Nattin brings Bibi a cup of tea, since Cristal is otherwise occupied showing D'zoll and Shorsh the sights of exotic Hannard's Ford. He just hopes the two Farrises don't find the town too exotic.
Nattin: Here, drink this and relax a while. We don't have to go over the details for the monthly report this instant.
Bibi: Oh, thank you, Nattin.
Bibi takes the cup and wraps her tentacles around it, enjoying the warmth.
Nattin: Tell me, do you think our friend D'zoll will survive contact with the wild Gens of Hannard's Ford?
Bibi: I think he'll be okay here. I don't know about Gumgeeville.
Bibi was impressed by the immensely skillful and effortless way Shorsh can manage the ambient.
Nattin: Yes. They are a bit less... cosmopolitan, there.
Nattin: I hope Sosu Shorsh can keep him acting circumspectly.
Bibi smiles, with dimples.
Bibi: They're an interesting pair, aren't they?
Nattin: Indeed. Farris channels usually are. One always wonders how much of the world they're going to overturn, this time.
Bibi: Oh, well, I think Gumgeeville is isolated enough that any revolution they start will fizzle out before it sets the world afire.
Bill Tillett opens the Sime center gate awkwardly, with his left hand. To anyone who has seen or zlinned his daughter Mari, he's immediately recognizable as a close relative of hers, despite the ~~ pain ~~ that's distorting his nager.
Bibi turns toward the window, then gets up and goes over to it.
Bill closes the gate carefully behind himself and moves up the walkway. His right forearm is swathed in bandages.
Bibi: Oh, dear. A Gen with an injury.
Bibi heads for the reception room.
Nattin: Is it serious? Should I send Driver out to find Cristal?
Bill: Hi. Anybody home?
Bibi: Let's see first...
Bibi: Nattin, please get the door, will you?
Nattin sighs, acknowledging to himself the futility of asking a channel to let a patient sit.
Nattin: Of course.
Nattin opens the door.
Nattin: Welcome, Mister....?
Bibi remains in the background, tentacles sheathed, zlinning as best she can.
Bill: Tillett. Bill Tillett. Pleased to meet you.
Bill starts to reach out to shake hands, then thinks better of it as more ~~ pain ~~ spikes through the ambient.
Nattin: My name is Nattin. Please, come in. This is Hajene Bibi.
Bibi: Good evening, Mr. Tillett.
Bill: Good evening, Hajene.
Bibi wonders if he's one of Mari's relatives. He zlins like it.
Bibi: Did you come for help with that injury?
Bill: Yes. When I was burned on the fire lines a couple months ago, my daughter suggested I should come to you for help. That one healed all right on its own, but I don't think this one is going to.
Bibi suspects it's badly infected.
Nattin steps back until he's more or less in the Donor's position at Bibi's side, and concentrates on being ~~ calm and steady ~~ He's no Donor, but he hasn't lived as long as he has, and worked in a Sime Center as long as he has, without picking up at least a little.
Bill: I understand that I'll have to donate before you can help me. That's okay by me.
Nattin is ~~ concerned ~~ about this situation.
Bibi is not too worried, since she's quite high field and the Gen seems very calm.
Bibi: Oh, I'll help you without a donation, but I'm glad you're willing to donate. Just come back with us to the treatment room, where I can examine your arm and dress the wound.
Nattin leads the way to the treatment room, since Bibi apparently wants him there.
Bill: Mari said you heal people by stimulating selyn production. Doesn't that mean you have to empty some out to make room for more first?
Bibi: It doesn't work quite like that. But if you'd like me to take your donation, I'd prefer we get the pain under control first.
Nattin supposes he's better than nothing, and at least he'll know as soon as possible that something's gone wrong.
Bill smiles grimly.
Bill: That would be fine by me.
Bibi invites Bill to sit and lay his arm on an enamel-topped table.
Bibi: I'll just cut these bandages off.
Bill looks around the treatment room with interest, trying to distract himself from what's being done to his arm.
Nattin stays by Bibi's shoulder, quietly concentrating on being ~~ steady ~~.
Bibi removes the dirty bandages to reveal an infected bite wound.
Bibi: Oh, dear. What bit you? A horse?
