Gerrhonot is sitting in the luxurious waiting room of Senator Tsibola's office suite in New Washington. It's after hours and the security guard brought him up here, announced him to the Senator, and left.
Gerrhonot is dressed in his best civvies, since the Senator didn't want it to be obvious that he's consulting with representatives of the Tecton. Hence the evening appointment.
Gerrhonot is not real happy that he's been called upon to do this, but he was on the scene and having Seruffin come here would be a bit too obvious. He reminds himself that Seruffin was pleased at the way he handled Yanoff's aggressive insults at the New Washington embassy in Capital, and tries to feel confident. Seruffin warned him that the senator might appear hostile, but it would be mostly because he was embarrassed and upset over losing his niece to changeover.
SenTsibola is, indeed, upset about the events in Gumgeeville, for personal as well as political reasons. He has, after all, built his career on the support of the more conservative and wealthy segments of the New Washington electorate. His genuine relief that his niece is alive and hasn't killed anyone is marred by the knowledge that when (not if) the newspapers get ahold of the story, he'll have some hard questions to answer.
SenTsibola has, out of habit, kept the Donor waiting for him, as a statement of power. He hasn't been able to accomplish anything productive, however, and gives up on the waiting game after only five minutes, instead of his more usual twenty.
Gerrhonot doesn't mind waiting; he does a lot of it. He's occupied himself in figuring out the repeat in the wallpaper. He's rather pleased that he's worked it out, because it's a very complicated design.
SenTsibola puts his gold-plated fountain pen back in its holder on his walnut-burl desk, and takes a moment to make sure that nothing confidential is displayed on his desk. He wishes for a moment that his receptionist was still on duty, because having people come to him automatically turns them into supplicants. He's quite aware of the gossip that would have generated, however, and so he resigns himself to inviting the Simelover into his office himself.
SenTsibola checks his reflection in the polished desktop, making sure that every silver hair is in place, and his expensive suit is hanging just so, then walks across the plush carpet and opens the door to the outer office and waiting room.
SenTsibola inspects his visitor closely.
Gerrhonot looks wholesome, healthy, friendly and not too bright.
SenTsibola thinks the man looks like a peasant, but who else would hang out with Simes for a living?
SenTsibola: You're the Donor?
Gerrhonot: Yes, sir. I'm Sosu Gerrhonot.
SenTsibola: I'm Ruthven Winterborn Tsibola III, senior Senator from the Cordvain Valley.
Gerrhonot: Pleased to meet you, Senator.
SenTsibola isn't pleased to meet the Donor with the weird name, but isn't crass enough to say so to the man's face.
Gerrhonot hopes this guy isn't into elaborate protocol, since he himself isn't very good at winging that sort of thing.
SenTsibola: I'm told you have first-hand knowledge of what's happened to my niece Fridda.
Gerrhonot: Yes, sir. My channel and I met her the day after her changeover and traveled with her to Hannard's Ford. She'll stay at the Sime Center there until arrangements are made to send her in-T, to a First Year camp.
SenTsibola gives Gerrhonot another Thorough Inspection, of the type that usually makes young staffers eager to spill the proverbial beans. He's far too sophisticated to have actual beans in his office, of course, even during lunchtime.
SenTsibola: I'm told there was some trouble associated with the incident. Come into my office and tell me about it.
SenTsibola steps aside, and waves Gerrhonot through the office door.
Gerrhonot precedes the Senator into his huge and richly appointed office.
SenTsibola gestures Gerrhonot towards one of the very large, hard-backed, dark wooden chairs in front of the desk, then walks around the desk to settle into his own, more comfortable chair.
Gerrhonot sits, not noticing that the chair is supposed to be uncomfortable. It's fine with him.
SenTsibola: So, start at the beginning, and tell me what happened.
Gerrhonot: Um, Fridda told us that she was out at her family's summer place with her dad. She realized that she was going into changeover, but her dad wouldn't believe her since she was almost sixteen.
SenTsibola: She should have been safe at that age.
Gerrhonot: Um, yes, it's unusual for kids to change over that late, but it does happen sometimes.
