Preparing for Disaster: Episode 7

Katsura is a Farris channel about a dozen years post-changeover, with wilder hair than most of her relatives. She's come back to Sat'htine from her usual post in Konawa in order to be in charge of the winter disaster "games", as well as to be home for the holidays, for a change.

Katsura knows that the exercise will begin no sooner than the day after tomorrow, but that's one of the glitches the planners love to toss in. Several years ago the team was called to scramble a day before the "first possible" date.

Nick has some time off, and is looking for building materials. He promised to help one of the kids to build a secret hideout, and is hoping to find some abandoned crates in this longterm storage warehouse.

Katsura pries open a crate and counts the contents. She decides that the label indicating 24 boxes of 16 channel chow bars when there's actually 16 boxes of 24 bars is an honest mistake and not part of the simulated disaster.

Nick enters the warehouse, illuminating it to Sime perceptions quite nicely.

Katsura is crouched behind the crates containing the prefab insulated treatment modules, so doesn't zlin Nick instantly. She pounds the nails back into the crate with the back of the prybar.

Nick is not expecting to find anyone out here, and is ~~ alerted ~~ by the sound of the hammering.

Katsura zlins the shift in the ambient as Nick becomes alert, and stands.

Nick: Hello!

Katsura: Hello.

Katsura waves the prybar.

Katsura: Just checking the inventory.

Katsura assumes the strange Donor is one of the people the Tecton has sent to observe the exercise and learn Sat'htine's methods.

Nick: Ah, yes. Those "emergency exercises". Which I guess are preferable to a real emergency, although I'm lazy enough to prefer no emergency at all, given a choice.

Katsura wonders why the Tecton sent such a reluctant participant. Well, maybe it's his channel who's the real observer, and this Donor is just being dragged along.

Nick approaches, and feels a moment of ~~ unreality ~~, until on closer inspection the small, wiry, wild-haired woman with the prybar proves not to be Snake, after all.

Katsura wonders at that nageric reaction.

Katsura: I'm Hajene Kat.

Katsura offers a few tentacles. She automatically calls herself Hajene as a courtesy to Gens, who can't zlin for themselves.

Nick reaches out to brush the tentacles with his fingers.

Nick: I'm Nick. I expect you're trying to forestall any more practical jokes? I heard there was a nasty one, last year.

Nick is ~~ sympathetic ~~.

Katsura: Well, they're not really practical jokes, more like challenges to keep us on our toes. In a real disaster, anything can happen, and usually will.

Katsura smiles.

Nick grins back, with 75% of Riyyh's vaunted charm.

Nick: That's true enough.

Katsura: I have to admit that bit with the autoclave last year was pretty sneaky.

Nick: Yes, it was. What other tricks have been played?

Nick has been unable to coax anything from Rimona, who after all is on the planning committee, but her gleefully sadistic chortles told their own story.

Katsura: A few years ago we were scrambled a day before the so-called earliest day it could start. Then one time everything got left out in the rain, and the tarps were in the second shipment.

Nick: That sounds pretty realistic. What did you do?

Katsura: Covered the most critical supplies with blankets. Fortunately it stopped raining and we were able to dry the blankets out. Most of the supplies had been well packed and not too much rain penetrated the crates.

Nick: You were lucky, then. Sleeping on wet blankets is miserable.

Nick speaks with the voice of experience.

Katsura: It is. It's also very dangerous in cold weather, especially for the sick and injured.

Nick: Yes.

Katsura: I wonder what they're going to pull on us this year. The rumor I heard is that it's going to be a major urban fire.

Nick: I've also heard a plague and a surprise invasion of Wild Gens. That last seems a bit farfetched, though.

Katsura laughs.

Katsura: Wild Gens! Wow.

Nick: Perhaps, then, you should prepare for a fire affecting a hotel district packed with diseased Gen tourists?

Katsura snickers.

Katsura: What an imagination you've got, Sosu!

Katsura has also noticed that Nick has quite an attractive nager, as well.

Nick bows with a flourish of his nager.

Nick: Thank you, Hajene.

Katsura: How about I'm Kat and you're Nick?