Bibi mixes water, soap and disinfectant in a bowl, impressed at how the Gen isn't reacting to her as a Sime.
Bill: I'm afraid so. Poor Dilby got torn up on some barbed wire, and when I tried to get him out, he just struck out at me because he was in pain. Didn't mean harm. He's a good old horse. One of the best.
Nattin: He appears to have harmed you nicely, even so, Mr. Tillett.
Bibi makes a sympathetic sounds and begins to wash the wound, hoping it will open on its own so the pus can drain.
Bill: That he did, Sosu.
Bibi smiles a little, wondering how Nattin will take this new title.
Nattin deliberately tries not to look at -- or smell -- what's going on.
Bibi: Is Mari your relative, Mr. Tillett?
Bill: She's my daughter. And...
Nattin isn't about to correct this patient, as knowing he's just the accountant might cause this Gen to lose confidence in Bibi.
Bill winces again.
Bibi: Sorry this is hurting. The scab is softening now, so the wound can open and drain.
Bill: It's okay. Still doesn't hurt as bad as the burn did.
Bill points to the recently healed remnant of a burn scar, just above the bite mark.
Nattin: It should hurt a lot less, once it's drained.
Bill grits his teeth and stares fixedly at the corner of the supplies cabinet.
Bibi applies a little tension to the wound, which opens.
Bill: Ow! Sorry.
Nattin hands Bibi a clean cloth.
Bibi: I'll just wash it out now, and apply some of this ointment.
Bibi uses the clean cloth to squeeze clean water and disinfectant over the opened wound.
Nattin: It won't take much longer.
Nattin hopes not, anyway.
Bibi: Okay, that's done. This ointment not only fights infection but it numbs pain.
Bibi applies the antibiotic ointment with topical anesthetic.
Bill grunts as the ointment touches his skin, then relaxes as it starts to take effect.
Bibi drops the dirty cloths in the bowl and takes it all away to the sink.
Nattin struggles not to give in to incipient nausea, now that the worst is apparently over.
Bibi: I'll give you this jar to take with you. I'd like you to wash the wound with soap and water twice a day, apply some ointment, and keep it loosely bandaged. If it appears to be getting worse, or you notice red streaks on your arm, please come back right away.
Nattin: It's fortunate that you didn't wait any longer than you did to come here, Mr. Tillett.
Bill: I would have come right away. I know how bad bites can be. But Albert's only nine, and I didn't want to leave him alone on the farm. He's a good kid, just like his sister.
Bill zlins of ~~ worry ~~ as he mentions Mari.
Bibi: Would you like me to do some nageric healing on this injury?
Bill: Please do.
Bibi: I'll have to touch you with my tentacles.
Bill is ~~ untroubled ~~ .
Bibi extends them slowly, and takes the arm.
Nattin lets Bibi zlin his ~~ concern ~~ at the proposal that she do such delicate work on a completely untrained nondonor.
Bill: I may not be a genius -- the kids got their brains from their dear mother -- but I'm not superstitious.
Bibi signals to Nattin that she's okay, hoping he's picked up enough of the signals.
Bibi: That's good. I'm impressed at how calm you are about letting me touch you.
Bill: If you folks went around harming people, you wouldn't get any repeat customers, and you'd be ridden out of town on a rail.
Nattin isn't completely sure about the signal, but Bibi appears to intend to proceed. He therefore tries to set his concern aside in favor of as much calm as he can muster.
Bill: Besides, Mari's been writing to me almost every day since she came out here. She's told me quite a bit about you, and none of it's bad.
Nattin is at least not being confronted with foul-smelling pus, which tends to interfere with his ability to focus.
Bibi: I'm going to extend my laterals now. If you move while they are in contact with your skin, you can hurt me. Do you think you can stay still? They may cause a bit of a tingling sensation.
Bill has been avoiding looking at his injury. He now deliberately glances at Bibi's tentacles.
Bill winces. ~~ disgust ~~ He glances up at Bibi's face.
Bibi looks harmless and concerned.
Bill: Sorry, Hajene. That wasn't for you. I just got my first good look at my arm. Please go ahead.
Nattin puts a hand on Bibi's shoulder to increase the effect of his field.
