Jed drags his tired horse toward the gate of the Hannard's Ford Sime Center.
Layna is slumped over the horse's neck, only partly conscious, and sweating with shock and pain.
Jed is pretty tired himself. He spent the morning singling fodder beets, the afternoon trying to get the horse and wagon over a series of mudslides and washouts, and the evening walking the horse with its very ill riders.
Jed fumbles with the Sime Center gate in the waning light.
Nattin emerges from the Sime Center and walks briskly down the walk.
Ukoh is still holding onto Layna, as much to keep himself on the horse as to help her stay on.
Nattin: Come in, come in. Bibi will be up shortly. What happened?
Jed: Get the gate behind me, eh?
Nattin: What the bloody shen has my student been up to?
Nattin asks Jed, since Layna appears to be in no condition to explain anything.
Jed: She gave transfer to Ukoh here. They're both alive at least.
Nattin: Gave... young woman, you will have a great deal of explaining to do. I don't know what you thought you were doing, but you should have known better.
Jed ties the horse to the hitching rail and eyes Nattin, wondering if he's strong enough to carry either of the victims.
Nattin: How bad is it? [to Jed]
Jed: Hell if I know. She was talking before.
Nattin had the sense to pledge a Householding that doesn't insist on fanatical dedication to physical activity, and is rather elderly besides.
Jed: Here, Layna, I'll help you down. Ukoh? Can you help me?
Ukoh: Uh, yes, Mr. Mullins.
Ukoh is in pretty bad shape himself, but remembers that, as Jed told him, he's a grown man now, and knows he shouldn't admit weakness.
Layna slowly lifts her head, with a groan, then tries weakly to assist in dismounting.
Ukoh slows Layna's slide into Jed's tired arms.
Nattin steps in, and between them, they lower Layna more or less to her feet.
Layna sags against Jed.
Layna: Shen, it feels like my head's about to explode.
Jed: Can you hold her?
Nattin manages to shift Layna over to himself.
Jed: Here, Ukoh, I'll help you down.
Ukoh slides off the horse, feeling miserable and scared and hopeless, and manages to stand without help after clinging to the horse briefly.
Jed: Where's Bart? Somebody should look after this poor damn horse. He's had a rough day too.
Nattin: Bart's occupied at the moment. Leave the horse there, and I'll have one of the other students look after him.
Jed is too tired to ask what Bart is occupied with.
Nattin: Help her to the door, would you, Jed? I'll look after the boy.
Nattin figures a new Sime in Ukoh's condition will be better off in the care of a Householder like himself than an untrained out-T Gen like Jed.
Jed starts leading Layna slowly down the walk towards the Center.
Nattin follows, keeping a wary eye on Ukoh in case he collapses.
Nattin: It never rains but it pours. No changeovers in weeks, and now we have two in one day.
Ukoh stumbles and nearly falls.
Nattin puts an arm around him.
Layna mechanically puts one foot in front of the other, focusing the last of her strength with the hope that Bibi and a lot of fosebine will be able to improve the situation.
Nattin: So what happened?
Nattin asks again.
Jed: Well, this young man, Ukoh, came to me and told me he was turning Sime. So I figured I should help him get to Hajene Bibi. I put the calf crate in the wagon and nailed him up in there. I gave him some brandy and poppy syrup to help him keep calm, too.
Nattin winces at the thought of what the brandy and poppy syrup would do to a changeover victim.
Nattin: How did young Layna get mixed up in it?
Jed: I met her on the way out and invited her. Figured I could use some expert advice.
Jed: The road this side of the pass was in terrible shape, took hours to come down it, cracked the friggin axle and finally we hit a washout we couldn't get past.
Jed: Here you go, Layna, just up a couple steps, eh?
Layna barks her toe on the first step, then carefully lifts her foot higher to make the step.
Ukoh winces and looks at his own foot.
Jed half carries Layna up the steps and through the door into the common room. He sets her on the sofa.
Nattin: So you opened the crate? Or was it Layna who committed that bit of insanity?
Jed: Where's Bibi?
Nattin: Bibi's in the basement. Young Mik Gegg went into changeover not long ago.
Jed: Oh, shit.
Nattin: It's not completely unexpected.
