Physicians Across Borders: Episode 12

Virginia comes down the stairs of the Sime Center, they being temporarily free of Simes. She was politely thrown out of Cristal's sickroom when the Donor expressed a preference to be bathed by Driver. She didn't think her patient was in any actual danger, so she acceded to his wishes.

Virginia could use some time away from Cristal to think things over, anyway. She has now witnessed several conversations between Bibi and Cristal, in which both parties seemed to be increasingly concerned.

Virginia was not able to get much of an explanation out of Cristal, who is still pretty weak, except that the Simelan exchanges were discussions of how to manage Bibi's upcoming transfer. She would really rather not think about Bibi needing a transfer, and the idea that it might go badly is not doing much for her peace of mind.

Virginia goes into the common room, and warms her hands by the fire.

Hrayna ambrov Teldor has spent a pleasant few hours arguing historical theories with her academic colleague Nattin, and has left him to tackle some of his bookkeeping work. She emerges from the kitchen with a cup of trin in her hand.

Hrayna: Hello. May I join you?

Hrayna wants a chance to put in some practice on her rusty Genlan.

Virginia looks at Hrayna's arms to determine her larity, then nods.

Virginia: I don't think I've seen you around before. I'm Virginia Reel.

Hrayna: I am Hrayna ambrov Teldor. I am visiting my colleague Nattin, discussing ideas of history.

Virginia: History? It seems a strange sort of discussion for a Sime Center.

Hrayna: I am an academic. So is Nattin. I visit him where he chances to be.

Virginia: I thought he was an accountant?

Hrayna settles herself on the sofa.

Virginia has not had too much time to socialize since joining the Sime Center staff temporarily a few days ago.

Hrayna: Only with a small part of his time. He studies cultures here, and helps with the bookkeeping as a, how do you say? Sideways-line.

Virginia: Sideline?

Hrayna: Yes, that was the word. Thank you. I apologize. My English has rusted, since school.

Virginia: Such things do slip away, if you can't practice.

Hrayna: Will you talk with me, and help me learn again?

Virginia: I have some time, although Cristal will probably need me when Driver's done helping him bathe.

Virginia uses the word "need" in the proper Genlan fashion.

Hrayna frowns in puzzlement.

Hrayna: What do you do here, Fergin-yareel?

Virginia: I'm a surgical nurse.

Hrayna looks horrified.

Hrayna: You cut and sew people?

Virginia: Of course not. That's the surgeon's job.

Hrayna: Then what do you do?

Virginia: I prepare patients for surgery, assist the surgeon and monitor the patient during surgery, and care for the patient afterwards during recovery. Sometimes I also handle anesthesia.

Hrayna puzzles this out.

Hrayna: You are a healer, then?

Virginia: Yes, although I understand that my specialty doesn't exist in Simeland. That's why Hajene Bibi hired me to look after Cristal: no one here had experience with surgical patients.

Hrayna: That is a bad business, with Sosu Cristal, especially with his channel so close to need.

Virginia: He and Hajene Bibi are very worried. I don't understand most of what they say -- Cristal says it doesn't translate well. But the worry is clear enough.

Virginia is showing signs of ~~ sympathetic worry ~~ herself.

Hrayna: Your language has no words for such things. But if you are unsure of what is happening, ask, and I will explain if I can.

Virginia: Is there a real danger?

Hrayna: There is always danger. Out here, so far from help, it is almost as it was before Unity.

Virginia: Cristal seems to think that he won't have enough selyn for Bibi. What happens to a Sime who doesn't get enough selyn?

Hrayna: That is simple. The Sime dies.

Virginia: Just as if the Sime didn't get any selyn at all?

Hrayna: Oh. Oh, no. In that case, the Sime lives, but is needy still. Or very unwell.

Virginia: So Bibi might still be in need, after she takes selyn from Cristal?

Hrayna: That would depend on how much he is short. And on whether Hajene Bibi is able to do a... there is no word. A shifting, of the selyn she gets from others. There were many times, before Unity, when there was not enough selyn for a channel. Or even for the renSimes. There is the story, of a House closely kin to my own, where the top Companion was injured near the last minute, just as Sosu Cristal was. And no other Companion was a match for the Sectuib.

