D'zoll and Shorsh, who is assigned to him for the coming night shift, are taking a walk in the night-blooming garden.
D'zoll: I love to come out here and smell the Sime plants. It restores me after hours of work.
Shorsh: Nice to be back in civilization, eh? No retainers, get some fresh air on your forearms.
D'zoll: That too. I've had more than enough of out-Territory for a while. Although I have to say, even here in civilization things can get a little weird.
Shorsh: Your new Donor, the former rogue? Or a new patient?
D'zoll: It's Nick I had in mind, though the new patient's case is strange as well.
Shorsh: How's that going?
Shorsh doesn't vary his support, since D'zoll doesn't seem distressed by what he's thinking about.
D'zoll: Well, he's this mixture of Zeor-class sophistication and absolute naivete. But you could guess that from his background. I still don't know what-all special talents he has, and what's more, neither does he -- to him they aren't special.
Shorsh: Any unpleasant surprises?
Shorsh refrains from adding "yet".
D'zoll shakes his head.
D'zoll: Not at all. After Gumgeeville, I'm inured to unintentional rudeness -- and it is zlinnably unintentional.
Shorsh: ~~ curiosity ~~
D'zoll: It's just that he doesn't have the slightest idea of Tecton etiquette. He never does anything wrong with his field, he just -- Oh, I can't explain it.
Shorsh: Sure you can. ~~ amusement ~~
D'zoll: Well, I keep expecting to run up against standard Tecton First-Order prickliness and standoffishness, and it just isn't there. Not that he's hail-fellow-well-met, either. I guess what it boils down to is that he isn't a snob. Or maybe he's an anti-snob snob.
Nick was at loose ends after eating his supper, so he went wandering through the gardens. He discovered a few fruit trees in the kitchen gardens that were a bit overgrown, so he scrounged around for some loppers and is now busily -- and quite competently -- pruning them.
D'zoll: After all, he's not a patient.
Shorsh plays a few riffs on the ambient: ~~ prickly and standoffish support ~~ snobbish support ~~ hail-fellow-well-met support ~~ and back to ~~ amused, competent and kind support ~~
D'zoll laughs out loud.
Nick is humming to himself, and his nager reflects ~~ relaxed concentration ~~ on his task.
D'zoll: Maybe Nick belongs to a Householding of one.
Shorsh: Or two, originally, with his rogue channel. A lot of Householdings got started that way, the ones that weren't the daughters of other Householdings.
D'zoll makes the "Fair enough" gesture.
D'zoll: The world has changed.
Shorsh: Too much for some, not enough for others.
Shorsh offers a generic philosophical observation, with no particular nageric comment.
D'zoll wonders what he would have been like as a Householding founder in the rough and ready pre-Unity world.
Nick clears suckers away from the base of a tree, then neatly trims awkward branches to leave a healthy scaffolding.
Shorsh: Let's stretch our legs a bit.
Shorsh heads out of the night-blooming garden and uphill.
D'zoll: By all means, Sosu.
D'zoll trots a bit to keep up with Shorsh's long legs. Not all Farrises are quite identical twins.
Nick finishes the first tree and moves on to a second.
Shorsh: It's good to be home. Home cooking, yes!
Shorsh is enjoying interesting, well-cooked hot meals, running water, a warm clean bed and other amenities of civilization.
D'zoll: Oh, I don't know. Who was talking about his big nose and Gitl's cooking back at Hannard's Ford, eh?
Shorsh: Gitl's a good cook, definitely. But you and I are definitely not.
D'zoll: No argument there. And speak of the devil, there's Nick over there behind that tree.
Shorsh is only a bit nearsighted, but few Gens can see as far as a Farris can zlin.
Shorsh: What's he doing in the kitchen garden this late in the evening?
D'zoll focuses his zlinning.
D'zoll: Something involving metal tools. Let's go over and ask him.
Shorsh follows his channel.
D'zoll walks towards Nick's tree
D'zoll: Nick? It's D'zoll. Sosu Shorsh is with me.
Nick pauses in his lopping of taller shoots.
Nick: Hello, D'zoll, Shorsh.
Shorsh: Pleased to meet you, Nick.
Shorsh offers his hand.
Nick removes the gardening glove on his right hand in order to brush Shorsh's fingertips politely.
Shorsh isn't clear on why Nick took it upon himself to prune fruit trees this evening, but he figures it will come out eventually, so says nothing about it.
Shorsh: D'zoll and I are taking a stroll before our night dispensary shift.
Nick: The grounds here are very pleasant.
Shorsh: Yes. I'm glad to be back home.
Nick has not had anything that could be considered a home in his adult life, so he isn't quite sure what to say to that.
Nick: This is a place beautiful enough to return to. And I admit, it's... restful, to have enough staff to look after the case load.
Nick also thinks it's restful not to have to chase down said case load, but deems it politic not to remind D'zoll and Shorsh of his origins.
D'zoll: I was just thinking that you're something of a one-person band, or the Gen half of a two-person one, anyhow.
Nick: I've never been very good at following other people's plans for my life, it's true.
D'zoll: More than that. You seem to be ambrov to the House of Responsibility. Pruning trees, for example.
D'zoll gestures to the loppers.
Nick: I hate to criticize, but they've been badly pruned for at least several years.
D'zoll: Not surprising. Evidently nobody's made it a priority.