Gerrhonot: She said the train conductor once told her that channels sometimes traveled on that train, so she figured if she could get there maybe there would be a channel. But she was really afraid that she might kill somebody if she just went by herself.
SenTsibola: She's always been a sensible girl.
Gerrhonot: Yes, she's really smart, and practical, too.
Gerrhonot: So she got this guy who works for her dad to take her. She told him to take his gun and to tie her arms up, because she wanted to be sure not to kill anybody.
SenTsibola: It worked, I understand? There was a channel on the train?
Gerrhonot: Yes. But they had to wait a long time for the train, and it injured her arms to be tied up like that, and it made her really sick.
Gerrhonot knows he can't explain what happened medically in English.
SenTsibola: Injured her arms? How?
SenTsibola doesn't have the automatic horror of injured arms that Gens who associate with Simes frequently develop.
Gerrhonot: Um, her tentacles didn't develop quite right, but they'll be mostly normal after a few weeks. Her laterals weren't damaged or she would have died. But her handling tentacles don't work right and give her a lot of pain.
SenTsibola: So she won't be a cripple?
Gerrhonot: No, her tentacles won't be as strong or agile as they should be, but she'll be all right. Most people probably won't notice.
SenTsibola isn't all that interested in tentacle strength.
SenTsibola: Good. I understand there was some sort of disturbance in the town she ended up in--Dumptyville, or some such, I believe?
Gerrhonot: Um, the channel on the train tried to help her, but she was really sick from being tied up, and the moving train made it a lot worse. He figured she'd die if she had to stay on the train until they got to Hannard's Ford, so he got off at Gumgeeville with her and his Donor.
SenTsibola: I gather there's no Sime Center in the place?
Gerrhonot: Um. Right. He figured the only way he could take off his retainers and serve her was the jail, if they'd lock them up, so they went there.
SenTsibola: He took my niece to jail?
Gerrhonot: Yes. It's a stone building so it's well-insulated nagerically.
SenTsibola thinks about what an unscrupulous newscaster could make of that, and barely manages not to groan.
Gerrhonot: Um. People are allowed to shoot Simes if they aren't wearing retainers.
SenTsibola: I am aware of the law.
SenTsibola usually agrees with it, too, but in this case it's inconvenient.
Gerrhonot: But he figured in the jail they could lock him up and protect them. Fridda too.
SenTsibola: It must have taken some fast talking, in a place like that, not used to having Simes around.
Gerrhonot: Yes. Hajene Marvin is a real smart man and a good talker. He's from out-T so he understands how people think here. And me and my channel got stuck there in the big snowstorm and rescued another girl in changeover, so the people there had some idea of what it was about.
Gerrhonot wonders if he's telling this guy more than he wants to know, but it seems to be going well so far.
SenTsibola is glad that the risk being taken with his niece's life wasn't as bad as it seemed at first.
SenTsibola: The locals objected to having their jail turned into a Sime Center, then?
Gerrhonot: I guess they weren't too happy about it, but me and my channel were at Hannard's Ford and the Controller there asked us to go to Gumgeeville and sort things out, so they were only in jail overnight.
SenTsibola: And by then Fridda was Sime?
Gerrhonot: Yes. She took First Transfer a couple hours after they got to the jail, late afternoon, I guess.
SenTsibola: So the difficulty occurred when they tried to move her to Hannard's Ford?
Gerrhonot: Um, no. We managed to do that without too much trouble. They were kind of glad to have us all go. Um. Hajene Marvin is with the Selyn Transport Service.
SenTsibola: What's that?
Gerrhonot: Um. He collects selyn from Sime Centers out-T and carries it back to Nivet. Um. He doesn't normally take donations or give transfers.
Gerrhonot knows he's going to have to give the full story, but it's not easy.
Gerrhonot: Um. He was heading out-T so he didn't have any spare selyn to serve Fridda. So he had to recruit a donor to get some.
SenTsibola: He found one, obviously.
SenTsibola states the obvious.
Gerrhonot: Um. He sent his Donor out to try to find somebody who would donate, but he didn't come back, and time was running out for Fridda. And then this girl came by and volunteered. And he was desperate so he took her donation. It worked out real well, but she was only twelve years old so her parents were really upset.
