Preparing for Disaster: Episode 4

Vested: So just tell him that your lawyer stands behind you on this, Jervin, and if he persists, I'll write him a letter.

Tavis: Thank you, Fullian. It's patients like that who make me regret being a doctor. But it wouldn't be ethical to make him go to another town for medical care, so I'm stuck with him. And he with me, however unhappy we both are about it.

Vested: Indeed.

Vested pauses to let the subject change.

Vested: So, how's your daughter doing? And the little girl?

Tavis: Emily is quite listless, these days. It was bad enough to lose her husband, but in such a fashion... She's going to be a long time recovering.

Vested nods, solemnly.

Tavis: Rona has her problems, too, but all girls her age are unstable.

Vested: It would have been a shock for her, too, then moving here and having to adjust to a new school...

Tavis: Yes. Being twelve would have been hard enough all in itself.

Vested nods. He lost both his sons before they reached fourteen.

Tavis: She's already had one episode of "hysterical changeover".

Tavis uses the common name for the syndrome where children imagine falsely that they are in changeover.

Vested: Good thing she has you to sort it out. I'm sure it's been the death of many a child whose parents didn't know better.

Vested took his sons to Dr. Tavis, who took care of them. He's a good father, though. He stayed with them until it was over.

Tavis: Well...

Tavis suddenly looks every day of his age.

Tavis: She doesn't trust me to take care of her, not the way she trusted her father.

Vested: That's... unfortunate. Perhaps after she settles down here a little more...

Vested thinks Rona's mother will never recover if her daughter becomes a berserker.

Tavis: I hope so. In this case, she tried to run away, rather than come to me.

Vested winces.

Tavis knows how dangerous this is, to Rona, and everyone else in Hannard's Ford.

Tavis: Fortunately, it was a false alarm, and she ran to Nurse Reel before the night patrol found her.

Vested: Well, that shows some sense, at least.

Tavis: Not much. And Nurse Reel didn't show to advantage in the situation, either.

Vested: Hm?

Tavis: She dragged the girl off to the Sime Center, "for a better diagnosis". Without so much as a by-your-leave.

Vested: Jervin, you're a good doctor, and I trust you with my life, but a Sime can tell, better than any of us, you know. She certainly should have gotten your permission, though.

Vested's daughters have made it abundantly clear to him that any children they have are not going the way of their brothers. Of course, one of them now has the surname Brown, so it's to be expected.

Tavis: I'm not questioning the Sime's expertise. If Rona does change over, and she wants to live as a Sime, I'd take her there myself. And no doubt spend the next six months living with an hysterical daughter. But that wasn't Nurse Reel's decision to make, and the bad judgment she showed is a serious liability in a nurse.

Vested nods in agreement.

Vested: I wonder what she was thinking. Did Rona ask her to take her there?

Tavis: From what Rona said, Nurse Reel practically dragged her off to the Simes. Of course, the girl isn't the most objective of informants.

Vested nods again and sighs.

Vested: Poor kid.

Tavis: She certainly didn't seem to enjoy being in the Sime's company, at least, however she got there. That's some reassurance to her mother.

Tavis's daughter is more conventional than he is.

Vested thinks it's quite natural for Emily to abhor Simes after what happened to her husband.

Tavis: The whole episode was an enormous embarrassment, and it's cost me the services of the only trained surgical nurse in town.

Vested: Fired her, did you?

Tavis: There was no other course left to me. How could I trust a nurse who won't trust my judgment? Nurse Annit can handle most situations well enough, but she's got a weak stomach when it comes to blood.

Vested: I wonder if Miz Reel is one of those reformed church types: you know, the Brown clan and that ilk. She might have figured she had a higher duty to save the child's life.

Tavis: She's never mentioned any particular religious beliefs, either way.

Vested: Well, those reformed church people mostly aren't any more religious than anyone else on anything but the topic of Simes and channels, and there they all toe the same line.

Vested has heard the line, many times, from his daughters.

Tavis: "Kiss a Sime every month" and so on?

Vested: There's that, although there's plenty who do it just for the money. But they're all convinced that to kill a berserker is murder if there's any way he can be got to their channel.

Tavis: Well, I admit, I don't mind at all that I've been passing out fewer Black Pills these days. It's easier than shooting them, or letting them kill someone, but no doctor likes to bring death instead of life.

Vested: Lot of the kids have been making their own way to that channel if their parents don't approve. Some of the parents have come to me about it, and I have to tell them that the Sime's within her rights, once the kid comes onto the property.

Tavis: I remember reading something about that, when they opened the Sime Center. It's legally Sime Territory, right?

Vested: Yes, and a kid turning Sime is legally an adult there, so the parents have no rights.

Vested sighs.

Vested: Of course, a kid under sixteen who's a Gen is an adult there too, but the Sime's had the sense not to take donations from the underaged without a parent's permission.

Tavis: I wish she'd had as much respect for parental rights with Rona. When I got to the Sime Center...

Tavis's face twists with remembered anger.

Tavis: ...I walked in, and found her bent over Rona, with her tentacles all over the girl.

