Seruffin tries to relax in the main room of his residence, the back room being too close for comfort to the wall his residence shares with the one next door.
Seruffin: Well, no progress again today, on my part. Did you have any better luck chasing down the Distect rumor, Gerrhonot?
Gerrhonot: No. The guy at the store mostly laughed at the idea.
Gerrhonot is too polite to repeat the comment that the only good Sime is a dead Sime, even though he knows Seruffin has heard similar before.
Gerrhonot: I talked to some women who were there too, but they didn't believe it was possible. Or even if it was, that anybody would want to try.
Seruffin: Which proves nothing, because in an atmosphere like this, anybody who was keeping an illegal partnership wouldn't advertise.
Gerrhonot: I did tell them about donating, and about what Mr. Coleman said.
Seruffin: I gather they didn't volunteer?
Gerrhonot: Well, not right off. But they looked like they'd think about it, or talk to their husbands. People here really need money.
Seruffin: Even if it costs them their jobs?
Gerrhonot: That Mr. Coleman is a real mean guy, isn't he?
Seruffin: Just... short-sighted.
Gerrhonot: I hope the miners can figure out a way to get around him.
Gerrhonot hears some noises from the next shack in the row of attached buildings.
Gerrhonot: Some people told me that the guy next door is a bootlegger. So it might get even noisier after the miners come home from work.
Seruffin: Well, there had to be a reason that this house was empty, despite being in better repair than some. On the other hand, I guess we know where to get more antiseptic if we require it.
Seruffin is trying hard to be ~~ positive ~~ about this assignment.
Gerrhonot: Um. I want to write to some friends in-T to send us some food and stuff.
Gerrhonot finds writing a difficult chore, but food palatable for his channel is very important.
Seruffin looks up as a nager impinges on their half of the crawlspace.
Seruffin: It zlins like our neighbor is expanding his business to our half of the roof.
Gerrhonot examines the ceiling.
Gerrhonot: I hope stuff doesn't fall through the plaster and hit us.
Seruffin: Yes. That ceiling isn't too sturdy.
Gerrhonot: Sounds like a guy is crawling around up there, in the other room.
Grainger makes his way from joist to joist as quietly as he can, while keeping his head down and not dropping the lantern.
Gerrhonot: Hey! Up in the roof!
Seruffin gets to his feet ~~ apprehensively ~~.
Gerrhonot moves between his channel and the second room ~~ protectively ~~.
Gerrhonot: What do you want up there?
Grainger finds the removable ceiling panel and gets his fingers under the edge of it. The warped wood sticks for a moment, then lifts away.
Seruffin follows Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot: Stay back, Hajene.
Gerrhonot is ~~ worried ~~ that the guy wants to attack his channel.
Grainger sticks his head down through the opening.
Gerrhonot blocks the doorway with his body.
Gerrhonot: What do you want?
Grainger: You're not the Sime. ~~ disappointment ~~
Grainger starts to pull back and puts a foot through the ceiling.
Gerrhonot: Stop! You're making a mess!
Gerrhonot grimaces at the dirt and broken plaster fallen on their blankets.
Gerrhonot: Why are you crawling through our ceiling?
Grainger lifts his foot and shifts his weight, then comes crashing down through the plaster, lantern still in hand.
Seruffin augments to get under the falling Gen and catch him.
Grainger yells as he falls, then gasps in surprise as strong arms catch him.
Gerrhonot grabs the lantern before it can start a fire.
Seruffin hastily retracts his tentacles, which somehow emerged in the excitement of an endangered Gen.
Seruffin sets the Gen on his feet and lets go.
Gerrhonot: What a mess.
Gerrhonot mentally adds a broom and bucket to the list of things he should get on his next trip to the store.
Seruffin: While I usually encourage people to drop by to visit, it wasn't necessary to go to quite that extreme, sir.
Grainger takes a moment to dust himself off and try to regain a bit of dignity.
Grainger: Uh, sorry. I was looking for the Sime.
Gerrhonot figures he found him. ~~ disgusted ~~
Grainger focuses his eyes on Seruffin's forearms.
Grainger: You're him!
Grainger calls up to the ceiling.
Grainger: Hon, we've found him.
Seruffin: I'm Hajene Seruffin, if that's who you were looking for. Who do I have the honor of addressing?
Grainger: Um, yes. I'm Grainger. Bob Grainger. Up there's my wife Tessa, and my two oldest, Robbie and Gwen.
Seruffin zlins the additional family members.
Seruffin: I'm sure we're glad to see you, but why didn't you use the door?
Grainger: Coleman's been warning everyone away. I'd risk it for myself, but I didn't want to take chances on the wife and kids getting roughed up.
