The interview with the second refuser, the hopeless man, went much better. His name was Mr. Court, and his relations had brought him because he’d twice tried to kill himself. Mr. Court was afraid that treatment would change his character; Nik freely admitted that it would. “You’re not demon-ridden. Your impulse to self-harm and the accompanying misery comes, in your case, from the stunting of certain of your emotions. Your ability to care, to find contentment, and to perceive joy, are all damaged. Remedying that will change who you are and how you behave, sometimes in unpredictable ways. For example, making it easier to feel joy can make a person stop striving for perfection in his activities, because he can now find satisfaction in a mediocre achievement. The interactions here are not ones even I understand well. It is your decision, of course. But I might note that anything we do here today will have a considerably less dramatic impact on your mind and those who care about you than killing yourself will .”
Mr. Court, a gaunt and stooped man of middle years, stared at his hands. “Could it make me worse? Make me an imbecile, or mad?”
“No. The Savior would not allow that. Your faculties will remain intact. You will be a different man, and some of those changes may not be ones you would prefer. But nothing that could be construed as an impairment.”
In truth, after Miss Whittaker it was a profound relief just to have this be a coherent conversation, but Nik was even gladder when Mr. Court agreed to let the Savior help.
It was a little victory to sustain him against twenty-two reevaluations. Those began on a particularly sour note, with the sleep-walking woman. Her son named her as Marie Brogan and himself Ian. When Nikola could find nothing to remedy on a second examination, Ian Brogan was violently distraught. “Are you implying she’s faking it?” Mr. Brogan yelled.
“Of course not,” Nik snapped. “It’s a reflection of my limitations, not her condition. If a healer tells a man with a missing arm ‘I cannot re-grow the limb’, do people say ‘the hand must be there after all’?”
“Then why won’t you heal her? What do you want?” Brogan threw himself at Nik’s feet, begging. “I can pay! I have a ship, money, just name your price!”
“If I could, I would do it for an eighth,” Nikola said coldly. “It is not a question of price. The Savior cannot fix what I cannot diagnose. I regret it extremely.”
“But you must! You’re the best! You have to!” Brogan surged to his feet, looking ready to hit something. Or someone.
Nik took a step back and raised his voice. “Anthser!” Brogan closed the distance with fists clenched and half-raised, as Nik’s warcat pawed open the door. “Please show Mr. Brogan and his mother out,” Nik said, taking another pace back.
“You insufferable arrogant—” Brogan drew back his fist. Anthser crossed the room in one leap and grabbed the collar of Brogan’s jacket in his teeth.
The warcat raised his head to lift the curly-haired figure from the ground and hauled him back a couple of strides before depositing him back on his feet. “Should I teach him manners too, Lord Nikola?”
Brogan, realizing the ill-advised nature of his threatening posture and insults, dropped his hands and lowered his eyes.
“No. Just escort him off the estate.”
Anthser bobbed his head and nudged Brogan towards his mother, who had sat unmoving and indifferent on the couch through the entire confrontation. The warcat followed them out and Shelby showed the next reevaluation in.