SenTsibola: ...twelve years old?
SenTsibola is starting to see the problem.
Gerrhonot: Well, almost thirteen.
SenTsibola wouldn't have wanted Fridda to be talking to a Sime at that tender age.
SenTsibola: Who are the girl's parents?
SenTsibola means by that, "Are they big enough to cause trouble, or can they be bought off?"
Gerrhonot: Their name is Gegg. They live in Gumgeeville. They have a farm and Mister Gegg used to work at the pulp mill before it burned down. Miz Gegg has a job too, but I don't know what it is.
SenTsibola: A farmer. And not too well off, either, if his wife's working.
SenTsibola is ~~ relieved ~~ that the problem is manageable.
SenTsibola: Are they bent on making trouble about the whole thing, or are they inclined to be reasonable?
Gerrhonot: Her father was really mad at first, but her mother seems to be more willing to be reasonable.
Gerrhonot takes the word 'reasonable' at face value.
SenTsibola: Will she be able to bring her husband around?
Gerrhonot: I don't know. Maybe.
Gerrhonot doesn't want to commit to anything. He also figures that trying to explain the whole Mik thing will just confuse matters.
SenTsibola: He's a farmer, and summer is his busy season. I wouldn't think he'd be able to make too much trouble, right?
Gerrhonot starts to flounder.
Gerrhonot: I guess it depends on what kind of trouble.
SenTsibola had in mind either legal action, or a media campaign, or both.
Gerrhonot: Fridda would like to show them her gratitude but she doesn't know if she'll have any money now.
Gerrhonot heard an explanation from Fridda about what 'showing gratitude' means in this context.
SenTsibola: She's always been a thoughtful child.
Gerrhonot: She had a really hard changeover. She's still not well. The uncertainty is hard on her.
SenTsibola: I'm sure her father will send her a stipend when he hears she's still alive, to tide her over until the lawyers can sort things out.
Gerrhonot: Oh, that's good.
Gerrhonot is really relieved.
Gerrhonot: I guess you must have sent her a telegram about that.
SenTsibola: Yes, my secretary took care of it. Her express letter was a bit less coherent than usual, but she seemed to think I ought to do something about the situation.
SenTsibola, living at the end of the train line as he does, is much more accessible by mail from Hannard's Ford than Fridda's father.
Gerrhonot: Hajene Bibi has been giving her poppy syrup for the pain. That makes people kind of dopey sometimes.
SenTsibola's eyes widen.
SenTsibola: She didn't say it was that serious. I thought you said the damage was temporary?
Gerrhonot: Yes, but the nerves are screwed up. They're sending pain messages to her brain even though the injury isn't so bad. It will take a while for the nerves to stop doing that. In the meantime it hurts her a lot. Um. I don't have the medical terms in English. I learned all this stuff in Simelan. Me and the channels worked on her arms and helped them start healing, but it takes time.
SenTsibola: I see. What sort of medical care is available in Hannard's Ford? I'd think she'd get better care in Capital.
Gerrhonot: Well, Hajene Bibi, the Controller, has a lot of experience with out-T kids changing over, including ones who've been injured. And my channel, Hajene Seruffin, is really high rated so he could zlin her arms and diagnose the injury really well. Hajene Bibi and her Donor have been working on Fridda several times a day, and when I was there I did too. But of course, some of the best medical specialists are in Capital.
SenTsibola doesn't know much about Sime medicine, but he does know that all the top channels are named "Farris".
SenTsibola: Well, I assume that arrangements are made to send her to where she can get proper care, as soon as possible?
SenTsibola's tone implies that there had better be such arrangements in progress.
Gerrhonot: Yes, the next time Hajene Marvin or another channel comes through, they'll take her in-T with them. That should be in a few more days.
SenTsibola considers that for a moment, and decides reluctantly that he probably can't make it happen any faster.
SenTsibola: I suppose that's the best that can be expected. Mind you, I expect Fridda to be given the best care available, not the best care that's convenient to give her.
SenTsibola's face is stern.
Gerrhonot can't make any promises.
