Katsura is huddling in her oversized Gen-style winter coat as she follows Nick up the road to Virla's house.
Nick is setting a casual pace, not wanting to worry the locals.
Katsura is finding that the minor relief from entran she's getting from chilling her laterals in the retainers doesn't compensate for the major discomfort of wearing them in the first place.
Nick is ~~ concerned ~~ and ~~ supportive ~~. He's hoping that they will have a few moments for him to take care of Kat's entran, without offending their hostess.
Katsura appreciates Nick's help, but is not entirely able to conceal her discomfort under her showfield any more. She's calling it discomfort, but anyone else would call it ~~ misery ~~.
Pinecone is secretly tired of zlinning Katsura's suffering, no matter how much she acts the warrior about it.
Nick: It's right up here. We'll be warm soon.
Nick leads the way up the walk.
Katsura stays close. The mere presence of his beautiful field is comforting.
Nick's field is, of course, considerably less strong than it was before their transfer, but it's recovering nicely.
Pinecone lags behind, but not so far from Lady Cat as to make him intolerably ~~ nervous ~~. His first close-up view of permanent buildings makes him ~~ feel ~~ like they're going to fall over on him at any time, though he knows better.
Katsura: Don't worry, Pinecone. Miz Virla feels quite positive about Simes. Her daughter is one.
Pinecone: That is good for us, Lady Cat.
Nick hasn't spotted anyone giving them hostile looks, and is starting to think they may have found a place to settle temporarily.
Katsura would like to put a reassuring arm around Pinecone, but is reluctant to risk torquing her tentacles.
Pinecone is keeping his tentacles firmly retracted under his much-abused jacket to make himself look less Sime-like.
Nick is glad that Virla is wealthy enough to have a nice brass knocker on her door, sparing the Simes the zlin of him knocking. He uses the knocker, producing a pair of nice thumps.
Pinecone jumps at the unexpected noise, then settles down.
Nick: Sorry, Pinecone. I should have warned you.
Nick helps the Simes stay ~~ calm ~~.
Pinecone leans on Nick just a bit, knowing that Katsura needs most of his attention.
Nick's nager is fortunately strong enough to provide a lot of protection by mere proximity, without any particular concentration on his part.
Nick frowns as the door stays closed, then knocks again.
Virla opens the door, sees the three, and beckons them in without saying anything. There's probably no hope that the neighbors haven't noticed, but it's worth a try.
Nick leads the way, keeping unobtrusively between Virla and the Simes in the entrance hall.
Nick: Thank you again for your offer of hospitality, Miz Virla.
Virla retreats to the drawing room, relying on one of her guests to shut the door.
Katsura finds it strange to be walking on a hard level surface, surrounded by right angled flat surfaces. She's certainly gotten "bushed".
Pinecone finds it even stranger. He's never felt anything like the floor beneath his feet.
Virla: Of course, of course. Come in, sit down.
Virla sets an example by doing both.
Pinecone obeys the elder by squatting on the floor across from the strange thing she's sitting on.
Nick is a little less acclimated to the woods, since he's been the only one going into the Gen towns to get supplies. He unbuttons his heavy, Gen-style winter coat in the warmth of the house.
Katsura unbuttons her own coat, moving her arms carefully in the retainers.
Nick: Miz Virla, this is Hajene Katsura Farris, and the young gentleman is Pinecone.
Katsura: Miz Virla, we're tremendously grateful for your offer of shelter.
Pinecone: Greetings, Miz Virla. I too am glad for my safety in your tent. House.
Virla: But of course. As I said to Sosu Nick, there's plenty of room here, and no one in it but me.
Pinecone ~~ feels sorry ~~ for Miz Virla, who has to live without company.
Katsura gestures to Nick for help in removing her coat without twisting her retainered forearms.
Nick helps ease the coat sleeves over the bulky metal torture devices.
Virla: Oh. Do remove your retainers, Hajene; this whole house is Sime Territory.
Virla points to the sign on the wall.
Nick: Now, that is a very generous offer, Miz Virla.
Katsura: Thank you so much!
Nick sets the coat aside, and carefully cracks open the first retainer.
Katsura cautiously extracts her arm, and retracts her chilled tentacles.
Virla: That cold metal must be terribly hard on you. ~~ GN-2 sympathy ~~
Katsura: Yes, it is.
