Lusinka has invited some of the Sat'htine Companions to a Gen-only conference in a quiet room that's too near the kitchens to attract Simes.
Lusinka passes around tea and snacks, then gets to the point.
Lusinka: So, I'd like to hear your opinions about Nick Reckage. How has he been working out?
Shorsh: Well, I'd say, as far as his ability and willingness to work as a Donor.
Arinna opens her mouth to say something, then hesitates.
Shorsh gestures her to go ahead.
Arinna: I'm not sure. How much of this is just me, and how much of it is him.
Lusinka: You have reservations, Arinna?
Arinna: My immediate reaction to Nick was overwhelmingly negative. At first I thought...
Arinna hesitates again.
Kibbetz crosses her legs and balances a bread plate with a tea cake on it on her knee. She listens to her fellows but reserves her opinion for later.
Arinna: I thought I was just being jealous. I'd been so looking forward to another turn with D'zoll, and was jealous that it was being snatched away.
Lusinka: That's not an uncommon reaction, and it's nothing to be ashamed about, as long as you don't let it affect your judgment.
Arinna: But assignments get shifted around all the time, and I don't usually react that way.
Lusinka: On the other hand, sometimes such reactions can be motivated by more than simple Gen jealousy. So why was this time different?
Arinna: I think, deep down on the instinctive level, he scares me. I'm having trouble analyzing why. But it's like he's too good to be true.
Shorsh: He's got a few techniques we haven't seen before, but he can learn a few things from us as well.
Lusinka: You think there has to be catch somewhere, or we wouldn't have had him dumped on us?
Kibbetz: Well, he's certainly good looking.
Kibbetz is a bit too old to go chasing but she can certainly look.
Lusinka: With his genetic background, that was a given.
Arinna: He's like a huge wild cat. It's beautiful, and it's purring now, but it's wild. It could bite and claw at any moment.
Kibbetz: So could any of us.
Arinna: And a cat's not loyal to anything but itself.
Kibbetz: And that's the root of it.
Lusinka: Shorsh, do you have anything to add?
Shorsh: Nick was extremely loyal to a couple of channels who treated him badly. Not just abuse, but active cruelty. And he never turned on them. He'd have no reason to turn on us.
Kibbetz nods. Shorsh, as always, makes a good point.
Arinna: But no reason not to. And we don't know what drives him.
Lusinka: Has anyone seen Nick actually doing anything that might be considered disloyal for a Donor?
Lusinka looks around as the silence stretches.
Lusinka: So, not active disloyalty, but he's doing things that make you doubt?
Shorsh: He's not familiar with our local Sat'htine customs, but he's shown no signs to me of any inclination to harm anyone either by action or inaction. Much the contrary.
Lusinka invites Shorsh to elaborate.
Shorsh: He seems to have a strong basic idealism, and an almost exaggerated sense of responsibility, which he's suffered for, but still retains. While he's by no means ready to decide to pledge Sat'htine, I have respect for both his personal integrity and his technical skills.
Arinna is thinking hard. There's something about what Shorsh said a minute ago, if she could just put a finger on it.
Lusinka: Responsibility towards whom? Himself? The Tecton?
Shorsh: Responsibility towards his channel, and his patients.
Kibbetz: I've heard he spent a decade out-T.
Shorsh: Yes, after he established. He had good reason to get away from his family.
Kibbetz: If he didn't want to be bothered with channels he could have stayed there. But instead he came back and became a Farris trained Donor.
Shorsh: He has a powerful Donor talent. I'm surprised he managed to stay out-T as long as he did.
Lusinka: The official Tecton records are rather sparse on why he left the Territory, and what exactly he was doing there. Has he discussed that with you, Shorsh?
Shorsh: Yes, with me and D'zoll. He was escaping his rather brutal and exploitive grandmother, a renSime. The rest of his family couldn't protect him, and she couldn't follow him out-T.
Arinna: I've got it!
Lusinka looks at Arinna.
Lusinka: What is it?
Kibbetz wonders if it's contagious.
Arinna: What Shorsh said earlier, about him being so loyal to channels who abuse him. And it fits if he grew up with an abusive grandmother.
Lusinka: Will he be loyal to a channel who doesn't make unreasonable demands on him?
Shorsh: I think we should give him a chance to find out. He hasn't had one before.
Arinna is putting pieces together as she speaks.
Arinna: Working with D'zoll and the other mind-healers, I've seen some abused wives. And husbands. They'll be incredibly loyal to their abuser. Keep coming back. Can't stay away.
Lusinka: That sounds like it could be a problem, in a Donor, much less a Companion.
Arinna: Yes, because they're all twisted up inside.