Bibi appreciates the support, even if it's more moral than nageric.
Bill takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and deliberately ~~ relaxes ~~.
Nattin: Relax as much as you can, Mister Tillett.
Bibi tightens her grip with both sets of tentacles on the injured arm and extends her laterals. She carefully zlins the extent of the infection and is relieved that while the swelling is extensive, the actual area of infected tissue is fairly small.
Nattin is, as has been remarked before, no Donor, but he doesn't know of any instance where it helps to be tense when a channel is working on one.
Bibi is aware that Mari's unusual reactions may be hereditary, so is very cautious as she begins to project a little need at the wound.
Bill responds to the need with a surge of ~~ selyur nager ~~ .
Bibi immediately stops the projection and goes hypoconscious. She retracts her laterals and gently releases the arm.
Bill: Interesting. I think that's what Mari was talking about. I'm starting to understand.
Bibi: Yes, you seem to have the same reaction she does.
Bibi gets up and fetches some clean bandages.
Bill: Uh-oh. You mean I could hurt you the way she did? ~~ worry ~~
Bibi: You could, but I was being careful about it since there was a possibility you'd react that way, so you didn't hurt me.
Bill: Don't work on me any more if I'm going to hurt you.
Bill: (under his breath) Poor Mari. I'm starting to understand now, kid.
Bibi: We have another channel staying here for a few days, and then he'll be in Gumgeeville for a few weeks. He's much higher rated than I am. I'd like him to meet you, and perhaps work on your arm for you.
Bibi bandages the arm.
Bibi: May I offer you some tea and food?
Bill: Could he... ~~ sudden hope ~~
Bill: Yes, please. Tea would be good.
Bibi: Come with me. We can sit in the common room and chat, now that your arm is hurting you less.
Bill nods and follows Bibi.
Bill: Thank you very much.
Nattin brings up the rear.
Bibi: Just have a seat.
Bibi gestures to the comfy chairs and sofa and goes into the kitchen.
Nattin follows her.
Bill chooses a chair and sits.
Nattin: Bibi, are you sure you want to handle this by yourself?
Bibi: I'm not going to do any more nageric therapy on him without a Donor, that's for sure! But D'zoll will appreciate the work.
Bibi smiles and winks.
Nattin: Oh, I wish I could be there to see it.
Bibi assembles a plate of goodies, while the kettle comes back to a boil.
Bibi: You did well, Nattin. Thanks. Maybe you should take up nursing as a second career.
Nattin sets out fresh cups.
Bibi rinses the teapot with hot water and adds peppermint leaves.
Nattin: You're welcome. I just figured it would be better if our guest thought there was a Donor present.
Bibi: It's almost unnatural how calm he is about letting a strange Sime handle him like that.
Nattin would prefer trin after the stress of trying to impersonate a Donor, but trusts Bibi's judgment in matters of Gen Territory hospitality.
Nattin: I noticed that, too. The attraction is that strong, then, even if he doesn't know what's going on?
Bibi: Mari was like that too, but more talkative about it. As for attraction... I didn't zlin real attraction until I began to project need. Then his field reached out to grab mine. Fortunately, it didn't manage!
Nattin: You really ought to have a proper Donor with you, when you try to handle strange clients.
Bibi pours boiling water into the teapot.
Bibi smiles again, with dimples.
Bibi: Especially ones as strange as this, eh? Well, I couldn't turn him away without at least some basic wound care.
Nattin: I suppose not.
Nattin is getting more sympathetic towards Cristal, and his tendency to criticize even when it's obviously futile to do so.
Nattin: Just remember, I can't do much for you, if something goes wrong.
Bibi: It's all right, Nattin. Cristal won't be happy about it, but I was being very cautious. I anticipated trouble, and stopped as soon as it started.
Nattin: Is he another Mari?
Bibi: He's certainly got a very similar pattern of response. But he's concerned about his daughter. He wants to talk to me about her. You're very welcome to participate.
Bibi hands the plate of goodies to Nattin and picks up the cups and teapot herself.
Nattin: I'm useless as a Donor, I know, but talking I can manage.
Bibi: Oh, you're not useless. I found your support helpful.