Virginia: What happened?

Hrayna: A lesser Companion offered to serve. The Sectuib was not a Farris, not so skillful as that. It was a close thing. The Companion was not burned; she did not resist at all. But she was so closely stripped that almost she did not live.

Virginia: The Sime took too much? And almost killed her? But I thought Donors couldn't be killed?

Hrayna: A Donor cannot be killed by a renSime, an ordinary Sime. And a Donor could kill even a channel, if attacked unwilling. But a Donor who chooses to give, to let the channel try unopposed, can be drained of all selyn and die. Or be burned by a draw that is too fast. Channels are pledged not to let this happen, of course. But misjudgment is possible. Just after Unity, when so many channels were trained, so quickly, there were many misjudgments. Channels who could not control, who could not do a proper [Simelan] shunt.

Virginia: What happened to their Donors?

Hrayna: Many cases, where a Donor was badly burned. And a few times killed. Then the channel died too, of course.

Virginia doesn't find this terribly comforting, somehow.

Virginia: So what is necessary to prevent such a disaster?

Hrayna: Skill. Calmness. Control. The calmness is the hardest, if the channel is well-trained. Even an ordinary donor like myself can see Hajene Bibi is worried. You can see it on her wrists, here and here.

Bibi heads for the kitchen for a well-deserved cup of fresh trin.

Hrayna points to her own forearms, where the ronaplin glands would be on a Sime.

Hrayna: You can see the glands bulging, even this soon.

Virginia: Her wrists? Bulging? That's a bad sign?

Hrayna: Her worry makes her body prepare for transfer, earlier than necessary.

Bibi looks like she's just been wrestling with something sticky. She's just taken the donations of the Mason family -- the senile grandmother, the harried mother, and the large, strong, mentally subnormal son, with his usual mouthful of candy.

Virginia: Oh.

Virginia would rather not have known.

Hrayna: She knows she will need extra selyn, from donors like you and me, to get through this. And her body is unhappy.

Virginia has been trying hard not to think about Bibi being in need, but it's becoming harder and harder to convince herself that it doesn't affect her.

Bibi wishes she had had Cristal there to reduce the level of chaos this family usually brings. Oh, well.

Virginia doesn't correct Hrayna's assumption that she's a donor.

Hrayna: The glands bulge. The ronaplin flows. The tiny tentacles peek out from their sheaths. Her body fears. It is enough to make any Gen feel compassion for her.

Virginia thinks this sounds all too much like a hungry predator getting ready to hunt.

Bibi is holding her arms away from her body, since the young man smeared gooey candy on her arms, and she doesn't want to get the rest of her clothing sticky.

Virginia's feelings are somewhat less compassionate than Hrayna assumes.

Bibi just wants to get to the sink, clean up, and have a nice relaxing cup of trin before the next donor shows up. She's having a very rough week, without Cristal to help her.

Virginia spots Bibi coming and edges away to keep her distance, hoping to be unobtrusive about it.

Bibi isn't exactly delighted to have to zlin Virginia's suspicion and aversion. At least Hrayna knows how to control her own nager, and the emotions she zlins from her are generally sympathetic.

Bibi: Good afternoon, ladies.

Hrayna: Good afternoon, Hajene.

Virginia: Hajene Bibi.

Virginia is at least ~~ trying to be polite ~~, even if she has no idea how to do so.

Bibi: I'm going to make some trin. Would you two like some as well?

Hrayna: Yes, please, Hajene.

Bibi is still holding her bare arms out, and hasn't retracted her sticky tentacles.

Bibi: Okay.

Virginia: Tea would be very nice. Is everything all right?

Virginia nods at the tentacles.

Bibi: I need to wash up.

Bibi heads into the kitchen and pumps some wash water into the basin.

Virginia looks at Hrayna.

Virginia: I'm no expert on Simes, but she doesn't look good, does she?

Hrayna: She seems stressed. That is not surprising. Without her Donor, each little thing seems a mountain. It is important to help her. Be calm towards her. She will take everything as bigger than it is, so give her calm.