Nick: Well, this one at least should set a much better crop in the spring. I haven't lost my touch.
Nick winks, then lops a final two branches off even with the others.
Nick moves on to the next tree, inviting D'zoll and Shorsh along with a gesture.
D'zoll: So what is this tree anyhow? I know I grew up here, but I'm fairly clueless about plants generally.
Nick: That was an apple; this is an apricot. It'll grow a lot better fruit if it isn't wasting time supporting weak branches, or branches that are too shaded to get sufficient light. And there's less damage to the tree from winter storms if the larger branches are approximately in balance.
Nick is busily demonstrating as he speaks, with the economy of long practice.
D'zoll: And here you are doing the pruning, not because you're devoted to the interests of Sat'htine, but just because the job's in front of you, undone.
Nick: I miss working outside.
Nick takes another half dozen snips, then moves on to the next tree.
Nick: Besides, it never hurts to keep my hand in.
D'zoll: Just in case, eh?
Nick: I spent ten years making a living like this, in Gen Territory. It wasn't a bad life.
D'zoll raises his eyebrows, to no particular purpose in the fading light.
D'zoll: Your paperwork -- which did arrive, eventually -- didn't talk about that. Pretty unusual for a First-Order Donor to be able to work long-term away from Simes. That makes you something pretty unusual.
Nick: I got out of Sime Territory about two weeks after I'd established. And I didn't exactly ask permission, of anyone.
D'zoll: Fair enough. The long-term dependency wouldn't really have set in yet. As for permission, the Tecton doesn't own you, no matter what the bureaucrats think.
Nick: It seems to have the opposite opinion. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to call its bluff.
D'zoll: So what -- if you don't mind telling -- was the most satisfying period of your life?
Shorsh watches with interest as D'zoll practices his profession in an informal context.
D'zoll isn't practicing his profession: this is his basic interest in life, out of which his profession grew.
Nick: The time after I first joined Snake in Bender Cove, I'd have to say. She was so full of idealism, working to bring basic medical care to people who were too suspicious to enter a Sime Center. Oh, we were working in primitive conditions, and Snake was working hard to compensate for what I didn't know.
Nick: But we were helping people who would otherwise not have been helped.
Shorsh is ~~ moved ~~ by Nick's apparent fundamental idealism. He might well have made a good First Companion in a new pre-Unity House.
D'zoll: Pretty much why Shorsh and I spent a month in a tin can out-Territory, I guess. I like the way you put it.
Nick: To be honest, I haven't found the work I've been doing for the Tecton lately nearly as satisfying.
Nick's ~~ discontent ~~ has been rising with the lack of Farris transfers, and the channels who are too afraid of the "half-trained rogue" to let him do his job.
D'zoll: I can see that, especially given the tight rein they've been keeping on you. It's sheer Tecton paranoia, the kind that's going to get them into real big deep trouble one of these years.
Nick: Well, that's one more reason to keep up my other skills.
Nick moves on to the next tree, an apple, and starts trimming.
Nick: Then if it gets too frustrating, I can go back out-Territory.
Shorsh: A high proficiency rating like yours can limit your options in the Tecton.
Nick: Is that why they haven't assigned me to a channel who matches me in months?
Shorsh: There are quite a few matches for you in Sat'htine.
D'zoll: Not likely. That's another aspect of the tight rein. "Pretend Nick doesn't have needs, maybe he'll disappear again." Also, and I hate to say it, anti-Farris resentment among Controllers. But yes, Shorsh is right. The most satisfying life for you in Sime Territory is likely to be behind the deep shield of a Householding that isn't utterly iron-bound.
D'zoll: Zeor, I would not recommend.
Nick: Well, I'm not one to stay where I'm not welcome. If the Tecton doesn't want me, I'm not going to wait forever for it to change its collective mind. As far as Householdings go, I couldn't have lived in Naros, and Zeor didn't want anything more to do with me than they did with Snake.
Nick is ~~ withholding judgment ~~ on Sat'htine, for now.
D'zoll: [softly] There's a whole lot more diversity out there than that.
Shorsh knows that other than the Farris Houses, there are few places that Nick can find a satisfying match for transfer.
Nick: Possibly. Although most Householdings don't seem to look among the Houseless when fishing for recruits. I'm the son of a Sectuib, certainly, but being Riyyh's son is hardly rare enough to be noteworthy.
Nick leaves out the grandson bit, to avoid confusion.
D'zoll chuckles mirthlessly.
D'zoll: Unfortunately not.
Nick stretches to clip off a particularly badly placed branch.
Shorsh wonders how much of Nick's pessimism is due to a long string of inadequate transfers.
Nick: I don't suppose you know to whom I'm supposed to serve transfer this month, do you?
Nick is ~~ hopeful ~~ that it will be a channel who comes closer to matching him, this time.
D'zoll: From what I understand, Sectuib is going to have you work with several channels and get their reports before he makes up his mind.
Nick ~~ sighs ~~.
D'zoll: I think, given the Virtue of the House, that you can be confident it will be a Farris who matches you. "First, do no harm."
Nick: That would be a pleasant change.
Nick's nager reflects ~~ longing ~~ for a decent transfer, although he has the discipline to keep it from grabbing at D'zoll.
D'zoll carefully extends his ~~ sympathy ~~ to a Gen who truly understands need -- from inside.
Shorsh wonders whether D'zoll will be Nick's transfer partner this month. It could be good for both of them.