|2011 All 8 original volumes are now reprinted in paper and ebook
editions by Wildside Press, Borgo Imprint.
4 new volumes are added, and House of Zeor is coming in audiobook. Watch for the rest to appear in audiobook.
You can find all the titles and editions in our handy amazon store.
Sime Surgeon, the early draft of Unto Zeor, Forever was published in Ambrov Zeor, serialized, in issues #7, 8, 9, 11, and 12 at about the time the Doubleday hardcover edition was on the shelves.
At the time, Anne Pinzow (under a different name) was editing Ambrov Zeor. She had been involved since the first collating party at Linda Denneroff's apartment. To give you an idea of what fanzines and fandom are all about, I'm going to quote here a summary she just sent me by email of what was going on in her life during the publication of the five parts of Sime Surgeon. (BTW: AZ #10 is not part of Sime Surgeon. It contains a Bachelor's Degree Thesis on Sime genetics, based entirely on House of Zeor alone.) I remember all of these events for we lived through them together.
If ever you order a fanzine by mail and it's a little late in coming, just think of this paragraph.
"It occurred to me that the span of me editing and publishing Sime Surgeon in Ambrov Zeor, encompassed the following events in my life:
Being beaten up by my ex so bad that I blacked out. Finding the ad in The Journal-News, for the job at The Journal-News, just pointing to it and telling him that I would get that job. Getting that job (which turned out to be in part discovering the capabilities of the first visual display typewriters, the forerunners of the computers we use today and monitoring satellite transmissions of news stories, which was one of the beginnings of the internet) being given writing assignments based on the work I did on Ambrov Zeor 7 and 8. Leaving my ex, moving from place to place so that over a period of one year living in seven different places and hauling AZ around with me each time, going to the world con in England, going through a divorce, starting grad school, going to Israel for the second time, meeting George Lucas there, producing my first documentary, laying the groundwork for my first weekly column and getting my own byline. At the same time I was publishing AZ the old fashioned way, typing everything, offset printing pages, organizing collating parties, hauling stuff from convention to convention and sitting table. Leave us not forget that it was just after I gave up the publishing job of AZ that I was thrust into Esotericon. I guess you felt that I had too little to occupy my time."
So now, thanks in large part to Anne's long-ago efforts, and Ronnie Bob Whitaker's current efforts, we can present here the entire early draft of Unto Zeor Forever, which is longer than the novel. And I want to do this because my writing workshop students may benefit from doing a contrast/compare study between the early draft, the published version, and the "out-takes" from the published version (large sections that had to be cut from the submission manuscript.
Even after all these years, I'm still proud of Unto Zeor, Forever, my first Award Winning novel, and though this early draft (actually it's a fourth draft I think, though #2 and #3 were only partially completed) seems to me at this time embarrassingly bad, it is nevertheless filled with great enjoyment for the fan of this series. Most particularly, this version contains a great deal more of the technical background of transfer mechanics and the social problems derived from these difficulties.
But here's the real reason I'm putting this up on the Sime~Gen website. I just got this file by email attachment from Ronnie Bob Whitaker (who has scanned in and ocr'd and corrected so much of our material and it is to him you owe your thanks and much virtual chocolate) and started formatting it for the Web, and my eye lit on the first paragraph - and I was caught.
I wanted to sit down and just read it again, enthralled, transfixed. Therefore, I think there are many of you who will enjoy this draft, even if (or especially if) you've read Unto Zeor, Forever. I do know that many - an incredible number of fans - have found this version of the story "better" than the published version just as I do. For me, this is the version that's "real" history, and the published version is the way the history books of the Sime~Gen universe record these events (in expose biographies that is. No reputable scholarly journal would get this sexy.)
A formating note: I've left this typed the way it appeared in the original fanzine edition - with underlines instead of italics and with paragraphing styled like a fanzine instead of like a book. I've also left the page breaks and notations where illos might go (except we're not posting the illos right now - anyone wants to make new electronic form illos for us drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sime Surgeon is a "Doctor Novel" with the plot-structure of that subgenre of Romance. It does not even vaguely resemble the commercial genre known as science fiction in structure, though it has a pure science fiction content. The juxtaposition of these two elements makes this an "unpublishable" novel. So regard it as a fan novel and have fun reading.
copyright © 1978 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
all rights reserved to Sime~Gen Inc. 1999.
Digen Farris, head of Householding Zeor, great, great grandson of the legendary Klyd Farris, admitted to himself that he had made a mistake. He should not have taken the train.
Gingerly, he eased himself straighter in the high backed chair as the slideroad train bored through the night. He ached from the tips of his tentacles to the end of his spine, but the ache centered at the scar tissue on his left lateral tentacle. It had already given him two warning twinges, though no real spasms yet.
But it was all his own fault. He had wanted to leave the medical school on the same train as the other graduates, to travel to his internship just as they did, not to make any difference between himself and them. But he was different.
He was Sime--the only Sime in the Gen medical profession--and he realized now it had been a mistake to try to travel like a Gen.
The train had been scheduled to lay over in Sorelton for six hours--enough time to refresh Digen--but they had been twelve hours late at that point, stopping there only for fuel and passengers. However, according to the stewardess, they would still make Westfield by dawn. Digen didn't have to report to the hospital until noon.
As the train tilted into a curve, a young man, a Gen, came swinging down the aisle and stopped beside Digen as if expecting to be noticed. Digen kept his eyes closed hoping the Gen would pass on without comment. They were alone in the front half of this car--the Gen passengers giving the lone Sime plenty of room. Surely this Gen would take another seat.
Digen held himself rigid against the Gen's emotional nager, not daring to let himself feel what the Gen was feeling. Still, much leaked through, dominated by a tentative apprehension overridden by courage. This Gen was obviously not trained to deal with Simes. One clumsy touch and he could send me into convulsions.
"Uh," said the Gen, "I hope I'm not disturbing you."
Sinking into resignation, Digen slowly rolled his head over and slitted his eyes open to look at the man. The Gen was tall, lanky, with dark brown hair and eyes, lantern jawed, with hollow cheeks, young but with a strength about him. Or do I see him that way just because he's Gen?
"I--I'm a doctor," offered the Gen. "The, uh, stewardess asked me to have a look at you."
Now the Gen projected a kind of ragged determination closely akin to what Digen was feeling about the remaining six hours until they arrived in Westfield. "Very kind of her," said Digen, certain that would placate the Gen's conscience. "But unnecessary. Thank you, anyway."
"Is it just motion sickness? I have some tablets that . . ."
"No, no," said Digen, but his breath caught in his throat. The moment he took his attention from maintaining his internal balances, the warning twinge blossomed into an incipient cramp. He fought it down, thinking, He has no idea what he's doing to me just by standing there. "Really, Doctor, there's nothing you can do."
The Gen moved a step closer, washed in conflicting anxieties. The man was a doctor, trying to do his job, but aware of danger. "You look pale, strained. You wouldn't be traveling if you were in need . . . ?"
Digen was a Sime, one of the most efficient predators on the face of the earth. Their natural prey was the Gen. Though the days when Simes killed Gens to satisfy need were gone, the Gen fear would always remain.
Digen breathed carefully for a moment, adjusting to the increased proximity of the Gen. He knew he had to get rid of the man without too much talk, so he displayed the large, double crested signet ring on his left hand. "You don't have to worry, Doctor. The passengers on this train are safe from me."
The Gen looked at the ring, at the long slender finders held steady by perceptible effort. He recognized the crest. "You're a channel, then? A First Order Channel?" He looked again at Digen's features, the broad forehead, the aquiline nose, full sensitive lips. "I should have know. You do look Farris."
Digen risked a sigh, trying to release the tension in himself without disturbing the precarious balances. At least he's not completely ignorant.
But instead of nodding and going quietly away, the Gen sat down beside Digen as if he'd been invited. "Well, that's perfectly all right, then. The stewardess was a little worried. She didn't know--Farrises almost never travel unescorted . . ."
Why can't I get rid of him? Digen asked himself in consternation. Does he expect me to explain why I couldn't arrange a Donor escort? There was enough curiosity in the Gen's nager to support that theory. Digen eased his left hand back to his lap, shrinking from the Gen's proximity.
As Digen moved, the Gen's eye fell on one of the gleaming metal gauntlets--the retainers--that encased Digen's forearms half-way from his wrist to elbow yet left the hands bare. Under those retainers lay the Sime's tentacles, the nerve rich organs used to take from the Gens selyn, the energy of life itself which the Sime body could not produce.
Since they were now outside Sime Territory, even Digen was required by law to wear the sense-deadening shackles or risk being shot on sight. But the sensory deprivation was what was causing most of his problem.
Something in the way Digen moved must have alerted the Gen. He said, "You've been wearing retainers too long?"
"Three days," said Digen. "But I've built up a tolerance to it." Not that much of a tolerance, though, he added mentally.
"Three days! Straight?" The Gen's renewed stab of alarm was like a hot knife in the belly to Digen. It was the Gen fear which touched off the Sime kill reflexes--the predator pouncing on prey. Fighting it, Digen almost brought on another lateral spasm. This is getting serious. How can I get him to leave? He was on the raw edge of an outburst of Sime temperament, and he knew the untrained Gen's inadvertent clumsiness would set it off sooner or later. He couldn't afford that.
Digen wracked his brain for an explanation simple enough for such a Gen to grasp and accept. It would have to be such an oversimplification that it amounted to a lie, and that went against the grain for Digen. Yet, he knew he had little choice.
"Doctor, there's a certain irony in this. Consider, it's the Farris channel's innate sensitivity that's causing most of my problems. After wearing retainers so long, I'm over-reacting to every tiny stimulus. Yet because of what I am, I'm no danger to you, so you feel free to sit and talk."
Digen had to pause before he could add, "I honestly don't want to be rude . . ."
At that moment, the stewardess finally brought the glass of trin tea he had ordered. She deftly lowered the little table that folded out of the back of the seat ahead of them and deposited the glass of steaming tea. Digen had to close his eyes and concentrate as the two Gen selyn fields met and interwove about him.
Distantly, he heard the stewardess ask, "May I bring you something?" And the doctor's answer, "no, thank you."
As the woman left, the doctor said, "Are you trying to tell me that my presence is causing your distress?"
"It--is a--contributing factor," said Digen with an effort.
"Look, I really do want to help. Word has been passing up and down the train that there's a Sime aboard who is acting strangely. You know how rumors can grow . . ."
It was the classic Gen nightmare--that a Sime mad with the need of selyn would throw off retainers and attack the nearest Gen, killing. It even happened, sometimes.
". . . so, maybe," said the Gen, "I could use my authority to stop the train in one of these small towns . . ."
Digen felt his temper flaring. He wanted to scream out, how can you just sit there after what I've said! How can you expect me to explain all the reasons that wouldn't work--the lack of proper care for me in such a town, the lack of time to make the stop, the careful metering of my endurance in order to reach Westfield. Where could he get the strength to devise explanations the Gen could understand?
Digen's sense of impatience was compounded by the Gen's own growing frustration at being unable to get through to Digen's problem and solve it. He was also uneasy now with the new awareness that he was part of Digen's discomfort.
Digen knew the emotional nager was reaching explosive proportions, but he could spare no effort
from maintaining his internal selyn flow balances. So he was unprepared when the train suddenly swooped into a sharp curve and up a steep grade.
The Gen, seeing that Digen was more uncomfortable than ever, was in the process of rising when the train tilted. His knee caught the edge of the little table, and the precariously tilted glass of tea began to spill over toward Digen. Digen let the glass tilt, tending to his internal balances, knowing he had plenty of time to catch the glass. Then, Digen reached to set it upright with a leisurely, controlled movement. He only had to augment his speed with the slightest increase in his selyn consumption rate.
But suddenly, the Gen's hand was there first, and before he could stop, his own hand closed over the Gen's.
The skin contact with the untrained Gen seared his nerves worse than the scalding tea burned his skin.
"Goddamn clumsy Gen!" grated Digen between clenched teeth as he snatched his hand away and doubled over, almost blacking out with the severe lateral cramp that seized him.
Any Gen who had spent time around Simes would have known enough to stay clear and let the Sime deal with any such emergency. It's not his fault, Digen told himself. Gens can't help knocking things over. But one more like that will surely trigger a full scale convulsion.
He looked up, tears of pain on his cheeks, not from the burn which he hardly felt at all, but from the cramp that was turning his whole left arm and his chest to fire. He tried to speak, but his breath caught in his throat.
The Gen said, "Come on, there's cold water in the lavatory, right here . . ." The Gen's anxiety compounded the chaos in Digen's nervous system. At that moment, he mentally used a word he had never spoken aloud, a scathing gutter term for an untrained Gen. "Get away from me, you,"--sqidem--"you--just get away from me and stay away!"
"I'm sorry, it was an accident. Come on, cold water will help it. I have some ointment, too . . ."
Digen met his eyes, driving his words now with all the deadly intent he could muster. "Get away from me!" It cost him dearly. The cramps intensified tenfold, and began to evoke sympathetic reactions throughout his body. But he couldn't stop them in the Gen's field.
The Gen backed across the aisle, fetching up against the other row of empty seats and clinging there as the train swayed. As the Gen retreated, the selyn field gradient eased off enough so that Digen could begin to regain control. His lateral tentacle was still knotted with cramp, (sic RBW cramps,) the pain like white fire, so he couldn't even feel the burn. He said, "Just go away!"
At least the Gen left, pushing through the double doors between the cars. With the Gen gone, Digen was able to control and then relax the cramps with the familiar routines he had relied on ever since he'd suffered the lateral injury at the age of thirteen. At that time, he'd been given only six months to live. But, because of his unusual sensitivity to small changes in his selyn flows, and his Farris ability to impose control on those flows, he had survived worse than this many times.
When it was over, he admitted to himself that he'd been frightened that this time, with the raw, uncontrolled Gen's nager, he would not have been able to survive it. He had behaved unconscienceably because of that fear.
Oh, God, how am I going to find him to apologize in a city the size of Westfield? I don't even know his name!
When the train arrived at Westfield, Digen went directly to the Sime Center where one of the professionally trained Gens, the selyn Donors, helped him off with the retainers and treated him for his various ills. Then he slept for a couple of hours in the channel's off-duty room. At last, showered and refreshed, he went up to report to the Sime Center Controller and receive his assignment. He would have to work at the Center in whatever time he could spare from the hospital, luckily located just next door.
As he got off the elevator on the ninth floor, Digen sensed an unusual selyn field. It was stronger than any he'd ever felt before--almost pulling him around the corner into the corridor leading to the Controller's office.
The source of that field was a woman.
She was lying on a wheeled gurney escorted by two Gens. A third Gen was opening the door for them to pass into the Controller's outer office. The woman was unconscious.
Here, inside Sime Territory, Digen went free of retainers, all his senses sharp and alert. As he caught up with the Gens, he focused on the woman. Her skin held a smooth, outdoor glow, but she had a lean, drawn look, as if from a recent fever. The only pathology Digen could see was the anomolous (sic RBW anomalous) selyn field strength.
He stopped the gurney just inside the Controller's door and reached for the woman's forehead, tentacles extended. One of the Gens put out a restraining arm, careful not to touch Digen, yet firmly denying him access to the patient. "I'm sorry, Hajene Farris."
Digen looked at the man. Nobody at this Sime Center yet knew him by sight. He could be any Hajene Farris. He said, "It's all right. I'm Digen Farris, Sectuib in Zeor. This looks like one of my Specialties."
The Gen, obviously a highly skilled selyn Donor himself, gave no ground. "Respect, Sectuib. Imrahan, Companion in Imil," he introduced himself, using the archaic titles, Sectuib and Companion, with natural ease. "The Controller wishes the girl brought to him untouched."
Digen withdrew his hand but continued to scrutinize the woman. Her selyn field was like a blindingly brilliant light. But once he had adjusted to it, he began to sense the minor fluctuations that told him how her body was functioning. "This woman is drugged."
"She was suicidal, Sectuib."
Digen waved aside the title. He used it only when he wanted to make a quick impression. "My name is Digen. Let me have a closer look."
"Please, Sectuib--the Controller has no love for Householders. If I allow . . ."
But Digen had already confirmed his guess. "She's suffering from underdraw! Why was this allowed to happen?"
At that moment, the inner office door flew open and a Sime with Controller's blazons on his uniform came out into the reception area. He was medium height, broad shouldered, and though, like all Simes, he scarcely carried eight percent body fat, his large boned frame gave an imposing, Gen look to him. He moved around the secretary's desk, through the gate in the low railing, and across the carpet toward the gurney with typical Sime grace, a fluid precision that somehow seemed slow-motion even when blindingly quick.
The woman's selyn field was so strong, Digen couldn't make out the Controller's field at all, but from the tight, dangerous way he moved toward them Digen knew instantly that the man was in need and he guessed the woman was to be his Donor.
Digen stepped forward. "You must be Controller Mickland." And without waiting for an answer, Digen said, "I think you owe me an explanation."
Mickland stopped a few feet from the group, looking Digen up and down. He was as blinded by the woman's field as Digen was. Mickland was a First Order Channel, on paper Digen's equal. In practice, Digen's sensitivity, precision, speed, and capacity so far outstripped Mickland--or any but another Farris--that Mickland seemed like a Third Order Channel by comparison.
Mickland said, "I am City and District Controller here. I don't explain, I order. And I expect my orders to be carried out." He jerked a tentacle at the Gens. "Take her in there."
Digen moved to block their way. "Did you do this to her on purpose?"
Mickland counterattacked, "What gives you the right to even say such a thing?"
"It seems to me that she must somehow be one of my relatives. Underdraw is not that common an affliction."
Mickland's eyes darted to the Gens still standing by the gurney, then as if sharing a private joke with them, he threw back his head and laughed. Imrahan licked his think lips, and his dusky skin paled, but he didn't laugh. He said to Digen, "She's Distect. Came to us claiming to defect to the Tecton, but in her condition she'd say anything for a good transfer."
Mickland now regarded Digen shrewdly, waiting to see how the Farris would react to embarrassment. Digen assimilated the information.
Nobody knew what caused underdraw. It developed in certain Gens--usually Farris Gens--when they
were exposed to repeated deep transfers with the higher order channels. Underdraw usually came on gradually as the complex glandular linkages--the 'governors'--which stopped selyn production when the Gen body was charged to its maximum tolerance, began to fail. When that happened, the Gen whose body was overcharged with selyn would feel anything from a mile pre-transfer discomfort to acute insanity, and might eventually become suicidal. There was no cure for underdraw, and the only effective treatment was transfer with a channel in need.
Frowning in deep thought over the woman, Digen said to Mickland, "How do you know she's Distect?" As far as Digen knew, the Distect was nothing more than a horror story the out-Territory Gens scared their children with--Distect Simes reportedly didn't care whether they killed Gens in transfer. Distect Simes satisfied their need by taking selyn from any Gen who happened to be handy. In the Tecton territories, the channels collected selyn from Gen volunteers without hurting them at all. Every renSime then came to the Sime Center to receive transfer from a channel. Only the channels were allowed to satisfy need by direct transfer from a Gen, and those Gens, the professional Donors, were highly trained specialists.
Mickland said, "Let's go into the office. I'll show you her chart."
Digen followed the man back into the office. After him, the Gens brought the gurney. The inner office was spacious, with high windows. The drapes were drawn across them to cut the summer heat, making the room comfortably dim. This office was the co-ordination point of all selyn flows for the city of Westfield and the surrounding countryside called Westfield District.
Map boards and graphs hung on the walls or on standing boards set around the room. It was Mickland's job to make sure that every channel in the District was provided with a Donor every month, and that there was enough selyn available at all times so that no Sime anywhere in the District would ever be tempted to kill. This was the heart of the Tecton system.
On the far side of the room, a door stood ajar revealing a more littered work room and file library. Mickland's secretary, a Gen woman no older than the underdraw patient, silently closed the door, leaving them alone.
The gurney escorts lifted the patient onto a long, contoured lounge and Mickland dismissed them with a wave. But Digen said, "Imrahan, stay, please."
As the others left, Imrahan paused by the door, casting an anxious look at the Controller. Mickland, taking a stance behind his desk, picked up a chart folder coded bright green for Gen, and tapped it on the desk. "I thought I made it clear I give the orders around here, Sectuib Farris."
