Sime Surgeon 

by

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

 
Sime Surgeon Copyright 1999 Sime~Gen(tm) Inc. All rights reserved.

FORWARD TO WEB EDITION:

by

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1997

In Part Four we reach a point in this manuscript where the drafting process is visible.

Page 16 below - at the paragraph "As Digen talked, his fingers flew - etc." you find the first use in this manuscript of a technical term from Simelan. The astute fan/reader will have noticed the struggle to avoid the common Simelan terms zlin, nager, etc.

Here it is inserted once, - and a few times later - but not consistently. What happened?

I don't actually remember precisely why we had to do this, but I remember that the last part of this manuscript that you're reading is from a different draft than the first part was. You may notice the personalities of the characters change a little, the assumptions about what they know and don't know change, the things going on in "the world out there" change, all without explanation.

In the drafting and rewriting struggle with this material, I wrote many false starts that didn't get much beyond half way, and then on occasion I'd make mental notes about changes I intended to make in the first part and go right on writing the ending to an imaginary draft - sometimes changing the draft number at the top of the page and sometimes not.

The reason for this sloppy technique was not just creative frenzy or amateurish ignorance. The reason was that I was working on typewriter and any little change meant retyping whole chapters or more. To stop the forward momentum of the writing and go back and retype is the surest way to destroy any enjoyment the reader will be able to get out of the finished product. So I'd make notes in the margins or at the tops and bottoms of pages - even on the backs of pages - about changes I intended to make and then go on writing AS IF THOSE CHANGES HAD BEEN MADE. Thus if I noted, "insert a scene here between Mora Dyen and Digen discussing a Farris baby" I'd refer to that scene later as if it had been written. Later, in another draft, I might decide not to put that scene in at all and note on the page where the reference had been inserted that I'd left it out. What you're reading here is something cobbled together from spliced drafts of that sort - and all things considered, I think it's a pretty good job. This segment is where a glaring change happens that can't be repaired or apologized for - it is the result of a change of drafts.

Oh, for collectors of authors' "papers" my manuscript page code was (pre-computer) - in the upper right corner, you'd see a number 1 followed by a // like this 1// Then there would be the page # like this 1//16 followed by a period and another / So page 16 of the first draft looks like this 1//16./ Then on rewrite I could revise or insert pages with the page noted after the final / like this 1//16./R is page 16 revised. 1//16./a is an inserted page right after page 16. On the final submission draft the draft # disappears - so if you ever see a manuscript of mine up for auction (and a few have been for SFFWA charity auctions etc.) and it has no draft #, you know it's a submission draft.

On computer, I work totally differently because you don't have to retype. When I start a total rewrite, I take new disks and name the files with a draft number - but it doesn't appear on the header usually - (depending on the word processor and how easy headers are). Again submission draft doesn't have a draft number. I almost never print out drafts. I can work hard for weeks without turning the printer on at all. But I don't end up with unfinished, unmatched up partial drafts much anymore because I've learned a lot of technique and because the computer makes it so easy to change things - no retyping. Just insert, rewrite, smooth, and go on. The computer renumbers the pages so you never have inserts and you always know how much space you have left to finish the story.

On reading over the "crack" where these two drafts are joined, I also noted that - on page 22 - Skip wasn't involved in a court action in the First half you just read. I recall writing that scene, but I've no idea where it might have gone. Maybe it was on the back of a page.

The whole "feel" of parts 4 and 5 here are different from 1,2,&3 - I had decided that I must use the Simelan vocabulary because the drama wasn't working without it. But the material was already too heavily technical and I had no idea how to use that vocabulary.

Those who know Sime~Gen background very well might think that I hadn't invented some of the concepts that have become staples of the novels now. However, that's not true. I was trying to write this draft without Simelan or the Sime way of looking at the world. I pretended those concepts (like ambient nager and field gradient) didn't exist. It didn't work because of course my main pov character is Digen and he knows what's going on around him.

And Point of View is another factor here - you will note that I allow the point of view to float among the characters on occasion. I did that on purpose, not from lack of knowing how to keep it tight inside Digen's point of view. In the end, I didn't really like the effect. I used a completely different technique in the published novel, Unto Zeor, Forever, which works a little better. And that was the key secret to getting the Simelan terminology blended into the story fabric - point of view. When I took out some of the other technical background, I had more space to develop the terminology. Even so, it's hard reading for some people.

2003 and onwards - there are new volumes of Sime~Gen coming from Meisha Merlin Publishers Inc.  

5

Sime Surgeon

Part Four

by

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

In the wake of Union Day, and Digen's attitude toward Ilyana in public, speculation began to gather. Hardly a week went by that Digen didn't spend an hour or two with reporters, denying allegations of some sort. It got to the point where none of it made any impression on him any more, and stopped in a corridor suddenly, he would be unable to recite the particular issues of the day.

As the harvest season began in earnest, Westfield, located in prime farm country, became more concerned with the weather than with politics. Behind the scenes, though, committees, clubs, and other groups were banding together for the coming elections.

Out-Territory it was a Presidential election year, with the prime issue being which World Controller candidate was favored by this or that political party. The out-Territory Gens felt they had an important stake in just how the Donor shortage problem was to be solved, and how soon it would be solved. If the Tecton proved too weak to deal with this problem, the Union itself might well crumble.

In-Territory, dozens of factions were aligning themselves around the five declared candidates for the office of World Controller. But what it all came down to was whether they were for or against Rindaleo Hayashi. With the Householdings openly declaring for Hayashi, organization after organization began to align on his side. Though he kept to his laboratories, speaking to reporters only once a day in a formal news conference, his views had become the major topic of conversation by the time the harvests were in.

With winter closing in, travel became restricted, and political activity centered on the local level more and more. It would be a winter of intense argument and debate, and out of it, in the spring, would came a campaign for the World Controllership that would see a number of changes made.

They were good weeks for Digen. In the surgical wards he was, for the first time, really an intern, learning skills and judgment he had only read about before. He saw dozens of post-operative infections, and watched some of them kill patients, and some of them become cured. He saw the results of faulty stitching inside a wound. And he came to appreciate intimately just how important the patient's pre-operative state was in determining the post-operative course he would take.

In the second month Digen was an the ward, Joel Hogan rotated through the Service, and Digen got the chance to teach same of the skills he had mastered. Changing dressings, pulling out drains, prescribing post-operative pain relievers and sleeping pills, and waging all-night battles against pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure; it was all in a day's work.

Digen and Joel shared it and learned together, often leaning an each other -- Hogan, being Gen, could sometimes talk to a patient who wouldn't let Digen in the room. Digen, being Sime, could often spot problems before they became apparent to Gen eyes, or diagnose complex mixtures of symptoms into two separate ailments.

For Digen, his work at the Center settled down into the same sort of deadly boring routine it had always been for him. After the first three months, with both his departments showing clear profit margins and minimal death rates, the work began to lack challenge for him.

For his first few transfers after Union Day, he was assigned Donors in the three-point-eight range. They were not "satisfactory," but there were no more aborts. With Hayashi's supervision, Digen's condition had stabilized. His need cycle was even flattening out, so that his pre-transfer days were not nearly as trying as they usually were, and his post-transfer period was not nearly as relieving. He knew, of course, that this was a deadly danger sign, but he'd been there before and survived it. He simply lived in the certitude that a perfect transfer was in the offing, and concentrated on the heady achievement of working, at last -- at long, long last -- in the surgical ward of a major hospital.

But soon, even that began to pall on him. He knew he wasn't really doing surgery. He was only a glorified nurse. And when Hogan was rotated to Operating Room duty, it really hit Digen that despite allowing him to learn this craft, they were still fighting a delaying action against him.

He would have stormed into Thornton's office right then and demanded OR training, but he knew that in his condition, he couldn't take the punishment. He had to have solid Gen support behind him when he went into that operating room, and so far, though he knew every possible concession had been granted him, no such Gen had turned up on his assignment card.

(page break)

6

One morning in the middle of January, he woke up to the realization that he had spent the fall simply coasting, recuperating, healing, gathering himself. Suddenly, he felt a tremendous urge to do something about his situation. But he held back, knowing that his requests to have himself and Imrahan re-rated ought to be coming through any day now.

Every morning when he got back from the hospital he checked the mail, and scanned the newspapers, looking for some sign. But it was as if the whole issue had never been raised. There were more important things going on in the world.

He was just as glad the spotlight had finally passed off of him again. He had had to stop seeing Ilyana in order to put down once and for all the rumors that she was a Distect saboteur, like the Commando who had bombed the Frihill dig, only it was said she was infiltrating to strike from within at the Tecton's most vulnerable point, the Sectuib in Zeor.

That particular piece of hysteria had started in the out-Territory press, which didn't employ any trusted Sime reporters who could interview Ilyana personally and see without any doubt that she had no hidden motives. But that was just as well, for when the rumor spread in-Territory, Ilyana had been kept at the point of exhaustion by the Sime reporters who had to verify the story for themselves.

Hayashi had offered to fire his whole staff in order to get rid of the news leak in his department, but Digen had said, "No. I've never done anything I wasn't glad to have reported, and I don't intend to start now. Besides, it wouldn't work. The minute the leak of real information was cut off, the rumors would swell to visions of black deeds and secret pacts. What would that do to your chances at the World Controllership?"

"Ah!" said Hayashi, with a strange light in his eye. "Now I know how to get out of it!"

"Rin, you wouldn't!"

The light had faded, and Hayashi had said, somewhat dejectedly. "No. I guess it's too late for that."

In the midst of it all, Hayashi had gone around muttering threats to have each of his staff members onto the carpet for direct questioning. No one could lie to a Sime, at least not to a skilled channel, under direct questioning. But precisely for that reason, it would have been unethical for Hayashi to use his gift in that way. And he certainly couldn't get a court order -- that would really have fueled the rumors.

So in the end they had sent Ilyana to Eastfield for a few weeks, and then to Gravesend for a while. Digen buried himself in his hospital work and the affairs of his department. In December Ilyana had come back to Westfield, and sunk quietly into an intensive research project of Hayashi's that kept her busy almost all the time.

By the end of January, Digen was ready to admit to himself that he was afraid to look at her charts, much less actually go and see her. He didn't want to know how much her condition had deteriorated. He had begun to dread encountering Hayashi, even in a staff meeting, because he would always press Digen to see her. Digen began to walk around with an excuse on the tip of his tongue, just in case he ran across Hayashi.

One morning he was walking down a hallway, formulating such an excuse, when suddenly he realized what he was doing. He turned in his tracks and took the elevator up to the penthouse apartment to see Ilyana.

When Digen strode into the long, narrow living room, Hayashi was there, with Ilyana curled up in the same chair she had been in before. Around her now were racks and racks of jerry-built instrumentation, attended to by four earnest young men and women. As Hayashi saw Digen, he motioned for the others to leave.

Digen stopped half way down the length of the room, looking at the frail ghost of Ilyana Dumas. Only her face showed any sign of the spirit that still lived in her. She looked back at Digen now, and her nager glowed triumphant.

He came the rest of the way, knelt at her feet, and took her hands "Yes," he said, "I know. You've kept your word, every bit of it. I know."

He laid his cheek an her knees, and for a long time, in silence, he simply knew -- all she'd been through, all it had cost her, all it meant to both of them. And he felt ashamed that he hadn't been there to share every step of it with her.

Sometime during those moments, Hayashi had faded out of the room, quietly closing the door, turning on the privacy light.

After a while, Digen looked up at her. She smiled, the old gentle smile in the cracked remnant of her face, hollow-cheeked, dimples showing in the forehead, as if with extreme starvation. He said, "I did this to you."

(page break)

7

She shook her head, but Digen said, "No! I made you promise -- I made you promise to live. And I made you promise to live Tecton style. Well, damn the Tecton!"

Digen got up and went to the wall intercom. He picked up the handset and punched the button, saying, "Mickland's office." And then, "This is Hajene Digen Farris. Put my name at the top of the volunteer list for Ilyana Dumas's therapy." And listening a moment, he said, "Don't argue with me, do it." "No, I do not want to speak to Controller Mickland. Just make the entry."

He punched another button and said, "Page Hayashi to the penthouse."

He stuck the handset back on the wall and turned to Ilyana. She said, "Digen, you can't. Don't you remember what we went through putting down those rumors?"

Digen shook his head. "It doesn't matter."

"Digen, I gave my word not to do anything to weaken the Tecton."

He came behind her chair, put his fingers to her hair -- brittle, lifeless -- and said, "Don't worry I won't let you break your word I promise I won't be infected with your Distect ways, no matter what you do to me."

"Digen, you can't make a promise like that! You don't know what you're saying."

At that point, Hayashi came in, and Digen told him what he'd done. "How soon can we get started, Rin?"

Of course, neither Digen nor Hayashi had the authority to re-assign Donors on Mickland's rolls, but Digen was sure that Mickland would go along with it quietly. There was surely a risk involved, exposing Digen to Ilyana this way. If it became a true Lortuen relationship, so soon after her public oath, the world press would surely assume she had indeed come to seduce Digen and undermine the strength of the Tecton in the midst of a crucial election. But, Digen reasoned, there was nothing better for Mickland's political position than to have Hayashi involved in such a scandal -- Hayashi was, in reality, the only real competition Mickland had. Mickland would surely go along with it.

Digen, however, was determined there would be no scandal. He saw clearly now, as he had in many other situations, that this was what he had to do. Somehow, he would find the strength. He always had before.

So over the next weeks he became more and more involved in the course of Ilyana's condition and in the various measures being proposed to combat it. Having something to work at again, something that drew on all his creativity, ingenuity and imagination, he became less and less impatient with being delayed on the surgical wards.

Digen's currently assigned transfer passed, as all the others, bland and without incident, under Hayashi's now expert monitoring. And the reassignment to Ilyana went up on the big board as a matter of routine, the assignment card appearing in his box without comment.

But it didn't make headlines. There had been a major blizzard that week. The Gulf Coast meeting of the Joint Board of Householding Officers was in the process of choosing a World Controller candidate. There had been a devastating earthquake in Japan, and all available emergency personnel were being routed to the disaster area. And an anti-Sime pogrom had broken out in south-west Asia. The bulk of the news coverage was devoted to "it-can't-happen-here" articles.

Thus, with the world looking the other way, Digen took his first transfer from Ilyana in early February. On the appointed day, they assembled in Ilyana's penthouse. Hayashi had fitted out one of the back rooms as a transfer suite, with all the usual equipment and some which he'd invented specially for Ilyana.

Digen stopped Hayashi at the door. He was in need, but it hardly showed. That was making Hayashi very nervous, especially since Digen had refused to allow him to carry out the same sort of program they had used with Imrahan. "Rin," Digen had said, "when you walk around in a Farris body as long as I have, you learn not to rock the boat."

Hayashi had laughed, struck speechless at Digen's idea of not rocking the boat by taking on Ilyana Dumas. Now, just minutes away from his appointed transfer time, Digen barred Hayashi's way into the transfer room. "I think," said Digen, "it would be best if you don't monitor this one."

"But we planned . . . !"

"I know. It works out on paper, but -- call it an instinct, a feeling."

Hayashi shook his head. "Don't be a fool!"

(page break)

8

Digen took Hayashi to one side and spoke softly, so that Ilyana would be unlikely to hear. "Listen you and your methods haven't done her any good so far. The way we worked it out, it would just be more of the same. I see it now. I don't know why I didn't before. Maybe it's just need . . ."

"You bet your sacred life it is Digen, need distorts the mind. Every Sime instinct is against a monitored transfer, and that's all it is with you now. We do it the way we planned."

