Physicians Across Borders: Episode 19

Hiram sinks into his desk chair with a little sigh of relief. With the twins safely born, the mother and father both doing well, and an hour's break in front of him, the Sectuib is reveling in the moment of peace.

Lusinka sits down as well, resting her feet.

Hiram: Sosu?

Lusinka: I'll be fine, if the next emergency will have the courtesy to give me a chance to rest before it comes knocking on the office door. I'm not as young as I used to be.

Hiram: You did well. I think Gegg believed you, as a woman, when none of the rest of us could get through to him.

Lusinka: No man is ever completely rational about childbirth.

Hiram zlins the ache in his Companion's shoulders. He gets up and walks around her chair to work on it a bit.

Lusinka leans back into Hiram's tentacles with a sigh of ~~ relief ~~.

Lusinka: Ah. Have I mentioned lately how convenient it can be, to have a channel around the place?

Hiram: Yes, but I'm willing to hear it again.

Hiram prods at a particularly tight muscle, loosening the knot.

Hiram: Was I that bad, when my kids were being born?

Lusinka: Oh, no. Gegg's a very practical, steady man. You were far worse, adjusting for nageric control.

Hiram: Oh. I don't suppose there's any point in apologizing, at this late date?

Lusinka: None whatsoever, I'm afraid.

Lusinka provides a bit of ~~ forgiveness ~~ anyway.

Hiram goes after another knotted muscle.

D'zoll walks up to Hiram's door with Shorsh in tow, clutching his letter from Seruffin. ~~ signal for entrance ~~

Hiram: Come in. ~~ welcome ~~

Lusinka sighs, then pulls herself and her nager into a more ~~ businesslike ~~ stance.

D'zoll opens the door and lets Shorsh walk in first, in case Hiram is in some kind of state.

Shorsh smiles and nods to Sectuib and First Companion. ~ neutral, pleasant ~~

Hiram goes back to his chair.

D'zoll is ~~ relieved ~~ to see that Hiram seems to be holding up to birth of twins whose parents are a twisted Donor and a mutant renGen.

D'zoll: Sectuib, I have a letter addressed to me from Hajene Seruffin. Are you, er, up to hearing about it?

Lusinka: Has something happened to Katsura? ~~ concern ~~

D'zoll: No, this is an entirely separate matter.

Hiram: What's wrong? ~~ concern ~~

Shorsh's nager expresses ~~ reassurance ~~.

D'zoll points to the chairs.

D'zoll: May we?

Hiram: Please do.

D'zoll drops the letter on Hiram's desk and sits.

Shorsh sits next to him.

Hiram glances at the innocent bit of paper as if it might have fangs.

D'zoll: It seems that Seruffin wants me to go out-T again to do some more mind-healing, since I am now the Territory expert on out-T Gens. ~~ sardonic ~~

Hiram: Really? Hmmm.

D'zoll: Instead of involving an unknown farmer from an obscure village, however, this case is deeply embedded in extremely high-level Gen politics.

Lusinka: I knew there had to be a catch somewhere.

D'zoll nods.

Hiram sighs.

D'zoll: So did I when I saw the "By Diplomatic Pouch" there.

D'zoll points to the address on the back of the envelope.

Hiram: Let's hear the details.

D'zoll: In brief, a certain Senator Tsibola, who belongs to an extremely wealthy and powerful family, sort of like the Farrises of Sat'htine ...

D'zoll pauses to gauge the effect of this remark.

Shorsh snorts, but quietly.

Hiram gives the other channel his finest mock glare.

D'zoll: ... has had an ongoing dispute with his cousin, a certain Mr. Craig.

Lusinka: That sounds like they really require a mediator, not a mind-healer.

D'zoll gestures "I'll get to that".

D'zoll: The Senator is such a conservative he has sworn an oath never to enter a Sime Center, though that doesn't seem to prevent him from dealing with Simes when convenient. Craig, on the other hand, has had a religious revelation telling him that the Sime mutation was created to save sinful Gens from the consequences of lies and deception. He calls himself the Church of Truth.

D'zoll: Tsibola thinks his cousin is insane, and since he has the physical upper hand, he's been able to keep Craig locked up under the pretext that he is a dangerous lunatic. We got involved when Tsibola hired an off-duty Second to do discernment so that he could convince Craig his beliefs were lies.

Lusinka raises an eyebrow.

D'zoll: Of course that hasn't worked out as he expected, since Craig is apparently quite sincere, however irrational he may or may not be.

Hiram: It sounds as if this Tsibola has very little idea of what zlinning is, or what it's good for.

Lusinka: That hasn't stopped him from making use of it when convenient, it appears.

D'zoll: Just so. But now this Second, a Hajene something-or-other, has diagnosed a failure to communicate, and has appealed to Seruffin to locate a specialist in couples therapy -- for Wild Gens.