Nick: Suits me. I'm free at the moment. Do you want a hand with some of these crates? Although I claim any that happen to be empty.

Katsura: Why do you want them? Are you working with the supplies crew?

Nick: No, I promised one of the kids to demonstrate the makings of a Genuine Wild Gen Hideout.

Nick spreads his hands in a "what can you do, when kids make odd requests?" gesture.

Katsura: I think you'd better get materials elsewhere -- any empty crates here may just be waiting to be filled.

Katsura does not want anything to be missing because there were no empty crates left and somebody assumed all the supplies were already packed.

Nick: All right. If I can't scavenge any, Morry will have to make do with a Patented Wild Gen Army Horseblanket-tent.

Katsura: But if you want to help, one thing I want to check is that the nuts and bolts that hold the prefabs together have the same thread.

Katsura twists a handful of hair together and pushes it behind her ear.

Nick: Sure. Where is it?

Katsura: Right behind us. Here, I'll open it.

Katsura inserts the prybar and does so.

Katsura: I don't know if you've got a devious mind, but if you have any ideas of tricks those two women might come up with, I'd love to hear them.

Nick: Rimona and Lusinka? I'm afraid I'm an amateur, by their standards.

Katsura: Shuven, everybody is!

Nick peers into the crate.

Katsura reaches in, zlins around and pulls out the box with the fasteners.

Nick: I admit, I know exactly nothing about prefab shelters.

Nick was more used to sleeping in barns, sheds, hotels, clumps of trees, or anywhere else Snake chose.

Katsura: Just check that there's the same number of bolts and nuts, more or less, and that the one screws into the other.

Katsura flips through the pages on the clipboard.

Nick takes out one of each, and tests them.

Nick: They seem to be all right. How many are required for the shelter?

Katsura: Supposed to be 193 nut/bolt pairs for this model. Count out 20 and see if it looks like ten percent.

Nick does so.

Katsura riffles through the nuts and bolts. They do seem to all have the same thread. The wrench fits the nuts and the screwdriver matches the bolt heads.

Nick: It looks pretty close.

Katsura: I think so too. Okay, let's put it back and continue.

Nick: What about basics like food, blankets, and a change of clothing?

Katsura: I've opened and checked a few crates of food here. We're responsible for our own clothing -- have they issued you people your ditty bags yet?

Nick: Yes. I've noticed that people tend to forget things like extra socks, though, and the patients would presumably not have extra clothing with them.

Katsura riffles through the clipboard pages.

Katsura: Bedding should be over there. You can see the knocked-down cots...

Nick: What sort of numbers of casualties is there, usually?

Katsura shrugs.

Katsura: You never know. For a real disaster, materials other than our emergency supplies are usually provided by the local authorities, or from district or regional warehouses. What we have here is the first-response supplies.

Nick: In other words, you can get them if you can find the proper authority to sweet-talk?

Katsura: We had a team at the Zhonsdon flood, and the locals were very well organized. We just did the worst of the medical -- they did the rest of the relief.

Nick: I admit, I'm a little surprised at some of the choices here.

Katsura: Hm?

Nick: The cots, for instance, seem pretty bulky, when sleeping bags will provide bedding in a pinch.

Katsura: Oh, the cots are for patients, not us. They can be adjusted to support a patient to minimize further injury, facilitate a clear airway, etc.

Nick: How much of a tonnage limitation do you have on the supplies you can bring with you?

Katsura: For first response, it all has to fit into one railcar. It's all packaged so it can be reloaded onto wagons, and most can be readily repacked for pack animals.

Nick: Where do you get the pack animals?

Katsura: Local animals. We don't run the whole disaster management effort, Nick, we just provide medical and channeling services as needed. Of course, if things are really disorganized, we do our best to help however we can. But we're never the first on the scene.

Nick: So it all depends on how competent the people on the spot are?

Katsura: Yes. Of course, they're supposed to have their disaster plans and preparedness training, too. Usually, they do a pretty decent job, even if it's a first effort.

Katsura has been striding down a path between piles of crates. She stops and wrinkles her nose.

