Disaster Strikes: Episode 1

Katsura has asked Nick to brief the team on out-T etiquette and how to behave around Wild Gens unfamiliar with tame Simes.

Nick is not used to public speaking, but he's gamely trying.

Nick: The important thing is not to act like an invasion. If you give people plenty of opportunity to avoid you, you can be pretty sure that the ones who willingly approach you aren't about to shoot you down like a berserker. Be polite, move slowly, and you'll find more people who want your help than we can handle.

Katsura looks out the window. They've been left at a siding outside Cottonwood City, and told that someone will meet them and provide further instructions soon. It's been over an hour.

Nick: Any questions?

Katsura zlins a Gen approaching purposefully but she can't see him from either side of the train.

Sersen: Does that mean we can't approach a victim trapped under the rubble?

Nick: We'll see how they want to work with us. You renSimes are the only people around who can zlin victims under the rubble. You'll probably be of more use doing that, and letting the local people dig out the victims you find.

Katsura figures the other channels will be able to zlin the Gen shortly.

Katsura: I think we've got a one-Gen welcoming committee coming now.

Lieutenant Halvorsen wishes someone else had been picked for this job. He really doesn't like Simes. But orders are orders.

Katsura: It might be best if just Nick and I talk to him first, since he's nervous about us. We'll see whether he'll prefer to speak to us outside or in.

Halvorsen approaches the train car with all the surface confidence he can muster. ~~ fear ~~ anger ~~

Nick: Shall we go out and meet him?

Katsura doesn't like what she zlins, but it's not unexpected.

Katsura: Let's just open the door. He doesn't zlin like he's expecting to enjoy this.

Katsura goes to the door, gestures to Nick to open it, and stands a little back from him.

Halvorsen strides right up to the door. Look confident and you've won half the battle.

Halvorsen: Hello. Who's in charge here?

Halvorsen sees the tentacles and recoils.

Nick steps in front of Kat and the renSimes, blocking them from the visitor's view, and the approaching Gen's nager from them.

Nick: That'd be me and Hajene Kat, here.

Halvorsen: I'm Lieutenant Halvorsen. And you're...?

Nick is wearing a Gen-style winter coat, the Sime-style cloaks not being the best thing for the poorly heated rail car.

Halvorsen speaks only to the man, trying to ignore the monster behind him.

Nick: I'm Nick Reckage. I'm Hajene Kat's Donor.

Nick thus squelches any illusions that his out-T clothing and accent have engendered.

Katsura: I'm Katsura Farris ambrov Sat'htine.

Halvorsen: All right, Mr. Reckage. What resources have you got for us?

Katsura: Would you like to come in? Or would you prefer we come out to you?

Halvorsen decides that occasionally prudence is the better part of valor.

Halvorsen: Let's step outside.

Nick: Good enough. If you'll give us a moment, so that Hajene Kat can put on retainers?

Nick thus inadvertently emphasizes that the Simes are currently not wearing retainers.

Halvorsen: I was told you didn't have any.

Nick: We were able to scrounge one set, on our way.

Halvorsen: Ah. I'll wait here, then.

Halvorsen jumps down off the railcar's step and stands at parade rest, struggling very hard to not begin pacing.

Katsura takes a retainer handed to her by a team member and starts to fumble it on.

Katsura: Nick, can you help me please?

Nick holds the retainer so that Kat can wiggle her tentacles into it.

Katsura: Shenshay, these things are cold.

Katsura grits her teeth as she extends her laterals into the grooves.

Nick puts his hand on the retainer, trying to warm it just a little.

Katsura winces as the retainer is clamped shut and puts out her other arm for the second one.

Nick takes it out of his jacket, where he stuck it in hopes that it would be a bit warmer than the first, and holds it out.

Katsura lets Nick help her don the modified torture device and clamp it. It's a one-size-fits-none model intended for use in bringing an out-T changeover in-T.

Katsura: Ready to go?

Nick: Yes.

Katsura feels a bit ~~ dizzy ~~ with her Sime senses distorted by the retainers.