Vested leans forward with interest.

Vested: She wouldn't have the right to do that, if the child wasn't turning Sime.

Tavis: She said she was checking to see what was wrong with the girl -- she was running a fever, and she'd fainted.

Vested drums his fingers.

Vested: If it was a matter of life and death, there's precedent... just how sick was Rona?

Tavis: I think it was a flu of some sort. She was feverish, nauseated, and generally feeling bad. That's why she thought she might be in changeover.

Vested: Hm. I believe you could make some trouble for that Sime, if you want to. But as your legal advisor, I have to point out that you'd be making trouble for yourself as well. A lot of people like having a Sime Center here, whether they want to kiss Simes or not.

Vested imagines the entire Brown clan and all its tributaries and coreligionists, a substantial fraction of the local population, forsaking real medicine and going over to Sime voodoo.

Tavis waves the offer away.

Tavis: I'm told that channels are the doctors in Simeland, and the girl was in distress, life-threatening or not. I can't blame the channel for doing her job. If I were in Simeland, and a sick kid came to me, I'd be doing much the same, even though I'm not licensed to practice medicine there. Rona should never have been there in the first place, but that's a different matter entirely.

Vested nods.

Vested: Now as for Miz Reel, if you wanted to give her a hard time, technically she abducted Rona and took her into a foreign jurisdiction. It likely wouldn't hold up in court, but it would give her a real headache.

Tavis considers for a moment, then regretfully shakes his head.

Tavis: It's tempting, but it would expose Rona to too much publicity, and that wouldn't be good for her, just now.

Vested: A wise decision.

Tavis: I fired Nurse Reel, and I expect that trying to live on a nurse's pension will be punishment enough.

Vested laughs.

Vested: If she's a Sime kisser, she'll be doing just fine on her pension.

Tavis: As far as I know, she hasn't fallen that low yet. At least, she was wearing a patched and stained coat, when I saw her a few days ago.

Vested: There's a good bit of money in it. I've been having less trouble with accounts receivable since I've been able to point out to defaulters that there's a good source of income over by the gravel pit.

Tavis: I always knew that good lawyers spread corruption wherever they go.

Vested laughs again.

Vested: You know that young lout Bradford Lanza? The one who broke all those windows in the Sammosons's house because he was mad at their daughter? How do you think he paid the fine and the damages and the costs and my fees?

Tavis's eyebrows raise.

Vested shakes his head, amused.

Tavis: Really?

Vested: That boy didn't need me to corrupt him.

Tavis: Some people will do anything, to stay out of jail. Of course, he probably ought to have considered that in jail, he'd get three squares a day.

Vested: Well, his parents are still feeding him, but they put the foot down about that incident with the windows.

Tavis: As well they should.

Vested: You'd be surprised how much money is coming into the town since that Sime Center opened. Farmers buying more land, I sure see most of that.

Tavis: Well, for those who choose to do something like that, I wish them well of it. For myself, I'm perfectly content to be the town doctor, and nothing more. I don't see you rolling up your sleeves for the Sime, either.

Vested laughs and spreads his hands.

Vested: I'm doing well, I don't need to. But for those who aren't, it's a good thing. Keep them off the public assistance too, like poor Miz Mason with her senile mother and idiot son. Three incomes there, now, you know.

Tavis: True. I suppose they earn that money the hard way; I shouldn't begrudge the desperate what they must do to survive.

Vested nods in agreement, but doesn't think those farmers buying land are particularly desperate. They just know a good deal when they see one.

Tavis: After what I saw, in there...

Vested: Hm?

Vested will admit to a certain prurient interest, which his daughters refuse to satisfy. They've told him to find out for himself.

Tavis: That Sime, bent over Rona, with her tentacles all over her. At least the girl was unconscious for it.

Vested: An ugly sight. She did stop when you identified yourself and told her to?

Vested has no pretensions to knowledge of interterritorial law, but one never knows...

Tavis: Well, she backed off quickly enough. Said Rona wasn't in changeover. When the girl came to, we all had some tea, and then we went home.

Vested: I see.

Tavis: I spent a good portion of the next morning convincing my daughter that it wasn't the end of the world, then went to my office to tell Nurse Reel that her services are no longer required. I just hope it's true.

Vested: Well, you didn't do too badly before she moved here, after all.

Tavis: For most things, that's true, but on the rare occasions when surgery is required, there's no substitute for a good surgical nurse.

Vested: I imagine so.

Vested looks at his gold pocketwatch.

Vested: Forgive me, Jervin, but I've got another client in five minutes.

Tavis: Of course. And I've patients that need seeing to, no doubt.

Tavis stands.

Vested stands as well, and offers his hand for a firm shake.

Tavis has lived his life in Gen Territory, and returns the shake with the expertise of lifelong experience.

Vested: My regards to Emily. I hope she'll feel better. Rona too.

Tavis: Thank you. Best wishes to your Nellie, as well.

Tavis leaves the lawyer's office and makes his way back to his clinic.

Vested gets out the paperwork for the land transfer. At this rate the Sime kissers are going to own the whole county.

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