D'zoll: Shen it all, I tell you it has to be done now. Sectuib will be here in four days, and this is the make-or-break point!
D'zoll: At least we have to try.
Shorsh: You could do a lot of harm if you push it too fast, you know. You've been pretty good about that until now.
D'zoll sighs and nods.
D'zoll: I know, I know.
Shorsh: What are your ideas about how to go about it?
Shorsh hopes he's not going to just wing it as usual, although D'zoll is remarkably good at getting away with improvisation.
D'zoll: But I didn't decide to have the case re-evaluated in just four weeks. Sectuib wanted to make it three.
Shorsh spreads his hands. It wasn't his idea either.
D'zoll: After all, you've known him for years. What do you think he's going to decide if Gegg is just doing nicely after one cycle?
Shorsh calculates where Hiram will be in his cycle by the time he arrives.
Shorsh: I hope once he understands how far Gegg has come, he'll be reasonable.
Shorsh: After a long train ride out-T in retainers he may not be terribly disposed to be reasonable, however.
D'zoll: "Go not to your Companion for counsel, for he will say both no and yes."
Shorsh projects a nageric raspberry.
Shorsh: Look, if you think you can do it, try. But be careful. If you get Gegg into a state where he holds a shotgun on Sectuib, I'd regard that as an indication of failure, and so will he.
D'zoll laughs in spite of himself.
Shorsh smiles at his channel ~~ affectionately ~~. He's come to appreciate him over the past few weeks.
D'zoll: In any case, today had better be the day, if it's to be done at all. I'll need some time to clean up if anything does go wrong.
Shorsh: So what's your plan? Or do you have one?
Shorsh doesn't add "for once".
D'zoll: Well, I'll point out to him the importance of getting his wife in-T as soon as possible. I'm about 80% certain that both her fetuses are channels. Of course, Sectuib has a lot more practice at making that particular diagnosis.
Shorsh: Poor Gegg. Between a rock and a hard place.
D'zoll: Fraid so. Life is not fair, and Gegg's life is about as unfair as things can get.
Shorsh ~~ agrees strongly ~~.
Gegg has been pondering life's unfairness himself, as he tries to figure out how he can squeeze enough cash for the new wardrobe Sanda will require, the way she's growing, and still save enough to cover the expenses of two infants.
Gegg was never the best kid at math, and he didn't sleep well the night before, but he's pretty sure even a genius couldn't make the numbers add up.
Gegg is a basically honest individual, however, and so he is forced to admit, if only to himself, that he's dwelling on the financial problems in part to distract himself from his upcoming session with D'zoll. He just wishes that it worked a bit better.
Gegg also wishes that Toria could still donate: Sanda's donation income isn't enough, and being the family's primary source of cash until harvest isn't doing much for the maintenance of the familial hierarchy.
Gegg finally reaches the barn, hesitates long enough to summon his usual armor of ~~ courage ~~, and enters before he has a chance to dwell any longer on what unknown "challenge" D'zoll will have for him today.
D'zoll: Hello, Gegg.
D'zoll has his tentacles out in the barn now, and notices with gratification Gegg's comparative lack of reaction to them.
Shorsh nods in welcome.
Gegg turns unerringly towards the "Sime-feel", but D'zoll has been a lot closer to him, so he doesn't retreat.
D'zoll: I suppose I technically should have moved the sign to the outside of the barn, but there isn't really a problem, is there.
D'zoll raises his eyebrows at Gegg interrogatively.
Gegg: Well, it will be easier if we don't rub the neighbors' faces in your presence. Just go back in that room of yours if the sheriff shows up, all right?
D'zoll spreads his tentacles expressively.
D'zoll: No problem. I'll be aware if any other Gen approaches the barn.
Gegg tenses, but holds his ground. D'zoll is, after all, still well out of touching distance. He actually prefers dealing with the Sime outside the claustrophobic confines of the mobile unit.
Shorsh notes that Gegg still isn't completely comfortable with D'zoll's free use of his tentacles, but he has made a lot of progress.
D'zoll: [thoughtfully] It's curious how your reflexes are so dependent on actual closeness. Rationally, you know that I could augment and jump to nose-to-nose position before you could blink. But you feel safe because I'm not over there.
