Physicians Across Borders: Episode 25

Katsura pours Nick and herself another mug of trin, and leans back comfortably against him on the sofa in the duty channel's office at the satellite Sime Center near the university.

Nick accepts the refill with ~~ gratitude ~~.

Nick: That was... interesting.

Katsura: "You can never tell what a Wild Gen will do next".

Katsura quotes a very old Simelan proverb.

Nick chuckles.

Nick: I've spent more time out-Territory than most, but that's the first Wild Gen I've met who wanted to be killed.

Katsura: I don't think she wanted to actually die, just have the experience of being killed. After all, she'd want to be around to continue with her poem.

Nick: You have to admit, being dead is the usual result of dying.

Katsura giggles.

Katsura: Artists don't always seem to live in the same reality as the rest of us.

Katsura strokes Nick's arm ~~ affectionately ~~.

Katsura: After all, look how much trouble Klyd and Hugh had understanding each other.

Nick: I have to wonder whether PPling would still think the kill was so interesting, if she'd been burned.

Katsura: It would probably add considerably to the drama -- after the miserable headache wore off, of course. Headaches just don't seem all that romantic.

Nick: You might be right. That particular kind of headache just makes you miserable.

Nick speaks from painful experience.

Katsura hopes that Nick is about to tell her about a no doubt traumatic experience from his mysterious past.

Katsura: I've zlinned Gens who've been burned...

Nick: That's an advantage... you can leave the room!

Katsura: Judging by your selyn system, yours must have been pretty severe.

Nick: Not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Nick takes a sip of tea.

Katsura agrees. Nick could have died.

Nick: I'd agreed to train as Snake's Companion a few weeks before, and she was working hard to get my field up. I was still way below what she needed, of course, so we'd arranged that I would Qualify with another channel. I wasn't too happy about it, but Snake was pretty adamant.

Nick wants to make it clear that Snake was not irresponsible. Criminally insane, certainly, but not irresponsible.

Katsura thinks that while Snake showed some sense in protecting her Companion, she was also protecting herself from a bad, or at least unsatisfying, transfer.

Katsura: She had another transfer partner available, a better match?

Nick: An adequate one, anyway. Anyway, a couple of days before our respective transfers, some kids went missing, and Snake went out to search the nearby Ancient ruins for them. When she didn't come back, I went out after her. I finally found her, by accident, when I fell through the snowpack down into a cellar.

Katsura unconsciously holds Nick's arm tighter at the thought of his being injured in such a fall.

Nick: I'd sprained an ankle and couldn't get out, even with her help. She wouldn't leave me, and it was very cold.

Nick shrugs.

Nick: I can't say I was too upset with the situation, even afterwards, although that headache wasn't fun.

Katsura: She... attacked you?

Nick: No, that would imply that I wasn't willing, which was far from the case.

Nick grins at the memory.

Nick: I was far more eager than she was, actually. Admittedly, that would have changed if we'd given it another half day, but Snake was right that that wouldn't have improved the situation.

Katsura: She wasn't able to control her speed of draw... well, I suppose she wasn't trained.

Katsura caresses Nick's arm again, trying not to imagine an incompetent channel burning his beautiful selyn system so carelessly.

Nick: She didn't have the full Zeor training, but she had a lot of it. More than enough to judge to a hair what compromise to strike between harming me and leaving her functional enough to get us both back to civilization.

Katsura is doubtful. Nick would have started out with a mere sprained ankle and ended up comatose -- hardly more mobile!

Katsura: You were a willing victim, then. Like PPling.

Katsura tries to make that sound like teasing, but thinks that Nick's innocence and naive enthusiasm were callously exploited.

Nick: No. Not like PPling at all. I knew a great deal more about what I was doing. Unless you consider every Donor a "willing victim" at Qualification?

Katsura: Qualifications are normally set up to go smoothly, without injury to either partner. You had an intense desire to serve Snake in transfer, but you weren't ready to do so safely. And she wasn't willing or able to prevent herself from injuring you.

