Healing Old Wounds, Finding New Hope: Episode 10

Nick is procrastinating on a bit of paperwork that isn't quite overdue yet, and which actually would have been completed, except that today's shift was enlivened by two extra therapy sessions, a changeover, and a heart attack. He's playing the law of averages in telling his conscience that he'll have time to finish the shenned paperwork tomorrow, while waiting for something exciting to happen.

Nick has had a project in mind for a while, and he has finally managed to lay claim to the necessary ingredients, some time to himself, and the kitchenette off the main conference room.

Nick starts a fire in the stove, finds an appropriately sturdy pan, and rummages in a drawer for a wooden spoon. He measures water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt into the pan, and sets it on the stove, stirring the mixture to dissolve the solids. He sets out a wooden board, a quantity of butter from the creamery, and several small bottles on the counter.

Shorsh hears somebody clattering around in the kitchenette and looks in to see what's up.

Nick is humming to himself, an out-Territory working song he learned during his decade of exile.

Shorsh: Hi, Nick.

Nick looks around.

Nick: Hello, Shorsh.

Nick looks a little ~~ guilty ~~, in the charming way that Riyyh's offspring manage it.

Nick: You've caught me playing hooky.

Shorsh: Another report due, eh?

Nick: Well, not until tomorrow night, actually.

Shorsh: Plenty of time then.

Shorsh winks.

Shorsh looks around curiously, wondering what Nick is up to.

Nick: Well, not if there's another afternoon like today, but I have it on good authority that it's statistically unlikely.

Nick goes back to stirring his mixture.

Shorsh: D'zoll likes doing changeovers, especially ones with psychological difficulties. He presented a paper on it last summer.

Nick: He should be working in a border Sime Center, then. He'd get plenty of data. This time, we were just called in because the kid was old for it.

Shorsh: He's more into changeovers in the disabled -- mentally retarded, deaf and so forth. What happened with this one?

Shorsh wonders if the child was panicked that he would die due to his advanced age.

Nick: It went pretty well, although for an hour or so, we were wondering if his development had stalled.

Shorsh: What stage?

Nick stokes the fire again, trying for a hotter stove.

Nick: Third.

Shorsh still can't figure out what the thick clear fluid Nick is stirring is.

Shorsh: Difficult to get a grip on a child's nager that early.

Nick smiles as the mixture starts to bubble, then carefully attaches a thermometer to the side of the pan.

Shorsh doesn't bother to mention that a Farris channel is really handy to have around in a case like that.

Nick: Yes. D'zoll managed quite well, though, and he was able to get the boy not to fight him, despite his discomfort.

Shorsh: He's good. He's very good. He can really communicate emotions non-nagerically in cases like that.

Nick: Yes. And he's not bad at communicating verbally, either, which isn't always the case in a channel.

Shorsh: Nick...

Nick: Yes?

Shorsh: What are you making here?

Nick smiles ~~ sheepishly ~~.

Nick: I got a hankering for taffy, the way I learned to make it when I was in Gen Territory. I thought if I could remember just how to do it, I could show the kids some time.

Shorsh: Taffy... that's some kind of candy, isn't it?

Nick: Yes, it's a candy that's particularly messy to make, which is why kids have so much fun with it.

Shorsh is ~~ pleased ~~ that Nick continues to show interest in the children of Sat'htine.

Nick is naturally a sociable sort, and he is still feeling the outsider among the adults of Sat'htine, which leaves the kids. He's also hoping that if he keeps up with the kids, he'll be better able to supervise the ones who volunteered to look after his repotted shrubbery.

Shorsh: So. You make a thick syrup...

Nick: Yes. It's water, sugar, corn syrup, a little salt, and a bit of butter to keep it from foaming too much. You heat it gradually until it forms a little hard drop in cold water.

Nick tests a droplet.

Nick: Not quite ready yet. Could I get you to put another log in the stove? I don't want to stop stirring.

Shorsh: Sure.

Shorsh fetches a chunk and tosses it in the firebox.

Nick looks at the thermometer.

Nick: That's better. Want to butter the board?

Nick nods towards the cutting board on the counter.

