Travel Broadens: Episode 12

Shorsh and D'zoll descend the stairs on the way to Sosu Roger's hotel room.

Shorsh provides ~~ light support ~~, since judging by the noise level there are some lively room parties going on.

D'zoll is looking forward to the opportunity to pick Roger's brain -- or specifically his memories of his first days at Sat'htine.

D'zoll can't zlin Shorsh's emotions at the moment, and isn't too sure how he will take to this meeting with the former First Companion.

Roger's first days at Sat'htine were, as has been implied, long ago.

Shorsh likes Sosu Roger, one of the few Companions in the House who isn't related to him several different ways.

Roger has been semi-retired for over a decade now, which means he works a few hours a day, as he wishes, and has plenty of time to spend catching up on all the sleep he missed during his years of service. He still misses Givral, although his son has proved to be a very competent Sectuib, but otherwise, retirement beats overwork, hands down.

Roger finds it pleasant to be able to attend meetings without dealing with a scheduling nightmare, and without having to attend the talks given by the real bores. He's currently hiding in his room to avoid the presentations of two particularly overstuffed shirts from Householding Zeor.

Shorsh uses the knocker to tap on Roger's door, sparing D'zoll the zlin of his knuckles striking wood.

Roger is not above taking advantage of the privileges of age, including not jumping up every time someone knocks on the door.

Roger: Come in!

Shorsh opens the door and enters, expecting D'zoll to follow him.

D'zoll does.

Shorsh: Good morning, Sosu Roger.

Roger raises an eyebrow.

Roger: So, young D'zoll and Shorsh, what brings you to visit an old fossil like me?

D'zoll: [smiling] Actually, we've come to ask you to do one of your favorite things, Sosu: talk about your early days in Sat'htine.

Roger: You must be desperate. Is Hajene Vriss's talk that bad?

D'zoll laughs outright.

D'zoll: It probably is. But actually, I have a case, and I think your early experience becoming a Donor is very relevant.

Roger: Hah! I can see the younger generation is getting better with excuses. What sort of a case? Sit down, have some tea, and tell me about it.

D'zoll sits and signals to Shorsh to deal with the tea.

Roger holds his own teacup out for topping off.

Shorsh keeps his nager smooth, but he's a bit miffed at D'zoll treating him as a servant. Nonetheless, he fetches two more cups, and fills all three from the large teapot.

D'zoll has used the incident to collect himself.

Roger notes the byplay, and resolves to speak to Shorsh about not allowing himself to be used as a doormat.

D'zoll: [sincere] Thanks so much, Shorsh. I appreciate it.

Shorsh sits next to his channel.

Roger takes an ~~ appreciative ~~ sip of his tea, then settles back to listen.

D'zoll: My patient is a Donor-talented man in his late thirties who had a very bad experience with some juncts twenty years ago that scared him silly.

Roger: This has affected his career as a Donor?

D'zoll: He's still strongly attracted to Simes and especially channels, but instead of empathy he feels fear. Consequently, he's had no career as a Donor; in fact, he's a Sime-phobe of the most intense kind. Now he's asking for my help to overcome the Simephobia.

Shorsh: The man lives out-T, Sosu Roger.

Shorsh makes an important clarification.

D'zoll gives Shorsh an "I was coming to that" look.

Roger: Ah, I see. Not many Simes out-Territory, at least of the kind that a non-Donor has no reason to fear. Where does he live, exactly?

D'zoll: In a small town not too close to the border. But he has a close relative who's a Donor Trainee, a son who's a channel, and the possibility of twin channel children soon. So his life is mixed up with ours one way or another.

D'zoll gestures expansively, showing that by "ours" he means "all Nivet's".

Roger: I see. Trolling for new blood, are you? Isn't that Hiram's job?

D'zoll chuckles.

D'zoll: The thought had crossed my mind, yes. But, well, primarily it's about the challenge. He'll probably never be able to work as a Donor, but there's no reason I can see why he has to remain phobic his whole life.

Roger rubs his chin ~~ thoughtfully ~~.

Roger: So, you want to start a career as a Wild Gen tamer, do you? That's a profession that most would consider outdated. Why does the case interest you so much? There are plenty of challenges for a channel of your talents, after all.

D'zoll is taken aback by this question, which neither Hiram nor anyone else has asked him so far.

D'zoll: [thoughtfully] I don't really know. I suppose I want to, well, revive the lost art of helping Gens get over their fears, and Mr. Gegg's about the worst possible case. If we are going to have real Unity ever, we'll need to understand those techniques again.

Roger: Some would say that they're best forgotten.

D'zoll: [intensely] I know. But it's that kind of attitude that keeps Sime and Gen divided.

D'zoll realizes he's overdone it.

D'zoll: ... Present company excepted, of course.

Roger: I don't generally hold with ignorance, but I can't say they're completely wrong, in this case. A number of the techniques you're talking about are rather questionable, ethically speaking.

D'zoll is genuinely puzzled.

D'zoll: Why so? I plan to get his informed consent, of course. After all, it's not like I'll threaten him with being turned over to the juncts if the treatment doesn't work!