Gegg: If I was rational about this, you wouldn't have to be here at all.
Shorsh is also ~~ pleased ~~ at Gegg's display of insight into his problem. He hasn't called himself a coward for some time now.
D'zoll: [lecturing] Of course, what that shows is that you are reacting to your Gen awareness of my Simeness.
Gegg: I don't like how it feels when you're close to me, if that's what you mean. It makes me feel... trapped.
D'zoll: Of course. As we've discussed, that's the echo of your previous experience still resonating in your undermind. And the only way to really undo a previous experience, as we have also discussed, is with another experience.
Gegg tenses, wondering ~~ apprehensively ~~ just what D'zoll has in mind.
D'zoll zlins Gegg as deeply as he can without actually touching him, and judges him ready.
Gegg is pretty sure that it's going to scare him silly; that's been a constant with most of their sessions, when D'zoll introduces something new.
D'zoll: Today I am going to attempt to lower your field. That will involve direct physical contact, which you will need to initiate.
D'zoll forces himself hypo.
D'zoll: This will take all of your enormous stores of courage, I know. But a successful outcome will make a huge difference for you.
Gegg leaps backwards in ~~ panic ~~.
D'zoll remains still, waiting quietly for Gegg to master his panic.
Gegg had thought, when Shorsh reassured him that lowering his field would not become an issue until Gegg was ready, that the delay would be longer than a week.
Gegg does wrestle back enough self-control not to bolt out of the barn entirely. Barely.
D'zoll smiles at Gegg.
D'zoll: Well done, Gegg. I've brought up your second-worst fear and you're still here facing me.
Gegg wonders if he'd have been able to halt his retreat if he hadn't had the barn wall behind his shoulders, making further distancing difficult.
Gegg: I... don't know if I can do... that.
D'zoll: [firmly] But I know that you can, Gegg.
Gegg is too polite to directly contradict D'zoll's expert medical opinion, but his nager is definitely in ~~ denial ~~ of the whole concept.
D'zoll notes that Gegg can't easily retreat straight back, and takes one slow step toward him.
D'zoll: [softly] Relax and do your breathing exercises, Gegg.
D'zoll takes another slow, careful, no-surprises step.
Gegg is having trouble breathing at all.
D'zoll stops and takes a half-step back.
D'zoll: Breathe... breathe... breathe...
Gegg's throat seems to have forgotten how.
Shorsh has an encouraging expression on his face, in case Gegg looks at him.
D'zoll reaches out to get a lock on Gegg's autonomic functions and loosens his throat.
D'zoll: ... breathe... breathe....
Gegg's attention is ~~ locked ~~ on D'zoll, much as he would keep an eye on an approaching large predator.
D'zoll: That's it... that's it...
D'zoll resumes approaching Gegg with tiny steps.
Gegg's nager fights D'zoll's control, but eventually he manages to gasp in a breath or two against his locked throat.
D'zoll: There. Isn't it better to breathe than not to breathe?
D'zoll extends his hands in slow motion.
Gegg has to try three times before he manages to croak "yes".
D'zoll smiles just a little.
D'zoll: Of course it is. And now, let's clasp hands.
D'zoll extends his right hand toward Gegg's left.
Shorsh follows D'zoll closely, providing strong ~~ support ~~ and ready for a Genslam.
D'zoll: You can do it. Just a few inches now. You can do it.
Gegg tries to take another step backwards, away from D'zoll's hands, but his shoulders are already plastered against the barn wall.
D'zoll speaks so softly even Gegg can hear.
D'zoll: Please. Help me to help you.
Gegg is not able to reach for D'zoll's hands, but he is able to keep himself from bolting off to the side. Barely.
D'zoll: Courage, Gegg. Courage.
D'zoll waits patiently again for Gegg to move his hand.
D'zoll: [musingly] One advantage of having just one patient is, I can wait all day.
Gegg tries to balance the screaming memory of being held down with Sime strength with the knowledge that he's already well within grabbing range.
D'zoll: You know, you're not imprisoned here. Say the word, and you'll be out the door before you know it, with no interference from me.
