Dilena and Portia approach a substantial stone building with a battered green flag flying over it.
Dilena: Well, once we forgot all about all the things we were told back at that inn, it wasn't too hard to find a town, was it?
Portia: No. They do seem to cluster close to the road, don't they.
Portia smiles at her wife.
Dilena grins back, ~~ adventurous ~~.
Portia: That flag does mean a Sime Center, doesn't it?
Dilena: I don't know. There wasn't one back at the border, I remember that. Can you make out the sign yet?
Dilena squints, but to no avail.
Portia: There is a sign. As to what it says, your guess is as good as mine.
Portia's eyes are a little better than Dilena's.
Dilena: Well, what the hey. It's either the town hall, the inn, the church -- no, maybe not -- or the Sime Center. Let's go find out which.
Dilena picks up the pace a bit, even though she's ~~ footsore ~~, leaving Portia behind momentarily. She walks up to the building and stands in the front yard.
Dilena: Hello the house!
Srini hears and zlins a Gen out front, yelling in Genlan. She goes to the door.
Srini: [Genlan] This is Sime Center, not house.
Dilena: Ah, good! We need the Sime Center today.
Dilena hasn't caught on to "need" versus "require" in Sime culture yet.
Srini is a bit confused at the use of the word "need", but her Genlan isn't very good and she knows it.
Srini: Come in. We figure out.
Dilena walks up the creaky steps, across the porch, and follows Srini into the building.
Portia follows Dilena, holding the baby.
Srini: So what is problem?
Dilena: My wife here, she could not donate at the border because a man attacked us and everything was confused, so we just went on.
Srini: She wants to donate? You want to donate, wife?
Portia: I'm supposed to, to stay here. Right?
Srini: All Gens in Nivet donate. Almost all.
Portia: ... Almost all?
Portia is suddenly ~~ hopeful ~~ that Dilena can get out of it, after all.
Srini: Some don't. People think bad of them. Selfish.
Portia looks at Dilena.
Portia: We really can't afford that, dear.
Dilena: No. Besides the money, we don't want an extra strike against us.
Portia is very ~~ apologetic ~~.
Srini: Mostly strange Gens who live alone in the bush. Eat dead animals, don't wash.
Dilena: ~~ disgust ~~ Ugh.
Srini: So you want to donate now? You be calm, no trouble for me? My Donor is eat lunch at trin shop. We wait for him if you are trouble.
Srini is only a Third, but figures she can handle Wild Gens. After all, her grandma, a junct, did so after Unity.
Portia: Oh, Dilena's already donated. But she didn't get paid -- that confusion we mentioned. We've been told that we can get paid here, instead?
Srini: I can zlin she donated. You got voucher, we can give cash.
Dilena: Here is the voucher.
Dilena hands over the paper explaining Dilena's donation problems.
Srini can see it's not a voucher. She takes it and reads it.
Srini: [to Portia] You same like this wife? Make trouble for channel?
Dilena: That is not a reasonable question. She has not donated yet. I thought I would be okay too! ~~ defensive ~~
Portia: Dilena is not a troublemaker.
Portia is very ~~ protective ~~.
Srini: You right. No point in ask Wild Gen if trouble.
Dilena: Well, dear, you have to remember that Hajene Pansy didn't expect me to be so frightened.
Dilena: [to Srini] You must decide, I think.
Srini sighs, not sure how much [Sime equivalent of machismo] she has today. True, she's very high field after a good recent transfer. She's also rather bored by her routine job here.
Srini: Ah, I zlin my Donor come back now.
Graham -- speak of the devil, not that he's particularly diabolical -- opens the front door at that very moment.
Graham: [unaccented English] And not a moment too soon, it seems. Hello, all.
Graham moves to the magic location.
Srini: [Simelan] Graham, look at this. The low-field Gen.
Graham looks but doesn't see anything extraordinary.
Srini hands him the letter and gestures to indicate which woman is low field.
Graham scans the letter quickly, nodding.
Graham: [Simelan] Ouch. That's bad. But here she is, so we'll have to deal with it, I guess.
Srini: [Simelan] No idea if the other one is going to be as bad. Poor Pansy. Wild Gens.
Graham: [Simelan] No reason to think so. From what I understand, the bulk of the border-crossers are very little trouble, just nervous and determined.
Srini: Okay, we take donation. Give baby to mother, we go in back.
Graham: [English] Yes. Don't worry, ma'am, I'm sure your friend will be just fine -- most people are.
Srini: Graham, you do paperwork.
Srini figures it will go a lot faster with an interviewer who speaks Genlan.
Dilena holds out her arms to take Luanna back and hopes for the best.
Portia takes the baby bag off of her shoulder, then squares them with ~~ determination ~~.
Portia: All right.
Srini leads the way to the Collectorium -- one of the two insulated rooms at the back.
Graham goes on ahead of Portia, even though it's more polite to defer to a lady, in order to shield Srini from the pre-donor.
Srini picks up a set of new donor forms on the way, and hands them to Graham.
Graham thinks "Wild Gen" is very rude, perhaps because he used to be one himself.
Portia follows them, hoping to get this whole undignified business over quickly.
Graham reaches the room and arranges the chairs as his bodily sensations dictate.
Srini is amused. Graham always acts like he's as sensitive as a Farris, but he's only a TN-3, and not a very high rated one either.
Graham flashes a grin in his channel's general direction.
Portia finds the room a bit ~~ claustrophobic ~~.
Graham: Now let's get this paperwork out of the way. [to Portia] Name?
Graham writes it down.
Portia refuses to use her former husband's name.
Graham: Next of kin?
Portia: Dilena. But why do you want to know that? I thought donation was supposed to be safe?