Shorsh rolls his eyes at D'zoll's histrionics, looking at Roger.

Roger doesn't find it amusing; he recalls being offered exactly that choice, some sixty-odd years before.

D'zoll retreats quickly as he zlins Roger's attitude.

D'zoll: Your pardon, Sosu.

Roger: Have you thought that without the ability to apply exactly that kind of pressure, or an equivalent, your chances of success are less? And without that same threat to your client, your own will to carry through may be insufficient?

D'zoll: I have. I think the threat of being isolated from his family will be sufficient, especially if his wife does indeed bear channels. It's only by rather extreme measures that I expect to be able to maintain him in-T at all -- at first.

Roger takes a sip of his tea.

D'zoll: I'll be using some of the new sedatives to let me take his field down.

Roger: How far can you sedate him, without having his field go flat and unmanageable? And you'll have to make sure he's healthy before you start, too; that'll require a deep zlinning.

D'zoll: It can't be any worse than taking a Final Donation.

Roger: A dead Gen doesn't fight you every step of the way. This Gen will. Even if he wants to cooperate, he won't be able to. And he'll probably be furious with himself for that, too.

D'zoll: I'm planning to use the new [English] injectable [Simelan] drugs. That way I can control the dosage closely to keep him subdued but not totally out of it.

Roger makes a thoughtful noise.

Roger: You don't mind working with needles?

D'zoll: Just under the skin, not into a vein. The damage done is absolutely trivial. I haven't done it, but I've zlinned it being done.

Shorsh is ~~ incredulous ~~ at D'zoll's optimism.

Roger: Better find a way to practice before you go after your client. The last thing he'll require is any lack of skill or confidence on your part. Flub the injection, and you'll never gain his trust.

Shorsh: Perhaps you can practice on yourself, D'zoll. ~~ not on me ~~

D'zoll pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket with one tentacle.

D'zoll: In fact I've got a little list -- of people I was going to ask to be volunteers.

Shorsh hopes D'zoll is going to use something less psychoactive while he learns to do injections.

D'zoll: I'll start with saline, of course.

Roger: Forget it. I'm too old to play around with newfangled tricks. From either end.

D'zoll: I assure you, Sosu, I would never think of asking you.

Roger is glad the youngster has that much sense, anyway.

D'zoll lets his eyes wander past Shorsh's abdomen speculatively.

Shorsh: D'zoll, what's the point... uh, the advantage of messing around with needles? We've got zorothane, it's inhaled, it's fast, it's easy to adjust the dosage. Or chloroform, for that matter.

D'zoll: And how do I find out if the chloroform is going to stop his heart? Can you see me administering a nageric restart to a Sime-phobe? He'd probably die all over again, of fear this time.

Shorsh: And what if you inject too much? You can't suck it back out again if you realize that ten minutes later, but you can cut off the gas right away.

D'zoll's eyes flash.

Shorsh: Are you sure you aren't being too neophilic here again?

D'zoll rolls his eyes.

D'zoll: All right, all right, we'll start off with the zorothane. But if it isn't enough -- and I think it won't be -- I want to have the new drugs available. And be trained on them. Both of us.

D'zoll: Anyhow, the channel's report says Gegg is a long-term beer drinker. The last thing his liver needs is more stress. No chloro for him.

Shorsh: So use ether then. D'zoll, remember that you're going to be doing this out-T at first, with no consults, no backup. What do you think will happen politically if you screw up?

Roger: You're planning to do this out-Territory?

D'zoll: I had planned otherwise, but Sectuib ....

D'zoll shrugs.

Roger: What did Sectuib say?

D'zoll: "Treat him near his friends and family". Or in other words, keep a traumatized Donor-class nager out of the Householding. I was going to use the old confinement rooms, but Sectuib vetoed that too.

Roger: Sensible.

Shorsh: D'zoll, I think you're seeing this Gen as a fascinating and challenging case rather than as a suffering human being.

D'zoll: [firmly] Clinical detachment, that's all.

Roger: And the lure of getting a reputation as a "Gen tamer"?

Shorsh: You should imagine yourself in his shoes when you come up with these ideas, or you're really going to blow it. I'm serious.

D'zoll: [not so firmly] I know you are. That's why you're going to assist me wholeheartedly, right?

Shorsh: And if you blow it, one thing you're going to do is damage Hajene Bibi's relationship with her community out there, which you may recall Sectuib specifically asked you to be very careful to avoid.

D'zoll nods judiciously.

Shorsh: I'm not going to "assist you wholeheartedly" to make things worse for all concerned, and especially not for Mr.Gegg.

Roger decides that young Shorsh has some sense, even if he doesn't seem to stand up on the tea-pouring issue.

D'zoll: Exactly. [humbly] So that's why I need you, to help keep me on track.

Roger: So you plan to set up some sort of field facility, and drug this man until you can handle him? How do you think his neighbors, and his family, will respond to that?

Shorsh hopes it won't be with torches and pitchforks. Or rifles.

D'zoll: If worse comes to the worst, the mobile facility is quite strong. But I really don't understand all this concentration on the worst case.