"In all respect, Hajene Mickland, my service is yours. But this woman, it seems to me--whatever she is, she is my responsibility. Perhaps you haven't yet had a chance to read my chart. I hold Specialist Rating in Changeover Pathology, Disjunction Therapy, Obstetrics, and both Gen and Sime Transfer Abnormalities. Underdraw falls in my jurisdiction, whether she's a relative or not. If I am to work with her, I will require Imrahan's assistance."
Tapping the edge of the folder, Mickland said, weighing every word, "Transfer abnormalities are also a speciality (sic RBW specialty) of mine. Your services are not required here. However, perhaps it is only reasonable to allow you to determine that for yourself." He held out the folder to Digen. "Please be quick about it."
Digen took the folder. It would be gross indeed to argue unnecessarily. The man was in need. He scanned the first five pages of the chart quickly--height, weight, coloring, family history (no trace of Farris blood reported, but Digen still wasn't convinced), selyn production rate, field gradient base lines, and the results of several laboratory studies.
All in all, it was the strangest profile he'd ever seen in an underdraw patient. The condition had come on suddenly, without contact with any channel. She had had transfer, Distect style, with renSimes only. And her governors were not failing, they had totally disappeared. Her capacity now was so far beyond any renSime's selyn draw that she had literally been forced to seek out the Tecton, the only working channels.
Her name, he found, was Ilyana Dumas. And there was no trace, anywhere in her chart, of anything even vaguely suggestive of the peculiar Farris metabolism.
For the first time, Digen was sympathetic to Mickland's problem. Who could he give her to? What channel could you expose to such an influence? Undisciplined, untrained, she could ruin a channel for life. Mickland, he decided, was a brave man.
Their eyes met. Mickland said, "Three days ago, her field reading was less than half what it is now."
"Perhaps," said Digen, "she represents some new secondary mutation among the Gens--something roughly equivalent to the Farris submutation."
This was a reasonable guess. There were already dozens of different types of Simes, though
among the Gens, only the occasional Farris Gen showed any distinguishing characteristics.
"I find it strangely difficult to be interested in theory at the moment."
Digen nodded, "Certainly. Forgive me. You have been very patient." He put the chart down and went to Ilyana. Imrahan still stood with the door in one hand, stopped in the act of leaving. His eyes now followed Digen to the Gen.
To Digen's specialized senses, the woman was surrounded by a throbbing nimbus of energy. It had been more months than Digen cared to count since he'd had a fully satisfactory transfer, and though his last transfer had been just 5 days ago, he was responding to her field.
Mickland of course sensed that response and moved--the quick, deadly motion of the Sime in need--around the desk to cut Digen off. Simultaneously, Imrahan shoved the door closed and glided silently up to Digen's elbow.
Imrahan was high field himself, almost ready for transfer, yet scarcely half of Ilyana's field strength. Yet his skill and Companion's discipline let him overshadow her appeal to Digen's senses. Digen smiled, warding them off with raised hand, "Gentlemen, really now . . ."
After an uncomfortable silence, Imrahan blurted hastily, "Oh, well, I didn't mean . . ." And at the same time, Mickland relaxed mumbling an apology, but then came back at Digen on the defensive now. "But--after all, it's well known you are a cripple."
"As with any other type of handicap, this one too has brought its compensations. Observe." Digen wen to Ilyana and held his hands out over the Gen's body. For a moment, he kept his tentacles sheathed. They lay beneath the skin of his forearms, two on top, two below, and one on each side of each arm, gnarled ropes of muscle and nerve.
When he was set, he extended both pairs of dorsal tentacles that lay along the top of his arms. They came from the slits at his wrists, moved gracefully down the backs of his hands to touch the tips of his fingers. Then he extended the ventrals that lay along the bottoms of his arms, letting them slide across the palms of his hands to the tips of his fingers, touch the already extended dorsals. These eight were the handling tentacles, almost pure muscle, the strongest muscle ever to grace a human body. In transfer, they served to totally immobilize the Gen's arms beneath the laterals.
Now, very aware of the two watching him, Digen extended those lateral tentacles--one from each side of each arm--baring them to the woman's field. The smaller, weaker lateral tentacles were nearly pure nerve tissue, the primary organs of transfer, the most sensitive part of the Sime body.
It took almost all of Digen's self control, gained over fourteen years of fighting the effects of his injury, to expose himself like that and still remain steady, his hands, his tentacles, his entire body, rock steady in the Gen's field.
Digen could feel their awe even through the overwhelming selyn field, and suddenly he realized he was merely showing off. Sheathing his tentacles, he met Mickland's eyes levelly. He felt Imrahan's released breath on his neck. They both realized what Digen had done. Neither Mickland, nor anybody on his staff could have done such a thing.
Mickland paced back behind his desk saying, "Spectacular, but irrelevant . . ."
"Extremely relevant. My reading indicates that her responses are likely to be totally unpredictable. With a field like hers, she could overcontrol even me. You'll need a monitor."
"I can handle it," said Mickland.
"I disagree," said Digen coolly. "I think . . ."
"You were not invited to consult, Sectuib Farris!" Mickland was almost shouting now. "My judgement is as good as yours, Sectuib Farris. And I hold the Controllership! It's my decision to make and I say no monitoring!"
Imrahan said, ". . . and no Householders meddling in your affairs?"
Digen glanced at the Companion. Imrahan had warned him outside. Mickland said, "I may not have been born into an old, established channel family, but I'm no third-order channel. I can handle any Donor."
"Not this one," said Digen, still not raising his voice. "Not unless she lets you, and with a background like hers, I'm not sure if she knows how to let you. I want to be there to make sure . . ."
Mickland slammed the green folder onto the desk cutting Digen off with the sound. "With that lateral scar of yours, maybe you are used to being monitored. But I'm no cripple. I don't require it."
Very softly, Digen said, "Will all respect, Controller Mickland, a man in need is no fit judge.
Our instincts are very strong. There is no shame to that. One doesn't have to be a Householder to see the difference between bravery and foolhardiness."
Realizing that he had been shouting, Mickland caught himself back from a retort. Imrahan said, in the same quiet, relaxed tone Digen had used, "Tecton Transfer Code, Article thirty-three, Paragraph twenty, subsection three. 'In addition to the above cases, monitors shall be employed wherever there is reason to doubt stability quotients.' Her stability quotient is so close to zero even Hayashi couldn't measure it."
Mickland snarled, "Self-righteous Householder!" He was fast reaching his breaking point under the onslaught of that incredibly high--and rising--field. Digen moved to take the Controller by the shoulders, transfixing him now within Digen's own personal field. "Easy now, relax. It's time for you. No more argument, no more delay. Imrahan," he said over his shoulder, "give her the antidote."
Imrahan moved to the contour lounge and opened a standard inhaler under her nose. Digen said, still holding Mickland, "I've hated this as much as anybody. You won't even know I'm there."
Mickland pulled away from Digen, making the effort at control which marked him as an accomplished First Order Channel. But he was no longer fighting them. His eyes were on Ilyana, waiting for the antidote to take effect.
Imrahan came to Digen saying, "I've never worked with a Zeor channel before."
"You've done fine, so far," said Digen. There were dozens of transfer techniques, and customs. Over the generations, as the channels of the Householdings slowly weaned the renSimes away from the kill, every Householding had evolved, by trial and error, its own style, rules, and signals. The Tecton had arisen from the scattered Householdings until now all renSimes avoided the kill by using the Channels. As that happened, the Tecton had to adopt a standard code of transfer techniques so that any channel or Donor could work with any other. Yet the Householding methods were still practiced and preserved as a constant source of enrichment. "I can work Imil style, if I have to. Just anchor me like you did a minute ago, and I'll do the rest. (sic RBW rest.")
On the lounge, Ilyana tossed fitfully. Mickland moved to sit beside her in the curve of the lounge, so that he could take up transfer position. Digen knelt swiftly on the other side of the lounge, Imrahan to his right. As the girl tossed again and started full awake, Digen urged Imrahan around to his left. Displaying the scarred lateral tentacle, he said, "Always work from my left."
Mickland caught the thrashing woman's wrists in his hands, his tentacles still sheathed. "All right Ilyana," he said, as if taking up a recent conversation, "we're going to do it for you, just as you wanted."
She stilled at that, collecting herself now and noticing her surroundings. At sight of Digen, she shrank back, then flared, "You don't trust me?" Digen said, "Controller Mickland does. But we operate here under very explicit rules. I'm also a channel, Ilyana, and I'm here to prevent any accidents."
"I don't require your protection, and I don't want it."
"Perhaps not. But it's the Tecton law."
That stopped her. She had come begging. She turned to Mickland, receptive now to his state of need. Her own physical response to it was so strong, Digen was sure she could feel it. She put out a hand to him in a peculiar gesture. Mickland skittish of any Distect method, pulled back, but Digen said, "No, it's okay. She's reading your field." And is that ever rare!
Still on guard, Mickland took her hands. "Listen, Ilyana, I want you to remain totally passive. This is a test. If you can't relinquish to me--absolutely--I won't risk any of my channels with you. You may be an accomplished high-grade Donor, but we'll never be able to train you to Tecton methods if you can't relinquish all control."
She said, "This is obscene!"
"It's up to you. Our way or not at all."
Defeated by her own body, she gave a little nod, her eyes fixed on Mickland's tentacles. Then she made herself go passive under his hands. It was expertly done, Digen had never seen better. Yet there was a quality to it, something Digen couldn't quite identify. It bothered him.
Digen raised a hand, laterals extended, to Mickland's body, feeling for the internal currents. He said, "Okay, fine, I'll time it for you."
Bleakly, Mickland assented. Digen put out his other hand to the Gen's neck, just under the ear. "Steady, Ilyana, this is a bit tricky. Mickland's going to strip you deeper than you've ever been before. There's always the chance he might trigger a reflex you can't control. But that's what I'm
here for. You just hold where you are now--completely passive--no matter what happens, don't do anything."
He felt her stabilize. She was still hostile to him, but she was working well. He gave Mickland the signal, and the Controller slid his hands up her arms, grasping her just below the elbows with his fingers. Then, in one motion, he spread dorsal and ventral tentacles, immobilizing her arms, and slid the tiny laterals out dripping ronaplin, the selyn-conducting secretion of the Sime body.
At contact, she stiffened, but there was no flicker of the typical Gen fear of the Sime's touch. She was straining to complete the contact, force the transfer at her own rate. Then she schooled herself to passivity.
His own control strained, Mickland paused now to let Digen complete his own contacts with both of them, weaving himself into the transfer circuit. The field gradient between Mickland and the woman was steeper than any Digen had encountered outside of a mechanical battery. When Digen could just barely hold the flow from starting, he said, "Now!"
Mickland bent to make the lip contact, the quick sure movement of the Sime. Digen thought he saw a blue spark jump the gap just before their lips met. Digen held his own internal resistance so high that the flow moved entirely outside his own body. Yet he was in total response to it, and felt how quickly her selyn potential field dropped while Mickland's rose.
At the half-way point, Digen was deep into concentration, watching Ilyana's nervous system respond as Mickland breached each of her "barriers"--zones of increased resistance to selyn transfer innate in all Gens. Here was where the trouble would come, if it did at all. He could sense the exact moment when her second-order barrier responded. Obviously, it had never been touched before.
Mickland, oblivious now in the midst of his transfer, didn't notice the slight increase in resistance, and began his draw--swift, sharp, satisfyingly deep, devoid of the channel's gentle control. This was for his personal need, to be burned up in the life processes of his own body, not to be channeled to other Simes.
Digen, recognizing the danger, gave Mickland a 'hold' signal. But, First Order Channel or not, Mickland could not hold at that point. At that split instant of time, Digen sensed her reflex clamping down, fighting Mickland. Mickland hadn't picked it up from her at all because, oddly, there was no trace of the panic, no attempt whatever to stop the transfer, just the clamping down of that barrier.
Digen moved in then, taking control of the transfer speed, moderating it. Mickland felt it, squashed his own instinctive counterattack and struggled to co-operate with Digen. Imrahan moved quietly over behind Mickland, taking up some of the strain for him until Digen released them to move into the second half of the transfer.
It went quickly to completion then. At the first order barrier, there was only the slightest haze of resistance, barely perceptible even to Digen. Seconds later, Mickland broke contact on Digen's signal, and the three of them parted.
Released from the strain, Digen found it all hitting him at once. Need. Months and months since he'd had a transfer anywhere near this order. Lateral spasm. Digen cursed, doubled over with pain as had happened on the train. His system was in chaos.
Instantly, Imrahan was there, and now he was the highest field in the room. Using an Imil technique, Imrahan took Digen into transfer position, mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to complete that transfer if Digen should give the signal. Imrahan hadn't been trained to deal with Digen's peculiar affliction--the later spasms--but he was Donor enough--and Companion--that he provided Digen with the support he required to regain his control.
He became aware that Ilyana was crying helplessly, curled on her side. Mickland was leaning on one corner of his desk, in the grip of the emotional aftermath of transfer. With an effort, Digen pulled himself together and said to Imrahan, "Get him out of here. I'll take care of her."
"You all right?" asked Imrahan.
Dubious, Imrahan shook his head. "Tell me all about it later," he said, and went to obey.
Alone with Ilyana, Digen said, "It's all over now," and sat down beside her, taking her head on his lap. She pulled away, "I feel soiled, dirty!"
"You did splendidly. You're going to make a fine Donor."
"If that's the way it has to be, I don't want it!"
"It seems you don't have a great deal of choice."
"I can die."
"Yes, you can always do that."
"I don't want to die!"
"I can't live like this."
"That makes an interesting problem, doesn't it?"
She rose up then, beating at his chest with clenched fists, tears streaking her face, and she screamed, inarticulately, from the gut. He let her rain blows on him, observing now with a trained eye. Obviously, she knew how to kill a Sime, quickly, expertly. She knew how to hurt him, and she knew how to hit without hurting. She was hitting and hitting, gaining tremendous emotional satisfaction from it, yet never once did she even edge accidentally toward any vulnerable area of his anatomy. She was out of control, yet totally controlled.
Not even the Gens raised in-Territory, in Sime families, always turned out like that. As he let her have it out, a word haunted him, Distect. What the hell is she?
He knew from experience that what she was going through right now was the Gen equivalent of the Sime's post-transfer emotional surge. Imrahan was nursing Mickland through something very similar, but Digen had never seen it in a Gen after transfer with anyone of Mickland's level.
At last, she collapsed against him, sobbing more quietly now, clutching him around the waist. He held her, and in moments she was asleep. He cleaned her face with a dampened towelette, covered her, and went out into the cluttered file room.
It was a long room, filled with stacked shelves and festooned with old charts hung from hooks in the ceiling. In one corner, there was a littered desk--from the look of it, where Mickland did most of his work. Digen picked up the phone and left orders for the management of Ilyana, turning her over to the care of Hajene Rindaleo Hayashi, the Center's chief trainer of Donors.
At the far end of the file room, there was another door, and Digen heard the sounds of a shower running. Waiting, he found a hot plate and set the tea kettle, wiped out three glasses, and hunted until he found one battered old spoon and a box of trin tea, always welcome after a transfer. They came back just as he was pouring.
"Smells wonderful," said Mickland. He sat down in the desk chair and they pulled up straight backed chairs, setting their glasses on the corners of the desk. For a while, they sat in silence, nursing the tea and their shattered nerves.
Digen watched Mickland pull himself together. He'd gained a certain respect for the Controller through the ordeal, but channel's skills were one thing, character something else. How would Mickland react to what Digen had done?
At length, Mickland picked up the order Digen had written on Ilyana, glanced at it and filed it without comment. Then he picked up a black folder with a diagonal stripe of Zeor blue--instantly identifiable as Digen's chart--and flipped it open, scanning expertly for the salient points.
Digen toyed with his glass, glancing at Imrahan. The last time he'd had a glass of tea, a Gen has spilled it on him. He thought, Worlds apart, worlds.
Mickland sat back, rocking his chair on its pivots and fingering the last page of the file, a crisp, formal stationary with the World Controller's blazon in one corner. Waving one dorsal tentacle at it, Mickland said, "How did you--uh--how . . . ?"
Digen chuckled. "It wasn't easy. But I got that dispensation in spite of being Sectuib in Zeor, not because of it. Actually, when you think about it, you see that I'm really not much use to any Controller, on a day to day basis."
Mickland flipped to the front page, looking over the summary charts, nodding as Digen spoke. "I don't have the stamina a First Order should have. Before the accident--I could work the usual twenty hour day without the least strain. Now, if I work four consecutive hours, I collapse. My real value to any Controller is in covering the occasional--bizarre emergency--like that," he said, gesturing toward the room where Ilyana slept.
"But," said Mickland, "Surgery? Cutting people up with knives? While they're still alive? That looks sick to me--some kind of repressed desire to live juncted--and in a channel, on my staff . . ."
Digen interrupted, "I've been tested for that, constantly. You have the last five years' worth
there, all negative, of course."
Mickland pondered those test results, shaking his head skeptically. The juncted lived by killing Gens for their selyn. Only a few decades had passed since Gens had been bred and raised in Pens, drugged to docility, and doled out for the kill to Simes who could pay--and those who could not pay, had hunted, raiding Gen Territory for their need. An integral part of the joy of the kill was the savour of Gen fear and pain. It was like a drug addiction. Some juncts had made an art of torturing their Gens before the kill, and it often took a lot of torture to elicit a response from one of the drugged ones from the Pens. A Gen's price on the open market had once been proportional to his ability to endure heights of fear and pain however much he might pretend he did not.
In modern times, the only juncts were those unfortunate enough to go through changeover--the sudden maturing of a child into a Sime--in some place where a channel was not available. A changeover victim experiencing first need would often kill any Gen within reach--parents, siblings, anyone. And then it was the channels' job to bring him through the agony of the disjunction process.
None knew as well as the channels just how close any Sime was to the lust for the kill. None but the disjuncts knew just how inadequate the service of the channels really was. Only the channels permitted themselves direct transfer from a Gen, the closest thing to the kill allowed by law, and they did it because--they maintained--they had to have that experience in order to simulate it accurately for the Simes they served.
But the popular culture drew the line at a channel's exposing himself to anything remotely connected with the customs of the juncts. That had all been stamped out, long ago and at great cost. It would not be allowed to rise again. A channel who desired to cut the flesh of a living Gen was deeply suspect. Digen had gotten away with it, just barely gotten away with it, because he was Sectuib in Zeor, great-great-grandson of Klyd Farris, the man revered as the founder of the Tecton, and thus, somehow, above this kind of suspicion.
And yet, there it was, as always. Mickland wasn't the first to question his motives.
At last, Mickland looked up and said, "You'll have to repeat those tests regularly while you're here. Arrange it with Hayashi. It's his department."
"Certainly," said Digen.
"You should realize I don't approve of this." Digen nodded, and Mickland went on. "There isn't much they can do with their knives that we can't accomplish in our own way."
Maybe, thought Digen, I can still win his support. After all, his misgivings are perfectly justified. He said, "Hajene Mickland, I'm sure you know all about Klyd Farris, but I wonder if you ever heard of Ray Farris?"
Mickland frowned, dredging for a half familiar memory. Digen supplied, "Klyd's father. When Ray was just in his teens, he was shot in the leg defending the House during a --well, a riot. He was all but given up for dead, without an heir, and his father too old to be likely to have any more children.
"The bullet lodged against the bone, having nicked an artery, ended up just clear of a major selyn transport nerve. A quiver could have knocked it into contact. Ray wouldn't let his father risk making a lateral contact to run a backcurrent in there to stop the bleeding. Ray'd (sic RBW Ray's) Companion, Charnye, who had been Ray's Donor ever since Ray went through changeover, wouldn't give up, though.
"I don't know how much you appreciate the power a Companion holds over his Channel. Sometimes it's even greater than an Exclusive Donor's power. And Charnye was one of the best. He made Ray accept a lateral contact, and then proceeded, at the edge of desperation, to invent a new technique, or maybe to force Ray to invent it. At any rate, the bullet was enclosed in scar tissue and immobilized, the bleeding was halted, and Ray recovered."
