground.
Dilena looks with ~~ satisfaction ~~ at the fallen man, and walks away from his face and around to his side to administer a hearty kick.
Dilena: [snarl] Stay there.
Portia moves to stand on Herb's other side, one foot raised and ready.
Herb twitches a bit, but the wind was knocked out of him, and he still doesn't have it back.
Dilena's face twists up in ~~ hatred ~~ that she's been holding in for years.
Dilena: Steal my baby, will you? Hit me every time you get drunk? Have the God-damned gall to say you're sorry every time, eh? Going to do the same to my daughter? Not!!
Herb gets his breath back at last.
Herb: Well, I won't be bloody sorry this time.
Dilena: You're damned right you won't. Because that was the last time.
Herb grabs at her ankle, intending to bring her down alongside himself.
Dilena snatches her foot back not quite fast enough, but manages to evade actually falling.
Herb starts to get up.
Portia stamps on the outstretched hand, hard.
Portia: We didn't tell you to get up!
Portia stamps the hand again, even harder.
Herb howls as he feels a finger break.
Dilena laughs cruelly.
Dilena: Well, we know who wears the boots in this family, eh Portia?
Herb: Damn you bitches!
Portia: Yes, indeed.
Dilena calms down abruptly.
Dilena: [coldly] Herb, shut up. Or the next one costs you teeth.
Herb has lost his reluctance to hit another man's wife.
Allenvy stares at them, wondering if he should run and get help, or just let this whole mess play out by itself. Who can guess how people from out-T will respond? They might end up attacking him too.
Herb: Like hell I will.
Dilena: [still calmly] Mister Allenvy, isn't there supposed to be some sort of guard at the border? We didn't see one, but ....
Herb makes another attempt to stand, this time with an eye on Portia.
Portia kicks Herb in the teeth.
Dilena ~~ winces ~~ when she sees that, but she quickly overcomes that with more ~~ cold determination ~~.
Herb spits out teeth and blood.
Portia: You were warned.
Herb: Damb bitth.
Allenvy stares at the blood, and quickly runs to get the guard, not wanting to stick around any longer.
Herb laughs. It's just him and the two bitches now. He raises a fist to strike at Portia's kneecap.
Portia dodges nimbly, and so only gets a glancing blow.
Portia: Oh, no you don't.
Herb pushes himself to his hands and knees, ignoring the broken finger.
Dilena looks about, finds a oil lamp made of metal on a side table, and picks it up. It's very heavy, especially with all the oil.
Dilena debates warning Herb, and decides he's had enough warning for one day. She waits until his attention is entirely focused on Portia, and steps behind him.
Portia notes what Dilena is doing and purposefully kicks at Herb.
Dilena smashes the lamp violently down on the back of Herb's head. He's underestimated her for the last time. Of course, she doesn't really know how hard to hit.
Herb collapses with a grunt.
Dilena rushes into Portia's arms and starts sobbing violently.
Portia: Dilena, you were wonderful!
Herb lies in a spreading pool of lamp oil and blood.
Portia: I've never seen you so brave!
Dilena: I've never seen you so -- protective. Thank you, thank you so much!
Portia: I couldn't have done it without your help. We'd better go, now, though.
Dilena: Go where? No, better to stand pat and deal with the authorities.
Portia: Here, take the baby.
Dilena takes the baby and staggers over to the couch, shaking with reaction.
Portia sits next to her, patting her hand.
Portia: Really, dear, the only authorities here don't seem to be, well, very authoritative.
Dilena: We need to have him expelled. And preferably excluded for life. Or we'll press charges, or whatever they do around here. Assault, attempted kidnapping, and I don't know what all.
Portia: I don't think they do that sort of thing here. Perhaps we ought to go to the next town before he's able to get up.
Dilena: Love, I'm tired of running. We ran here, and I'm not running any further.
Herb twitches feebly, then subsides.
Dilena: We can keep him under control if we have to, we know that now. And then we wait.
Portia: All right. If that's the way you want to do it, I'm with you.
Dilena smiles for the first time.
Dilena: And I'm with you. Forever.