Virginia: Is her judgment affected?

Hrayna: Judgment? If she thinks the sky is falling, her sane mind knows it is probably only a raindrop. She may overcompensate, call a hailstorm just a drop or two. It is all a matter of knowing how to be, around a channel at such a time.

Virginia would be glad to do so, if she had the slightest idea how.

Hrayna: Reassure her, with every cell of your body, that there will be enough selyn when her time comes.

Virginia: That wasn't a topic they covered in nursing school.

Bibi is pleased to find a full kettle on the stove, nearly boiling, so it doesn't take long to wash up and make a pot of trin.

Hrayna: It is not the Donor's skill, not a matter for schooling. Just of simple being. Show her all is calm, all is well, there is much selyn.

Bibi prepares a tray with teapot, cups, and a plate of goodies for the Gens, and brings it into the common room.

Bibi: Here we are, help yourselves.

Virginia: Thank you.

Hrayna: Thank you, Hajene.

Bibi pours a cup for herself and curls up in an armchair.

Virginia waits until Bibi retreats, then pours tea for herself and Hrayna.

Bibi: Whew. What a day.

Virginia: You look very... tired.

Hrayna takes a cookie, and sips her tea with unusual care, to reassure the channel there will be no scalded Gens here.

Bibi: It's hard working without Cristal.

Bibi is too polite to continue "especially with out-T Gens who have no idea of the effect their uncontrolled nagers have on my nerves".

Virginia: I know that he's very worried about you, Bibi.

Bibi massages her left forearm, where the Mason boy gave her an affectionate but bruising squeeze.

Hrayna tries to project ~~ calm ~~ with her low-field, ineffective nager.

Bibi: Oh, he can be a real worrywart, but I'm being very careful.

Virginia unwittingly interferes with Hrayna's projection by countering it with a less-calm one of her own. Her untapped nondonor's field is, alas, stronger than the lowfield donor Hrayna.

Bibi has gotten used to Virginia's unconscious nageric rudeness, but finds it harder to take in the state she's in now.

Virginia's eyes move as if by their own accord to settle on Bibi's swollen arms.

Bibi smiles and nods in thanks to Hrayna for her not very effective, but well meaning efforts to help her.

Hrayna: ~~ you're welcome ~~

Bibi stretches her tentacles to relieve some of the discomfort from her swelling ronaplin glands, as well as the bruise.

Virginia: You look very uncomfortable. Perhaps you could use ice to reduce the swelling a bit?

Virginia is trying to be helpful, even if she doesn't know anything about treating Simes.

Bibi represses a shudder.

Bibi: No, ice isn't the best thing right now.

Bibi sets down her cup and covers her lateral nodes with her hands protectively.

Hrayna tries to display ~~ reassuring availability of selyn ~~ , but it literally isn't in her right now, so soon after her last donation.

Bibi: We're getting fewer donors in. I suppose they're trying to be helpful while Cristal is incapacitated.

Virginia: If this is what working without him does to you, I expect that's a good thing, isn't it?

Bibi: Yes, but the selyn is still very much needed.

Bibi is referring to the need to harvest selyn to ship in-T on a reliable basis.

Virginia naturally enough assumes that Bibi is referring to selyn being needed for her personal use, to supplement what Cristal can provide.

Bibi: Of course, once Cristal is working again, they'll come back and we'll have problems evening out the flow.

Bibi means that the system is based on her bringing in selyn at about the same rate as it can be picked up. If a substantial number of donors defer for a week, the following week will continue to be a bump in the chart, while the previous one will be a slump, probably for many months.

Hrayna nods understanding. She once did a study of the mule transport program.

Virginia: I suppose that's little comfort in the short run, however?

Bibi: Well, it does help, but it's not necessarily the more difficult donors who are staying away. But I wouldn't take a first donation without Cristal's help anyway.

Bibi promised Cristal that, in Virginia's presence.

Virginia finds this at least a little ~~ reassuring ~~.