Shorsh looks at the board, looks at his hands and goes to the sink to wash first.

Shorsh: How thick do I smear it on?

Nick: Give it a good greasing. The candy'll soak it right up.

Shorsh: Okay.

Nick tests the mixture again.

Nick: It's getting there.

Shorsh complies, and resists licking his fingers.

Nick: Oh, don't clean your hands when you're done. You'll want that butter.

Nick makes one more test.

Nick: There. That's it. Give me a bit of space, please: this is very hot.

Nick picks up the bubbling pot and moves towards the greased board.

Shorsh backs off.

Nick pours the viscous mixture onto the board, and starts working it with the spoon.

Nick: Have you got a favorite flavor?

Nick indicates the row of bottles, which contain various essential oils.

Shorsh examines the collection.

Shorsh: Quite an assortment you've got here... lemon, orange, cinnamon... Ah, peppermint! How about that? Or maybe sassafras.

Nick: Sure. Want to take over the stirring for a moment?

Nick hands Shorsh the wooden spoon.

Shorsh awkwardly tries to stir the stuff the same way Nick was. It's getting thicker as it cools.

Nick puts a careful five drops of sassafras oil on the candy.

Nick: There. Work that in well, while I butter my hands.

Shorsh complies.

Nick: It looks about ready to pull.

Nick reaches out to touch the hot mixture.

Shorsh doesn't tell Nick to be careful or try to stop him from burning himself. He figures that Simes and Gens alike either know what they are doing or will learn from experience. Or they can ask if they want advice.

Nick: Yes, that'll work. Put the spoon down; it's time for fingers.

Nick deftly balls the mess, then stretches it. He hands Shorsh one end of the lump.

Shorsh takes it.

Shorsh: Now what?

Nick: Now, we stretch it out as much as we conveniently can...

Nick demonstrates.

Nick: Then fold it like this, and do it again. Butter your hands again if you want -- it'll keep them from actually burning. Much.

Nick is handling his half of the taffy with the deftness of someone juggling a hot potato.

Shorsh butters his hands and gets into the rhythm of stretch, fold and pull.

Shorsh: I can see why kids like this.

Nick: Yes, it's a perfect excuse to put greasy fingerprints all over the kitchen.

Shorsh laughs.

Shorsh: I bet D'zoll would like it too.

Nick frees a hand long enough to grab another handsmear of butter.

Shorsh's hands are not as tough as Nick's, but the heat doesn't bother him too much. His hands are getting pretty hot and red, though.

D'zoll sticks his Farris nose into the kitchenette to see what accounts for the luscious smell combined with the luscious selyn field.

D'zoll: Oho. And what have we here?

Nick throws a somewhat lopsided grin in D'zoll's direction.

Nick: Two Donors making a mess?

Shorsh waves a greasy hand.

D'zoll: So it looks. But I zlin you're having a blast with that, er, that stuff. Is this a private struggle, or can anyone join in?

Shorsh: It's a Gen thing... ~~ teasing ~~

D'zoll looks taken aback.

D'zoll: Oh. In that case ...

D'zoll turns to go.

Nick: Now, now, Shorsh, I thought the Householdings were supposed to encourage cross-larity training?

D'zoll: Don't you think that after a month in the pigshit I qualify?

Shorsh: Well, since you've demonstrated your ability to go native out-T...

Nick: Butter up well, and start pulling, D'zoll!

Shorsh: [whining] But he might hurt his poor little Sime tentacles! ~~ teasing even more ~~~

D'zoll finally loses it and laughs his head off.

Shorsh offers his end of the taffy to D'zoll.

D'zoll: Okay. Like this?

D'zoll butters his hands and takes the proffered taffy and pulls. The taffy promptly snaps.

D'zoll: Oops. I gather there's more to this than meets the eye.

Nick: It's getting cooler. Ball it up again, and pull slower, this time.

Nick demonstrates.

D'zoll: Ah, I see.

D'zoll zlins Nick's actions and tries not to get lost in his attractive though still low-field nager.

Nick: It's like kneading bread, in a way: you're building up a structure as you pull.

Shorsh refrains from wiping his greasy hands on his clothes or anything else.

