Disaster Strikes: Episode 14

Pedro can't believe what he's seeing here in Cottontree City, or whatever its outlandish name is.

Pedro thinks a disaster is a disaster, but there's no excuse at all for lack of professionalism. Channels and Donors out of uniform!

Pedro shudders. He can't believe that the channel in charge is actually willing to cooperate with butchers. Next he'll find that the Simes are cooking and distributing meat, no doubt.

Pedro likes to think that he can adapt to circumstances; for example, it's obviously not practical to ship changeovers directly back in-T under present conditions. But the other improprieties are way, way, way over the top. He determines to confront Hajene Katsura and her unspeakable Donor at once, and marches to the local edge of Sime Territory bristling with ~~ indignation ~~.

Ezeekel is at his post, tramping back and forth in the path he's worn just past the posted boundaries. He managed to convince two people today to seek legitimate help from real doctors, so he feels the effort is worthwhile.

Ezeekel nods to the new face.

Ezeekel: Afternoon, mister.

Pedro switches to the Genlan he learned in classes years ago.

Pedro: Good afternoon, sir.

Ezeekel: You look a bit upset, if you don't mind me saying so.

Ezeekel looks ~~ sympathetic ~~.

Pedro: Well, yes. What I've seen out there is -- well, very, very distressing.

Ezeekel: It'll be a long time before Cottonwood City is a good place to live again, that's for sure.

Pedro: I'm particularly appalled to see how this tragedy is being recklessly mismanaged.

Ezeekel: Yes, indeed. This whole operation here is a prime example of official recklessness.

Ezeekel nods towards the tent.

Pedro: I couldn't agree more. I assure you, I intend to do whatever is necessary to restore professional conduct here.

Ezeekel is ~~ encouraged ~~ by this show of sense.

Ezeekel: Good. I'm sure they mean well, but really, even refugees have a right to a decent standard of medical care.

Pedro is taken aback.

Ezeekel would also like to get back to helping his neighbors dig out, rather than freezing his toes out here.

Pedro: Do you know of specific instances of, er, malfeasance?

Pedro takes out a pocket tablet and pencil to take notes.

Ezeekel: Well, to start with, no amount of trying can turn a hay barn into an acceptable hospital. Especially when it isn't staffed properly.

Ezeekel has a Gen idea of what constitutes "proper staff" for a hospital.

Ezeekel: And the food is hot, but not really suitable for anyone who's sick.

Pedro: Well, we have a saying: any barn in a storm. You'll have to admit that the team here couldn't expect to find a fully equipped hospital undamaged and ready for their use, surely?

Ezeekel: I should hope not. If the hospital had survived the quake, the Army doctors would have taken it over.

Pedro: So we can hardly charge them with that. And while I'm all in favor of cross-Territory cooperation in general, I find it disturbing that actual healers are cooperating with, well, people who think they know a lot more medicine than they actually do.

Ezeekel: I must say, it's reassuring to find someone who is willing to take an official look at the situation. You are an official inspector, aren't you?

Pedro: Rather, a special envoy. But my report will be given considerable weight, so in effect, yes.

Ezeekel: Good. I hate to see desperate people being taken advantage of.

Pedro: I couldn't agree more. But now, perhaps, I should -- oh yes. Do you mind telling me your name?

Ezeekel: Ezeekel, sir. I used to be a cobbler, before my shop was damaged. And you are?

Pedro: Pedro Nott, Special Envoy of the Regional Controller. Good day.

Ezeekel: An accountant, then? I expect you're used to finding where the bodies are hidden.

Pedro waves a salute but doesn't reply. He enters Sime Territory and heads off for the tent that his low TN-2 body tells him contains the QN-1.

Nick is busy coaxing some bean soup into Kat, a task that becomes more difficult each time it's served.

Nick has largely abandoned his Tecton uniform in favor of clothes that suit the climate, and he hasn't shaved in two days. His nager, however, has all the spit and polish a channel could ask for, in stark contrast to his appearance.

Katsura is wearing a thick Gen-style sweater with the arms folded up above the elbows. It's rather stained and worn -- it came in with a shipment of donated old clothes, and Nick snapped it up for her. She's glad to have something to roll down over the retainers, and the sweater is very warm.

Katsura is not disturbed by Nick's unshaven state. She hopes he'll grow a beard. She likes beards -- they are so quintessentially male Gen.

Nick: Come on, you can have a few more sips. It'll warm you up.

Katsura: Okay, Nick.

