Cristal: Bibi, I'm sure I'm perfectly capable of mishearing. You agreed to do what?
Cristal carefully keeps his outrage out of his nager, of course!
Bibi: Technically, nothing that I'm not already doing.
Bibi isn't particularly comfortable with that herself.
Bibi: If people ask us for medical help, we help them, don't we? As normal practice?
Cristal: Yes. But. These are Doctor Tavis's patients, with Doctor-Tavis-patient attitudes. If anything -- anything! -- goes wrong, what will happen? That lorsh Pedro will be back.
Bibi: Well, they don't have to come here. If they do, it will be just like anybody else coming here and asking for help. Besides, I don't think there will be many of them. I hope not.
Bibi tries to smile.
Bibi: Besides, since they don't pay us, they can't complain they don't get their money's worth.
Cristal: Oh, they'll want help all right. They'll expect it, in fact. And if they don't get what they expect -- But perhaps you and Dr. Tavis are right, and nobody will show up before he returns.
Bibi pats Cristal's hand.
Bibi: Let's hope so.
Bibi doesn't think that's quite the right attitude -- after all, she is supposed to be encouraging positive attitudes about Unity out here, but then again, if the patients aren't happy with the service, she'll have been encouraging negative attitudes, which is worse than not cultivating good ones.
Cristal shuts his eyes and shakes his head, all the while providing a continuously supportive and steady nager.
==== Some days later ===
Alwyn comes up the steps of the Sime Center, zlinning of ~~ guilt ~~ as well as considerable ~~ stomach pain ~~ . He's carrying a sack of spring greens and a packet of dried figs. He's dressed like what he is: the town's finest greengrocer. He glances at the "Please Enter" sign and complies.
Nattin is in the waiting room, checking to make sure the refreshments are in order after the morning donations. He offers Alwyn a friendly smile.
Nattin: Good afternoon. If you'll have a seat, I'll tell Hajene Bibi that you're here. Help yourself to the refreshments. The spicy cake there is particularly good.
Nattin ducks back into the depths of the Sime Center to call Bibi.
Alwyn looks slightly ~~ ill ~~ at the thought of spicy anything. He sits.
Nattin finds her with Cristal, looking worried.
Nattin: Hajene, there's a new donor waiting in front.
Bibi: Okay. Cristal?
Bibi gets up and heads for the waiting room.
Cristal rises and follows Bibi, uncertain but trying to be hopeful.
Alwyn hears approaching footsteps and twitches ~~ nervously ~~ to his feet.
Bibi zlins the nervousness and dons her small, cute, harmless, feminine look, tentacles concealed.
Bibi: Good day. Welcome to the Sime Center.
Bibi smiles charmingly, showing her dimples.
Alwyn nods respect to the young lady and steps forward to offer the bag of greens and the figs.
Alwyn: Hi. Um, everyone says you folks don't take money for anything, so, well...
Alwyn notices the young lady's forearms and struggles not to ~~ wince ~~ .
Alwyn: So I brought you these instead.
Alwyn is carefully not saying that he'd far rather pay in money or goods than in selyn.
Bibi: We don't charge to take donations -- we pay you for them.
Alwyn: Um, uh...
Alwyn retreats half a step.
Bibi tries to look even more harmless.
Alwyn: I'm not here to, um...
Alwyn turns as if to flee.
Bibi: Is there a child you think may be turning Sime?
Alwyn is stopped in his tracks by the very irrelevancy of the question.
Bibi: There's no charge for that either, but it's important you bring him here as soon as possible. I can tell you if it's a false alarm well before there are symptoms.
Alwyn latches onto the word "symptoms".
Bibi: Or of the child is already a Gen, I can tell you that, too.
Alwyn: Actually, it's me with the symptoms.
Alwyn, with his graying hair, is conspicuously not a candidate for changeover.
Bibi: Oh! Pardon me. Please come back with me and Cristal and we can discuss this in private.
Bibi leads the way.
Bibi: I'm Hajene Bibi, and this is my assistant, Sosu Cristal.
Bibi often says assistant rather than Donor to nervous Gens, in case they react to the reference to selyn transfer.
Alwyn: Alwyn Meyer, of Meyer's Groceries. Pleased to meet you.
Alwyn is ~~ unsure ~~ about the latter, but it's the polite thing to say.
Bibi: Pleased to meet you, Mr. Meyer.
Bibi ushers the man into the treatment room, which is seldom used.
Bibi: Have a seat.
Bibi sits at the small desk.
Alwyn places the figs and greens on the corner of the desk and sits on the edge of his chair.
Bibi: I can tell that your stomach is bothering you. Tell me about it.
Alwyn relaxes a bit as he slips into the familiar medical routine.
Alwyn: Well, I've had it for about five years now. Dr. Tavis says it's an ulcer. He gives me some chalky stuff to drink for it, and it helps a bit, I suppose. So it's been worse the last little while, and I went in to see Tavis about it this morning, but they told me he was away and I should come here if I really needed to see a doc.