Katsura: Do you smell alcohol?

Nick sniffs.

Nick: Yes. And not the drinkable kind, either.

Katsura: I bet there's a leaking can here somewhere.

Katsura riffles through the pages again, then follows her nose.

Katsura: Over here somewhere....

Nick: That crate has a damp spot.

Nick points to one on the second tier.

Katsura extends her laterals.

Katsura: Ah. It's not that crate, it's the one above it.

Katsura leaps up, grabs the crate and brings it down.

Katsura: Hm.

Nick: That's the leak, all right.

Katsura pries it open and pulls out a can with a rusted seam.

Katsura: Bah. Let's check the others and see if any of them are about to go too. If you'll...

Nick: Sure. But, Kat, you might want to check that can more closely. It looks to me like that leak had a little help.

Katsura hands Nick the leaky can and signals ~~ inquiry ~~.

Nick points to a small area of the seam, close to the bottom, where the rusted seam has been subtly pried apart, probably with a nail.

Nick: Looks like this was supposed to be part of the exercise.

Katsura shakes her head.

Katsura: Unsubtle. I hope great-grandma isn't losing it. With a big Farris nose like this.... well, they may have figured it would all be evaporated by the time anybody noticed.

Nick: What did it ruin underneath?

Katsura: More cans of alcohol... that crate is bleach....

Katsura is zlinning to make sure the contents match the labels.

Nick reflexively arranges his nager to offer her a focused window.

Katsura is surprised at the Donor's unusual skill and precision. And pleased.

Katsura: Good thinking, Nick. The next crate down has some packets of fosebine. They didn't get any alcohol on them though.

Nick: That's fortunate.

Katsura turns and lightly caresses Nick's forearm.

Katsura: Nice technique, what you were just doing there.

Nick: Thanks.

Katsura wonders whether this Donor might be interested in working with Farrises. She outrates him, but some of her cousins, like D'zoll for example... oh, well. It wouldn't be polite to mention it if she can't follow through.

Nick: What other liquids might not be properly packaged?

Katsura: If the bleach were leaking, I'd smell it. It's in plastic jugs. We've got a small supply of potable water over there, but we mostly either boil water on the scene, or disinfect it with bleach.

Nick: Is anything vital being stored under the water? I mean, it's pretty clear that someone was poking around the supplies with a nail or something. Would it be logical to stop at one can?

Katsura: I think that can was damaged before it was packed.

Katsura sighs.

Katsura: I suppose we can check them all.

Nick is ~~ sympathetic ~~.

Katsura enjoys the texture of Nick's sympathy.

Katsura: The water is in plastic jugs too, and it's all by itself over there, according to the chart. Let's check it now, and I'll get somebody out to go over all the canned alcohol.

Nick: All right.

Nick checks the floor underneath the water crates.

Katsura zlins... dry.

Nick: No obvious leaks, but are the cooking spices supposed to be directly underneath?

Nick points to a crate at the bottom of the stack.

Katsura: No, they aren't. Cooking spices? Must be the Gens.

Katsura rearranges crates to get the crate of spices out from under the water.

Katsura: If I'm willing to subsist on channel chow for a few days...

Nick chuckles.

Katsura looks at Nick, ~~ embarrassed ~~.

Katsura: Sorry, Sosu.

Nick: I've lived on some pretty strange foods, now and then, but I admit, I've never had to subsist entirely on channel chow.

Katsura: Well, it's not good for you, of course!

Katsura assumes Nick is joking about eating channel chow. It has Sime herbs in it.

Nick: It's better than going hungry. Mostly.

Nick says this without complete conviction.

Katsura turns and zlins Nick more carefully. She doesn't like some of what she zlins. This Gen has been through a lot of physical stress, and hasn't completely recovered from it.

Katsura: May I deep zlin you, Sosu?

Nick raises an inquisitive eyebrow, then shrugs and offers his hands. He is, after all, used to attracting curiosity from Farris channels. He adjusts his nager to facilitate.