Nick tries to ~~ steady ~~ Kat.

Nick: Let's try to keep this relatively short. This is bad weather for retainers, even if they fit properly.

Katsura: Is there good weather for retainers?

Nick opens the door and steps through first, handling the fields with the casual expertise of a Donor who's spent a lot of time standing between his channel and problem Gens.

Katsura follows, closely.

Halvorsen sees the team leader approaching, followed by, presumably, the head nurse.

Nick: Thank you for waiting, Lieutenant.

Halvorsen: No problem, Mr. Reckage. Welcome to Cottonwood City, and thank you for your help. What have you got for us?

Katsura: I think you would call it a field hospital? A small one, of course.

Halvorsen: How small?

Halvorsen still addresses his responses to Nick.

Nick: We have three channels, three Donors, and a dozen or so assistants.

Halvorsen: All medical personnel?

Katsura: All have first aid training at least. Most are specialists in search and rescue.

Nick: Simes can zlin a trapped victim under the rubble.

Katsura: We think that will be very valuable for you.

Halvorsen hesitates.

Nick: Time is critical in these situations. A few more days, and there won't be anyone alive in the rubble.

Halvorsen: Um, what, uh, precautions have you got for your Simes, then?

Nick: We'll have to work something out with the local authorities. Simes can't zlin well through retainers.

Halvorsen: You said you only had the one set, anyway. ~~ suspicious ~~

Katsura: To come here quickly, we came from our training exercise, not from home. We didn't know we would come out-T. Sat'htine has never been invited to send a team out-T before.

Nick: We're expecting a load of supplies for us in a few days. With luck, they'll have included some spares.

Halvorsen: I'll put out a call for volunteers to go out with your search-and-rescue Simes. Half a dozen for each. How many Simes are we talking about?

Katsura: Perhaps six? Lieutenant, the volunteers, it is best if they are men who are not afraid of Simes. Perhaps you can find ones who have donated selyn to channels before.

Halvorsen bristles at the suggestion that some of his people might be cowards.

Halvorsen: As I said, I'll ask for volunteers. What else have you got?

Katsura: Supplies to care for the injured and ill. More will follow in a few days.

Halvorsen: What do you need from us, then?

Katsura: A building to set up in. Fuel. Water. We must work with your medical people to coordinate our different skills.

Halvorsen: I'm afraid we're a bit short of buildings. We can give you a tent, forty by sixty. Fuel and water... we're working on them. I'll send Dr. Mendels over to talk to your medical chief.

Nick: Thank you.

Katsura smiles.

Katsura: I am the medical chief.

Katsura figures it will be better not to surprise the Gen doctor.

Halvorsen stares at the young lady in disbelief.

Halvorsen: So it's just nursing staff, then? No actual doctors? ~~ disbelief ~~

Nick: Channels are doctors.

Katsura: Sat'htine specializes in medicine. I am a pediatrician, but of course I have also general skills.

Halvorsen: I'll, uh, let Dr. Mendels sort it out, then.

Nick hopes this Dr. Mendels is inclined to work with them.

Katsura hopes he's less hostile and defensive than this soldier.

Halvorsen: How many personnel have you got, total? And how many of them are Simes? Roughly, I mean. A dozen? A hundred? Never mind. Just keep them all in your tent, unless they have a six-man escort.

Halvorsen remembers ~~ uneasily ~~ that a Sime can easily rip through the canvas wall of a tent.

Katsura: We will need wagons to move our supplies to where you will put the tent, unless the railcars can be brought there.

Katsura thinks that would be ideal -- they can live in the crew car -- but it's not likely to be possible.

Halvorsen: We can move the railcars down about a quarter mile along this siding, and set your tent next to it. That puts it close to some of our own medics.

Nick: Good.

Nick looks in the indicated direction and spots something ~~ interesting ~~.

Nick: That hay shelter... is it being used for anything in particular, at the moment?

Halvorsen: Um, I don't believe so. I can check.

Nick: Thank you. If it's available, perhaps we can use it for living quarters.