Nattin: Why, thank you, Bibi.
Nattin follows Bibi out of the kitchen.
Bill has been examining some of the standard pamphlets.
Nattin sets his tray down, conveniently in reach of all concerned, then sits next to Bibi, in hopes that his field will provide some protection if Bill's nager tries any more tricks.
Bibi sets out the cups and fills them from the pot. She sits across from the Gen and takes a cup.
Nattin: Please, help yourself, Mr. Tillett.
Bill: Thank you.
Bill takes a cup of tea, sips cautiously, then glances up in mild ~~ surprise ~~ .
Bill: Doesn't taste as bad as I expected. Just like peppermint, as a matter of fact. Mari said trin was an acquired taste.
Nattin: It is peppermint, Mister Tillett. It's easier to get than trin, out here.
Bibi: I thought you'd prefer something familiar instead of trin.
Bill: Oh. ~~ amusement ~~ . Thank you for being so considerate.
Bibi smiles, charmingly, with dimples.
Bill crumples his napkin and stares at his cup.
Bill: I'm sorry about how everything has worked out with Mari. I only wish...
Bill sighs and sets his cup aside.
Bill: But the world is as it is and not as we wish it. I'm sorry to have taken your time. I'll be going now.
Nattin: Is something the matter with your daughter?
Bill, who had begun to stand, sits back down at once.
Bill: You know. It meant so much to her, too. ~~ sorrow ~~ .
Bill clamps his jaw. He still believes, as most out-T men do, that men don't cry.
Bibi: She still has the potential for Donor training. We just don't have the expertise to evaluate her here. She'll have to go in-T, unless Hajene D'zoll can advise us.
Bill: ~~ surprise ~~ But Mari said -- ~~ confusion ~~
Bibi: She apparently took Hajene Darrel a bit by surprise, but no permanent harm was done.
Bill: She said she wouldn't dare. But, if it's possible...
Bibi: She definitely has Donor talent, but her nageric characteristics are very unusual, so a training specialist would have to evaluate her and decide whether she can be trained to function as a Donor or as a Gen mule.
Bill squares his shoulders.
Bill: Hajene, please help me sort this out for Mari. She's scared to even come near you now. And she and her brother are all I've got, now. I'm wondering now, how much she understood of what happened. Or how much I understood of what she said.
Bibi: What did she tell you?
Bill: She's a smart kid. But she got her brains from her mother. I don't always follow everything she's talking about. Maybe I got it wrong.
Bill takes a deep breath.
Nattin privately wonders if Mari herself really understood what happened to Darrel.
Bill: I don't know where to start.
Nattin: From the beginning? That's usually most productive, where there's confusion.
Bill nods slowly.
Bill: Okay. Well, Mari's always been a bookish child. I didn't really know how to raise a girl, so I just kept giving her lots of books. And for years, she wanted to grow up to be a doctor.
Bill smiles, remembering.
Bill: Every time there was any sort of news article about a new medical treatment, she'd clip it and paste it in her scrapbook.
Nattin privately wonders how much of this medical enthusiasm was just the desire to get out of Gumgeeville.
Bill: Then, a couple of years ago, she started to realize that girls don't grow up to be doctors. Boys grow up to be doctors, girls grow up to be nurses. So she started looking at other careers. But it was clear all along that she wanted to go to university and have a real career.
Nattin finds Bill's insistence that women can't be physicians ironic, considering what Bibi has just done for him.
Bill: Then my niece Charity invited her to come here to the Ford and stay with her while she looked for a job, to get the money to go away to school.
Bill hesitates, looking suddenly ~~ ashamed ~~ .
Bill: Channels are like doctors, right? A patient tells you private stuff, it stays private?
Bibi: Yes, very much the same, Mr. Tillett.
Nattin tries to look inconspicuous. As a professor, he's not bound to confidentiality, but he doesn't want to have to leave Bibi unprotected.
Bibi trusts Nattin's discretion, even if he isn't under oath.
Bill: Well... I owed Charity. When my dear Allie died, there I was with a newborn baby and a seven-year-old girl. I didn't know what to do. So Charity -- Allie's sister's daughter -- put off her wedding to come stay with me for a few weeks, help me cope. And...