"Fine," said Mickland. "But I haven't time for a history lesson."
"Yes, well, the point is that Ray was lame for the rest of his life. He is said to have been killed in another raid just after giving Zeor an heir, but not before he had taught this new technique far and wide. My theory is that he let himself be killed."
"That's an awful thing to say," said Imrahan.
"Is. But I have this technique from my own father. I've used it. The first time, there was a Sime who had been shot out-Territory when they thought he wasn't wearing retainers. The bullet cracked a bone in his shoulder, ended up a hair away from the major transport plexus. Thanks to me he's still walking around today, but without the use of his arm. You know what that can mean, psychologically, to a Sime. I dread ever meeting him again. I didn't do him any favor. But if I'd been able to go in there surgically, remove the bullet, properly reduce the fracture, he'd have not only his life but his arm as well."
"I see," said Mickland, briskly, "well, then . . ."
Digen said, "Don't you see? I'm probably the only Sime anywhere who's able to learn to do such a thing. You've seen the kind of control my own injury has forced me to develop. That's what it takes for a Sime to face the trauma of slicing through living cells loaded with selyn . . ."
Imrahan paled, gorge rising. Both Simes in the room felt his discomfort, Mickland the more so because he had his own to contend with. It was a typical in-Territory reaction. Digen reached to touch Imrahan's fingers with his ventral tentacles. "I'm sorry." The Gen schools had taught him a degree of clinical detachment from such things that was totally foreign to the in-Territory culture which was based on the involuntary empathy of the Sime. That empathy, the direct sensing of Gen emotions, was a survival trait for the Sime predator, dependent on capturing his Gen for the kill. The juncted Sime, the killer, often came to enjoy, to feed on, Gen fear as much as on the Gen's selyn. The civilized Sime avoided anything that discomfitted (sic RBW discomfited) a Gen, and the Gens reciprocated. Digen had treaded on the edge of a very deep prejudice.
Mickland said, "Well, I'll have none of that in my Center--or my District, for that matter--you understand? What you do over there is your business, but I don't know what you intend to use that knowledge for because there isn't a Controller in the country--the world--who would permit it. As it is, your presence here will make my job much harder than it was. Already there have been articles in the papers, committees, petitions. And not just in-Territory. The Gens see us as trying to take over the world! That a Farris should lend his name to this . . ."
"Well, Controller Mickland, I do have that dispensation from the World Controller. It runs another four years, and I intend to use it."
Mickland slammed the folder down on the desk, planting both feet on the floor. "Let's get one thing straight. I don't tolerate insubordination. Not from the youngest third class donor, not from the Sectuib in Zeor. I give the orders here, I make the decisions. You don't tell me what you're going to do, you ask me what I want you to do."
Digen met his eyes levelly, without any trace of insolence, but likewise devoid of any subserviance. (sic RBW subservience.) What he felt was patience with Mickland's inferiority complex. And Mickland, being Sime, couldn't fail to read Digen rightly. But Mickland, being Mickland, interpreted what he read as supercilious arrogance, and total contempt for Mickland.
Mickland said, "I have the power to break that dispensation of yours, any time I choose."
Digen nodded, "Yes, you do."
Mickland didn't know what to make of the quiet, flat statement. He said, "Well, then . . ."
"What do you want me to do? Bargain with you? I'll behave if you let me work at the hospital? Come on, nobody can talk to a Controller like that."
Mickland sat in confusion.
Digen reached across the desk and picked up the black folder with the blue stripe. "In here, spelled out, you have my talents, abilities, capacities, and stress tolerances, weaknesses, and requirements. All you have to do is fit that pattern into your organization where it will do the most good. And I will perform those duties according to the specifications listed here. It's that simple. It has nothing to do with what I want, or what you want, or what the World Controller wants. It has only to do with the job that has to be done."
Digen had stated the bedrock philosophy of the Tecton. It was supposed to keep power seekers out of office. It had never worked quite as well as planned. But it had been devised by Digen's great-great-grandfather, and nobody knew how to use it quite as well as a Farris.
Mickland snatched the folder out of Digen's hand. Digen sat down while Mickland flipped pages. Mickland said, "The one place I could use a Farris the most is running the Changeover ward. There have been some grisly accidents there recently, and the public's confidence in us is slipping. It's a twenty-four hour a day, on-call job."
Digen said, calmly, "I agree. I was looking at your summation graphs in the office--your changeover mortality rate is up alarmingly. But I also noticed your in-Territory Collectorium operation is not delivering the kind of selyn-input it ought to. What is it? The in-Territory Gens not coming to donate?"
Imrahan said, "An awful lot of Householders have moved out of town, recently. And those that are left are going up to Gravesend or even over to Eastfield to donate."
Digen said, "Why?"
"We used to have seven householding channels here," said Imrahan, with careful neutrality, "Now we only have you."
Digen looked to Mickland. The selyn yield of the household trained Gens were sometimes as much as double the yield from nonhouseholders. "It would seem you require me in the Collectorium as much as in the Changeover ward."
"You can't do both."
"Why not?" (sic RBW not?) Appoint me sub-controller in charge of both departments, give me," he consulted the volume figures, calculating swiftly, "give me, say two firsts, eight seconds, and about fifty thirds as permanent staff, plus proportionate rotation from the other departments, and you'll have both departments functioning at optimum in time for your next Accounting Statement to the World Controller."
"It can't be done. Not in six months."
"Three. I guarantee it, if you give me a free hand."
Mickland could not resist. He was sure Digen would fail to meet his boast, and as a Farris, would try so hard to make good on it that he would wash out of the intern program at the hospital. He gave Digen a lopsided grin, pivoted his chair back and forth and said, "All right, Hajene Farris. You're now my Number Three Sub-controller, in charge of the in-Territory Collectorium and the Changeover Ward."
Digen waited quietly while Mickland made out the forms and stamped them, called his secretary in and had her distribute appropriate memos to all department heads, and lastly entered the appointment on Digen's chart. By the next morning, the reins would be handed over to Digen, and the whole Center would know of his boast.
Mickland said, "Well, I guess that's it . . ."
Digen interrupted, "One moment. As a Sub-controller, I have certain rights. First, I request Imrahan be assigned as my Donor."
Mickland stared at him a moment, then reached for his ledger, saying, It (sic RBW "It) would mean bumping . . ."
"Hayashi," said Imrahan. "He wouldn't be happy, but he wouldn't be hurt, either."
Mickland ran his finger down the column, then across, reading out the symbols that gave Hayashi's recent transfer history. Keeping one finger there, he turned to where Digen had been entered, followed the symbols with one tentacle and paused. Digen could almost see his mind searching for a reason to deny the request. But then that was nothing more than a Controller's job, to be sure nobody was unduly slighted.
Mickland said, holding several places with fingers and tentacles, "It's a phasing problem. Imrahan is ahead of you." And he began to scribble figures on a scratch pad.
Digen said, "You don't feel underdraw, do you?"
"Not a trace."
They fell silent while the Controller calculated, reached onto the shelves behind him and brought down District co-ordination ledgers, compared and shifted. Then he took his calculations into the outer office where Ilyana was sleeping, and matched the changes onto the master charts there.
When he came back, he was happy. Digen's hopes sank. It wasn't until that moment that he realized how much he had counted on Imrahan. Then the Controller said, "I can do it. I can let you have him this month. It will have to be a short month for you--but that will be good for you. You've been close to deprivation too long."
Sitting down amidst the hasty litter, Mickland made out the assignment cards, systematically entering the changes in the appropriate places, and handed the cards to Digen and Imrahan.
Digen was so elated, he didn't question his good fortune, merely took the cards and went to the door saying, "Imrahan, come show me around. Even a Sime could get lost in this maze they call a building."
Imrahan followed Digen out, saying, "I know. It was never planned, it just grew by layers as the city grew." But when they were away from the Controller's office, he said, "Digen, I don't like it. He's up to something."
Digen said, "I can't imagine what he could do."
"It's bound to be sly and vicious. He hates householders in general, and now it's all going to land on your head. I always thought Farrises were better at handling people than this."
Digen laughed, "Well, I got what I wanted, didn't I?"
"Did you? Don't you realize you can't put back together in three months what it's taken him almost two years to destroy?"
"He's been in office that long?"
"He was re-elected."
"Crazy. I can't understand how a man like that could get elected in the first place, let alone twice."
"He understands power politics, or has an advisor who does. And after all, it's a job you can hardly give away. I mean, how many times have you volunteered?"
"Twice," said Digen, "but not consecutive terms."
They arrived at the elevator bank, and Imrahan keyed the signal, saying, "He wants to be World Controller. And from the look on his face when we left, I think he's found a way to do it--over our dead bodies, preferably."
Digen chuckled. "Don't be so melodramatic." The elevator arrived, and Digen said, "Hey, where are we going?"
"Cafeteria. I'll bet my little green card," he said waving the new assignment card, "that you haven't eaten in days."
Just before noon, Digen left Imrahan and pushed all thought of the Center and its problems out of his mind. It was time to begin a new phase of his life.
At the foot of the broad steps leading to the Hospital's Administration Building, he paused to savour that beginning. Behind him, on the broad street, Westfield's noonday traffic streamed past in noise, confusion, and short tempers. But cars and trucks, busses and Westfield's famous tourist trolley, all silenced their horns in deference to the hospital. A hospital was a special place.
This hospital would be home for him for the next four years--if he could stick it out.
Doctor Digen Farris. Could it really be true? Dare I claim a place here?
For a moment, he dared to let himself believe that he would be accepted here, to become a part of the magic practiced here as daily routine.
One foot on the lower step, he drew that vision around himself, storing it up against the years ahead. Twelve years, ever since the accident that had rendered him unfit to work normally as a channel, Digen had labored for this moment, never quite daring to believe he'd be allowed to make it. Indeed, the closer he got to a Surgical Residency, the more intense the opposition had become, both in and out-Territory. Until now--he knew with a leaden despair, that here would be the worst he had ever encountered.
Yet, strangely, he felt less daunted by it now than ever before. He could almost see his goal, smell it, feel it within his grasp--one more year, and he'd be a Surgical Resident--and the imminence of it lent him strength, just as it did his opponents.
A nurse passed Digen, striding briskly up the steps. She paused just above Digen and looked back, "Sime Center is the next group of buildings that way," she said pointing helpfully. She turned and went on into the Administration building.
Digen said, "Thank you," and climbed the steps after her.
Reporting in, as he had been told to do, he received his room assignment. His bags had been delivered from the train station and placed in his room. There was a note for him, instructing him to report immediately to the Chief Administrator, Dr. Howard Branoff.
Armed with a map of the hospital's four buildings, Digen had no trouble locating the Administrator's offices.
"What can I do for you?" asked the receptionist.
"I'm Dr. Digen Farris. I was told to report to Dr. Branoff."
"Oh," she said. "Will you have a seat over there, please. I'll tell him you're here." The seat she indicated was in the far corner of the waiting room. Then she went into the inner office to announce him.
Digen sat alone in the waiting room, feeling the hospital around him even through the retainers. It was larger than the teaching hospital at the school had been. It touched the ordinary lives of people in a way the academic atmosphere of the renowned diagnostic clinic of the school had never done. However much Digen loved to conquer the unusual and the bizarre, he still responded deeply to any suffering. However common to humanity as a whole any disease might be, still it was uncommon to the sufferer, and the gift of surcease was just as valuable. He knew he'd be happy here, if they'd let him stay.
Being called up here on his very first day was a bad omen, Digen knew. But still he was buoyed up by the moment on the stairs and refused to dwell on failure.
A few minutes later the secretary returned and ushered him through a middle office where a man stood working over some files, and into the private office of the Chief Administrator.
It was a large room with draped windows overlooking the hills behind the hospital, beyond the Territory Border. The summer sun lay across the rich wood desk which was bare except for two file folders. A beam of light touched the full head of white hair of the Gen behind the desk. His face was ruddy, tanned, and just as Digen remembered him from his first interview. But now he was tense, grave--though not, Digen realized, hostile.
In one of the two guest chairs was a man Digen recognized. As Digen bowed, the secretary presented him formally, "Dr. Branoff. Dr. Hogan."
Joel Hogan said, "You!"
The secretary closed the door quietly as she went out. Digen said to Branoff, "Dr. Hogan and I met on the train, though at the time I neglected to introduce myself fully."
Branoff indicated the empty chair to Digen and said, "Dr. Farris, I called you up here today to warn you. The Board has upheld my decision to hire you--but only by a six to five vote--and I have come to wonder if I may have made a mistake."
Seating himself, Digen glanced at Hogan, but the Gen didn't meet his eyes. Branoff said, "This year's interns have arrived today, met each other for the first time, --five have threatened to quit unless you are dismissed immediately."
Digen said, "That would be very bad for the hospital."
"Indeed it would, this late in the year. We hire only top men. Which is why your contract was virtually automatic."
Digen had been Number One in his class at the top medical school in the country. It was the only way for someone like him.
"Are you asking for my resignation?" Digen wondered if Hogan had come as a spokesman for the five interns.
Branoff pondered for some moments, until Digen became almost sure he was being asked to leave. Then the Chief Administrator said, "A doctor should not be ruled by prejudice, fear, or superstition. Medicine is as much a matter of character as of knowledge. Medical school tests your ability to absorb knowledge. Here we test your character under extreme stress, hoping to foster good medical judgement.
"Your presence places a new kind of stress on these interns. But perhaps it is the stress of the future, something we never had to live with. It will show us what they're made of--and what you're made of." He raised his eyes, meeting Digen's squarely. "If you're willing."
Digen had little choice. Westfield was the only teaching hospital in the country located on a Territory border, and near a Sime Center. It was also the only one which had invited him for an interview. He said, "I don't want to cause trouble . . ."
Branoff prompted, ". . . but . . . ?"
Digen said, not caring that his voice shook and his eyes burned, "I want to be a surgeon."
"Because--in-Territory--people die--people who don't have to die, who shouldn't die."
Branoff said, "I asked them, after the Board Meeting, why they had voted for you. They said they knew the Sectuib in Zeor could be trusted never to take advantage of a Gen. They said they had
to believe that, or everything--was for nothing. (sic RBW nothing.")
Digen looked at his hands, folded in his lap. The gleaming metal of the retainers peeked from the sleeves of his jacket. Digen's great-great-grandfather, Klyd Farris, had built the modern Tecton out of the loose confederation of householdings, and the Farris family had made Tecton synonymous with absolute reliability throughout Gen Territory. Digen's father, mother and their three older children had given their lives to keep it that way.
"I don't understand," said Digen, "what you want of me--to pledge, Unto Zeor, that I won't use the skills I learn here to practice medicine out-Territory?"
"I wish it were that simple. But they--the ones who voted against you--don't fear you, they fear the ones who will come after you, take over medicine, lock them out. As I understand it, in-Territory, the channels are the only physicians. (sic RBW physicians.")
"Yes," said Digen, and then chuckled ruefully, "but the channels are the very ones least capable of learning surgery. If I can do it, maybe--maybe I can invent methods they can use, something completely new. Don't you see . . ."
"Yes, I see. But all they see is that that something will be something superior--something they can't match. It's fear you're up against, Dr. Farris."
"I've realized that for a long time, Sir. But if you want me to quit--well, you're going to have to fire me."
"I will," said Branoff gravely, "the very first time you give cause. But not before that. You see, I believe the superior should prevail, even if it means I'm out of a job."
Digen took a breath to answer, and then realized he couldn't. He just shook his head.
Branoff said, "I don't think I'm making a mistake."
Digen waited. Branoff shuffled papers. "We have twenty-four interns on staff this year. Hospital rules require you to live on the grounds--but we have only twelve rooms available, and no volunteers to room with you. I was just discussing that with Dr. Hogan, here, when you came in."
Digen glanced at Hogan. Oh, no!
"Well, Joel," said Branoff, "will you room with him?"
Digen stood, saying, "Wait! Wait just a moment, please." He walked around the chairs until he stood in front of Hogan, one hand on the corner of Branoff's desk. He said, "Dr. Hogan, I--I would . . ."
Digen gave up, unable to find words. Branoff said, "What . . . ?"
Digen turned to him. "On the train, I was not--feeling well--and Dr. Hogan offered, very nicely, to help. I was inexcusably rude to him. You really can't ask this of him. It isn't right."
"Hogan said, "On the other hand, even a Farris isn't expected to be charmingly polite when some lorsh comes along and spills a whole glass of boiling tea in his lap."
Lorsh? Digen was shocked by Hogan's use of the vernacular. Through the retainers, Digen couldn't resolve the inchoate mixture of emotions from Hogan. He felt helpless, working blind like that, though he'd spent half his life getting used to it. He said, "That happened because I was not making the effort to . . ."
"Who could expect you to make any effort when you felt so . . ."
"But that's just the whole point, I shouldn't have been on that train unless I was willing to . . ."
"No, it was all my fault for not having the sense to take a hint. I've been wondering how I could find you to apologize f . . ."
"No, no, I owe you an apology and an explanation though I can't imagine how . . ."
"Gentlemen! Doctors, please!" said Branoff. He was almost laughing, and for an instant he seemed to remind Digen of his grandfather. "You can apologize to each other while you're moving in. Meanwhile, I have a hospital to run."
"But Sir," said Hogan, "how can you possibly ask him to--I mean, after what I did--I'm a . . ."
"He doesn't have any choice, since there's nobody else. You do have a choice . . ."
"But then he'd be . . ."
Digen broke in. "Dr. Branoff, I don't really have to have a room here. I've already been assigned quarters in the Center's new residence tower--the one nearest the hospital. It's only a few hundred yards from the hospital . . ."
Branoff looked up at him levelly. "Do you honestly think you can afford even so minor an irregularity? Even if I could permit it, they'd find some way to use it against you. I'd prefer the confrontation, when it comes--and it will come--to be over something meaningful."
"Well, look," said Hogan, "I'll try to keep out of your way. After all, interns don't spend that much time in their . . ."
Digen shook his head emphatically. "Not possible. You see, if I'm going to spend my on-call time in that room, it has to be a place where I don't wear retainers. I have one of those Diplomatic Immunity signs I post on the door to make it legal. I've roomed with Gens all through school, and I've always been able to make it work out. But not by avoiding each other."
"Are you saying that you'd--I mean after what I did . . ."
Digen, "One thing. Sometimes rooming with me makes it hard, if you like to invite friends in."
Hogan cracked a tentative smile. "Well, if I room with you, I don't suppose I'd have many friends to invite in. Not that an intern has any time for social calls."
Digen returned the smile. "Okay, tell you what. If you promise not to spill any more boiling tea on me, I'll promise not to yell obscenities at you. Deal?"
Hogan nodded. "Deal."
Digen said, "Let's let Dr. Branoff get back to the important business of the day." And he moved a few steps toward the door, turning back to the face on the desk.
Hogan joined him. Branoff said, "Very good, gentlemen. I hope I won't be seeing you for some time to come, perhaps not until the Union Day party."
The two left the office and threaded their way through the hospital's administration building, down through the laboratories, kitchens, and laundry, then up into the old, original building of the hospital. Here the tile floors were cracked, the pain on the walls dingy and peeling, the air stale with generations of illnesses scrubbed out with antiseptic. At one point, Digen caught a whiff of organic chemicals heavy with formaldehyde--the Pathology Lab.
As they walked, Hogan said, "I see your hand didn't blister. That's odd. Trin tea has a higher heat capacity than . . ."
"Oh, it wasn't very hot, really, I hardly felt it."
"You sure seemed to at the time."
They stopped by the service elevator, waiting while it creaked and rattled far above them. Digen sighed, hands thrust in his side pockets. "Dr. Hogan--Joel--may I ask where you went to school?"
"Why--well, Calvin. But . . ."
"Calvin? Terrific school. But it's way, way out-Territory. I don't suppose their curriculum included any Sime physiology requirements?"
"Actually, no, it didn't--which is why I chose Westfield despite, well despite everything."
"I hope you won't take offense. But--honestly, there's just no way I can explain to you what happened back there on the train, not starting from scratch. For the present, let's just say that it was the result of a Farris with a few peculiar disfunctions--being fool enough to stay on a moving train for three days."
