Physicians Across Borders: Episode 1

Phyven rubs his head in ~~ frustration ~~ that his showfield conceals from everyone except Katsura.

Phyven realizes that it's a big responsibility, being the Controller of the largest out-T Sime Center between New Washington City itself and the border -- but he still can't help wondering what he did in a former life to find himself saddled with this squabbling bunch of idiots.

Phyven: [English] Okay, [Simelan] let me get this straight.

Phyven knows perfectly well, of course, that their arrival is intended to let him patch up the Lomid/Squanell mess, and normally he's not one to look a gift Gen in the nager -- but shen, the price in aggravation is high.

Katsura is wondering if it would have been better to refuse the side trip to this border city and go direct to New Washington with Seruffin, taking another inadequate transfer shortly afterwards, and shen the political consequences.

Phyven: You [pointing to Katsura] outrate him, and you want him, and you [pointing to Squanell] are outrated by him, and you don't want him. And I get to decide who gets what. Now try to talk one at a time, if you can possibly manage it, so I can make some sort of sensible decision here. Hajene Squanell?

Squanell: Controller, I know I've been shorted the last few months, and you were trying to give me a Donor who's enough for me this time, but this is Nick Reckage we're talking about. The Rogue!

Squanell isn't even trying to keep the ~~ fear ~~ out of his showfield.

Nick is trying very hard to look ~~ harmless and professional ~~, but underneath it he's wishing that he'd stayed behind in Gumgeeville.

Katsura holds Nick's hand, ~~ concerned ~~ about all this stress on him. He's far from recovered from his illness, and the long trip in the cold, uncomfortable Sime car hasn't helped.

Phyven: ~~ annoyance ~~ Can we try to be a little more professional here? Name-calling isn't going to be useful. What are your specific objections?

Katsura isn't very happy about giving Nick to the unwilling and hostile channel for transfer, but Squanell has lost his Donor so soon before his transfer is due.

Squanell: Reckage is dangerous. You know his record. He was trained by Wise Snake Farris. And all that stuff that happened at the Snake River Dam. I'm a good channel. I don't want to be injured. I don't want to be wrecked for normal work.

Nick manages to keep a stoic face, but inside he's wondering if he should just tender his resignation. Again.

Katsura can zlin what Nick is feeling, and squeezes his hand. She isn't in the best of shape herself. She's still suffering from entran, and her last transfer, with Nick, was only a partial.

Phyven notices too, and sets some part of his attention to easing Katsura's entran a little so that she can more easily participate in the discussion.

Katsura appreciates the intent, but it isn't very effective. She wishes she could lean on Nick, and let him help her.

Katsura: Hajene Squanell, if you prefer, I'd be pleased to give you transfer myself. I'd rather not give up my own Donor, who is a fair match for me.

Katsura projects the ~~ soothingly rich replete nager of a high-rated Donor anticipating a good transfer ~~. She thinks the tantrum Squanell is throwing is in remarkably poor taste, especially in front of Nick, but she tries to make allowances for Squanell's fear and his distress at the loss of the Donor he was counting on.

Phyven: [sternly] Hajene Katsura, he isn't your own Donor until I say he is. Not here. He's not a member of your Householding, and this isn't a crash emergency for anyone.

Phyven: ~~ trying for sympathy ~~ I'm just trying to match everyone the best I can.

Squanell: Controller, I - I... ~~ fear ~~

Squanell doesn't want channel's transfer; no sane channel would. But his ~~ distress ~~ at the idea of transfer with Nick is unmistakable.

Nick sees a situation that's getting out of hand, and tries to project an ambient of ~~ calm ~~ without directly engaging Squanell's field. His nager zlins a little more Zeor-flavored than usual, since it's taking him a lot of the self-discipline he learned from Snake to hold the projection under these circumstances.

Phyven: [to Squanell] Zlin that. That's Zeor training -- not perfect, but Zeor. And that's Sat'htine therapy. What are you so frightened of?

Phyven uses his showfield as well to push Squanell back toward rationality.

Nick would, under other circumstances, have flinched at this direct reference to Snake's abbreviated Zeor training.

