How The Other Half Lives: Episode 4

Rimona is lying on the sofa in her office in the obstetrics and gynecology wing of Sat'htine's hospital complex. She's just finished attending a very difficult delivery. It looked for a while like they might lose both mother and infant, but both survived, although not in the best condition.

Rimona handles only problem pregnancies and obstetric complications and emergencies, so this isn't unusual. Indeed, it's better than many. Her Companion is exhausted from assisting her in hours of attending a Gen in severe pain, so she's sent her off to rest. Fortunately, she'd asked Nick to turn up a half hour early for her collectorium shift. He can show her his skills by working on her.

Nick has not been over to the obstetrics wing before, but fortunately, he gave himself an extra five minutes to get lost. He would have required ten, but he interrogated a kid halfway across the courtyard.

Nick doesn't want to be late: his one previous encounter with Hajene Rimona was during the disastrous taffy-pulling incident.

Nick locates what ought to be the right door, double-checks the name on it, and ~~ signals ~~. He's not technically on duty for another half hour, so he doesn't exercise an on-duty Donor's right to enter a channel's office unannounced.

Rimona: Please come in, Nick!

Nick opens the door and steps through.

Rimona raises her head and a hand to acknowledge his arrival.

Nick: I'm here almost as early as requested, Hajene.

Rimona: I'm sure this place still seems like a trackless forest to you. Did you have trouble finding my office?

Rimona signals for support, while she's speaking.

Nick: Not too much.

Nick's nager reaches smoothly out to link with Rimona's.

Rimona sighs with relief.

Rimona: Please, sit with me.

Rimona gestures to the sofa, shuffling further back to make space for him.

Nick sits next to Rimona.

Nick: I'm not used to working with someone your age. How much of that unsteadiness is normal?

Rimona: I've just come from a very hard childbirth. My Companion, my granddaughter, was so exhausted I sent her to sleep it off. An obstructed labor... hours of intense pain. It looked like we'd lose both mother and baby, but they made it.

Nick smiles, looking very charming.

Nick: I'm glad.

Rimona smiles back and takes Nick's hands.

Nick's hands are more callused than the average Donor's.

Rimona: So am I.

Nick's expression becomes a bit absentminded, as he feels his way into a deeper support.

Rimona: Nick, I didn't expect I'd be giving you an opportunity to work on an exhausted stressed elderly Farris channel on our first date, but I can really use your help now, if we're to make our shift at the collectorium.

Rimona signals that she intends to relinquish to him.

Rimona: Do your stuff, young man.

Rimona lies back and closes her eyes.

Nick: Well, some of that isn't unlike a hangover. Hmm. How's this?

Nick takes control smoothly, then starts jiggering the fields in a way that calmed Snake's temper when she'd overindulged. He was never able to find much practical help in the few Tecton texts that he was able to get his hands on in Bender Cove, so he had to teach himself. He gathered at the time that Zeor's vaunted techniques didn't cover a Farris channel voluntarily ingesting illegal recreational pharmaceuticals of uncertain purity.

Rimona: Good.

Rimona signals some suggested modifications to his techniques that more adequately address the case at hand.

Nick handles the first two easily, but draws a blank at the third.

Nick: What was that, again? ~~ embarrassed ~~

Rimona repeats the signal.

Rimona: It will help me deal with the effects of zlinning all that Gen pain.

Rimona zlins that Nick is still uncertain what's being requested.

Nick: I haven't run into that signal before. ~~ apologetically ~~

Rimona: Here. I'll teach you. It's very useful if you're going to be doing medical work.

Nick: Snake didn't mind zlinning pain -- she rather enjoyed it. Arat gave those cases to her...

Rimona extends her tentacles and makes lateral contact with Nick's arms.

Rimona: Relinquish to me and I'll show you how to shape your field.

Nick smoothly relinquishes as ordered.

Rimona engages Nick's field more deeply and carefully reshapes it into the desired form.

Rimona: Did you follow that? Do you think you can do it now? I can show you again if you require it.

Nick's face takes on a charming "aha" expression.

Rimona smiles.

Nick: I think I've got it. Like this, right?

Nick duplicates the effect.

Rimona: Well done. Clever lad.

Rimona signals that she's about to relinquish to Nick, and does so, more deeply than before.

Nick picks up control of the fields, his expression ~~ thoughtful ~~.

Nick: You know, there might be a way...

Nick lightens his grip on Rimona's field so the change won't overwhelm her, then his nager ~~ shifts ~~ just a bit, as he melds the technique he just learned with some odds and ends he picked up here and there.

Nick: Is that any better?