"No. You've done it that way enough times. She can't take the monitoring any more. It's worse than against her instincts; it's against her principles. And I'm not too sure I can tolerate it any more, either. Especially not with her. I might turn on you, Rin."

Digen didn't say it out loud, but it was there between them, nonetheless. Rin, you're just not in our class.

"Your need isn't that active!"

"Not now. But I expect it's going to be before long."

"Digen, you can't do this. You have no defenses against her."

Digen went to the door of the room, and before slipping through, turned to say brightly, "I won't require any." He closed the door, leaving Hayashi outside, alone.

Ilyana lay on the lounge, one forearm across her eyes. Digen was struck by the thinness of her thighs and calves under the long cotton dress she was wearing -- a bright yellow dress with brown trim that made her as appealing to the eye as to his other senses. He searched within himself for the key to unlock the suppressed hysteria of need he knew had to be in him somewhere after all these months. He said, "I'm in your hands now, Naztehr Rior."

Without moving, she said, "I hope you know what you're doing." She was hanging onto her hopelessness out of the dread of hope itself.

Digen came and sat beside her, and took her hands so she had to look at him. "Ilyana, I need you now as much as you need me."

She knew Digen's condition as well as he knew hers. She had been in on the planning for this, and as much as the realities of Tecton life shocked, repelled and horrified her, she had tried to take it all in stride. She freed one hand and touched his face with one fingertip. "A Sime in need who can't feel the need in him -- a Gen who wants nothing so much as to lay down and die. What can we do for each other?"

"Live," said Digen. "It's there. We only have to find it. Help me." He kissed her fingers.

She snatched her hand away, rolling her face to the wall "Don't you realize what I want you for?"

"I could have missed it?" He sighed, clasping his hands in his lap. He felt a mild stirring of need now, and was terribly gratified by it, hardly daring to breathe lest it fade again. "Dear Ilyana why do you think I got rid of Hayashi? If we're going to get ourselves in trouble with the Tecton, there's no sense dragging him into it. It's just between you and me, now."

She looked at him again, frowning. "You mean that?"

He nodded.

"I took an oath," she said. "And I meant it. I won't do anything illegal, not on purpose, and I'll do all I can to prevent accidents."

Digen nodded again Hayashi had reduced her transfer intervals to fourteen days, so that she was still lucid at the end of the cycle. "Strictly speaking, the proper procedure is to get the Lortuen dispensation before the fact, not afterwards. Everybody knows -- everybody knows there's a certain point -- like what I did to you, setting off that fear reaction -- when you're just not responsible any more. Lortuen is like that. You can't stop yourself after -- after transfer, and you just go on into post --and into --- sex." He shrugged.

"The dependency -- it's fierce. You have no conception. It's the Distect ideal, something we -- all strive for, dream about. They'll all say I seduced you, and maybe -- maybe I will I can't risk that, Digen I took an oath, at your hands."

"The risk is very small, right now. It won't happen. Even you can't get through to me in one transfer. Do you know how long it's taken for this to build up?"

"What if it does?"

(page break)

9

"Then I'll think of something. But it won't. We're safe. This time, anyway. Oh, I could be wrong. That's why I wanted Rin out of it. He's too important to risk -- and, he can't help us. This is just you and me. We don't require a monitor. We can't hurt each other. The worst that could happen is that I might not be able to stop myself -- that's never happened to me, of course, but I can conceive of it, with you. Somehow, though, I can't quite envision you objecting."

She smiled. It lit up a warm place inside Digen. "Not personally, no. But there's a law here against that."

"So I'll have them change the law. Why else am I Sectuib in Zeor?"

"Oh, Digen, be serious!"

She was already reading him, he noted. "Like I said, it would be a fluke, and in that event, I'll have to think of something. There's no point worrying about it now. We have a transfer to live through, and for me -- well, you know what it's always like for me. I made a pact with myself," he said, exposing his scarred lateral, "when this happened, that I would never worry before a transfer about what might happen afterwards. Sometimes, that's all that's kept me alive through it. So I don't intend to change now."

"All right," she said, sitting up.

Digen was a little startled that such a body could move at all. He had to check an impulse to help her.

She said, "I'll do my best. But I'm not very good, Tecton style."

"The hell you're not! I've seen you work."

"You've never seen me work Distect style, and you won't, not ever, so you'll never know how bad I am at this."

"Something wrong with your logic there, I think," said Digen.

"Need is not a condition conducive to incisive logic. Down!"

And Digen realized he was beginning to feel it for the first time in months, deep inside. It was almost frightening; he had been immune so long; very much like the first explosion of need after changeover: new, raw, imperative, deranging.

He lay down on his stomach, resting his cheek on his hands, fighting an impulse to drive that sensation back where it came from. It was a necessary part of staying alive.

"How much time do we have?" she asked.

"It doesn't matter," said Digen. "As long as necessary. If you can pull this off for me, they'll build you a statue in the town square." He broke off, sucking air between his teeth as her hands came onto his back.

She didn't draw back, asking if she'd hurt him, as even Imrahan would have. She bore down, sure of herself, gaining command of Digen's internal selyn flows and inducing the need response in him with a systematic ruthlessness he hadn't known was in her. She'd never worked with an equal before.

"Most likely," she said, "they'll burn me in effigy or lynch me. But as you say, there's no point worrying about tomorrow when you likely won't even live that long."

And after a while, she said, "Digen, you're fighting me."

"Hmmm," he said. "Can't help it. 'Sbeen a long time."

"Go hyper."

"Can't. I'm duo."

"Well, there's a cure for that." And suddenly, her hands were gone from his skin, as she moved across the room, toward the door.

Almost without realizing it, Digen was there in front of her, blocking the exit, wholly hyperconscious in the wink of an eye, a Sime in hunting mode.

She ducked under his hands and came into his arms while he was still taking the shock of discovering she'd tricked him.

"Bloody shen!" said Digen.

(page break)

10

"Careful," she warned, "don't lose it. Come on." She led him back to the lounge, and positioned him on his back this time. She worked on the vriamic node and then worked her way down his body, eyes closed, concentrating on the feel of it within herself.

She paused a moment, and then, decisive, she worked down to the calves, the ankles, and feet, thorough in a way Digen had never been handled before. He raised his head, questioning.

"No harm in this," she said "Rin said it wasn't illegal, just odd."

"Odd, all right," agreed Digen, and relaxed to concentrate on the need that was building under her hands. She was very efficient at it.

She felt him beginning to tense, and said, "Just a little more." She moved then up to his shoulders, and worked down the arms on both sides at once, going unerringly for every nerve ganglion and gland in just the right -- though sometimes curiously unexpected -- order.

When it finally happened, it was so easy and natural he wasn't even aware he'd moved into transfer position. Hyperconsciously, she was all brightness and he was cold and dark, and somehow they just merged. He wasn't even conscious of the flow. It seemed only that they came together, and when they separated, the brightness was in him, too. It was the first time since his accident that he'd acquired this feeling without fighting through the imbalances caused by the scarred lateral. It was the first time he'd had a Donor whose sensitivity was anywhere near what he required to maintain a flow balance he could live with.

His first duoconscious awareness was her skin against the inside of his arms, her hair against his mouth. Though he was in a state of total, solid balance, she was violently post. He could feel the surge of sexual excitement between them like an irresistible wave.

It was the danger signal he had been conditioned to, and even this time, his conditioning held. With a smooth, coordinated withdrawal, he moved away from her, giving her just one small, thankful squeeze.

She jerked up out of the languid dream, staring at him in complete shock as he got to his feet beside the lounge.

"It's all right," said Digen. "It's all over, and you were perfect. Absolutely perfect."

She shook her head, still unable to comprehend that he had broken with her. And then, gradually it came to her where she was, what the rules were here. All at once, she understood. "You're going to leave me! Just like that?"

He took a step back toward the door. "I have to. I told you we were safe this time. But still I have to be very careful." He took another step backward, aware of how reluctant he was, and moving for just that reason. "I'm a Tecton channel, Ilyana, and you're a Tecton Donor. It can't be any other way. You know that."

But she wasn't listening. Reaching behind her to the shelf over the lounge, she picked up the heavy white jars there and, one by one, threw them at him. "You savage! You crenellated ox! You uncivilized fool!"

He ducked casually, as she expected him to. She was throwing with surprising accuracy, and knowing that she couldn't actually hit a Sime, she threw with all her might. She was so frail, he was afraid she would exhaust herself. He moved back toward the door, protesting, "Ilyana, don't. Please believe it's nothing personal. Ilyana!"

She lobbed a bottle at him. 'You baboon!" It crashed and broke against the door. "Get out of here before I kill you!" Another jar hit the wall with a thud. "I'll personal you!" A bottle crashed inches from his head.

Hands out in a helpless gesture, he ducked two more jars. He realized that, as with the first time she had thrown a post-transfer tantrum in Mickland's office, this was her way of working off the inevitable tensions. Here in the Tecton, it was illegal for them to use the only other effective method, and truthfully, he actually didn't feel up to that yet, though he found himself thinking with longing of how Imrahan would have found in himself the steady discipline to pull his channel through this blankness and into a full post reaction.

"Ilyana, I don't want to leave. I still need you!"

She shrieked, heaving another large jar at him, "How much can one person give! Out! You shidoni-be-flayed lorsh! Out!"

Digen ducked out the door, letting the last bottle crash against it. Two more followed and then silence. He had to pause to catch his breath and wonder what a shidoni-be-flayed lorsh was. It sounded vaguely obscene.

(page break)

11

Hayashi was waiting in the living room, seated in Ilyana's favorite chair, drinking tea. He offered a glass to Digen, hot and fresh. Digen took it and sat on an equipment box. It was a while before either of them said anything. Hayashi merely offered Digen a steady field, while shrewdly analyzing Digen's condition.

The selyn field insulation of the penthouse was better than excellent, but the sound insulation was bad. When Digen finally indicated he was ready to talk, Hayashi said, "Lover's quarrel?"

He meant it facetiously, to jar Digen out of his brown study. But Digen only said, "Maybe. She doesn't want to hurt me, only to kill me. That's a lover's quarrel, isn't it?"

Hayashi could see clearly that there had been no Lortuen consummation, nor anything like it. "You going to write me a complete report?"

Digen nodded. Then he gave Hayashi a quick verbal rundown on what had happened, and why it could not have worked monitored. "Rin, I don't know if I dare try this again. It was close, this time."

"Just intuitively, I'd say if it's done her as much good as it appears to have done you, I think you'll have to try it again. Let's give it a couple of days, get some numbers, see which way the graphs are going now. When you've both steadied out, we can talk it over."

Digen nodded, set his glass aside and got up. He was in no condition to make rational judgments. "You better go in there, or send somebody to her."

"She won't accept any help, Digen. She never has, here. Some sort of Distect scruple, though the logic of it escapes me."

Digen paused on his way toward the door, a little shocked by that. "She's a Tecton Donor now. She doesn't have the right to refuse."

"Well, actually there's no law on the books and nothing in the code anywhere about it. There are so few Gens who ever get into such a mess . . ."

Digen shrugged. "I'll have to talk to her about it, but not now. I'm going to see what Mora Dyen is doing."

Digen was at the door before Hayashi caught up to him, and said in very low tones, "She's Imrahan's girl. They were going to be married!"

"I know. It gives us something in common." He smiled, bleakly, "If she can finish what Ilyana started, Imrahan will be as happy as Mora and I. And -- well, we discussed it. The one thing Imrahan wants more than anything is a Farris channel of his own to raise. So . . ."

Hayashi smiled too. "I knew I'd regret it after I got you and Ilyana together. Now things begin to get complicated again."

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Over the next week, they did a thorough analysis of what Digen and Ilyana had accomplished in this one transfer. For Ilyana, it represented a dramatic reversal in her course. She gained a half a pound instead of losing steadily. Her selyn production rate came down steadily as she continued to work with Digen, and Hayashi began predicting a sixteen or seventeen day cycle for her by spring.

For Digen, it meant a renewed vitality, as well as the return of the normal swings in temperament. He was again able to enjoy the difficult channel functions that he performed at the center. His test ratings began to level off after months of constant decline. Even the now routine work at the hospital began to seem more interesting.

But Hayashi's figures clearly showed that no other channel at Westfield could do for Ilyana what Digen had done. It wasn't a question of what he had done, but rather of what he was; namely, her match.

After same deliberation, Digen allowed his name to be entered on her therapy list for an early April transfer. The major factor in this decision came when he faced the necessity of contemplating his next transfer and discovered that the knot in his stomach wouldn't go away until he could convince himself that he wasn't returning to the endless chronic deprivation that had gripped him for so long. He could accept anything temporarily. But right now, he couldn't force himself to go back to not knowing when the deprivation would end. Not now, not before he had completely shaken loose of it.

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So he signed on again, and as soon as he did, was back among those in almost daily contact with her. Just that made such a difference in his outlook on the world that it was like waking from a long fever delirium to that first morning of crystal clarity and wellness.

Almost before his new energy had time to make him impatient with his position at the hospital, he encountered Dr. Thornton outside the post-operative recovery room.

"You're looking chipper this afternoon, Dr. Farris. I'm doing a stomach resection in a few minutes, a malignancy. Scrub in with me, and we'll find out if you're a surgeon or not."

Just like that, thought Digen. He kept his face straight, businesslike. "Very well, Doctor. I'll have Dr. Hogan cover for me on the charity wards."

Thornton nodded and strode away, saying, "Ten minutes, Doctor."

Digen had Hogan paged to a phone, and said, "I'll be in OR Three for the next few hours; a resection with Dr. Thornton. Can you cover for me?"

He could hear the grin in Hogan's voice. "About time! No problem at this end. And -- uh -- congratulations. They haven't let me scrub with Thornton yet."

"Yeah, I know," said Digen sourly. "But this time, somehow, I don't think it's that they're reserving the worst for me. I think Thornton is just curious and doesn't want to rely on any one else's judgment."

"I hope you're right. I understand he eats an intern for dinner after every resection."

Digen laughed. "I gotta run. I'll tell you all about it later."

He had to make it all the way down to the supply room in the new building, and then back up to the OR floor at the top of the old building, before that ten minutes was up. When he had first arrived at the hospital, he had made sure the supply room stocked the only style of glove that would fit up over his retainers, and though there were stocks of it everywhere he'd worked so far, the OR itself would not have any, he was sure.

And so he made the trip, and was changed into a scrub suit by the time Thornton arrived, carrying a thin gray box. He handed it to Digen, saying, "These are for you," casually matter-of-fact. Then he turned to the sinks to scrub.

Digen stood with the box in his hand for a moment. He decided not to mention the identical box nestled in his locker, and just handed the box to the circulating nurse with a brief order to glove him with these only.

Digen scrubbed at a sink far enough from Thornton to indicate respect, yet close enough that Thornton could easily see he knew how to do this job. He could see that the Chief Surgeon was watching, unobtrusively, every move Digen made. Within a few moments, the scrub room was crowded with interns and residents. It served OR Three and OR Four next door to it.

One by one they detached themselves and backed through the swinging doors, hands up to prevent any contaminated water from dripping down to their fingers. Digen followed Thornton by forty-five seconds, and was gloved and gowned in turn.

The scrub nurse gave him a grin and whispered "You show them, Hajene!"

Digen winked back at her, and when she was gone, he looked at Thornton again. He was certain it was no accident that the nurses hadn't run screaming from the room the moment Digen entered.

