Healing Old Wounds, Finding New Hope: Episode 6

Shorsh draws the buggy to a halt in a lakeshore picnic area below a gentle slope covered with nut and fruit trees and a small vineyard.

Shorsh: I thought we might have lunch here, Nick.

Nick looks around with ~~ approval ~~

Nick: It's a very nice spot.

Shorsh: The Householding bought it shortly after Unity.

Nick: Who owned it before then?

Shorsh: A junct. He sold it to us and moved into town. Well, a semi-junct by then. We planted the orchard and vineyard. It's a good spot for it -- good air drainage for disease and frost protection.

Nick: Yes, it is.

Shorsh: He had it in maize and it was pretty badly eroded.

Nick: How did you rebuild the soil, before you planted?

Shorsh gets down and starts to unharness the horse.

Nick gets down as well, and companionably (Companionably?) starts to work on the other side of the horse.

Shorsh: Got the Simes out here to fill in the gullies, and put it into sod and clover. Limed it first.

Nick: So you started with hay? Or livestock?

Nick fetches a halter from the buggy, and slips it onto the horse's head in lieu of the bridle.

Shorsh: We pastured some of the young horses and cattle here, but mostly let it grow, to build up organic matter. We've put beehives on it too, to make clover honey.

Nick: It's recovered well.

Shorsh: It has. Thirty five years, now.

Shorsh smiles.

Shorsh: I've seen the whole process, from just before I established.

Nick stacks the harness neatly by the buggy, as the elderly horse wanders off to graze.

Nick: Then it's probably time to start thinking about what to replant, in another five years or so.

Shorsh: Oh, we've replanted the vineyard once already. It's mostly grapes for eating and juice and jam now. We don't have the climate for good wine, but we do make a few dozen barrels of mediocre reds.

Shorsh gestures.

Shorsh: And where those apples and pears are now was where we had the stone fruits at first. It took a few tries to find disease-resistant cultivars. We'll probably replace those peaches and apricots with pecans and walnuts, eventually.

Nick: It can be difficult to replant something else, after walnuts.

Nick gets out the picnic basket and a blanket, and starts strolling towards a pleasant spot under a tree.

Shorsh: There is that. But walnuts last a long time, and the wood is valuable. The crop is valuable too, but we mostly eat it ourselves.

Shorsh gets a few more items out and follows.

Shorsh: Most of the younger people learned to swim in the lake here. It's very pleasant in summer.

Shorsh helps spread the blanket and stretches out comfortably on it.

Shorsh: Probably the last nice day we'll have this fall.

Nick: Well, winter has a charm of its own. Although it can be hard to see, when you're wading through snowdrifts in search of your next client...

Shorsh laughs.

Shorsh: Well, it'll be a good bit easier here. Our clients usually come to us, and the snow here never gets very deep.

Nick: It's an interesting change, having the clients come in, rather than chasing them. Even at the Dam, the channels visited the various shantytowns, rather then having the entire mob converge at the main administrative center. Given how dangerous some of the trails were, especially in bad weather, that probably saved us a lot of injuries.

Shorsh shakes his head.

Shorsh: I think I'm getting too old and soft for that sort of thing. Even sleeping in a barn for a month was more than I wanted to keep on with. I prefer the technical challenges to physical ones, these days.

Nick: Well, with only one patient to look after -- how did you keep D'zoll from going crazy with entran?

Shorsh: Hm. Well, we went to the nearest Sime Center every week, so D'zoll could put in a shift taking donations, albeit not a very busy shift. And we did quite a lot of outfunctions. And...

Shorsh laughs again.

Shorsh: I drummed up some business for him.

Shorsh smiles at Nick.

Shorsh: Recruiting in bars... corrupting the young....

Nick: Tut, tut. What did you think you were? A rogue?

Nick chuckles.

Shorsh chuckles with him.

Nick: Giving the Tecton a bad name... How did the youngsters' parents take it?

Shorsh: Well, I did have to talk a few of them down, but of course anyone who's worked as a Companion to Farrises gets a fair bit of practice at that.

Nick: True. Although D'zoll and Hiram are amazingly stable.

Shorsh: I think you'll find most of our other Farris channels are more or less as stable as those two.

Nick: How does Sat'htine manage that?

Shorsh: Our children have a secure home, reliable adults to help them, and are encouraged to develop their abilities.

Nick: Zeor does that, too -- or so they say.

Shorsh: We don't demand excellence, just the best possible for that person. A far more achievable goal, wouldn't you say?