Rimona: Interesting. Increase the intensity gradually. I'll signal you when to hold steady.

Nick lets the effect grow, keeping a close watch on Rimona so that he doesn't go too fast.

Rimona seems to be both savoring and analyzing the effect. Finally she signals him to hold.

Nick does so.

Rimona: Shorsh's father used to do something similar.

Rimona describes some changes to the effect Nick is producing.

Rimona: You might find it easier to hold that for a longer time.

Nick tries them out.

Nick: It is easier to hold, but it doesn't seem to work quite as well on that unsteadiness.

Rimona: The unsteadiness is easier to affect if you approach it differently.

Rimona suggests some further modifications.

Nick works back towards what he was doing, experimenting to see what modifications will keep the effect he's after, while being easy to maintain over time.

Rimona: You'll find that more effective with old channels, and not just Farrises.

Nick: I haven't worked much with old channels, although Arat had some similar symptoms.

Nick has found working with a moderately healthy channel very different.

Rimona: That poor young man. I told Hiram's father we should invite him here for a while, but he felt that we should wait until he asked. Of course, he never did.

Nick: He was kind of obsessed with the idea of joining Zeor.

Rimona: Yes. No second best for a Farris! Hence no opportunity to learn some moderation. Far too late now.

Nick: Yes. He's never been able to accept a compromise, at least not without serious health consequences.

Rimona: Audnes is a different mutation than us. Than Zeor, too. Who knows what they'd have been like had they founded a Householding instead of a feudal empire?

Nick: They were too junct to think like Householders, I gather.

Nick massages away with his nager, smoothing out the stress-induced irregularities in Rimona's field.

Rimona: It will be interesting to see how Arat's children develop, away from the Audnes cultural influences. Better than Arat and his eldest daughter, I hope, for their sakes.

Nick: I don't know. I've only met the one younger daughter, and she seemed desperate for some sort of normal family.

Nick's nager has a very different "flavor" than a Farris Companion's, but it's a very seductive one, thanks to the 75% genetic contribution from Riyyh.

Rimona: That's very good, Nick. You're very talented.

Nick: Thank you.

Rimona again suggests some minor modifications.

Nick tilts his head in concentration, and tries them out.

Rimona: A few more minutes of that, and I think I'll be able to sit up and have some tea. Perhaps a bite to eat, as well.

Rimona believes in looking after her nutrition, rather than expecting her Companions to do so for her.

Nick ~~ approves ~~ of a channel who doesn't have to be force-fed.

Rimona sighs with contentment and caresses Nick's arms with her tentacle tips. She wonders if Nick could be substantially upgraded to the point where he could serve her in transfer. It's not likely, but not impossible.

Nick's arms are more heavily muscled than the average Companion's.

Rimona: Thank you. I'll sit up now, ease the strain on your back.

Rimona releases Nick's arms, sits up and swings her legs over the side of the sofa to sit beside him.

Nick hadn't noticed the strain -- he's used to working in conditions far more uncomfortable than this -- but he notices the ~~ relief ~~ when he doesn't have to bend over any more.

Rimona runs her tentacles through her hair. It's thinned as well as whitened with age, and is more manageable than when she was younger.

Nick's hair is rumpled, and will no doubt turn Riyyh's beautiful silver in time.

Rimona: Unlike Snake Farris, I've never had any taste for Gen pain. Although it might have been useful in my chosen career, I suppose.

Rimona shakes her head and shivers, groping for a knitted afghan on the back of the sofa.

Nick offers ~~ comfort ~~.

Nick: I don't think Snake ever liked enjoying Gen pain, but she did take advantage of it.

Rimona leans on the comfort, nods, and clumsily wraps herself in the afghan, still shivering.

Nick helps wrap the afghan around her, ~~ concerned ~~.

Nick: Are you all right? Should I pour you some tea?

Rimona: Tea would be very welcome.

Nick pours from the pot steeping on the table in front of the couch, and sets the warm mug in her hands.

Rimona signals her thanks.

Rimona: Have some yourself, if you like. And there's a box of cookies and some apples on top of the file cabinet.

Nick's nager ~~ perks up ~~ , Genlike, at the mention of food.

Rimona smiles at Nick's reaction, and sips her tea, enjoying the warmth on her arthritic hands as well as in her cold body.

Nick fetches the cookies and the apples, hands half a cookie to Rimona, then pours himself a cup of tea as he takes a bite of the other cookie half.

Rimona nibbles the cookie and enjoys Nick's physical and nageric warmth. She uses his appetite to give herself a little more enthusiasm for the cookie.

Nick is well used to being used as an appetite-enhancer, and he's more subtle about it than many Donors, since Arat in particular resented the help he so desperately needed.