Katsura is ~~ encouraged ~~. With a tent, the two railcars, and possibly a small building, they will have plenty of space.

Halvorsen: It's not heated.

Katsura: We have a stove in the crew car we can move there. We will have to see further how best to arrange things.

Halvorsen considers the advisability of having the Simes behind real walls instead of canvas.

Halvorsen: It's yours, then, even if we have to move someone else out.

Nick: We appreciate it.

Halvorsen realizes there may be another problem.

Katsura: Thank you. Mr. Reckage and I will walk there now. When will you move the railcars?

Halvorsen: Immediately. Uh, young lady... I noticed English isn't your first language.

Katsura: I am a little rusty.

Katsura is pleased that she remembered the idiom, which she found hilarious, for some reason, when she first learned it.

Halvorsen: Do all your people speak enough English to get by?

Katsura: Yes, we all do.

Halvorsen: Good. Can you think of any other problems my folks may not be anticipating?

Katsura looks to Nick.

Nick shrugs.

Nick: There'll be plenty of problems, I'm sure, but I think we've covered the essentials.

Katsura: We are eager to start. The victims in the ruins cannot wait long in this weather.

Halvorsen: All right. We'll get you moved, and I'll send Dr. Mendels and a supply sergeant over. I'll assign a couple of runners for messages. Any problems, ask for me or Sgt. Tarks.

Halvorsen offers Nick a handshake.

Nick is, of course, quite comfortable with the gesture.

Katsura would like to offer her hand, but doesn't want to push the soldier. Let him offer first.

Halvorsen glances at Katsura, hesitates, then steels himself and offers his hand again.

Katsura takes his hand lightly in her small, delicate, hot Sime one.

Halvorsen shakes briskly, just to prove he's not ~~ afraid ~~ .

Nick watches carefully, hoping that Kat can manage not to injure herself.

Katsura lets go as soon as possible.

Katsura: I look forward to working with you and your men, Lieutenant.

Halvorsen: As do I.

Halvorsen surreptitiously wipes his hand on the back of his rather muddy uniform.

Nick is ~~ relieved ~~ that Halvorsen didn't feel compelled to make even more of a production out of the handshake.

Halvorsen nods, executes a precise parade-ground turn, and, um, advances to the rear.

Katsura turns and waves to the people who have been listening from the doorway.

Katsura: Let's go see the building.

Nick nods.

Nick: Are your arms warm enough? That metal sucks heat.

Katsura: No, they're miserably cold. But I can take it, I'm a Farris.

Nick snorts.

Nick: Keep your cloak wrapped around you, then, with the retainers under it.

Nick can't deny that Kat ought to scout out the hay barn.

Katsura: Okay. That worked reasonably well, even though that man does not like Simes. And doesn't think much of women as doctors, either.

Nick: At least he seems willing to do his job.

Katsura: Yes. Do you think you should do all the talking, or will he get used to me? He seemed to be listening more after I told him I'm a doctor.

Nick: Keep talking to him, but don't be upset if he's more comfortable talking to me.

Katsura: How's my Genlan?

Nick: Heavily accented, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If people know you're not from around here, they're less likely to be startled when they see your retainers.

Katsura nods.

Nick sets out for the hay barn with the ground-eating stride of someone used to being outdoors in all weather.

Katsura: And did I commit any faux pas? He was angry when I asked for volunteers who had donated.

Katsura matches his pace easily, shaking her arms uncomfortably, trying to cope with the distortions to her senses.

Nick: He might have believed that you were calling him a coward, by implication.

Katsura: Oh, dear. That's a big insult out here, isn't it? What did I say?

Nick: I believe you asked for people who weren't afraid of Simes. Implying, of course, that our young lieutenant is afraid of Simes. Which, of course, he is.

Katsura would slap her forehead, but doesn't want to hurt her tentacles. She doesn't put value judgments on descriptive terms like 'afraid' any more than she'd put them on words like 'green' or 'tall'.

