Compromising Situations: Episode 17

Gerrhonot has gone on a supply mission since the train has stopped for an hour to refuel, take on water and exchange crew. He's left Seruffin in Nick's care, and Gritta is reluctant to leave the station for the confusion of a busy town far larger than anything she's seen before.

Gerrhonot has filled a knapsack with food and miscellany for the whole group and is heading back to the platform when a squall suddenly hits. He ducks into a small bakery with a couple of tables and orders some tea as an excuse to stay there until the rain lets up.

Faffern is sitting at a table, reading the paper.

Gerrhonot sits at the other table.

Faffern stares at the editorial page with some ~~ concern ~~.

Faffern: It's an outrage!

Gerrhonot looks over to him politely. He figures that since the clerk has gone into the back, the man must be addressing him.

Faffern looks around for an audience, and decides Gerrhonot will do.

Faffern: The Simes are trying to take over. Six new Sime Centers in New Washington in the past year alone. They'll have us all in Pens before long.

Faffern says this with ~~ absolute conviction ~~.

Gerrhonot doesn't think only six new Sime Centers in the whole territory is very many. It's certainly far from enough.

Gerrhonot: Um. When there's Sime Centers not as many people get killed by berserkers. And people don't have to shoot their kids.

Faffern: That's what they do, pretending all they want to do is help. And before you know it, kids start disappearing across the border. Not only the Simes, either. Look at this.

Faffern points at the page.

Faffern: There's a family that lost a son -- gone away, nobody knows where, and they can't get him back.

Gerrhonot: How old is he?

Gerrhonot thinks a little more.

Gerrhonot: And how do they know he went to Simeland?

Faffern: It doesn't say. Just that he's a boy. And the Simes aren't making a secret of it.

Gerrhonot: If he's grown up, I guess he can go where he wants to.

Faffern: This says he was a boy. His parents are complaining to their Senator. They wouldn't do that if he was grown up. Who knows what dreadful things are being done to the poor boy. You can bet the Simes only want one thing.

Gerrhonot: Um. In Simeland, they figure that if you're a Sime or a Gen, you're grown up, even if you're not sixteen yet.

Gerrhonot is a step behind. This isn't unusual.

Faffern: So what? The rules are different out here. Or do you think that all of us should roll up our sleeves just because that's their law?

Gerrhonot: Um.

Gerrhonot pauses, wondering if it's worth trying to explain to this guy.

Gerrhonot: If the guy in the paper is a Gen, then he's a grown up if he's in Nivet. That's their rules. If he's sixteen, then he's a grown up here. That's the rules here. So different places have different rules and you should follow the rules of where you are.

Faffern: Well, they have no right letting him go across the border. And he must be a child still, or his family wouldn't be complaining.

Faffern has not considered that someone might lodge a complaint over something that is perfectly legal.

Gerrhonot: I dunno. Some parents like to control their kids even when they're grown up. But I guess their senator can sort it out, or the ambassador can.

Gerrhonot is well aware that former senator Tsibola is very effective in whatever he does. At any rate, Seruffin thinks so.

Faffern: Oh, the Simes are clever. They know that no ambassador is going to worry himself over a poor kid.

Gerrhonot shrugs. It probably depends on how important the parents are, or how good they are with the press.

Faffern: They're clever about the people they take. Ever noticed that most of the people who go into those Sime Centers of theirs are poor? Thinking they'll get a lot of money?

Gerrhonot: It's better than nothing, right? I mean, it just goes to waste if they don't sell it.

Faffern: My lawn is "going to waste", technically speaking, but that doesn't mean I ought to let the ground squirrels nest there. The squirrels might benefit, but why should that matter to me?

Gerrhonot: It's your lawn, you can do what you want with it. It's their selyn, they can do what they want with it.

Faffern: Isn't it funny how nobody thought to have it sucked out before the Sime Centers started recruiting?

Faffern ignores the existence of Householdings.

Gerrhonot: Um. There's channels in Sime Centers and hardly anywhere else out here.