D'zoll: Yes, I see. Or I think I do.

Nick: It's almost ready -- see how stiff it's getting?

D'zoll works on pulling another piece all by himself, with more acceptable results.

D'zoll: Hey, this is fun.

Nick: It's one of the more effective way to keep a bunch of kids occupied on a rainy day.

Shorsh: Or a few high order selyn workers. ~~ amused ~~

Nick chuckles.

Nick: Well, we're young at heart, right?

D'zoll: It's all that unquenchable Gen optimism that I'm living on for the next two weeks.

Shorsh: I think Nick will let you eat a little taffy too, right, Nick? ~~ still teasing ~~

Nick: Sure. He's not allergic to sassafras.

D'zoll: I don't think a few pieces will rot my teeth, will they? I eat pretty well.

Nick: Go ahead. Let's sample the fruit of our indulgence.

Nick breaks off a small lump and pops it into his mouth.

D'zoll zlins Nick again.

Shorsh tries a bit too. Saliva fills his mouth and his molars stick together. ~~ delicious ~~ sticky ~~

D'zoll zlins Shorsh instead.

Nick sucks, careful not to chew. He ~~ savors ~~ the flavor.

Shorsh: [muffled] Go ahead, D'zoll.

Nick: Hmm, not bad. The sassafras is good; I usually do peppermint or orange.

Nick's pronunciation is slurred.

D'zoll Sime-daintily takes a piece and starts chewing on it.

D'zoll: Hey, this is good.

Nick: Let's get the rest cut into reasonable pieces before it hardens too much.

D'zoll: Or as they don't quite say in Dar, "It's about chewing", er what is this stuff called again?

Shorsh: Taffy, D'zoll.

D'zoll: "Taffy". Well, as they don't quite say in Dar, "It's about chewing taffy and knowing yourself that it's sweet and sticky."

D'zoll smiles broadly.

D'zoll: I think I'll have another.

Nick chuckles.

D'zoll takes another and begins trying to break the hardened pieces into smaller pieces.

Nick: It is addictive, isn't it?

Shorsh: [nasal whine] Now don't spoil your appetite, young Sime!

Shorsh pops another piece into his own mouth.

Nick: Hey, between us, we can make him eat his dinner, even if he has no appetite at all.

Shorsh: There is that. He's taffy in our fields.

Nick: It comes with being a Giant Killer Gen. ~~ overdone modesty ~~

D'zoll puts his fists into a boxing position.

D'zoll: Giant Killer Gens, huh? Bring 'em on, bring 'em on.

D'zoll looks around the kitchenette.

D'zoll: [mutters] Now where did I put the whip?

Shorsh laughs.

Shorsh: You know, Nick, next time we do this, let's fill a basin with hot soapy water before we butter our hands.

Nick: I knew there was something I was forgetting...

Nick: Hmm, if I give the cleaning crew a sample, do you think they'll forgive me?

D'zoll: Definitely. Save some for Usla; she's got more sweet teeth -- sweet tooths? -- than any Sime.

Shorsh: Hm. Does our Sime have any clean tentacles? We could make him do it. ~~ affectionate teasing ~~

Nick: Aha! I knew there was a reason to keep a Sime around. Even if he did just swipe a third piece.

D'zoll: I admit nothing.

D'zoll swipes a fourth piece for good measure. He's getting slightly tanked on all the sugar.

D'zoll: One basin of hot soapy water coming up.

D'zoll pokes about the cabinets till he finds a basin, fills it with water and adds soap. He carries it to the table using his remaining non-greasy tentacles.

D'zoll: There you are.

Shorsh: Thank you.

Nick: Ah, thanks. Before we use it, though, we should package the ill-gained fruits of our misadventure.

D'zoll: Should I break up the rest of this?

Nick: Please. I've got a tin or two around here, somewhere.

D'zoll works like a Sime to break up all the taffy and makes short work of it.

D'zoll: Over to you, Nick.

D'zoll grabs first dibs at the basin and cleans himself up.

Nick produces a battered tin that says "gauze" and another marked "liniment".

Nick: This is a critical step in the process -- the disguise.

