Shorsh sits on a hay bale, drinking a cup of trin.
Shorsh: So, what's the next step, D'zoll?
D'zoll: Eh? More desensitization till we wear down his undermind. It's like asking "What's the next step?" when you're partway up a staircase. The next step is ... the next step. A few more minutes, a few ce'meters closer.
Shorsh can do without these generalities.
D'zoll: I know, I know! But I can't tell how to handle it until he's here and I see what state of mind he's in.
D'zoll: [didactic] Let's look back how far up the stairs we've come. He's capable of tolerating being in the barn with me pretty much indefinitely. He can stand being in the module if I leave the door open. Probably that's because of the barn's higher familiarity.
Shorsh thinks not being shut into a few square meters with a live Sime has more to do with it, even if Gegg knows that the Sime could get him before he got through the open door.
Shorsh also thinks D'zoll is exaggerating a bit. Gegg basically stood in the doorway of the module, with Shorsh between him and D'zoll. Perhaps the sleeping pill hadn't completely worn off, too.
D'zoll: He's showing a typical recovery curve: three steps forward, one step back, more or less.
D'zoll thinks his colleagues who talk about "smooth recovery" from this or that are idiots.
D'zoll: I'd like to try shedding the retainers in his presence, allowing him a clear path to retreat to the barn. But there's really no telling if he can tolerate it until I zlin him.
Shorsh: In my opinion, it's too early to shed the retainers. Except perhaps with you and me in the module, and him in the barn until you put them back on again. I'd advise you to give him adequate warning, too.
D'zoll: Certainly. Certainly. Okay, we can try with him in the barn.
Shorsh: We might consider moving the sessions into the house fairly soon.
D'zoll: I'm not comfortable about that. Soon enough we're going to need the insulation.
D'zoll points to the module wall.
Shorsh: There is that. The distance to the house provides a bit more sound insulation too.
D'zoll: I'd rather keep this locale as the therapeutic one -- even if it is full of animal and plant by-products as well.
Gegg slogs out to the barn, not sure whether he's happy to see the rain, or not. His crops could use the water, and rainy days are traditionally leisure time, to the extent that making necessary indoor repairs counts as "leisure".
D'zoll: Ah, here he comes.
Gegg is finding his interactions with his guests considerably less relaxing than repairing harness and such, however.
D'zoll: He's tense, but nothing like he's been before.
Gegg found it hard to sleep, thanks to a thunderstorm that blew through in the wee hours, coupled with less hard physical labor than he's used to. He ended up taking a sleeping pill, at Toria's insistence, and actually overslept a bit. He's still feeling a bit ~~ groggy ~~ as a result, although not as sleep-deprived as he was at D'zoll's arrival.
Gegg opens the barn door, automatically turning towards D'zoll as he locates the direction of the "Sime feel". His nager shows some reflexive ~~ alarm ~~, but at least it's no longer upsetting him so much.
Shorsh: Good morning, Mr. Gegg.
Shorsh stands, holding his trin cup.
Gegg: Well, we could sure use the rain, after that fire, so I guess it is, mud and all.
D'zoll has never thought of a rainy day as a good day, himself.
D'zoll: I'm glad to see you, Mr. Gegg. Are you ready to do some more work together?
Gegg: I suppose so. Might as well take advantage of the weather while we have it.
Gegg is more ~~ uncertain ~~ than his words indicate, but some of the worst of the jarring alarm has faded with familiarity.
D'zoll: Great. Here's today's idea: Shorsh and I go in the module and you stay out here where you can see us. You sit as close to us as you can bring yourself to be. Then we'll take the next step.
Gegg considers this a moment, then nods ~~ agreement ~~.
Gegg: All right.
Shorsh smiles at Gegg in a comradely and reassuring manner.
D'zoll and Shorsh go in the module.
Gegg moves cautiously further into the barn, unable to keep himself from watching D'zoll ~~ nervously ~~
D'zoll: Well done, Mr. Gegg. I know you're nervous, but you're being very brave.
Gegg stops about ten feet away from the door to the module, then casts a quick glance at the hay bale, some two feet closer and a bit to the side.
D'zoll: Can you put the hay bale at the point where you feel you can manage to sit?
Gartersnake is curled comfortably in a hollow under the floor.
Gegg feels that it would be cowardly to drag the hay bale back as far as he'd like it to be, if he's going to be sitting around a Sime. He is, alas, unable to quite make himself do the manly thing and move up to sit on the hay bale where it is.