D'zoll: Reading between the lines, Seruffin wants me to go, but I can't tell if he's using this to discredit Tsibola or to assist him in exchange for some diplomatic quid pro quo or other. I think you should read it yourself and see what political implications you can glean from it.

D'zoll's gesture implicitly includes Lusinka as well as Hiram.

Hiram: Hmm.

Lusinka moves to read the letter over Hiram's shoulder.

Hiram picks up the letter and turns it so Lusinka can see it as well.

Hiram: Lusinka, can you see anything D'zoll has missed?

Lusinka: This is interesting. You're right, Seruffin is very careful not to say much about what he hopes to accomplish. It's clear that Seruffin has some broader goal in mind, but I don't know enough about out-Territory politics to guess what that might be.

Hiram: Shorsh? Your thoughts?

Shorsh: Well, the Sime Center in New Washington does sound more comfortable and civilized than a pigpen in the boonies.

D'zoll smiles, not sure if that counts as support or opposition.

Hiram: You favor taking the case, then?

Shorsh shrugs.

Shorsh: We might try to get some clarification from Seruffin first.

D'zoll: He's a diplomat. My sense is he assumes we are at least as smart as he is, though he may overestimate the state of our knowledge.

Hiram: Hmm. D'zoll?

D'zoll: ~~ firm ~~ I'm against it, Sectuib.

Shorsh is ~~ somewhat surprised ~~. D'zoll rejecting a challenge?

Hiram raises an eyebrow.

Hiram: You've become cautious in your old age.

Hiram studies the younger channel thoughtfully.

D'zoll: Perhaps so. A medical challenge, that's one thing. Intervening in Gen politics, where the victory goes to the one with the sharpest knives? No thank you!

Lusinka considers D'zoll's response with ~~ interest ~~, and a hint of ~~ approval ~~

Hiram: Hmm. How serious were you about wanting to attend that psychiatric conference in New Washington that you were telling me about?

D'zoll ~~ winces ~~.

D'zoll: Ah, the knife in my heart!

D'zoll gestures pulling a knife out of his heart and healing himself.

D'zoll: I'm plenty serious, but not so much that I feel like spending time in a Gen Territory jail. Seruffin has diplomatic immunity, but I don't.

Hiram broadcasts ~~ soothing calm ~~ .

Shorsh: Just what high crimes and misdemeanors were you planning, D'zoll?

D'zoll: [English] Pissing off the big boss, and not even my big boss.

D'zoll indicates Hiram.

Shorsh: I don't think they can jail you for pissing a Senator off, unless you're his relative, I suppose.

D'zoll: Remember, they don't have trial by discernment there. I'm sure this Tsibola can manipulate the local judiciary, such as they are.

Lusinka: And there is the relative to consider. His situation does seem rather serious, from Seruffin's report.

D'zoll: Seruffin did say Craig was remaining in custody voluntarily, Sosu.

Lusinka: Not entirely voluntarily.

D'zoll: I suppose not. ~~ reluctant admission ~~

Hiram: D'zoll, it's the fact that you've learned caution, that you seem to be thinking things through instead of leaping, that suggests I might be able to trust you for this.

Shorsh: Sectuib, what do you think the implications would be for the House?

Lusinka: Seruffin does seem to want this, or he wouldn't have gone to the trouble of contacting us to ask for you.

Hiram: I've spent a lot of Sat'htine's political capital over the business with Kat and Nick.

D'zoll: ~~ reluctant ~~ I suppose that if we did this, our credit with the World Controller would rise?

Hiram: If Seruffin is looking for a favor here, and if Sat'htine can afford to do it for him, I don't think we can afford to say no too quickly.

D'zoll nods slowly.

D'zoll: I think, though, that as a matter of prudence we should get something in writing from Tsibola himself. So far, this is all just Tsibola asked Whozis to ask Seruffin to ask me. And Tsibola doesn't know me or Sat'htine [English] from a hole in the ground.

Shorsh: A formal invitation would be very useful in avoiding later troubles.

Hiram: I'm not suggesting we should leap into a commitment. I would certainly expect you to exert due caution at every step along the way. I suspect this is one of those situations that can only be zlinned from close at hand. And if the Senator's public stance is anti-Sime, he may be very reluctant to put anything on paper.

D'zoll resolves to bite the bullet.

Hiram: It could, on the other hand, be very useful to have him in our debt.

D'zoll: Well, suppose I draft a letter to Seruffin to go out under both our signatures, accepting the invitation but requiring Seruffin to get Tsibola's personal word that no official or unofficial action will be taken against me or my Companion, no matter what. Well, not "requiring". You know what I mean.

Lusinka: If D'zoll goes for the conference, there would an opportunity to discreetly investigate the situation.