He joined the men at the table, where the patient was already well under anesthetic, the operating field draped and painted. Thornton was assisted by two residents. Digen was the only intern. One of the residents was already preparing to open as Digen moved up to where Thornton pointed. "I don't think I must introduce Dr. Farris, gentlemen," said Thornton. And then to Digen, "Dr. Rickman, Dr. Loweree."

Digen made his greeting a mere nod, as Dr. Rickman was already poised with scalpel not three centimeters from the patient's skin, waiting for Thornton's go-ahead. Thornton said, "Observe carefully, Dr. Farris."

Rickman made his first cut; neat, clean, straight. Digen, who had braced himself for this, was determined not to faint as he almost had in medical school. As the impact came, though, his vision blurred a moment. The patient was high field, not a professional Donor, but at least a GN-2 who hadn't donated in some months -- probably because of his illness.

When Digen's vision came back, they had the organs exposed, and Loweree was tying off bleeders with a deft precision even Digen envied. Thornton roved in then, positioning retractors to hold the incision

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open and handing one to Digen, across from himself, and the other to Loweree, who stood beside Thornton.

Then Thornton checked with the anesthetist and began to work. It was a long, delicate job, requiring many judgmental decisions. The man had had a number of previous operations -- gall bladder, ulcers even a prostectomy. There was scar tissue obscuring the possible malignancies, and Thornton was careful to go after every lymph node, and check every organ for further involvement.

Digen was familiar with the case. He had been following it in the pre-op ward for weeks. When he'd first come in, they had all thought it was another ulcer, and that he might bleed out any minute if a hemorrhage started while nobody was looking. But Digen had planted the first suggestion that they ought to look deeper. By this time, he'd seen a number of badly ulcerated stomachs, and this one didn't seem remotely similar.

Through Digen's vigilance, they had caught the problem early, and as the operation progressed, Thornton said as much, considering the man had a good chance at a few more years because of Digen.

After an hour, Loweree changed places with Rickman, saying, as he flexed stiff fingers, "I thought I'd done the last of that a couple years ago."

Thornton looked up, flexing his own fingers. "If you're going to be teaching my interns, you'd better remember what it feels like to be on that end of the idiot stick." Then he looked at Digen, who hadn't moved a bit in the past hour.

Digen only said, "Doctor, I think you've got a bleeder coming loose there."

One of the sutures was slipping, and Digen could feel it, though he couldn't make it out visually. Thornton said, "Just seepage, Doctor." And then the artery cut loose like a wild firehose, pumping blood into Thornton's face.

He closed his eyes, turning aside for a wipe, but keeping his hands perfectly still, so that he wouldn't do any damage.

Rickman, holding the retractor, said, "Nurse, another unit of blood here!" his voice was cool. This happened during surgery. No real cause for alarm.

Loweree said, "I'll tie it, Doctor."

But Thornton said, "No, your hands are stiff. Dr. Farris!"

He still couldn't see through the blood on his eyelashes, which the nurse was washing off.

Loweree took Digen's retractor and Digen moved to catch the artery and make the tie as if he hadn't been holding still for over an hour. By the time Digen had the pumper stopped, Thornton was gazing at his fingers. He said, "Why didn't you move immediately, Doctor? Obviously you knew you could do it."

"It's your case, Sir."

Thornton nodded and went back to his concentrated search for other malignancies. "As you were, doctors."

Digen looked at his blood-slicked gloves and said, "Nurse, another pair of gloves here, please." When she had snapped them into place, he took his retractor back and applied the steady pressure that would keep the field open for Thornton's work.

Less than an hour later, Thornton finished, and left the residents to close. Digen watched every move with feverish attention. These were residents Thornton had trained up from interns. They worked the way Thornton wanted it done and Digen had the creeping feeling that by the see-one-do-one-teach-one maxim of medicine, Thornton would have him in there cutting and sewing on the next resection.

When Digen went out, he found Thornton still in the dressing room. He didn't say anything, but Digen could see he wasn't as ferocious as his facial expression would suggest. As Digen changed back into his whites, Thornton said, "You'll scrub with me in the morning, Doctor. Eight o'clock sharp. Blocked colon. Frimski is the name. Read up on it."

"Yes, Sir," said Digen, as Thornton went out. Then he went to relieve Hogan, who was, he was sure, worked to a frazzle by now. He pitched in to help Hogan clear away all the scut work that had gone undone while he covered for Digen. Temperature charts to be checked, stitches to be removed, dressings to be changed, and wounds inspected. And they had to prepare for rounds, being sure they knew everything that was happening with all their patients.

It was almost midnight before they sat over coffee in the staff lounge and Digen told of his adventures. Hogan said, "And he wants you to scrub at eight? Digen, we're on call all night!"

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"I know. I have a few appointments in the morning, too, but I'll call over and cancel them. I'll wait awhile to see if he's just hazing me, or if he's really shifting me to the day schedule again. Meanwhile, everybody will have to get along without me. This is too good to believe!"

"You don't look any the worse for wear."

Digen had shared many of his misgivings about being sent to the OR with Hogan over the last weeks and the Gen had noticed the effect of Ilyana's transfer the moment he saw Digen afterward, demanding an explanation. So Digen had told him about her, and after the initial shock, Hogan had said, "Wait until the papers get hold of this."

Digen had shrugged his characteristic shrug, and said, "At least now I don't dread the OR any more."

Now Digen shrugged again, and said, "I told you. With a Donor like that behind me, it was easy. And Thornton bent aver backwards to help, too. Maybe tomorrow he won't try so hard. Maybe tomorrow he'll start testing to see how far he can drive me before I break."

"And will you break?"

Digen met his eyes and shrugged. "Let's get to work."

Digen didn't see much of Hogan during the next weeks. He was indeed shifted to the day schedule which caused Hayashi to switch Ilyana to the night schedule so that Digen could continue to work with her when he wasn't at the hospital. Digen would arrive at the intern's dormitory each morning as Hogan was reeling into bed. And as time passed, he was able to get the Gen to accept a little help in falling asleep.

Then Digen would scrub with Thornton at eight, make rounds, and scrub with one of the residents in the afternoon if Thornton wasn't operating. In between times, he had to keep up with what was going an with his patients in the wards. Hogan came on again in the evening, just as Digen was wrapping up his day. Digen would sit with Hogan while the Gen ate his "breakfast," and brief him on what had been going an during the day.

After a while Hogan began to say that, although the work was even harder than riding the ambulance he actually liked the surgical service, and wanted to stay a while longer. As Digen watched the transformation in him, from that day months ago when he had wanted to quit and become a Donor, to this total immersion in the work, Digen often wondered what the intern's training did to Gens. He came to think of it as a kind of changeover, psychologically anyway, a kind of maturing. But he wasn't sure it didn't have the elements of retreat from reality in it -- a kind of emotional repression aided by the overwork. The patients weren't people any more, just a single blurred face with a kind of standard model body attached, an which were superimposed transparencies indicating various ailments and case histories.

That hadn't happened to Digen. He was constitutionally incapable of it. He was a channel. A channel was concerned with healing the person first, on the theory that the body would heal itself. Once a physician had seen that theory work, it was impossible to lose the patient behind the case history.

But of course it cost Digen a lot more than it cost the other interns. He became involved. He cared what his surgical knife was doing to their lives, not just to their bodies. He knew that was against the unwritten rules here. More than once he had wanted, on the basis of his new status in the OR, to intervene to have some surgery or another cancelled on the grounds that it wouldn't do the patient much good.

But Thornton continued to be brusque and distant, as well as decisive, and uncannily right in his work. Digen could never bring himself to approach Thornton as he had Emhardt in Pathology. He often thought that might be because Thornton was his own Chief of Service. Thornton had to accept him for a residency here, or Digen was through in medicine.

He wondered if, with his medical career at stake like this, he was currying favor, afraid to offend in the slightest for the first time in his life. He'd put his medical career an the line before, many times, for a patient or a principle. Why couldn't he do it now with Thornton? Was it that now, for the first time in his life, he really believed he might succeed?

Time and time again Digen let little things slide by that he thought should be discussed, possibly altered. It was always based on something he knew about the patient's life, his profession, family finances -- things not really in the province of the surgeon. And he would let it slide because he d learned that Thornton did not run his Service on such considerations.

Early in March he became depressed, and began thinking of the Chief Surgeon as a mechanic, not a physician. It took Joel Hogan to point out -- during a gripe session -- that Digen was into his first pre-transfer depression in quite a while, and that might be coloring his judgment.

Abashed, Digen admitted he'd best keep his mouth shut for a few days. He had been scrubbing two, three, sometimes four times a day now, gaining vast amounts of experience rapidly. Thornton had begun

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to allow him to do some of the simpler work; cutting sutures, prepping the patients, checking the anesthetist's work, and several times he'd even had him take a scalpel and make a cut between two points he indicated.

Digen had done it, and been terribly exhilarated that his hands had not trembled in the slightest. But afterwards, it had taken Ilyana half an hour to bring him back to normal. It was one thing to watch a Gen cut a Gen, and it was something else to wield the instrument himself. But he could do it. He knew now that, with the right backing, he could do it.

And suddenly, again the stakes were upped. He was more and more afraid of a misstep. The strain began to show in his routine test results at the Center -- the figures oscillating inexplicably. But Digen knew. If he did the proficiency test on a day he had actually used a scalpel in the OR, the numbers were down significantly. Even Ilyana couldn't offset the slippage.

He wouldn't let himself be afraid. He told himself he'd master it. It was only some technique he had to invent, and Farrises were famous for inventing such things. It was only a question of time before he mastered it.

He arranged to take the Center tests that should follow the channel's minor cyclic variations first on good days when he had done little in the OR and then on days when he had done some cutting himself. He kept careful notes and correlated, and calculated, searching for some clue as to what was causing the variance in his readings.

He could not make himself believe that it was what everyone had feared all along -- exposure to this kind of punishment creating an addiction to the savour of Gen suffering. There was nothing like that in him.

His March transfer went routinely. They had Ilyana standing by, ready to step in if a life threatening situation developed, but he took the transfer under Hayashi's supervision, almost left-handedly, not really paying attention. It did little for him not even lifting the depression. He tried not to think about how much it didn't do for him, and focused on the next transfer with Ilyana, telling himself it wasn't really very long.

His disinterest in the process reinforced his opinion that the aberrant test results did not indicate any addiction to Gen suffering. He was not on his way to becoming juncted to the kill.

It was shortly after that transfer when Digen walked in one morning and found Thornton's name on the board for OR Two, an appendectomy, with Digen scrubbing. He knew what it meant. The Chief of Service didn't scrub on simple things. And Digen was down for an Assist, which meant this would be his first real operation.

Thornton was very hard for Digen to figure. On the one hand, he had done everything in his power to make it easy on Digen, or at least possible for Digen to succeed. And he had taken tremendous pride in Digen's uncannily rapid progress. Of course, neither of them was under the delusion that Digen was any kind of surgeon yet. That would take years. Yet Thornton was pushing Digen along just about as fast as Digen was able to progress. Digen had never had an instructor out-Territory do that. It reminded him in many ways of his first year after changeover, where everything had come to him just as fast as he could absorb it, and he hadn't been conscious of absorbing it abnormally fast.

Digen went into the OR that morning prepared for a pass-or-fail test of whether he'd ever make a real surgeon. And when Thornton came in, taking the place opposite Digen, he grilled Digen on the patient's history, making sure Digen had seen the patient that morning for a final examination. Then he said, "Very well, Dr. Farris, step over here and let's see what you can do."

There were two other interns scrubbed with them, on rotation from Pediatrics, and steeling themselves mightily for this ordeal, presented to them their first day on the Surgical Service. Stepping around the table to trade places with Digen, Thornton said, "I'd like you to explain what you're doing at each step of the way, so that these new doctors can follow the procedure."

Digen took up a scalpel, explaining why he had selected that particular type of instrument, and then discussed the several types of incisions he might make, and why he had selected this particular one.

Without looking up at Thornton for permission to proceed, he drew an imaginary line in the air over the point he had chosen, and then made the first cut. He changed instruments and went through the facia, then the peritoneum, each layer carefully parted bleeders systematically tied off, retractors placed into the intern's hands. He had watched the residents doing this at least once a day for weeks now, and had himself made opening incisions on a number of occasions.

It was very different, working on a body which was warm, functioning, with a steady blood pressure. The flesh felt different than during an autopsy; soft, alive. It behaved differently under his fingers. And every moment that incision was open increased the chances of post-op complications, or a death on the table. Here, the precision of his work would affect the quality of the patient's life from now on. This was surgery.

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When all the bleeders had been tied, Digen reached down inside the abdominal cavity and pulled the end of the intestines up where he could see to work on the appendix. One of the new interns was gritting his teeth. Digen could feel it right through his retainers. The poor man wanted to retch. Digen wondered why he had ever gone into medicine. He talked a bit about the inflammation of the organ and what would happen if it had burst. In a detached, clinical style, he was merely repeating words he'd heard many times.

He took the appendix off neatly, dropping it into an organ pan the nurse held for him, and, as he sutured, he discussed the art of drawing the purse-string stitches just tight enough, but not so tight they'd cut into the tissue and eventually rupture. Then, when he had completed the stitch, he pushed the stump neatly inside and drew the opening closed.

Thornton, who had been standing with his gloved hands in the air, reached to examine Digen's work. "Dr. Farris is correct. Next to a tracheotomy or a caesarian section, this is about the simplest operation performed here, yet patients can still die from it. Proceed, Doctor," he said, apparently satisfied that Digen had done it correctly.

Digen said, "At this point, if the procedure hasn't taken too long, it is often wise to reach into the abdominal cavity and examine the other internal organs. It would be a pity if this man had to return in a few weeks for exploratory surgery on a serious condition we had missed."

Digen demonstrated the technique, and then began the routine of closing the incision layer by layer, explaining at each step why this type of suture and not that, this type of needle and not that, as well as adding vivid personal accounts of the post-operative complications that could result if each step were not correctly performed.

As Digen talked, his fingers flew through the business of suturing the wound. Thornton took turns with him, cutting and tying alternately, though they never exchanged a word about who should do what, when. As always when working across from Thornton, Digen found himself moving in effortless concert. There was none of the fumbling, swearing, and peevish flinging of instruments to the floor that other surgeons indulged in, and which made the already taxing operating room nager almost intolerable for Digen. Thornton's fingers moved, Digen had often thought, with the exacting precision of a Sime musician.

As he dressed the incision, Digen looked up at Thornton, wondering why he had stayed to watch the closing, and even to help with it. A Chief of Service just didn't do that. He found Thornton's nager suffused with a kind of relaxed pleasure.

When they broke their scrub, stripping off mask, gown and gloves into the laundry bin, Thornton said, "It's always refreshing to work with you, Doctor. Thank you." And he walked away.

After that, Digen had days when he scrubbed as many as five times, spending almost all his time in the OR. After a row of days when he did nothing but appendectomies, he found himself presiding with only newer interns assisting. His very own appendectomy. It was a milestone, a day he had often dreamed of, but by the time he reached it, it had became anticlimactic.

He did tubal ligations and cholecystectomies, tonsilectomies, and gunshot wound repairs. He worked on the liver, the thyroid, the duodenum, and the urinary tract. He reduced fractures and assisted at amputations. Often, on the more intricate cases, he was allowed only to hold retractors to keep the incision open. But now, having mastered the difference between a corpse and a living body, he had only to see done what he had read about, and he was able to do it himself the next time.

He learned rapidly, and Thornton saw to it that nobody slowed him down. The members of the surgical staff who were actively hostile to Digen were kept on the opposite or nearly opposite rotation. The ones who were dubious soon came to respect him for his skill, and if they were afraid of being displaced by a horde of Sime surgeons, they kept it to themselves.

