Hiram sits back and relaxes on a sofa at the Hannard's Ford Sime Center. It feels amazingly good to be without retainers in a room larger than a coat closet, and without the stink of pigs. He zlins around the roomful of colleagues. It also feels good to be in a place where everyone knows how to manage their nager.
Lusinka sits at the newly deodorized Hiram's side, subtly working on the aftereffects of sleeping on the uncomfortable cot in the mobile unit.
Lusinka: So, Hiram, tell us about your adventures among the Wild Gens.
Lusinka offers Hiram a steaming cup of trin.
Hiram: Well, for one thing, I owe D'zoll and Shorsh a big apology.
D'zoll is ~~ surprised ~~.
Hiram: If I'd had any idea of the condition of the mattress in the mobile, I've had it replaced before I sent you out.
D'zoll laughs a little hollowly.
D'zoll isn't about to admit the number of nights he spent sleeping in the straw, technically in Gen Territory.
Shorsh isn't going to admit the number of nights he joined him.
Lusinka increases the portion of her attention going to Hiram's back.
Hiram: On a more serious note, Hajene, you've done very well. Better than I expected, with a task even harder than I'd thought it would be.
D'zoll: [formally] Thank you, Sectuib.
Hiram: And Shorsh, if Sat'htine had any award you hadn't already earned, you'd be getting it for this past month's work.
Shorsh: I'll settle for a warm, clean bed and food I don't have to cook for myself.
D'zoll: Ditto, Sectuib.
Shorsh spreads a comfortable lap robe of ~~ collegiality ~~ over D'zoll.
Hiram relaxes a bit more into Lusinka's fine work.
Lusinka: So what are your impressions of this Mr. Gegg, Hiram? And how difficult will it be to treat him?
Hiram: Difficult. Very difficult. But he's one of the most courageous Wild Gens I've ever met, and he's determined to succeed. He loves his son, he loves his wife and his future babies, and for their sake he's willing to endure whatever he has to endure. And if ever there was a more perfect example of working towards true Unity than this case, I can't think what it might be.
D'zoll is ~~ glad ~~ Hiram has come around to his point of view, at least as much as a Sectuib can be expected to.
Lusinka: And what will the Simes around him be enduring?
Lusinka is a Donor, not a channel, and so she's more focused on the damage an out-of-control Gen can do.
Hiram: He's consented to spend most of his time in an insulated room, and to leave it only in the company of a Donor.
Lusinka: Even when he's lowfield? It's that bad?
Lusinka is ~~ concerned ~~
Hiram: It's bad. And he's got a strong enough field that he's only safe for two or three days after donating.
Lusinka: I know Shorsh and D'zoll are eager to return to civilization, but perhaps it would be better to wait a bit longer before bringing the man to Sat'htine?
Hiram: His wife's the critical factor for timing. Her pregnancy won't wait. And I think staying together is very important for them right now.
D'zoll: I agree, Sectuib.
Shorsh: Yes. Gegg and his wife have a somewhat unusual relationship, and her support is very important to him.
Lusinka sighs, remembering the difficulties of integrating newly purchased Wild Gens into Sat'htine before Unity.
Lusinka: So what's the best way to handle getting them to Sat'htine? Take Gegg's field down again?
Hiram: Yes. I've arranged for the Geggs to join us here tomorrow, and we'll take his field down before we all get on the train for home. D'zoll, what are your thoughts on which of us should take down his field this time?
D'zoll: Hmm. In my opinion, you ought to do so, Sectuib, with me as your backup. I've had some experience talking Gegg down from... overreactions.
Hiram: I noticed something rather unexpected when I deep-zlinned him. Something you hadn't mentioned.
D'zoll raises his eyebrows.
D'zoll: That's why you're Sectuib, Sectuib.
Shorsh wasn't surprised. The one time D'zoll got his laterals on Gegg he didn't have much chance for careful zlinning.
Hiram: According to your report, and according to Gegg's best recollection when I asked him again, none of his attackers ever got a transfer grip on him. And yet, I zlinned the traces -- very faint, but definitely there -- of a burn scar.