"You mean that old lateral injury?"
"Joel," said Digen, surprised, "you are a most peculiar mixture of information and ignorance."
"I know--who doesn't--that the Sectuib in Zeor had survived the impossible odds and all that. I just didn't connect the name, Digen--it's a common first name, isn't it?"
"Still, I suppose I should have recognized you."
"And if you had, what would you have done with the information? Start a conversation, right?"
"I guess. After everything that's been said about you, I have to admit I do have misgivings."
"Well, at that moment, all I wanted was to get away from your selyn field. Retainers don't cut it off completely, you know. And this scar tissue was giving me a bad time. When you accidentally touched my hand, it set off a--well, it's a selyn transport nerve disfunction akin to a muscular spasm. There aren't any words for such things except in Simelan."
The elevator rattled to a stop, and the doors opened. An orderly wheeled a laundry wagon out, and they got on, punching for the top floor. Digen said, "Actually, it's not so serious in itself, but when you walk around all your life in a Farris body, you learn to take these little things seriously or you just don't live very long. With this injury, I've had plenty of experience dealing with such things, and I knew I could bring it under control easily--if I could just get you to go away. Now, just imagine what your reaction would have been if I'd tried to explain."
Joel nodded. "I see. But you seem fine now."
"I guarantee you, that's the last time I'll ever ride that train. I've learned my lesson."
"But you are all right now."
"Sure. I've had some expert help from our professional Donors." The elevator jiggled to a halt three inches above the floor and the doors opened. Digen pointed at the sill, "Watch that." And then he went on as they walked down the corridor to their new room. "But I'm always glad to get these retainers off. Where do you suppose number ten would be?"
"It's on the end, a corner room with its own bath--about twice the size of anybody else's room, but nobody wanted you using the shower room down the hall, there."
Hogan produced a key as they approached the end room. On either side of them, several doors were open, young men gathered to watch the Sime move in. Their muttering fell away into silence. Somewhere in the building a toilet flushed. Their steps echoed off the polished tile floors.
Hogan stopped before one of the open doors and said to the knot of men gathered there, "Looks like I'm it, fellows. I'll just take my things now."
The three Gens parted to let him in, never taking their eyes from Digen. Joel came out hefting a foot locker. Digen said, "Let me take that. Looks heavy."
"I can manage."
"This all you have?"
Hogan set the trunk down on end. "There's a box of books, and my record player."
"Why make two trips?"
They exchanged shrugs and turned together to go into the room. The Gens melted aside wordlessly, but Digen could feel the hostility as a palpable wave. He shut it out, concentrating on the augmentation necessary to carry both the box and the huge record player at the same time. Augmentation--the ability to boost selyn consumption rate--could increase a Sime's speed or strength far beyond any Gen's. Because of his lateral scar, Digen had to use this ability with extreme care, but as he did it now, it was a luxurious stretching of his system, working out the staleness from the long train ride.
With the box on one shoulder and the player in his other hand, he followed Hogan to the door, measuring the height of the lintel with his eyes. Suddenly, Joel tripped and stumbled forward several steps, catching himself against the foot locker which still stood on end in the hall.
Had Digen been half a step closer behind Hogan, he would have fallen on top of him. But, already in the augmented state, Digen was even quicker than usual. He managed to avoid Hogan's feet and the lintel, gliding evenly into the corridor as if nothing had happened.
Joel looked up at the carton of heavy medical text books that could have fallen on his head. He picked himself off his knees, turning on the group by the door. "You tripped me on purpose!"
"Who, us?" said one. Digen knew instantly he had done it.
Fist balled, knees limbered, Hogan started for them. Digen said, "Joel! It isn't worth it!"
Hogan stopped, looking at Digen. "Joel, we have less than three hours to unpack."
Hogan threw off his anger, considering the three in the doorway. Without a word, he picked up the foot locker and led the way to room ten.
With the door closed behind them, Digen set the things down, and relaxed. His own luggage had been delivered from the train station and piled in the middle of the floor. Joel bounced on one of the beds, tacitly taking possession. He said, "When I find out which one of them did that, I'll . . ."
"You'll do nothing about it. Not now. Not yet. If you can't face that sort of thing, you picked the wrong roommate."
"But that box could have busted my head open."
"Not a chance. Not while I'm anywhere within sight of it."
Hogan looked from Digen to the box, and back again. Digen sat down on his own bed, opposite, and said, "You came to Westfield to learn about Simes. Maybe you got more than you bargained for, but here's lesson number one. Simes expect Gens to be clumsy. On the train, I wasn't angry because you knocked the glass over, I was angry because you fooled me by trying to catch it. Gens raised in-Territory know better than that."
"It would be easy to resent an attitude like that."
"My great-grandmother, Muryin Farris--when she was Sectuib in Zeor, she used to tell the Companions, 'It's your function to knock things over, and mine to keep them from falling over. They call that teamwork.' Or that's as near as I can translate. She was very wise."
"I did a paper on her when I was in second school. She was some kind of character all right. Did you ever meet her?"
"Shen, no! She was killed, taken hostage in the Battle of Leander Territory when my grandfather was only twenty-two years old."
"Oh, yeah. You know, it's a good thing I'm a doctor, not a historian!"
They laughed together, then got to work settling in. They had separate closets, desks, book cases, and each had a night stand, in a room that usually slept four. Digen's first move was to post his sign, officially claiming that room as Sime Territory, and then to remove the retainers. He did that very carefully, not to alarm Hogan. It was Digen's first exposure to his field. As always, there was the question, can I live with this Gen?
When he had them off, he sat on the bed with his back to the Gen and rubbed the kinks out of his tentacles, studying Hogan's field in detail. It reflected the tight courage Digen had noted in everything the man had said or done since they had first met. Digen could admire that, but at the same time it made him leery. Courage was required only to contain fear. The Donor's first maxim was, never approach a Sime with courage in your heart.
Digen said, "You've never donated selyn, have you? Not even General Class."
"Why, no . . . does it matter?"
"Have you ever seen tentacles?"
Hogan paused, then went on stacking underwear in a drawer, plucking books from among the clothes in his trunk and shoving them into the bookcase beside his desk. To Digen's senses, apprehension fairly crackled around the Gen. "No."
Digen hitched himself around to face Hogan. "Ever seen a changeover?"
"No," he said flatly. Then he flung a book onto a stack of shirts, and stood, hands on hips, facing the wall. "Yes, dammit!"
Hogan was shaking now, and Digen knew he'd hit the event at the root of the fear that had to be controlled by courage. Digen said, "Want to tell me about it?"
"No. Yes. My cousin. Had been like a sister to me. Not many--turn Sime--in my family. I found her. She was almost--They thought she was going to kill me. They beat her to death."
Shen! And I had to get you for a roommate!
Hogan turned. "She wouldn't have . . ."
"Yes, she would. Only a Farris has any control during a first transfer." He got up and made his way around the beds. "All that was a long time ago, how long?"
"I was eleven."
An established Gen at eleven? No wonder it hit him so hard.
"Well, you're a doctor now, and you may have to deal with changeover at any time. You know the statistics . . ."
"About a third of the kids turn Sime, but . . ."
"You don't turn Sime, you're born Sime, it just isn't detectible (sic RBW detectable) before changeover."
"Well, I know that, but I was raised so far away from any Sime Territory, all we had was the Sime Center at the District Capitol, close to two hundred miles away."
"Don't you think it's about time you got acquainted with Sime anatomy, then?"
As Digen approached, Hogan had his hands clamped together. He shook his head, "I don't . . ."
"Joel, you're not afraid of me, are you? You can't be afraid of me."
It was the wrong thing to say. His courage rose to the challenge, burying the fear where Digen had no hope of ever confronting it. Hogan said, "No, of course not," and let his eyes drop to Digen's arms.
Digen put out his hands, palm up, tentacles sheathed. "Come on."
Hogan rubbed his hands nervously, then joined his palms to Digen's, at arm's length. "Now, watch carefully. I'm going to extend my handling tentacles. They have no function in transfer save to protect the laterals, you know."
Digen extended and retracted the eight handling tentacles several times, letting Hogan probe the musculature and sheath structure of the Sime forearm, pointing out what to watch for during changeover when the tentacles developed rapidly over a period of a few days. Hogan's fear receded before his medical curiosity. And Digen noticed an odd thing. The Gen's selyn production rate never varied in response to Digen's selyn field--it was as if that early experience had forever crippled the Gen. What a waste.
Digen said, casually, "How would you like a look at that famous scar?"
Hogan shook his head, "Oh, I wouldn't--want to, in any way at all--uh--inconvenience . . ." But his curiosity read high, and Digen said, "You're entitled. And now's a good time."
Hogan shook his head again, and Digen added, "Another thing Grandmother Muryin used to say--'Never turn your back on a Gen you haven't touched.' She meant like this." And Digen let the tiny laterals slide out and contact the Gen's skin between the handling tentacles.
Hogan looked down at them, horror warring with fascination. Digen said pleasantly, "Go ahead and breathe. I could hold this for hours."
Hogan examined the moist, pink laterals as if they lay on some other Gen's arms, some sort of foreign growth to be excised. He said, "Which one?"
Digen moved it slightly. "Here. The outer left."
"I see." There was a line about half a centimeter wide where the scar tissue showed. "Does it go all the way around?"
"Not quite, thank God, or I wouldn't be here to tell of it. The nerves are bundled like a coaxial cable. The center was cut about half way through, which is why I have all the trouble."
"Somewhere around here I have a book with a diagram, but I never understood it."
Digen withdrew his laterals, then sheathed his handling tentacles. "So now you know. Was that so bad?"
"Something to tell my grandchildren about--living history." He let his voice quaver and hobbled back to his trunk as he said, "Why, when I was just a boy, I actually roomed with Digen Farris! They'll never believe me."
Digen laughed politely, but he new (sic RBW knew) Hogan was not letting himself come to grips with the reality. Enough for one day. His last two years in med school, he'd had a Third Class Donor for a roommate. This was going to be hard to get used to.
As they unpacked, Digen traded banter with Hogan on that level, only once getting serious--"Why did you go into medicine?" Hogan swore him to secrecy and admitted his father had been the famous immunologist, Jason Hogan, and Dr. Branoff was his uncle.
Digen stopped right there, suspicion blooming. "Did he pressure you into taking me on?"
"No, honest, I wanted to."
It was the truth. No Gen could lie to a Sime. And it fit Digen's picture of Hogan--since this was his greatest secret fear, he would ram himself into it head first. "I believe you."
Sometime after that, Joel went down and got their starched white hospital uniforms--pants and square-cut tunics with long sleeves that Digen had to alter to accomodate (sic RBW accommodate) the bulk of the retainers.
Then, at three minutes to four, they presented themselves for their first tour of duty. They were both posted to the Emergency Service for the first eight weeks of the year. It was a signal honor reserved for the top students. They shared it with one other on their shift, and three others opposite them. The six of them were responsible for manning three ambulances and a twenty-eight bed emergency ward, twenty-four hours a day.
Hogan, Carry, and Farris were assigned on-call from four to midnight, and on-duty from midnight to eight. Their opposite numbers were asleep while they were on-duty, and on-duty while they were--presumably--asleep, eight to four in the afternoon. The assumption was that during the day, Attendings and Residents were on-call to the Emergency Service.
In practice, though, Digen discovered he was expected to attend chart rounds at 8 AM with Dr. Thornton, his own Chief of Staff, or Dr. Goe, the Chief of Internal Medicine. Unless an intern was totally invisible, he was never considered off-duty.
The four to midnight shift was supposed to be covered by all six of them, on-call. Meeting that first afternoon, they all decided that was no way to live, and arranged that they should each have every-other evening free to catch up on sleep. This arrangement lasted almost a week before they realized that it took six of them to handle the evening shift--on-duty, not on-call.
That first evening, the Head Nurse checked them in and gave them their rotational assignments. Joel Hogan got the ambulance, while Digen and Dr. Pete Carry would handle the ward. Digen felt a cold stab of despair as he recognized Carry--the one who had tripped Joel. He kept his distance and spoke softly, but stayed alert.
They had the retiring interns who were staying to become Residents at Westfield Memorial to break them in. At eight the next morning, they'd be on their own. They all felt a little awed by the men who were just a year ahead of them--gray with exhaustion, but somehow crisp with knowhow, the blending of knowledge and judgement.
Almost before they had time to learn each other's names, the pace began to pick up--an enormous auto wreck brought fifteen people in for treatment, eight had to be admitted, three were DOA.
Digen learned his way around the EW as he worked. Westfield Memorial emergency ward was situated along a basement corridor connecting the old building with the new Administration wing which housed the laboratories, housekeeping facilities, and the offices.
In the reception area, a large nurses' station faced the ambulance bay doors. To one side, heavy double doors led into a long corridor of fourteen rooms, which opened, at its other end, into the old building, and the main part of the hospital. On the other side of the nurses' station, another corridor of fourteen rooms opened into the new building, right beside the laboratories and blood bank--ultra modern, with refrigeration and all the newest equipment.
Behind the nurses' station was an area sectioned off into consultation cubicles by eight foot high partitions. And before it, lining the way toward the ambulance doors, chairs were set for those waiting to be treated.
Before midnight, Digen knew the contents of every supply closet on the floor, and had made some progress in learning the paper work. But as fire victims followed the accident victims, with a sprinkling of poisonings, fish hooks, two cardiacs, a drowning, and one near suicide, Digen began to see the strategy against him emerging.
He was being allowed to run and fetch, stand and hold, or shuffle papers, but never was he allowed to so much as look at a patient. When it got busy the first time, the tightly knit ER crew swung into action--the nurses making out charts and calling the patients one by one into the examining rooms while the head nurse somehow managed to route the correct doctor to each patient's room.
It first hit him when the police brought in a twenty-seven year old Gen male. Working on a slideroad construction crew, he'd gotten into a drunken brawl that ended in a razor fight. Three others came in, cut up badly, but he got the worst of it, forty-two lacerations that had to be sutured. It took five hours to get them all stitched, and they had to send up to the Operating Room for more suture.
When the police ambulance first screamed into the dock, Digen had been doing nothing, so he
turned out with everyone else to pick up a patient. He met the first stretcher, the worst injury, and went with the man into the nearest treatment room.
At first, the victim was unconscious. His clothing and the sheets from the ambulance were soaked with blood, some already drying. Digen blocked away all of his Sime sensibilities and functioned, as he had been trained to function, as a doctor. He ordered a blood type and cross-match, called for an IV set when he found the supply cabinets empty, and started rounding up suture while a student nurse turned pale while struggling to hold as many pressure points as two hands with only ten fingers could reach.
Within five minutes, though, Digen's treatment room was swarming with doctors. First one of the retiring interns came in, and without a word, started the IV. A second year resident came down from the Operating Room with the extra suture, and tied off the worst of the man's bleeders. And moments later, Dr. Booker, the Chief of Staff of the Emergency Service and Out-Patient Clinic, came in with Dr. Carry, and began teaching Carry how to suture a clean cut. Not a one of them spoke a word to Digen.
By the time the man came to, they had him under heavy sedation and a lot of local anesthetics. Digen had moved closer to watch the suturing lesson, but tried to remain inconspicuous. Somehow, despite the wall of white jackets around the table, the patient spotted Digen's retainers.
He jerked his arm away from Booker's hands as if intending to jump off the table and run out the door. He couldn't have, even if he weren't plugged into the IV bottles. But Booker swung on Digen, eyes narrowed, voice cold, and spoke the first words he'd ever spoken to Digen. "Get out! Can't you see nobody wants you here!"
Digen had started toward the patient, to hold him still, calm him with words. He knew he could have done it. But he pulled up in mid-step and said to Booker, evenly, as if he'd been ordered to swab a wound with antiseptic, "Yes, Sir."
As he started for the door, relieved of all responsibility for this patient, his medical conditioning began to disintegrate and it hit him what he was dealing with in these Gens--in Booker and Carry as well as the out-Territory Gens at large. What kind of person could do such a thing?
At the door, he turned for one last look, from this new perspective, wondering at both the man on the table and the men and women around him. And he realized, as he forced himself to look, that he'd never been so thoroughly sickened in his life. Living flesh, sliced through nerve and muscle to the bone--and it does nothing to them--and I intend to become a surgeon and do this to them on purpose--and maybe even to a Sime. How?
Digen's eyes met Carry's for a moment. Then Digen left. Half way back to the nurses' station, he realized what Carry's eyes had said. Carry had been triumphant. But Digen was beyond feeling any sense of chill at that.
He went on with the night duty, doing what they would let him do, and keeping out of the way. He had plenty to think about. At school, they had never gotten the knife fights, child beatings, auto-wrecks, gangrenous infections, burnings, and DOA's. At school, medicine had always been the subtle intellectual challenge, the complex metabolic puzzle--none of the simple but grisly things people do to one another or to themselves. And the question--could he take four years of this?
That question went with him through the night. He had spent half his life as an adult channel, dealing with pain, suffering, and death--death from lingering disease, changeover or transfer pathology, traumatic death by injuries that could--here in the hospital--be dealt with almost casually. He knew death intimately and joyed in defeating it day by day. But he'd never fought that battle against the patient himself before, never confronted that part of medicine.
In-Territory, the physical welfare of every Gen--their most valuable resource--was guarded jealously by every Sime within seeing distance. A brawl such as caused the razor fight could never occur among Gens in-Territory. Gens were not even permitted to drive automobiles, so there were virtually no accidents that were not caused by mechanical failure--and those rarely resulted in such injury as he had seen this night.
Among Simes, physical violence did erupt occasionally. It was the Sime nature to be aggressive. But under the Tecton, no Sime would lift a hand to any Gen--and between two Simes, violence was usually instantly and cleanly fatal to one or both parties. Never, in over fifteen years as a practicing channel, had Digen seen anything like what he had seen in one night here. He had known it was here to be seen--but the impact was still stunning.
Toward dawn, Digen found himself waiting for Joel's ambulance out on the dock. They had word of a police drug raid that had resulted in a massive shootout. Injured were being taken to all three of the city's hospitals.
Digen watched the sky lighten. Stars were still visible, and the lights of the city lay in shadow, twinkling like fall stardust, while the sky itself glowed summer blue, portending another scorching day.
As the rim of the sun peeped over the horizon, Digen could just make out the soaring spire of the Union Monument that marked the center of the Westfield artists' district. He had to go over there one day, he told himself. After all, it had been erected to the honor of his own great-great-grandfather, Klyd Farris, who had formed the Sime/Gen Union almost with his bare hands. And tentacles.
Just then, the ambulance screeched into the drive and barrelled (sic RBW barreled) into the dock. The doors were open before it stopped rocking on its springs, and Joel directed the attendants as they slid the stretcher out of its fittings. "Gently, there, this is a bad one."
Digen looked down at the girl on the stretcher, a Gen with pale blond hair, disturbingly blue eyes, and the smoothest skin Digen had ever seen. She couldn't have been over twenty, Digen thought, and she was in great pain. She had bitten her lip bloody in an effort not to cry out, but now, as they moved her, she whimpered.
They got her into one of the treatment rooms, a police officer filling out forms and answering questions--she was Ditana Amanso, a police officer from in-Territory working on this undercover operation to break up a morphine smuggling ring originating in-Territory.
This was fairly common, since morphine affected the Sime metabolism about the way asprin (sic RBW aspirin) affected the Gens. Digen listened with one ear to the details as he cut away her clothing to expose the wound in her abdomen. Booker and most of the other doctors were either still suturing razor cuts or had finally gone for a few hours sleep. Digen sent a nurse for a type and cross-match and another to call the OR and page a surgeon and a neurology consultant.
The policeman who had brought her in stood behind Digen, pressing a gauze pad to a flesh wound in his upper bicep, and said, "How bad is she, Doctor?"
"Impossible to say yet. Massive internal bleeding. I think the bullet--bullets--may have penetrated to her spine."
At that point, Booker came in, hearing what Digen had said, and stepped over to the table. "It's all right, officer, I'll take over now. You can go, Doctor Farris." He addressed Digen, but was actually speaking to the other officer. The neurology consultant come (sic RBW came) on Booker's heels, and Booker said, "Doctor Weicke, we'll get her up to the Operating Room, immediately."