Virla: It's such foolishness. You're a channel, after all. What possible risk can you present to anyone? ~~ muted indignation for her guest's comfort ~~
Nick moves to shield Kat from Virla's undisciplined empathy as he slides the retainer carefully off.
Nick: They do supposedly allow your neighbors to tell that she isn't a berserker, which I suppose is worth something.
Nick sets the retainer aside, and reaches for the other arm.
Nick: Or at least, that's the way it's supposed to work.
Katsura: It seems like many people out here have had terrible experiences with Simes, so the retainers help them feel less worried.
Katsura offers the other arm. She's glad she's picked up the trick of not implying that anybody is afraid.
Virla: I suppose. But if they really understood how painful it was... Oh well.
Nick has never been convinced that the retainer laws were necessary, but he doesn't want to argue the merits of the Tecton with their hostess.
Nick cracks open the second retainer, giving Kat a moment to adjust to the sensory increase before easing it off.
Pinecone shrinks a bit from zlinning Katsura's increased pain level.
Katsura retracts those tentacles too, in order to warm them. The chilled tentacles feel weird inside the warmer sheaths, and the sheaths feel weird too. Out-T life is certainly a series of unusual experiences.
Nick reaches to put his hands on Kat's arms, massaging very gently as he tries to untie some of the knots.
Katsura: Miz Virla, may I... Nick can help me if I extend my tentacles onto his arms...
Virla makes a "Don't let me stop you" gesture; fortunately, Katsura can zlin her intent even if the gesture looks more like "Isn't this ambient bizarre?" to her in-Territory sensibility.
Nick agrees with both the meaning of the gesture and its intent, but doesn't let it or the chilly temperature of the tentacles keep him from offering assistance to his channel.
Katsura takes Nick's arms in a transfer grip, leans her forehead against his chest and performs a breathing exercise.
Nick ~~ steadies and supports ~~ Kat's recovery.
Virla watches the process with ~~ fascination ~~; she tries not to stare, but can't help it.
Katsura grits her teeth and tightens her grasp as a pang of entran stabs through her vriamic node. Her slow rhythmic breathing turns into panting and she signals Nick to support an entran outfunction.
Nick picks up the cue easily, and offers a very Zeor-style support for the functional.
Nick has not had a chance to have his entran function work Sat'htineized, since the channels from Sat'htine aren't generally suffering from entran much. He's therefore working on what he learned from Snake and Arat, and practiced extensively.
Katsura has no objections to Nick's variant style. Besides, with these vriamic cramps, she'd be willing to use a GN-3 for the outfunction, if she had to.
Nick: Relax, Kat. We'll be here for a bit, and we might be able to get you some real work. For now, just use me to get yourself sorted out.
Katsura nods against Nick's chest, her breathing slows as the cramp fades, and she leans heavily on Nick's field, rebalancing her fields, and getting control of her facial expression. She releases him reluctantly.
Nick places an arm around her shoulders, offering ~~ comfort ~~ in a style acceptable to most out-Territory Gens. He's sure Virla intends to make allowances, but doesn't want to depend too much on their hostess's tolerance.
Katsura: Sorry, Miz Virla. Channels who don't have an opportunity to work enough get an uncomfortable condition called entran. Nick has methods of relieving the symptoms for me.
Pinecone has seen versions of this before, but this is more intense, and he's interested both in what he sees and what he zlins.
Nick focuses inward, trying to pick up any clues he can as to Kat's nageric condition by reading his own response to her. He doesn't find this as effective as asking questions, but he doesn't want to leave Virla with the impression that Kat is not stable.
Katsura's expression is calm and friendly, but she also looks rather haggard.
Virla: You do whatever you need to. I'll just step out and bring in a few things to eat.
Virla does so.
Katsura: That was a bad one, Nick. Thanks for the help.
Nick: You're welcome. We've got to find you some real work, though, and soon. Is our hostess high-field?
Katsura: About a week before her next donation, I'd think. She's probably a GN-2.
Nick: Well, perhaps she has some friends who are closer to their donation times.
Katsura: But we can't pay them, Nick, can we?
Katsura hopes Nick isn't thinking of trying that gambling scam that got them into so much trouble in Cottonwood City.
Nick: Probably not. Unless we can make contact with Sat'htine. Or... do we still have vouchers?
Katsura: I suppose I could write some up, but then of course the channel they take them to would know about us being here. Assuming the donors would accept vouchers and the Sime Center would redeem them.
