Disaster Strikes: Episode 17

Katsura is sitting in the "office" area of the railcar, at the maximum feasible social distance from Dr. Mendels, who dropped in to chat. She's grateful that Dr. Mendels no longer fears her, and seldom startles when she moves, but he still has no idea of nageric control, so his presence can be rather wearing after another long day.

Katsura regrets that she told Nick to go off and enjoy his evening, since she was planning to work on reports alone, and he deserved a break.

Katsura is trying to decide whether to ask Nick to help her do a shunt tonight or tomorrow. She's been using up too much selyn fighting cold and stress, and doesn't want to come into need any earlier than necessary, since Nick doesn't match her even full field

Mendels is glad the worst of the emergency is over. They're not into the home stretch yet, but at least he can afford to just sit back and relax with a colleague for an hour or two now. He has been using the opportunity to try to learn a bit more about how channels practice their craft. He thinks he may be acquiring a taste for trin tea.

Nick has been indulging in a different beverage than trin tonight. In fact, he reeks of the cheapest sort of local bathtub gin, although his reflexes are not much affected. He also reeks of the ~~ satisfaction ~~ of someone who has accomplished something significant.

Mendels: So your secondary system is the one you use to do the healing, and it's completely separate from the primary system that fuels your own body?

Katsura: Well, the two systems connect at the vriamic node, so we can shunt selyn between them.

Katsura makes a gesture over the center of her chest, the location of the vriamic node.

Nick is very much out of uniform: he picked his evening clothes out of the bits of castoff Gen clothing that have been gathered for distribution to the desperate. In fact, he looks like a tramp, even if he zlins like a Donor with some unconventional training.

Mendels: How do you do that? ~~ eager fascination ~~

Katsura: I require my Donor's help for it. I use his system as a sort of resistance that allows me to push selyn between my primary and secondary. Actually, any Gen who can remain calm and steady can help a channel with this. Or a channel simulating a Gen.

Katsura wonders whether she should have said that. Mendels might want her to demo on him.

Mendels: You mean I could do it? ~~ curiosity ~~ and a small flutter of ~~ fear ~~

Katsura: Well, you would have to have better control of your nager, so you could remain sufficiently steady. ~~ firm ~~

Katsura smiles.

Katsura: Your curiosity and enthusiasm would interfere.

Mendels shrugs and takes another sip of trin.

Mendels: You know surgeons: we steady down as soon as there's work to be done.

Nick takes off his coat, and decides to poke his head in and check on Kat before going to bed.

Katsura is ~~ relieved ~~ to zlin Nick approaching. She knew he was coming back, but ever since Pedro arrived, she's had an unreasonable niggling fear at the back of her mind that Nick may make a run for it, every time he's been away from her for any significant period.

Nick's current "Wild Gen refugee" disguise probably isn't helping matters any.

Nick: Hi, Kat, I'm back... Oh, hello, Dr. Mendels. What brings you here?

Katsura relaxes as Nick automatically provides her with support. She feels so much safer around Wild Gens with Nick there to protect her from their uncontrolled nagers.

Mendels: We were just chatting. It's good to have a bit of free time for a change.

Nick: Yes, it is.

Katsura pats the bench next to her, reaches for a clean mug and fills it with trin.

Katsura: Here, Nick. There's some oat squares left, too.

Katsura offers a plate of the delicacies, full of nuts, dried fruit and honey.

Mendels's sensitive nose picks up the alcohol on Nick's breath.

Nick sits and removes his Gen-style neckcloth. Most of the gin smell is coming from it.

Mendels: You've been enjoying some time off as well, Sosu?

Nick: Yes, I had quite a profitable evening socializing with some of the refugees.

Katsura can zlin that the smell is completely out of proportion to Nick's mild inebriation.

Mendels: Profitable?

Mendels is thinking in terms of information gathering.

Nick pulls a deck of cards from his pocket and demonstrates his skill in moving the cards around.