Alwyn doesn't mention the half hour of fending off the useless attentions of two trained nurses. If Dr. Tavis has barely been able to help, he knew those two well-meaning ladies would have nothing to offer.
Bibi can zlin it isn't an emergency, like a perforation, or a serious bleed, which she probably wouldn't be able to manage without the resources of a good sized Sime Center.
Bibi: Has Dr. Tavis suggested foods you should avoid?
Alwyn: So, well, you understand, Tavis is a good doctor, and I go way back with him. I wouldn't normally have gone anywhere else. But, well, with him gone, and his staff saying to come here, I figured maybe someone different might...
Alwyn pauses as he registers the question.
Cristal decides to keep out of this, feeling if he says or does anything at all, besides provide the needed support, he'll just upset the applecart.
Alwyn: Yeah. Pretty much anything that makes eating fun. Spice, grease, tomatoes, oranges... well, anything fresh and tart, really. Um.
Alwyn tries to remember the rest of the list.
Alwyn: You don't know what it's like, being the first to see the new oranges when they're shipped in, and not being able to taste one.
Bibi: And of course, you should avoid willow bark, either tea or tablets.
Alwyn: Yeah. Which is rough, 'cause I get a lot of headaches.
Bibi: May I take your hands, Mr. Meyer?
Bibi offers her own, small, feminine and with tentacles retracted.
Alwyn thinks Bibi is a very attractive young woman, but that's not what he's here for.
Bibi: I'd like to examine you more carefully, using my Sime senses. It's easier when I make a contact.
Alwyn: Oh. Uh, okay.
Alwyn had already ~~ resigned ~~ himself to this kind of thing when he decided to come here.
Bibi would really rather not do it, but it would be unprofessional to treat without confirming the diagnosis.
Alwyn holds out his hands.
Bibi gently takes them.
Alwyn: Um, just don't try to kiss me. ~~ strained humor ~~
Bibi smiles. A five point contact would be better, but just laterals should be adequate.
Bibi: Okay. I'm going to touch you with my tentacles now. Please try not to move because you could hurt me.
Alwyn braces himself.
Bibi is glad for the support Cristal is providing from his unobtrusive position behind her. She extends her handling tentacles, takes a firm but gentle grip and cautiously extends her laterals, zlinning thoroughly through the man's anxiety, then releases him.
Bibi: Here's what I can do for you. There's a new drug used for this in Nivet. It turns out that ulcers are usually caused by a particular kind of infection, and this drug kills the microbes that cause them. But at the same time, it's important to keep up the routine you've been following, so the ulcer can heal.
Alwyn: So, still no oranges?
Bibi: It's like an infected cut in your skin -- even after the infection is gone, the wound still has to heal, and that takes time. So no oranges for now.
Alwyn: It's okay; they're out of season now anyway.
Bibi: I don't have a supply of the new drug here, but I can order it for you. It may take a week or two to get here.
Alwyn: Um, I, uh, wouldn't want to seem disloyal to Dr. Tavis, once he's back. I was hoping there was something you could do right now, today.
Alwyn is still feeling rather ~~ guilty ~~ about coming here the moment Tavis' back was turned.
Bibi: If you like, I can give the drugs to Dr. Tavis, and he can explain how to take them and monitor your progress.
Alwyn: That would be good.
Bibi will have one of Nattin's students improve his English by translating the material, but she'll check the translation very carefully before handing it over.
Bibi: I can do a little healing now, using channel's methods. It will relieve some of the symptoms for a while, but it's not a cure, and the effects won't last.
Alwyn: Okay, good. Anything that'll hold me till the new pills are here is good.
Alwyn hasn't yet realized what "channels' methods" mean.
Bibi smiles, dimples and all.
Bibi: I'll have to take your arms as I did before, but this time I'll have to make a lip contact. It's not really a kiss at all, you know.
Bibi can zlin that Cristal isn't too happy about letting her work on this ignorant and nervous Gen, but she'll do her job, and she can trust him to do his.
Alwyn feels a shiver of ~~ fear ~~ that claws at his ulcer.
Bibi: It's up to you. You can go away and think about it, and come back another time if you decide you want me to.
Alwyn: Ouch. I think it's getting worse. We'd better do it now.
Bibi offers her hands.
Alwyn struggles to brace himself. He's not a stupid man; he knows his fear isn't really justified. He closes his eyes and grabs at Bibi's hands.
Bibi signals to Cristal for maximum support, and as expected, she gets it immediately. She takes Alwyn's hands.
Bibi: Okay, first my tentacles. Please try to relax.
Alwyn tries, very hard.
Bibi gently but firmly positions her tentacles.
Bibi: And now the lip contact.
Alwyn braces himself again.
Bibi braces herself and leans forward to touch the Gen's lips with her own.
Alwyn holds very very still. Nervousness sends a spike of tension into his stomach.
