Alys walks slowly up the pathway leading to Virla's house. She's heavily wrapped up, as is the baby she's carrying in her arms.
Alys doesn't even look at the "Sime Territory" sign on the door, but just frees one hand and uses it to knock on the door.
Katsura is in the parlor, just having completed another entran outfunction with Nick. They're becoming less and less effective.
Nick shakes his head as Kat dismantles her contact.
Nick: We've got to get you some real work, and soon. We can pay donors, now.
Katsura: Oh, dear, it's a Gen woman with a baby at the door.
Nick perks up.
Nick: A customer at last!
Nick is already starting for the door, forgetting that not all callers are by definition coming to see them.
Katsura: Maybe she's just come to visit Virla. She doesn't zlin too happy.
Katsura thinks she zlins sad, worried, hopeful and resigned.
Nick: If she came to visit Virla, she can't be completely against Simes, right? Which means she might be willing to...
Nick opens the door.
Nick: Good morning, Ma'am.
Nick tries his charming, 75% Riyyh smile.
Alys: [monotone] Mornin'. Is this where the Sime is? My baby --
Alys breaks off, trying not to sob. ~~ sad, worried, hopeful and resigned ~~
Nick: Of course. Please, come into the parlor where it's warm.
Katsura retracts her tentacles before the woman can see them.
Nick steps back to allow her room to enter.
Nick: I'm Nick Reckage, Hajene Kat's Donor.
Alys steps into the parlor and looks at Nick ~~ meekly ~~ to see if it's all right to sit down.
Nick steps into a position from which he can shield Kat from any blasts of uncontrolled emotion.
Nick: Please, have a seat.
Alys sits down and notices Katsura for the first time. ~~ surprise concern hope ~~
Katsura: Good morning. I'm Hajene Katsura. I can tell that your baby is ill.
Alys: Umm, yes ma'am. Can you help her?
Katsura: I'll certainly try.
Alys: She had just a runny nose before, but now she's coughing and...
The baby has a coughing paroxysm.
Katsura: She has a fever, doesn't she?
Nick adjusts his nager to allow Kat to zlin the baby, but he can't block all the effects of her mother's nager.
The baby's coughing fit ends, followed by the characteristic whooping sound as she tries to catch her breath.
Nick runs a mental inventory of his medical satchel, newly restocked with whatever he could scavenge at the Hannard's Ford Sime Center.
Katsura: May I examine her?
Katsura is glad that it's warm in here.
Alys: Yes ma'am.
Alys hands over her baby to Nick, as he's the closest. Normally she'd be more cautious, but she's been so worried, she doesn't know what to do.
Nick takes the baby from Alys and carries her over to Kat's sofa. He ensures that Alys's nager can't harm Kat during the transaction.
Katsura takes the baby, unwraps her, and holds her on her lap.
Katsura: Miz, I'll need to use my tentacles to examine her. Please don't be distressed.
Alys nods ~~ wearily ~~.
Nick sits next to Kat, firmly between her and the untrained Gen. He blocks out all distractions to give Kat the best chance to zlin the child's faint nager.
Katsura spreads one hand on the baby's chest, and extends her laterals. She give Nick a detailed description of how she'd like him to manage the ambient for this.
Alys waits for the bad news.
Katsura signals some modification to Nick's nageric management, in Rimona mode.
Nick thinks about it for a second, then manages a modification that throws in a taste of a rare Zeor technique Snake happened to be fond of.
Katsura closes her eyes, engages the infant's faint nager with Farris skill and strength, and zlins with her own notorious acuity.
Nick hopes that his modification of Kat's request will be more resilient if their patient's mother doesn't take well to the sight of tentacles.
Alys closes her eyes, just in case the Sime does something she wouldn't want to see.
Katsura: Miz, your baby has the coughing sickness. She's starting to get pneumonia, but I can control that.
Katsura decides not to mention that there appears to be no neurological damage yet, in case it cause the poor mother to worry even more.
Alys's eyes pop open, and she sees Katsura's tentacles out in the open. ~~ startlement but no fear ~~
Nick uses his not-quite-as-directed nageric position to block the startle.
Nick: Relax, Ma'am. Your baby is perfectly safe with Kat.