Nick: There was a friendly game of chance or two that I dropped in on.

Nick winks.

Mendels: ~~ amusement ~~ Ah, that kind of profitable.

Nick: Yes. I've been taking lessons on the local game of choice, and they paid off handsomely.

Nick looks at Kat.

Katsura is somewhat ~~ amused ~~ but also somewhat ~~ uncertain ~~.

Nick: Young Norrin has been a fount of information.

Nick is far from drunk, but his inhibitions aren't quite as firm as usual.

Katsura wishes Nick hadn't mentioned Norrin, and hopes he can recover without revealing that they're harboring a junct with a string of local kills to his record.

Mendels: Norrin?

Nick: A local boy who's been staying with us.

Mendels: Oh, I must have been mistaken. I thought Norrin was the young Sime I'd seen around here.

Nick: Umm...

Nick realizes too late that he's been indiscreet.

Katsura: Yes, he changed over here. We're looking after him until we can send him in-T.

Katsura does a half-fast stab at not quite lying.

Mendels: You had a changeover right here in camp and didn't let me know? ~~ curiosity ~~ disappointment ~~ I would have been fascinated.

Katsura: It was before we'd met you.

Nick is ~~ relieved ~~ that Kat has found a way out.

Mendels is ~~ puzzled ~~ . He thought he'd met the channel just hours after the Simes' train arrived.

Katsura: I hope you will bring or send any possible changeovers to us. There should be one any day now, if there hasn't been already, in a city this size.

Katsura hopes she's gotten away with it. She has no experience at lying, even though no one could zlin it through her Farris showfield, except a few other Farrises.

Mendels: Of course I will. Not as if I'd be able to take care of one properly. It was certainly fortunate for young Norrin that your train wasn't an hour or two later.

Katsura nods.

Nick: He would have been long dead if he hadn't met us when he did.

Katsura is ~~ surprised ~~ at how easily Nick can say something that's not entirely true.

Katsura: Do parents out here usually consult a doctor if they think their child is going into changeover?

Mendels: Not often, unfortunately. Usually they just get out the shotgun.

Katsura shudders.

Mendels: Doctors try to teach parents how to recognize the difference between stomach flu and changeover. But a lot of these people don't have the money for doctors.

Katsura: As a pediatrician, it's especially hard for me to think of murdering a healthy child. Of course, I understand that people here usually have no choice.

Katsura leans a bit harder on Nick's nager, nonetheless. He's convinced her to do more of it, without being ashamed of indulging herself.

Mendels: Without channels, the choice is between the Black Pill, the shotgun, or beating the kid to death with a shovel. ~~ sorrow ~~

Katsura feels physically sick at that idea.

Nick: And the first two are more expensive than the last.

Mendels: Exactly.

Nick decides a change of subject is in order.

Mendels: I'm hoping one of the good things to come out of your help to us will be a request for a new Sime Center here.

Katsura: Yes. I think the Tecton would look favorably on a request, since Cottonwood City is relatively close to the border.

Nick: It's possible, although even at best, it could take years to get through the diplomatic mess. And the town will probably have to be rebuilt first. Right now, it's mostly just one large refugee camp.

Katsura: Donation income could make a big difference in how fast and how well that could happen.

Nick: I've been working on that.

Nick winks broadly, zlinning very ~~ pleased with himself ~~, and palms a card into his sleeve.

Mendels: On what?

Nick: As I said, I had a very profitable evening.

Mendels: ~~ skeptical ~~ Draining off the few coins the refugees have left?

Nick: I've got a very generous salary, Dr. Mendels, at least for now. I lost a sweater, three bags of beans, and a spare pair of socks to folks who could use them.

Mendels: Ah. ~~ relief ~~ Good for you.

Katsura smiles at Nick's cleverness.

Nick: I did win a bit, of course: one has to, to be plausible. Mostly I got my winnings as gin, and... well, Kat, there should be at least a couple of donors showing up tomorrow.

