Hiram relaxes behind his desk, despite the overflowing mounds of paper. It's good to be home. To be Sectuib is necessarily to be a diplomat, but Hiram is much happier in the infirmary than the conference room.
Hiram glances up as he zlins a Donor approaching his door.
Hiram still isn't sure what to make of this new Donor that Jaklin dropped on him. D'zoll seems to like him well enough, but Shorsh's comments so far have been ambivalent. And Arinna is convinced he's trouble. Hiram tends to trust Arinna's judgment about most things, but this time he's not sure. Maybe working with Nick himself for a shift or two will give him a better feel for the situation.
Nick finally manages to find the Sectuib's office, and ~~ signals ~~ at the door.
Hiram: Come in.
Nick opens the door and enters, adjusting his nager smoothly with the unconscious ease of someone who's spent years working with Farris channels of marginal sanity and uncertain temper.
Nick: I got a note that I was to be working with you this shift?
Nick adds a touch of ~~ inquiry ~~.
Hiram: That's right, Sosu. Come in, sit down. We've got a few minutes before the shift starts.
Nick takes the indicated seat. He's trying to keep an open mind about Hiram, although he's learned not to expect a great deal from Tecton Controllers. He is, of course, working with Hiram under the Tecton's auspices, not Sat'htine's.
Hiram: I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to sit down with you before this. Are you settling in all right? Is there anything you require?
Nick: I've been reasonably comfortable, thank you. I suppose the rest of my baggage will arrive eventually.
Hiram: Don't count on it, Sosu. Not if it wasn't in your hand when you stepped off the train.
Nick is, in fact, out of uniform: his two Tecton uniforms are dirty, and he's not entitled to the Sat'htine livery that everyone else seems to be wearing here.
Nick: So that's why they have such generous salaries for Donors: so we can replace our wardrobes every time they move us around. ~~ irony ~~
Hiram: You can requisition anything you require from stores, you know. I'm sure we have a few Tecton uniforms in your size. As for the personal items... there are several fairly good shops, just outside our gates.
Nick: I'll head that way when we're done today, then.
Nick: Where are we working this shift?
Hiram: I've been reading through your file, Sosu, and I recognize it omits more than it tells me about you. So I've decided to put you through your paces where I can most quickly find out what you can do. We'll be in the emergency trauma care unit.
Nick is ~~ unfazed ~~ by being thrown into the most challenging, hectic place in any health care facility. He has actually had more experience in treating emergency situations than in any other specialty, due to the nature of rogue work.
Hiram: I trust, given your background, that the sight of a little blood doesn't bother you?
Nick: No, I've seen plenty.
Hiram: I figured as much.
Hiram smiles reminiscently.
Hiram: That will make you a pleasant change from some of the Donors the Tecton has sent me, when they do their first few shifts here.
Nick: I expect the Tecton tends to use you as a training facility?
Hiram: Very much so. Any channel or Donor who seems to have an aptitude for healing work is likely to get sent here... and we get to sort them out.
Nick: Well, I've seen more than my share of nasty accidents, although I suspect that you have more equipment and support than I ever did, either when I was working independently with Snake, or at the Snake River Dam.
Hiram: We're very well equipped here, in material terms. As for support staff, Emergency can requisition staff from the other units, whenever we require extra tentacles.
Nick: What sort of support do you prefer?
Hiram: Hajene D'zoll reports that you can do some rather unusual things. I'll be asking you to show me a few of them as we work. To start out, though, just standard light support.
Nick: All right.
Hiram: Let's get going. We're on duty in ten minutes.
Nick slips smoothly into ~~ standard light support ~~, slightly Zeor-flavored.
Hiram notes the Zeor flavoring, but also notes that it's a bit non-standard.
Nick steps slightly to the side, putting himself exactly the proper distance from Hiram to maintain the support while allowing Hiram to function independently. He doesn't appear to be obsessing on showing off; it's simply how he's been trained to work.
Hiram nods approval, and leads the way out of his office. As they walk, he signals for a variety of standard responses, at the same time keeping up a running commentary on the various facilities they pass through.
Nick responds automatically to most of the signals, although he's a little slow on two for which Snake and Arat used a different signal. He offers an ~~ apology ~~.
Nick: Sorry, I'm used to a somewhat different signal for that last one.
Nick: Yours is just different enough that I have to translate.
Hiram: I'll try you again on some of these, then, until you catch on. In a real emergency, I'd want a quicker response.
Hiram continues his running commentary.
Hiram: Down that corridor is our geriatrics ward....