Seruffin: I see.
Seruffin looks up at the hole in the ceiling.
Gerrhonot imagines how Sime-haters will say they trashed the house they were staying in.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, would you help our guests down?
Gerrhonot: I guess I can move the table over here. They can step down on it.
Seruffin: Thank you.
Gerrhonot: Will you help me, Mr. Grainger?
Gerrhonot doesn't want to leave the Gen with Seruffin.
Grainger nods and follows the younger man into the other room for the table. They carry it easily between them.
Grainger: Come on down, hon. Meet Mr. Seruffin and, uh...
Gerrhonot: Sosu Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot doesn't usually use his title, but he isn't looking forward to the clean up job he'll have to do before he can get any sleep tonight.
Grainger helps his wife down in a flurry of cobwebby skirts, then his daughter and his oldest son.
Seruffin keeps his distance, zlinning his guests in hopes of getting some clue as to why they are there. He notes that they are all reasonably healthy and not seriously injured.
Grainger looks around.
Grainger: Uh, sorry about the mess. Maybe we should have taken the chance on the door after all.
Seruffin: Well, you're here now. What can we do you for you and your family, Mr. Grainger?
Grainger: It's kind of a long story.
Seruffin: We have time.
Tessa coughs at all the plaster dust and starts trying to clean up some of the mess from the caved-in ceiling.
Grainger: Well, you see, my brother's a bit older than I am, so he inherited the family farm. And I figured, I could stay and work for him, or I could go out and try to make something of myself. Something my kids could be proud of someday. So I ended up here, at the mine. It's hard work, a lot harder than the farm ever was. But I wouldn't have minded that, if I could just get ahead.
Grainger runs a hand through his hair, dislodging crumbs of plaster.
Seruffin: And you can't? I'm told that's pretty typical for families here.
Grainger: I'm so far in debt, I'll be paying it off till I'm a hundred and ten. Dunno how it happened, when I work so hard.
Seruffin: I don't think it's a coincidence.
Grainger: Everything just costs so much. And with four kids to raise... well, I wanted something better than this for them.
Tessa finishes cleaning up as much of the large chunks of wood and plaster as she can, looks around in vain for a broom, and heads back to her children's side.
Seruffin: Naturally. Any parent would.
Grainger: Robbie's almost old enough, he'll be going into the mines next year himself. Unless we get out. And there'll be nobody for Gwen and Rosie to marry here, but more miners.
Seruffin: So it's leave now or never?
Grainger: Yeah. And my brother... he only had one kid make it. A girl. He bunged up his leg last year, and could really use some extra hands on the farm. But...
Grainger spreads his hands helplessly.
Tessa: I know what hard work it is, down in the mines. I was hoping Robbie could have an easier life, or even a choice, but right now we're left with none.
Tessa puts a hand on her son's shoulder.
Grainger: And we can't go anywhere until I've paid off my debt here.
Seruffin: Ah. And you believe we represent a chance to do that?
Grainger: We heard you're buying up people's stuff. Paying good, from what they say.
Seruffin: I'm a channel, yes. Part of my duties include taking donations from Gens who wish to offer them.
Grainger: Well, then, we're offering. All of us. My next boy Joey wanted to, too, but he's only nine.
Tessa gestures to her children.
Tessa: They are both... okay, aren't they? They're old enough to be safe, right? ~~ anxious ~~
Seruffin: They've established, yes.
Tessa exhales in relief.
Tessa: Then... yes, we're all offering.
Grainger watches as his daughter smiles and his son squares his shoulders with pride.
Grainger: It'll mean a new start for all of us.
Seruffin: Mr. Coleman will be very displeased to be put to the trouble of replacing you. You will probably want to wait to quit until you're ready to leave.
Grainger: That's the other reason we didn't come in by the door.
Seruffin: I see.
Grainger unbuttons his cuffs and begins rolling up his sleeves.
Tessa watches her husband with a combination of ~~ apprehension and excitement. ~~
Grainger: So let's do this. Me first, I guess.
Seruffin: Very well. It's a simple procedure; you won't feel a thing.
Grainger: Good. Good for the ladies' sake, anyway. A miner gets used to bumps and scrapes, you know.
Seruffin: It's a hard life. But really, as a Sime, I feel what you feel. So I have every reason not to make it unpleasant.
Grainger: Good to know.
Tessa is used to her share of bumps, scrapes, and kitchen burns, but lets her husband have his pride. It's for Robbie and Gwen's sake that she wants it to be easy.
Grainger: So, I give you my arms, and then you, uh, kiss me? Anything else i need to know?
Seruffin: The more you can relax, the more selyn I'll be able to glean, and the more money you will earn.
Grainger: All right.