As long as he was learning, Digen was happy. New things had always held a special fascination for him, and as long as he was reaching, stretching to his own limit, he had little time to brood over what he was doing. But inevitably, there were weeks when he was given nothing but one type of case to do, and he would became bored. And he would start to think. At the end of such a week, Thornton would scrub in with him on such a case and watch him teach one to some new interns rotating through the Service. After that, he would be permitted to do that type of case by himself, a privilege few interns either sought or achieved.

Each time, it was one more rung on the ladder to becoming what he still thought of as "a real surgeon." And each time, he quivered a little under the impact of it. He was at last on the threshold of achieving the ambition that had sustained him for as long as he could remember. And now, for the first time, he was having serious doubts.

The evaluation that had risen out of pre-transfer depression remained with him. A surgeon was not a physician. Surgery -- at least as Thornton, Chief of Surgery at the most widely acclaimed hospital in the country, practiced it -- surgery was only a mechanical trade.

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Digen was being given the best surgical training any intern had ever received. At least once a day he scrubbed with Thornton, and now, more often than not, he did considerably more than hold retractors -- Thornton demonstrated, instructed, and lectured, until finally he would talk Digen through a procedure until Digen could do it flawlessly. It was the high point of each work day for Digen. And Thornton enjoyed it just as much.

But as Digen became more and more Thornton's star pupil, he found it was always some other intern who had seen the patient before the operation, some other intern who was grilled on the procedures to be used and some other intern who would follow the case after surgery. From Digen's point of view, the hospital seemed to exist merely to supply an endless stream of rolling tables on which lay draped and prepped problems to be corrected by mechanical intervention. They were not even cases to him any more, just variations of a given procedure.

Recalling how Joel Hogan had gone through all the usual intern's crises, coming to the verge of quitting so many times, Digen wondered if he wasn't -- for the first time in his life -- experiencing just such a crisis. Never before had he had a choice like this. He had been born a channel, possessed certain skills, and was legally required to use those skills according to a certain code. He might complain about it, rail against fate, or defy custom, but in the end, he had no choice. His own opinion of whether what he was doing was moral or just was totally irrelevant, wholly academic.

Now, however, if he judged surgery to be unsatisfactory, he could quit. Or he could persevere to build the profession in-Territory in a new image -- if he could devise one. He had a choice. His opinion was not irrelevant. It was almost a frightening revelation, and for many days after this insight, Digen walked through his paces with his conscience and his mind nearly paralyzed.

He distrusted his judgment on this. Many times in the past he had been tempted to give it all up. It would please so many people on both sides of the border if he did that. But always, he decided that he was just weary of the struggle, and that that was no excuse for quitting.

So this time, he hesitated on the brink of disillusionment. He watched Hogan taking to surgery as if it had always been his primary talent. Many times when they scrubbed together, Digen's attention was more on Hogan's reactions than on the patient. And during those days when he was bored, doing the same procedure over and over again, he would ponder the mystery of Hogan's adjustment. For the first time since Digen had known him, Hogan seemed really happy.

They would talk about it often, in their room or over coffee. And Hogan would struggle to articulate for Digen what it was about surgery that made life so good. "It's just something I can do, and do right now, to correct something that's gone wrong with a person's body. There's no waiting around to see if this or that works. There's no guesswork. You look, you see, and you fix. And then it's done, accomplished. And I can do it, Digen. When I'm in that operating roam, I -- I'm not helpless any more."

Studying the Gen, Digen would nod. Hogan had said the same thing many times in different ways. Digen wasn't yet sure that he understood exactly what Hogan meant, or if that feeling would ever be there for himself. But he did see that Hogan was definitely cut out to be a surgeon, at least in Thornton's style.

During this period, Thornton was not unaware of Digen's boredom and brooding. Always, he would cure it by inviting Digen to scrub on some new procedure, or something rare and interesting. When a girl was brought into the EW with a metal wire puncturing her eyeball, and the specialists decided the eye had to come out in order to save the other eye from a sympathetic deterioration, Digen was sent to assist. When an interesting brain tumor came in, Digen assisted. He was sent on loan to every subspecialty at one time or another, and often it would divert him from his brooding.

And then one day it all came to a head over Ditana Amanso.

She had been released during the winter, while various specialists studied her case. The several operations had given her back some partial sensation in her toes, but she was still confined to a wheel chair. She had been discharged from her police job, but since she had been injured on duty, all medical costs were being paid for her.

At the beginning of the year, she had approached Digen about going on staff at the Center as a Donor. She was not untalented, but the handicap would limit her usefulness to the Center. Digen had done a thorough lateral-contact probe, and told her that she would never walk again.

It had been a difficult interview. She had not wanted to believe him. In the end, Digen sent her to Hayashi for training, hoping that with time she could came to accept her limitations. There were plenty of desk jobs available to the Donors who worked at the Center. But the particular job she wanted required mobility, and she was stubborn.

Digen was taken completely by surprise the day her name appeared on the surgical schedule. It had been a long time since any of the names had been full case histories to him, let alone personalities.

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He made time, the day before her surgery, to go to her room and talk to her, by leaving Hogan to close on an appendectomy. It was a three-bed room, but the other two were unoccupied, and Digen sat down on the one opposite her. She was embarrassed to see him.

He said, "Dr. Bashin is a fine surgeon, Ditana, but he can't perform miracles."

Bashin was an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal disorders, who was visiting Westfield on a teaching grant that would carry him to every major city in the world during the next two years.

"He's made people walk again," she said, "after every one else had given up. What have I got to lose?"

"Everything, Dita. Surgery, any kind of surgery, is always risky. It's indicated only when there's something to gain."

"I will walk again! I have to believe that!"

Digen shook his head, not so much in denial as in wonder at her tenacity.

"But surgery . . ." said Digen.

Her eyes fixed on Digen's retainers. "My own people have given up on me. Where else can I go?"

"It can't do you any good, Ditana."

And from the doorway, came a voice, "Doctor Farris!"

It was Bashin, and Thornton was with him. At that moment, Digen realized he'd been speaking in English, out of habit in this place, and no doubt the two had overheard. He got up. "If you'll excuse me, please."

In the hallway, with the door closed, Thornton said in a low and almost savage tone, "What do you think you're doing, Doctor Farris!"

Stiffly, Digen said, "Advising my patient, Doctor."

"Your patient?" said Bashin.

"Yes, Sir," said Digen, facing off squarely to the visiting surgeon. "She came to me in January, complaining of a lack of sensation in her legs. I gave her an extensive lateral-contact examination and determined that the nerve tissue severance was irreparable by any technique now available, and that the deterioration had progressed too far to be reversible. I thereupon hired her as a member of my staff in a position within her abilities."

Bashin, taken aback for a moment, recovered, saying, "You may conduct your channel's consultations on the other side of the border, and on your own time! You . . ."

Thornton interrupted, "Doctor Farris, it is not within the duties of an intern to advise the patient regarding a particular surgery, especially not in contradiction to the Attending."

"Yes, Sir."

"If you have some question regarding a particular patient, you should bring it to Dr. Durr, who will bring it to me if he can't answer you."

"Yes, Sir."

"Right now, I believe you are scheduled for OR Two; a tonsilectomy."

"No, Sir, One for a cholecystectomy . . ."

"You will switch with Dr. Hogan, this morning. Be in my office at one. And I don't want to catch you bothering this patient again, Doctor, understood?"

"Yes, Sir." Digen knew he was being, disciplined, demoted to a tonsilectomy. But both Bashin and Thornton were too angry to argue with right now, so he turned and went back up to the OR.

When he told Hogan what had happened, Hogan said, "Oh, no, here we go again. Digen, this time you're going to get yourself fired. Don't try to stop Bashin! This is just what they've been waiting for, don't you see? And you've got that residency sewed up."

"I'm your only competition. You should be glad to get me out of the way."

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"Digen!"

"I told Dr. Branoff -- I -- can't -- I won't even try to hold a rule over a patient's welfare."

"But Digen, it's not your field. Those back injuries are very tricky. Sometimes they work out when you least expect it."

"Not when I least expect it!" said Digen, stalking off to his tonsilectomy. Over his shoulder, he said, "Don't you think I wish I were wrong? And I wish people would stop telling me what's my field and what's not my field!" He slammed the dressing room door.

A moment later he came back in, closed the door quietly behind him, and stood looking at his shoes. Hogan got up from the bench he'd been sitting an.

"Been a long time since I lost my temper like that," said Digen.

Hogan shrugged in imitation of Digen's classic shrug. "Better at me than at Thornton. Besides isn't it supposed to be a healthy sign?"

Digen grinned. "Sure. But not before surgery."

Hogan went out, saying, "We'll keep it in the family, okay?"

Digen took a moment alone in the dressing room to compose himself. He had been very successful in staying above the effects of it lately, but he schooled himself not to get careless. One slip and . . . He didn't even want to think about that.

During the interview in Thornton's office, Digen had kept his temper and explained in detail why he felt surgery was contraindicated in this case, and exactly what the patient's motivations were. "Her state of mind," said Digen as clinically as he could, "as indicated by -- her emotional nager -- is highly unstable. She can't quite realize what she's risking, the value of the good life still available to her. And because of her in-Territory background, she isn't equipped to evaluate in personal terms the risks of surgery. None of her family, friends, acquaintances have ever gone through an innocuous procedure and died of complications. Until that's happened, there's no way a person can truly understand what surgery means."

"She's a police officer," said Bashin. "She's seen a side of life in this city most of us never imagine exists. She's a fully competent adult, and she's decided to have surgery. It would be criminal to undermine her confidence at this stage. Haven't you ever heard of hysterical paralysis. Doctor?"

"Yes, Sir, but that isn't the case here."

"Not yet, but it might be if our surgery is successful but she believes it didn't have a chance."

"Your surgery doesn't have a chance, Doctor."

"You don't know that."

"Yes, I do."

"The X-rays show . . ."

"I don't use X-rays to see what I see.

Thornton interrupted. "Doctor Farris, in this hospital we proceed on the basis of our own experience. I think it's very fine that your goal is to combine disciplines, but you haven't finished learning this one yet. You must yield to Dr. Bashin's judgment."

Digen opened his mouth to protest, but Thornton cut him off with a raised hand. "Look I know you were down in the EW the day she was first brought in. I know you were instrumental in calming her down and getting her accustomed to the idea that surgery might help her. I know you've made a habit of visiting her room daily, and I think that's fine, too, as long as you're not on the case. But that's an unhealthy kind of interest to take when you are on the case, Doctor. And if you have that kind of an interest, you don't ever move onto a case. You should have had sense enough not to take her on over at the Center -- surely there must be another channel who could have taken her. Now your emotional involvement with this patient is getting you into trouble here, clouding your judgment . . ."

"Dr. Thornton," said Digen in sheer disbelief, "it's that very interest, that personal involvement, which makes it mandatory for me to act as her physician. It's that involvement which is the core of the very definition of a channel! No physician can function without that kind of involvement."

"Do you know what you're saying?"

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"I'm saying that -- the way we work here -- it's wrong. It keeps us from serving the patient's best interests because our judgment is clouded by a lack of personal contact!"

"Are you accusing Dr. Bashin of not knowing the patient well enough to treat her?"

"I'm not making any accusations. I'm merely stating a fact. Surgery is not indicated in this case. Dr. Bashin is only helping her avoid facing the inevitabilities of her life. That's not psychologically healthy."

"I'm a surgeon, not a psychologist!" said Bashin.

"That's what I'm objecting to, Doctor."

"Digen," said Thornton, "perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps you ought to go study with Dr. Goe on Internal Medicine. Or Dr. Emhardt would sign your residency contact today if you asked him."

"Are you kicking me off your Service, Doctor?"

"Do you still want to be a surgeon?"

"Yes, Sir," Digen answered without hesitation. "But not just a surgeon." And as he said it, Digen realized that was indeed the crux of the matter. He felt better immediately.

When he'd been a child, he couldn't see beyond this day when he was actively doing surgery. But now he realized that he didn't want to be a surgeon he wanted to do things with surgery that had never been done before, things nobody thought were possible. That was his true goal. This was only another learning stage, to be endured and outgrown.

And all at once, he felt a new kinship with Bashin. He too was a surgeon trying to do things everybody thought were impossible. He looked at the man with renewed interest. He was a Gen of medium height light brown hair, hazel eyes. Somewhere in his mid-fifties, he was just beginning to show the Gen middle-aged figure. His nager showed basically mixed emotions. There was anger, yes, but there was also an intense curiosity.

Thornton exchanged glances with Bashin, and then said, "Well, in that case, you'd better learn something and learn it now. A surgeon cannot function in that OR when he has some personal stake in the outcome of his work. That's a basic fact of life, Dr. Farris. It's time you learned it, the hard way if necessary. I want you to scrub on the Amanso case with Dr. Bashin. And then you're going to follow the case, step by step, afterwards. You'll either learn, or you'll disqualify yourself from medicine entirely."

"Yes, Sir."

"And one other thing," said Thornton, as Digen turned to leave, "no more mixing disciplines or sources of knowledge until you've mastered each separately, understood?"

"I understand what you're saying, Doctor."

Much later, over coffee, Digen said to Hogan, "I'm going to blow it, Joel. I know I am."

"No you're not," said Hogan. "You're going to go in there tomorrow and show them you're not that easy to get rid of."

Digen shook his head. "She's going to die on that table. I know it as surely as if I could feel it right now."

"You've got too much imagination."

"I've got too much conscience." He took one last sip of his coffee, made a face at it and put it down. "I'm going to talk to Branoff."

As Digen rose from the little table in the corner of the doctor's cafeteria, Hogan got up too. "Digen, no! You go over Thornton's head, and you know what will happen!"

Digen paused and said, "I know what will happen if I don't go over his head." He started for the elevator.

Hogan took one step after him. "Digen!"

Digen stopped, turned, and said, "Coming?"

Hogan hesitated a moment, then shrugged, following.

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In the elevator Hogan said, "One more try. Don't do it, Digen."

"I have to," said Digen. Then he touched Hogan's fingers. "I could use a little friendly support."

Hogan took his hand and gave it a tentative squeeze. Digen had less than a week to go to his transfer, but Hogan had gradually come to take certain liberties with the Sime. They had boosted and pulled each other over too many hurdles for much reserve to remain between them.

In Branoff's office they found the staff had departed for the day, while Branoff worked late, alone in his office. Hogan knocked softly on the open door. Branoff swivelled around from watching the gold and red sunset on the black-bottomed storm clouds; the last snow clouds of the year, everyone was saying. "Joel! Digen! Come in, come in."

Branoff offered tea or coffee, but they both refused, and then Digen said, standing with his hands on the back of the chair he'd refused, "Skyepar Ozik."

"Hmmm?" said Branoff.

"Skip Cudney. I'm not going to go through that again. I'm offering you my resignation. You've been good to me, Dr. Branoff, and I don't want to make any more trouble for the hospital, but I just can't go through this all over again."

"Wai -- wait now, not so fast. Have we another changeover case on the wards?"

"No, no. It's not that simple." And he explained the Amanso case, using the terse shorthand of the hospital. As it turned out, Branoff was reasonably familiar with the case, since it was connected with the re-negotiation of the hospital's contract with the Westfield Police Association. He had also followed Digen's involvement quite closely.

When Digen finished, Branoff said, "You -- ah -- you shouldn't be talking to me about this." And he raised his eyebrows at Hogan.

"Don't look at me," said Hogan. "I already tried to talk him out of it."