Alys tries to relax with ~~ moderate success ~~.
Katsura: If her fever gets much higher, I can bring it down, but for now, it's helping her fight off the sickness, so it's best to let it run.
Alys: I understand, ma'am.
Katsura: Would you like to go into the kitchen and make yourself some tea? I need Nick here to help me treat your baby.
Alys nods and gets up. She knows she'd probably lose the baby anyway if it got numony, so it's not any worse leaving it with these people. They seem to know what they're talking about, anyhow.
Katsura rewraps the baby loosely in one of the little knitted blankets. She keeps her hand under the blanket, on the baby's chest.
Nick tries to look charming and harmless, and notes approvingly that the baby is trying to chew one of Kat's handling tentacles.
Katsura: Okay, Nick, this is going to take a lot of help from you.
Katsura gives him another set of detailed instructions, not just for managing the ambient, but monitoring her. She'll be too absorbed to watch out for herself.
Nick listens carefully, frowns for a moment, then gives it a try.
Nick: Like this?
Alys finds the kettle easily enough and opens cabinets and drawers looking for the tea.
Katsura indicates some changes, pleased that Nick is trying hard to follow her instructions.
Nick modifies his nager just a bit.
Katsura: Good. Thanks.
Katsura extends her laterals again, and focuses intensely on the baby's lungs, encouraging the fluid to be absorbed. She also stimulates the thymus to fight the infection.
Nick is fortunately used to not working in a shielded, well stocked Tecton treatment room, so he isn't fazed by the possibility that Alys or Virla might walk in at any time.
Katsura is trusting Nick with her life.
The baby draws breath for another coughing spasm.
Katsura concentrates harder and suppresses the cough impulse in the brain, and induces the larynx to relax.
Nick holds his focus, making sure that Kat doesn't get lost in what she's doing, and listening for intrusions.
Katsura can zlin the increased circulation to the lungs absorbing the fluid. She drops to a deeper level, zlinning for where the microbes are most concentrated.
Katsura's breathing gets shallower and stops.
Nick reaches out with his nager to take control and breathes deeply, stimulating Kat to do so, too.
Katsura resumes breathing in sync with Nick. She stimulates mucus production in the baby's throat, to wash away some of the bacteria, turns the infant on its side and releases the suppressed cough reflex.
The baby coughs up a wad of germ-laden goo.
Nick reaches to wipe up the mess with the edge of the blanket.
Katsura suppresses the laryngospasm characteristic of the coughing sickness. She opens her eyes, retracts her laterals, and leans back.
Katsura: Thanks, Nick. You did well.
Nick continues to ~~ steady ~~ Kat, although he's no longer controlling her breathing.
Nick: You stopped breathing.
Katsura: Yeah. And you started me up again. It happens when I concentrate really hard in a functional like that.
Virla comes into the house and calls out:
Virla: Kat? Nick?
Nick: That's dangerous, when you're working outside of a treatment room.
Nick turns to the door.
Katsura lets Nick handle Virla while she recovers.
Nick: We're in the parlor, Virla.
Katsura: My life is in your hands, Sosu.
Nick reaches with his hand to cover Kat's in reassurance.
Katsura is continuing to monitor the baby, who has fallen asleep.
Nick looks at the baby, who seems to be breathing more easily.
Nick: That was a neat job. You really are good at treating children.
Katsura: It's not over yet. She's a very sick baby. And we need to get some fluids into her. The fever is drying her up.
Virla comes in, sees the situation, and sits down to stay out of the way.
Virla: Anything I can do, or get, Hajene?
Katsura: The baby's mother is in the kitchen making tea. We needed to work without the nageric interference there for a while.
Katsura hopes Virla won't be upset that she invited a stranger to rummage around in her kitchen unsupervised.
Alys comes out with her tea.
Alys: Is it safe yet? Oh! ~~ startled again ~~
Alys: Miz Virla, you don't know me, but I'm Alys, and my baby was so sick, I thought ....
Nick: Tea is very welcome.
Alys disappears to make more.
Virla calls after her:
Virla: It's all right!
Nick: If there's one baby with the cough, chances are there are others, or will be soon.
Katsura: Yes. It's very contagious, but at least most adults are immune.