Nick: She could have avoided hurting me, but it would have left her in no condition to get us out of that cellar. I would have had hours to enjoy not having a headache, before we both froze to death. There are a lot of things I blame Snake for, but that burn isn't one of them.

Katsura: She couldn't get you out with a sprained ankle, but she could with you unconscious?

Katsura is impressed at the level of denial Nick can express about his relationship with Snake.

Nick: The rubble that had collapsed required a considerable amount of augmentation to remove -- and she wasn't carrying enough selyn for an adequate shunt. Besides, I was only out a few hours, although I admit I'd have been glad if I'd slept through more of it.

Katsura: It didn't leave you with any aversion to transfer?

Nick: Of course not.

Katsura smiles and licks Nick's forearm with a lateral tip, not securing her hold first.

Katsura: I'm very glad.

Nick grins, and lets his ~~ pleasure ~~ at Kat's touch suffuse his field.

Katsura: Nick, you're a good match for D'zoll and several other Sat'htine channels now. Would you like to try to increase your rating to match me?

Nick considers.

Nick: I think I'd like that, if it doesn't cause problems for both of us later.

Benji flits from shadow to shadow along the back alley across the street from the Sime Center. He stretches his new senses, checking for any sign of danger, then bolts across the open street and up the walk to the Sime Center's door.

Katsura jerks to attention.

Katsura: A Sime, Nick. Newly changed over... not junct...

Nick is ~~ pleased ~~.

Katsura jumps up and goes to meet the young man at the door.

Nick: I expect this is PPling's attacker now.

Katsura: Yes, probably.

Nick is following Kat closely, in case the new Sime is afraid of Kat's tentacles.

Benji is unaware of his new strength, and is quite ~~ surprised ~~ when the door slams back against the wall at his gentle tug. He darts inside, then very carefully reaches back and slowly pulls the door shut behind him.

Katsura: Welcome, young man.

Benji: Hello, ma'am. Sorry to just barge in like this.

Katsura: I'm glad you've come. You're safe here.

Benji: I hope the door is okay.

Katsura gives it a quick zlin.

Katsura: I think it is.

Nick: If it isn't, it can be fixed.

Katsura: Come back with us, have some tea.

Katsura gestures towards the office.

Benji: I'm Benji Fullerton, ma'am. My dad's Professor Zav Fullerton, in the History department at the university.

Benji follows the lady as he speaks.

Katsura nods. It's too bad that such an obviously educated man didn't provide for the possibility that his son might change over.

Katsura: Here we are. Have a seat. I'm Hajene Katsura Farris and this is Sosu Nick Reckage.

Benji: My folks always told me if I started to turn Sime, or even thought I might be, I should come here.

Benji holds up his filthy forearms, in the shredded remains of their sleeves.

Benji: I guess I am.

Nick expects that Benji's father intended him to get to the Sime Center before breakout, not afterwards.

Katsura: Yes, you're a Sime now, and we'll look after you.

Benji: Can you tell my folks where I am? They'll worry when they wake up and I'm gone.

Nick: Sure we will. Or you can write them a letter yourself, and we'll have it delivered.

Benji: Thanks. Um, I don't think I should sit down. I'm muddy.

Benji is not only muddy, but bloody, wet, and ~~ confused ~~ .

Katsura spreads a newspaper on the sofa.

Katsura: Here you go. We'll find some clean dry clothes for you, or your parents can bring some.

Benji: Thanks.

Benji sits.

Katsura: Benji... what happened before you came here? Tell us about it.

Katsura wonders how much this boy knows about larity -- she's learned not to expect much from Gens out-T.

Benji: Well, my folks were out for the evening, and I wasn't feeling too good. I thought it was just the flu, so I made some willow bark tea and took a nap.

Nick: Speaking of tea, would you like some? It's cold out there.

Nick offers a fresh mug of trin.