Digen said, "Look, if I just march into Dr. Thornton's office and hand in my resignation, it will look like a ploy, an act of anger. He wouldn't understand. I was hoping you would. I told you before, I won't place the rules over the welfare of a patient. I can't."

Branoff swivelled to look again at the sunset. He said, "Sit down, Digen."

Digen sat in the chair he'd been holding onto, and traded glances with Hogan. After a while, Branoff turned back to them. Before he could say anything, Digen put in, "You see, if I just resign, that won't stop the surgery. It won't help Dita. I had to come to you."

"Is it your place," said Branoff, "as a channel, to prevent her from having this done? Isn't it her life, if she wants to risk it?"

"She's being misled," answered Digen. "Not on purpose, but from ignorance of her background, her mind. She's learned, as part of her police cover, to seem like an out-Territory Gen. But she's not. She doesn't understand what's going on here."

"She's had several surgical procedures done here . . ."

"They were justified. And I advised her to go through with them. This one isn't justified. I know that. But there's no way Dr. Thornton or Dr. Bashin can know that, unless they take my word for it. And they won't because I'm only an intern. I've never felt so impotent, so helpless, so frustrated in all my life!"

"Digen!" whispered Hogan, and Digen felt the thrum of warning in the Gen's nager. It helped Digen put an instant curb on his temper, which was why Digen had asked him along.

"Apparently," said Branoff, "you've told her your judgment, as a channel, and she hasn't believed you. Isn't that her privilege?"

"Yes. But it isn't a question of whether she believes me or not. A doctor doesn't do what the patient demands. A patient doesn't come and say, 'Take my appendix out, Doctor.' The patient comes and says, 'I have a pain right here; do something, please, Doctor.' And the doctor says, 'That appendix will have to come out.' Or maybe, 'This could be an ovarian cyst.' Well, Dr. Bashin isn't doing that. He's letting Dita tell him what to do for her problem."

"That's a very serious allegation."

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"I know. But I'm not saying he's negligent. I'm only saying that I know more about what's going on with this patient than he does, but he won't listen to me because I don't have the official credentials. That's a ridiculous reason to endanger a patient's life uselessly."

"If you resign, you'll never have the 'official credentials' to make the Bashins of this world listen to you."

"I've thought of that. But do I have to prove myself right over the patient's dead body?"

Branoff shook his head. "Digen, the mortality rate among Bashin's patients is the lowest of any in his field."

"She's already had three major operations in less than a year. Now run your statistics through again."

Branoff turned to look out at the darkening evening again. It was now barely possible to see the reflection of the room in the window pane. He said, "What's the latest news of Skip Cudney?"

"Uh," said Digen, caught by the change of topic. "Last I had it, a couple of weeks ago, his condition had improved some and then leveled off. He'll never recover completely, but the impairment is actually very slight now."

"You feel guilty about it."

"In an odd sort of way. I'm a physician, Dr. Branoff. I've made mistakes before, pulled patients through, lost some, crippled some. I learned to live with that a long time before I ever came here. Skip taught me -- a lot about what I'm doing here. I'm not going to make that mistake again."

"If you resign now, I think you will be making that mistake again. Skip got caught in the nutcracker of the Territory border -- he got hurt because the courts ruled that, despite his being a channel . . ."

"They didn't know that. It was kept a secret. I don't know why, and I doubt if Skip does."

"There, you see? But if he'd been raised in-Territory, it wouldn't have made any difference. The court ruling and everything that happened in this hospital was the direct result of this whole system we live in. One set of rules, laws, morals in-Territory, another set out-Territory, and neither side understanding the other any more than they absolutely have to. That's the battle you're fighting with Bashin. Not whether you're doctor enough to pass judgment on him, but whether a channel can know something more accurately than a doctor. Don't you see, Digen, that's the battle you came here to fight, and if you quit now -- who will come to fight in your place?"

"The mixing of disciplines and sources of knowledge," said Digen thoughtfully. Thornton's words.

When Digen recited the earlier conversation, Branoff said, "Yes, of course. The time will come when you'll be able to treat your patients with all the knowledge at your disposal. Maybe even, if you can somehow be patient enough, you'll be able to do that right here in this hospital, consulting with men like Bashin, after they've seen what you can do. But if you quit now, they'll never see. All they'll see is a temperamental channel who hasn't the guts to prove his own points."

"I don't want to prove my points over dead bodies."

"Now that's exactly what Thornton was saying. You can't practice good medicine when you're too emotionally involved with your patients." He paused and added, "The paths of medicine are paved with dead bodies, Digen. Thousands of them for every inch of progress we've made."

And Digen thought Out of Death Was I Born.

"That's the lesson Thornton wants you to learn in that OR tomorrow. Can you walk in there, as involved with this case as you are, and do good surgery, proving to Bashin and everybody else that a channel can know as much about what's going on inside a body as a nice, concrete X-ray? Or don't you have the guts?"

"She didn't sign up as an experimental animal, to gratify some surgeon's ego by proving a point."

"All surgery is experimental. Haven't you learned that yet, either?"

"Dita doesn't know that. That's what I've been trying to tell you. She doesn't understand."

"I thought you said what she thought was beside the point. It's Bashin's judgment that's in question here. And he's relying on a perfectly clear X-ray instead of your word. That's the issue, isn't it?"

Digen didn't say anything, and Branoff added, "Have you looked at the X-rays?"

"Not very closely."

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"I suggest you study them, the old ones and the fresh ones, and all her tests. Study them with your doctor's glasses on. Then tomorrow, after you've observed the surgery, write it up as if you were submitting it to a medical journal. Who knows, maybe some day it will be a foundation article for a course or something."

Digen stood up. "Either that, or my resignation will be on your desk -- before surgery -- in the morning. I've taken up enough of your time, Dr. Branoff; thank you."

He turned to go, but Branoff said, "I can't go and talk to her myself. That would be unprofessional. It's Dr. Bashin's case, and he hasn't invited me. But I will speak to Dr. Thornton -- not mentioning, of course, that we had this informal chat, but maybe encouraging him to have Joel scrub in on the case with you -- for instructive purposes."

Digen was touched. "Sometimes, Joel is helpful to have around, that's true. Thank you, Sir."

Shoulder to shoulder, they left the room, Branoff once again staring at the last rays of the sunset.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Digen spent a bad night wrestling with his conscience, arguing Distect philosophy with Ilyana, meditating in the Memorial to the One Billion, and at last going over all the same ground again with Hayashi, several times. He felt a kind of trapped anxiety he had never felt before. And he came out of it knowing what it meant to be the only sighted one in the country of the blind.

He arrived on the surgical floor the next morning filled with a fatalistic reluctance. He had to go through with this, if only for the sake of clarifying the issues. But he couldn't go through with it, any more than he could simply resign when his real goal was so far off, yet so very near. He didn't see how this was going to get him any closer to that goal, but if it was part of the learning process, then he had to stick it out, just as Joel had stuck out his misgivings and anxieties.

In that mood, he climbed into a scrub suit, hooked the mask over his ears, and bound the cap around his hair. Shoulder to shoulder with Joel Hogan he scrubbed in. As the two of them backed into the OR to be gowned and gloved, Ditana Amanso was wheeled in, groggy but still conscious.

She said, in Simelan, "Sectuib Farris. I'm so glad you're here this time. Now I know it will be all right."

Digen wanted to rip away gown and gloves and hurl himself out of the room screaming accusations of anything he could think of to stop this thing. He stood paralyzed for a moment, and then summoned himself to discipline. He said, in Simelan, "If -- if -- afterwards, Dita, I'll be with you as long as --as long as you'll let me, as long as I can."

"Tell my sister, Sectuib. I want you to be the one to tell her. Promise."

"I promise, Dita. Now let them put the mask on."

Hogan came up on Digen's right. His selyn field was negligible compared to Amanso's, but as she went out under the anesthetic, Hogan's strength was there for Digen.

By the time Bashin and Thornton arrived, the patient was ready, the operating field draped and prepped. They were in Operating Room Four, where there was a glassed-off balcony for students, and magnifying mirrors set up so they could see the operating field.

Bashin started by lecturing to the crowd above him, but aiming his words pointedly at Digen. He discussed many cases such as this in which fair to good leg function had been restored. Digen had indeed done his homework. And Bashin was right. By everything his methods showed, he was right. It was just that this time, he was wrong. Only Digen could not prove it.

Thornton opened, with Hogan and Digen holding the retractors. Then Bashin stepped up to the table and began his work. He was good, almost as good as Thornton, Digen realized. He knew what he was looking for and went right to it, a sliver of bone wedged against the spinal cord between two vertebrae that had been repaired in previous operations. The bullets had made a complete mess of her organs, and with the experience Digen had gained recently, he was able to appreciate the skill of the Surgeons who had done the repairs.

He answered all of Bashin's questions as they went along. This was the most intricate surgery Digen had yet been privileged to witness, and he marveled at Bashin's delicacy. For a Gen, the man was something special. He tried to keep his mind on that as both Thornton and Bashin shot questions at him,

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asked for decisions, judgments made in the snap of an instrument to the palm. And Digen fielded each one correctly, time after time.

By the time Bashin's forceps closed over the bone fragment, Digen was sweating profusely. Amanso's field was the highest Digen had ever done surgery on, and he was so close to need himself as made no difference. Every slice of the scalpel, even though not in his own hand, was magnified until he began getting flashes of the Rizdel nightmares, wakened again after these long months. He could hardly believe it himself.

He realized Bashin had said something to him, and asked, "Would you repeat that, Doctor?"

"I said," said Bashin, looking pointedly at Digen's hands, "are you tired, Doctor?"

Digen realized his hands were shaking. He also knew they would believe it was because he cared about this patient and was learning the lesson they wanted him to learn. In fact, he had found himself doing some of the best surgical thinking he'd ever done. "Is that better, Sir?" Digen forced his hands to steady. The worst was, he reminded himself, already over.

Thornton and Bashin exchanged glances as Bashin deposited the bone fragment in the gleaming tray and began the sponge count routine. Then Bashin looked up at Digen and said, "Would you care to close for us Doctor Farris?"

"If you like," said Digen steadily. But his insides were crawling. He was no longer thinking about the necessity of the surgery, the usefulness of it, or who the patient was, or even the point he was making here. He realized more and more that he was losing his internal balances.

Bashin bowed out of his place, and somehow, in the ensuing jockeying for position, Digen managed to get Joel to come in on his left. Compared to the patient they were torturing with their needles, Hogan had no field at all, and he was totally unresponsive, whereas Amanso, even unconscious under several drugs, was responding to every variation in Digen's field.

While the scrub nurse changed trays, Digen closed his eyes and focused everything he had on Hogan's field, "Joel," he whispered, "this is getting to me.

Hogan knew what that meant, and he swore softly under his breath. He'd seen Digen weather some rough ones, and had learned how to help blank out the little shocks as the needle went in and out under Digen's hands. "I'm with you, Digen. It'll be over in a few minutes."

And then they were into it again. The sweep of the needle, snip of Hogan's scissor, flick of a knot tied, moving on to the next a few millimeters down. Thornton and Bashin stayed to watch, checking the work carefully. They both expected Digen to shy out of it any moment, and that very fact kept Digen at it long after he would have bowed out to Hogan in any other situation.

Without consulting Bashin, Digen gave the order to lighten the sedation. Bashin only nodded when the anesthetist looked to him for confirmation. When Digen had only three more stitches to set, it happened.

One moment, everything was going fine. The next, Ditana Amanso's heart went into ventricular fibrillation. Digen, guarding himself so intensely from the shocks of the punctures, didn't perceive it until the anesthetist did, and then it was only a slight constriction in his own chest, mere sympathetic sensation, with no arrhythmia in his own heartbeat. His voice rang out in unison with Bashin's. "Get the paddles!"

Thornton's hands came down on her chest, one on top of the other, delivering sharp impulses at regular intervals. The circulating nurse, who had started to move the moment the anesthetist announced the fibrillation, arrived with the electric shock cart and handed the paddles to Bashin. Thornton yielded and Ditana's limp body arched backward as the electric shock was delivered to her heart. The anesthetist had a positive pressure respirator going.

They went through the routine again. And a third time. The heartbeat began once, feebly, but sank into inertia again. Digen stood, hands in the air so as not to break his scrub, in case they should decide to do an open heart massage.

Thornton, eyeing the clock, called it off. "That's it. Good work." Dispirited, the crew retired their equipment. Digen drew the drape straight up over the body, meeting Thornton's eyes levelly. There was no accusation or bitterness in him, and Thornton saw that clearly. He said, "I'm sorry, Digen. This wasn't part of the lesson."

"I know." And a moment later, he said, "Sir. With your permission, I'd like to watch Dr. Emhardt do the autopsy."

A little surprised, Thornton said, "I did order you to follow the case, but I hardly think it necessary . . ."

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"I'd like to."

"Very well, then. See if he can get it in today, then take the rest of the day off."

"That's not necessary, Sir. I'm supposed to scrub with Dr. Durr at eleven and Dr. Weicke at three. There should be plenty of time."

"MacBride can assist Dr. Durr. Don't drive yourself, Doctor;. it can do neither you nor your patient any good."

Thornton and Bashin left. Hogan was putting the final routines into motion. Finally, he urged Digen out into the locker room, saying, "Thornton's right. You look a little shocky yourself."

Digen moved to strip off his sweat-soaked scrub suit and don a fresh set of whites. Buckling his trousers, he suddenly remembered his promise. "I've got to tell her sister!"

Hogan said, "Bashin's probably done that already."

"Come on!" said Digen, leading the way out the door.

Hogan followed, trailing one untied shoe. They arrived at the waiting room beside the elevators just as Bashin was approaching a Sime woman who sat between two Gens. Bashin had not said a word yet, but the meaning was indelibly clear to both Digen and the renSime. Digen arrowed across the room, intervening between Bashin and Ditana Amanso's sister.

He went to his knees before the seated woman, took her hands, and used himself unstintingly to blank out the whole atmosphere of the hospital as he spoke rapidly, in Simelan, telling her exactly what had happened.

The blow rocked her deeply, and Digen shared the moment with her, not making any attempt to blunt the impact of it. The two women had been alone in the world. They had been everything to each other for so long, and now Ria was really alone. He held the world at bay for her while she took the adjustment in stunned silence.

During that moment, Bashin stood silent behind them. Then, at last, Ria was able to cry. Digen gave her over to her Gen escorts with terse orders. They were both TN-2's and fairly high field at the time, able to protect the renSime from most of the hospital's ambient nager. He finished, "Get her out of here right away."

When the three women rose, Bashin said, "Dr. Farris! I do believe it is the surgeon in charge who is customarily obligated to . . ."

Digen about-faced and said, "I apologize, Sir. But it seemed to me it would be unbearably cruel to receive such news through a translator, especially when she could see immediately how you felt about it. Even the retainers can't screen out such strong reactions."

Bashin considered that. "Your behavior is unprofessional, Doctor. But I see your point. However . . ."

"Sir, I know I should have mentioned it to you before you got all the way out here. It was unforgivable that it slipped my mind. I accept any reprimand you care to enter on my record."

Bashin nodded, glanced toward Hogan, and said, "Dr. Farris, compassion is not a criminal offense even out-Territory." He strode off, saying over one shoulder, to Hogan, "Do something to him before he gets into more trouble."

"Come on, Digen," said Hogan, "let's go up to the room for a few minutes."

Digen shook his head. "I've got to go talk to Emhardt." But he didn't move toward the elevators.