Bill swallows hard, radiating ~~ guilt ~~ .
Bibi is concerned by the man's distress.
Bill: Charity's oldest boy, Wesley Jr., is actually mine. Wes Weems still doesn't know.
Nattin tries not to wince at the prospect of yet another dangerous nager in the making -- or maybe another channel.
Bill looks back and forth between Bibi and Nattin, waiting for some visible reaction.
Bibi wonders why the man is confessing all this to her, but looks sympathetic.
Nattin: These things happen, Mr. Tillett, however much we might wish they didn't, afterwards.
Bill: Uh, yes, well. So I owed Charity, and when she asked me for Mari to stay with her, and she'd talk to people and arrange that no one would hire her until after Charity's latest is born, and she could stay home and help her, and then later get a job and put together the school fees, I didn't feel I could say no.
Bill glances up.
Bill: You understand, don't you? I couldn't say no, even though Mari didn't deserve to pay for my mistakes.
Bibi nods. She wonders how much influence Charity has in blocking Mari from getting work.
Nattin thinks that it would have been more fair to Mari to let this Charity hire Mari herself, if she wanted assistance.
Bill: Then Mari found you folks, and you gave her a way to get out from under Charity's thumb. I was so glad for her.
Bill's voice becomes more animated now.
Bill: Mari was writing home almost every day, and her letters were so full of joy and hope. I didn't understand everything she was saying, but she was so happy. She was talking about how she was going to try out to be a Donor, and it would be almost like being a doctor after all, helping and healing and understanding.
Nattin: Did her cousin accept the situation, since she would have been able to help out anyway?
Bill: Charity? No, she's furious. You folks might want to watch out for her; she's blaming the whole thing on you. I don't know how much trouble she could cause, but do watch out.
Nattin: Ah, she is unhappy about how Mari's donation to Hajene Darrel went, then?
Nattin can understand someone being upset at having their relative's donation botched, even if it wasn't Darrel's fault.
Bill: I don't think she even knows about that part. If she did, she'd be gloating. Everything's falling apart for Mari since that. But I don't think Mari told anyone but me. She's too ashamed of herself.
Bibi: Mr. Tillett, Mari is still quite young. People her age often overreact, and assume the worst. I think she may be exaggerating the seriousness of what happened. There's still the possibility that she may be suitable for Donor training. If not, there are other careers open to an energetic and intelligent young woman.
Bill: There's a lot she told me that I didn't understand. She said that, by the numbers, she had the potential to be maybe a... high number two or a low number one? Except that she gets slelblessed too easily, and that might be a problem. And then she said that even if she wasn't much good for transfer, if she could just manage to qualify, she'd be able to do everything the other twenty-seven days, and be a healer. And she had me mail her the notes she had from Miz Halley's meditation classes last year.
Bibi is interested that Mari's ability to trance out was taught rather than innate. She reminds herself to add that to Mari's file.
Bill: Mari was fascinated by Miz Halley. Asked her everything she could about life in the big city. Mari was so disappointed when she left again at the end of the summer.
Bill: But, like I was saying, Mari was so happy about you folks. To hear her describe you, Hajene, you'd probably blush. She compared you to a stack of library books too big to carry.
Nattin takes this compliment with the seriousness only an academic would.
Bibi smiles and does, indeed, blush.
Bill: And you, Professor... you'd have thought you were a whole university, all in one person. She was so happy about that, she didn't even think to mention that you're a Donor too.
Nattin: I think of myself as a professor.
Bibi feels rather awkward about this misconception.
Bill: Mari went on for pages about all the things she was learning from you. I didn't understand most of it, but I was glad for her.
Bill's nager suddenly turns ~~ sorrowful ~~ .
Bill: Then she hurt Hajene Darrel, and said it was all her fault, for wanting the pleasure too badly. She knew she was doing wrong, but didn't have the self-discipline to stop herself. I didn't understand what she meant until a few minutes ago. But, Hajene, when you did... whatever it was you did... and I felt myself start to react, now I think I understand.
Nattin, on the other hand, will never understand. Not really.
Bill: And now she feels horribly guilty, and doesn't dare come near you even just to donate. Everything she was hoping for is ruined. She isn't even eating any more.
