Disaster Strikes: Episode 11

Ezeekel stamps his feet in a futile attempt to stay warm as he walks back and forth outside of the Sime encampment.

Ezeekel has found business rather slow today: only a few people came to brave the Simes for treatment of injuries too minor to get fast treatment from the overworked Gen medics. He chooses to view this as a sign of success, although he knows that the Simes are being permitted to do things to some of the more hopeless patients at the main hospital tent.

Sefni comes out of the railcar where she's been getting her short ration of sleep. She'll be out with a search and rescue team again in an hour or so. The work is getting to be quite discouraging -- they are finding so many depressingly fresh corpses, and very few survivors.

Sefni spots the picketer. The poor man zlins quite chilled. After all the casualties for whom she could do nothing she feels even more sympathetic to Gens in distress. She decides to invite him in to warm up.

Ezeekel stops pacing as Sefni appears, watching her ~~ warily ~~.

Sefni stops inside the "gate" since she has no retainers, nor escort.

Ezeekel watches her closely.

Sefni: Good day, sir.

Sefni hasn't had much opportunity to practice her conversational Genlan, but did quite well at school.

Sefni: Will you like to come and be warm by our stove?

Sefni never did figure out the subjunctive.

Ezeekel has no etiquette for talking with Simes, but has had a certain level of courtesy towards women beaten into him since childhood.

Sefni: It is a cold day.

Ezeekel reaches to tug at the rim of his fur-lined cap.

Ezeekel: Evening, Ma'am. It sure is. A lot of folks are going to have frostbite, with no shelter.

Ezeekel is ~~ concerned ~~ about the deteriorating conditions.

Sefni's face shows her own distress at the thought of such suffering.

Sefni: It is very bad. We are very sad about it. The army tries to help but so many have no house.

Ezeekel: The city is in ruins, sure enough. And there's no way to start rebuilding much until spring.

Sefni nods.

Sefni: Please come to our tent and be warm. We have hot tea and some food.

Ezeekel is a bit ~~ wary ~~ of the offer, but he's also cold, tired, and feeling useless, with so few people around to warn. He considers, and decides that going inside would allow him to scout the enemy, as it were, and perhaps make headway in freeing the Gens inside.

Ezeekel: That's a very courteous offer, Ma'am.

Sefni: Please come with me.

Sefni gestures, tentacles in. She's heard about Ezeekel's campaign.

Ezeekel takes a good look around, confirms that there's no one approaching the tent, and follows Sefni into the tent, at what he hopes is a safe distance.

Sefni leads the way to the bench by the stove.

Ezeekel takes off his gloves and holds his reddened hands out to the stove. He inspects them carefully, and decides that he's not frostbitten yet, although it's a near thing.

Sefni can zlin how cold he is, and is glad she lured him in, for his own good. She pours tea from the pot on the back of the stove, starts to offer it, then realizes that Ezeekel might not want to take anything from a Sime's hand. She puts it on the bench.

Sefni: Some tea for you.

Ezeekel: Thank ye, Ma'am.

Sefni gets out the box of donor biscuits, supplemented by some nuts and dried fruit, and puts that on the bench too.

Ezeekel wraps his hands cautiously around the hot mug.

Sefni then wonders how the Gen can shell the nuts. He probably won't want her to do it for him. ~~ awkward ~~

Ezeekel takes an equally cautious sip of the tea, then unwraps his muffler and unbuttons his coat. He takes a walnut, notes that there's no nutcracker, and cracks it between his teeth.

Sefni winces, wondering how often the teeth, rather than the nutshell, crack.

Ezeekel's buddy lost a tooth that way, but the chance at some high-fat, high-protein food is irresistible. He eats the nut, then goes on to the dried fruit, savoring the sugar. He has been on short rations for the past five days, like most of his neighbors.

Ezeekel sits down on the bench, with his back against the wall so he can keep an eye on the Simes, and tries to warm his toes a little by propping them against the stove. He stopped being able to feel them an hour ago, despite the two pairs of socks.

Sefni picks up a chunk of salvaged structural lumber, sees that it's too long for the stove, and casually breaks it in two, using a brief burst of augmentation. She opens the stove and tosses both pieces in.

Ezeekel ~~ starts ~~ at the sight, shrinking back.

Sefni didn't consider the effect of this demonstration of Sime strength on the suspicious Wild Gen.

Sefni: Oh! I will apologize! I did not think it to upset you.

Ezeekel: For a moment, I forgot what you are.

Sefni: I am search and rescue specialist.

Ezeekel: I make shoes, myself.

Ezeekel is proud of the boots he's wearing, which have not leaked. He can't hold the boots responsible for his overly chilled toes.

Sefni: I work on the farm when there is no search and rescue. I take care for the young calves.