Hogan said, "You look as if you're about to come unraveled. Judging by experience, it will pass quicker if you get those retainers off for a while."

Digen didn't resist as Hogan steered him to the elevator and punched the top button. In their room, Digen stripped off the retainers and threw himself across the bed. Hogan went into the bathroom and turned the hot water on full blast, and measured some trin tea grounds into a glass. He brought it to Digen. "Not the full robust flavor, perhaps, but better than urn coffee."

Digen roused himself to sit up and take the glass with the dry washcloth holder around it. His hands were shaking and he almost spilled it. Hogan steadied the glass a moment, and said, "Her field was that high?"

Digen nodded and took a sip of the tea. He motioned Hogan to sit down beside him. What he really

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required was Ilyana's deft touch, but Hogan was Gen, and at the moment deeply sympathetic. It was better than being alone.

"They're going to think you're upset because you liked her."

"That's why I wanted to go talk to Emhardt right away. And to make my eleven o'clock."

"Digen, face it. You may be a Farris, but you're no iron man."

Digen grimaced. "I learned that long ago."

"One would never guess from the way you behave."

Digen gulped down half the glass of tea. "Look, I . . ." And then it hit him all at once. The instability of need, peaking now in anticipation of his second transfer with Ilyana the strain of the long operation, the shock at the end of it, all piled up against him. Duoconsciously, it manifested itself as a sharp, searing pain along his left arm; the old cramping reflex from the scar tissue. His left hand went numb with it, and the glass fell from his fingers.

Hogan caught the glass, sloshing the hot water onto Digen's knee and the bedspread. Digen clutched at the Gen, swearing softly under his breath in Simelan. The glass fell to the floor. The two of them rolled on the bed, Digen gasping, "Help me!"

Even with Hogan's body clasped tight to his, even not wearing retainers, the Gen's field just wasn't strong enough to steady the turbulence in Digen's selyn currents. In an attempt to sharpen the field gradient between them, Digen made lateral contact with Hogan's skin at the face and the back of the neck.

Digen's lips brushed Hogan's skin at the temple and the light contact threw Digen into hyperconsciousness. Hogan became to him a dim, steady, unpulsating selyn source. It was the strongest source in his vicinity, but not strong enough or responsive enough to force a selyn flow.

Hogan, however, knew that only intellectually. He could not sense it directly. What happened next was as much a surprise to him as to Digen. Over the months, the two had come to lean on each other in casual trust, even during Digen's days of need. Suddenly all that was gone, ripped away like a veil to reveal all the raw terror of the Sime latent in any Gen.

For once, Digen's conditioned reflexes failed him. He was helpless in the midst of internal chaos, wholly at the mercy of the Gen's terror. His arms tightened involuntarily around the feeble glow that was Hogan's body. It wasn't much, but it was all he had to save himself by.

This, of course, increased Hogan's wildcatting fear, and he struggled physically against Digen. Simultaneously, Hogan's selyn production rate spiked upwards in response to his fear, and that abrupt change knifed through Digen like an explosion of icicles. It touched something in him that had only been touched once before, and the unsuspected pleasure of it terrified him.

With a gasp and a wrench, he threw himself out of Hogan's selyn field, and heard distantly the inarticulate grunt that issued from his own lax throat.

A moment later, the door slammed behind Hogan, and Digen perceived the sound as an echo in the vibrating fear that seemed to fill the room.

Through the long, long time that he lay there afterwards, he had only one thought. I swore that if I ever felt that pleasure again, pleasure in a Gen's pain, I would quit surgery! I swore it.

But by the time the whole reaction had run its course, and he began to feel chilled, lying in sweat-soaked clothing, he was able to get past that first paralyzing realization to the fact that he had encountered this strange reaction not at the table, not from the bite and slice of the scalpel, but in a wholly different context. It was possible that it was due not to surgery at all, but to the aftermath of the Rizdel episode.

And, Digen realized, it was gone now as if it had never been. It had held him only for the briefest of moments. He had learned, through long years and many grim lessons, not to be dismayed at the things his own Sime nature was capable of. Out of Death Was I Born, he thought.

He was taking a hot shower by the time the First Order Donor Hogan had called from the Center arrived. They couldn't send Ilyana, of course, so there wasn't much the man could offer Digen.

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The following day, when Digen came back from the Center in the morning, Hogan's things were gone from the room they had shared. He didn't see Hogan again for the next few weeks except as a fleeting figure on the edges of his day. Somehow, Digen found the strength to follow through with the autopsy and the report he'd been asked to write. He kept his OR schedule as if nothing had happened. But he was only going through the motions.

Several times he tried to corner Hogan, to explain, to apologize, but always the Gen slipped away from him. He found out he had moved into the place vacated by Dr. Carry's sudden departure. But Digen never called or stopped by that room. He did note, however, than Hogan had not said a word to anyone about what had happened. He decided he required time; they all required time.

And then Digen had two days off, and his scheduled transfer with Ilyana. Hayashi and Mora Dyen insisted on keeping countdown vigil with him, and this once, he let them. His need was peaking spontaneously, and he had such total confidence in Ilyana that his usual pre-transfer morbidity had totally evaporated. He hadn't felt like this in years, not since his last transfer with his sister, Bett. And even with her, it had never been quite like this.

They had all assembled in the penthouse living room, and when Ilyana came, it was to Digen as if the sun had risen, though it was midnight. Just from the fringe of her field, he was tipped into hyperconsciousness, slow, easy, natural, the way it was supposed to be and just never was for him.

Watching it all, Hayashi offered no argument this time. He only said to Ilyana, "Be very careful afterward. Help him all you can."

Digen felt Hayashi's concern and Ilyana's sober assent and guessed what the exchange had been about. But he was too absorbed to even try to resolve the sounds into words and words into a meaning. He took her into the transfer room, slipping into trautholo before the door closed behind them. This was much too precious to be disturbed by any resistance on his part.

He took her into transfer position immediately, giving free reign to all the deepest Sime instincts, actively drawing the selyn his body demanded, as if it were a deep, cool breath of spring air, right up to the very limit of his capacity, and scarcely noticing her level barriers which were flattening before.

Every dynopter he drew was a healing balm to some punished nerve, overtaxed system, or raw sore. And as the healing spread through him, so did the purest satisfaction any transfer could deliver.

At last! At last! At last!

Delirious exultation carried Digen up and up and up to the peak of duoconsciousness and over into pure hypoconsciousness. His awareness centered on the skin against his, the aroma of woman, the silk of hair and thigh, the mouth against his suddenly yielding, even demanding, and the warmth of renewed life plunging through him and down to the groin to waken nerves, glands, blood vessels so long dormant.

The thin cotton of her dress parted to his fingers as if it were gossamer. His arms went around her body, gently, insistently crushing with an urgency he hadn't felt in so long -- it was like the very first time, new and beautiful beyond all knowledge. There was nothing in him but the feeding of this renewed and hungry sense. It wiped away all the past, the long, long sequence of disappointing transfers, the constant holding back lest he hurt some Gen.

He was already mounting to climax when she broke with him, and whispered in his ear, "Digen! I lied -- to Rin -- to Rin -- told -- Digen, my great-grandmother was Muryin Farris, too! I'm Valleroy and Farris, that's what's wrong with me!"

Cold shock drenched Digen, froze him in place. "Lied!"

"Well, they never asked me who my great-grandmother was, and they never asked point-blank if I had Farris blood. Or I'd have never gotten away with it, of course."

Then Digen realized what had been about to happen between them. Lortuen consummation, nothing less.

He caught his breath. The moment of utmost urgency had passed. It was over. He was able now, he thought, to force himself to go elsewhere for post-transfer attention. One last thought came: It would have been worth it, dammit. He didn't even wonder why he was thinking in English all of a sudden.

In Simelan, he said, "Thank you, Ilyana." Holding himself very tightly inside, he got to his feet.

Kneeling on the bed, she grabbed his arms. He couldn't move. The slightest pressure of her fingers, and he'd be dead at her feet. She said, "You must promise never to tell! It's a secret in Rior, our weapon against the Tecton."

He looked at her fingers on his left arm, and closed his eyes.

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She said, "I only said that -- it was the only thing I could think of to stop you. I know how you feel about Farris-Farris crosses. Digen! I did it to keep my promise to you, to the Tecton. Digen, please!"

He met her eyes then, silent for a long moment. At last he said, "You wouldn't harm me."

She looked at her hands as if she hadn't known what they had done. She withdrew them, shaking her head in dismay. ". . . Digen . . ."

Digen took her hands in his. They were icy cold to his touch. "Ilyana, they have to know. It's important. It could mean your life -- the Farris genes . . ."

Somehow, he felt he'd always known. From the moment he first saw her, first felt her nager around the corner of the hallway to the Controller's office, his very first day in Westfield, he had known it. She didn't look Farris. Perhaps the Valleroy strain was dominant over the Farris. The geneticists really had to have this data. It could be so important.

It brought a deep barrier down between them. He felt he'd never again have trouble breaking a transfer at the appropriate moment with her. If he got her pregnant, it would not be exactly incest, but it might well be murder. No contraception measure was effective enough to risk that. He was psychologically impotent as far as she was concerned.

Her tears ran down his fingertips as she kissed them. "I've broken a vow to keep a vow. Digen, I should never have come here. I've given you -- I've given you -- please, you've got to promise. Even if I killed myself, it wouldn't make up for what I've done."

He sat down beside her. "All right. I'll leave it to you to tell them, when you're ready. I won't ask why you think it's so important, or why it's a secret. It's always been sort of a folk myth, the lethal attraction between Valleroy and Farris. What almost happened to us just confirms the myth."

"They don't know that I'm in the succession. The Valleroy name has been lost for more than three generations, and I wouldn't have told them, anyway."

Digen remembered her pledge to him in the Memorial to the One Billion the day she'd tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists. He never wanted to face another day like that as long as he lived. "I remember." He took her in his arms, fully sensitive to the womanliness of her, yet gratifyingly unresponsive. Beneath that, though, there was a thrum of regret. He said, "You're mine, Ilyana, like nobody else I've even known. We don't need the rest, you and I. It's enough what we have."

He felt her denial even before she said it. "No, it's not enough. It won't ever be enough, all by itself, not for me. Don't you know what I am yet?"

She had explained it often enough. In the Distect, Lortuen was not an exclusive privilege granted to certain individuals whose bodies had been conditioned and used by "society" to its own ends, regardless of their personal will. It wasn't considered a trap into which the unwary might fall, perhaps through no fault of their own, but not without some moral stigma -- as if it were a loath disease. No Lortuen was the ideal of Distect existence, available to each and every renSime and Gen for the taking. There, it was considered the standard of normality.

Digen said, "Yes, I know. But we're here, not there, with our lives and our jobs cut out for us. And you just scared it all out of me, you know."

She shook the tears out of her eyes. "Not forever. The lethal attraction, remember? Maybe you can fool yourself, but I can't. There'll come a point -- and I don't know what I'll do then!"

Digen knew, in a forlorn way, that she was right. It was underscored by the long, difficult time he had with Mora Dyen. She was certainly no less attractive, no less immediately feminine than Ilyana, and being Sime -- which Digen had always before preferred in his women -- she was much more exciting to him, physically.

But, after hours of patient work, he was only able to sustain an arousal through a fantasy of Ilyana -- which was difficult to do with a Sime woman in his arms. Afterwards, she saw him through that night and the next with the compassion of one who had herself been there and back again.

She hadn't been able to take a lover since Imrahan had left. Now that Digen was active again, they were perfect for each other. Neither of them could face even the idea of sleeping with a Gen of the opposite sex.

Once, Mora said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if Imrahan and I and you and Ilyana could just sort of --live together. Just us, and a lifetime."

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"That's the way they do it in the Distect, in fours, always in phase with each other -- none of this switching around and breaking dependencies and avoiding so much as a wink of affection to a Donor."

"Sounds too idyllic to be true," said Mora, half asleep.

"It is," said Digen. "What about all those Gens out there --" like Joel "-- who can't face even the thought of being touched by a Sime."

"Hmm," she said, and they both fell asleep in each other's arms to dream of might-have-beens and if-onlys.

When Digen returned to the hospital after that weekend, it was as if, all these long months, he had been swimming doggedly through congealed crude oil, and only now had won through to clean, fresh air where every movement was free of drag, and his whole skin was alive with new sensations.

The work was the same as always, just as trying, just as full of systemic shocks, personality conflicts, and tests of strength. But now, suddenly, it all went right through him without really touching him. He could cope without expending his life's blood. He wasn't fighting last-ditch battles, he was leading a charge to victory on winged feet -- or at least that's what it felt like.

He recognized the feeling as nothing more than "normal" for any Sime. But it had been so long since he'd felt that way that he was literally drunk on it.

Suddenly, four or five more years of this didn't seem like a long time. He could visualize himself up there ahead somewhere, bringing all the benefits of surgical medicine into Sime Territory and being welcomed in triumph. Nothing, but nothing, was beyond him when he was in this state.

The entire two weeks free of need was to Digen a renewed celebration of life. He was in surgery sometimes as often as six times a day, and was as fresh at the end of the day as at the beginning. If he'd been like this the day Ditana Amanso had died, he'd never have gone to pieces and scared Joel witless, he often thought. But he still wasn't able to pin the Gen to the wall somewhere and apologize.

In years to come, Digen often looked back on this period as the happiest in his life. He'd accomplished a goal he'd striven toward for eighteen years, and could see the fruits of his efforts just up there, almost within his grasp. But he knew there would be more grim times ahead.

He wouldn't have Ilyana very often. But they couldn't keep the two of them apart and expect Ilyana to survive. Already, just from two transfers, Ilyana's selyn production rate was coming down to something almost reasonable, and she was putting on weight steadily, regaining her strength and physical endurance rapidly. She was young, and the recovery she made was visible on a day-to-day basis.

There would be months, even whole sequences of months, when he couldn't touch her. But there would never again be the steady build-up over years and years that had almost destroyed him, destroyed his faith in himself, in medicine, in his visions and goals.

He knew that his former pessimism, though largely a product of chronic need, sapped vitality, and deteriorating health, was also based on valid observations.

He could still see the things wrong with the way the Gens at this hospital practiced surgery. He still harbored his philosophical differences and held his convictions as strongly as ever. But it no longer seemed too great a hurdle for human flesh to surmount.

He no longer felt driven to the wall where he had to make a final choice between his integrity and a slavish obedience to the rules for the sake of his medical career. There were things he could do to change his situation. Whenever he ran into a case where a patient's welfare was being ignored, ideas would occur to him, whole libraries full of ideas, of different ways he could influence his superiors without bringing it to a confrontation of wills or authority.

Sometimes a single notation on a chart would turn the trick, or a clever question planted during rounds. Sometimes it would be a conversation over coffee with another partner in the clinic of the attending physician, and sometimes it would be merely ordering one or another test which was within the scope of an intern's duties.

Digen was no longer being acted upon by his environment, a situation which his basic personality found intolerable, but he was taking the initiative, always several steps ahead of everyone around him, and almost always right, without making an obvious point of being right.

All the native tact and charm of the Farrises was coming to the fore again. He never lost his temper, and never offended anyone during those weeks.

Within days, the whole hospital was buzzing with the news "The New Digen Farris!" They were all certain the Ditana Amanso case had been the turning point, the experience that made a doctor out of him at last.

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Even Hogan, passing briskly in the hall, offered him a smile and congratulations. Digen smiled back and for an instant, the old rapport was there again for them. Of all those in the hospital, only Hogan knew exactly what had happened to Digen. And he wasn't telling. Digen reached out to explain, to apologize. But Hogan was gone, swallowed up by the elevator.

