Physicians Across Borders: Episode 9

Cristal lies on his bed in the Sime Center trying to force himself to recover faster.

Bibi can zlin him as she walks past, and comes in.

Virginia sees Bibi enter and withdraws to the other side of the room, both to give Cristal privacy and to avoid Bibi. She's an experienced nurse, and manages to find a plausible excuse for her retreat: straightening up some of the inevitable detritus that accumulates in any sickroom.

Bibi: Just take it easy, Cristal. You're recovering well.

Bibi doesn't think that worrying about his inability to work is going to help any.

Cristal sighs deeply.

Cristal: I know, I know. But I'm tired of just lying here. And when I feel your need, it's that much worse.

Bibi sits on the side of the bed and gently strokes Cristal's forearm. She uses fingers rather than tentacles to avoid Virginia's likely reaction.

Bibi: Well, I could just stay away from you so you don't have to feel my need. ~~ teasing ~~

Bibi is speaking Simelan to Cristal since he's finding English a bit of a chore.

Virginia fortunately doesn't speak Simelan, and so doesn't understand Bibi's remark.

Cristal rolls his eyes.

Cristal: [English] Puh-leeze.

Cristal returns his eyes to normal position as they twinkle.

Bibi smiles, and strokes his forearm again.

Virginia tries not to compare Bibi's forearm-fondling to a gardener checking to see if a prize peach is ripe and ready to pluck, but it's hard.

Cristal: How would I ever get better if you did that? ~~ teasing ~~ ~~ rather rough-edged nager ~~

Bibi: You'll be able to give me a good partial, don't worry.

Bibi hopes so. It's not as if she has any choice.

Bibi: I should get back downstairs soon, in case we get some more donors.

Cristal nods.

Cristal: Of course. Do be careful, especially with the more phobic ones? I worry about you with them. ~~ concern ~~

Bibi: I'll ask the worst ones to come back next week, and I won't take any first donations without you.

Bibi knows that some people, even phobic ones, really depend on their donation payments for the necessities of life, so is reluctant to send them away.

Cristal: Fair enough, I guess.

Bibi: And if I get too knotted up, I'll lie down with you and you can work on me.

Virginia gathers from the expressions on Cristal's and Bibi's faces that something is wrong.

Cristal: [English] Okay. Go, then.

Cristal says this with Virginia in mind.

Bibi nods, caresses Cristal's forearm one more time, then heads down to the collectorium.

Virginia goes over to check that Cristal's bandages weren't disturbed.

Virginia: Is something wrong, Cristal? You and Bibi seem to be concerned.

Cristal thinks how best to explain it without upsetting Virginia.

Cristal: Sick Gens don't provide as much selyn as healthy Gens. And of course Bibi finds taking donations from some Gens more difficult if she doesn't have a Donor with her. So there are a lot of good reasons why I need to get better really fast.

Cristal smiles as best he can.

Virginia feels the hair on the back of her neck start to stand up.

Virginia: You can't provide enough selyn for her?

Cristal: It's not so much about enough, really.

Virginia: Oh?

Cristal: There's a procedure she can use -- I'm not up to explaining it right now, sorry.

Virginia: It can let you provide more selyn?

Cristal: It lets her use the selyn she has in her storage tank, which normally she can't use for herself. It's not the best way, but it works.

Virginia: So she can use selyn from someone else to make up the difference?

Cristal: Yes. But her health may be, umm, not so good for the following month.

Virginia: How... not so good?

Cristal: Headaches, hard to concentrate, that kind of thing. Kind of like not having any tea.

Cristal smiles again.

Virginia doesn't smile back.

Virginia: That sort of symptom in a doctor can endanger his patients.

Cristal is shocked at the idea.

Cristal: Oh no, never! She'll have me, or if absolutely necessary, another Donor to support her. In any case, changeovers and simple donations aren't as demanding as healing. They are both basically natural processes that just need some support to manage the patient's emotions.

Cristal is not really as together as this speech makes him sound, and grimaces with discomfort when he's done talking.

Virginia: Natural processes? Well, I guess they would be, for a Sime.

Cristal: A channel.

Virginia helps Cristal rearrange himself to a more comfortable position.

Cristal: Ah, thanks.

Virginia: You need to be careful not to put a strain on the incision. Pay attention to the pain; it's there for a reason.

Cristal snorts.

Cristal: Yes, Hajene. I will, Hajene.

Virginia: "Nurse" will be quite sufficient, Cristal.

Cristal tries to chuckle.

Virginia is ~~ not comfortable ~~ being in a building occupied by Simes in the first place.