Katsura: Nick, I need your help with this. When I do something like that, tell me. On the spot, if appropriate, but certainly afterwards.

Nick: I'll try.

Nick leads the way around the hay barn.

Katsura: Solidly full, it zlins like.

Katsura doesn't add, "even with these shedoni-doomed things on" because she's not a whiner.

Nick: Good. We can use the extra hay to extend our "building". The tarp did make it into our supplies, didn't it? There might even be enough hay to reinforce the tent, when it arrives.

Katsura: And for mattresses. But heat is going to be a problem. The last thing we need is to set it on fire.

Katsura looks around.

Katsura: I guess they can put the tent over there. We could use the hay to insulate it, outside, and use this building for storage. We could sleep in the rail cars.

Nick nods.

Nick: That's probably a bit safer.

Katsura: Let's get the rest of the team out here, minus the Simes, unless they want to take turns with the retainers, and get more opinions before we decide. I hope they get us moved and some escorts for our Simes out here soon. I hate to think of Gens spending another night trapped in collapsed buildings. Or children, for that matter.

Nick: Yes. The first thing to do is to move some of those bales out, so we have shelter.

Katsura nods.

Nick: As soon as the train can be moved, we can start unloading the equipment and setting it up.

Katsura starts walking back.

Nick stays close to her.

Katsura: Nick, it's too bad we haven't had a chance to work together yet. And you haven't read my file. Not that I've read yours, either.

Nick: D'zoll seemed to think you're reasonably easy to please.

Katsura: I don't know if anyone has told you that I've got absurdly high discernment. I spent a lot of my First Year learning how not to be knocked over by a feather.

Nick: So you require more field blocking than most Farris channels?

Katsura: Yes, although I can handle most of it myself unless I'm doing intensive work. And if I can see something bad coming, like a deathshock, I can drop hypoconscious.

Katsura gestures, winces at the twist of her tentacles, and pulls the arm back under the cloak.

Katsura: But I can't always see it coming, and if it hits, it will probably knock me over. Just expect it. It's what happens.

Nick nods.

Norrin can't believe what he zlins: a huge Gen, enough to satisfy him fifty times over.

Norrin leaves his hiding place for the first time in days and makes an augmented run for Nick. He's a scrawny, half-starved Sime dressed in filthy rags, moving fast enough to be nothing but a blur to the people around him -- he hopes.

Katsura zlins what's happening and runs to meet the berserker before he can reach her Gen.

Nick: Kat, what..??

Norrin growls involuntarily as the rival Sime threatens to cut out his kill.

Nick charges after his channel.

Nick: Kat, wait! You're wearing retainers!

Katsura grabs the Sime by the upper arms and ~~ dominates ~~ him nagerically. ~~ calm ~~

Norrin struggles for all he's worth to get away, but it's no good. ~~ fury intil ~~

Nick reaches out with his own nager to reinforce Kat's ~~ forced calm ~~.

Nick: Whoa, there! Stop it. We won't hurt you.

Norrin's struggles decrease, but his field continues to shriek ~~ NEED NEED NEED ~~. ~~ hyperconscious ~~

Katsura: He's in need, but far from attrition. He just doesn't know that.

Katsura has never encountered a real junct before.

Nick: Relax, kid. You're going to be fine.

Norrin's laterals extend themselves toward Nick as he makes ~~ one supreme effort ~~ to break free.

Katsura augments to retain her hold and ~~ suppresses ~~ the need with Farris strength.

Norrin drops ~~ hypoconscious ~~ so hard and fast his teeth rattle -- and then falls into Katsura's arms.

Nick: Shen.

Nick moves closer to back up Katsura.

Norrin hangs onto consciousness, but just barely: he squinches his eyes shut to block out the harsh daylight.

Nick: What's your name, kid?

Norrin's voice is hoarse: he hasn't spoken to anyone in months.

Norrin: Radd, sir. Norrin Radd.

Nick: Pleased to meet you, Norrin. I'm Nick Reckage, and this is Katsura Farris. She's a channel.

Nick watches the kid's face to see whether that means anything to him.