Bibi does her Second Order best to focus ~~ need ~~ on the ulcer, stimulating the cells to produce selyn, flourish, multiply and heal the sore. As a side effect they produce more soothing mucus to protect the stomach lining.
Alwyn slowly begins to relax as the pain recedes.
Bibi leans on Cristal's field more heavily as she tires, and stops before she wears herself out. She breaks the lip contact, releases the Gen's arms, and leans back against her Donor.
Alwyn falls back against the back of his chair. He looks around for something to wipe his mouth on, and finally settles for his sleeve. He's ~~ amazed ~~ at how good it feels to be (relatively) pain-free.
Alwyn: Thanks. Thank you very much.
Bibi: You're welcome.
Bibi smiles charmingly.
Bibi: Be sure to stick to the diet and drink lots of milk.
Alwyn: Same old routine, then. At least for now.
Bibi: Yes. I'll order the drugs right away, and pass them on to Dr. Tavis for you.
Alwyn has an unvoiced note of ~~ hope ~~ in his nager, underlaid with hints of citrus.
Alwyn: I'll be looking forward to them. Uh... ~~ nervous hesitation ~~
Alwyn: That donating thing... does it feel much different from what you just did?
Bibi: No, it's about the same, but only lasts about a minute.
Alwyn: Hmm. Well, I need to go think about it, but... well, maybe I'll be back.
Bibi: Whenever you like.
Alwyn: Some months the store doesn't pull in enough to more than scrape by on.
Bibi: Many of our donors find that the extra income makes life a lot easier for themselves and their families.
Alwyn: I'll definitely think about it. Depending on how well the pills work, of course.
Bibi is puzzled by the connection, but doesn't ask for an explanation.
Alwyn: Well, then, if there's nothing else...?
Bibi stands, having recovered from the functional.
Bibi: Nothing else, unless you'd care for some tea on your way out.
Alwyn: Better not to test my stomach so soon, I'd think.
Bibi nods and leads the way back to the waiting room.
Baldrick is pacing ~~ impatiently ~~ back and forth.
Baldrick: There you are! It certainly took long enough...
Baldrick thrusts a paper towards Bibi, which causes a mild ~ flare ~ of back pain.
Baldrick: I need you to sign this, so they don't dock my pay for leaving early.
Bibi takes the paper and reads it.
Baldrick has presented her with a form that appears to demand a licensed physician's signature attesting that one Mr. Baldrick Ortman, gutter at the slaughterhouse, has injured his back in the course of his duties and is therefore entitled to compensation.
Baldrick: I filled it out already. All you have to do is sign, and I can go home and... rest.
Baldrick's last word doesn't quite zlin completely honest.
Bibi: Sorry, Mr. Ortman, but I don't think they'll accept my signature. I'm not a licensed physician.
Baldrick: You're filling in for Dr. Tavis, right? At least, that's what they told me at his office.
Bibi has picked up on the dishonesty, and notes that while the man's back is sore, it doesn't seem to be having much effect on his ability to pace and demand.
Baldrick: They'll have to accept you as his designated substitute. Come on, please. There's a riffle on the water... er, I mean, I really ought to go home and rest, don't you think?
Bibi: I'm not really filling in for him. I confirmed for him that I'm always willing to treat anyone who asks for my help.
Baldrick: His office is sending you folks who can't wait for him to come back, right? That's filling in as I see it.
Bibi: With his approval, they are pointing out another source of treatment.
Baldrick: If you can treat injuries, you can testify that my back is hurt to the satisfaction of the paper pushers. Now, with my back the way it is, I shouldn't be tossing around heavy carcasses. Right? I should be at home, eating fish fresh from the.... er, resting. Right?
Bibi: Your back doesn't seem to be seriously injured, but rest wouldn't hurt it. I can treat it tomorrow if it isn't better by then, if you like, but if they don't accept my signature, your pay will be docked. And I can't claim to be a licensed physician, when what I am is a Tecton channel.
Bibi doesn't like being pushed around, either.
Baldrick: Same thing, right? You've been treating Miz Brown's rhumatic, right?
Bibi: Using channel's methods.
Baldrick: Look, they don't care how my back is treated, they just want someone trustworthy to confirm I'm not faking to get a paid vacation.
Bibi: Okay, if you'll come with us, I'll examine your back.
Bibi gestures with really a lot of tentacles.
Bibi: Cristal, we may need the restraints to hold him down. I don't want you hurting your back.
Baldrick is a bit ~~ taken aback ~~ at the tentacle display, until Bibi's words strike him as being more an expression of annoyance than anything else.
Baldrick: Umm... do you really have to do the detailed exam today? The weather is perfect for... I mean, wouldn't it be best to see how it does overnight?
Baldrick gives a weak but ~ hopeful ~ smile.
Bibi: How can I claim your back is too bad for you to work without examining it? It would be dishonest.
Baldrick: I suppose it would. All right, then.
Bibi: Follow me.
Baldrick follows Bibi and Cristal towards the treatment room, ~~ mourning ~~ the lost fishing opportunity.