Benji accepts the mug.

Benji: Thanks. Well, when I woke up it was the middle of the night, and my arms were... doing things. And I felt all dizzy and miserable.

Benji takes a sip.

Benji: Mmm, this is good. What is it?

Nick: Trin tea. A lot of people drink it, on the other side of the border.

Benji: It's great. Thank you. So anyway, I knew then what was happening. And all I could think of was they'd told me if I started to go Sime, I should come here. Without stopping for anything. So I didn't even stop to wake them. I just left.

Benji takes another sip of the tea.

Benji: I got maybe halfway here, and felt just too awful, so I found some bushes and hid in them. I thought I was just gonna die, and they'd find me frozen in the morning. After that, I don't remember much. Things got real confusing for a while. I remember balls of light, and feeling really really good. Next thing I knew, I was standing in a back alley. I saw my arms and figured out what had happened.

Katsura thinks this would have been a remarkably rapid changeover for a renSime, but perhaps the boy waited a lot longer to come in than he describes.

Benji: Am I... ~~ fear ~~ guilt ~~ Am I gonna have to get shot, for killing someone?

Nick: You didn't kill, Benji.

Katsura: Benji, you're an extremely lucky young man. The woman you tried to kill was one of the very unusual Gens who are able to give transfer without training.

Benji: ~~ surprise ~~ relief ~~

Katsura sighs.

Benji: She's okay?

Katsura: Yes, she is. But unfortunately, because you took your First Transfer this way, you're going to be more at risk of attacking a Gen again, and in that case you will kill, and you will die.

Benji: ~~ fear ~~ Oh.

Katsura reaches over and takes Benji's shoulder.

Katsura: So for the rest of your life, you're going to have to be very careful not to get into situations where that might happen.

Benji: Can you... is there something you can do? Lock me up a couple of days each month or something?

Katsura: In Nivet, you'll be in a school for new Simes from here, where they'll teach you how to be careful.

Benji: Oh. Okay. Good.

Benji has great faith that in a school, you can learn absolutely anything.

Katsura figures Benji is going to have to do some fast growing up. But of course, that's what First Year is all about.

Benji: So how's that lady I went after? Can I talk to her? Apologize?

Benji isn't quite able to say, "tried to kill".

Katsura: You can write her a letter, and we'll pass it on.

Benji: I'll do that. Thank you.

Katsura thinks a confrontation with PPling would be more than a new renSime could deal with.

Katsura: Now Sosu Nick will show you where the washroom is and help you clean up a little. I'll see if I can find some clothes for you around here, and then I'll examine you.

Benji: Uh, yeah, thanks. I really am a mess, aren't I? ~~ embarrassed ~~

Nick: Changeover is very messy. Fortunately, we're well supplied with soap and washcloths.

Benji rises to follow Nick.

Benji: Good. I'm gonna need them. Um, I didn't catch your name, sir?

Nick: Nick.

Benji: Thank you, Nick. And, ma'am, the clothes? Could you maybe make it something without sleeves? Maybe something like that shirt you've got?

Benji really really doesn't want anything touching his arms right now. They're very sore and tender.

Katsura: Yes. I understand.

Benji: Thank you, ma'am.

Benji: ~~ sudden understanding ~~ You really do understand, don't you? You're one too!

Katsura: Yes, Benji. I'm a channel.

Katsura displays her tentacles.

Nick laughs, which makes his nager ~~ sparkle ~~.

Benji: Oh, wow. You can actually make them go where you want them to!

Nick: You've got a lot to learn about being Sime, Benji, but I think you'll find that there's a lot of it that's fun.

Benji: Can you teach me? How to make them go where I want? And the funny lights? And... how to feel like my feet are really on the floor still? And...

Benji does a sudden emotional ~~ crash ~~.

Benji: And what to do now I don't have parents?

Katsura extends ~~ kindness ~~ and ~~ support ~~.

Katsura: Don't worry. You'll figure it all out. People will help you.