Shorsh: I'd like to talk to D'zoll about that, but I think he'd have spotted it in Nick if it were there. It doesn't seem like it to me, but I can't zlin. Nick never enjoyed the abuse, but he put up with it because his channels would have died without him. And at first there was a great deal less of it, and what there was was hard to identify as such.
Arinna: That's exactly the pattern you see in an abused spouse.
Lusinka: Is D'zoll objective enough to make such a judgment? Nick is a charming young Gen, with a compatible nager, and he's new and unexpected. That's enough to turn any channel's head.
Shorsh: I might have been doubtful about D'zoll's objectivity before I worked with him the past two months, but I think none of us realize how much he's matured in the years he worked in Capital.
Kibbetz: It seems that a trauma has been assumed. Not everyone who comes out of an abusive situation is permanently damaged by it.
Arinna: The ones who heal usually do it by getting very selfish for a while.
Lusinka: Has anyone seen signs of such selfishness in Nick?
Arinna: I wonder what D'zoll would see, if he were zlinning Nick as a patient instead of as his Donor.
Shorsh: I'm sure he has, Arinna. He's been very interested in Nick, in learning about him as a person.
Lusinka: Has he confided any of his conclusions to you, Shorsh?
Shorsh: Not specifically, but he seems to like Nick, and respect him. He's also very interested in some of the new techniques he can bring the House.
Arinna: So he's still zlinning him purely as a Donor?
Shorsh: No, as I said, he's interested in him as a person as well.
Lusinka: I've been hearing some interesting rumors about his off-duty activities. Is it true that he's been spending time on groundskeeper duties?
Shorsh: He likes to be outdoors, and he's one of those people who is happy to pick up a job that no one else has gotten around to. He likes farm work, I think, and enjoys doing a bit of it in his spare time.
Lusinka: It's rather a strange hobby for a Donor, don't you think?
Kibbetz: Hey, the kitchen gardens are benefiting from it. And who can argue with more food?
Shorsh: I've been known to pull the odd weed when I'm wandering around the gardens myself. And we can all do with some exercise and sunshine when we can get it.
Lusinka: True enough, and winter's closing in all too soon.
Kibbetz: Just seems to me that he has a balanced view of work. Unlike some folks I could mention.
Shorsh: Nick's been working with Sectuib a bit. What's your opinion, Lusinka?
Lusinka: Hiram is quite taken with him, but I'm not sure he's being as objective as he might be.
Shorsh: How so?
Lusinka: You all know how easily channels will overlook the faults of a Donor with a seductive nager, at least until the problem gets too large to ignore. That's why I wanted to get the observations of fellow Gens.
Shorsh: So let's hear your observations too.
Lusinka: Like Hiram, I've been impressed with some of Nick's abilities. I think his basic skills are sound, but I'm worried about the occasional gaps in his knowledge. The more so because there's no way to identify them before they become problems. Also, I expect that the man's allergy to paperwork could become a real nuisance, in the long term.
Arinna nods agreement on that point. She's worked with a channel or two who had that problem.
Shorsh: He acknowledges the gaps, and seems willing to learn. I think we can go through things systematically and teach him whatever he lacks. He's never had time for that, up to now.
Kibbetz: Paperwork we can deal with. Just assign Geneen to him. She's barely more zlinnable than a child. Shouldn't cause any nageric disturbances and she loves paperwork.
Lusinka: He's got to at least learn enough to know whether it's being done properly.
Shorsh: I think once Nick gets settled in here, gets a few good transfers, gets satisfying work to do with people he likes and respects, he can deal with his paperwork aversion.
Lusinka: He's a bit old to be starting a training program on the basics. Is he likely to resent it?
Kibbetz: I didn't think he lacked knowledge, just enthusiasm.
Shorsh: Previously, paperwork was always the last straw on top of an overburdened back. I think he'll be able to deal with it better when it isn't. After all, few people like doing paperwork, but we learn to tolerate it.
Lusinka: He certainly seems to be used to longer work shifts. Hiram is impressed with his stamina.
Shorsh: He's never had a chance to lead a normal Companion's life. I'd like to see him get a good taste of it. He's had a hard time of it both within and without the Tecton, and it's time for him to get a break from that.
Arinna: If we still don't have enough Donors to cover all the channels' work shifts, and if he's willing to do longer hours, he may not get that break.
Lusinka: That's an excellent point, Arinna. Shorsh, how important do you think it is that Nick be on a normal work schedule?
Kibbetz shakes her head.
Kibbetz: So far the only real problems Nick seems to have are that he hasn't been traumatized by his many abusive relationships, he likes to do manual work, hates to do paperwork and can work like a Sime.