D'zoll: Oho. Let's hope no one cuts themselves or pulls a muscle, then.

Nick: If they did, don't you think a piece of taffy would set them right as fast as anything?

Nick carefully stacks candy pieces in the tins.

D'zoll snarfs the fifth, sixth, and seventh pieces, but hey, who's counting?

Shorsh washes his hands ~~ gratefully ~~. For someone who stayed calm about living in Gegg's barn for a month, he's a somewhat fastidious person.

D'zoll: One piece, maybe. A whole tin? It'd be a medical disaster.

D'zoll starts on his eighth piece.

D'zoll: [slightly slurred] Say Nick, you know the one about the junct and the pet Gen?

Nick prudently closes the tins on the rest of the taffy.

Nick: The junct and the pet Gen?

Nick's nager ~~ inquires ~~.

Shorsh puts the pot in the sink and fills it with water. He has heard this joke before.

D'zoll: It goes like this:

D'zoll eats the ninth piece, which distorts his diction still further.

D'zoll pulls himself straight and puts on a menacing face.

D'zoll: Junct: "The whip."

D'zoll cringes and switches to fear and humiliation.

D'zoll: Pet Gen: "No, no, Tuib! Not the whip!"

D'zoll alternates expressions.

D'zoll: Junct: "The -- whip."

D'zoll: Pet Gen: "No, no! Anything but the whip!"

Nick reflects that D'zoll's not a bad actor, in a slapstick sort of way.

D'zoll's eyes get very large and his face very set in overwhelming Sime greed.

D'zoll: Junct: "AN-Y-THING???"

D'zoll: Pet Gen: "The whip, Tuib, the whip!"

D'zoll switches from Pet Gen to a fit of giggles.

Nick: Tut, tut.

Shorsh rolls his eyes.

D'zoll does a Petunia. He rewards himself for the success (?) of this old stinker by opening the tin and eating a tenth piece. He hastily closes the tin again.

D'zoll fortunately remembers who Nick is in time to prevent himself from telling the joke about Sectuib Arat and the woods.

Nick: Shorsh, I think he's taking this experiment in out-Territory Gen culture a bit too much to heart, don't you?

D'zoll: Um, ah, well, um....

Nick: Maybe we should move on to the traditional pillow fight?

D'zoll: Well, okay. What gets put in the pillows?

Shorsh puts the board in the sink and wipes the counter with a soapy cloth.

D'zoll: Because I warn you, if you put rocks in yours, I'm putting nails in mine.

D'zoll giggles again.

Shorsh: Maybe we should give him some trin to cool him out a little. I could use a cup myself.

Nick: Good idea. Until the rain stops, there's no point in sending him out to jog.

D'zoll: [grandly] Trin? Bah. That's not out-T.

D'zoll attempts to make a complex gesture expressing high-falutin rejection and tangles his tentacles instead.

D'zoll: Oopsie.

D'zoll zlins his left arm.

Nick sets the candy tins up out of convenient reach, hands Shorsh the teakettle to fill, and starts looking through the cabinets for trin and fixin's.

D'zoll: Outer left dorsal, inner left dorsal, outer left ventral, inner left ventral ...

Nick: Or, wait -- if he's insisting on something out-Territory, I do believe there's a bit of coffee here. Wherever did that come from, I wonder?

Shorsh: Do you want to speed him up? ~~ incredulous ~~

Shorsh fills the kettle and puts it on the stove. He mends the fire and adds more wood.

D'zoll is distracted from his tentacles by this remark.

D'zoll: No, no, trin is fine, trin is fine, fin is trine.

Nick: Good point. There's some chamomile, here.

Shorsh wonders if the Gens should have coffee to help them keep up with D'zoll.

D'zoll: Ah, chamomile. Fine stuff, fine stuff.

D'zoll gets serious for a moment.

D'zoll: Yes, I think that would be a good idea.

Nick: You're not on duty tonight, are you?

Nick has some experience in dealing with the effects of various recreational substances on channels, and he starts some subtle nageric sobering up on D'zoll.

D'zoll: No. Fortunately. No. I have a meeting, but I can blow that off. It's the Ethics Committee, is all.