Weicke took a look at the chart that now dangled at the end of the table and said, "We'll need an orthopedic surgeon--I'll get Dr. MacBride."
Booker picked up an IV needle and a tourniquet. At this, it finally penetrated to Amanso where she had been taken and what they intended to do to her.
She twisted her arm out of Booker's grasp, staring at the needle. She looked around the room, recognizing now what she had only looked at before. "No!" she said. "No! No!" Her voice rose to a shriek and she began to scream in Simelan, "Get me out of here! Help me, somebody."
Digen let Booker absorb the impact of the language shift before he moved to her side and grabbed her hands. When she saw the retainers, she stopped in mid-utterance. She looked to Digen's face, whispered, "Sectuib Farris!"
Weicke said, "Get those restraints on her before she damages herself any more."
Digen said, "No. She's going to be still now. Aren't you, Ditana?"
"How did I get here? This is some kind of mistake?"
"Your friends brought you."
"Get me out of here, Sectuib. Please. It hurts so much . . . I can't any more . . ."
Booker was watching her face turn shocky, her skin cold and clammy. He said, "Let's get this girl upstairs. Move aside, Dr. Farris."
Amanso was gripping Digen's hands tightly despite her rapid weakening. Her police partner had signed the release form for her, and a nurse arrived with the whole blood. Booker began to tie the tourniquet again, but she struggled against him. Weicke said, "Farris, we've go to get an IV into her. She trusts you. You do it."
Digen looked at Weicke over his shoulder, then said to Amanso, so they could understand, "Ditana, if I take you over to the Center, you likely won't live through the night. They've got to get some whole blood into you, and them (sic RBW then) remove the bullets and stop the bleeding. They can do that here. They do it every day. You may even regain some use of your legs. (sic RBW legs."
"I don't want to die."
"Then let us get to work."
"Will you--will you--do the--the surgery?"
"No, no, I'm just learning this trade. We have a room full of experts upstairs just waiting for you to get there. Now, let me get this started for you . . ."
She let him tie the tourniquet and palpatate (sic RBW palpitate) the vein. Then she shut her eyes and turned her head away from the needle. Digen swabbed the skin and then nodded to Booker who was still holding the long needle. He knew that Booker expected him to demand the right to insert the needle. And he wanted to--oh, how he wanted to--but he didn't. Now wasn't the time.
He steeled himself to the little shock he felt even through the retainers as the needle went in, and his voice was steady as he said, "See, it's all done."
She watched the nurse tape the needle in place and then connect the tube. They started to move the table out the door. Digen let go of her hand. She started to fret again, and Booker said, "Farris, walk along here and keep her quiet."
Digen walked with them to the elevator, holding her hand.
Digen was allowed to stay with them all the way into the operating room--the first time he had entered one as a real doctor, not just as one of a crowd of gawking students, half of whom would never graduate. He spoke to her softly, in Simelan, refusing to promise to stay with her--as a channel would--though he silently promised himself to be there when she woke up. He was optimistic. She already looked better for the blood going into her.
At last, she succumbed to the anesthetic. MacBride was already at the table, preparing the operating field. Booker and Weicke, Digen left standing at the row of green sinks, scrubbing systematically. He knew he would not be allowed to join them, even to watch, and he was not going to make an issue of it his very first night on the job. He had four years to learn surgery, he told himself. But it was hard.
On his way out, he ran into the officer who had brought her in. "Doctor--Doctor Farris?"
Digen stopped. "Yes?"
"Is she going to be all right?"
"We won't know--maybe not until late this afternoon. Why don't you go on home and get some rest." The man's wound had been dressed, but Digen could see he was hanging on by a thread after a hard night. Digen began moving slowly, and the officer fell in beside him.
"It was all my fault, you know."
"I didn't hear any of the details."
"I was arguing with her--just before. I should have known better. She gets so raging furious about it---well, after all, she's from in-Territory and---and you people are sure touchy about . . ." He broke off looking at Digen.
Digen looked back, eyebrows raised slightly, listening with interest. Obviously, the Gen wanted to get it off his chest.
"I had this theory, see--that the drug running syndicate was actually a front for a Distect operation, with bases on both sides of the border. I was wrong--boy, was I wrong!--but she doesn't know it yet. I was looking for a promotion. You know how it is, try anything to get some attention. But I was wrong. I want to be there when she wakes up--tell her--apologize. Shen! It was all my fault. She never makes a mistake unless she's mad about something."
His casual use of the Simelan expletive got to Digen. His world had been awfully hostile lately. He said, "I don't have an awful lot of influence around here. I don't think I could get you into the recovery room. But I intend to be there myself, just before four this afternoon. If you want me to, I'll tell her what you said."
"Would you? You tell her Mani said she was right."
Digen gave him every assurance and put him in an elevator going to the main entrance. Then he took another elevator back down to the Emergency Ward.
The nurses' shift changed at six, and the day crew of orderlies came on to clean up the aftermath of the night before the onslaught of the day began. He sat and drank coffee with Joel. "I prefer Trin tea, of course, but I developed a tolerance for coffee in school."
And just before eight, the new Residents threw a little party for themselves, passing around fancy cakes and candies, and exchanging silly presents with the nurses and House Staff. From eight to nine Digen made rounds with Dr. Goe at the behest of his Chief of Staff, Dr. Thornton. Thornton
had said, "Goe is the best internist within a thousand miles. If you're going to be any kind of surgeon, learn what he has to teach you before you ever pick up a scalpel."
Immediately after rounds, Digen went back to his room to change. He opened the door with his own key and shoved it inward. Something scraped against the tile floor. He bent for it. It was in his hand before he realized fully what it was--a scalpel! What the--blood!
He touched it with the tip of one finger, damp and sticky, just turning dark, faint tingle of dissipating selyn. One of the hospital's standard equipment tags was attached by a string, but it wasn't a label. Scrawled on it--words Digen could just make out--Simes who play with knives may get cut up, badly.
Suddenly trembling, Digen flung the thing away from him. It landed in the corner with a clink.
He stood like that for a long time, staring at the blood on his hands, visions of the razor fight victims playing through his mind. And Carry's face, triumphant.
He felt the chill now, the chill he had not been able to feel then. There were Gens in the world who would enjoy doing that to a Sime, if they could catch him helpless.
After a while, he went into the bathroom and scrubbed the gore from his fingers. Then he took a towel and picked up the scalpel. He destroyed the note, wrapped up the scalpel, and hid it. Later he'd return it to the sterilizing room, and nobody would know. But for the moment, he was late for his new job at the Center.
Digen walked into the Center still smarting inwardly from the sight of the bloody scalpel. He could still feel the blood on his fingers, like an afterimage.
Wandering the corridors looking for his new office, half his mind on the Changeover Ward's paperwork he had picked up at the main desk, the other half still somehow back in the hospital, he was shocked when he pushed open one of the heavy insulating doors and found himself wading through floral wreaths, three deep along the walls.
"What the . . . !" he said in English. And simultaneously, he realized he had found his Ward and his office. He had come through a narrow door beside a bank of elevators which he realized were right over the main lobby of the building--public elevators. Across from him was a large receptionist's counter, a horseshoe protecting the door to his office. It was spread with trays of gourmet tidbits and lavishly artistic salad molds.
The breath of the flowers was intoxicating. The food mouthwatering. As Digen watched, the elevator doors opened and a caterer wheeled a flower-decked cart of assorted beverages out and parked it beside the reception desk. A second caterer, also crisply dressed in a formal uniform, pushed another cart of beverages down the corridor to Digen's left.
Then Digen realized where all the noise was coming from. To his left was the in-Territory changeover ward, and at the end of that corridor was an area used for changeover parties--usually, small, private family affairs, obviously today's was something special.
He glanced to his right where the out-Territory patients were treated. There was a waiting area with tables and chairs, a few potted plants, stacks of out-Territory magazines, a rack of newspapers. Beyond that, heavy insulated doors barred the waiters from the patients. At the moment, there were no waiters. The doors stood propped open by floral wreaths, and Digen could see down the corridor, a few treatment carts littered with party remains, and several flower wreaths standing beside open doors. From one of those rooms came the sounds or (sic RBW of) partying.
Slapping the folder of paperwork against his thigh, Digen started off to his right. As he passed, he saw that all the treatment rooms were empty. At least his staff wasn't neglecting any patients. He paused just outside the room where they were gathered to get a good grip on his temper.
Inside, shrieks of laughter died down, and a speaker went on, "So Mickland said, 'You can get your shenoni blessed subcontroller to quiet them down!' Can you imagine? Shenoni blessed subcontroller? The Sectuib in Zeor?"
"You know why he said that, don't you? It's a Householding party, and they wouldn't even let him in."
"But look at this place. They're generous enough? Who needs in to their sanctum?"
"Ohmand is the richest Householding. They can afford it."
"Rich, maybe, but I think it's disgusting the way they're carrying on."
At this point, Digen strode into the room, saying without a pause, "Which one of you belongs on that front desk?"
One corpulent Gen got to his feet. "I do--uh--Hajene Farris?"
The seven who had been sitting on the patient bed scrambled to their feet. Four chairs scraped as the others stood. Of the twelve in the room, five were Third Class Channels, and six were Gens. The other was a Sime--Digen estimated maybe thirteen or fourteen years old, frail looking, dusky skin, black hair and eyes. But he had a deeper presence about him--where the others were springing to their feet chastised and guilty, this one rose like a prince before his father. Digen took an instant liking to him.
"All right, who's in charge here. I want to know what's going on."
The kid took a step forward and said, "I am the Second in charge of the Ward. Please do not chastise my people for following my orders."
Digen smiled, his anger suddenly gone. Obviously Mickland had tried to sabotage him by putting a mere child on his staff as his Second Class Channel, and just as obviously, the sabotage had failed. The kid was good.
Digen said, "Very well. If you will step into my office, Hajene, we will discuss it."
The boy followed Digen back to the office, snatching a small cake from the desk as they passed. Digen kicked a wreath out of the way and closed the door, saying, "I hope you have a good explanation for all of this."
"I do," said the boy. My (sic RBW "My) name is Madhur Sharma--people call me Madder to my face and other things behind my back." He gestured to the chair before the desk. "May I?"
Digen sat at the desk and riffled the stack of papers there. "Sit. Make it fast."
"I don't know how much you heard--I don't usually allow that kind of talk, but it's been a bad night here, what with all that down the hall. I figured a good gripe session was in order before everybody fell apart. You see, we had nine criticals last night, out-Territory ones, plus four in-Territory kids who stuffed themselves and spent most of the night throwing up. I tried everything, but there was nothing I could do to quiet those people down. I even went to Mickland and he said--something unprintible (sic RBW unprintable) to the effect that we had to wait for you to take care of it. You were due in a couple hours ago, but . . ."
Madder shrugged and finished, "Well, about seven-thirty I shut the unit down and routed everybody to Gravesend Center. That's why there's nobody on the desk. We aren't receiving. I had this place cleaned up three times last night, and it never lasted more than an hour or two. Must have had every Householder within a hundred miles in here last night, carrying on up and down the halls. I figured it wasn't worth cleaning up again until I could get rid of them all--and the party is winding down. He broke out about eight. I guess it won't last more than another three hours, even if he is the heir to the Householding."
Digen sighed. "House of Ohmand. You know," said Digen getting up, "they never made this much fuss over me." He went to the door. "All right, Madder, get that cleanup crew in here right away. I want us receiving again within half an hour, and I want your full report on my desk when I get back. Be here at two. I'll expect a complete briefing."
The answer was quiet, self-contained, equal-to-equal. Digen liked the boy more and more. But he could see where Mickland would have little use for him.
At the door to the party lounge, Digen met the Household Guards with the proper rituals and was admitted with all deference. Inside he found a thinning crowd, all dressed up in the archaic Householding colors. Somebody draped a cloak of Zeor Blue over his shoulders--it was made of finer material than the genuine article was--and he was formally presented to the group.
The sprinkling of Zeor members in the room offered their pledges to him. He had never met any of them before, and had to spend some time with them before he could push his way through the little knots of people.
On the dais, a shiltpron player was into some of the most ribald stuff Digen had ever heard at a changeover party--definitely not suitable in the presence of children or Gens, except of course Companions. Three Companions were dancing around the shiltpron player, modulating the field vibrations
with their own fields. Actually, they were quite good, but Digen found himself oddly disapproving such goings-on within a Center Building, Household dispensation or no.
He chided himself for such unexpected prudery and craned his neck until he spotted the Ohmand colors with a Sectuib's blazon across the shoulders. Then he made his way through the press toward the new heir to Ohmand.
Ohmand had made its fortune in industrial chemicals, specifically the development of the selyn conductive used in modern industrial storage and transmission devices, such as the slideroad trains. Way down in the sub-basements of Westfield's Center lay the power station that provided light, heat, and telephone service to the Gen half of Westfield. It was the largest and most modern such installation in the country. It drew a lot more publicity than Zeor's textile mills.
Digen presented himself formally to the Sectuib in Ohmand, saying, "Zeor extends sanction to the new heir to Ohmand, in continuity, Unto Ohmand."
The middle aged Sime stuck out his hand in the Gen fashion, saying jovially, "My name's Cyril. You're Digen, I expect."
Digen was quite put off the man didn't make a formal reply. He offered the tips of his fingers and tentacles in the Sime fashion. Shen! He's drunk on that shiltpron music. But noting that the channel was somewhat old for a father of a changeover, he could forgive him. Sometimes the heir to a Householding was hard to come by.
"Come, Digen, this is an historic occasion. Come have your picture taken with the boy. We'll give you a place of honor in the Memory Book."
"Why, sure," started Digen. Then he realized what the channel's tone implied. No one gave Zeor a place of honor. And Digen Farris had never "had his picture taken with" anybody. People had their picture taken with him. This was something totally new in Digen's experience, and he wasn't sure he liked the taste of it. In fact, with a glance at the shiltpron player, Digen wasn't sure he liked the taste of this whole affair.
"But first, Sectuib, I'd like to have a word with you."
They went a little aside from the group around the boy, and Digen said, "I doubt if you've heard yet, but I have just been appointed subcontroller here, in charge of the changeover ward. I've just come in this morning, and I find my entire operation shut down because of this party. We're sending some of our out-Territory changeovers to Gravesend. It's not very fair to them, considering that you've probably had most of their channels here all night."
Cyril considered that for a moment. "It has been pretty wild here, but you understand how it is. He's my only surviving kid. His mother died three years ago."
Digen nodded. "You've given him something to remember for a lifetime. And that's beautiful. Did he have a bad time of it?"
"No, no, we have Farris blood about four generations back--all the advantages and none of the grief."
"Who gave first transfer?"
"Well, none of our Companions was available, so we used the Center staff man."
Digen nodded, commiserating. "That's a real pity. I had my older sister--she's Gen, you know, fantastic."
"We adhere as much as we can to the Tecton standards," said Cyril defensively. "Nothing engenders hate like abusing a privilege."
Got him! "Oh, I agree absolutely. That's why I'm reopening our ward. In just about sixteen minutes. People were beginning to talk against Ohmand. Only trouble is, the halls are virtually impassable with flowers--you've been so lavish in your hospitality to the whole center, there's almost not an inch of desk that isn't covered with food."
With a gesture, Cyril called a waiter to him and ordered the entire Center cleaned up immediately. While he had his back turned, Digen melted into another group of celebrants and literally bumped into an old friend. "Anthelli Zehren! What are you doing here?"
Zehren was a senior channel in Frihill, the Householding that specialized in archeology. In their digs, they had recovered photography, electronics, and much of the sophisticated organic chemistry that had made Ohmand's fortune. Frihill's most recent publicized project was an attempt to determine what the Ancients--the pre-mutation humans--had really been like, Simes, Gens, or something in between.
"Digen," said Zehren, drawing him aside. "I heard most of that. Farris blood, indeed! It was on the boy's mother's side, and six generations back, not four."
"It doesn't matter, Anthelli. I'm so glad to see you, but tell me how come you're here."
"Oh, the Corridor Road project, of course."
Digen shook his head. "I just got to town yesterday. What's Corridor Road?"
"The new slideroad between Westfield and Eastfield. It goes right through the site of the Battle of Leander Territory, and since records of that time have never been complete--well, we've suspended work on the older sites, they'll keep after all, so we could get in here before the blasting starts. I'm working out of Eastfield Center, but I'm Controller for the site itself."
"I see. But what do you expect to find on a hundred year old battlefield? My great grandmother's skeleton?"
Zehren laughed, "Well, I doubt we could tell her from a thousand others . . ."
"Oh, I don't know. There's a family tradition that she died wearing the Ring--which is why we don't have it any more, just the copies." He showed his ring with the double Tecton/Zeor crest.
Zehren examined it closely, refreshing a memory. "You know, I ought to sit down with you and record some of your family stories for posterity. How long are you going to be here?"
"Who knows? You haven't heard?" And Digen explained his ambitions, succinctly outlining the opposition he faced. When he'd finished, Zehren said, "You know, if more people really knew the history of your family--all of it, not just the Zeor branch, they wouldn't think you were so . . . hmmm, eccentric."
"I think enough people know enough about us to suit me!"
"With an attitude like that, how do you expect an honest historian to make a living?"
Digen laughed. They stopped beside the buffet. A waiter thrust a brimming glass into Digen's hand. Zehren picked up a stuffed fruit, and waved it as he talked. "Digen, listen, there's a quorum of Frihill people in the vicinity now, and we're going to open an assembly in a week or two. Why don't you come on an official visit and give us Zeor's blessing?"
"So your historians can pump me on the private life of the Farris family?"
"Oh, come on, Digen. We'd be honored."
"I honestly don't think my schedule will permit it. I'll be lucky to get to the Zeor assembly on Union Day, if there still is a Zeor assembly here by Union Day."
Zehren nodded sadly, but understanding. "It's that Mickland character. I just don't see how a place like Westfield could elect a man like that." And looking around, gesturing with his fruit, he said, "Look at this. I don't know why Mickland hasn't done something."
Digen sketched in Mickland's maneuver, ending, "So basically, Mickland is just trying to disrupt my department."
"No," said Zehren thoughtfully, "I think it's more than that. Didn't you know that Ohmand--Cyril that is--presented Hayashi with a check tonight--enough to run his whole research operation for a year? Mickland respects money more than anything. I think he expects you to run up against Cyril's power machine and come off second best."
Digen nodded. "Now, that sounds like Mickland."
"Digen, let me pass the word that Zeor wants this party shut down. The room will be empty in five minutes."
"No, no, don't do that. The boy deserves his fling. He has little else to look forward to in a Householding like that."
"You're sure? I hate to see Ohmand walk all over Zeor."
Digen shook his head emphatically. "Zeor doesn't play that game. What we are, we are by being it, not by grappling for prestige like--like a, uh, well, a bunch of Gens." The word Digen had almost used was a derogatory which properly meant a herd of Gens kept in a Pen and dolled out to Simes in need of a kill. Since there was no such thing any more, and since the very concept of the kill had nearly become an obscenity, the word was never used in mixed company, and certainly never among Householders.
When Zehren, understanding Digen altogether too well, began to protest, Digen said, "There is one thing you can do. See if you can keep it down a bit. I've already ordered the ward opened, and I don't want those kids to suffer. That music alone . . . !"
"It is a bit, isn't it? Don't bother your head about it one second more, I'll take care of it."
Behind Zehren, Imrahan said, "Take care of what?"
Zehren told him. Imrahan said, "But I just got here." And he looked forlornly at the dancers. Zehren said, "I'm only going to quiet it down a bit." And then he looked full at Imrahan. "I would like to see you dance."
Digen said, "Anthelli Zehren, Imrahan ambrov--well it's obvious, isn't it?" The cloaks and sleeve blazons accurately identified everyone in the room by House and office, quite a barbarous splendor. "Imrahan is my assigned Donor this month."
Zehren said, "By Mickland? Digen, I always knew you were some kind of genius. Maybe I'll move to Westfield . . ."
"It would be waste motion, I'm afraid," said Imrahan. "I've been getting the creepy feeling lately that Mickland wants to get rid of me. My great-grandparents were ambrov Imil, and it galls him."
