Healing Old Wounds, Finding New Hope: Episode 4

Hiram strolls down a corridor in Sat'htine, leaning ~~ happily ~~ into Shorsh's field. It's been a long work shift, and he's looking forward to putting his feet up for a while in the common room that's just ahead.

Shorsh is looking forward to a nice hot cup of trin, just the thing for a cold rainy fall day. ~~ pleasurable anticipation ~~

Morry is in the common room, carefully wrestling a large planter with a half-dead bush onto a wagon. He's about nine natal years old, and dressed in dirt-smudged sweats with the logo of Sat'htine's school emblazoned on them.

Hiram leads the way into the well-lit, comfortable room. Outside, the rain continues to pound against the windows.

Morry is ~~ intent ~~ on his task.

Shorsh heads for the sink and trin fixings, not too concerned about what the boy is up to.

Hiram: Good afternoon...

Hiram realizes that he's blanking on the youngster's name.

Morry looks up with a ~~ start ~~ (not affecting the ambient much, as he's still a kid).

Morry: Sectuib!

Hiram: Would you like a hand with that?

Morry is ~~ relieved ~~.

Morry: Thanks. Everybody else will already be back. I didn't think this would be so heavy.

Hiram: You hold the wagon steady, I'll lift it in.

Shorsh gets the kettle heating, and turns to watch.

Hiram gets a good grip on the planter, lifts it easily, and sets it down in the wagon.

Hiram: There you go. So they've got you working on your day off from school?

Hiram still can't remember the youngster's name. Corry? Norry?

Morry: Nah. The game got rained out, so Sosu Nick came up with a secret surprise.

Hiram raises an eyebrow.

Hiram: A secret surprise?

Shorsh: Even secret from Sectuib, Morry?

Shorsh reinforces societal norms of the Householding culture.

Morry turns to look at the wagoned pot with a ~~ proprietary ~~ air, revealing the name "Morry" on the back of his shirt.

Morry: Yeah. The whole team is going around getting the plants from all over.

Hiram: And doing what with them, Morry?

Hiram keeps his tone ~~ mildly curious ~~ .

Morry: That's the s'prise. And it's secret.

Hiram: You mean you don't know yet? ~~ amused ~~

Morry: Well... I know part of it. Kirsty is dumping the plants behind the greenhouse.

Hiram studies the half-dead bush.

Shorsh puts trin leaves in two mugs, then turns back to watch Hiram and Morry, so as not to keep the kettle from boiling.

Hiram: So you're only collecting the ones too far gone to salvage?

Hiram is a bit ~~ concerned ~~ now. It seems like a difficult judgment call for such a young person.

Morry: Sosu Nick told me to take this one. Ervin and Yorrik are getting the ones in the cafeteria. We're going to have fun, even if it is raining.

Shorsh is ~~ surprised ~~ and ~~ amused ~~. Sounds like Nick has come up with a group project for his days off.

Hiram frowns, trying to remember the condition of the cafeteria's plants. He doesn't recall any that were in as bad condition as this one.

Shorsh thinks it shows an interest in the Householding and its members. Interest in the Householding's children, its future, is a very good sign.

Hiram: And what kind of fun are you going to have, Morry?

Shorsh is, of course, a Householder of many generations standing.

Morry: We're gonna....

Morry stops, just in time. He shuffles his feet, leaving dirty smears on the carpet.

Hiram: Yes?

Morry: It's s'posed to be a secret. [mumbled]

Shorsh: Perhaps we can come by and see what's up, eh? Where will you be taking the plant?

Shorsh doesn't want to put the poor lad in a conflict between his friends and his Sectuib.

Morry: Over there.

Morry points vaguely off in an uncertain direction: he lacks a Sime's psychospatial orientation. He grabs the wagon's handle.

Morry: In the greenhouse. The one that's not being used much, because it isn't spring.

Shorsh hears the water boiling, and fills the mugs.

Hiram: Why don't we just join you, then, Morry? We could use a bit of fun ourselves, couldn't we, Sosu?

Shorsh: Sure, if it won't spoil the secret. But I want my trin, first.

Morry: Sosu Nick said we could bring friends who wanted to play, so I guess it's all right.