Nick: Yes. Or at least, a more livable one.

Shorsh: Children need to succeed, and know that they've succeeded. So does everyone else, at least sometimes.

Shorsh turns toward Nick.

Shorsh: As for our channels, and our Companions, they've been living with other channels and Companions since birth. They always have someone to talk to about their problems, someone who has had the same problems themselves. Someone who understands them and is on their side.

Nick: A family. Or at least, what a family is supposed to be.

Nick's own family, both halves of it, are somewhat dysfunctional.

Shorsh: Much more than a family. There are plenty of parents here who are not very good at parenting, but the child always has someone to trust and rely on. As do the adults.

Shorsh looks down.

Shorsh: It must be hellish for a Farris channel without that.

Nick: It certainly makes life... interesting.

Shorsh: It's a pity Arat didn't look to us when Zeor rejected him. We might have been able to help him, when he was young.

Nick: Arat would never have settled for any Householding but the one reputed to be the "best".

Shorsh smiles wryly.

Nick: Zeor, of course, wanted nothing to do with him.

Shorsh: That's the greatest Farris fault. We can teach our Farrises to deal with the tendency to perfectionism, so it's an encouragement and not an obsession.

Nick: Truth to tell, I don't think Arat would have been any happier in Zeor than they would have been to have him. Too many channels around who are better than he could ever be, after he spent so much of his First Year disjuncting.

Shorsh: I suspect you're right, although he would have gotten good transfers.

Nick: He might have. Although a lot of his trouble by the time I met him, I'm told, is that he'd managed to alienate every compatible Donor in the District.

Shorsh: People have to learn to get along with other people, whether they are Farris channels or renSimes or general class donors. It's the most important thing a person has to learn, to have a good life.

Nick finishes a sandwich and reaches for an apple.

Nick: It certainly helps, although my father takes it to the other extreme.

Shorsh: Everything in moderation, nothing in excess. It was a saying of the Ancients, and it's still true.

Nick: For most aspects of life, yes. Although it's only ethical to give more than a moderate effort, when there are lives at stake.

Nick has probably seen more such situations than Shorsh, despite his shorter career.

Shorsh: Of course. Moderation in moderation!

Nick chuckles.

Shorsh: It's a proverb against obsession. Obsessed people may have done wonderful things in history, but it's usually at the cost of a satisfactory life.

Nick: Perhaps that's because contented people are rarely inclined to change things?

Shorsh: Most of us won't change the world in any great way even if we obsessively devote our lives to it, so we might as well have full lives and moderate ambitions. We can still do a great deal of good.

Nick: What about that tradition, that every Farris makes headlines at least once?

Shorsh: They haven't got me yet! Well, I did win a ribbon in the sack race when I was eight years natal, now that I think of it.

Nick: Aha! You spent your potential in childhood!

Shorsh: Alas! It's just hard slogging, all downhill from then.

Nick: Maybe you could take up the egg toss?

Shorsh: You've got an idea there, Nick. I'll give it careful consideration.

Shorsh takes out a bottle of Sat'htine's vin extremely ordinaire, opens it and pours two small glasses. He hands one to Nick.

Nick takes the glass, and swirls, sniffs, and sips with professional economy.

Shorsh: The Householding plonk, long may it age.

Nick chuckles.

Nick: It's easy to see that this was never made by a House obsessed with excellence.

Nick doesn't sound disapproving, however.

Shorsh sips, swirls and sips.

Shorsh: It's best sweetened, spiced and drunk hot before a fire on a cold winter day, to tell you the truth.

Shorsh sips again.

Shorsh: It's a reasonable cooking wine, and makes good vinegar.

Nick: Truth to tell, I don't taste much aging potential, here.

Nick takes another sip to be sure.

Shorsh: Just as well we're mainly growing table and juice grapes these days.

Nick: Yes. The climate here isn't right for good wines, but the jams I've had so far have been very good.

Shorsh: If you're still with us at Year's Turning, you'll see what a nice punch it makes. Im'cholee traditionally sends us a few crates of citrus for it.

Nick sobers at the thought that he might be gone by Year's Turning -- to another post, or even to jail.

Nick: Citrus, vin ordinaire -- I hope I'll be able to sample it.

Shorsh: I hope so too, Nick. You've made yourself very welcome here.

Nick: It's been a nice change.

Shorsh: I don't see any reason for you to leave us, unless you want to.

Shorsh is being careful not to push on the issue of membership, but he hates to see Nick consider what the Tecton might do to him next.