Gerrhonot: Um. She'll be really glad that you still care about her. A lot of out-T people, when they change over, their families wish they were dead even if they didn't kill anybody. Do you think her father will feel the same way?
SenTsibola: Of course. It's very inconvenient to have her be a Sime, but our family looks after its own. Now, about that inconvenience. Has the local newspaper in Hannard's Ford caught on to who she is?
Gerrhonot: I don't think so.
SenTsibola: Good. Fortunately, it's quite a distance from the summer house. With any luck, she'll be safely across the border before the press realizes she's Sime. Is this...Hajene Bibi...discreet?
Gerrhonot: Um. She's a very experienced channel and smart, too. Channels are like doctors, they have to keep things confidential.
SenTsibola: Good. It could be highly embarrassing to the family if this gets out. I hope Fridda is well enough to impress that on everyone concerned.
Gerrhonot wonders how they are going to explain Fridda's permanent absence, and who is going to be fooled by it.
Gerrhonot: I think so.
SenTsibola trusts that Fridda, as a relatively minor scion of the Tsibola clan, and not one involved in the business, won't be missed.
SenTsibola has as a backup plan the hope that if it is noticed that she is permanently missing, it will be assumed that she went through changeover and was disposed of in a Party-approved fashion.
Gerrhonot: Um, Senator... I wonder... um...
Gerrhonot: If Fridda has some other relatives in-T, maybe she wouldn't know about them, but you would?
SenTsibola: No. The Tsibolas have always lived far from the border. I had a sister who killed and got away, but the army took care of her.
Gerrhonot: I see. I thought maybe some of the younger people had gotten to Sime Centers.
Gerrhonot feels sad.
Gerrhonot: I'm sorry about your sister.
SenTsibola: There are no Sime Centers in the Cordvain Valley.
SenTsibola has personally seen to that, despite pressure from the liberals, and has thereby kept his seat.
Gerrhonot figures that judging by Tsibola's age, his sister probably changed over before Unity anyway.
Gerrhonot: That's too bad, but a lot of places out-T are like that.
SenTsibola hopes that the Simes don't catch on, and use Fridda's politically embarrassing survival to destroy his career.
SenTsibola: I suppose that once she's healed, Fridda will want to go to school. What's the best school, over there?
Gerrhonot: I don't know. I guess it depends on what she wants to study. Like the Konawa Land Management Institute is good for agriculture and forestry, and North Nivet University has a good engineering school.
Gerrhonot learned all this from one of his previous channels, a Householder proud of several naztehrhai on university faculties.
SenTsibola: Well, I suppose it'll have to wait until she's made up her mind, then.
Gerrhonot: She'll be in First Year camp for a few months, while she learns Simelan and how people live in-T. That's what all the out-T changeovers do.
SenTsibola: I see.
SenTsibola shifts the draft of his latest bill absently from one side of his desk to the other.
SenTsibola: I expect to be kept informed of where she is sent, at all times. Since I am easier to reach than her father.
Gerrhonot hopes the interview is drawing to a close. Seruffin is in hard need and he really doesn't like to leave him in that condition, even with another Donor.
Gerrhonot: Okay. I'll tell Hajene Bibi that.
SenTsibola looks at Gerrhonot once more, trying to fathom what might make even a peasant go to work for Simes, then gives up.
SenTsibola: Very well, thank you for coming.
SenTsibola makes shooing motions with one hand.
Gerrhonot: Good night, Senator.
Gerrhonot gets up and smiles encouragingly, then turns and leaves.
SenTsibola waits until the door has closed behind him, then scrubs an angry tear from one eye.
Gerrhonot hurries through the streets of New Washington, glad that it isn't too late. He's been warned that the streets aren't safe at night, and knows that his nager won't protect him the way it does in Capital.
Seruffin is pacing the floor of the suite in the Nivet Embassy which he is currently sharing with Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot waves to the guard at the gate and hurries into the building, a rather impressive edifice with an elaborate carved frieze of linked Sime and Gen hands along the top of the facade.
Seruffin has long since given up pretending to work, as the hour grows later.
