Virginia has resumed jogging with Cristal since her return to Hannard's Ford. She is now sporting a brand new (to her) used coat, which may not be fashionable but is plenty warm.
Virginia has her pride, but had to accede to the argument that she couldn't do useful work for the disaster victims in Cottonwood City if she was suffering from frostbite.
Cristal notes that Virginia is in somewhat better physical training since her trip, and reminds himself to compliment her on it -- when he can catch his breath.
Virginia notices that Cristal is panting, and drops to a walk.
Virginia: I'm sorry. I take it you haven't been able to get out much, lately?
Cristal: I'm afraid I've been slacking off with no partner to run with, since you ask. And this'll be my last run for a bit, until Bibi and I have had transfer. She'll need me around all the time for the next week or so.
Virginia: Oh. So you sit around waiting for her to be ready to...?
Cristal: In the last week of need, Simes feel like their deaths are just around the corner, which it is if they don't get transfer.
Virginia: So she wants you there so she can feel that her larder is well stocked?
Virginia has learned that Cristal likes his job, but knowing isn't the same as understanding.
Cristal: Well, yes. Having a Gen around all of the time eliminates a lot of unpleasant symptoms: tension, nightmares, aching forearms, and others. It is psychological, but it's not just psychological.
Virginia: Stress usually isn't.
Ian hasn't been drinking. Not really. He's only had one or two. Or maybe three. Now he has to get the damn mule home in time for before-supper chores.
Ian can't believe his eyes. That respectable elderly nurse, Miz Reel, is out walking with the selyn whore. He pulls Bronc to a halt.
Ian: Miz Reel! I woulda thought better of you. What are you doing out with the likes of him?
Ian jerks his thumb at Cristal in disgust.
Virginia raises a school-marmy eyebrow.
Virginia: I'm enjoying some educated, civil company. Since it seems to be in short supply here, otherwise.
Cristal gets ~~ annoyed ~~, but he's got lots of self-control.
Ian: With that? Maybe you're not so respectable as we all thought. We gave you the benefit of the doubt, y'know, when you came to town. Big city and all.
Virginia: And by your standards, being drunk before suppertime is respectable? I doubt Miz Brown would agree.
Ian nudges Bronc closer to the pair.
Ian: I'm not drunk!
Cristal: [sweetly] In that case, you seem to have some trouble staying upright. Perhaps you should see Doctor Tavis about it?
Ian: An' I'm a damn sight more... pardon your ears, ma'am... a darn sight more respectable than that Sime-kissing scum.
Cristal elevates his eyebrows conspicuously.
Ian leans down and breathes in the general direction of Virginia's face.
Ian: If you really like 'em young, you can do a lot better than him.
Virginia leans away from the beer breath in ~~ disgust ~~.
Cristal: [sharply] Sir, you are annoying a lady. Kindly move on at once.
Virginia: Go home, sir. You are drunk and disorderly.
Ian nudges the mule closer still.
Ian: And you're a slut! A selyn whore's whore.
Virginia starts looking around for a police officer.
Cristal walks forward aggressively to confront the Wild Gen.
Cristal: Get out! Take your mangy animal and go home where you belong. You have no right to talk to Miz Reel or me in that fashion.
Ian digs his heels into Bronc, who surges forward.
Ian: Oh yeah? And who's gonna stop me?
Virginia: Watch out!
Virginia dodges away from the mule.
Cristal stands his ground, having been taught as a child not to run from bullies.
Ian's mule head-butts Cristal in the shoulder.
Cristal grabs for the mule's bridle without success, and starts to fall. The mule tries to stop short in order not to trample him, and winds up slamming its front leg into his belly instead.
Cristal lands on the ground and folds up, moaning.
Ian stares in open-mouthed shock.
Virginia kneels by the Donor's side to ascertain the damage.
Ian thinks, after a moment, to get Bronc under control and back him away. He wraps the reins around a nearby fencepost and dismounts.
Cristal: [gasping] Keep him away. Get help.
Cristal doesn't realize he's being self-contradictory.
Virginia looks up at Ian, glaring.
Ian: He's not hurt bad, is he?
Ian's head is suddenly much clearer than it was a minute ago.
Ian: Will he be okay?
Virginia: I don't know yet. You'd better fetch Dr. Tavis, though. And then go to the Sime Center and tell them what happened.
Ian is no way going to go anywhere near that snake house, but Dr Tavis is another matter.
Ian: I'm going!
Ian remounts the mule and hurries off down the street. Dr. Tavis' place is only a block or so away.
Cristal goes on moaning, but tries to figure out if he has any internal injuries. He fears the worst, but there's nothing he can do right now -- getting up is out of the question.
Virginia: Cristal, where did you get hurt?
Cristal: What? Belly hurts. Feel -- muddly. Bright-headed.
Cristal's Genlan is escaping him.
Virginia: Hold on. We'll get you to Dr. Tavis's office -- it's just down the street.
Cristal: Hajene Bibi. [Simelan] Take me to the Sime Center.
Virginia is forgetting, in the stress of the moment, that Cristal was trained in a different medical tradition, and that not all selyn workers are as flexible as Kat Farris.
Virginia: We'll see that Bibi is told, so she won't worry about where you are.
Virginia is getting ~~ worried ~~ enough for both of them.
Cristal: [Simelan] I think I have internal injuries -- I need Hajene Bibi right away.
Tavis comes hurrying down the street with his black bag of essentials.
Tavis: What's going on here?
Cristal: [English] Belly tight.
Virginia quickly describes the situation.
Tavis kneels to give Cristal a quick examination.
Tavis: You say your belly feels tight?
Cristal pulls himself together as best he can.
Cristal: Painful abdominal muscles. Blurry vision. Episodes of confusion. Feeling faint.
Cristal lets go and collapses completely.
Tavis continues his examination, noting the approximate location of the kick, the tight abdominal muscles, and shakes his head. He's afraid that there may be spleen damage, and if so, there isn't much time.
Tavis: Let's get him to the office.
Dunbar comes hurrying down the street on Ian's mule, with Tavis' best stretcher bundled over the saddle.
Dunbar: Here it is, Doc. Anything else you need?
Cristal is still listening, but is too dizzy to protest.
Tavis waves him over.
Tavis: You can help me carry him back to my office. We can't get him on the mule, even if it was a good-tempered one.
Dunbar hitches the mule to the fencepost and jumps down.
Dunbar: Okay, Doc.
Tavis takes the stretcher, and he and Virginia help Cristal onto the stretcher.
Tavis then gestures for Dunbar to take one end, while he takes the other.
Dunbar gives a brisk nod and complies. He's definitely getting more excitement than he'd expected when he stopped by to chat up the doc for a contribution to the farmers' relief fund.
Tavis installs Cristal in the examining room of his small clinic, then leaves him temporarily in Virginia's care and steps out.
Tavis: Mr. Dunbar, it appears that Mr. Cristal has serious injuries. I'm reluctant to treat him without some sort of contact with his next of kin. I suppose that's the Sime Center. Could you take a message there for me?
Dunbar: Sure. Who do I ask for, and what do I say?
Dunbar doesn't donate, but has nothing against the snakes so long as they behave themselves.
Tavis: You should tell the channel, I suppose. He's her employee. Tell her I think he's going to need surgery, if he doesn't improve soon.
Dunbar: Yes, sir.
Dunbar gives a sloppy, ex- (very ex) military salute, and heads out to follow Dr Tavis' orders.