Hiram: I don't think there should be anything so definite as an acceptance yet, D'zoll. Simply tell Seruffin that you'll be in town for the conference, and you'll speak to him about the case while you're there.

D'zoll sighs.

D'zoll: Well, if I must, I must.

Hiram: There's another thing, D'zoll.

D'zoll: ~~ inquiry ~~

Hiram: Kat and Nick are in New Washington. They could use a visit from family.

D'zoll ~~ cheers up ~~.

D'zoll: Very true.

D'zoll double-takes.

D'zoll: "They"?

Hiram: Well, you'd hardly visit with Kat and send Nick outside to wait, would you? ~~ innocence ~~

D'zoll: Oh. I thought you were suggesting that Nick ...

Hiram shrugs, a rippling of tentacles.

D'zoll: Is that something we should discuss now?

Hiram: Probably. What are your thoughts? All of you?

Shorsh: I wouldn't mind seeing Kat and Nick again. And if D'zoll is going to New Washington, he'll require me to keep him out of trouble, hard task though that may be. ~~ affection ~~

D'zoll: I wouldn't mind seeing them either, but that's not what I meant. Kat is your Heir: by law and tradition, she can take any oath you authorize her to.

Hiram: How do you all feel about Nick, after this latest round of trouble?

Shorsh: I'd like to hear his side of it.

Lusinka: It appears he took good care of our Katsura, at least.

D'zoll: We knew he would.

Lusinka: Yes, but it's nice to know that he really is as capable as he aspired to be.

D'zoll: Would it improve whatever is left of the legal problem?

Hiram: It certainly couldn't hurt.

Shorsh: I'd hate for him to feel compelled to pledge for extraneous reasons like that. He should really want to do it, from his heart.

D'zoll: I absolutely agree. But I don't think he'll come and ask, either.

Lusinka: Yes. He's very aware of the... baggage... he brings with him.

D'zoll: Which means he'll have to be asked, and we'll have to zlin what his heart says.

Hiram: If he's ready to pledge -- only if he's ready, and for the right reasons -- then Kat can make him the formal offer in my name, and take his oath. I'll draw up the necessary papers. Does that suit all of you?

Lusinka considers.

D'zoll: We should leave it up to the Gens, Sectuib. They're supposed to be the sensible ones. ~~ nageric wink ~~

Lusinka: I'd want all three of you, Shorsh especially, to agree that it's time to ask him before you mention it to Nick.

D'zoll: I certainly wouldn't mind being outvoted on this one, Lusinka.

Shorsh: He's very nervous about commitment to anything. But it's a good sign that he's never wanted to pledge just for the obvious advantages to himself.

Lusinka: We don't know how he's been affected by what's happened to him recently, after all.

Hiram nods, listening and zlinning intently.

Lusinka: If he's the kind of Donor I think he is, he may be holding back simply to avoid inflicting his troubles on Sat'htine.

Shorsh: Yes. I believe that's part of his reluctance.

D'zoll: Or he may be holding back because even though the Tecton has been awful to him, he's still afraid we're going to stifle him.

Shorsh smiles.

Shorsh: I suspect Kat has been bending over backwards not to do so.

D'zoll: Do we have room for someone who in his secret heart wants to operate autonomously? Taking the long view, we don't want another Hugh Valleroy, do we?

Shorsh snorts.

Lusinka: If he's responsible about it -- and he seemed very responsible to me -- it's not a bad thing for a House to have some unconventional thinkers among its top staff.

Lusinka: He's certainly no Hugh Valleroy. I was never the least concerned that he would abandon Kat.

D'zoll: Not what I meant.

D'zoll thinks he's saying that a lot lately -- has he become too distant in his thinking from his naztehrhai? He files the thought for later consideration.

Hiram: Then what did you mean?

D'zoll: As best we understand, Hugh did feel stifled because Klyd refused to give him the time and space he needed to be himself, farmer and artist, not just the First Companion of-but-not-in Zeor.

Lusinka nods.

Hiram: Only a First Companion, really, faces that kind of pressure. In this House, at least.

Shorsh: Nick both wants that kind of intense interdependence and fears it.

D'zoll: Exactly.

Shorsh: Perhaps his feelings about trust have changed during the past two months with Kat.

D'zoll: I'll bet he trusts her, more, that's true.

Hiram: She's the House at its best. If he sees her, he sees us.

Hiram is very ~~ proud ~~ of his Heir.

D'zoll: It's true our people are freer than, say, at our un-cousins. But are we tolerant enough for such a free spirit that we can guide him without trying to control him?

Shorsh: I think if he commits to us, and I doubt he'd pledge without a strong sincere commitment, he'll do well here.

Lusinka: Can he survive as a free spirit without us?