They laughed, and Digen said, "If he gets rid of Imrahan, he may find he's gotten rid of me, too."
Zehren eyed the dancers again. "That could be exactly what he has in mind. Let me just get about that errand before this whole thing gets out of hand."
Zehren left, and Digen, feeling now that his purpose here was accomplished, began to drift toward the door. Imrahan went with him, saying, "They say the kid has Farris blood."
"Is that a question?"
"Well, I'm curious. I've never given first transfer."
Digen stopped. "That's right. It should have been you. A first transfer like that could have bumped me." Digen pondered that, bewildered. "I just can't figure Mickland."
"You mean they used Center staff on a Farris?"
"Oh, it's only one cross-in, about five generations ago. I'm sure it was no particular challenge, but somehow I doubt Ohmand has anyone good enough."
"Their Sectuib is a second order channel, isn't he?"
"Yes, I noticed that."
"They say the boy's a first, though."
"I didn't get close enough to judge him, but that young it would still be only a guess."
"You could tell, though, with a Farris, couldn't you?"
Digen moved closer, trying to sort Imrahan's emotional nager out of the general clamour. He seemed on the brim of disappointment. "Imrahan, I can make sure that you give a first transfer--next month . . ."
Imrahan darted a hand out to lay it on Digen's arm, fingers spread lightly over one lateral sheath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean--they say it's really something special . . ."
"It is, I've done it myself. Of course, it would be different for you. But--running the changeover ward, well, there's always a few where first transfer with a Gen is indicated."
Imrahan made an abrupt movement, brushing the subject aside. Digen deftly passed his drink to his other hand, barely avoiding Imrahan's movement. They walked toward the door again, and Imrahan said, "You're a double-Farris, aren't you?"
"No. My grandfather married a cousin. My father was a double-Farris. Me, I'm just a mess."
"I'll have to look up your geneology. (sic RBW genealogy.) I spent last night over in Hayashi's library, reading up on that lateral injury. It's--I don't know if I'm going to be able to cope with it, but Hayashi said he'd help all he can. In fact, he's eager to meet you. Can you come up there now?"
Digen looked to the musicians and dancers. The volume had been dropping steadily since Zehren
had begun circulating through the crowd. "I've wanted to meet him for years, but I don't have the time for that now. I should get things moving up here, then go down to the out-Territory Collectorium and see what has to be done. I'm due back at the hospital about three-thirty."
"That is tight." Then, looking ahead to the group by the doors, he said, "Oh, here comes Rona--she's one of yours."
A woman detached herself form (sic RBW from) the knot of arriving and leaving guests, and came hurriedly toward them. She was wearing an unadorned blue cloak, like Digen's--RenSime in Zeor. Digen had never met her, either.
As she approached, she held out her hands, tentacles exposed, to Digen, who took them in his own. She touched her forehead to his tentacles, saying, "Rona ambrov Zeor, pledged Unto Zeor, Forever."
Digen answered formally, and she said, "Sectuib Farris, we have a problem. Vancho Remmers--the Second Order Channel who's been handling the out-Territory Collectorium, has been thrown three aborts today. He's been through all six modes of Shen--and I'm not using profanity!--Inez thinks there's vriamic node involvement."
Imrahan said, "Inez is a Donor, Second. But she's prone to hysteria. I'll come along, if you like."
Digen looked to the shiltpron player, who was working on a much lower audio volume now, but somehow managed to wring a greater intensity out of the instrument. The boy himself seemed to be getting ready to leave, surrounded by last minute congratulators. Heaps of presents were being removed from a long table in one corner. Digen put an arm around Imrahan, remembering how the Gen had wanted to dance. "The party's winding down. Go enjoy it while you can--won't be another like this in a decade or more. I'll take care of Remmers." He impelled Imrahan toward the music.
Then, without giving the Gen a moment to hesitate, he took Rona by the elbow and steered them both toward the door at a businesslike pace. "I'm just as glad to get out of here. That shiltpron is beginning to get to me."
At the door, they wouldn't take the cloaks back, saying they were gifts from Ohmand in memory of the occasion. Digen didn't argue.
The hall was rapidly being cleared of flowers and debris as they made for the elevators, and Digen paused only a moment to consult with Madhur Sharma, who seemed to have things under control.
In the elevator, she said, "You know, the biggest debate in the building right now is which topic is more talked about--the Ohmand party or your coming."
"Yeah? I think they're over-rating me."
"No, the Ohmand kid is bound to make history, but they're calling you and that Distect defector the modern Jess and Muryin."
No sooner had she said it than she gasped, "Uhhh! Oh, Sectuib, I didn't mean---well . . ."
The doors opened, but Digen stood absorbing the impact of that one. Jess had been a descendent of Hugh Valleroy, the out-Territory Gen who founded the House of Rior under the auspices of Klyd Farris and Householding Zeor. Rior had later become the founder of the Distect--as Zeor had founded the Tecton.
Fifty years later, a Gen who styled himself Jess ambrov Rior had led the Distect in a move to take over Leander Territory and legalize the Distect way of life. The Tecton and the Gen government had mounted an army and met his rag-tag band composed of locals from Leander Territory as well as his own people from the hills. Jess, knowing he was outclassed, contrived to kidnap the Sectuib in Zeor--Muryin Alur Farris--and hold her for ransom, believing the Tecton would concede the Territory rather than see her murdered.
But it was rumored that Jess wanted her not so much for ransom as for her genes, and the combined armies had swept his band from Leander field in the bloodiest massacre since the Sime/Gen wars. As a result, Leander Territory had been divided into Eastfield and Westfield Territories, with a corridor of Gen-controlled land in between.
The elevator buzzed at them impatiently--a selyn field sensor telling it the passengers had not departed. Digen moved into the hall, waiting for Rona to follow, and said, "Well, nobody kidnapped anybody this time, and actually I don't expect to be spending any time with her, so I doubt if the colorful rumors will amount to more than a good history lesson, all around."
Rona said, "This way, Sectuib. Your office is just around there. Vancho has been working from it, but said he'd move as soon as you showed up."
They rounded a band into a corridor fronting on the side of the building nearest the hospital,
and just about ground level. Digen glanced up and down, noting all the signs of a smoothly running Collectorium--a very short waiting line of Gens come to donate selyn routinely, a number of closed doors with clip boards hung on them indicating they were in use--and as he watched, a channel reported in to the reception desk, and was quickly directed to a room where a client waited.
Rona said, "I'll be getting back to work now."
Digen found his way into the small, cluttered office which was supposed to be his. It was about a third the size of the one upstairs, with only one small, high and rather dirty window to let in sunlight. The walls were a solid mass of shelves stuffed with old, yellowing paper. The aroma of trin tea hung both fresh and stale within the tiny cubicle. His private secretary's desk, unoccupied now, was actually out in the hallway, lightly partitioned aside.
Inside, he found Vancho Remmers stretched out on his stomach on a narrow cot along one wall of the office. Inez was urging trin tea on him, but he wasn't having any.
Digen said, "Let me just have a look at this."
"Hajene Farris!" they said almost in unison. It bothered Digen that he had surprised a Sime like that. He moved in until he could distinguish Remmers' field from the Gen's.
Remmers was a short, balding man, a Second Order channel. The seconds were not as sensitive as the firsts, had a lesser selyn storage capacity and a longer recovery time between performing channel functions. But there were a lot more of them than the first order channels. Collectively, they were the backbone of the Tecton. And Digen had to rely on Remmers to run this department while he was at the hospital.
Half seating himself on the edge of the cot, Digen examined the channel carefully. His selyn field was ragged and unsteady, his pale eyes were sunken deep into bruised wells, and the ashen pallor under his naturally olive skin made him look like a corpse. At least fifth mode of shen. "How many aborts did you take?"
"Three within an hour and a half."
"Trying to kill yourself?"
"Oh, I'll be all right. It's Rizdel I wanted you for."
Digen was giving him a hard, steady field to work against, and the abused and disrupted internal currents were beginning to straighten out. Digen said, "Rizdel?"
Inez offered, "The general class donor who did this to him."
"One donor did this to you?" (sic RBW you?) I wouldn't want to meet him on a dark night!"
Inez said, "The chart's here on the desk."
"Later," said Digen. "Inez, you were right. I do sense vriamic involvement here--very slight, but persistent. Get me a--you're not allergic to anything, are you?"
"No. There isn't a Farris gene in my family."
"Make it serofene then, inhalation, about half strength or a bit more."
Remmers made an inarticulate comment of disgust.
Digen said, "I'm going to put you under, then I'll see to this Rizdel."
Inez came back wheeling a little trolley with a compressed gas cylinder and mask. "Fifty-five percent serofene in Thonane, oxygen high."
"Perfect," said Digen, and set the valves while she placed the mask on Remmers' face. As the drug began to flow into Remmers' lungs, Digen made lateral contact again and modulated the channel's internal selyn circulation until the man was asleep and healing. He said to Inez, "Call Mickland and get a replacement for Remmers--at least the next two days, I don't want him working. I'm not taking any chances."
He knew he'd have trouble with Mickland over it, but it was his department and he was going to run it the way he saw fit. He picked up Rizdel's chart in one hand, and flipping pages with his ventral tentacles, scanned it as he went in search of the transfer room where Rizdel waited.
Rizdel had a long history of aborting transfers during donation. Dane Rizdel, it said, at the age of fifteen, had been badly burned by a berserker, and for the last five years had been an abort problem to the Center. He came in about every six weeks, instead of four, in a state of tense courage,
and as often as not would abort three or four attempts before completing a shallow transfer. He had become the most dreaded assignment in the Center.
He found the room about half way down the hall. It was a little smaller than the hospital's treatment rooms. There was a contour lounge which allowed the Gen to lie comfortably and the channel to sit beside him in reach of both arms and the lip contact. There was a small desk, a sink, and an assortment of painted cupboards stocked with emergency supplies.
Rizdel was lying on the lounge, hands folded tightly across his waist. Digen tossed the chart on the desk, sat on one corner, and set both his feet flat on the desk chair. Rizdel sat up. "Hajene--Farris?"
Digen nodded. He had taken off the Zeor cloak, but he would always look Farris.
"I--I'm sorry," said Rizdel. "I honestly didn't mean--I couldn't--please don't bar me from donating!"
Digen frowned. He hadn't even considered that. "Tell me why you don't want to be barred."
Rizdel swung his legs over to sit on the side of the lounge, holding his head in his hands. "To fail, even at the GN-3 level--it's so ridiculous . . ."
"Hmmm," said Digen, picking up the chart to scan the figures again. It was actually a very odd profile. Everything had been done for him by the book, yet--"According to this," said Digen, "your trouble occurs at the point where the channel makes the final committment (sic RBW commitment) to the transfer."
"I know, I've been pretty rough on people here. But I have tried . . ."
The trouble had started about two years after he'd been burned, Digen saw, just after they took him away from the First Order therapists and put him on the regular rotation list. "You work all right with the First Order therapists, but we tend to work a lot smoother than the Seconds and Thirds. Tell me, what is it that sets off the abort?"
Rizdel slumped, elbows on knees, hands dangling between his legs. He shook his head. "Sometimes it's like, well, it's like that time."
"I see," said Digen, doodling a quick calculation. "Tell me, how did you happen to get in the way of a berserker?"
"We went hiking," he recited dully, "three of us kids, that afternoon, and when Giles got sick, my buddy went back for help while I stayed with him. I wasn't scared. I knew what to do for him. We get enough drill on changeover in school. I built a fire, got some water boiling. Did what I could for him as his tentacle sheaths began to swell with fluid. I thought sure the channel would get there in time to give him his first transfer. He was a little scared, but mostly he was out of his head with the fever and everything. I kept telling him that by morning he'd be a Sime, and we'd throw his changeover party for the whole school, and it would be really grand.
"But I felt kinda sad. I had just recently established selyn production, and so I knew I was Gen and would be Gen for life. I have to admit it, I felt a little bit jealous of him."
Digen prompted, "That's normal enough, considering."
"It got dark. Hours went by, I don't know how long, and he came up on breakout. Somehow it was really hard for him. I was so busy trying to keep him still between spasms that I forgot to be afraid of anything. I knew, I suppose, that if the channel didn't arrive in time, Giles would come after me as the only selyn source within miles. But after all, what could I do? Leave him like that?
"But anyway, after a while, we couldn't hold it off any more. He broke his tentacles free. We were both so wrung out from the whole thing that we just held each other and cried for a few minutes. I hadn't even thought about attempting to donate to him. But shenoni, what else could have happened? It was just so natural, until--until--you can't blame him, it was all my fault."
His barriers were released. He shouldn't have been hurt. And a strange thought--Even a Gen raised in-Territory with all the advantages couldn't cope with a first transfer. And the Distect would have any Gen serve any Sime!
Meanwhile, Digen's trained diagnostician's mind was busy ruling out possibilities. He was beginning to think the almighty Tecton had misdiagnosed this Gen's problem. "I can't be sure without a full lateral probe, but I suspect that Giles actually touched your TN-3 barrier. Being renSime, he couldn't help but set off the reflex that raised your barriers again--that panicked him, and he burned you.
"This is the reverse of the usual pattern with a berserker, though I don't see any notation of it on your chart. Your barriers were going up during his committment, (sic RBW commitment,) not down as is usual in a kill-mode attack."
Rizdel looked up at Digen. "That makes sense."
"What has to be done for you is the reverse of what's usually done with a berserker victim. Instead of trying to coax your barriers down, we should be trying to teach you to keep them down. Shen! You know what I think? You're not transfer shy--you're a talented donor."
Rizdel shook his head, positive Digen was wrong, and then realized who he was contradicting. "I don't see how."
"Listen. Your problem is at the committment (sic RBW commitment) point. When a channel moves through that point, he has his attention on himself, not the donor. Our kind of control takes enormous concentration. Even so, it's nearly impossible to maintain on the cusp of committment (sic RBW commitment) for more than a split second. If the Gen isn't ready at that moment, it's just too bad. I feel that your trouble occurs at the moment the channel switches attention inward to himself."
Digen picked up a paperweight. "It works like this. At first contact, the channel is feeling your barriers out, very gently. If it's only a superficial, GN-3 level donation, he's only concerned with that very first barrier. He doesn't pay much attention to the barrier between the GN-3 level and the deeper, GN-2 level. He doesn't care how hard he hits that GN-2 barrier, as long as he doesn't break through.
"When he's gauged the strength of your GN-3 barrier and knows just how fast to draw through it without hurting you, he begins to switch his attention inward, expecting your condition to remain relatively stable. When he has fully internalized his attention, he's able to 'see' your condition reflected in his own system--but during that instant when he is switching attention, he is 'blind'.
"That instant of blindness is longest for the Third Order Channels, least for me. Now, what's been happening to you is that during the channel's instant of blindness, you change your condition. When the flow starts, it sets off a whole cascade of reflexes, GN-2, GN-1, TN-3, Tn-2 (sic RBW TN-2), and maybe even TN-1 for all I know. Locked tight, you leave the channel no choice but to take an abort--bloody shen."
Frowning, Rizdel said, "I think I follow. The therapists I had at the beginning were all QN-1's, so they could 'see' to make adjustments through the committment (sic RBW commitment) cusp. But when I started working with seconds and thirds, I began to mess them up."
Digen nodded, "And then you'd get hurt, and the memory of the hurt would make it worse the next time, a vicious circle. The question I'm asking myself is why does your barrier strength shift during committment? (sic RBW commitment?) I've only seen that in Donors. My theory is that the shift is a Donor's response to the committment (sic RBW commitment) itself, and that it is--contrary to what everyone has thought of you--actually a shift downward towards release. Then, when the second or third order channel begins a flow, he suddenly finds he's pulling too fast--the speed triggers this sensation you can't stand and locks your barriers--abort. But it happens so fast, the seconds perceive it only as a lock, they can't see the tentative lowering that precedes the lock."
Digen was using heavily technical Simelan, rich with terms no Gen could ever really understand for lack of sensory equipment. But like any Gen raised among Simes, Rizdel had an intellectual grasp of the language. He said, "You're probably right. I couldn't argue with a Farris! But I don't see how that changes anything."
"Well, it's only a theory. But I suspect that cascade reflex was set up when that renSime touched your TN-3 barrier. I can go in there and undo that damage."
"By going through the committment (sic RBW commitment) point with all my attention on you, not myself--and by not permitting an abort no matter what. You see, the diabolical thing about all of this is that the better you've performed as a Donor, the worse you've gotten burned until you've acquired a set of reversed reflexes. I can break that conditioning, but it's going to take months and it's going to be very unpleasant--for both of us."
Rizdel got up and paced out a circle. "As I see it, I have two choices. Go through with this. Or move out-Territory and live with the Sime-phobes." He stopped, looking at Digen. "But I want to get married. And my girl . . ."
Is a Sime, finished Digen silently. He just watched Rizdel pondering. At last the Gen said, "I'm ready if you are."
Digen shoved the chair from under his feet and reached down into one of the desk drawers for a flat little jar. Reading the label, he said, "You allergic to any of the selyn conductors?"
"This should do then." He tossed the jar to Rizdel. "Rub it in good, and be generous about it." Digen rummaged in another drawer and found a similar product for his own use, a kind of synthetic
substitute for ronaplin. Since he wasn't in need, his own glands couldn't supply the amount of conductive this would require.
As he worked it into his hands, arms and tentacles, he said, "Lie down now and relax. Remember how it used to be with the therapists? None of this abort nonsense. Only this time, I'm going all the way down to the TN-3 barrier, and I might even go through it. Ant it's not going to hurt. It's going to feel good."
Digen took his place beside Rizdel, rubbing in the cream, talking softly, and carefully managing his lateral scar tissue. By the time Rizdel's barriers had relaxed, Digen had reached top pitch.
The Gen field burst inwards on his consciousness like a deafening noise. He paused to gain command of it, then did a quick scan of the Gen's physical condition, checking for obscure lesions or heart abnormalities that might cause a legitimate abort. But the Gen was perfectly healthy, and Digen told him so.
Confidently, Digen made lip contact and held, adjusting again to the Gen's field until he had a perfect match. It was the channel's trick, the one thing that allowed them to take selyn at a controlled pace without killing. Holding, observing the Gen's reactions, Digen saw nothing to contradict his theory. In fact, Rizdel's body was reacting to the contact with a typical donor's pattern.
Slowly, Digen let his field drop, as if moving into a committment. (sic RBW commitment.) And he saw it all happen, just as he had predicted. The first, tentative drop in barrier strength, then the panicked slam of locked barriers. The Gen's panic knifed into Digen, and for a moment, he had to fight his own reflexes. Then, with a kind of gracestep, he regained his balance.
Deliberately, he loosened his grip on Rizdel's arms, knowing that this Gen would realize that Digen's very life was in his hands. Should he dislodge one of Digen's laterals by a sudden move, it could throw the channel into shock.
Rizdel froze and then relaxed, waiting. Digen firmed his grip and moved deeper into committment. (sic RBW commitment.) But he kept his attention on Rizdel, knowing just how vulnerable that made him during this moment.
The selyn flow began. Again, there was that first hesitant dissolution of Rizdel's barriers. This time, Digen followed the change, keeping the selyn flow even despite the shifting resistance. It went well for a moment, and then, despite all Digen's care, the barrier reflex fired off again.
Digen was fast, but not fast enough. Rizdel felt that indescribible (sic RBW indescribable) stab of sensation. He twisted, throwing his legs around, straining to move his head and break Digen's lip contact, aborting the transfer. It was the raw Gen reaction to the Sime's touch, the very thing that drove the Sime to the kill lest the Gen get away, leaving the Sime to die of selyn attrition.
It wasn't Digen's touch that was causing it. It was the memory of all the other times. Digen had stopped the selyn flow, almost instantly. He knew the Gen's panic must run its course. There would be an end.
But the end did not come. And it did not. It took all of Digen's control to hold steady against Rizdel's emotion. And then, in one spasmodic jerk, Rizdel's body arched under Digen and the lip contact almost broke. He felt one lateral begin to slip--a searing fire through his body.
Digen struck, sending a focused current of selyn into the Gen's body, paralyzing him.
Rizdel's panic redoubled--the ordinary Gen fears now augmented by fear of total, lasting helplessness.