Gerrhonot moves closer to his channel, ready to provide whatever he needs.
Grainger closes his eyes and takes a couple of deep breaths, then sticks his hands out and nods as he opens his eyes.
Grainger: Go ahead.
Grainger exudes ~~ stoic calm ~~.
Seruffin takes Grainger's hands, then extends his tentacles and makes the transfer contact.
Grainger stands calmly as the selyn begins to flow.
Seruffin neatly strips the GN-3 level, then dismantles the contact.
Seruffin: There you are.
Grainger: That's all?
Grainger smiles reassuringly at his family.
Grainger: There's nothing to it. Really.
Seruffin turns to Tessa.
Seruffin: Do you want to try it now?
Tessa takes a deep breath and nods. If her husband got through it all right, there's no reason why she shouldn't be either, is there?
Seruffin gives a ~~ reassuring ~~ smile.
Robbie: I can go first if you like, Ma.
Robbie squares his shoulders with adolescent male bravado.
Tessa: Oh, no, it's all right, son. I can handle this.
Tessa holds out her arms, which are still partly covered by the sleeves of her dusty, slightly-torn blouse.
Seruffin takes the offered hands and makes the transfer contact.
Tessa remembers her husband's calmness, and feels herself relax at the memory of it.
Seruffin takes the donation, ~~ relieved ~~ at the lack of complications. He learned not to take that for granted in Gumgeeville.
Tessa is also calming down in part due to the fact that once she's done with this, the family will be in less dire financial straits.
Seruffin finishes and releases Tessa.
Seruffin: See? Nothing to it.
Tessa smiles and thanks Seruffin profusely.
Robbie begins rolling up his too-long and slightly threadbare sleeves as soon as his mother is done. ~~ excitement ~~ and ~~ nervous bravado ~~
Tessa: It's fine, Robbie. You won't feel anything.
Robbie: It's... it's not that. But this is... well, after this, I'm not a kid any more even if I'm not sixteen yet. That's kind of big.
Seruffin: It is. It's a big responsibility to be grown up.
Robbie: extends his hands to the channel.
Seruffin takes them.
Robbie: Go ahead, sir.
Seruffin: Thank you.
Tessa thinks that it's a better way to earn one's adulthood than signing up to work at the mine.
Seruffin leans forward to complete the contact.
Robbie stiffens for a moment in adolescent embarrassment at the "kiss", then relaxes.
Seruffin carefully starts the selyn flow.
Robbie relaxes further as nothing perceptible happens.
Seruffin finishes and releases Robbie.
Grainger: I'm proud of you, son.
Robbie: Thanks, Da.
Seruffin shortly finishes with the fourth donation.
Seruffin: So, all four of your together come to...
Seruffin calculates for a moment, then counts out the proper amount from his stash.
Grainger raises his eyebrows and gives an appreciative whistle at the total.
Tessa: All of this, just for...? ~~ astonished ~~
Grainger: It's enough. Enough for everything. And a bit left over. ~~ incredulous joy ~~
Seruffin: Yes. The selyn you donated will support four Simes for a month.
Grainger: Freedom. Freedom and a new start.
Tessa had been expecting somewhere around half of that amount. Her worries begin to turn from how to scrape through the upcoming month, into how to safeguard this seeming new wealth.
Grainger has a similar thought.
Grainger: I can't pay off the store until we're packed and ready to leave. They'll know right away how we got this much. We'll have to put it...
Grainger pauses, thinking.
Tessa: There must be some hiding place we can use, in the house -- maybe in something very ordinary, where they wouldn't expect a person to try to hide something.
Grainger: Each of us should carry a quarter of it. And each hide it somewhere different when we get home.
Grainger begins dividing up the money.
Tessa: What shall we do about the younger children? If we tell them we have it, they might forget to keep quiet about it, but if we don't, and they find it anyway...
Grainger: We can't tell them. We'll have to put it in boring grown-up places they'd never bother to look.
Seruffin: I'm sure you'll find someplace appropriate.
Tessa discreetly slips her portion into one of her pockets, thinking of what boring grown-up places she could remove it to when she gets home.
Seruffin: Now, I believe there is no one watching the house at present -- the man who was doing so just entered the house next door for a nightcap.
Grainger: Then I think we can leave by the door. Listen, I'm really sorry about your ceiling.
Grainger picks up his lantern, which Gerrhonot extinguished earlier.
Seruffin: We can clean it up.
Grainger: I guess we don't need to light this again. Better if we don't.
Grainger gathers up his family with a glance.
Grainger: Then good night, sir. And thank you. For everything.
Seruffin: You're quite welcome.
Grainger offers the channel a firm handshake and leads his family out into the night.