Nick: So, we may have to work with the local channel. At least unofficially, so she doesn't have to report our whereabouts.
Virla returns carrying a plate of goodies for the Simes and a hefty cheese sandwich and some bean salad for Nick. They aren't as fresh as she'd like, but needs must when the Devil drives.
Nick: After being on the road for so long, Miz Virla, you have no idea how good some real food looks, for a change.
Katsura: Indeed. It looks wonderful.
Katsura carefully zlins the offerings for Sime poisons.
Pinecone doesn't recognize any of it and doesn't know what he should do. He looks at Katsura inquiringly.
Katsura: It's all safe to eat, Pinecone.
Katsura lifts a small square of maize bread onto a small plate with a fork, and puts the plate in her lap.
Katsura: Miz Virla, we don't expect you to know about the things that Simes can't safely eat, but there's nothing harmful to us in these wonderful goodies.
Virla: That's what I understood from when Hajene D'zoll was here. And do, please, call me Virla. There's no reason for formality here.
Katsura: Okay. Please call me Kat, then.
Pinecone of course expects to be called Pinecone; it's the only name he has.
Virla: Well, do eat, Pinecone.
Pinecone takes the same thing that Katsura got, but without using the fork -- he figures it'll make a worse impression if the food won't stay on the tool for him. He nibbles the bread.
Pinecone: This is excellent, Virla. Thank you very much.
Virla beams at him.
Virla: Thank you, Pinecone.
Nick sets to work demolishing the cheese sandwich and bean salad with Gen enthusiasm.
Virla beams at Nick, too.
Virla: So tell me about your plans. I gather you expect to stay here in Gumgeeville a while? ~~ curiosity ~~
Katsura: We hope not too long. It will depend on what's happening back home. Now that we're here, we can send a telegram and get a reply.
Virla makes an intuitive leap.
Virla: You're in some kind of trouble back home, aren't you. That's why you need to stay here in Gumgeeville where nobody can find you.
Katsura: Well, yes. There's some confusion... uh... some political enemies of some people Nick used to work with... It's rather complicated, but Sectuib will get it all sorted out shortly, I'm sure.
Virla: I hope so. I was certainly impressed by him when he was here -- he seemed very competent.
Nick is ~~ a little less sure ~~, but genuinely ~~ hopeful ~~.
Katsura: Oh, he is. He has a lot of experience with the politics of the Tecton, and our House has a lot of prestige.
Virla: Good, good. Well, take as long as you need.
Nick: Thank you. We'll try not to outstay our welcome.
Virla waves that concern away.
Katsura: Pinecone and I can do any heavy work you need done around here, too.
Virla: Thank you. I'm sure I can find something.
Virla: What's your plan for getting Pinecone to the Ford, then? I suppose you won't want to stay overnight at the Sime Center?
Katsura: We haven't made any plans there yet.
Nick: I was thinking that maybe Jed Mullins might be willing to take him, but we haven't really explored that option.
Virla nods, putting out her lower lip.
Virla: Quite possibly. Especially if it was made worth his while. He did escort that boy, and he hadn't even changed over yet.
Nick: I heard from the Geggs that incident didn't turn out as well as one might wish.
Virla: No, it didn't. But everyone ended up safe and well, which is what really counts. ~~ earnest ~~
Virla: In any case, you surely need to rest. There are two bedrooms on the top floor, if that'll be all right?
Katsura: I hope you won't be offended if Nick and I share one? It's customary for channel and Donor.
Virla: Whatever suits you best. This is Freedom Hall.
Virla winks at Nick.
Nick has ~~ no objection ~~, even apart from their professional relationship. He winks back.
Nick: Your hospitality is greatly appreciated.
Nick reaches to pick up the retainers.
Nick: Come, Pinecone. Let's get settled in.
Katsura plans to offer to pump and heat a great deal of water so the group can bathe. Her hair is so dirty it's stopped being unmanageable. She finishes the maize bread, puts the plate on the table, and rises.
Virla: We'll have dinner whenever you like. Just let me know, say, half an hour before, and I can whomp something up.
Katsura smiles back, looking more relaxed. The thought of lying down on an actual bed is irresistible after the floorboards of boxcars and icy ground.
Nick is debating whether to shave his beard, in-T style, or follow the local fashion.
Katsura: Thank you so much for taking us in.
Nick picks up his pack and leads the way to the stairs.