Shorsh is ~~ annoyed ~~ that D'zoll thinks he can manipulate his Companion with Farris charisma. Shorsh is a Farris too, and after all these years he's quite immune.

D'zoll thought Gens were supposed to be the optimists.

Shorsh: You have to plan for the worst case, or you'll end up like the Sectuib in Svasri.

Shorsh refers to one of the Householdings destroyed by the Nivet Army in the early part of the Unity War.

Roger: Yes. Particularly if you have to work without a backup, it's important to be prepared.

D'zoll: Quite so. But this feels like a let's-grill-the-youngster session, not like a planning session. If the message is that I don't have all the answers, I know that. I need help to come up with answers -- that's why I'm here.

Roger: Remember, an important part of the trust you must build with this man is the illusion that nothing, absolutely nothing, he can do to you will harm you, or him.

D'zoll nods thoughtfully.

Roger: He can't trust himself, after all. And no one around him will have any idea what he's going through. In fact, you'd better make sure of that, or there might well be trouble. I doubt many of your patient's neighbors would be very happy about one of their own being drugged into helplessness so his selyn can be taken, however pure your motives.

D'zoll: There's no ideal way to do this, I can see that. But the only thing necessary for the triumph of his phobia is for people like us to do nothing.

Roger: True enough. How do you intend to proceed once you get the man lowfield?

D'zoll: Desensitization, I thought.

Roger: How much do you know about exactly what triggers his phobia?

D'zoll: Exposure to Sime fields, specifically need. Secondarily, various Sime physical characteristics, particularly tentacles.

Roger: Doesn't sound like he's going to be very easy to handle. It'll be tricky to keep him from breaking entirely.

D'zoll: No. As Sectuib pointed out, it's hard to desensitize a patient whose phobia is triggered by his therapist's appearance.

D'zoll remembers his last phobic patient, and pictures himself as a pigeon.

Roger: It'll be hard to keep him in the same room with you long enough to even start treatment. You don't have the advantage of a holding cell to keep him in.

D'zoll: By all the reports Mr. Gegg is a man of tremendous courage and dedication. Otherwise there really would be no point in even thinking about this.

Roger remembers his first days in Sat'htine, in the dreary, isolated cells deep underground, with Gen-proof locks holding the cages closed.

Roger: There are limits to courage. You may well have to push past them, if you want to make progress.

D'zoll: I understand. I will have locks on the mobile's door, for sure. And I will make sure he consents to their use. Once he understands the necessity, I feel confident that he will.

Roger: Better make sure it's soundproofed, as well. Believe me, you don't want any passersby to hear what's going on.

D'zoll: If it isn't already -- and I think it is -- I'll make sure of it. After all, those units have been used for treating burn patients.

Roger: Another thing. Have you considered how to cope with what his field is going to be doing to you? Not just at the time you're treating him, but between sessions, as well?

D'zoll: I was hoping that that was one of the things you could tell me about, Sosu.

Roger: Your great-uncle Givral was very effective at breaking in new Gens -- and yes, I'm using the phrase deliberately. But part of the price he paid for it, was the tendency to see himself as the Gen he was working with saw him. You can imagine what they thought of any Sime, after what they went through in the Pens and Choice Auctions.

D'zoll nods.

Shorsh listens intently.

Roger: It was always a fight getting consent for that first donation, and in some ways, it was harder on the Gens than if he'd just gone ahead and attacked them. I took a few routine precautions when he was handling Wild Gens, and they seemed to help. I'm not sure you can apply them, if you're going out-Territory to treat this Gen, though.

D'zoll raises his eyebrows interrogatively, but remains silent so as not to cut off Roger's flow.

Roger: But for what it's worth, I always made sure that Givral's other donations during those times were the most stable, willing Gens available. The ones who were used to teach new channels how to take donations, who were almost incapable of believing that a Sime could hurt them, on an emotional level.

Shorsh nods.

Roger: If you're going out-Territory, there aren't going to be many Gens like that around for you to handle, when you start seeing yourself as this Mr. Gegg sees you.

D'zoll: Hajene Bibi tells me there are some excellent donors there, particularly the descendants of a certain Miz Brown, for some reason. Maybe it's genetic.

Roger: That might help, although it's possible that these donors won't be as comfortable with you, as they are with the channel they know. Nor can you simply take over all the channeling work in the area.

D'zoll: True. However, some of the donors there are underdeveloped due to the lack of sufficient selyn transport.

Roger feels some ~~ amusement ~~ at this typical channel's impulse to grab every Gen in zlinning range for his House. He remembers having to remind Givral at Choice Auctions that they couldn't buy every Wild Gen available.

Roger: I see. Don't cause any incidents as you troll for new recruits.

D'zoll: Not so much new recruits, as donors needing to be upgraded. And yes, I will consult with Hajene Bibi before I upgrade anyone!

Roger: Good.

D'zoll: In any event, Sosu, what can you tell me about your experiences after you were, umm, acquired by Sat'htine?

Roger raises an eyebrow.

Roger: Now, that's a tale.

D'zoll assumes the position appropriate to the hearer of a tale, and settles in for a long one.

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