Katsura makes a five-point contact and evaluates Nick with growing ~~ alarm ~~. He's been badly burned at least once. He shows signs of poor nutrition for a substantial length of time, and a more recent period of very prolonged physical stress, probably involving sleep deprivation, exposure and demanding physical exertion. More recently he's been under substantial psychological strain.

Katsura concludes that this Gen has not only been ill cared for, he's been abused.

Katsura: Nick... what's been happening to you?

Katsura has broken the lip, but not the lateral contacts. ~~ compassion mixed with horror ~~

Nick: I've managed to be on the scene of several disasters, and without a nice boxcar of supplies, either. In all fairness, the people I was trying to help were far worse off than I ever was.

Katsura: But... it zlins like it went on for years.... Where were you?

Nick is being ~~ quite truthful ~~: he doesn't consider himself particularly abused, at least physically.

Nick chuckles.

Nick: Where wasn't I?

Katsura: An out-T prison camp?

Katsura has heard tales about how the Gens punish their own by starving and overworking them. She tries to remember if she's heard of any interterritorial incidents where a First Order Donor was imprisoned.

Nick: Well, I only spent a little time in an actual prison. Most of my time out-Territory was spent growing vegetables.

Katsura decides that Nick doesn't really want to talk about it. He does have a right to his privacy. It's not like he's too weak to stand up for himself if he's being abused right now.

Nick: And then there was that mess at the Snake River Dam.

Katsura: Oh, I've heard about that one. How bizarre -- rogue Farrises. Two of them against the Tecton.

Katsura shakes her head in amazed disgust. She assumes Nick was in the cleanup team that went up there in the spring.

Nick: Umm, yes. It was certainly bizarre.

Katsura: I bet you're glad to be back in civilization.

Nick: It's definitely good to be in a place where one isn't required to wade through snow to get to one's patients.

Katsura: Yes.

Nick remembers three winters of following Snake around the outlying camps.

Katsura figures there must still have been a lot of snow around when the Tecton team arrived in the spring.

Katsura: Nick, may I work on you a little? I can zlin you've been under substantial chronic stress...

Nick: Much less, recently, but if you wish...

Nick is used to having zlinprying Farris channels invent excuses to get their laterals on him.

Katsura closes her eyes and engages Nick's field deeply. She signals her intention and projects a gradually intensifying ~~ need ~~ to induce healing deep in Nick's tissues.

Nick lets himself ~~ respond ~~ to the need.

Katsura is surprised at the richness and beauty of the response and continues to intensify her projection.

Nick holds back just enough to prevent a Farris-sensitive channel from fixing on him. A normal Tecton Donor wouldn't have cut it nearly that close, but Nick's never really learned to leave Tecton-normal safety margins, rather than Farris-suitable ones.

Katsura goes all out, hoping to get more of that beautiful response. She's not in need, so isn't concerned about raising intil. This Donor has a truly amazing nager when he lets it respond naturally like this.

Nick is finding this interaction ~~ pleasurable ~~, and cuts the safety margin just a little more, trusting Kat not to take advantage and get them both in trouble.

Katsura is as deeply engaged with Nick's nager as she considers safe. Of course, as a trained Tecton Donor, a high First, he's completely trustworthy, even if he isn't a Householder. She's intrigued by his unusual nageric texture.

Nick's nager is a strange mixture of Narosian sensuousness and Farris-imposed discipline, with a hint of Zeor now modified by Sat'htine.

Katsura maintains the healing projection of intense but not demanding need, and superimposes some psychological effects, infusing Nick's field with an assurance of safety and comfort.

Nick is ~~ interested ~~ by Kat's projection: it has the comfort of Rimona's, but 75% of him prefers the effect when administered by a substantially younger woman.

Katsura resists the urge to invite Nick to allow her to relinquish to him. It would be delicious, but rather unprofessional. She maintains the state for a while longer, then gradually lightens her projection and withdraws from the nageric engagement.

Nick smoothly resumes control of his nager as Katsura withdraws.

Katsura retracts her laterals, but continues to hold Nick's arms lightly. She leans her head against his chest.

Katsura: Wow, Nick. You've got splendid nageric texture... really unique....