D'zoll begins to mutter variants of "Ethics Committee" to himself.

Shorsh has never seen D'zoll get hyped on sugar before. He wonders if he's done it before, or is surprised by the effects.

Nick raises a questioning eyebrow at Shorsh: he isn't yet familiar enough with Sat'htine's political structure to know if D'zoll really can skip the meeting.

Shorsh shrugs. It's D'zoll's problem. He's an adult, and responsible for his own actions.

D'zoll starts to walk in circles around the stool in the kitchen.

Nick does feel a bit ~~ responsible ~~, and he's much more used to situations where there's only one channel around, who has to be kept in at least marginally functional condition.

D'zoll approaches the barstool more closely and falls to his knees, clutching the stool, which is rather tall.

D'zoll: Nick. Support. Shorsh. Get a channel. Insulin reaction.

Nick: Shen.

D'zoll lets go of the stool and falls over.

Nick's nager reaches out to engage D'zoll's firmly.

Shorsh: Shidoni. Nick, get him to vomit if you can. There's plenty of soapy water. I'll see who I can find. ~~ disgust ~~

Shorsh takes off at a fast trot.

Nick has actually had to deal with this sort of thing a time or two: Snake had a sweet tooth, too.

D'zoll clenches his teeth.

Nick doesn't bother with the soapy water -- he can't be sure the soap is Farris-safe -- so he just grabs the garbage can, thrusts it under D'zoll's face, and projects ~~ intense nausea ~~.

D'zoll forces himself hypo.

D'zoll: No. Too late for that.

Nick's field relevels D'zoll, bringing him duo, with ~~ support ~~ this time.

D'zoll: Aahhh. M'blood sugar peaked, then dropped suddenly. Mustabeen the sassafras po-po-potentiating the sugar.

Nick: Just let me work on you a moment.

D'zoll relinquishes to Nick.

Nick has more experience getting Farris channels through bad recreational drug reactions than most Farris-trained Donors, and it shows in his expertise.

Nick: Come on, stay with me. It'll pass.

D'zoll: Yeah.

Rimona leaps into the kitchen in high augmentation and drops to normal as she zlins the absence of a dire emergency.

Rimona: D'zoll!

D'zoll: Sorry, Rimona. Got stupid.

Rimona kneels next to him and signals to Nick to let her take over. She grasps him in a lateral contact and zlins him thoroughly.

Nick switches smoothly from ~~ supporting ~~ D'zoll directly, to ~~ supporting ~~ Rimona as she works on D'zoll. He also has plenty of experience helping channels combat the effects of recreational drug use.

Rimona: Well, you're coming out of it now. Thank you, Sosu Nick.

D'zoll: Yeah. I ate all this sugar and then, well, got an insulin reaction. Never had one before, but unmistakable.

Rimona releases D'zoll and sits back on her heels. She gives him a Look that makes Toria look like an amateur.

D'zoll: I sent Shorsh for you in case it got worse. At least I did that.

Nick: It was taffy, Rimona. He'd never had any before... I should have cut him off sooner.

Rimona shakes her head.

D'zoll: Sassafras oil in it. I think it was a, what d'you call it, effect.

Nick is feeling ~~ bad ~~ that what was intended as a fun activity went so wrong.

D'zoll: Syn-er-gist-ic.

Rimona signals to Nick to resume support of D'zoll, with a few tips on how best to do it.

D'zoll wraps his arms around his head to fend off the Look.

Rimona relents and smiles slightly.

Nick smoothly takes over D'zoll's field, modifying as instructed.

D'zoll: Nick. Not your fault. You had no reason to expect a problem. Even if y'r channel was being an idiot.

Rimona: Well, you'll know better next time, won't you, D'zoll.

D'zoll: ~~ contrite ~~ Yes, Hajene. I will.

Rimona pats him on the shoulder and zlins what Nick is doing.

D'zoll unwraps his head and twists it around to look at Nick.

D'zoll: Nick?

Nick: Yes?

D'zoll: Sorry. Forgive me for being stupid?

Nick sighs.

Nick: I suppose anyone can be forgiven for pigging out on taffy. I believe that's why it's traditionally made with a mob of children around -- the spoil gets distributed more or less evenly, and no one child gets enough to be sick. Well, usually.

