Physicians Across Borders: Episode 15

Nattin is walking past Bibi's office on his way to the kitchen for a cup of tea. He ~~ notices ~~ that the office is occupied, and pauses to ~~ signal ~~.

Bibi: Come in, Nattin.

Nattin does so, ~~ inspecting ~~ Bibi's condition with ~~ concern ~~.

Nattin: How are you holding up, Bibi?

Bibi: Not too badly. I hate turning people away, but so far I haven't had to turn away many.

Bibi reflects that they had some practice at this sort of thing the previous summer.

Bibi: Cristal is taking it hard, though.

Nattin: Of course. He feels he should be there for you. Is he likely to overdo it and hurt himself, trying to do too much too soon?

Bibi: Well, I won't let him. I'll be very careful.

Nattin: Will he? You can't watch him all the time, you know.

Bibi shrugs.

Bibi: He's an adult. I can only suggest. Well, I suppose I can make him feel guilty, too, as if he doesn't already.

Nattin: Virginia does seem to be good at sitting on patients.

Bibi: She has had lots of practice.

Nattin: I suppose she must, if she's used to looking after patients who've been cut up.

Nattin tries hard to keep his ~ shudder ~ out of the ambient.

Bibi has no trouble zlinning the shudder.

Bibi: Dr. Tavis did save Cristal's life, horrible as surgery seems to us.

Nattin: It's counterintuitive, saving someone by slicing them up, like a knife fight between juncts.

Bibi: I suppose to most people out here it seems counterintuitive that a Sime can heal by a laying on of the killing tentacles.

Nattin raises an eyebrow.

Nattin: I suppose it does.

Bibi: At any rate, Cristal is healing much more quickly with me to work on him.

Bibi smiles.

Nattin: Virginia is a little confused about that, I think. I don't think she quite knows what to make of you.

Bibi: I just wonder what Cristal has been telling her about our next transfer. She seems more worried about it than I am. And she's eyeing me as if she wonders when I'm going to start slavering and make a pass at her.

Nattin: It's all strange to her, remember. Cristal's been worrying, and she doesn't know that all Donors worry about their channels.

Bibi: Yes, and I'm exaggerating her reactions. Poor Cristal is worried he won't be able to give me a good transfer, and she thinks he's worried that I'm going to kill him.

Nattin: Is her field that unpleasant?

Bibi: Well, it's never pleasant, but I've gotten used to it. At least she doesn't have those sharp spikes of reaction as much any more.

Nattin: You shouldn't have to endure that sort of thing in the private parts of the Center. Maybe she could be talked into letting you lower her field after your transfer, if she's going to be staying on that long?

Bibi: If you can talk her into it, and Cristal is up to defending me, sure. But we'd better wear old clothes.

Nattin: Old clothes?

Bibi: The time Cristal and I demonstrated a transfer grip she threw up.

Nattin raises an eyebrow.

Nattin: That's an interesting reaction.

Bibi: That's one way of putting it!

Nattin: I trust that she hasn't done such a thing when you are working on Cristal?

Bibi: So far, no. But she does move away.

Nattin: Well, of course. You can't work with her field interfering.

Bibi: She is getting better, but she still doesn't really trust me.

Nattin: I can see that she might still be nervous about Simes, with her background. But surely she's seen enough of you to know that you're not... some kind of berserker.

Bibi: Well, no, but she really can't believe that transfer isn't some cruel exploitive thing I do to Cristal, and that it, and I, must be very dangerous. She must believe that Cristal is brainwashed, or a masochist.

Nattin chuckles.

Nattin: Are you so sure that he isn't? Not because he likes to give you transfer, but the Tecton is a hard life.

Bibi: Well, he chose it.

Nattin: As an idealistic youngster with dreams of saving the world.

Bibi shrugs again.

Nattin: Virginia must have had a similar dream once, or she wouldn't have chosen healing as a profession. Maybe Cristal could appeal to that.

Bibi: So, Nattin, do you really believe we shouldn't let these child-like Gens make adult decisions at a young age?

Nattin: What person my age ever thinks someone that young is qualified to make a choice about anything? Fortunately, the youngsters never listen to us older and wiser folks, and they go ahead and make the choices that seem right at the time.

Bibi: Or have the choices made for them. I did choose to survive changeover without killing, but I didn't choose to be a Tecton channel.

Nattin: If I were in Cristal's place, even knowing a channel depended on me, I don't know if I'd ever have had the courage to let that doctor carve me up.