D'zoll lightly accents the word "imprisoned".
Gegg: And I -- and my family -- would know that I really am a coward.
D'zoll: [whimsically] The word is "Basingstoke". Nobody will know that you've used it. You know we won't tell.
Gegg's hand twitches, and his nager reflects an overlay of ~~ confusion ~~
Gegg: "Basingstoke"? What's that?
D'zoll: Nothing. Just a word you can use. By the way, notice how nicely you're talking now? No choking any more.
D'zoll: Ah, you can move your head. And your hand. So, when you're ready -- take my hand.
D'zoll moves his hand just a centimeter closer.
Gegg tries to engage in some strategic self-deception, telling himself that D'zoll is only going to ask him to hold hands.
Gegg has spent a lot of time developing his ability to tell himself whoppers, and so he is able to force his own hand closer to D'zoll's.
D'zoll: Excellent. Just a bit more.
Gegg's hand clenches into a fist, then opens again.
Shorsh marvels at D'zoll's skill. Here he has a Simephobe backed against a wall, and the Simephobe is about to offer him his hand.
D'zoll halves the distance between their hands.
Gegg presses his body backwards against the wall even harder, but his hand finally extends to touch D'zoll's.
D'zoll's face breaks into an involuntary smile.
D'zoll: You did it, Gegg! You did it!
D'zoll Sime-gracefully slides his hand against Gegg's until his fingers cover Gegg's hand.
Gegg manages not to pull away. Barely.
D'zoll: [calm again] Okay. Now we are hand to hand. since you are holding one hand, it should be easy enough to hold the other. Right? After all, I could just grab your other hand with mine. But I'm not going to. I'm going to let you move your hand to mine.
Gegg twitched a bit during D'zoll's discussion of grabbing; he has, after all, experienced Sime grabbing before. He does, however, have enough experience as D'zoll's patient to understand an order when it's given.
D'zoll: That's because I'm not one of those grabby Simes. Am I.
Gegg: No, you're not.
Gegg isn't sure that D'zoll isn't potentially much more dangerous, but he certainly isn't one of those emaciated Swamp Simes.
D'zoll: Which is why you'll be able to hold my other hand. As soon as you're ready, of course.
Gegg struggles for a few minutes, but eventually manages to reach out for D'zoll's other hand.
D'zoll smiles a bit again.
D'zoll: Well done.
D'zoll slips his left hand over Gegg's right.
Gegg feels ~~ trapped ~~, but is fighting it.
D'zoll: Very good.
D'zoll waits again for Gegg's trapped feeling to fade a bit.
D'zoll: [lecturing again] Now you know that to a Sime, handling tentacles are just extra fingers. You've certainly seen me use them that way enough times, haven't you. So it should really be no problem, no extra sensations or anything, for me to gently hold your arms with my handling tentacles.
D'zoll firms his grip on Gegg's hands a bit.
Shorsh continues ~~ ready for anything ~~.
Gegg's stomach does a queasy roll at the idea of tentacles touching him.
D'zoll lets his showfield absorb Gegg's wave of nausea.
Gegg doesn't find it all that reassuring that somehow the situation has changed from him holding D'zoll's hands to the reverse.
D'zoll: Okay, here we go.
D'zoll extends his tentacles and drapes them over Gegg's forearms.
D'zoll: There. See? Not so bad. I'm not even holding your arms, just touching them.
Gegg's arms twitch violently at the contact, and he starts to tremble.
D'zoll uses his control to suppress the trembling.
D'zoll: [whispering] Relax, relax. Be calm and relax. All will be well, Gegg. All will be well.
Gegg can't relax, and his anxiety is growing as his nager fights D'zoll's control.
D'zoll ever so gently and almost imperceptibly begins to tighten his tentacular grip, while still holding Gegg's hands only loosely. He's counting on Gegg being too paralyzed to realize that soon he won't be able to move.
Gegg is fortunately (or maybe not) too distracted by the increased sensation of nageric interference, to really track what D'zoll's tentacles are doing. He is, after all, trying very hard to dissociate himself from the whole tentacle thing, as the alternative is to start screaming.