Nick: I've got enemies, in the Tecton. Some I inherited from Snake and Arat, and some... well, rogue Donors are suspect by definition. Some of them might not be content to let me stay here as Sectuib Hiram's problem. It's too much like rewarding a criminal.

Shorsh: It's up to us, not them, whether you stay here, if push comes to shove.

Nick: It might.

Nick feels it's only fair to offer fair warning, and Shorsh is more likely to take heed than any channel.

Shorsh: I'd hate to be subject to some of the Tecton bureaucrats I've met. But I've got the Householding, and my Sectuib, to defend me. They could push me around, but they can't push Sat'htine around.

Nick: You aren't technically a criminal. Or perhaps nontechnically, depending on whom you ask.

Shorsh: Nick, I was a child before Unity, but I still remember what the world was like then. And I lived through the early desperate, ruthless days of Unity as a working Companion. What you've done or were associated with doing is nothing to what I saw then. Or what the Tecton did then.

Shorsh touches Nick's shoulder.

Shorsh: Had you and Snake done what you did forty years earlier, you would have been heroes to the Tecton, not criminals. Forty years is living memory for a great many people, Nick.

Nick: I haven't noticed that their own collective guilt makes them any more forgiving of mine.

Shorsh makes a dismissive gesture.

Shorsh: Jaklin remembers. So does Hiram.

Nick: Many channels and Donors I've met would much prefer to forget. And perhaps that's for the best, if the Tecton is to outgrow its beginnings and become a lasting hope for humanity.

Shorsh: Not if forgetting lets it become a machine that grinds everything down to fit.

Shorsh sighs.

Shorsh: The Householdings were the conscience of Nivet. Now they should be the conscience of the Tecton.

Nick: The Tecton is still young enough to resent its conscience.

Shorsh: We know what Nivet did to silence its conscience for centuries. Let's make sure the Tecton doesn't do the same.

Shorsh pours more wine.

Nick: Indeed. Because if the Tecton truly loses its conscience, it won't be able to keep its hold on its composite Sime Territories, much less the vital alliance with New Washington.

Shorsh: I'm not so sure of that Nick. Without a conscience, there's more to put on the negotiating table, less to defend and protect.

Nick: You're forgetting: as long as the Simes don't raid, Gen Territory can manage just fine without the Tecton.

Shorsh: Indeed. And it's easier to keep a tight hold if you don't care who you choke.

Nick: True... but it's hard to keep such measures a secret for long. And even if the only ones being choked are the Tecton's own employees, the fact that the choking exists at all raises suspicions. Especially among the less well-to-do, who have direct experience through their own bosses. A Tecton that can be seen to be more of the same, is not going to pull in the necessary donations.

Nick: It doesn't take much -- they're inclined to be skeptical of any deal that seems to be "too good to be true", and getting a donation payment for essentially nothing certainly qualifies.

Shorsh: I can't see the Gens of Nivet boycotting the Tecton in defense of a few ill-treated selyn workers. They know the Simes need the selyn, and how else can they give their selyn to those they care about except through the Tecton? No one wants to see a time when renSimes face the choice between attrition and the Kill again, Sime or Gen. And most Gens depend on their donation payments, and few want to go around high field all the time, much less during a "kill shortage".

Nick: The Gens of Nivet aren't enough. Not yet, at least in many places.

Shorsh: I suspect many out-T Gens who donate depend on the income as well. Their motives are not purely altruistic by any means, not for most of them.

Shorsh: Nick, as long as the renSimes are served and the Gens are paid, nobody is going to disrupt things just because a few people like you are being ground in the gears.

Nick: I know. Which makes the prospect all the more attractive, to those who feel that rogues should be punished, not rewarded with high-status employment.

Nick stands, brushing the crumbs from his hands.

Shorsh: Nick, Sat'htine isn't paradise, but it can defend you. It can give you a lot of what you want -- interesting work, channels you can learn to know well, people who will respect you for yourself and your talents.

Shorsh also stands.

Shorsh: Think about what's important to you and what your choices are. We don't want to push you into a decision, but think about it.

Nick: I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to another channel, but thank you.

Shorsh nods, aware that there's not much he can say that will help his case. He hopes Nick will bear their discussion in mind.

Shorsh: I'll catch the horse.

Nick reaches into his pocket for a carrot stick he saved from the lunch.

Nick: Here, this may help.

Shorsh: Thanks.

Shorsh takes the carrot stick, picks up the apple cores, and heads toward the lakeshore where the horse is grazing.

Nick sets about folding the blanket.

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