Katsura leans on Nick's projected ~~ appetite ~~ and has a few mouthfuls of soup. She always tries to cooperate with her Donor's efforts to help her.

Nick is having to work hard to muster enthusiasm for yet another bean soup, and makes a mental note to find some alternative food, even if the black market must be sought out.

Katsura: I suppose I could just put myself on a ration of channel chow. It is nutritionally complete, and I can see just how much I'm eating.

Nick: Don't do that. Even the beans are better. And we might be able to find some eggs or a jar of pickles, somehow.

Katsura: Iq's maize bread is pretty good, but he's running out of maize meal, with the people we've been feeding. I don't think they grow maize up here.

Katsura: Nick, you zlin cold. Let me warm you up a bit.

Nick snuggles closer, and lets Kat take his cold hands.

Katsura enjoys the close contact, and smiles.

Pedro reaches the command tent and ~~ signals ~~ for admittance.

Katsura can barely zlin him through Nick's rich and beautiful nager. She cranes to look over his shoulder.

Nick takes the hint, and adjusts his nager to allow Kat to zlin.

Katsura: Please come in, Sosu!

Katsura is reluctant to move away from Nick, but stands and faces the unfamiliar Donor.

Katsura: A TN-2, Nick. I don't know him.

Pedro enters to find what he's beginning to think of as the usual shocking sight: no uniforms, no discipline, no Tecton-standard anything.

Pedro: Respect to you and your House, Hajene Katsura.

Katsura: Thank you, Sosu.

Pedro: I'm Pedro Nott, Special Envoy. The Regional Controller sent me to investigate this, ah, disaster.

Nick's face and nager ~~ freeze ~~ at the name, which he identifies as belonging to one of his harshest critics.

Katsura looks worriedly at Nick, wondering what he knows about Sosu Pedro.

Pedro declines to notice the rogue Donor at all.

Katsura: Have you come with our supplies, then?

Katsura and the rest of the team have been waiting anxiously for the shipment, which is late.

Pedro: I'm afraid not. I had to travel light in order to get here this quickly, Hajene.

Katsura: I see.

Katsura doesn't, really, but will no doubt hear about it soon.

Nick supposes that it's remotely possible that Pedro's mission is legitimate, and not the latest move in the Regional Controller's campaign to obliterate the Audnes family and their works.

Katsura: May I offer you some tea and food?

Katsura believes in looking after Gens, especially Donors, and courtesy never hurts.

Pedro: No thank you. I have eaten adequately.

Pedro: Hajene, I must say that unless the situation is greatly -- and rapidly -- improved, that the report I will bring back to the Controller in a few days' time will be most unsatisfactory, most unsatisfactory indeed.

Nick: Then it really is unfortunate that you didn't bring us the wherewithal to do so.

Nick sat through far too many "critiques" of how the Dam was managed, most of which assumed resources that never appeared.

Katsura: We've been going through our supplies alarmingly fast, especially food. So many people here are homeless and hungry.

Pedro nods understandingly, or is it ~~ condescendingly ~~.

Pedro: Of course. But I fail to see why that has required you, who represent the Tecton here in Gen Territory, to descend to the same level of operations. Surely you have enough food and hot water for yourselves?

Nick: We've got a lot of bean soup.

Katsura: Yes. And we've managed to buy some barley and triticale locally. Water has to be hauled from the river, and fuel from the ruins, but the army has been very helpful there.

Pedro's eyebrows elevate.

Pedro: The Army? Well, at least there's precedent for cooperation there.

Katsura: They're in charge of the relief efforts, and have been fairly easy to work with.

Pedro nods.

Nick: So have the Gen doctors.

Katsura: Yes. Most of them are pretty nervous around Simes, but are impressed at what we can sometimes do for their patients.

Pedro clutches his head ~~ exasperation, only somewhat moderated ~~.

Katsura leans on Nick's nager. Clearly this Donor doesn't know how to behave around Farrises.

Nick offers what ~~ support ~~ he can, without inflicting his own increasing ~~ distress ~~ over Pedro's presence.

Pedro: I had seen evidence of cooperation with those... flesh manglers, but I had hoped, at least, that it was insubordinate rather than authorized. Am I to understand...?

Pedro is speechless.

Katsura: Of course, we cooperate with them. How else?

Pedro grasps at straws.

Pedro: Surely... surely you don't consider them colleagues? Why, they can't possibly know what they're doing, never mind whether it actually helps patients!

Katsura: I've been very impressed by their ability to diagnose without zlinning. They can't manage the subtleties, of course, but just from signs and symptoms, they can infer a great deal.