Squanell: He's... not predictable. Not safe. And he's strong enough to overcontrol me.

Phyven sighs.

Phyven: If a vulnerable Farris was able to take a partial off him, and nothing bad happened, there can't possibly be any risk for you.

Squanell: Even if he doesn't do any of those rogue things he was trained for, it'll still be a stigma on my record. No one will trust me afterwards.

Katsura wishes that Seruffin were here, or that she could consult with him.

Phyven: Hmm. Let me check the prevailing political winds....

Phyven licks one handling tentacle and holds it up.

Nick wonders if Phyven shares Snake's passion for recreational pharmaceuticals, but prefers his attitude to Squanell's.

Phyven: My tentacle says that Sosu Nick here has connections in high places. Pretty soon, associating with him will be seen as a plum assignment.

Katsura isn't very amenable to humor right now -- she'll soon be in hard need and this Controller has maneuvered her into accepting the loss of her Gen.

Phyven: ~~ stern again ~~ In short, stop whining and act like a Tecton professional. As for you, Hajene Katsura, I have a much better match for you -- young, yes, but fully Farris-trained, matches you, everything. And no political issues. Here, read her paperwork yourself.

Phyven hands Katsura a folder.

Katsura takes it and reads.

Squanell continues to zlin Nick's -- to him -- huge nager with a combination of ~~ terror ~~ and ~~ fascination ~~ .

Nick looks at Squanell, trying to convince himself that transfer with this guy is better than nothing.

Phyven: As you can see, Zeor-trained, young, flexible -- perfect.

Katsura: Yes. Her record looks good.

Katsura wonders why Zeor didn't invite her to pledge after she was trained there.

Phyven: And she's here, which as I have learned over the many years I've been doing this job, is the most important qualification a Gen can have!

Squanell's laterals are clenched into hard knots in their sheaths as he zlins the rogue Donor's scrutiny, but he says nothing further.

Phyven decides that maybe ignoring Squanell's irrational fear will make him lose interest in working so hard to sustain it.

Katsura is starting to wish she had ignored Seruffin's request and just headed home to Sat'htine with Nick, but is discouraged by how poorly things turned out in her last confrontation with a non-Householding Controller.

Nick sees Squanell's resistance to his nager, and remembers why he was ready to go live in Gen Territory before he was sent to Sat'htine.

Katsura caresses the inside of Nick's wrist with a handling tentacle. She really doesn't want to give him up, especially to someone who doesn't want him, and is already treating him abusively.

Squanell is trying very hard not to dwell on a newspaper article he read on Wise Snake Farris, and the particular... aberrations she demanded in a Donor.

Phyven zlins the squirming nageric knot that fills the room, and wishes he could read minds -- or better yet, change them -- instead of just emotions.

Katsura: Controller Phyven, I'd be willing to take another partial from Sosu Nick, and let Hajene Squanell have this young Donor, or take channel's transfer from me.

Squanell doubts his next Controller, or his other colleagues, will be as tolerant of a Reckage-tainted channel as Phyven seems to be.

Katsura is finding the ambient, on top of her entran and need, very hard to take. She'd like to let Nick help her, but if he isn't assigned to her, that would be unprofessional.

Nick: Kat, you shouldn't have another partial now, particularly with the trouble you've been having with entran.

Phyven: ~~ firm ~~ I can't allow that. You're a Farris, and it's not healthy for you. What's more, Squanell far underrates Lomid -- he couldn't possibly satisfy her.

Nick notes that Squanell's ability to satisfy him isn't apparently an issue for Phyven.

Phyven: Now it's true that I can't force you to accept Sosu Lomid. But I can, and I do, assign Sosu Nick elsewhere.

Squanell knows he can't satisfy Sosu Lomid, but he'd love to have the chance to try.

Phyven: Hajene Squanell, if you cannot bring yourself to take transfer from Nick here, you can have Torvol again, I suppose.

Squanell: ~~ eager ~~ Yes. Please, Controller.

Squanell has forgotten, for the moment, that just a short time ago he was pleading with Phyven to find him someone higher-rated than Torvol.