D'zoll: [formally but gently] Mr. Gegg, at this point I need your formal consent to take your donation. Since we are in a therapist-patient situation, there's no need for anything else but a verbal consent. But I must have that.
D'zoll: If you say no, we'll call it a day and start over again the next session. If you say yes, I'll make the necessary contacts and draw down your field. You won't feel any selyn movement at all, of course.
D'zoll: [very, very quietly] What will it be?
Gegg's nager shimmers in ~~ horror ~~, but the only thing that scares him more than agreeing to D'zoll's proposal is the knowledge that he's going to have to experience the same torture over and over again until he gives in anyway.
Gegg has never been a masochist, and he wants the whole torment to end. He feels a sense of ~~ unreality ~~ as he hears himself croak, "Go ahead."
D'zoll: Shorsh, bear witness to Mr Gegg's consent.
Shorsh: Yes, I witness his consent.
D'zoll reads Gegg's commitment as genuine, even though dissociated somewhat.
Shorsh puts his hands on D'zoll's shoulders, projecting ~~ great strength, rock steadiness, and total reliability ~~.
D'zoll acts steadily but unhurriedly to press his four laterals more or less simultaneously on Gegg's forearms. He is braced for the shock to Gegg's system as he senses D'zoll's field in full for the first time.
Gegg gives a short scream, and his arms pull backwards, away from D'zoll's grip.
Shorsh wraps D'zoll in his ~~ protection ~~, intensifying ~~ support ~~. He notes that D'zoll's laterals are not in danger -- he's grasped Gegg's arms too solidly for the Gen to unseat the delicate organs. As expected, Gegg opens his hands rather than closing them on the channel's lateral extensor nodes.
D'zoll: Excellent, Gegg, excellent. You pulled away but you didn't hurt me, so there's no problem.
Gegg sees quite a problem, not least in that his arms hardly moved when he tried to jerk backwards. His experiences at the tentacles of the Swamp Simes have blurred into nightmare, and he discovers he'd managed to forget just how strong Simes are.
D'zoll is far more self-confident than he was a month ago, after working intensively with a single patient, essentially unsupervised. He guesses the source of Gegg's latest concern.
D'zoll: As you know, you could hurt me at this stage if you dislodged my laterals, so we can't let that happen, can we. That's why your arms aren't able to move very much at this stage.
D'zoll, in a submerged part of him, is absolutely awed at the courage of this damaged Sime-phobic out-Territory Gen.
D'zoll: Now I'll take the fifth contact point lip-to-lip, as we discussed, and draw down your field.
Gegg is less courageous, by this time, than worn down to the point where he'll do just about anything to stop the torture.
D'zoll unhesitatingly touches Gegg's lips with his own.
Gegg twists in last-minute instinctive avoidance, which is about as successful as all his other attempts to avoid D'zoll's desensitization.
D'zoll zlins that Gegg's behavior is just reflexive, and proceeds to drain the entire GN-3 level in a single draw, just a hair below Gegg's awareness threshold. In the process he notes the early stages of damage to Gegg's liver and encourages it to regenerate. He can't do much about the old fractures right now, given his other distractions.
D'zoll approaches the GN-2 barrier and notices signs of fraying around it.
Gegg starts to struggle in earnest as he ~~ panics ~~.
D'zoll dismantles the lip contact so he can talk.
Gegg gives a wail as his mouth is released, then calms a little when he sees D'zoll's face, at least, is a full six inches away.
D'zoll: Gegg. It's all right. It's over, Gegg. You did it.
D'zoll has certainly lowered Gegg's field enough to make him safe in-T. He is no longer regulating Gegg's autonomic system, although he wouldn't let him scream given that there's no soundproofing out here in the barn.
D'zoll: Excellent. It's all over for this month. You've made it.
Gegg starts shaking again, this time in reaction.
D'zoll continues to hold Gegg's arms firmly as he dismantles lateral contact, then dismantles his holding tentacles.
Shorsh: Congratulations, Mr. Gegg.
D'zoll: Take over and help Mr. Gegg, please.
D'zoll releases Gegg's hands and steps to one side.
Shorsh is ~~ relieved ~~ that he doesn't have a seriously injured channel on his hands.