Ukoh staggers to a chair in a dark corner and sits, trying to look inconspicuous.
Jed: Well, can she come here and do something for these two?
Layna's strength gives out, and she flops bonelessly.
Nattin: Driver went down to fetch her after he told me you were coming. She'll be up as soon as she can.
Jed helps Layna lie more comfortably on the sofa, and sits on the arm himself.
Layna is very glad to be horizontal and not moving at last.
Jed: Layna said something about some kind of medicine for this.
Nattin: Yes. Fosebine. But she shouldn't take any until Bibi's had a chance to zlin exactly how badly she's hurt.
Bibi is in the cellar changeover room with Mik, Cristal and Bart. She's in hard need. She's objectively glad that Cristal is high field and will be able to serve Mik, but she's pretty distressed at knowing she's going to have to give up her Donor with no replacement in sight.
Bibi's Controller finally agreed to send her a spare Donor, who's expected to arrive next week, low field.
Driver pounds down the steps to the earth-insulated basement, where the changeover ward is located.
Driver: Hajene Bibi! Hajene Bibi!
Bibi looks up from the encouraging small talk she's exchanging with Mik as she hears Driver's voice.
Driver knows that while the door to the changeover "ward" is insulated against selyn fields, it's not soundproofed.
Bibi opens the door.
Bibi: What is it?
Driver: It's Jed Mullins, with a Sime and Layna. And it zlins like she's hurt bad.
Bart ~~ startles ~~ as he hears his father's name, then is ~~ embarrassed ~~ at his lack of control, then restores his ~~ calm ~~
Bibi turns and looks at her staff, student and patient.
Driver bobs ~~ excitedly ~~ from one foot to the other, although he does a fair job of preventing it from disrupting the ambient.
Bibi shows the decisiveness that is the hallmark of a competent channel.
Bibi: Mik, you'll be okay with Bart here for a while. I'll come back as soon as I can. It won't be long.
Bibi knows that Mik is only in stage three, but wants to be back for stage four transition. She signals to Cristal to follow and augments up the stairs.
Cristal follows Bibi up the stairs a bit reluctantly, concerned that something unexpected will happen.
Bart tries to maintain a ~~ smooth confident calm ~~ projection, even though Mik isn't zlinning yet.
Driver manages to dive to the side in time to avoid getting trampled, then follows them up the stairs.
Bibi zlins a transfer burn as soon as she clears the stone foundation wall and dashes over to Layna on the sofa.
Bibi: Layna? I want to deep zlin you, okay?
Layna opens her eyes with a groan.
Layna: Hajene Bibi. It hurts.
Bibi: Yes, it does. Let me help you here.
Cristal provides a bubble of nageric privacy for Bibi and Layna
Layna holds out her hands and tries to give a neutral field, with small success.
Nattin sees Driver lurking in the doorway, and sends him to look after Jed's horse.
Bibi takes Layna in a full five-point contact and examines her carefully. She's ~~ relieved ~~ that the injury isn't too severe, and starts it healing. One good thing about hard need is the extra sensitivity.
Bibi: You're all right, Layna. You're going to feel rotten for the next few days, and not very good for at least another week, but there's no permanent damage.
Jed is ~~ extremely relieved ~~
Layna tries to force her lips upward in a smile, although it comes out more of a grimace.
Layna: So I'll only wish I'd died, for a while?
Bibi looks at Jed and wonders what happened.
Bibi: Oh, it's not all that bad. Once you get some fosebine into you you'll feel a lot better. Nattin, would you mix up a double dose for her, and some for our other guest?
Nattin: Of course.
Nattin leaves to fetch the medicine.
Bibi approaches Ukoh, who is more or less cowering in the corner.
Bibi: You've had a very hard time of it, but everything will be all right now.
Ukoh nods tentatively.
Bibi: I'm Hajene Bibi, the channel here. Nattin is getting you some medicine that will help you feel better. What's your name?
Cristal stands at the neutral point so that Bibi can zlin Ukoh.
Ukoh: Ukoh Nergal, Miz Bibi.
Bibi: I'd like to check and see how you are, the same way I did with Layna there. Is that all right?