D'zoll: Not a recent one, I trust.
Hiram is ~~ surprised ~~ that D'zoll would even wonder about such a thing.
Hiram: Of course not. Very old, long-healed. But unmistakably a burn scar.
D'zoll: Not that I thought I burned him myself. But there are berserkers in Gumgeeville from time to time, Sectuib.
Hiram: I'm sure that if Gegg had been touched by a berserker in Gumgeeville, he would have told us.
D'zoll: Ye-es, I suppose so. But I would have thought that if he'd been burned by a Swamp Sime, he would have told us that too. After all, he walked away from that experience.
Lusinka: So where did he pick up this injury, do you think?
Hiram: I'm open to thoughts on this one, Lusinka. Thoughts, ideas, wild guesses.
Lusinka frowns in ~~ consideration ~~
Hiram: From all of you.
Hiram glances at Shorsh and D'zoll.
Lusinka: If the man is as sensitive to fields as you've said... but it would take some bizarre circumstances.
Hiram nods, listening.
D'zoll: This is beyond me entirely, Sectuib.
Lusinka: I was thinking he could have been subjected to a strong nageric fluctuation of some sort.
Shorsh is listening intently.
Lusinka: If it didn't involve a transfer contact, it could have been missed.
Lusinka is ~~ less than certain ~~ of the plausibility of such a thing, but she is a Farris, and weird nageric gyrations are a Farris stock in trade.
Shorsh: Ah! A death shock! If one of the Simes had Gegg's field engaged when the rescuers shot him...
Hiram considers Shorsh's idea.
Shorsh turns to D'zoll.
Shorsh: Remember, the juncts were so focused on him that the rescuers were able to get into range to shoot them without being noticed.
Lusinka: A deathshock, then? Would that be consistent with what you zlinned, Hiram? Although for a completely undeveloped Gen to respond so strongly would be unusual.
D'zoll: Well, it is known that there are unusual Gen types in the Gumgeeville gene pool.
Hiram: Undeveloped, but with strong Donor potential. And he was definitely nagerically engaged with at least one of those Simes.
D'zoll: There's no doubt of that.
Shorsh: And for the first time in his life, at a malleable age, and under the most terrifying conditions imaginable.
Hiram: It's a theory, anyhow. I'll ask Tsuli about it when we get home. If anyone would have encountered such a thing before, she would.
Lusinka: How much is this going to complicate his treatment?
Lusinka has a very practical approach to problems.
Hiram: Could it account for the way that, even though he seems to have progressed, as soon as one of us touches him and links in he goes right back to panic?
D'zoll: It certainly could. I don't know how we'd establish one way or another whether it does, unless you were deep-zlinning him while I was doing a functional of some sort on him. Which would be a tad crowded.
D'zoll: Perhaps I could try healing something, which wouldn't require bodily contact, while you zlinned the burned region.
Hiram: It's worth a try. He certainly has enough physical damage that could use healing.
Lusinka: He's in bad shape, Hiram?
D'zoll: He's a mess. As far as I can tell, he has exactly one treatment for physical injuries: keep on working. If he can't work, he rests for a half-day or a day and then goes on working. He's just loaded with scars and adhesions.
Hiram: By the standards of out-T farmers, it's nothing unusual. Even the liver damage isn't rare; alcohol is the universal anodyne.
Shorsh: I think healing would have to be approached carefully as well. I think what frightens him the most is the sensation of nageric impingement, and if the impinging nager displays need, very much the worse.
D'zoll: Agreed, but I think we do need to know just how this burn is going to complicate his prognosis.
Hiram: Maybe we should save our experiments until we get him safely to Sat'htine. Besides, I'd like Tsuli's input, before we start acting on our theory.
Lusinka: Yes. If you start experimenting on the poor man here, he might change his mind about going, entirely. And that would be a pity, if his wife will need care for her pregnancy. What is her condition, Hiram?