Ezeekel isn't used to thinking of Simes as having useful occupations.

Ezeekel: So you've been working with the search crews?

Sefni: Yes. I go out again soon.

Ezeekel isn't as adamantly opposed to the search teams as he is to the channels: there's less contact with the public.

Sefni: I think we will not find many alive now. Too bad we were not here more soon after the earthquake.

Ezeekel: You have a way to figure out when an earthquake is gonna happen?

Sefni: No. ~~ puzzled ~~

Ezeekel: Then how could you have been here sooner?

Sefni: We could not be. But in Nivet, there are Simes living in a city, and they could find people right away. Even if they do not know how to move injured people, they know where they are.

Ezeekel shrugs.

Ezeekel: From what I saw, there was little trouble the first few days finding people to free, for everyone who was able to help.

Norrin, with no duties except step and fetch it, gets terminally ~~ bored ~~ really fast when there's no incoming patients. He looks about for something interesting, and notes one of those religious nuts talking with one of the Simes. That sounds interesting, all right. He retracts his tentacles and approaches the fire.

Sefni zlins the young junct approaching. He's supposed to stay well away from the Wild Gens. She waves him away.

Norrin doesn't take orders worth spit, unfortunately; however, he has enough sense of self-preservation to back off a bit and then hide himself so the nut won't see him. At least he can listen.

Sefni is concerned that if the locals learn they are harboring a junct there will be a great deal of trouble.

Sefni: Do you like more tea, sir?

Sefni picks up the pot and offers to refill the cup.

Ezeekel isn't ready to go outside into the cold again, just yet.

Ezeekel: Don't mind if I do.

Ezeekel holds out his cup.

Sefni fills it.

Sefni: Please eat more food, too.

Sefni can zlin Norrin lurking out of sight and wishes he'd get back to doing laundry for Iqbal.

Norrin waits impatiently for the stupid Gen to stop eating and start ranting.

Ezeekel picks up a Donor biscuit and takes a bite. His eyes bulge at the taste, although he manfully struggles to be polite and not spit it out. He swallows, with the help of a gulp of tea, and scorches his throat. He gives a cough or two, then sets the Donor biscuit down.

Sefni zlins it all, but stays calm. She's certainly zlinned a lot worse in the past few days.

Ezeekel: What is that, anyway?

Sefni: Oh. It is emergency food. Very good nutrition but not good flavor, I think.

Ezeekel: I guess if you're trying to lose weight, it would be just the thing.

Ezeekel doesn't take a second bite of the biscuit.

Sefni thinks that there are probably a lot of Gens out there who have eaten worse lately but remains polite.

Sefni: Perhaps you can give the rest to someone who is more hungry.

Sefni, like most Simes, has a hard time regarding most food as more than fuel, especially after turnover.

Ezeekel's shop escaped with minimal damage, and he has not been going without food and shelter, at least involuntarily.

Sefni: Sir, I wonder why you stay outside here in the cold and wind all day.

Ezeekel isn't all that surprised that this Sime doesn't understand.

Sefni can zlin how cold he got, and how much he's enjoying the shelter and warmth.

Ezeekel: The same reason you go out in the cold and wind. I'm trying to limit the damage this earthquake is doing to my neighbors.

Sefni: I don't understand.

Ezeekel isn't sure a Sime can understand his position, or even a Gen who's been in their clutches for a while, like that young man he talked to yesterday.

Norrin understands fine: people shouldn't accept help from demons. What stupidity.

Ezeekel has nothing better to do at the moment, however, and the challenge intrigues him.

Ezeekel: My folks have been living here since the Simes were driven out. This is my home, and I want it to be as strong and successful in the future as it was a week ago.

Sefni nods, agreeing with the general sentiment.

Ezeekel: The earthquake knocked down a lot of buildings, and killed a lot of people. A lot of those who survived have lost everything they've got. All we've got to rebuild with is our values, and what they teach about what we owe our neighbors during hard times.

Sefni, having spent her entire life in an intentional community practicing pure communism, thinks this is entirely natural.

Ezeekel: I'm here to ensure that our values remain intact.

Ezeekel takes another sip of the hot tea. His toes are beginning to hurt, which at least suggests that they're not seriously frozen.

Norrin enjoys zlinning those toes.

Sefni: We think people here are our neighbors too, neighbors to our country. So we came here to help you.

Ezeekel: I'm sure you mean well.

Sefni doesn't like the junct character of the enjoyment she zlins from Norrin. She's never met a junct before either.

Norrin zlins Sefni's ~~ concern ~~ and gets ~~ annoyed ~~, thinking, What the hell, I ain't gonna kill him, lady.

Sefni: But you think it is bad we came here to help your people?