Shorsh: Well, you go on ahead then, and we'll come by after we have our trin.

Hiram: But don't tell Sosu Nick we're coming. Let that be our surprise.

Morry: Okay.

Morry pulls the wagon off down the hall, more or less in the direction of the old greenhouse.

Shorsh stirs a good dollop of honey into Hiram's mug and hands it to him.

Shorsh: I think it's a good sign that Nick is spending his free time with a group of our children, rather than off by himself. And presumably doing something for the benefit of the Householding.

Hiram: We haven't really had anyone overseeing the care of those plants since Mahmout retired. People water one if they happen to think about it. Nick really is good at spotting unfinished tasks, isn't he?

Shorsh: Yes, he is. And rather than just doing it himself this time, he's involving other members of the House. ~~ pleased ~~

Hiram: He does seem to be settling in nicely.

Hiram downs half the mug of trin.

Shorsh: It's very encouraging. And his transfer with D'zoll went so gratifyingly well. For both of them. ~~ very pleased ~~

Hiram: Yes. Is it too soon, do you think, to approach Nick about membership?

Shorsh ~~ savors ~~ the warmth and flavor of the trin.

Shorsh: I think so. Let's wait for him to express interest. I think he might take it as pressure if we approach him too soon. Let him relax with us more, feel more at home here.

Hiram: He certainly does seem to have some unusual techniques that the House could use. I wouldn't want to scare him off.

Shorsh smiles.

Hiram: Besides, I like him.

Shorsh: He still feels like he's here on sufferance, like we're a very critical panel of judges. He's more comfortable since the transfer went so well, but he's still not at ease.

Shorsh finishes his trin, takes Hiram's empty cup, washes them and puts them in the drainer.

Hiram: I shall have to make a point of complimenting him on the transfer, then.

Shorsh nods.

Hiram: Come on, Sosu, let's go find out what he's got the kids working on.

Shorsh: Sure.

Nick does not look anything at all like a respectable Tecton Donor at the moment, or indeed like a member of a dignified Householding like Sat'htine. He's dressed in disreputable old clothes, has even more dirt on them and on his face than Morry, and is supervising a dozen kids of various ages as they empty out pots that have been scavenged from all over the Householding's common buildings.

Nick: All right, that one can be replanted, but we have to trim the roots, first. No, Yorrik, that one's dead. Dump it out over there, and we'll find something else to put in it.

Yorrik: Sure, Sosu.

Nick: You can pick out what to put in it next. Maybe something that smells nice? Or some flowers?

Yorrik: Purple flowers. I like purple.

Nick: I think there's some over there.

Yorrik drags the wagon over to the growing pile of discarded plants.

Nick points to a bench along the back, which is covered with odds and ends of plants left over from the fall landscaping.

Nick: Maybe one of the cabbages?

Yorrik gives a mighty heave and dumps out the dead plant, then goes to inspect the selection of plants available.

Yorrik: I was thinking more maybe flowers.

Nick: I think the ones at the end have purple flowers.

Nick points to a half dozen somewhat scraggly thyme plants, left over from a replanting of the kitchen garden.

Yorrik: Ooooh, these are nice!

Nick: Yes, they smell good, don't they? You'll have to clean out the pot well, and put some of those rocks in the bottom, to let it drain.

Yorrik: What's this kind called?

Yorrik points to some orange marigolds.

Nick: They're marigolds. In Gen Territory, they're called Bachelor's Delight.

Yorrik: Think purple and orange would go good together?

Nick considers the state of the plants, and decides that the marigolds will be long dead by the time the thyme has established itself enough to bloom.

Nick: Sure.

Yorrik grins and sets to work.

Nick moves on to help another "volunteer" trim roots and repot a plant rescued from the cafeteria.

Shorsh doesn't get too wet on the way over to the greenhouse. It's not far, the rain is in a lull, and Hiram walks fast.

Hiram opens the greenhouse door and holds it for Shorsh.

Shorsh enters, and starts to wipe his feet before he thinks better of it.

Hiram notices the abortive move and smiles.

Shorsh: G'day, Nick. We met one of your crew, and he let us in on the secret, or some of it.