Hiram: One of the babies is definitely a channel, the other either a channel or a high-order Donor. Toria is doing well, so far, but the selyn drain is increasing rapidly. As Wild Gens go, she started out healthy, at least. I don't think that little quirk of hers is going to cause any trouble, though I do intend to investigate it further.
D'zoll: Ah, I hoped you'd take an interest in it.
Hiram: I once encountered a Donor with something similar. I'll see if I can track him down, after all these years.
Lusinka: Is she, at least, going to be reasonable to work with?
D'zoll: I expect so, Lusinka. It doesn't overwhelm her in ordinary social interactions the way Gegg's trouble does.
Hiram: She's being quite reasonable, so far.
Lusinka: That sounds like you expect her to balk, at some future time?
Shorsh: She claims that she doesn't see what all the fuss is about -- after all, she had no trouble with Mik, but she knows she's rather old for another pregnancy, especially twins, and she's willing to accept our help.
Hiram: She's intelligent, strong-willed... of course she'll balk at something, sooner or later. What Gen doesn't?
Hiram glances at Lusinka with ~~ affection ~~ .
Lusinka doesn't look offended, for some reason.
Shorsh: She may do better working with a woman. Midwifery is a woman's task out here, and she may be reluctant to confide in a male. Perhaps Rimona could follow the pregnancy.
Shorsh mentions a grandmotherly Farris channel with extensive experience in both medical and nageric aspects of obstetrics and gynecology.
Hiram: Rimona and I are already working together on another case. It would be easy enough to arrange. I'm not sure whether Rimona speaks English fluently enough, though.
D'zoll ~~ blushes ~~ at a certain memory.
D'zoll: She does, Sectuib, I assure you.
Shorsh is ~~ amused ~~ and plans to get the reason for D'zoll's blush out of him eventually.
Hiram zlins D'zoll with a raised eyebrow.
Hiram: Oh? ~~ teasing ~~
D'zoll: Let's say I once assumed she didn't, and found out... otherwise.
D'zoll ~~ blushes ~~ again.
Lusinka: Oh, my.
D'zoll: I was young at the time. Younger.
Hiram decides to be ~~ merciful ~~ .
Lusinka wonders whether Rimona would be willing to part with the juicy details.
Hiram: I'm a bit concerned about the daughter. She's as strong-willed as her mother, a bit rebellious -- and still thinks of herself as a child.
D'zoll: Granted. But I can't imagine a better place than a Householding to learn otherwise, quickly and well. If anything, the transition back to out-T status might be the hard part.
Lusinka: Indeed, if she grows used to being an adult.
Hiram: That part, at least, won't be our problem. I think I'll set up one or two of our young adults to watch out for her while she's with us, though.
Lusinka: She's inclined to get into mischief? It's true that her parents will be otherwise occupied.
D'zoll: She's boy-crazy.
Shorsh: In a very romantic, impractical way. It's not like she's overly sexual.
Hiram: And how did you discover this, Hajene? ~~ teasing ~~
D'zoll: You did hear the story about Hajene Marvin and his underage Donor, didn't you? That was her.
Lusinka: Oh, dear. You're concerned that she might approach the wrong man, then?
Hiram: I don't think she has the faintest notion of how out-T and in-T sexual mores differ.
D'zoll: I'm concerned that some of our members -- who after all are not saints -- might treat her as an adult even though she isn't. Emotionally speaking. And her parents wouldn't care for that at all.
Lusinka: Her parents will have enough stress coping with their own problems.
Shorsh: There's a form of literature out here, unrealistic stories about male-female relationships, very popular with young girls. Sanda is a devotee, as are her friends.
Hiram: I've read some of the stuff. It's... weird. Even for out-T culture, it's weird.
Lusinka: I'm not familiar with the genre. How is it unrealistic?
Shorsh: The culmination of a story is a kiss, not intercourse. And the promise of marriage, out-T style, with the assumption of mutual continuing intense infatuation and devotion until death.
Hiram: I'm sure Sanda will bring a couple of volumes of it with her. Maybe you could ask to borrow it, then discuss it with her, Lusinka.