D'zoll: You need to find the balance point between what you can stand and what you can't stand. It's like sitting by the fire in winter: too far away, there's no point; too close, you fry.
Gartersnake compliments himself on finding such a nice dry place to curl up on such a rainy day.
Gegg: Yeah. I guess it is, at that.
Gegg compromises, and splits the difference, hauling the hay bale back a foot, and sits on the part farthest away from the module
Gartersnake shudders in a sudden cold draft.
D'zoll: Okay. Now as you know this module is Sime Territory. So what I'd like to do, with your permission, is to have Shorsh help me remove my retainers. I'll retract my tentacles as quickly as I'm able to. Do you think you can handle that?
Gegg ~~ tenses ~~ visibly, but he's seen tentacles recently, so he nods. He hasn't considered that it's easier to ignore tentacles when they are simply there, while retainer-removal calls a great deal more attention to them.
Shorsh gives Gegg a compassionate and encouraging look, and turns to D'zoll.
Gartersnake feels a dollop of mud plink on his head.
Gegg also hasn't considered that his previous post-army contacts with Simes have usually taken place in fairly dim light, and when he was under strong emotional stress that partly negated his phobia.
Gartersnake realizes that the nice hay-covered ceiling of his den has vanished, leaving a hole which admits both drafts and muddy drips.
D'zoll acts on Gegg's manifestation of assent by unlatching his retainers, unfortunately with a loud clank.
Gartersnake hears strange crashes and clanks from above.
Gegg ~~ jumps ~~, unintentionally dropping another dollop of mud on the long-suffering creature.
D'zoll signals Shorsh to carry on.
Shorsh moves to block Gegg's view of the process, then stops and looks to D'zoll, ~~ inquiringly ~~.
D'zoll: [softly] What's up?
Shorsh: [also softly] Shall I block his view, or not?
D'zoll: Okay, maybe that's best until I can get the tentacles retracted. Give me a hand, though. I want to model S~G cooperation here.
Gegg realizes that his arms are hugging defensively against his chest. He realizes his actions are undignified, and forces his arms down by putting his hands flat on the hay bale.
Shorsh moves over, and helps D'zoll remove the retainers. He can't help but radiate some ~~ sympathy ~~ as he frees the channel's poor compressed tentacles.
Gartersnake is beginning to doubt that his little den is still safe.
Gegg might as well have saved himself the trouble: now, instead of looking like a guy waiting to fend off an attack, he looks like a guy trying very hard not to look like a guy fending off an attack.
D'zoll retracts his tentacles completely.
Shorsh puts the retainers on the counter, gently strokes D'zoll's forearms, and stands back.
Gegg breaks into a sweat, but remains seated.
Shorsh nods approvingly at Gegg.
D'zoll: Well done, Mr. Gegg! Are you ready for me to extend my handling tentacles? As you know, they're pretty much like long and flexible fingers, and aren't involved in selyn transport.
Gegg spends a moment trying to gather together the shreds of his courage, as he has not yet realized how futile courage is around a Sime.
Gegg: I guess so.
Gegg wishes his voice sounded more confident.
D'zoll: Excellent. I'll do it slowly.
Gartersnake decides perhaps he should find another place to sleep.
Gegg braces himself as best he can.
D'zoll runs out his handling tentacles slowly to their full extension, just past his fingertips.
Gegg breaks into a sweat, and starts to shake.
D'zoll: Step back if you need to, Mr. Gegg.
Gegg is pretty well ~~ frozen ~~ on his hay bale.
Gartersnake slithers a bit and cautiously pokes his nose through the knothole in the floorboards.
D'zoll: I'm going to retract my tentacles again, Mr. Gegg.
D'zoll does so.
Gegg's shaking increases as his muscles relax from their rigidity.
Gartersnake confirms that the nice thick hay which cut the drafts has mysteriously vanished.
D'zoll: [hypnotically] Relax, Gegg. No danger here. Relax... no danger.
D'zoll signals Shorsh to raise his support level.
Gegg tries to speak, squawks instead, swallows, then tries again.
Gegg: I'm sorry.
Shorsh: It's all right, Mr. Gegg. You're doing very well. Try that breathing exercise I taught you.
Gartersnake slips out of his hole, seeking some more of the nice hay or perhaps another pleasant hole.
Gegg is finding his inability to tolerate D'zoll's presence without falling apart ~~ frustrating ~~, as well as ~~ embarrassing ~~.