Norrin opens his eyes carefully, then shuts them again, then opens them again.

Katsura supports the young Sime with ~~ comfort ~~ and ~~ safety ~~.

Norrin: A channel? One o' those that don't kill?

Norrin adds:

Norrin: Ma'am.

Katsura: Yes. We'll look after you. You won't have to kill again either.

Norrin: How...? ~~ bewilderment ~~

Nick thinks "Won't be allowed to kill" is a better way of putting it.

Katsura hopes he's young enough to disjunct. He probably is. How long could a junct last in a city?

Katsura: I'll give you what you need. It's better than a kill, and nobody dies.

Norrin: ~~ astonishment ~~ You can do that?

Katsura: Yes. That's how all the Simes in Simeland live. We don't kill Gens. They give their selyn to channels, and the channels give it to the Simes. The Gens don't get hurt that way.

Norrin: Huh. I thought that was just a lie. Me -- I killed four. I tried to stop it, I tried! But I couldn't.

Nick: Come back to the train with us. There are other Simes there. You can ask them if we're telling you the truth.

Norrin: ~~ suspicious ~~ Why'd you do that for me?

Katsura: Because you can't help yourself, and we can.

Nick: It's our job.

Norrin: I gotta pay? I got no money! ~~ anguish mistrust ~~

Katsura: No, we'll look after you just because you need help. Once you're ready, you can work and make money like everybody else.

Norrin: Huh. ~~ relief ~~

Katsura continues to hold the young Sime and impose ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ hope ~~.

Norrin: Okay. I'll go with you, ma'am. ~~ resolution ~~ I'll work for you. I ain't no freeloader. ~~ sincerity ~~

Nick: Good. Because with the earthquake and all, we could use all the help we can get.

Katsura: Things will work out. You'll feel better after you take transfer, and have a good meal and a warm place to sleep.

Nick: We're a disaster relief team, from Simeland.

Norrin laughs, or rather snorts, for the first time since changeover.

Norrin: Disaster, that's what I am. ~~ self-loathing ~~

Katsura: You'll never kill again, Norrin. You'll see.

Norrin suddenly changes moods, as teenagers do.

Norrin: Say, what happened in the city? I felt the earth shake, and I saw the fires.

Katsura: We don't know yet. We just got here.

Norrin: I got family there. O'course, they won't want me now. ~~ lonely sad ~~

Katsura keeps her arm around the young Sime, ready to grab him if he tries to bolt, as she walks him back to the railcar.

Nick falls in on the other side of the kid, keeping up a steady ~~ support ~~ filled with ~~ Gen optimism ~~.

Norrin begins to rest on Nick's field without even being aware that he's doing it.

Nick feels the "lean", and shifts his focus ever-so-gradually to Kat, so that Norrin won't fix on him.

Katsura: Here we are. Nick, will you ask everyone to clear the way to the back?

Katsura intends to serve transfer in one of the insulated sleeping compartments.

Nick: Sure.

Nick climbs up the stair and enters the car, then pokes his head out again a moment later.

Nick: All clear. Come on in where it's warmer, both of you.

Katsura: We'll go in now. There are some other people here, Simes and Gens both, but they aren't afraid of you. They wish you well. We'll go in back, and I'll give you something that's better than a kill.

Katsura leads the way inside, without letting go.

Norrin: ~~ skeptical but willing to trust for now ~~

Katsura guides the Sime through the car, tightly focused on him, controlling his field, and brings him into a compartment.

Nick falls in behind them, blocking the fields for Norrin.

Katsura holds her arm out to Nick so he can remove the retainer.

Katsura: In a little while I'm going to let you feel your need again. But you won't have to be afraid because you're safe now, and nobody wants to kill you, and you won't have to kill anybody else.

Nick has plenty of practice removing the blasted devices, and manages to get it off without pinching anything vital. He sets the thing aside and starts work on the other one.

Katsura is so focused on her work that she's barely conscious of the relief of having her tentacles freed.