Wave after wave of blackness engulfed them both, tossing them into the sea of nightmare, drowning them in sourceless pulses of terror. Digen could no longer remain above it. He shared it with the Gen as if they were one, and there was in fact no way either of them could end it.
It was worse than death in the kill.
It lasted forever.
Inside them, the insane terror went on and on while on the surface, a vision of reality grew stronger.
Digen realized his eyes were open, stinging with dryness, registering peripherally, the transfer room, the cabinettes, (sic RBW cabinets,) the lounge itself, the physical reality of the Gen's skin beneath his own. Somehow, he never knew how, he was still holding steady on the very cusp of committment. (sic RBW commitment.) They were both clammy with sweat.
As the paralysis receded, Digen knew this Gen terror would sear his fingers every time he reached out in need. No wonder they hate us.
Rizdel drew a long, shaky breath. He was relaxed now, and Digen felt his barriers quiver and
dissolve in unmistakable invitation. He wasn't afraid now. He'd been through the worst--or so he thought.
Digen let his show field drop exactly in time with Rizdel's lowering barriers, a little surprised he could still do it. There was a trust between them now. Behind the veil of reality, they still suffered together. Digen had to remind himself sternly that this was no trained Donor. He dared not commit himself wholly and personally, as he would with Imrahan in a few weeks.
With stern, measured discipline, he drained the GN-3, GN-2 and GN-1 levels in smooth succession. He had to curb himself sharply then, in order to approach the TN-3 barrier. It marked the largest division between the Gen storage levels, guarding the inner levels which only the channels had the capacity to tap. And it was usually the toughest to get through. It couldn't be coaxed down or worked through as the superficial GN barriers could. The Gen had to learn to release it.
And it was here that Rizdel's problem had originated. Digen drew the last bit of selyn from the GN-1 level and approached the TN-3 barrier at zero selyn flux, as if it were a second committment (sic RBW commitment) point, akin to the equipotential point in a personal transfer.
At the edge of the barrier, Digen felt Rizdel's resistance to selyn flow increase. He adjusted, moving into the barrier region with barely a ripple of disturbance. He felt Rizdel's conflicting impulses--the conditioned reflex that slammed the barrier tight, and the innate, Donor's response that dissolved it without a trace.
Digen watched, holding perfect balance, while Rizdel struggled--slowly and patiently at first, and then with mounting hysteria. There was no doubt in Digen's mind, now that Rizdel had the donor's response--so unlike Joel--he wasn't conscious of it, of course, but his body knew Digen was there, at the TN-3 barrier, and the very deepest core of his being was straining, reaching out toward Digen, but finding itself locked away from the Sime by this uncontrollable conditioned reflex implanted by years of therapy and more years of routine donation.
As Digen held, waiting, observing, Rizdel fought a frantic anxiety which to him was sourceless except that it emanated from Digen's touch. At length, Digen could see that nothing further could be gained today. Rizdel would have to be brought into conscious touch with his inner senses before that barrier could be brought down for good.
Digen withdrew, severing the lip contact first. He held the lateral contact, disturbing as he knew it was to the Gen. Rizdel lay completely still, instinctively granting Digen this necessary moment of adjustment.
As he brought his attention back to himself, Digen realized his laterals were painfully cold, exposed far too long. Ai, now if only that scar doesn't ruin me. He said, "Dane, I need you to stay perfectly still while I pull out of this." The word he used, need, not require, told Rizdel more than Digen could have explained to Joel in a year.
Eyes closed, Digen concentrated, pulling his laterals back into their sheaths millimeter by millimeter. He could feel the contact sliding from cell to cell across the Gen skin. He hardly dared breathe, until at last, in perfect synchronization, he lifted the tips of all four laterals from the Gen skin. Then, in a ragged flourish, he withdrew all eight handling tentacles, and collapsed onto the lounge beside Rizdel, face down and as helpless as a newborn.
As Digen broke contact, Rizdel at last allowed himself one strangled syllable to express what a sliding lateral contact feels like to a Gen. It wrung Digen's heart. Deep inside himself, he began to cry.
Out there, they slice each other up with razors. Here, we build a system that mangles souls beyond recognition. Doesn't anybody but me ever fight back?
He climbed up as if from a dead faint, unaware of having slipped into it. The Gen's hands was on the base of his neck, the rich, solid feel of a Gen's increasing selyn field pulsing through him--Rizdel had almost synchronized his field pulses to Digen's internal rhythm, almost but not exactly.
Yet it was still the donor's touch, the healing touch worth living--and suffering--for.
Digen rolled over, taking the Gen hands between his. "You're rousing need in me. You don't want to do that." He touched each hand to his lips and firmly set it aside. "We're going to teach you how to do that only on purpose."
"I--I wanted to get help for you. But I didn't dare leave you."
"You did fine," said Digen, rolling off the lounge and stretching to touch is toes and work the kinks out of his muscles. He stood, eyeing Rizdel's arms. "But I'm afraid you're going to have some spectacular bruises."
"I don't care. You got me past the block."
"Oh, no," said Digen. "I quit before I hit the block. You try that with any other channel now, and you'll have a reaction that will make this session look like--like a changeover party."
He went to the desk, surprised at how his knees collapsed under him as he sat down to record what had been done on Rizdel's chart. The first think he did was to slap a colored EXCLUSIVE tag on the outside and scrawl FARRIS on it.
He said, over his shoulder as he worked, "You lie there and rest as long as you like. Then, go over to the pharmacy and get these prescriptions filled. You may find you have nightmares from this for a while--I know I will. You may also have sudden headaches. Try about half a dose of fosebine--it's good for a lot of things besides transfer shock."
"I feel fine now."
"It won't last," said Digen turning. "You've been badly handled--or didn't you notice?"
"I don't . . ."
"Listen. I should not have run that paralysis on you. You didn't give me prior permission to do that."
"You did that? I thought . . ."
Digen said, "I did it. Strictly speaking, it's not an approved Tecton procedure. It's a Zeor method developed for dealing with changeover problems--I doubt if anyone but a Farris could do it to a Gen sublethally."
Rizdel, sitting up to knead his shoulders and stretch, said, "It felt something like an abort backlash--that happened to me once, with a third order channel--he couldn't keep up with me. I thought it was all my fault."
"If I hadn't done it on purpose, that is basically what would have happened--only worse." Digen stopped. He wasn't going to tell Rizdel any horror stories.
Rizdel looked down at his hands in his lap for a few moments. Then he said, "If you'd asked, I would have given permission--gladly. I mean, anything . . ."
Digen nodded. He knew he'd been right. But he still felt as if he were taking advantage of the Gen. "You could sue me, you know."
"I'd never do that. I think that law is contemptible."
Digen understood. The Gen's emotional nager filled the room. He turned back to the desk. "I'm sending your chart up to Rindaleo Hayashi. He's the QN-1 in charge of training donors . . ."
"I know who Hayashi is. But me?"
"Yes, you. I'm leaving him instructions about what has to be done with you before we try this again. It may take quite a bit of your time for the next month or two--but I think--now, I believe you will qualify as a First Order before the end of the year. If you require dispensation from your employer, see the front office, they'll give you something official."
Digen made the last notation on the chart and sat staring at the resultant figures. It had cost him twice the amount of selyn Rizdel had donated. Mickland was not going to be happy with this day's work at all. And here he was committing Hayashi's time for months to a trainee with such a history Tecton procedure would have banned him.
He slapped the file shut and took it back to the reception desk. Rona was sitting there, directing things competently. He said, "Is my office clear yet?"
"They took Hajene Remmers up half an hour ago."
"Get me Imrahan. And see we're not disturbed for at least two and a half hours."
She looked at him. She didn't argue.
Waiting for Imrahan in the office, Digen thought again about Rizdel. The case was going to haunt him for a long time. He had been much more deeply disturbed than even he realized at the time.
When Digen made his way back to the hospital that afternoon, the air was heavy with a building summer heat. Inside, it was scarcely any cooler. The short walk from the in-Territory Collectorium door, through the little glade with its cool brook and dense shade, then down the little hill to the side door of the hospital made him look forward to a cool shower and change of clothing.
But first, he took the elevator up to the recovery room, searching for Ditana Amanso. He found her bed behind curtains and no-visitors signs in the critical ward. She was conscious, but groggy with sedation.
He moved into her field of view, casually studying her chart. He said, in Simelan, "Remember me?"
She brightened drowsily, "Uh, Hajene Farris? Are they sending me home?"
He eyed the dripping lines attached to her arms. "I wouldn't advise it, just yet. Do you have any sensation in your legs yet?"
"I'm not sure if I'm imagining it."
He nodded. "It's too early to say yet. But when the time comes, I'll check it out for you, in contact. Okay?"
"Can't you do it now?"
He shrugged his sleeves up to show the retainers. "I'm afraid not."
With a little whimper, she turned her head away, "I hate this place! They won't even let Ria in to see me. My sister."
"I have a message for you. 'Mani says you were right all along.' He sends his apology. He really wanted to be here when you woke up. He's sorry he argued. In fact, I've never seen anybody quite so sorry."
She smiled. "He would be. But next time he has an idea, he'll be just as stubborn." She looked at him again. In English, she said, "When can I have visitors, Doctor?"
He said, consulting her chart, "Your accent is flawless."
"I'm a good mimic," she said defensively. "I was raised in-Territory. My sister is a Sime."
"I meant it as a compliment. It's obvious you're not one of them."
"Blew my cover, hmmm?"
He said, "Look, from this chart, if you were one of my patients, and I'm not on this case, remember, I'd give it at least two or three days more, before I allowed the social parade to begin. You are something of a hero, you know . . ."
He dug an in-Territory newspaper out of his hip pocket and folded it to her picture, handed it to her. She scanned the article. "With coverage like this, it's going to be interesting when they fire me!"
He chuckled. "I better get out of here. Look, tuck that under your pillow and read it tomorrow when you're stronger. I'll try to look in on you. I can't promise. But I will keep in touch. You're going to be all right."
He turned to go, and she said, "Doctor Farris? When can my sister come? I want to see my sister."
He sighed. "I'm not sure it would be advisable to ask a renSime to brave this place, Ditana. And I'm not sure they'll let her in. In a couple of days, I'll get in touch with her and see what I can arrange."
"A--couple--of days," she repeated dully.
One of the senior nurses noticed Digen and stationed herself nearby, favoring him with a stern look. Digen could feel Ditana's despair--a couple of days could be forever when you didn't know if you'd ever walk again. He stood there, knowing by his presence he was breaking hospital rules, yet wanting desperately to shuck off the retainers and go to her, give her an immediate definitive answer--by lateral contact examination, he would know if she would live or die, walk or not.
Under the piercing gaze of the matronly nurse, Digen went back to her, took her hands in his and bent to put his cheek against hers, to whisper in her ear, as one does with a child, "Give me your courage, and I'll give you my strength. You'll find that the fear was only a shadow, and you are my light to banish it ever."
In Simelan it was a rhyme from a children's fable about twin sisters, one who became Sime, the other Gen. Her hands tightened on his, and then gradually, as he held her, she fell asleep, exhausted but reassured now.
He said to the nurse, as he passed, "She's terrified out of her mind of this place, and that's not going to speed her recovery. I'll stop in once in a while to calm her down--call me, if you have any problems."
She nodded stiffly, and he left, knowing that she had totally misinterpreted what she had seen. But he didn't care, because deep inside him he was nursing a spark of hope. She's going to be all right!
Something in the quality of her selyn field had triggered a leap of intuition--some arcane combination of channel's art and medical science. The pulse of life in her which had been so weak when she came to them was now strong again. I am going to be a surgeon. I am going to bring this magic into the Center where it can be done properly!
He rode out the day on the strength of this insight. It gave him the determination to take their grand strategy calmly. Somewhere in this hospital, he knew he would find--as he had always had everywhere before--somebody who valued ability enough to ignore his origins. Quietly, unobtrusively, he set about making that ability obvious.
Once or twice, he was able to step in when residents or interns were struggling with distraught relatives instead of concentrating on the patients. Not all out-Territory Gens went into hysterics at sight of retainers, not in Westfield, anyway. Digen used his identity and his innate Farris skill with Gens without flaunting it, yet with an unconscious air of command that kept the waiting area quieter than it had ever been.
They wouldn't let him examine the patients, or stitch up a wound, or write up an order, but they were all too glad to hand over the lab work to him. He made friends with the night technician, and began to learn to run the quick tests the EW staff demanded. The nurses began to notice how much it speeded things up, and cooled the doctors' tempers down.
He also took to checking the supply cabinettes (sic RBW cabinets) several times each night, directing the student nurses and orderlies who were responsible for supplies, or sometimes when they were overworked, he would walk over to the stock room himself.
They discovered he was good in an emergency. Several times, when the police wagon brought in half a dozen screaming accident victims at once, Digen stood in the midst of the mob scene and with a few calm words had everyone sorted out to an appropriate job before the head nurse could even get Dr. Booker paged.
Digen never lost his head, never froze, and never seemed to go through the usual intern's fumblefingered jitters. He was only a beginner, yet he was already a professional. Some of them resented it. Some admired him, secretly. But nobody really accepted him, and as a result, he wasn't learning.
As the days passed, on rounds, in the duty rooms and lavatories, he met the house staff and attending physicians, he became more and more depressed. Not one of them was willing to teach him.
One time, on morning rounds, Dr. Goe had taken him aside and said, confidentially, "Dr. Farris, can't you see what everyone here is trying to tell you? You belong in the laboratory, not on the wards. You don't need an internship for research work."
And Digen had said, head bowed, as humbly as he could, "Sir, I am going to learn surgery."
"Lad, I admire determination, but not stubbornness."
And Digen had answered, as if reprimanded by his father, "Yes, Sir."
After that, on their daily rounds, Goe had made a point of displaying Digen's superior knowledge of the literature, especially when the surgical staff was listening.
Immediately after rounds, before going back to the Center, he made a habit of stopping by Ditana Amanso's room. And he would see her again on his way in to the Emergency ward every evening. It became the high point of his day. She's going to make it, and so will I.
One afternoon, Digen came back to their room to change before going on-call, and he found Joel there propped on his bed reading a new journal. Digen tossed his retainers on his bed. Joel looked
up, saw Digen peering at his magazine, and said, "I brought the mail up. Yours is on your desk."
"Thoughtful of you. Thanks." Digen picked up his own copy of the bright-covered journal--Communicable Diseases--and began to leaf through it. There was an article on the shaking plague, one of the few diseases that vectored across the Sime/Gen line. It looked interesting. And there was an article about brain damage in infants that he wanted to read.
"Letter for you," said Joel. "At least I think it's for you. Nobody could read the address."
Startled, Digen looked back at his desk. There was a small envelope neatly addressed to him at the hospital, but in Sime script. He picked it up. "It's from my sister!" He tore it open, eagerly. She was his closest living relative, and though they rarely saw each other, they shared a very special relationship.
She would write him at the hospital, he realized, and defiantly in Sime script. It was her way of accepting what he had done. He scanned the message quickly, then read it through again, stunned.
Joel said, "She's not ill, is she?"
Digen sat down in the desk chair. "No, no, at least not yet."
"Well, what is it? Something wrong?"
Digen's mind was racing, absorbing the implications, rearranging his life. "She's getting married . . ." He looked again at the date. "Got married, I mean. Shen! It's a good thing our parents never lived to see this!"
Joel shook his head, trying to connect marriage festivities with scandal. "Uh, something to do with Zeor proprieties, I take it. Well, women nowadays are getting more and more unconventional."
Digen laughed. Try to explain? Why not? It would be all over the front pages in a few days, when they announced it. Digen could just see the headlines, ZEOR HEIR MAY BE A DOUBLE FARRIS AGAIN. LINE SURE TO DIE OUT.
"She's my older sister, but she's Gen, so she isn't Sectuib in Zeor--but if the first channel born to her is older than the first channel born to me, then her child will succeed me as Sectuib."
Joel said, "Ah, she's trying to cut you out of the succession?"
Disgusted, Digen shook his head. No communication.
"Well, what's the problem then?"
"She's marrying--married--a Farris, a cousin! If she gets pregnant by him, it's--it's virtually suicide."
But she won't. She's got more sense than that! If she wants an heir to Zeor, she'll do it by sound choice! I hope!
Joel was interested in genetics. He puzzled over it a bit, and then began asking searching questions, which Digen answered distractedly. Another thought had just occurred to him. If she decided to have a child immediately--never mind by whom--it would mean the end of his ambition to be a surgeon.
Imrahan can't read fields--he's good, but he'll never be that good. Rotation should bring her to me six months from now, just in time to get me straightened out before I draw OR duty. If I can't have a decent transfer before then, I'll never be able to endure the OR. And after all, who is there as good as Bett?
But then he had another thought. If Bett gets pregnant, they'll get off my back about getting married. It was something that had given him a lot of trouble over the years. Gen medical requirements held marriage to be out of the question before residency. It was a holdover from the time just after the collapse of the civilization of the ancients--when medical science was preserved in a sort of secret society bound by many oaths and rituals and purged of all Sime influence.
Joel said, "Well?"
Digen said, "Hmmm?"
"I don't see how getting pregnant, even by him, would endanger her life. The children might turn up with recessives--which Farrises could do without, to be sure--but I don't see . . ."
"Oh. No, no, it's not in the genetics, it's in the family history. For example, my grandfather married a Farris cousin, a channel. She had four miscarriages, three stillbirths, and two died in
infancy--her eldest to survive was a Gen, the second eldest was a Sime, but non-channel, and the heir, my father, was born in a pregnancy she undertook at the age of forty, desperate to give Zeor an heir. She died in childbirth. That's a typical history of the Farris females--even the Gens--and I have always held they shouldn't be encouraged to bear. I'd never touch any woman related to us in any way--it's almost murder."
He looked down at the letter he was folding and refolding nervously. "But sometimes, it can't be helped," he added softly, unaware that he spoke in Simelan.
"What did you say? I didn't catch it."
"Oh, nothing," said Digen. He wasn't going to attempt to explain Lortuen to any out-Territory Gen. "Just that I'm really very happy for her. Love like that comes maybe once in a lifetime, if then, and despite everything, I'm really very very happy for her."
"You don't have to convince me, not while you're still crying over it."
"Well, maybe I'm just a bit dismayed. After all, I should have officiated at the wedding--but then, there are times when one doesn't wait on formality." What can one do in the face of Lortuen, after all?
And little by little, he began to adjust to a new world in which he would have to make the best of his life. There was a kind of dead certainty, like iced lead in his stomach, that she would get pregnant by him. After all, in Lortuen, how could she fight it? It was only a question of time.
And then he felt a little sick at himself for denying her that just so he could have her in transfer once more. Then something went click in his mind, and he felt even worse. If it's Lortuen, then he'll have her off the rotation list and assigned to him in Exclusive anyway. Which means, even if she doesn't get pregnant, I've lost her.
There were so few first order donors anywhere near his match, that Digen felt a deep chill. How could they afford to take anyone off rotation? And yet, how could they ask her to deny every instinct---
He sat there folding and refolding the letter, so sunk in his bleak vision of the future that he didn't notice Joel get off the bed and come padding on bare feet across the floor.
Suddenly, Joel's hand was just there on his shoulder, and simultaneously, Joel's voice and selyn nager ripped into him. "Digen?"
It tore open the half-healed wounds of the Rizdel encounter and threw Digen back into that hell they had shared. He flinched away, gasping. Joel snatched his hand back. A moment later, Digen had it under control. It was a total over-reaction to a stimulus--as a very tense person will jump at any small sound--and it betrayed just how makeshift Imrahan's work on him had been.
Bett would have been able to--no! That was all ended now.
Digen got to his feet, tossed the letter on the desk, and took Joel by the shoulders. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you," said Digen.
Joel couldn't find his voice, and Digen went on. "It's all right. You didn't do anything wrong."
Joel said, "Wh--what happened?"
Digen let him go and went to sit on the bed and change his shoes. "Nothing much, really. My fault for not paying attention. Look, we better get dressed. That phone could ring any minute now."