Pedro shrugs but remains ~~ unconvinced ~~.

Nick: They've been keeping notes on procedures and outcomes for longer than channels have, after all.

Pedro: Well, we'll leave that up to the proper authorities.

Katsura is puzzled that this Donor isn't taking the word of a First, and a Farris at that. After all, he can't zlin, himself, either.

Katsura: Most of the patients are extremely reluctant to be touched, or even approached, by a Sime. This is their country. We have no authority here.

Nick: We do what we can, for those who will permit it. We're still overworked. So are the Gen doctors, for that matter. We certainly welcome a new pair of hands to help with the work.

Nick hopes that they can keep Pedro working hard enough that he won't have time to write too damaging a report.

Katsura: We have two Second Order channels here. They'll be able to accomplish more with a third Donor to trade off with.

Katsura is ~~ worried ~~ by the way Pedro is pointedly ignoring Nick. Perhaps he believes what he's read in the tabloids. Kat has forgotten that she, herself, did, at least until she actually and unexpectedly met Nick.

Pedro can see that he'll get no cooperation here unless he can do something to separate Hajene Katsura from the rogue. He's obviously influenced her into his half-Distect, half-anarchist way of thinking.

Katsura notices a lot of ~~ distress ~~ leaking through the insulation in one of the treatment rooms. Zelkova, one of the Seconds, must be having trouble explaining things to the woman with several young children who is in there with her.

Katsura: Nick, it zlins like Zelkova could use a cultural interpreter again.

Nick gives Kat a quick inspection.

Nick: You'll be all right?

Katsura smiles at him.

Katsura: Yes.

Nick takes Kat at her word, while making a mental note to find a suitable revenge if Pedro makes trouble for her.

Nick: All right. I'll be back soon.

Katsura: Good.

Nick disengages his nager from its usual support, and slips out of the cubicle.

Katsura looks a bit less well without Nick's support, but turns to Pedro.

Katsura: Nick's out-T experience has been invaluable here. He understands these people far better than any of the rest of us.

Pedro realizes that the Big-Tuib-in-the-Sky the barbarians believe in seems to have delivered Katsura into his hands.

Pedro: Of course, Hajene. I quite understand -- if you think you'll be all right without your Donor for a few minutes?

Katsura: Of course.

Katsura is glad that Nick has been playing along with her calm, assured Iron Farris act for this visitor.

Pedro sits down where Nick was, but does not attempt to engage a QN-1 Farris nager he's not equipped to handle. Verbal persuasion is, of course, another matter.

Pedro: Hajene Farris, I know that under circumstances like these, well, a channel such as yourself can't be overly picky. But surely you know what that man is, and how dangerous he is?

Katsura: My Sectuib trusts him, and I've found him to be exceptionally skilled and dedicated to his work.

Pedro throws up his hands.

Pedro: [loudly] No one denies that! It's irrelevant!

Katsura: Sosu, please.

Katsura signals the Donor to moderate his projection, even though it's not doing her any harm.

Pedro collapses quickly from avenging angel to obedient Donor.

Pedro: Forgive me, Hajene. It's just that if you knew what I knew.... Unfortunately, I'm not authorized to release the full details to you.

Katsura: Perhaps I do know.

Katsura has lost much of her initial, default respect for this self-important Gen.

Pedro shrugs.

Pedro: As may be. In any case, I'm sure you couldn't possibly be fully informed, or your Sectuib either -- respect to Sat'htine, by the way -- or he couldn't possibly have made this assignment. He has the most intimate connections with the worst anti-Tecton, anti-order, pro-kill elements.

Katsura smiles.

Katsura: You've been reading the Nivet Inquirer, perhaps?

Pedro disregards this remark.

Katsura: My Sectuib discussed Nick with the World Controller before deciding to invite Nick to Sat'htine. Do you have information she doesn't?

Katsura implies "And why doesn't she, then?"

Pedro: You might well think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

Katsura: Sosu, do you think I should take your vague insinuations more seriously than the word of my Sectuib and the World Controller? Not to mention my own personal experience of working with this man?

Pedro blows out his breath.

Pedro: I can quite see, Hajene, that Sosu Nick has you entirely under his influence, and it would be futile to discuss the matter with you further. Good day.

Pedro turns on his heel and marches out.

Katsura doesn't know whether to be more startled or insulted. She also wonders just where Sosu Pedro is stomping off to.

Pedro goes out to take more notes about the deplorable conditions and perhaps talk to Ezeekel again. He seems like a possibly helpful informant.

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