Graham: Sure it's safe. But you might have medical problems -- if so, Hajene Srini will detect them when you donate. My name's Graham, by the way.
Graham offers his hand to shake.
Portia shakes, finding the courtesy somewhat ~ reassuring ~.
Graham: I assume Dilena is the lady with the baby? What's your relationship? It's the next thing on the form.
Portia: She is my wife.
Graham double-takes, but keeps most of it out of his field.
Portia is very ~~ firm ~~ about that, although her nager betrays a small touch of ~ almost-lie ~.
Srini smirks. You can take the Gen in-T, but you can't take the out-T out of the out-T Gen.
Graham: Congratulations, then -- and welcome to Sime Territory.
Portia: Thank you.
Graham: You must be very devoted to each other, to make this big a break with everything you know.
Portia: We are. And we're well rid of our former husbands.
Portia's ~~ conviction ~~ on that point doesn't waver.
Graham: With me it was my parents. But back to the business at hand, eh?
Graham goes through the rest of the physical, medical, psychological, and other questions on the first-donation form.
Portia answers them, more or less accurately, except for a few details like weight.
Graham wraps up, signs the form, and makes the "over to you" nageric gesture.
Graham: Thanks. Now it's time to donate.
Portia: Oh. ~~ apprehension ~~
Dilena feeds Luanna while all this is going on, doing the nudity thing with all the aplomb of a native -- or so it seems to her ~~ residual embarrassment ~~.
Luanna couldn't care less, of course -- all that matters is that there's milk and plenty of it.
Srini: Just sit here on bench with me.
Srini moves to the donation lounge.
Srini: [Simelan] Graham, you make sure I don't end up like Pansy.
Graham: [Simelan] Of course, Hajene. Trust me, I'm from Gen Territory. ~~ nageric chuckle ~~
Srini rolls her eyes.
Portia moves to the couch and sits down.
Graham: [English] Sorry, Miz Portia. Just a little joke to help the channel relax. Hmm. Did you hear the one about the woman who forgot something every time she took a trip?
Portia: No, I didn't.
Graham: On her last trip she forgot her husband.
Portia: I resemble that remark.
Graham laughs outright, letting the ~~ humor ~~ suffuse his field.
Srini is pleased that the joke has made the donor relax. Too bad it isn't Graham taking the donation.
Srini: Okay, Portia. You know donation? I take arms in tentacles, touch lips, take selyn. You no feel nothing, over in minute, two minutes, okay?
Graham nods encouragingly.
Portia: This whole thing seems so... well, brutal is the word I want. Like surgery.
Graham smiles, but there's a strain to it.
Graham: I would advise you not to mention surgery while you're in Sime Territory. The idea of cutting human flesh upsets people.
Srini: [Simelan] Was that an insult, Graham?
Graham: [Simelan] No, just a misunderstanding. And anyhow, an insult is like an offer of an alcoholic drink: it affects you only if you accept it.
Srini: [Simelan] Yeah, but I'm interested in the intent, eh?
Graham: [Simelan] Definitely not, as you could easily zlin for yourself.
Portia: It upsets just about everyone. But sometimes it's necessary. Like this.
Srini: Nivet Gens not upset to donate. Is normal here. All Gens do it. Almost all. You want live here, benefits of live in Nivet, you donate like Nivet Gen.
Portia: I know.
Srini: Okay. Ready?
Srini offers her arms.
Portia: I suppose so.
Portia extends her own arms.
Srini takes Portia's hands and slides her own onto the Gen's wrists, wrapping her tentacles around Portia's arms in the standard grip.
Portia ~~ braces ~~ herself.
Srini pauses for the reaction to pass.
Srini: Okay. Here we go.
Graham does the Donor dance.
Srini tightens her grip, more firmly than usual, and positions her laterals. She reaches for the fifth contact point.
Portia gasps and twitches.
Srini: You calm down, make fifth contact. Touch lips.
Srini figures that unlike what she's heard about out-T Gens in general, this one shouldn't object to 'kissing' another woman.
Portia: Just... not so fast.
Portia is starting to wonder if she's going to have as much trouble as Dilena.
Portia: Very well.
Portia tries to get ahold of her emotions.
Srini tries to be patient.
Portia then leans forward to make lip contact. She ~~ braces ~~ herself, waiting for some indication whether she will have Dilena's problem.
Srini zlins the woman rapidly. She's almost a month pregnant, and in reasonable health. Somewhat stressed, but that's to be expected.
Srini draws the selyn from the GN-3 level and makes no effort to test the GN-2 barrier. Let another channel do that. She breaks the lip contact, retracts her laterals and releases Portia's arms.
Portia slowly relaxes from her ~~ rigid ~~ stance.
Srini: Not so bad, eh? I have good news for you.
Portia: You do?
Graham is ~~ glad ~~ to hear that, as he supports his channel's recovery.
Srini: Yes. Early next spring, you have baby, probably.
Portia: Next spring? A baby?
Srini: Yes, unless you lose it. So you must eat well, rest, take good care of yourself.
Graham: Congratulations again, Portia! And on your first donation, of course.
Srini reaches for the voucher pad on the desk.
Srini: Here I fill out voucher for you. Graham will give you money if clerk is not back from lunch break.
Portia: How much is that for?
Portia is wondering how long they have before they absolutely have to be employed.
Srini hands her the voucher.
Portia takes it, looking down at the strange script.
Srini: You wife find her voucher, get money for it, too.
Portia: What does it say?
Srini waves to Graham to handle it. Of course, an out-T Gen will be illiterate.
Graham: Sorry, you asked how much it was for. Well, Sime money and Gen money don't match up too well. It's enough for, umm, rock-bottom room and board for a month. At least that's the theory.