Phyven has to make sure Squanell understands the consequences of this choice.

Phyven: However, you do realize that she'll probably short you again, and that there's nothing I can do about it? If I have to choose between keeping a Farris in top condition and you in top condition, the needs of the Tecton are clear enough.

Phyven: And further, that there is going to be a cascade of reassignments downward, and that a lot of your friends and colleagues are going to resent you very much for having their Donors pulled away at the last minute in favor of lower-rated Donors?

Squanell: I can live with that. I'm not sure I could live with... the other.

Phyven shakes his head.

Phyven: In short, you're willing to make a lot of work for me.

Phyven looks at the ceiling and taps his tentacles on the desk.

Katsura wonders how Nick will feel about not serving transfer this month.

Phyven turns his attention to Nick.

Phyven: Sosu, I apologize -- profoundly. Unless something changes, soon, I just can't use you at all.

Nick looks at Squanell, letting a little nonthreatening ~~ support ~~ leak through.

Nick: Are you sure about this?

Phyven twiddles his tentacles and begins to whistle rather tunelessly.

Phyven: A Controller's life is not a happy one.

Phyven wishes he had a secretary who could interrupt him with an "urgent problem" right about now.

Squanell zlins Nick again. Right now, he seems nonthreatening enough. ~~ wavering ~~

Nick looks a little scruffy, with his beard, but his nager is quite ~~ disciplined ~~.

Phyven knows it would be unethical to intervene nagerically, not to mention pointless with a Farris, but he can hope, can't he?

Squanell is close enough to hard need that he doesn't notice the Donor's outward appearance, only his huge nager.

Phyven continues waiting for his problem to solve itself.

Squanell reminds himself that this apparently nonthreatening nager is actually the notorious Sosu Nick Reckage.

Nick sees Squanell wavering, and tries just a touch of ~~ support ~~ to unknot those uncomfortable-looking tentacles. His support zlins like Zeor overlaid with Sat'htine, but with a little undertone that hints of Narosian seduction.

Squanell gives a little sigh of ~~ relief ~~ as his laterals relax in their sheaths.

Katsura can zlin what's happening, and tries to suppress a feeling of ~~ dread ~~ at giving up Nick for a Donor she's never met. She's not in the best shape psychologically after the past two months.

Squanell: Sosu, you... you wouldn't...?

Squanell has never been much good with words, and especially not this far after turnover.

Nick: Wouldn't what?

Squanell: Do anything... nonstandard?

Nick sighs.

Nick: I've never harmed a channel in transfer. Why would I start with you?

Squanell feels a bit like a small child staring at a very large uncaged wild beast. A softly furry one.

Squanell: Then why... what....? Why did you do all those terrible things?

Nick: At the Snake River Dam? I kept Arat and Snake alive and functional because if I hadn't, thousands of out-Territory Gens would have been killed by thousands of renSimes, and then they would have turned on each other.

Phyven: [gently] It's always been more about what people were afraid Sosu Nick would do, than what he's actually done.

Phyven looks at Katsura for confirmation of this.

Katsura: In the past two months, I've trusted Nick with my life, and he's always performed superbly.

Squanell sticks one ventral in his mouth and nibbles on it.

Phyven wonders if Squanell is reverting to First Year, but hey, whatever it takes to change his attitude.

Squanell: He... doesn't do any of that pain stuff?

Squanell notices what he's doing with his ventral and hastily sheathes it, hoping no one saw.

Katsura: Of course not.

Phyven: Anybody could zlin that much.

Katsura: And he helped me manage a young junct renSime, and never offered him pain or fear either.

Nick tries to ~~ reassure ~~, still not quite daring to just reach out and control Squanell. He figures that if Squanell wanted Nick's input, he would have asked him, not Kat.

Squanell: I'm not a renSime. I've got a career to think about. A reputation.

Katsura: And I'm the Heir to Sat'htine. Do you think my Sectuib would risk injury to me, by assigning me to a dangerous Donor?

Phyven: What's more, I think this could be construed as doing a favor for a whole lot of your colleagues. And possibly for Householding Sat'htine as well.