Katsura's smile is a bit strained, but it's there. She hopes Nick's candidates aren't going to be too hard on her nagerically.

Nick: I figured the selyn was more useful than the cash.

Mendels is ~~ alarmed ~~ . By his standards, that counts as coercion.

Katsura moves closer to Nick, ~~ uncomfortable ~~ at the alarm.

Mendels: Uh, Sosu, are you sure that's ethical? Getting someone to donate who wouldn't have chosen to?

Katsura is ~~ alarmed ~~ too. Nick told these Gens he'd take his winnings in selyn?

Nick tries to ~~ calm ~~ Kat, unsure why she's so upset.

Katsura didn't realize what he meant at first -- she doesn't gamble.

Mendels hadn't thought the channels' ethics were so different from his own. He's reminded now of some of the things Dr. Tavis said about his granddaughter.

Nick: It's not like I'm going to chase them down if they decide to welsh on the bet.

Katsura: Nick... I won't take donations from the unwilling, even if they do consent.

Nick: If they're truly unwilling, they won't come. The ones who do come aren't wholly opposed to the idea. And as I said, we could use the selyn.

Katsura: I'll zlin for myself. And we'll certainly pay them.

Mendels: How about the ones too honest, or too proud, to welsh on a debt?

Nick looks at Mendels.

Mendels: Paying one's debts is a pretty basic thing among Gens.

Nick: They'll end up with a bit of cash to buy necessities for their families, and they might think twice the next time they decide to gamble things they can't easily afford.

Nick isn't particularly concerned.

Katsura: Nick, I think the bad effect on people's idea of what we're doing here, what we're like, is more important than a few GN-3 donations. If it makes them more reluctant to bring us a changeover, or less willing to accept a Sime Center... if they think we're...

Katsura gestures.

Katsura: ... greedy, conniving, not people with integrity... The consequences could be larger than you'd expect.

Mendels is ~~ relieved ~~ that Kat seems to see it the same as he does.

Mendels: If... if you're really that desperate for selyn, I could put out a call for volunteers.

Katsura: We're not desperate yet. A few people have come to us on their own, offering to donate.

Mendels isn't entirely sure whether a doctor's urging, to the families of his patients, might not be coercion as well.

Katsura: I think there should be plenty of volunteers here. So many people have fathers or grandfathers who fought in the Unity Wars, and most everybody can use some money now.

Nick figures he's at least planted the idea in a few heads.

Katsura turns to Nick.

Katsura: Please be careful about recruiting donors. People out here get so emotional about the issue. They may get the wrong impression.

Nick: Kat, I lived out here for a decade, among people very much like the ones I was gambling with tonight. Can you trust me to know what I'm doing?

Katsura thinks Nick is very good at short term consequences of actions, but the longer term ones... well, that's how he got into all that trouble with those Audneses, isn't it?

Katsura: Excuse me, Dr. Mendels. [Simelan] I know you have your differences with the Tecton, but you do believe in the Tecton's basic mission, don't you? You could compromise it out here in this way.

Nick is ~~ hurt ~~ at what he understands as a declaration of distrust.

Katsura gets a ~~ sinking feeling ~~. Alienating her Donor when she's so far from any other is really frightening.

Mendels: Um, I think I should get back to work.

Mendels stands to leave. He's ~~ uncomfortable ~~ at accidentally intruding on a colleague's disciplinary session.

Katsura: I don't want to sound like your mother, doctor, but what you need is some sleep, not more work.

Mendels: I've got a bit of paperwork to finish. Then I'll sleep. Good night, Hajene, Sosu.

Nick: Good night, Dr. Mendels.

Katsura: Good night.

Mendels grabs his coat and leaves.

Katsura: Nick, I'm sorry I hurt your feelings.

Katsura reaches for Nick's hands.

Nick allows Kat to take his hands, but without his usual enthusiasm.