Bibi notes that she really is getting a visible bruise on her left forearm. She'll have Cristal work on it. It will make him feel less useless, poor guy.

Virginia: His help is that important to you? I thought taking donations was supposed to be a routine thing for a channel?

Bibi: It's customary to work with a Donor, in case something goes wrong.

Bibi doesn't point out that out-T, donations aren't all that routine with these Wild Gens.

Virginia: What... what sorts of thing can go wrong?

Bibi: Oh... I suppose a donor could panic.

Virginia swallows, ~~ uncomfortable ~~ but also ~~ interested ~~.

Virginia: Does that happen often?

Virginia has been tripping over her ignorance in matters Sime-related since she met Cristal, and she has decided to try to get some solid information.

Bibi: No, it's very rare, especially after the first time. I won't take a donation if I suspect trouble, but people are sometimes surprised at their own reactions.

Virginia: It is a situation to provoke unexpected reactions.

Virginia ~~ blushes ~~ at the remembrance of how she threw up when Cristal tried to demonstrate donating to her.

Bibi: Yes. So having a Donor to help me is a kind of safety net. I feel safer and less worried when Cristal is with me.

Virginia: I know he's worried about you. And I'm worried that will set his recovery back, if he tries to overdo it.

Bibi: I don't think nageric work will harm him, as long as he doesn't tire himself out. But he's in more pain when he's not lying down, which can't be good for him, and is hard on both of us.

Virginia: He could be taking more medication.

Bibi: If it makes him dopey, it will be harder for him to work. And he doesn't like to be dopey anyway.

Virginia has lost several "discussions" on the subject, as Cristal stays determined not to be nonfunctional.

Virginia: Who does? But it's better than wanting to scream every time your guts shift.

Bibi: Zlinning pain like that makes my work harder instead of easier, too. Cristal's pretty high field right now, so he can't conceal what he's feeling as well as usual.

Bibi sighs.

Bibi: That's going to make it harder if we get a changeover in here soon.

Virginia: This isn't that big a town. Surely there's little chance of that?

Bibi: It's not just the town, but the farms. We've been averaging a bit over three a month the past few years.

Bibi is tired and uncomfortable enough that she's not being as careful about what she says as usual.

Bibi: We could get a terrified kid in here at any time, even one on the verge of breakout.

Virginia makes a mental note not to answer the door while she's at the Sime Center.

Bibi: Our doors are always open.

Virginia: Still, the odds are in your favor, aren't they?

Bibi: I suppose.

Bibi yawns, politely covering her mouth. She hasn't been sleeping well, between need and worrying about Cristal.

Bibi: If Cristal were here, he'd be pestering me to eat.

Bibi looks at the plate of food without appetite.

Hrayna tries to project ~~ hunger ~~ .

Bibi smiles at her.

Bibi: Go ahead and have another muffin, Hrayna.

Hrayna is, like all Householders, well versed in the care and feeding of Simes.

Virginia has no idea how to project anything, and the discussion hasn't exactly stimulated her appetite.

Hrayna: I will if you will, Hajene.

Hrayna takes a muffin and sniffs at it, deliberately ~~ savoring ~~ the hungry-making odor.

Bibi breaks an oatmeal and raisin cookie in quarters and takes one piece. She makes herself nibble on it.

Virginia misinterprets this exercise.

Virginia: Is there mold on your muffin, Hrayna?

Hrayna takes a bite of the muffin. ~~ delicious ~~ She chews and swallows before replying.

Hrayna: No, it's ~~ very good ~~ .

Hrayna knows the channel is aware of what she's doing, so she decides to elaborate.

Bibi appreciates Hrayna's efforts, which do help a little. She nibbles more cookie.

Hrayna: I'm projecting as much appetite as I can at Hajene Bibi. If you do the same, it will help her to eat.

Virginia: Projecting appetite?

Virginia tries to imagine how something abstract like appetite could be projected anywhere.

Hrayna: Enjoy the smell. Enjoy the wanting. Enjoy the eating. She will feel those with you. Just think them as loudly as you can.

Virginia looks at Hrayna with ~~ incomprehension ~~.