Cristal: I really do appreciate all you've been doing for me. ~~ gratitude ~~

Virginia: It's my job, Cristal. I'm a surgical nurse, and a good one, if I do say so myself. When I'm allowed to work, that is.

Cristal: Course it is. Doesn't mean I -- Oh. Doctor Tavis is still -- blacklisting you, then?

Virginia: Yes.

Cristal closes his eyes briefly.

Cristal: I'm so sorry, Virginia. I thought after you worked together during the disaster -- I guess not.

Cristal's English idioms have improved by leaps and bounds since meeting Virginia.

Virginia: He won't truly forgive me until his granddaughter is safely past the dangerous age, if then.

Cristal: But I can't believe he's allowing himself to, umm, no.

Cristal was going to say "cut off his arm", but that's both too graphic and inappropriate for a Gen.

Virginia: He has called me in a time or two, when there was something that Anette simply couldn't handle.

Cristal: [sadly] I understand.

Cristal is not sure he does, actually, but it seems the right thing to say.

Virginia squares her shoulders.

Virginia: I can manage, somehow.

Cristal: I know I've asked you this before, but -- is there anything I can do? Besides being your jogging partner when I get better, that is?

Virginia: Well, apart from not tarnishing my professional reputation by overdoing it and going into a relapse, there isn't a whole lot you can do. Maybe Dr. Tavis will relent, if his granddaughter turns out all right.

Cristal compresses his lips and nods.

Virginia is a little ~~ stung ~~ by Cristal's expression of disapproval.

Cristal actually picks up on this.

Virginia: He's a good man, and an excellent doctor.

Cristal: Sorry. It's just the expression "turns out all right"; it, umm, pushes my button?

Virginia: How many years have you lived in Hannard's Ford, Cristal?

Cristal: Between one and two.

Cristal is puzzled by the change of subject.

Virginia: And after all you've seen here, you still can't understand why a changeover is a disaster for the child and his family?

Cristal: It's a disaster where there's no channel, of course. But here in Hannard's Ford, the only disaster is self-imposed.

Virginia: What's the best-case situation for a changeover here?

Cristal: Best case?

Virginia: The optimal outcome.

Cristal: The new Sime is brought here by her parents or relatives, changes over normally, and is off to Sime Territory.

Virginia: Yes. The child gets desperately ill, undergoes a transformation that makes it unsafe for her family to associate with her, and is unceremoniously sent into lifelong exile, seldom to be heard from again.

Cristal: True, if hostilely put.

Virginia: And that's the best-case situation, where it is possible to get the child here in time. There are a lot more instances when parents are left with a choice of shooting their child, or letting her kill someone. And far too many where the child isn't discovered before someone dies.

Cristal: [bitterly] Do you think I don't know that? Do you think it's easy talking to my friends in-T who think it's all stone knives, bearskins, and murderers out here? Sometimes I feel like I just shouldn't bother talking to anyone at all.

Virginia: Stone knives?

Virginia shakes her head.

Cristal: Primitives. Barbarians.

Virginia: This from the folks whose parents and grandparents raised people for slaughter?

Cristal: But not any more! How many change over here who could be saved but aren't because of irrational beliefs?

Virginia: There are some, certainly. Not as many as you might think, though.

Cristal shrugs.

Virginia: Dr. Tavis doesn't hand out very many Black Pills any more.

Cristal: No, because the people who would come to him now come to us. But the people who believe it's immoral not to shoot your child yourself?

Virginia: I've known more than one who decided to make an exception, when it was their own child involved. And many more who don't have a choice, because they don't live close enough to get their child here in time.

Cristal: I don't mean those people. If they can't get here, they can't.

Virginia: I like to think that there are more people who can't get here than won't, at least in Hannard's Ford.

Cristal sighs.

Cristal: Maybe so.

Virginia reaches out to pat Cristal's hand encouragingly.

Virginia: What you do is important, even if you can't save every child in changeover. No healer can same them all.

Cristal: Yes. It is. Which I why I need to get better soon.

Virginia: You will. If you don't overdo it and relapse. The stitches don't provide enough support to keep you from tearing the incision open, if you try. Why don't you take a nap now, and this afternoon we can try some walking again?

Cristal: Okay. Sounds good to me. Can you fix my pillow here?

Cristal knows better than to try fixing it himself now.

Virginia: Of course.

Virginia deftly rearranges the bedding.

Cristal closes his eyes and tries to doze.

Virginia moves quietly to a chair by the window and picks up a book.

Return to Table of Contents