Nick adjusts his field to allow Kat to focus on Norrin without being bothered by the ambient leaking through the poorly-insulated (by Farris standards) walls of the compartment.

Katsura: You're safe now. I'm not a Gen, even if I zlin like one. I'm a channel, and you can't kill me.

Katsura takes both the Sime's hands.

Norrin reacts automatically to Katsura's touch by lashing his handling tentacles around her arms lightning-fast.

Katsura: That's good. It's safe to hold my arms.

Katsura reduces her grip on the Sime's need slightly, and projects the nager of a calm, happy Gen, preparing to give transfer.

Norrin can't seem to extend his laterals, though, making him aware of them for the first time; until now, his kills have been fully automatic.

Nick: It's all right. Just relax.

Katsura grasps Norrin's arms with her own tentacles. Now is not the time to teach him the optimal grip, or other matters of dispensary etiquette.

Katsura: You can take transfer when you're ready, Norrin. Just do what you need to do.

Katsura projects the ~~ welcoming ~~ joyful ~~ nager of a ~~ replete ~~ Gen ~~ eager to serve ~~ as she lightens her hold on the Sime's field so his intil can rise naturally.

Nick: Focus on Kat.

Norrin does his best, not even half knowing what he's doing. His laterals emerge cautiously and lick the air.

Katsura encourages intil, continuing to offer the experience of a kill without pain or guilt, but instead willingness and joy. She hopes she won't have to use simulated pain or fear to entice him.

Norrin's intil rises step by step in synchrony with Katsura's will.

Katsura has engaged his field deeply, letting his emotions develop naturally, but guiding them in preferred directions.

Norrin lets everything except ~~ intil ~~ slip away and commits: his laterals go for Kat's arms as he braces himself for the sudden peak of the Kill followed by an immediate collapse.

Katsura entwines his laterals with hers and bends forward to make a lip contact.

Nick offers ~~ steady support ~~, along with a great deal more nageric isolation than the insulation offers.

Norrin finds the entwined laterals strange, but the touch of lip to lip is familiar enough to reassure him. He ~~ draws ~~ violently, trying to strip Kat's Genness of all its vast reservoir of life itself.

Katsura allows the draw at the Sime's top speed, flavoring it with ~~ joy ~~ and ~~ fulfillment ~~.

Norrin experiences the selyn flooding into his system not as a pair of shocks, but as an ever-increasing wave that peaks once and then slows gradually to ~~ satiation ~~ and ~~ satisfaction ~~.

Katsura lets the transfer terminate, projecting ~~ continued repletion ~~ safety ~~ joy ~~ and ~~ approval ~~.

Norrin sinks down once more into ~~ hypoconsciousness ~~ as his laterals retract and his handling tentacles release, but this time it is not harsh but ~~ glorious ~~. His hoarseness is gone as well.

Norrin: I ... I ... I ... I don't believe it.

Nick: Believe it. It's true.

Katsura smiles at him and offers a hug, despite the stench of his unwashed body in the warmer air.

Norrin's jaw drops as he sees how beautiful everything is, and Katsura most of all. ~~ wonder admiration desire joy ~~

Katsura subtly suppresses the sexual element of the Sime's postreaction.

Norrin steps into Katsura's arms and holds her tightly as a wave of ~~ grief ~~ and ~~ shame ~~ rises up from his heart.

Katsura hugs him and offers ~~ solace ~~.

Norrin buries his face in Kat's neck as ~~ scalding tears ~~ are forced from his eyes, and finally he begins sobbing openly.

Katsura: You'll never kill again. You'll be all right now.

Norrin shakes his head no.

Norrin: My mother...

Nick: You can't change the past, Norrin. Just the future.

Norrin shakes his head again: he's not ready to take that advice yet.

Katsura strokes his greasy hair.

Norrin relaxes a bit now but continues to weep for his dead mother, his lost family, and himself.

Katsura turns to Nick and whispers:

Katsura: Welcome to Genland.

Nick raises an eyebrow, then goes to rustle up clean clothes and wash water for the boy.

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