Squanell: ~~ doubt ~~ You're sure?

Katsura feels somewhat strange and panicky at convincing someone to take her Gen from her, even if it is her duty under her Tecton oath.

Nick can't support either channel without causing trouble, and his generalized support doesn't seem to be doing a great deal.

Katsura: Sosu Nick gave me an excellent transfer, with nothing perverted about it. He's also extraordinarily skilled at supporting a channel, as he'll show you if you let him.

Phyven smiles inwardly but keeps it out of his showfield once again.

Squanell: Sosu, can you promise me you won't do anything that's not Tecton standard? And you won't overcontrol me, no matter what happens?

Squanell can't quite bring himself to address Nick by name.

Nick wishes he had a better idea what Tecton-normal channels considered perverted, as D'zoll's assurance that all Donors wing it in the transfer suite was reassuring but not very informative.

Nick: I haven't read your file, Hajene Squanell, but if Controller Phyven's description of your situation is accurate, wouldn't you get more benefit from a transfer with me if you let me control it?

Squanell: Maybe. But not... not if I'm too scared to let it happen at all.

Nick is reflexively ~~ concerned ~~ with the health of the channel he's going to be working with.

Squanell is all too aware that with a nager so huge, this Donor could easily make the transfer happen anyway.

Katsura feels Nick's focus of concern shift away from her and exerts herself to maintain a bland showfield.

Nick: You don't have to be afraid, you know.

Nick offers ~~ calm reassurance ~~ without imposing it. His offer is 25% less seductive than Riyyh would have offered.

Squanell has always known that it's the Donor who's more powerful, but never before has he felt quite so much like he was putting his life in the hands of a Giant Killer Gen. Still, the delightful zlin of that nager... mmm.

Squanell: Okay. Okay, I'll do it.

Squanell feels a surge of ~~ panic ~~ the moment the words are out of his mouth.

Nick's nageric projection lightens immediately.

Nick: If you don't want to do this, well, I don't impose myself where I'm not welcome.

Nick takes this principle very seriously.

Squanell hesitates again, tempted by the escape hatch now that the delicious nager has eased off.

Nick withdraws more completely.

Squanell: No. I've said I'll do it, and I'll do it. ~~ resolute but still afraid ~~ .

Phyven decides that he's going to treat that as a commitment.

Phyven: Okay, Squanell. Here's your assignment card. And here's yours, Nick.

Phyven suits his actions to his words.

Squanell takes his card gingerly.

Nick takes the card, meaningless as it is, given Squanell's obvious lack of commitment to this transfer.

Katsura feels irrationally that Nick has rejected her, and tries to be reasonable.

Phyven: Okay. Now I suggest [~~ order ~~] that you two head off somewhere and get acquainted.

Squanell: Yes, Controller.

Katsura finds that she's clenched her hands and tentacles into a tight knot.

Squanell stands to leave, tucking the assignment card into the pocket of his Tecton uniform.

Nick fortunately has some practice managing two unstable channels at once.

Nick: Let's go to the cafeteria and talk over lunch.

Squanell isn't really hungry. Not this close to hard need.

Squanell: Okay, sure.

Nick: Kat, I'm sure this Lomid is competent. But if you get into trouble she can't help you with, I won't be very far away.

Katsura nods.

Squanell leads the way out of the office and down the hall.

Katsura watches Nick go, zlinning his nager focused on the other channel, with a sinking feeling she conceals behind her showfield.

Katsura: Controller, when might I meet Sosu Lomid?

Katsura has been wondering why the Donor wasn't invited to this meeting. She hopes she's good at treating entran.

Phyven: Right away, absolutely. The sooner the better.

Phyven starts to say "Follow me" and then thinks again.

Phyven: Hajene?

Katsura: Yes, Controller?

Phyven: I'm sorry for all this. I really am. ~~ sincere ~~

Katsura: I understand.

Phyven thinks: The things I have to do in the name of my duty. ~~ resignation ~~.

Phyven: Follow me, and I'll introduce you.

Katsura gets up to follow, hoping for the best.

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