Shorsh: ~~ amusement ~~ Perhaps she can translate some into Simelan for her peers, as an exercise in language learning.
Hiram: I'm not sure some of it can be translated.
Lusinka: Or should be?
D'zoll: And then again, perhaps it'll start a new craze among the pre-changeover set.
Hiram: Is there anything else we have to discuss about the Geggs?
Lusinka: When will they be ready to travel?
Hiram: As I said, they're arriving here tomorrow. As soon as we've taken Gegg's donation, we can be on the next train.
D'zoll: Provided he doesn't have a bad reaction, Sectuib. If so, we might have to stay another day.
Hiram: Of course.
D'zoll: Would that create a scheduling problem for either of you?
Shorsh has a brief fantasy about tranquilizers normally used on horses for long rail trips.
Hiram: I'm eager to get back home. Oh, I know the House is perfectly capable of surviving indefinitely without me. But this is already longer then I'd intended to be away.
D'zoll: In that case, you could go home tomorrow even if Gegg does have a relapse, and we'll follow with the Gegg family in a day or so.
Shorsh: I suspect the train trip will be pretty stressful for all of us. The Geggs as well.
Hiram: Which is why I'd rather have all four of us on hand to cope with them until we get them home.
Lusinka: For field management, if nothing else.
D'zoll: Fair enough. As you say, Sat'htine will survive. It's not like your wife is going into labor with your only son shortly!
Hiram offers a wry grin.
Hiram: I leave that particular complication for other Farrises.
D'zoll: Amen, as they say out here.
Hiram: On to other business, then. I spoke to young Bart Mullins, and to Mari Tillett.
Lusinka looks at Hiram ~~ attentively ~~.
Hiram: Something wrong, Sosu?
Lusinka: I was wondering just how big a procession you were planning to shepherd to Sat'htine?
Shorsh: Don't worry, Lusinka. Mari is a definite no-go. She's excitable, histrionic, self-centered and demanding, with very little self-discipline or sense of responsibility. I can't imagine a worse prospect for Companion, not to mention her bizarre and unsuitable nageric characteristics.
Hiram: Invited or not, I'm afraid Mari may show up on our doorstep eventually. But I hope, at least, that what I discovered may be of some help to her.
Hiram: I don't usually keep up with the endocrinology journals. but I recently read one article from out-T, because it had to do with female hormone levels -- the same hormones I deal with in pregnancy.
Lusinka: This Gen's hormone levels are abnormal?
Hiram: They're fluctuating much more than normal, though the average level is within the norms. Apparently this isn't rare for out-T women, during the first year or so after the onset of puberty. The article was actually discussing the question of why we don't seem to see such a thing in in-T Gens.
Shorsh: At any rate, a tendency to manic-depressive disorder is also an undesirable trait in a Companion.
Hiram: Oh, I'm not even thinking about taking her on as a Donor. But when I zlinned noticeable shifts in hormone levels in the first ten minutes I was with her, I tried a little experiment.
Lusinka: What did you do, Hiram?
Hiram: I projected a normal stable female renSime field at her, and almost immediately her hormone production leveled out.
Lusinka doesn't fully approve of such experimentation on a Gen who isn't Sat'htine's responsibility, but Farris channels are notorious for such things.
Hiram: It could explain the intensity of what her father calls her "Sime-hunger".
D'zoll: Unfortunately, we daren't pair her with a renSime for fear of creating a nasty dependency even without transfer.
Hiram: No, but I told her what I'd zlinned, and also told her that this sort of problem usually levels out within a few months anyway.
D'zoll: Well, let's hope so.
Hiram: Simply understanding why she's been on such an emotional rollercoaster lately may help her cope with it. I get the impression she's a person to whom it's very important to understand things. She'd make a good scholar, once she settles down.
Lusinka: If she's not suitable for Donor work, I'm glad she has talent in other areas.
Hiram: If she does show up on our doorstep, I'll try to find her a placement at one or another university in-T.