Gartersnake slithers in the direction of the nearest mountain of hay.
Shorsh notices the motion and observes that it's a harmless garter snake.
Gegg tries to breathe, deeply and evenly, and finds that his heart is no longer in his throat. Halfway up his esophagus, maybe, but not in his throat.
D'zoll: Nothing to be sorry about. Step by step, remember? Tomorrow it'll be easier.
Gartersnake notices some strange columnar structures near the hay.
Shorsh gestures toward the retainers, wanting to know whether D'zoll intends to put them back on.
Gartersnake slips over the damp mud of Gegg's boot.
Gegg is currently looking a bit shell-shocked.
D'zoll reaches for the retainers and wiggles back into them.
D'zoll: Okay, I'm back in the retainers and I'm closing the latches.
D'zoll's latches close with a clunk, clunk.
Gegg feels a bit of ~~ relief ~~ at the sound.
Gartersnake spots the inviting gap of the pants leg. It looks warm and dry up there.
D'zoll: Okay, that should dull your perceptions of me somewhat. By the way, there's a harmless snake next to your leg. I don't know its name in English.
Gegg is not processing the conversation as rapidly as normal, and so he temporarily confuses D'zoll's use of the word "snake" with the common Genland epithet referring to Simes.
Shorsh: A ribbon snake, I think?
Gartersnake chooses this moment to crawl up Gegg's leg.
Gegg lets out a yell, levitating off the hay bale, batting frantically at the snake. His nager lashes out at it, too, even though snakes are generally not susceptible to Genslam.
Gartersnake is suddenly tossed and shaken. He slithers frantically looking for the exit.
Shorsh instinctively... well, as a result of much training and experience as well as innate Donor talent... ~~ intensifies support ~~
D'zoll feels the Genslam roll over him, and curls up around his tentacles.
D'zoll: [croaks] Slam.
Shorsh drags D'zoll away from the door, to a better insulated position, and interposes his body between the channel and Gegg.
Gartersnake would shriek if snakes had vocal cords. He is being buffeted painfully.
Shorsh removes the retainers, takes D'zoll's arms and makes a lip contact.
Gegg manages to grab the snake and remove it from his pants, then tosses it over onto a pile of loose hay.
D'zoll does a hasty mini-shunt, then dismantles and retracts as quickly as he's able.
Shorsh is ~~ dubious ~~ that that was adequate, and keeps D'zoll from getting up.
D'zoll: I'm fine, I'm fine. Shut the door!
D'zoll: [calls out] Sorry about that, Mr. Gegg!
Shorsh gets up and shuts the door, giving Gegg an apologetic look. He returns to D'zoll and takes his arms again.
Gegg regains at least nominal control of himself when the snake is gone.
Shorsh: No Iron Farris acts, remember.
D'zoll: You can work on me later, after this is over. Gegg has no clue what happened, and he badly needs to be given one.
Shorsh: You stay there. I'll talk to him.
D'zoll nods, secretly ~~ grateful ~~ to be off the hook.
Gartersnake burrows into the hay... shuddering in terror.
Gegg is ~~ confused ~~ by the suddenly slammed door.
Shorsh eyes D'zoll, wondering whether he'll stay down without further admonitions and decides to let him take the consequences if he's going to be stupid about it. He gets up, opens the door and goes out, closing it behind him.
Shorsh: Sorry about that.
Shorsh approaches Gegg.
Gegg: What happened? Besides the snake, I mean.
Shorsh: D'zoll wasn't expecting your reaction, so it hit him pretty hard, even though it wasn't directed at him.
Gegg thinks that over for a moment.
Gegg: Is that why Bibi wouldn't let me see Mik, after his tentacles broke out?
Shorsh: Pretty much. Mik wouldn't have had any idea how to handle it at that point, so even a relatively mild reaction might have knocked him over.
Gegg: Is that also why Bibi said I couldn't donate?
Shorsh: Yes. Your nager is very powerful, much stronger than most Gens'. You could seriously injure her, especially if you were in lateral contact.
Gegg buries his face in his hands for a moment.
Gegg: Am I being selfish?
Gegg: Am I putting my personal desire to visit my son again ahead of his health?
Gegg nods towards the mobile unit.
Shorsh considers this.
Shorsh: No, I don't think so. This sort of thing is part of D'zoll's job. You're not responsible for your lack of nageric control. It's a skill that has to be learned, and you haven't had the opportunity to learn it yet.