Hiram freezes and zlins down the other hallway, then takes off at augmented speed.
Nick sprints afterwards at his best pace, trying to maintain as much of his ~~ support ~~ as he can, given the rapidly opening distance between them. He doesn't waste breath trying to get a briefing from Hiram: no channel in that much of a hurry is going to bother. He is, however, in a state of heightened ~~ alertness ~~ as he prepares to face literally any emergency.
Hiram kneels beside an elderly woman. She's sprawled face down on the tiles, in the throes of a heart attack. He turns her onto her side and rips her shirt in half in a single move, then positions his tentacles carefully on her chest and back.
Nick catches up, assesses the situation, and falls into ~~ close support ~~, leaving a "window" clear for Hiram to zlin the patient without interference.
Hiram doesn't bother signaling anything to his Donor; he's focused entirely on his patient now.
Nick therefore falls back on his best guess, which in this case is to leave Hiram free to do whatever he feels is necessary, while being ready to assist if necessary.
Hiram shifts one lateral a fraction, then gives a nageric thunderclap. The woman's heart beats once, twice, then falters again.
Nick holds ~~ steady ~~ through the disruption, the better to pick up the support when Hiram is finished with the nageric shock.
Hiram gives another nageric thunderclap, then a third. Finally the woman's heart picks up a steady rhythm, and the channel falls back into his Donor's support.
Nick immediately moves to support the channel physically, while reaching nagerically to ~~ stabilize ~~ the disruption.
Hiram signals "more", and takes a few deep shuddering breaths.
Nick obliges, settling Hiram's nager back into almost normal rhythm. He also nods to the hovering staff to move in and take over the care of the patient, while Hiram is recovering.
Hiram signals, "ease off".
Hiram: Thank you, Sosu. That was well done. Um, you can put me down now.
Nick smoothly ~~ reduces ~~ his support, and lets Hiram go.
Nick: It was her heart, I assume?
Hiram brushes aside a couple of apples that must have fallen from the basket the woman was carrying, and lies flat on the cool tiles.
Nick missed Hiram's signal to that effect, as he has never been asked to handle such a complicated task by the Tecton channels he's worked with.
Hiram zlins as well as he can, past the several channels and Donors who are now between him and the patient.
Hiram: She'll be all right, now.
Hiram mentally reviews Nick's actions during the moments of crisis.
Nick, meanwhile, is also reviewing the past few minutes, in an effort to figure out how to "read" Hiram.
Hiram: You did very well, Sosu. That thing you did when we first reached the patient... I've never zlinned anything like it before.
Nick: It's something Snake taught me when we first started working together. Most of our work wasn't done in an insulated treatment room, and there was often family around. That trick let her work without stopping to clear out the confusion.
Hiram: Most useful. I'll want all of our people to learn that, if you can teach it.
Nick: If I can, I'll be happy to show them the trick.
Hiram: As for the rest, you picked up my signals better than I had any right to expect, given that I was too busy to give you any.
Hiram offers the Donor a gently humorous smile.
Nick: I've become used to improvising.
Hiram: I almost would have thought that you were zlinning me... though if you had, those three slams would have knocked you flat onto that basket of fruit.
Nick: You were slamming her?
Hiram: You didn't know? You responded so smoothly, I thought you knew what I was doing.
Nick: I knew how strongly you were leaning on me, and I could feel the disruption, but I haven't seen that particular trick used before.
Hiram: It's a purely Farris technique -- but you've worked with Farrises.
Nick: Snake left Zeor when she was less than half trained, and Arat wasn't trained by Farrises, as far as I know. The only other time I worked with a Farris channel, it didn't work out well.
Hiram frowns, trying to remember the details of Nick's file.
Hiram: Which other Farris?
Nick: He was an expert Zeor sent to Naros when Snake fell into a coma. I doubt it ever made it onto any Tecton records.
Hiram slowly sits up, feeling a bit shaky still. He signals for "more support" as he wobbles to his feet.
Nick provides a firmer nager, and a steady hand as well.
Hiram signals "thanks", then takes a few deep breaths as his head slowly clears. After a minute, he signals "standard medium support".
Hiram: We'd better get moving. We're ten minutes late for the start of our shift in Emergency.
Nick obliges in the matter of the standard medium support, then asks, "What was that earlier signal?
Hiram: Which one?
Nick: This one.
Nick duplicates, as best he can, the "thanks" signal.
Hiram: Hasn't a channel ever said "thank you" before?
Nick blinks in ~~ surprise ~~.
Nick: Not often enough to bother developing a signal for it.