Shorsh: I disagreed with D'zoll's advice that she go in-T at all, and I still do. I pity the renSimes who encounter her, and she's far more likely to run into her father's feared Distect recruiters in-T than out.
D'zoll throws up his hands.
D'zoll: The man was half-despairing. I had to tell him something.
Shorsh: She would be a better person if she didn't have him enabling her irresponsibility and egocentricity.
Hiram: I think once she stabilizes, she may be all right. And there aren't many places out-T that would have Firsts at their Sime Centers. Nothing less than a First should ever take her donation.
Lusinka: True. I've gotten fond of Bibi, while you were away, Hiram, and she's got enough problem Gens of her own.
Hiram: Any of them that she could use our help with, before we go?
Lusinka: You'll have to ask her yourself.
Hiram: I'll do that. Oh, and I should warn her that Bart Mullins is probably going to be asking her opinion of me.
D'zoll thinks: "That'll put Bibi on the spot!"
Lusinka: Hiram, what have you been up to?
Hiram: I offered him the chance to take his training at Sat'htine, with the possibility -- only the possibility -- of applying to join the House at the end of a year.
Lusinka: He's got that much potential?
Hiram: His nager has a texture that suggests he could be very good at supporting healing work.
Shorsh: More importantly he has the character traits that make for a good Companion, and one who will find the work fulfilling.
D'zoll: He certainly does, although I'm surprised that Sectuib extended him this courtesy.
Hiram keeps forgetting that the nageric aspect of a situation isn't the most important to a Gen, even a Companion.
Lusinka is wondering if Hiram is responding to the presence of all those badly-cared-for out-Territory Gens by "rescuing" every one he can.
Hiram: We could use a few young Companions with aptitude for healing work. Oh, we've got enough transfer capacity. What we don't have is round-the-clock coverage for our channels when they're doing healing work.
Lusinka: True enough.
Hiram: A Companion can't afford to nap through a healing shift as if it were just dispensary work.
D'zoll: No, indeed.
Lusinka: On the other hand, it might prove that the young man would be happier in a situation that's less alien to him: an out-Territory Sime Center like this one, for instance.
D'zoll: My take is that Bart wants bright-lights-big-city, which neither we nor an out-T Center can provide.
Shorsh: I'm not sure what he wants, except the opportunity to find out what he does want.
D'zoll gestures "Point!" toward Shorsh.
Hiram: Possibly. Ironically, though, I think his mother may turn into Sat'htine's biggest advocate with him.
D'zoll: How so?
Hiram: Well, I admit I got off on the wrong tentacle with her at first. She saw me as the personification of the Tecton taking her son away from her to a life of disgrace.
Lusinka: That's not good.
Hiram: But by the time I left, I think she was seeing the possibilities in being able to tell her neighbors that her son is a "medical assistant" in a "hospital" rather than a "selyn whore".
D'zoll winces at the characteristically blunt -- and wrong-headed -- out-T term.
D'zoll: Leave it to Wild Gens to think only of money.
Lusinka: In some ways, they're worse than the Keon Tigues.
D'zoll: Oh, I wasn't referring to Bart's mother, just the Wild Gens generally. "Selyn whore", indeed.
Hiram: It's not about the money for her, I don't think, despite the family's poverty. But what the neighbors think is very important, when the community is your only safety net in hard times.
Shorsh: She's not happy having her son disappear into Simeland. She does want the best for him, but she had hoped he could find it more conventionally, although given their poverty, his options are very limited. His father is much more positive about his son doing something more adventurous than he himself had an opportunity for.
Hiram: All most of them ever see of selyn is the money. They don't see their friends and neighbors in need, being given another month of life.
D'zoll gestures "Granted".
Hiram: Is there anything else we have to discuss? It smells as if dinner's ready in the kitchen, and we do have two Gens to feed.
Lusinka: Gitl's cooking should not be delayed until its inedible.
Shorsh: Indeed! ~~ delight ~~
D'zoll: No, it'd motivate even a Sime in need.
Hiram: And I'm definitely not in need yet. Let's go!