Gegg clutches his hands across his chest protectively.
D'zoll signals "I'm fine".
Shorsh: Here, let's sit down.
Shorsh puts an arm around Gegg and leads him to a bale of straw.
Gegg is glad of the support, as he is definitely feeling light-headed.
Shorsh: D'zoll, make us some tea and bring some cookies too. Might as well provide full Sime Center service here.
D'zoll remembers the day he asked Shorsh to get the tea.
D'zoll: Yes, Sosu.
D'zoll goes off to make tea and fetch cookies.
Gegg feels better when D'zoll's field is too far away to interact with his own, even if he isn't thinking in terms of nager.
Gegg: That was...
Gegg isn't able to find an appropriate adjective.
D'zoll: Difficult? Outrageous? Unexpected?
Gegg tenses as D'zoll approaches again, but wisely remains seated.
D'zoll hands the tea and cookies to Shorsh rather than directly to Gegg.
Gegg: All three. And it felt far too much like... what the Swamp Simes did to me.
D'zoll: But it wasn't.
Shorsh offers Gegg the cup of tea.
Gegg is not completely convinced, but takes the cup and wraps his hands around it for comfort.
Gegg: It was close enough. Far too close for comfort.
Gegg's confidence in his ability to learn to tolerate Simes has been shaken by the way he broke while D'zoll was taking his donation.
Shorsh wonders if D'zoll should have rushed matters as he did. It's true that Gegg consented, but he clearly feels like he was overpowered.
D'zoll: First comes the experience. Then comes the comfort. Like drinking tea.
D'zoll returns to the unit to make more tea for himself and Shorsh.
Gegg takes a sip of the tea, for something to do with his hands more than anything else.
Shorsh: You did remarkably well. I would never have believed that anyone with your experience would have the strength and courage to overcome their trauma to this extent in such a short period of time.
Shorsh is sincere, but he also hopes to bolster Gegg's limited self-confidence.
D'zoll returns, hands one teacup to Shorsh, and sits down safely far away from Gegg.
Gegg is too emotionally ~~ exhausted ~~ to react in more than token fashion to D'zoll's presence.
Gegg: Overcome? I didn't overcome it. It overcame me.
D'zoll: I'm going back in the unit for a bit. We're done for the day, of course. Shorsh can help you back to the house -- I need to rest.
D'zoll is getting quite good at white lies, or so he thinks.
Shorsh signals a demand for an internal status report from his channel.
D'zoll repeats the "I'm fine" he sent before, and adds "High energy level."
Shorsh: How much did the donation earn? I can pay Mr. Gegg right now.
Shorsh gets out his wallet.
D'zoll tells Shorsh how much to pay Gegg.
Shorsh gets out the money and offers it to the donor.
D'zoll: All set? Because I do need to lie down a bit.
Gegg's hands clutch his tea mug as he looks at Shorsh's wad, and the generous portion of it that's being offered to him.
Shorsh thinks that "I'm fine" and "high energy level" are inconsistent with a need to lie down, but clearly D'zoll isn't in any urgent trouble. It's just the old Iron Farris act.
Gegg slowly reaches out to take the payment.
Gegg: That's more than Toria got, even at first. Or Sanda.
Shorsh: Gens with Donor talent often have somewhat more selyn in their GN levels than most.
D'zoll: Thanks, Mr. Gegg. Your selyn will keep a Sime alive for a month and a half, almost.
Shorsh hopes the handful of cash will help Gegg focus on the more positive aspects of donation.
D'zoll decides it's time to go and actually lie down, though he feels no physical requirement for rest.
Gegg looks at the money again.
D'zoll goes into the mobile unit and shuts the door behind him.
Gegg looks after D'zoll.
Gegg: I think it would have been easier to earn this hauling stones out of a newly cleared field. Still... it'll help.
D'zoll thinks of saying "It gets easier next time" but thinks better of it.
Shorsh nods and offers a cookie. Actually, it's a donor biscuit, manufactured by the same company that makes channel chow.
Gegg takes the cookie and bites into it, too distracted to perceive it as anything but fuel, which is probably just as well.