Nick's chest, despite his trials, is more muscular than most Donors', because of his habit of spending his free time outdoors.

Katsura releases his arms, slightly embarrassed not to have done so earlier.

Nick speculates that Katsura has not yet had the pleasure of meeting any of his numerous younger half-siblings.

Katsura is acutely aware of Nick's masculinity, and rather glad that he can't zlin her reaction.

Nick: I hope the aberrations don't distress you?

Katsura: I wouldn't call them aberrant. I'd call them beautiful.

Katsura blushes, something she seldom does. She backs off a little and forcibly composes herself, then spoils the professional effect with a charming smile.

Nick: Well, thank you. It's quite refreshing -- a lot of channels have found my peculiarities unsettling.

Nick thinks that Kat has a charming smile, and she doesn't really look like Snake, after all.

Katsura: We Farrises are connoisseurs of such things. And we know what we like. ~~ pretending to boast, but teasing ~~

Katsura strokes Nick's arm lightly.

Katsura: Too bad I outmatch you.

Nick: Ah, my heart is broken.

Nick projects a touch of ~~ mock despair ~~.

Katsura wonders whether Nick could be upgraded to match her. She'll have to get a good look at his file, and talk to some of her fellow channels here.

Nick: Is it noon yet?

Katsura: Eight minutes to.

Nick: I've got a shift starting in twenty minutes. I'd better go get changed.

Nick looks down at his current outfit, which is out-of-uniform, and rather bedraggled from wandering through the warehouse.

Nick: I don't think D'zoll would be very happy if I showed up for a shift helping him with the psych patients looking like this.

Katsura is surprised that a visiting Donor is working with D'zoll, but Sectuib has his own ideas about scheduling.

Katsura: I suppose I should get moving too. I'm having lunch with Aunt Lusinka.

Katsura brushes dust off her shirt. Lusinka isn't really her aunt, she's her cousin of some degree three or four different ways.

Nick: I hope I see you around, Kat.

Katsura: Well, we'll certainly see each other at the simulated disaster!

Nick waves goodbye, and hurries out of the warehouse, on his way to D'zoll's office, where he keeps a spare uniform.

Katsura makes a few notes on her clipboard, puts it and the prybar on the rack near the door and trots over to meet Lusinka.

Lusinka is, as predicted, waiting for Kat in the dining commons.

Katsura hugs her not-really-aunt, whom she hasn't seen since she came home.

Katsura: You zlin great!

Lusinka: Kitty-Kat, it's good to have you back home!

Lusinka returns the hug.

Katsura: I just met this Donor with the most beautiful nager. Too bad I outmatch him. He's cute, too.

Katsura winks at Lusinka.

Lusinka: Oh, my! That sounds serious.

Katsura puts a hand over her vriamic node and sings:

Katsura: Pledge to my House and marry meeeee!

Lusinka is assuming that Kat met this Donor at Konawa, where she's been working.

Lusinka: Really serious. Just how cute is he, anyway?

Katsura: Not that serious. I just met him! Pretty cute. About my age, grey eyes, I guess, wavy hair. But what a nager.

Katsura wishes Lusinka could zlin, so she could demonstrate. Or maybe she couldn't demonstrate.

Katsura: You haven't met him yet? I think he's here for the disaster exercises.

Lusinka looks a little ~~ confused ~~.

Lusinka: The group of observers missed their train and won't be in until tonight.

Katsura is a little ~~ confused ~~ herself.

Katsura: About that tall... working with D'zoll this afternoon?

Lusinka: Oh! You mean Nick Reckage. He's been here several months, now.

Katsura: Nick Reckage...

Katsura wonders where she's heard that name before.

Lusinka: He's here for rehabilitation.

Katsura: Oh. Poor guy. He does zlin like he's had some hard times. I worked on him a little.

Katsura gets a slightly dreamy smile thinking of engaging with that splendid nager.

Lusinka: He spent the last three years at the Snake River Dam, among other things. Yes, he's had a hard time of it.

Lusinka's tone is a little ~~ dry ~~.