Nick turns to Rimona.

Nick: Hajene, would you like to sample a piece? Purely in the interests of spreading the risk enough to make it negligible?

Rimona smiles.

Rimona: Yes, please.

D'zoll: Betcha can't eat just one. But ten is definitely a bad idea.

Rimona rolls her eyes. She's Shorsh's great-aunt.

Nick gets up -- managing not to disrupt his support of D'zoll -- and lifts down the tin labeled "liniment". He opens it and offers the delectable loot inside.

Rimona takes a small piece with a tentacle tip and pops it in her mouth. She ~~ savors ~~ it.

D'zoll: [brightly] Good, isn't it.

Rimona: Yes. It is. Thank you, Nick. Please put it away before I succumb to temptation like this foolish boy.

D'zoll winces.

Nick puts the lid back on, wincing in unison with D'zoll.

D'zoll: I'll add it to my file: no sassassafras candy for foolish D'zoll.

Rimona: I'm pleased to meet you, Nick. I've heard good things about your nager and your talents, and they appear not to be exaggerated.

Rimona stands a bit stiffly and offers her tentacles to brush.

Nick: I've got a lot of talents, it seems, not least of which is the ability to generate trouble.

Nick brushes his fingertips across the offered tentacles.

D'zoll holds onto the stool and attempts to pull himself up while his Donor is distracted.

Rimona: You're D'zoll's Companion, not his mother... lie back down, D'zoll!

D'zoll lies down; he should have known better.

D'zoll: You're not my mother either, Rimona, just my fourth cousin twice removed.

Rimona: A bit closer than that on your mother's side.

D'zoll gestures "Fine, fine".

Nick reflects that at least his genealogy is simpler, although his relatives are legion.

Rimona: I've got to get back. Make him stay horizontal until he can stand without staggering, then get him to take it easy for the next few hours.

Rimona eyes D'zoll thoughtfully.

Rimona: You've spoiled your Donor's evening off. Can I trust you to take it easy without him babysitting you?

D'zoll: Yes, Hajene. ~~ sincere ~~

Rimona: Good. Nick, help him home once he can walk easily, and then you can leave him.

Nick: Yes, Hajene.

Rimona's eyes narrow as she zlins Nick.

Nick ~~ quails ~~ under Rimona's glare.

Rimona: You did well, Nick. I look forward to interacting with you nagerically more intensively some time in the future.

Nick: Just not in the kitchen?

Rimona: Who knows? Maybe in the transfer suite.

Rimona smiles and strokes Nick's forearm gently with a tentacle.

D'zoll smiles too.

Rimona: Well, I'm off. Good evening.

Rimona goes, at a fast clip for an old lady who isn't augmenting.

Nick turns to D'zoll when Rimona is out of hearing range.

D'zoll: Don't worry, Nick. She's really very sweet most of the time.

Nick gives a ~~ fatalistic ~~ shrug.

Nick: We've got some time to while away. Did you learn any songs while you were out-Territory?

D'zoll clutches his forehead.

D'zoll: At the moment I can't remember, Nick. Sorry again.

Nick: Head ache?

D'zoll: N-no. Just annoyed with myself.

Nick: Sorry. Nothing I can do about that, at least not ethically.

D'zoll sighs.

D'zoll: Nope.

Nick: And if you're going to skip the ethics committee meeting, you can't vote yourself an exception.

D'zoll smiles instead of giggling this time.

D'zoll: I think I will beg off. If you give me a hand, I think I can stand now.

D'zoll doesn't sound too sure, though.

Nick refrains from offering the requested hand.

Nick: There's no hurry. Give it a few more minutes.

D'zoll: Okay.

D'zoll wriggles about a bit in a mostly futile effort to make himself more comfortable.

Nick: In the mean time, maybe you can explain just what an Impact Statement is, and why they want me to write one? ~~ plaintive ~~

D'zoll: Simple. Just a list of expected cons-consequences of what you plan to do, and risks, and what you can do to reduce 'em. No problem. But I think I better show you tomorrow, if you don't mind.

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