Bibi: Poor Cristal. He did consent, but he didn't remember it afterwards. And I did ask him to.

Bibi wonders if she's more resigned to a shunt and a partial because had she not asked Cristal to consent, she might be entirely without a Donor in hard need again.

Nattin: It saved his life. The wound seems very clean, at least.

Bibi: It did. And the wound was easy for me to close, being so fresh, and I knew it was clean. The internal damage is harder for me to work on specifically, but Cristal's body responds very well to my projection of need, so it's all healing fast. But he lost a lot of blood.

Nattin: How long do you think it will take before Cristal has recovered?

Bibi: Until he replaces the blood he'll be kind of weak, and until the muscles heal he'll be uncomfortable and have to move carefully, but he'll be able to work a bit in a few days. I don't want to push him. Maybe after transfer.

Nattin: It must be hard to work on him, with Virginia in the room. I'm surprised you didn't ask her to leave.

Bibi: I do when I'm actually working, but not when I'm just dropping by to say hello.

Bibi reaches forward and pats Nattin's hand.

Bibi: I'm really all right Nattin. After that time last summer, I know how much I can take. And Cristal isn't low field like he was that time.

Bibi is determined to believe all of the above.

Nattin: Well, we're all ready to help in any way we can.

Bibi: I know, Nattin, and I appreciate it.

Hrayna wanders down the hall, looking for her colleague Nattin. She pauses when she hears his voice from inside Hajene Bibi's office, unsure whether she should signal, or leave them to their private conversation.

Bibi: Hello, Hrayna! Nattin's in here if you're looking for him.

Hrayna, given this reassurance, opens the office door and steps inside.

Nattin: Hello, Naztehr.

Hrayna: Thank you, Hajene. I hope I'm not interrupting anything?

Bibi: No, but I do have to finish this report today...

Nattin: Of course, Hajene. You don't want to listen to academic wrangling anyway, I expect.

Bibi smiles.

Bibi: Go have some trin and food and debate, Gens.

Hrayna: Thank you, Hajene. Nattin, I've been reading those notes you gave me, and I've got some ideas.

Hrayna backs out of the office and leads the way down the hall to the kitchen.

Nattin follows, ~~ enjoying ~~ the chance to talk with a fellow professional above the graduate student level.

Nattin: What ideas?

Hrayna: Well, your papers so far have been entirely descriptive, and that's appropriate for a historian or an anthropologist. But my approach, working as I do for the Tecton, is more to take that data as a starting point and look for solutions.

Nattin raises an eyebrow.

Nattin: And have you come up with any solutions for Hannard's Ford?

Hrayna: It seems you've documented a number of ways in which the local residents become more comfortable with a Sime Center presence. Most of them have to do more with one-on-one exposure than with any formal PR effort.

Nattin: True. Hajene Bibi feels that a formal effort might reach those who would be better off without us -- and we without them. Staying quiet allows such people to ignore us.

Hrayna: There are some we'll never reach... though that may change for their children. But we have to concentrate on the people who are open to change.

Nattin: Are you thinking of anyone in particular?

Hrayna: Well, for example, this woman who's caring for Sosu Cristal. The non-donor.

Nattin: Virginia Reel?

Hrayna: Yes. She's at a very early stage in the process. She met a single individual, came here for a very specific task.

Nattin: A vital one, for the well-being of both Sosu Cristal and Hajene Bibi.

Hrayna: Yes. But the important thing is that she's here. She was willing to come this far, on the strength of her friendship with one Gen.

Nattin considers that for a moment.

Nattin: And her sense of duty to her profession. One must never underestimate that. She knew we don't know how to look after surgical patients.

Hrayna: But now that she's here, it's only a matter of time until she takes the next step, and the next. Though for Hajene Bibi's sake, I hope she does it sooner rather than later.

Nattin: Bibi did say that Virginia is getting somewhat accustomed to having her in the same room.

Hrayna: You know Virginia much better than I do. Have you any thoughts on how to facilitate that process, speed it up a bit?

Nattin: Hajene Bibi's policy is to wait until an out-Territory Gen actively seeks her out.

Hrayna: I don't mean pressuring her to donate... even though, speaking nonprofessionally, I'd like to. I mean getting her more comfortable with channels, and with Simes in general.

Nattin: Unfortunately, the most effective way to do that is to give her plenty of contact with Simes -- and that wouldn't be advisable under current conditions.