Rimona finishes her half-cookie and puts her hand on Nick's thigh.

Rimona: So how have you been doing here, Nick? Are you more comfortable with us now?

Nick considers the question.

Nick: In some ways, yes. But every time I start to relax, something, well, happens.

Rimona: For example?

Nick: Well, when I decided to spend a rainy day repotting a few plants, it ended up causing such a stir that Hiram went out to the greenhouses to investigate.

Rimona laughs.

Nick doesn't see what's funny.

Rimona: That was with all those kids? It was Morry who got Hiram and Shorsh out into the greenhouse, not that Shorsh doesn't think Sectuib doesn't get out into the weather enough.

Nick: Well, when I spent an evening trying to salvage some abused fruit trees, D'zoll and Shorsh showed up. They were very polite about it, but I couldn't help seeing D'zoll slip into "professional" mode, sizing me up for his practice. And the whole taffy episode turned into a disaster... well, you saw that.

Rimona: Well, I'd say those last two rather cancelled each other out, didn't they?

Rimona pats Nick's thigh.

Rimona: Good taffy. Be sure I get a piece next time you make some.

Rimona pauses, then shakes her head.

Rimona: That's D'zoll. You never know what he'll come up with next. Excessively creative. He was like that as a child too. I could tell you stories.... but it wouldn't be fair. Let him tell you himself.

Rimona suppresses a giggle, thinking of the time a very young D'zoll assumed that an old bat like herself couldn't possibly be hip enough to know Genlan.

Nick raises an eyebrow.

Rimona: You're a good match for him, and not just nagerically. You're creative and flexible in your thinking, too. You've got a tolerance for eccentricity, and probably enough common sense to keep him under control on the rare occasions he needs it. Eventually, you'll figure out which they are.

Nick: It's all well and good to say that the individual episodes are more someone else's responsibility, but I do seem to end up in the middle of more than my share of them. Not just here, either. Before I came here...

Nick's expression is a mixture of ~~ bewilderment ~~ and ~~ hurt ~~.

Rimona puts her arm around him in a gesture of kindness and comfort.

Nick: I wasn't being allowed to work much, so I spent a lot of time wandering around. There was one day when I came across a group of low-level Tecton employees who were, well, in a bad mood.

Nick: The official investigation into the Snake River Dam had been disrupting things for almost a month, and they were tired of being asked to work at all hours, and having their leaves cancelled.

Nick: There were two renSimes who were particularly upset, so I went over and suggested a round or two of a card game I learned out-Territory. It worked just fine: they calmed down, and the game caught on.

Nick: So well that the Controller launched an official investigation to discover who'd introduced the shenned distraction.

Nick ~~ winces ~~ at the memory of that encounter.

Rimona strokes Nick's back gently.

Rimona: Maybe when there are more Firsts, they won't have to give jobs like that to incompetents.

Nick: The general opinion was that Controller Firlith is quite competent, if a bit rigid.

Nick names a channel who has made a name for herself for imposing order on chaos, in several difficult situations.

Rimona: When you're my age, you'll know just how much the general opinion can be worth. In fact, you're getting a head start on it. And even the most competent people make stupid moves sometimes.

Nick wonders if he inherited his tendency to precipitate stupid moves in others from Riyyh, and if so, whether it was Prunida's 25% that watered down the original effect of persuading just about anyone to engage in a brief fling.

Rimona: Try not to take these things so personally, Nick. Those Controllers are just people, like you and me. They screw up sometimes. They don't have godlike powers to fully discern a situation, or even a person, no matter how high their rating.

Rimona can speak from experience. She's Second Channel in Sat'htine. There aren't many living channels rated higher than she is. And she makes her share of mistakes, as she well knows.

Nick: They don't have godlike powers of discernment, but they do have godlike powers to act on their misperceptions.

Rimona nods.

Rimona: Alas.

Nick wishes there were a way to be a Donor without working under a Controller, but what's the chance of another Farris channel going rogue?

Rimona turns to Nick, gently takes his arms in a transfer contact and rests her head against his shoulder.

Rimona: Relinquish to me, Nick.

Nick is a little ~~ confused ~~, but obeys.

Rimona carefully suffuses Nick's field with kindness, comfort and solace. Not many channels can manage such a direct effect on a Donor's emotions.

Rimona: Is that all right with you? It's easier than words...

Nick's ~~ confusion ~~ remains under the imposed emotions, but he also finds himself less stressed out about it. He ~~ relaxes ~~ into Rimona's care, wondering how different his life would have been if he could have done so with his own grandmother.

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