Digen was very much afraid the trust that had been between them, the only thing that had made the hospital bearable for Digen on those bad days before a transfer, was gone forever. But even that didn't get him down. It was only another problem to be solved, not a blow from which there could be no recovery.

That was the difference a good transfer made in a Sime. And it lasted even through his turnover day and into the need half of his cycle. He wasn't assigned to Ilyana this month. But he was long accustomed to rotation, and was well prepared to cope with a Donor who had been sent from the southern gulf coast, a three-point-six who seemed to be functioning near the point nine level. Such a Donor would have been a refreshing relief before Ilyana. Now, he was merely something to be lived through and forgotten.

This period of unquenchable optimism lasted for a number of days after his turnover day. And then a rapid succession of events put an end to it.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

It was the last week in April. Floods had come to the flatlands as the winter snows melted away. In some parts of the country, spring planting was already under way. Elsewhere, in and out-Territory, the election campaigns were beginning in earnest.

Work at the Frihill dig on Leander Field commenced as soon as the mud was soft enough. They had to keep ahead of the road-building crew. And it was only a few days into the spring thaw when they made their biggest strike, a box which seemed to have been manufactured by the Ancients themselves. The letters, still dimly visible on the outside of the case, were in Old English, requiring an archeologist or a specialist in dead languages to translate.

The find brought the headlines back to Westfield, and a huge ceremony was planned at the Gen City Hall for the official opening of the crate.

Mickland, with Cyril Ohmand as his campaign manager, orchestrated events in such a way that the opening of the box was delayed for the arrival of the Gen presidential candidate who favored Mickland, and promptly saw to it that the District Controller and his staff were invited to the opening.

Meanwhile, Mickland's other activities of the winter had begun to bear fruit. Ever since the Union Day ceremonies where Digen nominated Rindaleo Hayashi for World Controller, Digen had seen and heard very little from Mickland. A reasonably competent Second had been assigned to the changeover ward to replace Cyril Ohmand. The Donors assigned to Digen had been slightly above standard. In general, Digen had little to complain about, and rarely encountered Mickland.

Now, within the space of five days, Digen learned that by some mysterious happenstance, Imrahan had been sent to the pogrom and riot-torn area of Asia. He could not go in-Test for the duration of the emergency, Mora Dyen wanted to volunteer immediately for reassignment to the area, but Digen talked her out of it. It couldn't do anyone any good.

Then, at long last, Digen found what had become of his request to be re-rated without going in-Test. It had been under consideration by the Test Committee, but set aside as one after another Committee member resigned or was fired and had to be replaced by an appointee who had to be investigated and approved.

In the end, the vote had gone against Digen by a margin of one. Those acting on Digen's behalf had promptly appealed the ruling. The letter Digen got from his former Therapist was very pessimistic about the chances of the higher board setting aside such an orthodox ruling during an election year.

This was not nearly as crushing a blow as it would have been two months before. Then, at the very end of his strength, Digen would have seen it almost as if the Tecton were attempting to murder him when he was too weak to fight back. Now, it only acted as an aid in defining the problem he had to set himself to solve.

He had no doubt that Mickland had influenced the decision. He also had no doubt that Mickland had done nothing illegal in doing so. And it was perfectly clear to him that if he had been "being the Sectuib in Zeor" as the World Controller had urged him to be, Mickland could never have out-maneuvered him like this. The question that came to Digen was, How could such a thing happen in the Tecton?

He could not envision himself spending his life fighting such useless battles.

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There was a kind of horror rising from these events like a heat shimmer over hot pavement. Digen couldn't quite bring himself to look directly at the implications, nor to see clearly through the events to the causes.

He clung to the knowledge that, rating or no, he was the only channel who could manage Ilyana's condition. She would be on the therapy rolls for some months yet, until she fully regained her strength, so rotation would not separate them for very long at a stretch.

For several days this knowledge sustained him. And then, between scrubs, Digen sat down alone in the surgeon's off-duty room to have coffee, missing Hogan's company and wondering what he might do about that problem, when he picked up an out-Territory paper.

STRONG ANTI-DISTECT LAW SIGNED BY WORLD CONTROLLER. The banner headline across the top of the page was followed by a three-column-wide picture of Akim Karriem signing something, and a page-length story on the new bill.

In brief, the new law required any practicing Distect Sime or Gen who wanted Tecton sanctuary to renounce all allegiance to the Distect and sign a statement repudiating Distect practices. The law, the Gen paper declared, invalidated the oath Ilyana Dumas had taken on Union Day, and she would have to comply to these new requirements.

Digen's immediate impulse was to dash back to the Center and get a "real" newspaper to find out what was actually going on. His second thought was to get to Ilyana before she heard it in some garbled form. And his third, which occurred to him only as his hand hit the door, was that he couldn't leave the hospital -- he was on duty, and had to be in surgery in fifteen minutes.

And then, as he stood there frozen in the doorway, it came to him that it wasn't Ilyana Dumas they were after, it was Digen Farris. And "they" were nothing more or less than Mickland and Company.

The removal of Imrahan, the denial of his re-rating request, and now the repudiating of the oath he had exacted of Ilyana -- publicly explaining that he would not ask her to break a former oath because that act itself would cast suspicion on the new oath -- all of it was Mickland's way of declaring war on Digen Farris.

"No," said Digen out loud, to no one at all. "I won't be manipulated."

Obviously, the job had to be done, but Digen could not envision himself as a politician. He would not let events' even such superbly orchestrated events, corner him into something he didn't want to do.

He sat down to think. And then it hit him that if the new law were as reported there was no way that Ilyana Dumas could comply with it. He could almost see her, in the Memorial, slashing her wrists again. He picked up the phone. "I want to place an outside, collect call."

As he waited for a clear line, Digen realized he could not call Ilyana. He had no way, over the phone, to judge her state of mind, or to prevent her from hanging up and doing something immediate and irreparable to herself. When the operator came on, he placed the call to Hayashi, giving them his personal priority code which would bring Hayashi to the phone out of anything short of an actual transfer.

The Gen paper, Hayashi told Digen, had been essentially accurate in its account.

"Rin," said Digen, "you've got to keep her quiet until I can get there tonight. Use drugs if you have to."

"Way ahead of you, Digen, for once," said Hayashi. "She's sleeping under a heavy tranquilizer now. This is her normal sleep period, you know, so she should be safe until you come."

Digen nodded. "Just to be sure, post a guard outside her door -- a Gen, for shen and shay, -- and you or Mora stay in the room with her all the time."

"But she's asleep, Digen," protested Hayashi.

"You don't know her like I do, Rin. This is the end for her, one way or another, and I don't know what to do about it."

Something in Digen's tone made Hayashi consent to the drastic measures. And then Digen went back to the operating theater, glad that the rest of his day would be taken up with what had become dreary routine surgery. It gave him time to think.

When he got to Ilyana that night, she was still groggy with tranquilizers. She gave him a dispirited grimace of welcome, curled up in her favorite chair in the living room. Digen sat on the carpet, combing his fingers -- dry and oversensitive from the hospital work -- through the silky nap.

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They enjoyed each other's presence in silence for a long time. To both of them, the physical interaction of selyn fields was more refreshing than a full meal or a long, hot soak in the tub. But after a while, Ilyana shook her head. "It's no use, Digen. You know it. I know it. Rin knows it. Even Mora can see it. I am Distect and I will always remain Distect, and I believe it's a better way to be. I truly believe the Tecton is evil. You don't know what I've gone through, just to say I won't act to destroy it."

"Oh, yes I do," said Digen. "I've been with you every step of the way, remember? I know, Ilyana, I know."

She looked at him, and with that curious perceptivity of the higher order Donor, she knew he had indeed known the cost to her, every step of the way.

"The Tecton isn't evil," said Digen, "it's just big, and sometimes uncoordinated. And here, as anywhere, there are men whose ideas of right and wrong don't exactly match mine."

"Don't make excuses for it, Digen. It's trying to destroy you. Maybe you can't see that yet, but I can."

Digen couldn't answer that. The prospect, real and imminent now, of losing Ilyana forever because of Tecton politics, had struck at the very deepest Sime instincts for survival, and he felt himself on the verge of a kind of panic he'd not known except in-Test on the brink of death by attrition. A kill-mode kind of panic. He had finally adjusted to the normality of life these last few weeks, and it had come home to him just how much he'd been robbed of over the last years. The idea of losing it all again before he'd really found it was more than he could face.

"The Tecton," he said wearily, "isn't trying to destroy me. It's just that I'm out of tune with it, that's all."

"No, Digen. The channels are slaves. Those people out there are forcing you to pay the price of their laziness."

"They're not lazy, Ilyana. Those Gen kids, out-Territory, are raised so brutally they can never never so much as face a Sime, most of them. They're crippled -- just like me."

Lips compressed, Ilyana shook her head.

Digen said, "Go ahead, say it. The crippled should die because they weaken the race as a whole. Everybody would be happier and healthier living Distect style. We've been over it often enough, haven't we?"

She said, giving his standard argument for him, "But what of the Simes who would addict themselves to the kill without the channels? What of society and civilization then?"

The recent anti-Sime pogroms had made this argument between them almost a ritual. "The Tecton is not evil, Ilyana."

"What it's doing to you and me is evil."

"And if I can stop that, Ilyana, if I can block it and keep them from serving you notice under this new law, if I can prove that way that it's possible for us to live under this system, will it be evil then?"

"I don't know. It will take some time. Maybe months. There has to be a way out. I'll find it. But it won't do me any good -- if you're not here. Will you give me time?"

She thought about it. She was high field now, twenty-two days after her transfer with Digen, Hayashi had her on a schedule where, on the fourteenth day after her transfers, she was "stripped" -- that is, a channel would take selyn from her GN levels as from any GN class donor. It wasn't a transfer, as such, but only a slight relief of the pressure. The therapy, together with what Digen could do for her, was gradually moderating her selyn production. But even so, at this point in her cycle, she was nervous, stifling in her own body waste, as it were.

"I'll give you until next week. After we've both had transfer, we'll talk about it again. But I tell you, the minute they serve me with that paper -- that's it. Because I won't, and you know it."

"Ilyana," said Digen, "I wouldn't, in your place, either. And you know that."

Later on that night, Digen found a moment to stop by Accounting and draw a few hundred in cash. Ilyana's birthday was just a few days away, and Digen had seen her admiring an evening gown in a window across the street from the hospital. He had taken her to see a Gen film, in order to broaden her concept of the Tecton and its work. The evening had ended in a disastrous battle between them on the

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morality of the Tecton. Digen wanted to make it up to her by taking her to a formal opening night of an opera in-Territory -- a politically neutral production, he hoped -- but she had come to them with nothing but the clothes on her back. The one gown she had worn when they went out with Mayo Emhardt no longer fit her.

With the decision to buy the dress, and the money actually in his pocket, Digen felt a lot more cheerful about things than he had for days. Even when he had to tell the parents of a changeover victim that their daughter had died of complications, and he sat with them for two hours -- the mother being Sime and the father Gen, they required a channel's close attention during that time -- he came out of it undaunted.

Life was filled with problems. But they could be solved, or surmounted, one way or another. By the time he left for the hospital in the morning, he already had four or five possible countermoves to ponder and evaluate. The only thing he didn't like about them was that every road open to him seemed to lead deeper and deeper into the morass of politics which he was determined to avoid.

He arrived at the hospital ready to step right into the OR as usual, and checked the chalk board schedule to see where he should go first. The boards were all blank except for three emergencies slated for OR One. Thinking a moment, he remembered it was some minor Gen holiday. In school, they used to get the whole week off. Here, it only meant a blank schedule today and doubling up tomorrow and the next day.

And then it struck him that today was the day they were opening the box found at the Frihill Dig. He had duty because he'd been off on Union Day. Fair enough, he thought. Since they were on holiday schedule, he had time to make rounds on some of his patients attend to a few things he'd let slide for lack of time, and stop through the Emergency Ward once in a while to see if anything interesting was happening. His new status as a surgeon gave him entree to all sorts of places, and his new reputation made it all very pleasant.

He was taking a turn through the pediatrics building, checking on the kids there to be sure none were incipient changeover victims, when the paging speaker said, dispassionately, "Dr. Farris, Dr. Farris, report to Pathology, Stat. Dr. Farris to Pathology."

A surgical emergency in Pathology? thought Digen. And then he figured that Dr. Emhardt just wanted some intelligent company on a lonely holiday afternoon. He'd probably checked and found Digen wasn't in surgery, and so just paged him.

Nevertheless, Digen was too good a doctor to stroll over in answer to an emergency page. He made the kilometer trip, through the administration building and down to the depths of the old building, by shortcutting across the front parking lot, in record time. He noted a cluster of ambulances at the EW dock, but took a different entrance, hoping that Emhardt wasn't kidding about the emergency.

He wasn't.

The Pathologist was waiting when Digen arrived. He flagged Digen into the morgue. Seven fresh corpses lay on tables, big tags attached to their toes -- those that had toes. Pieces of bodies as yet unmatched to torsos lay on other tables.

Digen swallowed hard and braced himself. There was a vibrancy in the room that shouldn't be there but he couldn't quite identify it. The pleasant holiday atmosphere evaporated as Emhardt led Digen to one of the draped tables, and pulled back the sheet.

"Digen, is he dead?"

Digen stepped up to the table, directly into the vortex of the strange vibrancy, and froze.

There on the table before him lay Rindaleo Hayashi.

The shock came over Digen in waves, each cresting higher than the next. He was paralyzed with it.

"Digen?"

Digen muttered something in Simelan.

"Snap out of it, man! You're a doctor! A surgeon! I asked you if this man is dead?"

"May as well be," said Digen, in a very small voice.

"I thought so!" said Emhardt. "The cooling rate wasn't right for a dead body. Even being Sime can't change that!"

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Digen shook his head, still dazed. Hayashi dead. In one blow his whole world turned upside-down. "I'll call the Center morgue to send somebody over," Digen said dully. And then, "How in shen did he get here?"

"Digen, he's not dead yet! We've got to do something!"

Digen looked around at the evidence of chaos. "What happened?"

Emhardt brushed that aside with one hand. "Explosion at that box-opening ceremony. This is only the first wave of the dead and dismembered. The place is on fire, and I understand a lot of people were trapped inside. The fire and police officials just swept all the pieces in here to be sorted out and I suppose he was collected along with the other meat. Sometimes those people have no sense. Now, what are we going to do for him?"

Digen thought coldly, the Distect Commando. The other bomb. And I didn't find out where it was! The box was a plant.

"Digen!"

When Digen just stared down at the bloody mess on the morgue slab, Emhardt suddenly turned scornful. Digen had never heard such a biting tone from him before. "Dr. Farris! I thought you were over the squeamish and fainting stage! I thought you came to this hospital already a seasoned physician!"

A surge of adrenaline came in response to the intended insult, and Digen snapped, looking Emhardt up and down, "Apparently you don't appreciate what you're looking at, Doctor Emhardt!"

"Apparently you don't," retorted Emhardt. "That man is alive! You said so yourself."

Digen ripped the sheet away and pointed a shaking finger. "Look at that retainer! Just look at it with those blind eyes of yours. Can't you see. He's as good as dead!"

The outside of the retainer was dented, deeply, though not cracked. Blood had seeped out at the wrist and elbow ends of the retainer. The dent was right over the sensitive lateral tentacle, and Digen could feel the injury as a disruption in the selyn flow in the channel's body. If he could sense it so clearly through his own retainers, Digen knew the injury was terminal, and the kindest thing to do was to let the man die without regaining consciousness.