Hiram is even more surprised.
Hiram: I believe in giving feedback, Sosu. The positive feedback as well as the negative. If you've earned my thanks, you get it. And the same goes from any channel I've trained.
Nick tries to remember if D'zoll gave that particular signal during their last shift, and can't, although he does recall several instances of verbal praise.
Nick: That's a very non-Tecton attitude, from what I've seen.
Hiram: This is Sat'htine, Sosu. Our channels spend their time doing a lot more than just taking donations and serving transfers. And it makes us constantly aware of just how helpless we'd be without our Donors.
Nick's lips twitch.
Hiram: Yes, Sosu?
Nick: It's easy to resent someone on whom you depend so strongly.
Hiram digests the comment in silence as he leads the way down a stairwell and around a couple of corners towards the front of the building.
Hiram: I can't speak for anyone else, Sosu. But I tried resentment, for a while, when I was younger. I deeply resented that I was a channel, and destined to be Sectuib, and didn't have the freedom other young Householders had. And I learned resentment doesn't work. It burns the source, faster than it burns anyone else.
Nick: I felt much the same way when I established, and my grandmother dumped me at the nearest Donor training school.
Hiram: You outgrew it too, didn't you?
Nick: In a way. I left, and spent the next ten years as an agricultural laborer in Gen Territory, where my grandmother couldn't come after me.
Hiram wishes now, as he so often does, that he had a few of D'zoll's skills.
Nick: It wasn't a bad life.
Hiram: So you lost the resentment only when being a Donor became something you chose, instead of something that was forced on you?
Hiram is zlinning his way very cautiously through this discussion.
Nick: Well, being Snake's Donor was something I chose. Pledging the Tecton... well, I wasn't nearly as happy about that.
Hiram makes an interrogative noise.
Nick is controlling his nager to avoid swamping Hiram with his feelings, but some of the ~~ conflicted ~~ emotions come through anyway.
Hiram: Why did you do it, then?
Nick: I had been given an ultimatum: pledge or I wouldn't be allowed transfer with the two available Farris channels.
Hiram: You could still have chosen to walk away.
Nick: I did. I left to travel with Sectuib Riyyh, who was making the rounds of various Naros projects.
Hiram: And Riyyh didn't require you to pledge?
Hiram keeps his tone very carefully neutral. Despite what he may think of Riyyh, the man is Nick's father.
Nick: Riyyh? No. He was just enjoying having a Gen who overmatched him. A few months later, I found out that Arat had been assigned a Donor who not only undermatched him significantly, but actively hated him.
Hiram gestures for Nick to continue.
Nick: By the time I could get back to Capital, he was at death's door. He still wouldn't accept a transfer from me unless I pledged. So, I did.
Nick had too much Donor instinct to walk away from a channel who needed his help so badly, but he still didn't enjoy being blackmailed.
Hiram: Do you still regret the choice?
Nick: I didn't, for a while. Much. But lately... I haven't had a channel who matched me, or who had any use for most of the skills I've learned, in months. And I'm getting very tired of being treated like a Wild Gen with plague by the people who are supposed to be my colleagues.
Nick manages to keep his nager from zlinning petulant, although it's probably a good thing that he has excellent control.
Hiram stops walking. He turns to face Nick. In the deepest gesture of sincerity he knows, he takes both of Nick's hands with his fingers only, then briefly extends his laterals to brush the Gen's wrists.
Hiram: Nick, I don't really know you yet. I don't know whether I will ever invite you to pledge Sat'htine. But I can promise you this:
Hiram takes a deep breath before continuing.
Hiram: I don't try to keep Gens in a cage. I respect talent, and know better than to waste it. I take my time about deciding to trust someone, but I do not withhold that trust without cause. While you are here with us, you will be tested, yes, but only to learn what are your strengths and weaknesses. I'm more likely to ask too much of you than too little. But you have my respect, until and unless you give me grounds to withdraw it.
Nick considers this offer for a long moment. He very much wants to have a channel again, one who matches him and who won't be taken from him for arbitrary reasons. He has, however, learned through bitter experience not to trust anyone who holds high rank in the Tecton.
Nick is, of course, three quarters Riyyh, and Riyyh is nothing if not accommodating.
Nick: I'll try to give you the benefit of the doubt, then, until we know each other better.
Hiram studies Nick for a long moment, zlinning him deeply, then gives a brisk nod and drops his hands.
Hiram: That's all I can ask of you, Nick.
Hiram turns and leads the way through the doors of the Emergency ward.
Hiram: That, and some help with today's caseload.