Benji soaks up the warm emotions.

Benji: Maybe you can be like my mom now? At least until I go wherever it is I have to?

Katsura: You'll be going to the main Sime Center downtown where the people who help new Simes are, later this morning.

Benji: Oh. Okay. ~~ disappointment ~~

Katsura: Meanwhile, clean up.

Benji: Yes, Ma'am.

Nick: Come on, the washroom is this way.

Benji: Yes, sir.

Benji turns to follow Nick out of the room. He considers the lights around Nick, and how much brighter they are.

Benji: So you're one of those Donors, sir? Is that why your lights are different?

Nick: Yes, I'm a Donor.

Nick figures that's still true, at least until his enemies succeed in locating him again.

Benji: And you really don't mind being around... folks like me. You're so much shinier than the lady I... tried to hurt.

Nick: Yes. Donors carry more selyn than most Gens.

Nick figures that reassuring Benji that his victim wasn't harmed would send the wrong message. He's also aware that he's hardly the poster boy for Tecton transfer ethics.

Benji wonders ~~ wistfully ~~ what it would be like to... not try to hurt... a Donor.

Benji: So you're the kind of person they'll... put me with... now? So I don't hurt anyone?

Nick: No. You'll get your selyn from a channel like Hajene Katsura, from now on.

Benji: Oh. They... they didn't teach me any of this stuff. They just said to come here and you folks would take care of me.

Nick: And so we will.

Benji: And not the way most people take care of a kid who... goes Sime.

Benji is still fishing for reassurance that he's going to live.

Nick: We'll send you to the main New Washington Sime Center in the morning, as Hajene Katsura said. The counselors there will get you oriented, and arrange for you to go to Sime Territory. There, you'll be enrolled in a school for people like you. You'll learn to speak Simelan, and how to make your tentacles do what you want them to, and how to make a living as a Sime.

Benji: Are my parents going to have to donate to support me now? I don't think Mom would like that very much.

Nick: Some parents do, and others don't. It's up to your parents whether they want to support you.

Benji: I've only just turned twelve. It'll be a long time before I can get a job and pay my own way. ~~ worry ~~

Nick: It'll happen a lot faster than you think. Simes learn very quickly, the first year after changeover.

Nick: Here we are. There's water for the basin, and there are washcloths in that cabinet there.

Benji eagerly strips off the tattered remains of his second-best shirt and reaches for the soap.

Nick steps back, allowing the illusion of privacy without sacrificing too much of the security of nearby selyn.

Benji looks ruefully at the filthy, twitching, tender mess of his arms.

Benji: Even washing up is gonna be harder now, isn't it?

Nick chuckles.

Nick: You'll get the hang of it quickly enough.

Benji: I sure hope so.

Nick: And those tentacles will be a lot less tender in a few days, when the sheath openings heal up.

Benji grabs a washcloth and fills the basin with water.

Benji: You make it sound like everything's gonna be all right.

Nick: Your life will be different from now on, but it doesn't have to be a bad one. A lot of what your parents and teachers taught you is just as important in Simeland as here. Believe me, I know how unsettling it can be to hop the border and start a new life. But it can be a lot of fun, too.

Benji: What kinds of fun do Simes have?

Benji somehow can't picture Simes playing tag or jump-rope.

Nick: Well, most Simes can learn to juggle pretty easily.

Benji grins.

Benji: That would be fun.

Benji gingerly begins soaping up his tender arms.

Nick: You'll still be able to do most of the fun things that Gens do, too.

Benji: Tag? Kick-ball? Chess?

Nick: Sure, although flyball is more popular in-Territory.

Benji: I guess I'll have to learn that one.

Nick: I expect you'll enjoy it.

Benji: How about chess? Board games? Sprouts?

Nick: You'll find plenty of old games to play, and new ones as well.

Benji: Tell me about some of the new ones.

Nick: Well, take Wakbar...

Return to Table of Contents