Hrayna: Simes lose their appetite for food during need, and this is how we help them eat and stay healthy.

Virginia: How in the world do you "think loudly"?

Bibi is amused that Hrayna is trying to teach a somewhat Simephobic Wild Gen to support a channel.

Hrayna: Feel it strongly, and push it outwards. Your language has no words.

Virginia: It must not, because what you're saying makes no sense.

Hrayna: Shout with your senses and emotions. Happy hungry good. As if trying to show the whole world how good it will be to eat.

Virginia picks up a cookie and inspects it, imitating Hrayna.

Hrayna: Smell how good it is. Imagine enjoying it. Notice how much you want it.

Virginia notices that it's burned on the bottom, but she's always been taught that it's terribly impolite to put food back, once you've taken it. She takes a nibble, and tries to let herself respond to the flavor of ~~ burnt cookie ~~. Her stomach was a bit upset to begin with, from the conversation, and the cookie is not helping.

Bibi politely tries not to gag.

Bibi: You don't have to eat it if you don't want it, Virginia. Really.

Hrayna: I think you are not doing it correctly, Fergin-yareel.

Virginia: Well, I suppose these things take time to learn.

Hrayna: Practice whenever you are able, and you will learn. Simes will let you know how well you do.

Virginia hopes not to be around Simes long enough to become competent, much as she needs the money Bibi is paying her.

Hrayna: Be real in your feelings, that is the first part. If you show false feelings to Simes, it will not help. It will only annoy and offend.

Virginia: Cristal told me it's impossible to lie to a Sime.

Hrayna doesn't really understand "false feelings", except as an abstract concept.

Hrayna: They know the difference. it is very... double-sighted, to zlin you feeling one thing and trying to feel a different one.

Virginia doesn't think in terms of "feeling" what she says.

Hrayna: Zlins as untrustworthy. Dangerous. Simes do not like danger any better than you do. You want a Sime to feel safe, always. And to feel that you are safe, as their source of selyn.

Virginia ~~ struggles ~~ to comprehend this explanation for a moment, then ~~ gives up ~~ and goes back to looking at the situation in the straightforward way Cristal explained it: you can't get a lie by a Sime.

Hrayna is trying very ~~ patiently ~~ to explain things that to her seem too self-evident for words.

Virginia: But I'm not. And you agreed that you can't lie to a Sime?

Hrayna: You are not safe? ~~ concern ~~ What danger are you in, Fergin-yareel?

Virginia: Besides the danger of dying of terminal confusion? None that I know of. I mean, I'm not a source of selyn.

Hrayna: It does not matter if you are low-field. There is always the knowledge that next month is coming.

Bibi: Virginia isn't a donor, Hrayna.

Hrayna struggles to contain her ~~ startlement ~~ and ~~ concern ~~ .

Hrayna: Then what are you doing, so near to Hajene Bibi, at such a time? You should get far away!

Bibi: It's okay, Hrayna. I've been out-T for more than five years. I'm used to Gens who don't donate.

Hrayna: But now, when you are under such stress?

Bibi shrugs.

Virginia is already edging towards the door, feeling very ~~ disconcerted ~~ by Hrayna's reaction.

Bibi: It's okay, Virginia. You're a lot less nervous around me than you once were.

Virginia: Perhaps I ought to check on Cristal, if I shouldn't be here.

Hrayna thinks this is so typical of a channel: always thinking of others, and not of themselves.

Virginia hadn't realized that not donating was such a central issue, and her ~~ remembered nausea ~~ at the idea is now being confronted with a niggling little voice which wonders if perhaps she ought to be trying it anyhow.

Hrayna tries, with her inadequate nager, to blanket the channel in ~~ comfort ~~ and the ~~ promise of selyn ~~ .

Bibi thinks non-Donors shouldn't make promises they can't keep, but knows Hrayna means well.

Virginia beats a retreat, murmuring somewhat incoherent excuses, and heads up the staircase.

Hrayna is not, of course, thinking of transfer, only of donation. She is, however, distraught enough to be a bit overenthusiastic in her projection. Poor Hajene Bibi!

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