Gerrhonot thinks this isn't much of a conversation. He was hoping to just have a quiet cup of tea while he waits for the cloudburst to let up.

Faffern: From what I hear, they look the same as any other Sime. I've never been quite convinced that they're as special as the government says.

Gerrhonot: They're the only ones who can take selyn from Gens and give it to other Simes. They have a kind of storage tank that regular Simes don't have.

Faffern: Or so they say. How do we know they're not lying? It's not as if anybody can see this "storage tank". There was another article....

Faffern flips through.

Gerrhonot wishes he hadn't started talking to this guy in the first place.

Faffern: Oh, no. It was a letter from a Mr. Tchapas. "How can we tell that the channels really do the things the Tecton says they do to the people who come to them?"

Gerrhonot: Well, they look after kids in changeover, so they live and don't kill. And why would they pay donors for their selyn if they were just faking it?

Faffern: Oh, I expect they can do it. The question is, do they do something else to those whose complaints won't be taken seriously? Like that boy in the other article who ran away to work for them.

Gerrhonot: Like what?

Faffern: Oh, who knows? I'm not a Sime.

Faffern has never let lack of facts interfere with his speculations.

Faffern: The article here seems to think they're doing something.

Gerrhonot: Why would they?

Faffern: Well, I don't know. The article doesn't say. But they are sure they're doing something. If they wrote it, they must know what they're talking about, right?

Gerrhonot: But they say they don't know, right? I mean, they think the channels are doing something, but they don't know what. Or why the channels would.

Faffern: Well, yeah, but just because they don't say what doesn't mean there's nothing to it. I mean, do you know what goes on in a Sime Center?

Gerrhonot: Um. Yeah. I do.

Faffern: Huh?

Gerrhonot: Um. I work with channels. In Sime Centers.

Faffern: You do?

Gerrhonot thinks he probably shouldn't have admitted any of that but he's getting annoyed with the guy and it's still pouring buckets out there.

Faffern wasn't expecting such a response.

Gerrhonot: Yeah. That's my job.

Faffern: How did they get their tentacles on you?

Gerrhonot: It's a good job. It pays well. And it gets a lot of respect in Simeland.

Faffern: They respect you for giving in to them?

Gerrhonot: It's important work. And most Gens can't do it. So people respect people who can.

Faffern shakes his head.

Faffern: But how can you tell channels have this "storage area"? The guy in the paper has his doubts.

Faffern, as usual for him, goes back to what he knows.

Gerrhonot: Well, I've seen channels take donations and give transfers, so the selyn had to be somewhere in between, didn't it? Sometimes they take a lot of donations and then give a lot of transfers.

Faffern looks ~~ dubious ~~, but nods.

Gerrhonot would point out that a Sime can zlin that another Sime is a channel, but this guy probably thinks it's a big conspiracy of all Simes.

Faffern: That must be hard, to see that.

Gerrhonot: No, it's good. The donors don't get hurt, and they get money, and they feel good, most of them, because they know they're helping Simes. And the Simes are real happy after transfer.

Faffern: I'll bet they are. They're probably just waiting until they can each have a Gen of their own.

Gerrhonot: It doesn't work like that. Most Simes would be afraid to take transfer from a Gen. It's much safer to take transfer from a channel.

Faffern thinks about it, then shakes his head.

Faffern: But is says here in this article... Where was that, again?

Gerrhonot notes that the rain is letting up -- maybe there'll be a break and he can make a run for it.

Faffern fumbles with the paper and prepares to read the same bit of the article again.

Gerrhonot: Sorry, mister, I've got to get back to the train.

Gerrhonot finishes his tea, and dons his knapsack, politely carrying his mug back to the counter.

Faffern looks at Gerrhonot, shrugs, and addresses the clerk.

Faffern: Hey, did you see this? It's an outrage!

Gerrhonot smiles, although he feels a bit sorry for the clerk, and heads out into the lull in the storm.

Next Previous Table of Contents