Emhardt nodded. "I saw that. Figured it as the cause of death, until I realized he wasn't actually dead yet. Now you've said it yourself. He's not dead. So let's get going, Doctor."

Digen took a step back from Emhardt, and said as if the Gen were some faintly repulsive creature, "Doing what?"

"Trying to save his life, what else?"

Digen took another step back, shaking his head, this time feeling threatened. His own lateral scar had begun to throb. "You don't know what you're saying."

"Oh, don't I? I seem to remember some fiery young intern lecturing me about the glorious possibilities open to a combination of surgery and the channel's art. Well, isn't this the kind of problem you've gone through fourteen years of hell to learn to solve?"

Digen took another step backward, still shaking his head slowly. But it was true. It was true. This was it.

He looked again at the body -- patient, he corrected himself, "Do you know who that is?"

"I'm not sure, but he looks familiar."

Digen nodded. "It's Hayashi, all right."

Emhardt nodded. "I thought you were the one who was lecturing Thornton about how a surgeon should get involved with his patients. Well, do you care enough about him to give it a last-ditch try?"

"Last-ditch try," said Digen. "The thing is, I'd hate to succeed. You don't know what it's like -- you can't imagine what it's like to live -- this way."

"Well," said Emhardt. "You can always die. But not many people seem to come back if they forget to do something. Would you say Hayashi was ready to quit?"

Digen shook his head again. "It's illegal I'm under an injunction not to do surgery on a Sime. You can t imagine what the penalty would be, no Gen could." Except maybe Ilyana. They'd be separated,

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Digen on a subsistence allotment, confined under guard. "Besides, we'd never get permission to use an operating theatre -- not in time. Dr. Branoff is away, Thornton is off at that conference. And in-Territory, well, it's impossible. No facilities."

Emhardt looked around as if searching for something. "I have that new room at the end of the hall, sterile to do communicables. You pull this lever outside the door, and instant sterilization. I can get a surgical pack, and I know somebody at the blood bank, there should be no problem there. You don't know it, but I was an anesthesiology resident before I went into Path. We can do it. We might even save him."

Digen shook his head again, but less emphatically. "I'd have to work without retainers. Go into the vriamic node, deliver selyn. God alone knows what the whole procedure would do to me. And there isn't a law we wouldn't be breaking. No, I just don't see . . ."

"You don't want to do it? It's just like Akim said, isn't it? Medicine is only an escape from responsibility for you. You don't really want to change anything in this world for the better."

"Did he tell you that?"

Emhardt nodded. "While you were giving that speech. I didn't believe him. But now I see he's known you longer than I have."

"If you think," said Digen, "I'm getting into something like this on a dare, you're crazy!"

Digen turned and whirled out of the room. The heavy door wouldn't slam. It just oozed shut behind him. He stalked into the deserted laboratory. Emhardt came up behind him, circled and made him stop.

"I didn't mean it that way. I just wanted you to take a good look at yourself, your own motives. Sure, you're shocked, maybe even paralyzed with fear, and justifiably so -- I know I couldn't begin to understand what's involved in something like this. But Digen, you told me yourself. This is what it's all about for you. This is why you were born. Or has it all been wasted?"

Digen swallowed, hands thrust in the pockets of his whites. "It's gone too far. He's better off dead."

"Is that really your decision to make?"

Digen nodded. "As a channel, yes. He'd make it for me, positions reversed. I've had to have confidence that he would do that -- many times over these last months. Sometimes that confidence is all I have going for me. You can't imagine . . ."

"Well, one day, almost fifteen years ago, somebody didn't give up. Would you have preferred they had?"

"Oh yes. Often. Often."

"But not right now."

"Not right now, no."

Emhardt shrugged. "Well, it's your decision. I can't make you help me." And he went back toward the door.

Digen turned. "What do you mean?"

Emhardt stopped, the door open, a chill breeze stirring his lab coat tail. "For a start, I'm going to see if I can get those retainers off . . ."

He turned to go, and Digen took a step after him, saying, "No! Don't do that!"

As Emhardt said, "Why not? What's to lose?" Digen realized that somewhere deep inside him, a decision had been reached.

He moved past Emhardt, leading the way back to the morgue. "Because you might kill him, if you do it wrong. You get that room ready. I've got to make a phone call. If he lives long enough for us to get ready -- well, we'll see what happens."

He woke Ilyana out of a sound sleep, saying, "Never mind why. Rin's been hurt and he needs you. So just get over here, now!" He gave her explicit directions for finding the morgue -- keeping in mind that she couldn't read English script -- and went back to preparing their makeshift operating room. By the time Ilyana arrived, hair uncombed, one brown shoe, one dark blue, and a button missing from her blouse, they had Hayashi installed and prepped, an IV ready, and were scrubbing.

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He showed her how to do a surgical scrub, and explained, as best the Sime language would permit, what he was planning to do. To her credit, it only took her about three minutes to get to the point where she could say, "I'm glad I lived to see this day, and I don't really care if I don't live much beyond it, as long as Rin does. What do I do?"

Digen told her in detail, and then turned to Emhardt. "Ilyana will help Rin maintain the low metabolic state. We can't use a chemical anesthetic. I'll have to have his conscious co-operation at the crucial moment. You'll open, and stand by to close for me, in case I collapse. In that situation, Ilyana will have to use her own discretion to decide which of us to attend. Understood?"

"Yes, Doctor," said Emhardt, and he wasn't being facetious.

Digen, scrubbing for the first time without retainers, took twice as long as usual. Emhardt and Ilyana took their places first, Ilyana to ease Hayashi into semi-consciousness and put him into the state which Digen had specified. Digen instructed Emhardt exactly how to position himself in the ambient selyn fields, so that Ilyana could manage her job.

They were all masked and gowned, but only Emhardt wore surgical gloves. Digen and Ilyana had to have unobstructed contact. Digen knew even immersing his tentacles in a disinfecting solution wasn't going to prevent post-operative infection. But perhaps it could be minimized.

Digen took his place, hands in the air to dry, and said "Well, Dr. Emhardt, we open the thoracic cavity, about so, from here to here -- six inches should do it. One layer at a time, Doctor."

Emhardt took the scalpel laid out on the tray, eyed Ilyana and then Digen, and made the incision as neatly as if he did it that way every day.

"Very good," said Digen. "You're clear of all the major nerves." He instructed Ilyana and then had Emhardt continue. They dealt with the breast bone, Ilyana holding both retractors. She was nauseated slightly, as they went in, but then she steadied. Digen said, "You'd make a good scrub nurse."

"Actually, I'm a pretty terrific midwife. And not bad at butchering, either. This is a little out of my scope."

Digen nodded -- a little nauseated himself at the thought of Ilyana butchering animals to eat, but then what else do you do when you're Gen and you live on the top of a mountain? He watched as Emhardt tied off the oozing bleeders. Hayashi's heart, they could see now, was beating slowly but in perfect co-ordination. Digen said, "Good work, Ilyana, you've got him. Now, hold on tight while I make contact with his vriamic node, and then, when I've got that lateral circuit shunted, you get that retainer off, fast." He switched to English and said, "Doctor, you take the retractors now."

As soon as Ilyana had her hands free, Digen plunged both hands wrist-deep into the wound, laterals extended, eyes closed, and made the direct contact with the nerve junction.

Digen had nothing to guide him in this. It had never been done before. But he'd thought about it often enough. And in that instant he proved the theoretically possible could actually be done. He found his own body serving as the second half of Hayashi's body, circuit matching circuit. He scarcely felt it as Ilyana removed the crushed retainer and began sponging the crusted blood away to examine the wound.

There was a ragged tear across the lateral sheath, and tough as that tissue was, it had not quite prevented the lateral itself from being torn. But contrary to what Digen had at first thought, the lateral was not severed. The selyn flow interruption had been due to trauma, but the cut itself had not severed the core of the twined nerve channels.

Digen instructed Ilyana to apply a pressure bandage such that the lateral would be held in the extended position, and then had her trade places with Emhardt. While Digen held the selyn circulation away from that lateral branch, Emhardt did the finest surgical repair work Digen had ever seen.

For the first time since Digen had walked into the morgue, he began to think that maybe Hayashi would survive, and that he might not regret it. Using magnifying lenses and micro-instruments, Emhardt joined the edges of the lateral wound as exactly as he could. If it had been done on Digen that perfectly, Digen believed he would never have regretted living through it.

On the lateral sheath itself, Emhardt stitched more rapidly. A scar there would not impair any function. And time, now, was of the essence. Nobody knew how long after Digen's shunting Hayashi's nerve tissues could resume functioning.

As Digen watched his own internal control deteriorating, he wondered how it would be if one channel could hold the shunt, while the other repaired the lateral, using a micro-selyn flow technique such as he had used on Ilyana's wrists. It would surely be the next thing to try because it was possible that such an injury as Hayashi's could be repaired without a trace of scarring except superficially.

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"That's it," said Emhardt. "If you'd told me yesterday I'd be doing this today . . ."

But Digen wasn't listening. He didn't know whether to drop the shunt gradually or all at once. As he pondered, the decision was made for him. His own control began to slip, producing a resonating turbulence in Hayashi's system. Ilyana winced.

Unable to ease the currents back into place, Digen just dropped his contact, and shifted to a delivery mode, pumping selyn into Hayashi's systems with reckless disregard for his own balances. Due to a rephasing over the last couple months, Hayashi was in hard need, now less than two days from his transfer assignment. The injury had absorbed almost all the man's reserves, and he went for Digen's selyn in a kill-mode attack from the bottom of attrition.

Perceiving the selyn flow, Ilyana dropped her control over Hayashi, and let him come up to hyperconsciousness so the two channels could gain some semblance of control. It was over before Emhardt knew anything was happening. Digen withdrew his hands abruptly, and Ilyana dropped the retractors to the floor as Digen's knees gave way. She started around the table to Digen, when Emhardt said, "Ilyana!"

Hayashi was coming to consciousness. She looked from Digen to Hayashi, and made a decision. Quickly, she bent to remove the other retainer from Hayashi's tentacles on the uninjured side, and across the table to strip off the pressure bandage allowing the injured lateral to retract. "Rin, I'm taking you down to minimal again. Cooperate, Rin it's your only chance. I can't do it against you."

Hayashi tried, but he couldn't quite accomplish it. As Ilyana was working, Digen began to come around. He, himself, had been only five days from need, and Hayashi had been voracious, and, because of the strange contact point, had dipped into Digen's personal reserves. Ilyana's selyn production rate was spiking upwards in response to both channels.

When Digen came toward her, eyes unfocused in that way peculiar to hyperconsciousness, she knew she couldn't stop him -- but she had to have his help.

She turned toward Digen, saying crisply, "Sectuib Farris, we require your assistance."

She had very little hope that it would work, but at that moment, Hayashi picked his head up, trying to discern what was being done around him, and then, suddenly, his heartbeat faltered. He dropped back, gasping.

Digen's eyes flew to the patient. She said, "Sectuib Farris. Doctor Farris!"

Digen summoned himself. He could sense the total disorganization of Hayashi's selyn currents, but he hadn't enough field left to force them into order. He looked to Emhardt. "Shock paddles?"

Emhardt shook his head.

Digen hadn't thought ordinary electric shock would work, anyway. They had a few moments time. Hayashi was fighting it. Digen said, "Doctor, rescrub for closing!"

He turned to Ilyana, hands spread, tentacles extended. "We've come too far to quit here."

She came to him, and the last thing he did was to force his hands into a contact position where his laterals would touch only the skin she had scrubbed. The contact was bad, aided only by what ronaplin his glands had produced during his brief moments of active need. But somehow, Ilyana compensated, and as always with her, Digen felt only as if he were taking a deep, revitalizing breath of crisp air. Even under stress, she fed him only perfectly balanced currents.

He had no time to revel in the smoothness of it, the casual perfection. He broke to hypoconsciousness roughly, not sparing himself one second, and turned to Hayashi. The heart had stopped. Digen had no idea how long it had been stopped. Without hesitation, he reached his laterals into the open chest and ran a selyn current into the heart muscle. Simultaneously, he induced a potential variance which restarted Hayashi's selyn circulation.

His balance was off, and the selyn currents broke into the same turbulence as before. This time, however, Digen was high field with respect to Hayashi. With a deft precision that surprised even himself, Digen imposed order on the chaos.

Hayashi rose to consciousness again after a few minutes, but Digen and Ilyana talked him down, down into the depths of a minimal metabolic rate, the last refuge of the dying Sime.

At length, Digen motioned to Emhardt. He talked him through the closing, counting each clamp, sponge and suture, and holding his breath as Emhardt's now double-gloved fingers skirted dangerously close to vital transport nerves.

Once Digen said, bitterly, "This is an exercise in futility. He's septic as hell."

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Emhardt looked at the clock. "He's lived almost four hours longer than I ever thought possible. Do you know how many heart transplants they tried before they achieved that kind of record?"

"Heart transplants? That's just a myth!"

"Don't be too sure, Doctor," answered Emhardt, neatly tying a knot. "One day, I may even try it in this here little room."

Digen shook his head, and went back to directing Emhardt's fingers.

And eventually, they came to the end, stripping off masks, and gowns, throwing them on the floor. Emhardt bent over the patient gingerly. "He's still breathing. Now what?"

Digen didn't know. He hadn't thought beyond this point. He had no idea what to do if the patient survived.

"Well, infection," said Digen, tentatively. "We should have shot him full of everything in the world before we even started."

Emhardt went to the wall cabinet. "I've got some pan-spectrums here for use in case the pathologist nicks himself. How about . . ." said Emhardt, turning with a red bottle in one hand.

"Shen! No! That stuff is pure poison." And suddenly, Digen knew what had to be done. "We've got to get him over to the Center now; treat him as if he had a massive infection. But -- I don't know." Digen eyed the IV with its third bottle of fresh, whole blood. "He's got to have experienced post-operative care."

"So what's Thornton been teaching you all these months?"

"I won't be there!" said Digen impatiently. He reached for the phone on the wall and punched the page button.

"Why not?" said Emhardt.

"Because . . ." Digen couldn't find words fast enough for all the reasons that flooded into his head. He had violated an official injunction over the World Controller's signature and performed surgery -- and no minor cut down, either -- on a Sime. He had taken an illegal transfer from a Donor not only not assigned to him, but also forbidden because she'd given his last transfer, and had done it five days early thus wrecking not only his own schedule, but Ilyana's and that of the channel dependent on her as well. He had blatantly and deliberately violated the retainer laws. He had flirted with acquiring a dependency it could be impossible to break. Never mind all the hospital regulations he'd trampled on; he'd done enough to get the death penalty four times over. But he'd saved a life. Maybe.

The page operator finally answered and Digen said, "Dr. Hogan to Pathology, Stat. Find him, even if he's off the grounds."

Then he buzzed for an outside line and called Mora Dyen. She held a specialty in Infection. He told her he had a patient he couldn't move yet and gave her directions to find them, bringing her kit.

"Mayo," said Digen, turning from the phone. "You can talk Joel into supervising the post-op. I'm sure you can. I'm leaving this note for Mora; she'll know what to do. Ilyana and I are leaving."

"Where are you going?"

"I don't know. Just away for a while," said Digen, donning his retainers. "The law will be searching for us in an hour or two. I want some time to think before they catch up with us. That leaves you holding the bag. Look, you tell them I forced you into it. They'll believe you. Tell Joel I said it was all right for him to tell why he moved out on me. They'll believe anything after that."

To Be Continued

Go on to part 5