Hiram: But only enough to make us very curious.

Nick turns, startled, although he is far too well trained to let even his low (comparatively) field slap surrounding Simes with it.

Nick: Sectuib Hiram!

Nick is wondering, belatedly, whether he should have checked with someone before starting on such an ambitious project as repotting the most abused plants in the Householding's common rooms.

Hiram: You seem to have an excellent crew of young recruits here.

Nick: I found them staring out the window, wondering what to do, with their game rained out.

Hiram: So what's your game plan here?

Nick shrugs.

Nick: It's flexible. The grounds crew had some extra plants left over from fall plantings, and there were all those dead, dying, and unhealthy plants sitting around...

Nick: Spread the roots out before you put the dirt in, Ervin.

Hiram: We haven't had an indoor greenskeeper since last winter.

Nick: I'd figured something like that... All right, Yorrik, pat the dirt down, and give it some water.

Nick: These aren't exactly the usual sort of plants that are grown indoors, but they're alive and more or less healthy. They'll even stay that way for a while, if they get regular watering.

Hiram: Any thoughts on how to make sure that happens?

Hiram is as much curious about Nick's thought processes as about the practical problem.

Nick: I was hoping I could find a person who works near each area who'd be willing to take that on.

Hiram: That may take a lot of time and effort to organize.

Nick: Not as much as it may seem, from looking at this mess. Most areas have multiple pots, which cuts down on the number of volunteers required.

Nick is 75% related to one of the most successful charmers known since Ancient times, so he is ~~ confident ~~ that he can coax the necessary dozen or so caretakers to volunteer over the next two days.

Shorsh: Maybe some of these kids would like to adopt a few plants each.

Hiram: Just remember, Sosu, we value you too much as a Donor to let you change careers and become a groundskeeper. ~~ gently teasing ~~

Nick isn't quite sure how to take this admonishment.

Hiram: I've read D'zoll's report on your transfer with him, and I must say I'm impressed.

Nick: I know I don't use a standard Tecton approach...

Hiram raises an eyebrow.

Nick is a little ~~ concerned ~~ that some of the non-standard details will get back to his detractors in the Tecton.

Shorsh: We're used to doing things more flexibly here in the Householdings. Nothing you did was out of line for us.

Nick is ~~ relieved ~~.

Shorsh: And D'zoll certainly enjoyed your skill immensely.

Nick: I'm glad it didn't upset him.

Hiram: Sosu, if we'd wanted a Donor who'd been poured from a mold, we would have gotten the folks who make these flowerpots to send us one. We knew when we invited you here that you weren't just another standard Tecton TN-1.

Nick winces, well aware of what his Tecton record looks like.

Hiram sighs.

Hiram: Sosu...

Nick: Yes, Sectuib Hiram?

Hiram: That wasn't a complaint.

Nick relaxes his defensive posture, just a bit. He's well aware that his last Controller, before his reassignment to Sat'htine, wrote some very interesting warnings in his file, guaranteed to give any channel second thoughts about his reliability.

Nick, truth to tell, isn't completely sure that the complaints about his potential lack of reliability aren't justified, at least from the Tecton's point of view. He smiles weakly.

Nick: Oh.

Hiram: I was particularly intrigued by D'zoll's description of how you were able, on request, to stop manipulating his fields without disengaging from him.

Nick looks a little ~~ confused ~~.

Nick: That was a joke.

Shorsh: D'zoll got the joke, and enjoyed it, but was still impressed by the technique.

Hiram: It seems, Sosu, that no matter how unusual the request a channel throws at you, you're able to meet it. That's a kind of flexibility that's all too rare.

Nick was bred to be accommodating.

Nick: Well, sometimes. There have been other times when I go around in circles for a while trying to figure some basic technique out...

Hiram: I'm not troubled by that, Sosu. You're a quick learner.

Nick: One of these days, I'm going to stumble onto something I don't know at a time when there isn't time to learn it.

Nick is overlooking, for the moment, that his improvisations, while nonstandard, almost invariably work.

Shorsh: Then you'll have to rely on instinct. We all do. We wouldn't be Firsts if we didn't have instincts worth relying on.