Hrayna: Hajene Bibi isn't the only Sime here.

Nattin: You'd wish a Gen like that on a renSime?

Hrayna: Hmmm, you're right. Not unless he's just fresh off of transfer.

Nattin: Which isn't the case, just now.

Hrayna: Another option, then. The one that brought her in here. Social contact with Gens who are comfortable with Simes. Positive casual conversation about Simes.

Nattin: She's been getting some of that, and course she's known Cristal for a long time.

Hrayna: But he's still only one data point for her. If she sees other people who also feel positive about Simes, hears the same thing in many different voices...?

Nattin: I don't know. It's easy to offend someone when you don't understand their culture definitively. It was certainly easier back in the old days, when a new Gen could be locked in an insulated room until Sectuib took her field down.

Hrayna gives a bitter laugh.

Hrayna: Yes, let's hear it for the old days. When the implicit threat of death outside the gates gave Sectuib all the leverage that was necessary.

Nattin: You have to admit it was an effective way to get past this sort of dilemma. Sometimes brutal and always uncivilized, but effective.

Hrayna: Brutal and uncivilized... what can we do, here and now, that's equally a shock to a person's preconceptions, without the brutality?

Nattin: Is it possible to shock someone so deeply without it being brutal?

Hrayna looks thoughtful.

Hrayna: I recall being quite shocked when I walked into the surprise party that was held for the fifth anniversary of my establishment. I'd been sure nobody really liked me. That one event taught me otherwise. It requires a positive shock. Something shockingly good.

Nattin nods ~~ thoughtfully ~~.

Nattin: I'm not sure I know Virginia well enough to guess what might give her such a shock. Well, apart from getting her job with Dr. Tavis back, but that isn't going to help her misgivings about Simes.

Hrayna: Would Sosu Cristal know? You say he's known her a long time.

Nattin: He's been exercising with her for some months, now.

Hrayna: Let's come at this from another angle. What's the next shift of awareness that she requires? What's her biggest misconception about us?

Nattin: That being touched by a Sime is unpleasant, perhaps.

Hrayna: My parents were a mixed couple. I should be able to supply anecdotes enough to the contrary. Even though my own husband is Gen.

Nattin: That might have some effect. I don't see how it could hurt, anyway. Whether it will persuade her to trust a Sime in need is an open question, though.

Hrayna: I'll have to think about how to work that into the conversation too, then.

Nattin: She knows too much, and not enough. She's seen people dying of transfer shock, but doesn't understand how rare that sort of thing is, in-Territory.

Hrayna: Hmmm. Keep talking. Almost everything you say is giving me another piece of the picture.

Nattin: She's at the end of her career, but she can't afford to stop working entirely. Her financial situation has been very tight since she was fired by Dr. Tavis.

Hrayna: Is that why Hajene Bibi hired her here?

Nattin: Mostly, I think Bibi hired her because she's the only surgical nurse in Hannard's Ford.

Hrayna: Ah. Why was she fired?

Nattin: Dr. Tavis's granddaughter sought her out, convinced that she was in changeover. Virginia brought the girl here, instead of taking her to her family.

Hrayna: So already she believed young Simes should not be murdered? And was willing to be with a possible changeover, long enough to bring her here?

Nattin: She did not care to do the deed herself, at least. And the girl was showing very early symptoms. All too early, as it turned out: as far as we know, she's still a child.

Hrayna: Already she had adapted that well, yet despite financial pressure, she still has not donated?

Nattin: No, she hasn't. There's something about the idea that disturbs her so deeply that she's still shying away from it.

Hrayna: And no one has been able to figure out why?

Nattin: Cristal might know. If so, he hasn't told me.

Hrayna: Have you asked?

Nattin: No. She's been very busy with Cristal, and that must be her first priority.

Hrayna: What if... one of us offers to sit with Sosu Cristal for awhile, while the other invites her downstairs for tea and conversation?

Nattin: It would be better for you to talk with her. You're not a Sime Center employee, so you are less likely to be perceived as trying to seduce her into doing something that she'd rather not.

Hrayna: And I have already asked her to talk with me, to help improve my Genlan.

Nattin: A plausible excuse.

Hrayna: Shall we go up, then? There's no time like right now!

Nattin: Very well. Bear in mind, though, that however trivial donating might seem to you and me, it is not trivial at all to her.

Hrayna: Strange though that seems, I'll try to keep it in mind.

Nattin nods, and leads the way up the stairs.

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