Virla: The coughing sickness? I've had it, so no problem there. I suppose both of you have, too?
Katsura: I didn't have it, but I've been exposed many times, so I must be immune.
Virla looks at Nick with ~~ concern ~~.
Nick: I don't know if I've had it. There was an outbreak when I was an infant, I believe, but that's all I know.
Virla: Oh dear. Well, I suppose Alys has had it. At least it was certainly going around when she was a child.
Katsura would like to tell Nick to go wash his hands with soap and hot water, and tie a handkerchief over his mouth and nose. If he gets sick she'll be in serious trouble.
Alys returns with the tea and hands it round as ~~ unobtrusively ~~ as possible, and then returns to her chair.
Katsura: The baby is very sick. I'd like to keep her here today and treat her at intervals.
Alys sighs deeply.
Katsura: Would that be all right with you, Miz Alys?
Alys: If you're sure it's necessary, I guess so, ma'am.
Nick: We'll take good care of her.
Katsura: I think she'll recover. She responded well to the treatment for the pneumonia.
Katsura suddenly realizes that the town may react with unreasonable hostility if the baby doesn't recover.
Alys picks up on the alarm on Katsura's face.
Alys: What's wrong? ~~ anxiety ~~
Katsura: I hope people in the village won't be upset that I'm treating your baby.
Alys: I think as long as I and my husband are okay with it, nobody else will care much. Babies die all the time, ma'am. And there usually just isn't much the doctors can do.
Katsura: Do you have other children, Miz Alys? Have they had the coughing sickness?
Alys: No, this is my first. Robur had two kids from his first wife, but he -- lost them.
Katsura nods, unwilling to ask how they were "lost".
The baby wakes and cries.
Nick notes that the baby isn't coughing, and grins.
Katsura: She's hungry, Miz Alys. Perhaps you'd nurse her?
Alys gets up, takes off her cloak (blanket, really) and hangs it on the back of her chair, and takes the baby back directly from Katsura this time. She looks at Nick with ~~ embarrassment ~~ and mumbles something.
Katsura doesn't know what she's embarrassed about.
Nick checks Kat, who seems to be recovered, and stands, murmuring something about washing up.
Virla tactfully explains to Katsura that Alys is embarrassed to breast-feed in front of A Man.
Nick discreetly makes his way out of the parlor, leaving the ladies to attend to this sex-segregated activity.
Katsura feels exposed without her Donor, and more aware of what's become a constant entran pain in her vriamic node.
Alys: Miz Virla, can I use the kitchen anyway? ~~ even more embarrassed ~~
Virla: Of course, child.
Alys slips out again.
Virla: Well, that was pretty foolish: poor Alys is hiding in the kitchen, and you're without your Donor. But I suppose these things will happen, won't they?
Katsura: At least he's back from Hannard's Ford, safe and sound.
Katsura found his absence quite stressful, but she bore it with Iron Farris silence and fortitude.
Virla: That's true.
Katsura: We've arranged with Hajene Bibi to take donations for her here.
Virla: Oh, excellent. I know you've been suffering from underwork, Katsura ~~ concern ~~.
Katsura: Yes, the entran is getting quite unpleasant, despite Nick's skillful help. I can use all the work I can get, but I don't want to inconvenience you, or cause trouble with your neighbors.
Virla: I don't think that'll be an issue. My neighbors, as you know, already have about as low an opinion of me as they can get without actually running me out of town on a rail -- not that they would dare.
Virla speaks with the ~~ assurance ~~ of Money.
Virla: You can certainly take donations from the Church of Unity members, so it's a matter of getting the rest of the donors to come here without getting in worse trouble with their own churches. I'll try to pass the word as well as I can. I hope it'll be enough.
Katsura: Nick tells me that a lot of young men here have been donating. Maybe I should send him to the saloon to spread the word.
Nick returns from washing up in time to hear that last.
Nick: Is that the saloon with the porstan which D'zoll mentioned?
Katsura: There's only one saloon here, isn't there, Virla?
Nick sits back down at Kat's side, his nager a ~~ steady support ~~.
Katsura is ~~ relieved ~~. She'd like to take his hand, but won't until she's washed her own.