D'zoll thumps the closed module door. He opens the door a crack, just enough to hear and zlin.
Gegg turns towards the mobile.
D'zoll: Mr. Gegg, if you can learn to control that reaction, you will not be dangerous to Simes, and you'll never need to fear them again either.
Gegg has no clear concept of what he did, much less how to do it, or not do it, on command.
D'zoll: You went suddenly from calm -- or fairly calm -- to a strong emotional reaction. That affects a Sime about like a punch in the solar plexus, or worse.
Gegg: It does?
D'zoll: Absolutely. If you had been able to create that reaction back in the swamp, your attackers would almost certainly have died of heart failure. Swamp Simes are much more vulnerable than Simeland Simes.
Gegg finds this concept ~~ confusing ~~
D'zoll: I'm not sure I can explain how it works at this point. But we call it a Genslam.
Gegg: If I don't know how I'm doing it, how do I keep from doing it again?
D'zoll: I know now that you can do one, so I won't be surprised again, so you needn't worry about me. Other than that, it's about staying calm and doing your relaxation exercises. It'll still be quite a while before you have to worry about dealing with ordinary Simes.
Gegg's conscious intentions towards Simes are good, even if he can't follow through very well. He therefore doesn't know whether to be ~~ relieved ~~ that he apparently hasn't done any permanent damage, or ~~ alarmed ~~ at this reminder that he's agreed to make the journey to Simeland, where there are a lot more than one Sime running around.
Shorsh figures D'zoll sounds like he's recovering fairly well from the slam, and that the whole experience will help Gegg's self-esteem. He should understand now that Bibi wasn't rejecting his donation due to him being cowardly, but rather dangerous.
Gegg: I... suspect it'll be a while before I can do that reliably.
D'zoll: Ah, mixed emotions, and very appropriate too. You're glad that you haven't hurt me, and you don't know if you're ready to handle this yet. You aren't. But you'll get there.
Gegg: The question is, how much damage will I do on the way?
D'zoll: None. How do you say it? Oh yes. "I guaran-damn-tee it."
D'zoll: By the time you're on the train, you will have full control of your abilities.
Shorsh thinks the chuckle sounds forced and determines to make D'zoll drink some fosebine, lie down and rest.
Shorsh: You'll have a good deal less effect on Simes when you're lower field, too. But that's in the future.
Gegg freezes, as the implications of that sink in.
Gegg: But... Bibi said it was impossible.
D'zoll: The difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a little longer. Seriously, what's impossible for Bibi isn't necessarily so for me. Don't worry about it at this point. First things first.
Gegg has been using that impossibility as a crutch, to try to convince himself that he isn't in any danger of actually having to reexperience what almost happened to him, many years ago.
D'zoll: How old were you when you learned to shoot, Mr. Gegg?
Gegg: Shoot what?
D'zoll: Your rifle. Isn't that the right way to say it?
Gegg: I had a little air-powered gun as a kid, good for annoying squirrels and the occasional gopher.
D'zoll: Ah. And someone taught you to use it, I guess?
Gegg: My dad showed me how to pump it up and fire it, if that's what you mean.
D'zoll: And did you shoot him by mistake while you were learning?
Gegg: Nope. Came real close to getting my brother with a wax pellet, a time or two, but I can't rightly call those accidental.
D'zoll chuckles again.
D'zoll: Well, now you need to learn how to use a different weapon. Which means knowing how to shoot it, when to shoot it -- and when and how not to shoot it. Think of me as your instructor.
Gegg: So long as you don't end up being the target. From what you said, this is a bit more potent than wax bullets.
D'zoll: True. Just think of me as Iron Man Farris.
Shorsh would roll his eyes if it weren't unprofessional in front of a patient.
D'zoll: With my Companion's help, of course.
D'zoll knows Shorsh is rolling his eyes inwardly even if not outwardly.
Gegg is unable to zlin Shorsh's cramping eye muscles, and so he takes D'zoll more or less at his word.
D'zoll sees the transference developing nicely. He also sees that Gegg now thinks of himself as dangerous rather than cowardly, which is a huge step forward.
Shorsh is also ~~ pleased ~~ with the results of this session, despite the wear and tear on D'zoll.
Gegg, meanwhile, is viewing this as a step backwards, in that he is now forced to see himself much the same light as a four year old running around with a loaded rifle.