Ezeekel: The help you can provide is limited. The harm you can do is not.

Sefni: We do not harm people!

Ezeekel: Maybe, at least not directly.

Ezeekel is ~~ unsure ~~ of even that much, however.

Ezeekel: The harm you do by shaking up tradition is something else again. Take away a person's past, and their present, and what's left?

Sefni smiles.

Sefni: Their future? Maybe a better time than the past.

Ezeekel: Without anything to build on, that's not likely, as I see it.

Norrin knows that for people of his class, the future is gonna be just like the past: marginal and desperate.

Sefni: I see that we can cause sorrow by showing a different thing than tradition. If children in changeover come here, people will see there is a better way for them than murder. Then when we leave, they will lose that, unless a Sime Center comes here.

Ezeekel: And if it does, we lose even more of what's let us survive and prosper here in the past.

Sefni: Do you think it is better to murder your children, or let them kill, than to send them to Nivet? They will never kill a Gen if they go to a channel for changeover.

Sefni finds both the idea of murdering a child, and of letting a child kill, to be quite distressing.

Norrin is surprised how reasonable both of them sound. He'd like to figure out some way to provoke an actual argument, but doesn't know how.

Ezeekel: That's fine for the kids who turn Sime, but what about the rest of them? The ones who'll actually stay here and contribute to the rebuilding?

Sefni: Why will it not be the same, except for less suffering? Also, Gens can sell their selyn to the Sime Center, and make money to help rebuild.

Ezeekel: And by doing so, we'll lose our independence.

Sefni spreads hands, remembering to keep her tentacles retracted.

Sefni: Some will donate, most will not. But all will benefit if there are no berserkers, and no sorrow over murders and kills.

Ezeekel: And so, we all would become dependent on your presence here.

Sefni sighs.

Sefni: I suppose some will still murder their children, and some will let their children kill. It is tradition.

Ezeekel: Traditions are not to be discarded lightly. Your help comes at a price, and it's not a trivial one.

Sefni: What is the price?

Sefni thinks any solution to stop the murders and kills is worth a very great deal.

Ezeekel: When you depend on someone else to handle your problems, you lose the ability to deal with them yourself. And you find yourself being very careful not to offend the folks who are handling the problem for you.

Sefni is ~~ disgusted ~~ by this selfish rationale for... being a lorsh. She wonders if Ezeekel has children, and if his love of "tradition" exceeds his love of his family.

Ezeekel: What, do you honestly believe that your Tecton sent you here for purely altruistic reasons?

Sefni: I came here to help. My naztehrhai came here to help. The help is real. We give it without payment. We do not put ourselves in danger and zlin terrible things to help the Tecton. We do it to help you.

Sefni regards the political benefits as entirely secondary.

Norrin gives up; this is just as boring as everything else. He decides to go back to the laundry, for which he at least gets credit.

Sefni is relieved to zlin Norrin leaving. She's really worried by the trouble he could cause, and he isn't at all trustworthy.

Ezeekel: I can't speak for your motives, but your Tecton has its own uses for Gens, and they don't confine them to Gens living under their laws.

Sefni: No one will make a Gen donate here. Each person can decide for itself whether to donate.

Ezeekel: At least to start with. But how long before the city council decides that it would save them a lot of money to cut support for the poor, since they can get money by coming to you? And how long before they start raising rents, because there's more money available? How free will folks be to make their own decisions then?

Sefni, as a Householder, doesn't normally handle money, so her grasp of economics is fairly weak.

Sefni shrugs.

Sefni: For me, to know that my children will live and never kill, that no Sime will kill, no child is murdered, this is worth a great deal. Perhaps it is not so for you.

Ezeekel: It's worth something, but not everything.

Sefni can see that it's not likely anything she says will change the Gen's beliefs. She hopes there are others who see things differently.

Sefni: Sir, now I must go and make ready to search again. I hope there will be people to rescue. Please have more tea and food, and stay here to be warm as long as you like.

Ezeekel nods.

Ezeekel: Thank you for your hospitality, Ma'am.

Sefni: You are welcome.

Sefni walks off briskly, preparing herself to face the uncontrolled hostility, fear, hope, anger and pain of the Gens she will meet.

Ezeekel takes one last sip of the tea, letting it warm him.

Ezeekel never thought to find himself sharing a hay barn with a bunch of Simes, but he didn't think there would be an earthquake here, either. He's pretty sure he's not in immediate physical danger here, but that doesn't eliminate the threat that the Sime's Tecton represents to the independent Gen way of life.

Ezeekel found last night's conversation with the young man deeply disturbing, as it showed how completely living among Simes can twist a person's priorities. He thinks Gen society's priorities should remain firmly fixed on what's best for Gens; the Simes have their own lands in which to set their own priorities.

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