Katsura suddenly remembers where she heard the name Nick Reckage -- the Notorious Rogue Donor of the Last Audnes Rebellion, in all the newspaper stories! ~~ shock ~~

Lusinka: Kat? Are you all right?

Lusinka is ~~ concerned ~~ enough to offer ~~ support ~~.

Katsura: Shidoni!

Katsura leans on the support ~~ gratefully ~~.

Lusinka: Not quite, although you're trying. Whatever is the matter?

Katsura: Uh.

Katsura zlins around to determine whether any of her naztehrhai spotted her reaction.

Katsura: Uh, yeah, I'm all right. I just didn't realize... I mean, I read the newspaper stories about him, but I didn't think it was him. Uh... what does Sectuib think?

Katsura feels a little faint, remembering that she was imagining taking transfer from... The Notorious Rogue Donor of the Last Audnes Rebellion. Shidoni!

Lusinka: He's not inclined to zlin a gift Gen for extra toes, if that's what you want to know. Especially when it's a Farris-compatible Donor with new techniques to teach the House.

Katsura is ~~ relieved ~~.

Katsura: So he's okay, uh... not dangerous or anything. Now at least. I mean, some newspapers made him sound like the ultimate Giant Killer Gen.

Lusinka: Those are the same newspapers who like to print stories of Lost Ancients found wandering in the same area.

Katsura: Even the respectable ones.

Katsura means the ones the Firsts buy, not the ones the donors leave in the waiting room and everybody reads surreptitiously.

Lusinka: Nick has a few holes in his education, which he's trying to remedy. Otherwise, he's been pretty reliable, from what I've heard. Your cousin D'zoll would know more. Nick's given him transfer twice, now.

Katsura: Oh. Good.

Katsura's sympathy rolls back around to where it was earlier.

Katsura: I guess D'zoll would know.

Lusinka: Well, he's a channel, and not exactly unbiased, but he hasn't had any problems with Nick, other than occasional confusion.

Katsura: I guess I'm not unbiased either. He has had a hard time of it.

Lusinka: He has. He's made quite a bit of that trouble for himself, of course.

Katsura gives Lusinka a technical run down of what she zlinned in Nick.

Lusinka: I hadn't realized it was quite that bad.

Katsura: Well, you know... I've got this huge overdeveloped discernment... I suppose I can zlin stuff in him nobody else can... All that pediatrics in Konawa is really building it up. If it were a muscle it would be bulging.

Lusinka: Possibly. Just remember, he's here for retraining, not as a patient.

Katsura's thoughts drift to Nick's nicely defined, classically male Gen muscles.

Lusinka: Apart from his politics, he seems normal enough.

Katsura: He's not still... I mean, he doesn't really... Really, who could support a junct-style feudal system these days? He sounded pretty normal, but we didn't talk... politics.

Lusinka: I'm told he doesn't like the Tecton much, and doesn't trust its representatives.

Katsura: Do you think Sectuib is going to invite him to pledge?

Lusinka: Hiram would like to keep him, I believe, but it's not at all clear that he's ready to make such a commitment.

Katsura wonders if Sectuib has managed to at least collect some of Nick's genes for the House yet.

Lusinka: Nick will be along on the winter games. You'll have a chance to see him in action then.

Katsura smiles.

Katsura: We found a leaky alcohol can. Not very subtle.

Lusinka: Tsk, tsk. The supplies really should be examined more frequently.

Katsura: Yeah. I'm going to have the team go over everything very carefully this afternoon.

Lusinka: That's certainly your right.

Katsura puts her hand over her vriamic node again.

Katsura: My duty, naztehr!

Lusinka has decided that about half of those carefully repaired and replenished supplies won't arrive at the disaster site, but Kat won't learn that until too late.

Lusinka: Yes. Oh, and when you're out there, you might bear something in mind.

Katsura's ears perk up, figuratively. ~~ attentive ~~

Lusinka: Nick Reckage has probably spent more time in real disaster zones than any three other members of your team.

Katsura nods.

Katsura: I'll remember that, Aunt Lusinka.

Lusinka is rather curious about whether Kat will have the good sense to call on Nick's experience when she's trying to figure out how to manage without the supplies.

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