Bibi: It appears that both you and your daughter have unusual sensitivity to fields. She can't be expected to control her reactions without some training.
Bill picks up his cup of cold tea. He gulps down all of it.
Bill: She's afraid to come near you now, in case she hurts you again. How's she going to get the training if she won't come near you?
Bibi: Hajene D'zoll will be going to Gumgeeville in a few days, and she can talk with him. He may have some idea about her situation, or he or I can find out where she might go for an expert evaluation of her potential. It's unfortunate that she's got her heart set on a career as a Donor, but that's pretty normal for a person her age with some Donor talent.
Bill: How do I persuade her to go see him? She'll be afraid of hurting him.
Bibi: Hajene D'zoll is a very powerful channel, and his Companion, Sosu Shorsh is a more than adequate match for him. I doubt she could hurt him. He's so much stronger than she is.
Nattin: Hajene D'zoll is a specialist, with advanced training that Hajene Darrel never had. It's true, Mari probably couldn't hurt him if she tried.
Bill turns to Nattin.
Bill: Sosu, she couldn't hurt you, could she? And she respects you. Could you go talk to her? She won't listen to me. I don't know enough. But you do. And you're what she wants to be. A Donor.
Nattin: Under the circumstances, it might be best if Sosu Shorsh spoke to her. He will be in Gumgeeville, after all, and he has worked directly with Hajene D'zoll, as I have not.
Bibi has to do something to correct the misconception before it gets further out of hand.
Bibi: Professor Nattin isn't a working Donor, although he has good nageric control and can help me occasionally, as he did when I was treating you.
Bill doesn't even blink. Such fine distinctions are beyond his experience.
Bill: Should I get her to go back to Gumgeeville with me, then? Her job at the cheese factory is barely paying her rent. Unless she dares donate again, she'll be broke in no time.
Nattin: Hajene D'zoll will be returning to Gumgeeville shortly, in order to help Mr. Gegg. It would make sense for Mari to be close to the channel best suited to help her.
Bill: Okay, then. That much I think I can talk her into.
Bill does a doubletake.
Bill: Gegg? Something's wrong with Gegg? ~~ concern ~~ and ~~ curiosity ~~
Bibi wonders how anyone can be isolated from the grapevine in a village the size of Gumgeeville.
Bill: I've been so busy with the farm lately, I haven't heard much. I'll go see Gegg as soon as I get back. We were friends in school, you know. I'm even one of the rare people who knows his first name.
Bill winks broadly.
Bill: But channels aren't the only ones who can keep secrets.
Nattin: He may not wish to discuss the matter with you, friend or not.
Bill: Is there anything I can do to help? That's all I really need to know.
Nattin is well aware, as he's sure Gegg is as well, that there's no possible way that the town will ignore the fact that he's got a Sime living in his barn.
Nattin: I doubt there is anything you can do to help, at this point.
Bill: If there is later, just let me know. He's a good man.
Nattin: That he is.
Bill: Anyway, it's late, and Mari isn't going to eat unless I get back to her for supper.
Bill stands and turns towards the door.
Bibi: It was nice to meet you, Mr. Tillett.
Bill: Uh, one more thing, Hajene?
Nattin rises and moves with Bibi, although not as smoothly as a Donor would.
Bill: ~~ wistful ~~ Is a thirty-eight year old farmer like me too old to become a Donor?
Bibi: I'm afraid so. Ability to be trained as a Donor declines pretty rapidly within a few years of establishment.
Nattin tries to look properly ~~ sympathetic ~~
Bill's shoulders slump for a moment, then he squares them.
Bill: I figured. Silly idea for an old farmer, anyway. Who'd be left to get the crops in?
Bill: Good night, Hajene. Professor.
Nattin: Good night, Mister Tillett.
Bill nods briskly to them both and leaves.
Nattin turns to Bibi.
Bibi: Yes, Sosu? ~~ teasing ~~
Nattin: That should teach me not to go wishing for some excuse not to tackle the paperwork tonight.
Bibi: Thanks for your help, Nattin.
Nattin: You're quite welcome, Bibi. Although I hope you'll forgive me if I hope that next time, you have Cristal giving you proper support.