Joel looked at the clock. It was three minutes to four. He bent to get fresh underwear out of his drawer, and Digen could sense his heartrate gradually diminishing. "I get the shower first today," said Joel. On his way in, he paused, and said, "How do you expect me to learn if you won't explain what I'm doing wrong?"
He didn't give Digen a chance to answer, but ducked into the bathroom.
By quarter past the hour, they had both showered and changed, and still the phone hadn't rung. They were racing it, devouring the new journal, knowing that Dr. Goe would quiz them on it during rounds the next morning. He was a fiend about such things.
When they'd finished their first quick scan of the articles, they played the game they had developed, quizzing each other in anticipation of Goe's questions. When Digen ran out of questions, Joel
said, "Here's what I'll bet he asks you." He flipped to the article on the shaking plague.
"What surgical procedure is routinely used combatting (sic RBW combating) the shaking plague?"
"What? Surgical procedure?"
"Come on, think, concentrate." He repeated the question.
Digen was sitting at the desk, head propped on his hands, fingers kneading his skull. He found he was developing a raging headache. He said, "excuse me a moment," and went into the bathroom to take a glass of fosebine.
When he came back, Joel ran through a list of symptoms, giving a clear diagnostic problem. Digen listened, and said, "Shaking plague," adding the proper name to the common one.
Joel nodded, "What surgical procedure is indicated?"
Digen wheeled his chair around, temper flaring. "Shen! I've treated hundreds of cases, never used any surgical procedure! (sic RBW procedure!") No sooner were the words out than his mind sorted itself out again, neatly compartmentalizing "reality" from "medical school", and he said, "Wait!" His head was pounding and he could hardly think.
The article had been on the statistics they were using to try to predict the next outbreak of the disease, not on the treatment. It had been a couple of years since Digen had thought about shaking plague in English, though he had treated many isolated cases, in-Territory.
"Wait. I've never seen a case treated out-Territory. But I read--yes, they use a tracheotomy, don't they?"
Joel laughed. "Right! And that's just where Goe would have got you, too, wouldn't he? He has this malicious streak--loves to catch you on what every first-school kid knows."
Digen's head was clearing rapidly. He said, "Sorry I snapped at you. You're right, of course. He would have caught me on that."
Joel said, "You said you've treated a lot of cases. How, without a tracheotomy? I mean, well, I've only seen one case of it, but I can't imagine how it could be treated without surgery. They suffocate in the seizures."
"It's easy enough to throw a counter current to stop a seizure--don't you remember, my father, Orim Farris, found a way to train renSimes to do it in an emergency?"
Joel shook his head blankly. "Countercurrent?"
Digen explained how a channel can run a selyn current into a Gen producing all sorts of interesting phenomena. "Of course, my father's method died with him in Tiyef. I only have his notes, and I haven't been able to duplicate his results with any renSime. But there hasn't been a bad outbreak since Tiyef."
Joel said, "All things considered, I think I'd rather suffer a tracheotomy."
Digen chuckled. "I don't think Ditana Amanso would agree with you." Joel raised his eyebrows, and Digen identified her for him.
"No, I guess not. Though I don't pretend to understand it."
"In-Territory, our Gens soak up a lot of our little prejudices." At least I hope they're only prejudices!
Digen had always held that doing surgery wouldn't warp the moral fibre of a channel. The only hurdle Digen anticipated was enduring the strain it would put on his system. Without Bett, he wouldn't have anyone more adept than Imrahan to rely on. His confidence in the future was badly shaken.
At that moment, the telephone finally rang, summoning them both to the EW. Digen said, as they closed the door behind them, "Bet you a cup of coffee we won't see this room again before dawn."
"You're on. I owe you one, anyway."
They started work on a pair of thieves who had gone through a store window trying to escape. Digen got to do his first suturing. Joel taught him. Turned out Joel had done quite a lot of it his last year in school.
Later, Joel brought in a pulpy blob--a man who had jumped off Union Monument--DOA. The seventh
that year. The nurses kept score, and actually had a pool going. Toward midnight, Digen got to watch MacBride deal with a dislocated jaw--went out when a thirty year old man took a bite out of an apple. He made careful note of the technique, as that sometimes happened in the throes of changeover, and he'd never been able to cope with it quite so neatly.
All together, it was a quiet night, the work coming in steady trickle instead of in waves. They had fourteen women in labor, ten sent up to admitting, the others sent home to wait some more. Three cases of food poisoning--all from the same restaurant. One morphine overdose--DOA. Five suspected cardiacs. Seventeen fractures--five from the same industrial accident. Eight child-beatings. Three rapes--one was a recent asylum inmate raving about having been raped by a Sime. Digen told the Attending she was suffering from delusions. Naturally, he didn't believe Digen. And about three in the morning, they started to get evacuees from the vicinity of a chlorine gas plant where there had been a leak. Digen went off duty while there were still a dozen of them coughing in the waiting area. He'd won his cup of coffee, but there was, as usual, no time to collect.
Goe not only asked that morning about tracheotomies, he grilled Digen on the etiology and prognosis of shaking plague, and then spent half an hour outside the isolation ward discussing the epidemiology of three diseases suspected of having a similar Sime/Gen vectoring pattern. Digen had only heard, vaguely, of one of them.
At the Center, Digen began seriously assessing Imrahan's charts and graphs. He wasn't sure whether it was just wishful thinking, but it weemed (sic RBW seemed) that the Donor had undeveloped talent. At any rate, Imrahan proved a willing worker, and Digen set aside an extra hour each day to teach him how to handle the famous scar.
Digen had been in Westfield Hospital almost a week when ". . . something meaningful . . ." finally happened. He was stocking a cabinette (sic RBW cabinet) with urine specimin (sic RBW specimen) jars when the police ambulance delivered a stretcher guarded by three burly Gen officers. Booker and Carry were treating the victims of an exploding gas tank. Almost everybody else was watching Dr. Goe and three Residents trying to save a pregnant woman who had been stung over eighty percent of her body by green ants in the highly poisonous swarming stage.
In his first glance, Digen saw that the man on the stretcher had been bleeding heavily from a chest wound. The sheets were soaked through, and some of the stains were dark, crusted dry. One of the officers said, "He's been shot, three times, in the chest. We have to question him before he dies."
Digen said, over his shoulder to the Nurse's station, "Page a Surgery Resident--I think Dr. Durr is on now. What room can we use?"
The nurse said, "Room Seven." She was already on the phone calling the page, while her other hand rang the signal tone for the orderlies. Seconds later, two orderlies and three nurses appeared, helping Digen get the patient onto the table in Room Seven.
Absently, Digen noted the half conscious groans of the patient, the pale lips and film of moisture on his skin. And there was something else that was nagging for his attention as he quietly issued the routine orders for a typing and crossmatch, an IV drip, and pre-op routine, while they waited for Dr. Durr.
One of the officers who had followed them into the treatment room said, "How soon can we question him, Doctor?"
Digen glanced at the man, then gestured to an orderly. "Out." The Orderly began to herd the officer out of the room, apologizing firmly. The officer protested, "I have my . . ."
And then Digen focused on the item he'd unaccountably missed. In one motion, he grabbed blood specimin (sic RBW specimen) syringe out of the nurse's hand while at the same time flicking the sheet off the patient as if he had to see it to believe it. "This man's Sime!"
Digen froze for two heartbeats, unable to believe his eyes. Both the victim's hands and arms were encased in the heavy, cruel, Gen police issue retainers, used on Simes found retainerless out-Territory. No wonder he hand't (sic RBW hadn't) picked it right up. The black metal retainers were almost the same as those used by Gens during the Sime/Gen wars for taking and torturing Sime prisoners. The ones Digen and all Simes wore voluntarily were individually tailored for maximum comfort and minimum sensory impairment. Even so, they were hell.
Digen rounded on the police officer. The Orderly had frozen in the act of clearing the room. Behind the officer, Dr. Durr--a very portly, six foot four--squeezed into the room, put one hand on the uniformed shoulder and started to say, "Pardon me . . ."
Digen, containing his outrage, said, "Why did you bring him here?"
Durr, catching sight of the patient, suddenly became very interested in Digen's question. The officer said, "We have to find out how many bombs he planted. Just get him conscious for a few minutes . . ."
Durr pushed into the room and looked down at the patient. The Sime was young, maybe twenty-five, with light blond hair, naturally pale complexion now whitened in shock. Durr said, "How long ago did this happen?"
"We had to bring him all the way from Frihill Dig half way to Eastfield. He slipped through their security. Set off two bombs. Babbled something in Simelan about more bombs. We chased him almost to the slideroad gang shack before we got him." He turned to Durr. "Just get him to talk before he dies."
Durr met Digen's eyes over the patient. For once, Digen had total understanding with a medical colleague. As one, they turned on the officer. Durr said, "We will do our best for him. You must leave, officer."
"I have my orders. He's dangerous." The man put one hand to his gun. Digen said, cutting off Durr's strangled protest, "I'll take the responsibility for him." He flashed his signet ring in identification. He added coldly, "We won't require your services."
Under protest, the officer left. Durr said, "Dr. Farris, I admire your restraint. Or is it just that you don't swear luridly enough in English?"
Now that the officer was gone, and Digen could turn his full attention to the patient, the horror of it came back to him. He said somberly, "It doesn't matter. He's as good as dead."
"What I don't understand is why he's still alive. He should have bled to death hours ago." He eyed the three oozing punctures. "Where's the plasma?" he asked one nurse.
Digen was still holding the syringe. "I cancelled (sic RBW canceled) the order when I realized--we don't use the technique."
"He's in shock, Doctor!" Durr reached for the syringe as if to do the job himself. Digen held it away from him.
"Doctor Durr. You hit a selyn transport nerve with this and you'll regret it for the rest of a very short life."
Durr pulled his hand back. "You do it then."
Digen looked at the syringe, at the patient, and then closed his eyes, pulling in a long breath, trying to select the objection that would win his point. "There's no Sime blood in the bank."
"Plasma is plasma, isn't it?"
Digen, whose mind was more on the police retainers than on the man's injury, looked up, astonished. "I don't think it's ever been done."
"Children's blood is compatible--you can't tell the difference--changeover can't do that much to it . . . ?"
Digen, mind racing, said, "Can't use a tourniquet on his arm--a few drops is all you need---if you go in at the anterior malleolar vein, you should miss the major and most of the minor transport nerves."
As he spoke, he moved to the patient's feet and removed his boot, cleansing the area with the swabs the nurse handed him. The plasma he had ordered arrived, and he sent the nurse back with a very small sample of the patient's blood for crossmatching.
Durr moved with Digen, taking his cue from the Sime as the exchanged muttered directions. In a strange detachment, Digen watched himself helping the surgeon to fix the needle in place, wondering all the while what the point of the exercise was--and what good it could possibly do to the patient. Am I experimenting on this man to gratify my own curiosity? he thought with renewed horror.
Durr reached up to start the drip, tapping the rubber hose expertly. "Good, now this should alleviate the shock condition. Next step is to stop the bleeding somehow. I have an operating room on standby, but . . ."
Digen came out of it then. "Shock? Bleeding?" The two words, an incomprehensible foreign language, somehow brought the two halves of Digen's mind together. As a channel, Digen could see the man's condition, the cause, the necessary treatment, and the probably results laid out clearly before him. But all his deepest conditioning which he'd struggled to acquire kept him from seeing with those eyes here in the building. Here, he saw as a doctor. But this particular patient somehow was not visible
to the doctor's eyes. The Sime lay outside the bounds of medicine as Digen had learned it.
He repeated, "Shock? Bleeding?" He walked back to the patient's head, and suddenly it all fell into place. "No, no, Doctor. He's not in shock from loss of blood, though that has weakened him. He has brought the bleeding under control well enough. The major problem is those retainers. He will surely die, within the hour perhaps, but that's no reason we must torture him to death, is it? Let me just remove the retainers and . . ."
From the doorway, Dr. Booker said, "Now wait just a minute." He strode into the room followed by the police officer with the gun. "This man is a Distect commando. He shouldn't be here at all, but since he is, he ought to be under armed guard every minute. There's no telling what he might . . ."
Digen, hand on the police retainer's catch, paused. "Dr. Booker, this man is dying. He's no threat to anyone . . ."
Durr said, "Distect . . . ?"
The police officer said, "Alleges himself to be a Distect commando. We think he's just psycho, but he's killed eight, maybe ten people today."
Digen turned back to the patient and threw the catches open. The Sime moaned as his selyn circulation was affected. Even through his own retainers, Digen could feel the increased pain in the man as the pressure on the long deadened laterals was released.
Booker took a sharp step nearer. "Doctor Farris!"
Digen said, "Whatever he's done, this man is no danger to anyone now. I'm a doctor, not an executioner, not a torturer. These things should never have been put on him--you have no conception--They should have been outlawed years ago!" As he spoke, he began to ease the casings open along the crack lines. He was aware his voice had become tinged with bitterness.
Booker said, "Doctor Farris, I order you to replace those retainers immediately."
"Dr. Booker," said Digen evenly, "there is no way you can punish him for not wearing retainers. He is beyond your reach, now." He turned to the policeman. "Officer, you wanted to question him? Then let me finish what I'm doing."
Part of Digen was appalled at that bargain. He had been as disgusted as Durr at the way the police put their questions above the patient's welfare. Yet, if he could get the retainers off, the patient would become lucid enough to be questioned, though it wouldn't prolong his life--much. Still, thought Digen, it would relieve him.
Or is it just that I can't stand to see this?
Booker turned to the policeman. "Officer Poston, you have no jurisdiction in my ward. My medical judgement prevails here."
"Dr. Booker," said Durr, "you haven't examined the patient yet. His condition is very grave . . ."
Poston said, "Please, just get him to tell us where he hid the other bomb! It's got a time fuse!"
Digen slipped the retainers off simultaneously. He could see the dent lines from the pressure bars in the insides of the things. The fit had been so bad that some of the pressure bars had not actually been on the nerve plexuses. Still, the laterals did not retract spontaneously when the bars were removed.
Digen tossed the retainers to the floor and reached to massage the lateral sheaths, urging the sensative (sic RBW sensitive) tentacles back into the protection the sheaths could offer. He worked handicapped by his own retainers, unable to quite sense what he was doing. He wished he could call for Imrahan.
The Sime had never actually been unconscious, so psychospatial disorientation was minimal. As Digen worked, the man's eyes cleared, began to focus. The pallor around his lips faded, the cold sweat dried.
As Digen began to talk softly, reassuringly to the Sime, the door opened again and the long-awaited whole blood arrived. Durr abandoned the argument with Booker and snatched the bottle of blood from the nurse, installing it in place of the plasma bottle.
The movement attracted the Sime's attention. He propped himself up on his elbows. By the door, Poston drew his gun. Digen stepped between them, coaxing the Sime to lay down again. "You don't want to start bleeding again, do you?"
"Who--what--what is this?" He focused on Digen's face, taking in the retainers and Digen's distinctive nager. "Farris? A Sime Center?"
"Hospital," said Digen, forced to use the English word since Simelan had none. "You're in Gen Territory. Their Center. But there's nothing we could do for you, even . . ."
The Sime struggled up again, now looking at his foot where the needle fed into the vein. "Shen-shid!"
Digen heard Poston cock his gun. He forced the Sime back down on the table, saying urgently, "That should help you a little. It doesn't hurt now, does it? Just ignore it and tell me . . ."
"I thought my leg was gone! It's like a spreading numbness--what's happening?"
Digen reached down and ran a finger--wishing it were a lateral--along the leg that was taking the blood. The selyn content of the infused blood was much lower than that of the Sime's tissues--the blood must have been in storage for some time, Digen concluded. He said, "I'm Hajene Digen Farris. And I'm going to try to help you." And in two rapid sentences, Digen outlined a channelling (sic RBW channeling) procedure to offset the selyn-low infusion.
As Digen spoke, the Simes eyes widened and then, suddenly, with a surge of unexpected strength, he thrust Digen away from him with a hoarse cry, "Filthy channel! NO!"
Digen, caught off guard, danced backward two steps, and before he had a chance to feel shocked at the rejection, he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. In a burst of augmentation, he dove for Poston's gun. The bullet caromed off the ceiling and embedded itself in a stack of sterile sheets. Before the echo had died, Digen was back at the renSime, pinning him to the table and running the restraining straps around his now bleeding chest.
A trickle of fresh blood oozed from the renSime's mouth. Poston took three steps toward the table and halted, unsure of himself. Digen said, "Wait. Maybe I can find out what you wanted to know."
Poston had his gun levelled (sic RBW leveled) at Digen now. Digen turned his back, as if unaware of it. He knew now he was dealing with a Distect commando on a suicide mission, not a psycho. Durr came along the other side of the table. He wiped at the trickle of blood with a gauze pad saying, "Can't you get him to lie still?"
Digen looked at him. The renSime had ceased even trying to control the bleeding. He wanted to die, now. Digen said, "Well, if Hajene Farris can't, maybe Sectuib Farris can."
To the renSime he said, holding up his ring to the light. "Do you know the crest of Zeor? Do you know who Digen Ryan Farris is?"
The lucidity was fading as the renSime labored to breathe. But Digen saw that he was now recognized, and strangely enough, almost worshipped. The renSime groped for Digen's hands, and Digen took him, again frustrated by the retainers. Gasping, the man said, "It's for Zeor, the dream, the dream of Zeor and Rior--that we've done it."
Digen frowned, listening hard to catch the wheezy words. "Done what?"
The renSime coughed, spattering flecks of blood. Durr gestured for aspirator and oxygen tank, but Digen waved him aside. "Where did you plant the last bomb?"
"For Leander united, Unto Rior, Forever!"
The renSime went into a final paroxysm of coughing and expired under Digen's hands. Digen felt the death--the abrupt cessation of selyn usage--as always, even through the retainers. The shock ran deep, as he was actually holding the man's hands at the time.
A moment, and the shock passed. Moved strangely by the bizarre pledge, Digen answered it, in a whisper, "In perpetuity, Unto Rior, Forever." After all, Rior had once been a daughter householding Zeor could be proud of. He raised the sheet to cover the face, and added, "Out of death was I born, Unto Zeor, Forever."
Still dazed by the deathshock, Digen turned from the table, thinking only to phone the Center for an ambulance. Poston, his gun holstered now, stopped him. "What did he say? Where is it?"
It took Digen a full fifteen seconds to sort some meaning out of the alien words. With a great effort, he found a reply. "He didn't say. I'm going to phone the Center . . . let me by, please . . ."
Booker said, "If you think you can just walk out of here after the way you defied . . ."
Durr moved to block the door. "Dr. Farris, did I hear you say what I thought I heard you say? A pledge to Rior?"
By will, Digen collected himself, focused on Durr. Some out-Territory Gens knew the householding pledge in Simelan--they liked to toss it around on Union Day, thinking it cute. "No, Dr. Durr. I pledge only Unto Zeor." It had been a wild impulse to acknowledge the House of Rior like that, and he wasn't going to defend it.
"I distinctly heard you say Rior. I'm not hard of hearing."
"I heard it too," said Booker. "I'll swear to it before your board of inquiry!"
Poston's hand was on his gun again. He had taken several steps back from Digen. The tension in the room was unbearable. One of the nurses had her fist in her mouth, her eyes squeezed shut. The other seemed to be looking for a weapon. Dear God, thought Digen, they think I'm in league with the Distect!
Poston said, retreating another step, "I've always been a faithful donor--who knows how many of them are really Distect? Maybe even juncts?" The rising notes of hysteria in his voice penetrated to the medically trained staff, and in an odd way broke the tension.
Booker said, coldly, "You're finished here, Doctor. This is the end for you."
The nurse found her weapon, a pair of surgical scissors, and came at Digen shrieking, "I've known it all along! The Tecton still keeps Pens! Kill them, kill them all!"
Digen turned to meet the nurse, snatching the scissors from her hand in an ultra-quick movement, and then, before anyone could assume he meant to use them as a weapons, he threw them into a corner.
At the same time, Poston fired. But Durr struck his arm down, and the bullet buried itself in the floor at Digen's feet.
The door flew open. The two other policemen jumped through the door, fanning out to cover the room with drawn guns. Between them, stood Dr. Howard Branoff, Chief Administrator of the hospital.
To Be Continued
Go on to part 2