Hiram: It seems to me that we're trying to ask questions, here, that only Nick can answer for himself. All the House can do is make the offer, and let Nick choose for himself.

D'zoll nods. He's warned Hiram the best he can; it's the Sectuib's call.

Shorsh: Yes. The only question is when to offer.

D'zoll: Send us with the paperwork, then, and when we all agree it's time -- if ever -- we'll ask him.

Hiram nods.

Hiram: Would any of you happen to know his ring size?

D'zoll: Umm, no, actually.

D'zoll looks at Hiram quizzically.

Lusinka: Afraid that he'd reconsider if he had to wait for the ceremony?

Hiram grins.

Hiram: Ever since I pledged Millikin with a twist of baling wire for a ring, I've been determined never to do that again.

Shorsh: Could be worse. The Sectuib in Teiu founded his House by pledging his brother as First Companion with a piece of yarn he tore off his own sweater.

Lusinka: There were extenuating circumstances.

Shorsh: The Unity War, for one.

D'zoll: Well, he would find it easier to return here if he were fully pledged, I suppose.

Hiram: We certainly wouldn't want to see him pulled off another train, as soon as he's across the border.

Lusinka: He may want the full ceremony here.

Shorsh: But I think we should make it clear that he's welcome here without the pledge. He may need more time. I think we should make sure he has it.

D'zoll: It sounds like we're all in violent agreement.

Lusinka chuckles.

Hiram: As is our usual way. ~~ warm amusement ~~

Lusinka: I admit, I like the man. I like the way he kept us on our toes, too. And fresh Donor blood that's Farris-compatible isn't to be passed over if it's at all suitable.

Shorsh: And Kat seemed quite besotted. ~~ amusement ~~

D'zoll: I was just going to say that, Lusinka.

Shorsh: But be careful -- stud service is one of Nick's hot buttons. Not surprising, considering Riyyh.

Hiram: If it were only the bloodlines, Riyyh certainly provided plenty of others to choose from.

D'zoll: Who knows, Naros genes could end up in our next Sectuib but one, eh?

Hiram: Speaking of which, Jaklin is still urging me to take some of those Naros Donors off her hands.

Lusinka: Unless they're like Nick, I'd be cautious about that. And from what I've heard, the ones who grew up in Naros don't have his drive.

D'zoll: I can't imagine they would be. Genetics is one thing, experience quite another, and Nick's experiences were certainly unique.

Hiram: Some of them, apparently, are quite talented. But it's raw talent. No training worth mentioning, and certainly no work ethic.

Shorsh: Well, Nick has turned out to be a mixed blessing, considering the trouble with Firlith's faction, so maybe we don't owe Jaklin quite as much as she'd wants us to believe?

Hiram grins.

Hiram: Since none of us seem eager for the challenge, then, I'll give Jaklin another firm "no". I think it'll be the fourth or fifth.

Shorsh: Maybe when things settle down a bit more. Nick's a blessing, despite being a mixed one, or so all the channels here seem to think. ~~ teasing ~~

D'zoll: Caught!

Lusinka: A sucker for a smooth nager, every time.

Hiram: Guilty as charged. ~~ mock despair ~~

D'zoll: Well, I'm done. Are we done?

Hiram: Lusinka and I are on duty in eight minutes.

Lusinka: No rest for the wicked.

D'zoll: I'll leave you to it, then. Shorsh?

Shorsh: Poor D'zoll will have to make time to scrape the rust off his retainers...

Lusinka: And prepare an abstract for his talk.

Shorsh: I better take him over to the refectory and build up his strength with a bite to eat.

D'zoll: Good idea. And then I can clean the retainers with your bloooooooood.

Shorsh: The boy never got over that Ancient literature he read when he was a child.

D'zoll cackles evilly.

Hiram makes nageric swatting motions.

Shorsh hits D'zoll with the nageric equivalent of pinching his big Farris nose.

Hiram: Out of here, both of you. ~~ laughter ~~

D'zoll laughs, raises his hands, and walks out of Hiram's office, being careful not to let the door hit him on the way out.

Shorsh smiles and follows him.

Lusinka looks at Hiram ~~ indulgently ~~ as the office door closes.

Lusinka: Were we ever that young and insanely optimistic?

Hiram: Don't ever tell them I said it, but I think we were even worse.

Lusinka: Oh, dear. I believe you are right.

Hiram: D'zoll seems to have done some real growing up, these last few months.

Lusinka: Yes, he has.

Hiram: It reassures me. Knowing the future of the House isn't in just one or two sets of hands.

Lusinka: Yes. Kat will need that support, eventually. And Nick wouldn't be a bad person to add to the mix, either.

Hiram: I do hope he chooses to join us. If not now, then eventually. If he doesn't, the Tecton will crush him to death after all this.

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