Katsura feels even worse, at that.

Nick: Kat, I lived among people like the ones I was gambling with for years. I know them well, including how much they can be pushed and in what directions before they start feeling imposed upon. Do you honestly think I'm the kind of person who would force someone like Ezeekel to donate?

Katsura: I worry what those Gens might tell others, how a story might spread that creates a bad impression. You know how rumors go.

Katsura tries to figure out how to tell Nick that she trusts his understanding of situations in the short term, but not the long term implications, without insulting him.

Nick: If they tell anyone, it would be something like, "The cards were against me. It's a good thing that idiot was willing to settle for a dare, instead of something of actual value."

Katsura decides to have just one more go at it.

Katsura: But if someone who already hates or fears us hears that we tried to coerce a Gen to donate to pay his gambling debts, it could get blown all out of proportion.

Katsura caresses Nick's arms with her handling tentacles, reaching under his heavy sweater.

Katsura: I'm sorry I offended you. I do trust you in most things.

Nick supposes that is some improvement over not being trusted in anything, but it still hurts.

Nick: I know you trust my nageric work.

Katsura: I trust your personal integrity. You're a good man, Nick, though not always a wise one.

Nick: I suppose being called "unwise" beats being called a traitor, at that.

Katsura: None of us are as wise as we'd like to be.

Nick: Probably not.

Katsura wonders how much trust Nick really feels for her, or can feel for any channel, after his experiences. She was warned by D'zoll what a sensitive issue trust is for Nick. She wishes she knew how to get through Nick's reserve.

Nick wishes he could find a channel who trusted him again; it's hard to trust where trust isn't offered in return.

Nick: For instance, I don't have the wisdom to know how much of your trust in my integrity is real, and how much the result of a channel's need to trust her Donor; the only Donor around.

Katsura releases Nick's arms, reluctantly.

Katsura: I don't suppose you can. ~~ sadness ~~

Nick isn't sure himself how much integrity he has, by Tecton standards.

Katsura picks up her mug of trin, now cold, and sips. She has a lump in her throat, and hopes Nick won't see how frustrated and disappointed she is.

Nick is, alas, equipped with 75% of Riyyh's perceptivity, adjusted for larity.

Nick: You're disappointed in me. You thought you were getting a more conventional Donor?

Katsura: No, I knew you weren't conventional. I wish you could trust me more, but I know that's very hard for you these days.

Nick: It's hard to trust someone who's not able to trust you. I don't blame you for having reservations, under the circumstances, however.

Katsura: Nick, I don't trust anyone absolutely, in all matters, under all circumstances. Not even Sectuib, and I'm a Householder back more generations than anyone can count.

Katsura puts her elbows on the table and her face in her hands.

Katsura: I'm botching it, talking about it. It's too hard in words.

Nick: Words are hard because they're specific. Emotions aren't.

Katsura: I trust you with my life. I trust your word. I don't trust your judgment in everything, but I don't trust my own judgment in everything either.

Nick considers this offering.

Nick: That's fair enough. I trust your channeling work, and what I know of your integrity. I'm still a little concerned about your ability to work with out-Territory Gens, but much less so than I was when we first came out here.

Katsura nods. She wishes Nick could give her the kind of caring and intimacy she shares with Companions of her House, but knows it isn't possible for him now. It's so stressful out here, zlinning all that hostility and suspicion and fear from the Wild Gens

Nick's current reserve is warring with his natural impulse to care for a channel.

Katsura: I care about you, Nick. I want to do the best I can for you. Not just because you're the only compatible Donor for me in hundreds of kilometers, either.

Katsura still has her head in her hands, but of course, she's zlinning.

Nick starts to get that ~~ warm fuzzy feeling ~~ that comes when a channel expresses a personal interest in him. He hasn't felt that nearly enough, lately.

Katsura zlins it hopefully, and wonders where it might eventually lead, if anywhere.

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