Ukoh has never seen a Sime before, and feels very ~~ confused ~~ on top of his ~~ misery ~~ and ~~ pain ~~. He's trying to act calm and strong, like a man should, now that he's a man.
Ukoh: Yes, Miz.
Ukoh rolls up his sleeves, exposing his filthy arms, encrusted with dried blood and other fluids. He keeps his tentacles in, not knowing what to do with them.
Cristal feels Ukoh's distress acutely; it's all he can do to remain professional rather than moving to relieve it, though Ukoh's nager is insignificant compared to Bibi's.
Bibi: This won't hurt, Ukoh, but I'd like you to stay still while I do it, okay?
Ukoh nods again.
Bibi gently takes Ukoh's arms and extends her handling tentacles.
Ukoh watches. ~~ interest ~~ fear ~~ disgust ~~ creepiness ~~
Bibi: It's all right, Ukoh. Don't worry.
Bibi uses the "channel's voice" and reinforces it with ~~ kindness ~~ safety ~~ calm ~~ acceptance ~~
Ukoh feels a little better and holds still.
Nattin returns with two glasses of ominous-looking opalescent potion, and crosses the room to hand one of them to Layna.
Layna takes the glass and in a clear indicator of how badly she's hurting, gulps it down without even bothering to hold her nose.
Bibi tightens her grip and extends her laterals, zlinning carefully. It's clear that Ukoh didn't get a full transfer, but Layna doesn't appear to have actually burned him when she shenned him.
Bibi is amazed that Layna could manage that at all. She would have expected her to save herself by crushing Ukoh's lateral nodes when the transfer went bad. She didn't think Dar taught any other technique for these situations.
Bibi: Thanks, Ukoh.
Bibi releases his arms.
Bibi: This medicine tastes terrible but it's the best thing for the way you feel now.
Nattin obligingly hands the second glass of fosebine to Ukoh.
Ukoh nods again. He's completely at a loss. Too much has happened today, much of it while he wasn't fully conscious, and he feels like he's in the middle of a frightening and incomprehensible dream. He takes the glass and tastes the strange looking liquid. ~~ shock ~~
Nattin suppresses a smile at the reaction, so typical of first encounters with fosebine.
Nattin: Drink it down quickly, lad. You'll taste it less, that way.
Ukoh figures the manly thing to do is not show his reaction to the awful taste. He gulps the whole glass down and gags, spraying the last few drops. ~~ revulsion ~~ embarrassment ~~
Nattin chuckles, and takes the glass from Ukoh.
Bibi: Ukoh, Driver will be back soon from looking after the horse, and he'll help you get settled and explain things to you. He changed over a few years ago and remembers what it's like. It's normal to feel confused. You'll feel better soon.
Bibi: I'm helping another young man who's turning Sime right now, but I'll come talk to you later.
Layna is starting to feel at least australopithecine as the fosebine takes effect, an improvement over something-the-cat-dragged-in-after-playing-with-it-for-hours.
Bibi: Layna, when Ghan gets back she'll help you get to bed, and get you some food if you feel up to eating it. A little miso broth will be good for you, if nothing else. Have her get you another dose of fosebine in two hours. I'll come check on you again when I have the opportunity. For now, just lie there and let the fosebine take effect.
Layna moans in agreement.
Bibi: Nattin, you'll tell Driver and Ghan what I said, okay?
Bibi: Mr. Mullins, I'll send Bart up to you shortly. He'll get you something to eat and show you where you can wash and rest. You're welcome to stay the night, or longer if you like. If you want to send a telegram home, Bart can take it to the telegraph office.
Jed nods. He's a bit ~~ amused ~~ by Bibi's managerial skills, but mostly just ~~ tired ~~ and ~~ hungry ~~. He's ~~ dreading ~~ facing Ma with the results of his trip - a badly broken wagon, a horse that needs shoeing, and the prospect of being away from the farm for several days, and all for the son of an enemy.
Bibi: I have to get back downstairs. I'll talk to you all later.
Bibi turns and heads for the cellar, Cristal following closely.
Jed: She always like that?
Nattin: How else could she get a group like this organized?
Jed thinks Bibi was acting like an army officer, or what an army officer should act like, not like the ones in most first hand stories he's heard from former soldiers.