Hiram: ~~ gently ~~ You're a worse perfectionist that I am, Sosu Nick.

Nick doesn't demand perfection of himself, as much as he's used to having it demanded of him, by mentally unstable Farris channels with uncertain tempers.

Hiram: You can be gentle with these children when they're not sure what to do. Try being equally gentle with yourself.

Nick: It's just that -- well, there was a fairly strong faction that wanted me sent to a correctional facility instead of to Sat'htine.

Shorsh snorts.

Hiram: In the Tecton, Sosu, there is a fairly strong faction that has its laterals up its ass.

Nick: Which I'm sure would have been a great comfort to know, if they'd had one more vote on the commission investigating events at the Snake River Dam.

Hiram: Then I am most grateful that they didn't.

Shorsh: Jaklin ambrov Imil sees you as [English] more sinned against than sinning.

Hiram: I will confess, Sosu, that Jaklin had to pretty much shove you up my sheaths to make me give you a chance. But now that I've had a chance to zlin you, I think sending you here was one of her more brilliant moves.

Nick: I'm glad of that.

Nick shoots a glance at Shorsh, to see if he agrees.

Shorsh smiles and nods encouragingly.

Nick is well aware that Simes, particularly channels with high enough ratings to make finding compatible Donors difficult, are not exactly rational and level-headed in his presence.

Hiram: What's the matter, Sosu? ~~ teasing ~~ You don't trust the judgment of a Sime in need?

Nick: About the location of the nearest selyn source? Always.

Nick displays the ~~ amusement ~~ of a Donor who has lived with channels for years.

Hiram: I enjoy your company even now, when you're almost as low-field as these kids. Doesn't that tell you something, Nick?

Nick: You've got a taste for Donors with strange hobbies?

Hiram: And stranger habits. ~~ dry ~~ I trust, Sosu, that you'll file all the appropriate paperwork regarding the disposition of these gardening supplies? And retroactively apply for permission for this little project?

Nick: Paperwork?

Nick gets that ~~ sinking ~~ sensation in his stomach that's brought on by forms, reports, and administrivia.

Hiram: Paperwork. You know, small white rectangles of bleached wood pulp? I'm sure you've seen them on occasion, if only from a distance.

Nick: Err, yes, I have.

Nick thinks about the still-unwritten report that D'zoll assured him could be left a few more days.

Hiram: Excellent. Then I'm sure I shan't have to mention such things again.

Nick hadn't thought that drafting a few idle kids on a rainy day to play with discarded plants would require such extensive documentation.

Shorsh: He's teasing you, Nick. Oblio marked all these plants as surplus, not being saved for anything. If it's okay with him, there's no problem.

Nick: Oh.

Nick finds Shorsh's comment ~~ reassuring ~~.

Hiram: About the plants, I don't really see a problem. But, Sosu, please try just a little harder to remember the paperwork.

Nick: Yes, Sectuib Hiram.

Hiram: On second thought... Don't try too hard, Sosu. You're too much of a perfectionist already. And if you spend all your time filling out forms, who's going to keep the kids out of mischief for us?

Nick chuckles.

Nick: I'm sure they'll find something to do when the weather clears up a bit.

Hiram: And so will you. Marsi tells me we can expect a much better crop from our fruit trees this year, thanks to you.

Nick: Well, if the weather cooperates. Pruning won't help if it rains at the wrong time.

Nick has the ~~ fatalistic ~~ attitude towards natural disasters of anyone who's worked in the agricultural industry.

Shorsh: And none of us can do anything about the weather. All we can do is wait and see. Or pray, like they do out-T.

Nick: For all the good that does them.

Hiram: Regardless of the crop, your efforts haven't gone unnoticed, Sosu. Or unappreciated.

Hiram hopes he's stricken the right balance between driving home his point about the paperwork, and giving Nick the reassurance he requires.

Nick: Thank you, Sectuib Hiram.

Hiram: The pleasure is mine, Sosu.

Nick: All right, Yorrik. That one's ready to take back, once you give it some water.

Shorsh: Let's get a bite to eat before we start the shift, Sectuib.

Hiram: An excellent suggestion, Sosu.

Shorsh winks at Nick, and shepherds Hiram out into the rain.

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