Gerrhonot is a bit out of breath when he signals at the door of their suite and enters. He has a feeling that Seruffin is in the sunroom. Seruffin's need is drawing him.
Seruffin is, alas, caught too far away from his desk to pretend that he was working.
Seruffin: I'm here, Gerrhonot.
Seruffin settles for composing himself as best he can, a task made much easier by the presence of his Gen.
Seruffin: How did it go?
Gerrhonot: How are you? Here, let's sit down together. ~~ love ~~ concern ~~ repletion ~~ promise ~~ comfort ~~
Gerrhonot puts an arm around his channel and leads him to the sofa.
Seruffin takes the gentle admonishment gracefully, and allows himself to be settled on the couch.
Gerrhonot studies his channel's face and decides he's not doing too badly now that he's back. ~~ relief ~~ comfort ~~ devotion ~~ all the selyn you'd ever want and then some ~~
Gerrhonot: I think it went pretty good. He didn't get mad or anything.
Seruffin: That's encouraging. What did he want from you?
Gerrhonot: Um. He wants to know what happens with Fridda, and that we should give her the best possible medical care. But he doesn't want anybody to know about her changing over.
Seruffin: Naturally not, since she survived.
Gerrhonot: I think he still cares about her. The way he was talking was really formal and stuff, but I could see he was upset and sad.
Seruffin: She's sixteen. For the past year or so, her family probably thought she was already Gen. They could let themselves love her without reservation, at last.
Gerrhonot: I guess so. He didn't seem upset that it was Hajene Marvin who gave her First Transfer, but he was worried about her being in jail. I tried to make Hajene Marvin sound like a hero.
Seruffin: I doubt he has any idea what a mule is. You didn't tell him that Marvin is disjunct, did you?
Gerrhonot: No, just that he doesn't usually do donations and transfers, and why he didn't have any selyn for her.
Seruffin: Excellent. Under some circumstances, he'd have felt compelled to take action against Marvin, to prove that he hasn't sold out to the Tecton.
Gerrhonot is ~~ puzzled ~~. He doesn't understand why the senator taking action against Marvin would prove anything.
Gerrhonot: But then people would know Fridda changed over and survived.
Seruffin: I'm sure he'd prefer they didn't; it would be embarrassing, but if his political opponents learned that Fridda's survival had put a lower-class Gen girl at risk...
Gerrhonot: I told him about Sanda being twelve and he was mostly worried that her parents would make trouble for him.
Seruffin: Well, he could lose his seat over that, and his party would lose a lot of influence, as well, at least for a while. So if he wants to accomplish anything with his career, he can't afford to let the story get out.
Gerrhonot really dislikes all this complicated stuff. Why can't people just take things the way they are and not try to give each other a hard time about them?
Seruffin: Also, he comes from a class of people who thinks that poor farmers like the Geggs are there to serve the wishes of the rich, like himself and Fridda.
Gerrhonot: I'm glad we're not like that. You and me, I mean. I guess Arat is a Sime example of that kind of thinking.
Seruffin: Very much so. Unity didn't break the power of the old, monied families in Gen Territories, as it did in Sime lands. So it's much more common.
Gerrhonot enfolds Seruffin with ~~ comfort ~~ and ~~ kindness ~~ and ~~ devotion ~~.
Seruffin: But from what I've heard, Senator Tsibola is much more flexible and sensible than Arat Farris.
Gerrhonot: I think he really wants the best for Fridda. He wanted to know what the best school was, in-T, so she could still go to university.
Seruffin: I've been in zlinning range of him once or twice, and I think that if he were pressed, he'd discover that much of his anti-Sime prejudice is only a political convenience. Unfortunately, he has no incentive to do so, when his entire career is based on it.
Gerrhonot: He didn't say anything against Simes. He said Fridda being Sime was inconvenient but she was still family.
Seruffin: I hope he can bring himself to tell Fridda that. It's exactly what she needs to hear.
Seruffin means this literally.
Gerrhonot: I told him it was making her sicker, not knowing what her family would do. He said he had sent her a telegram that they would work things out.
Gerrhonot is being strongly affected by Seruffin's need.
Seruffin: I do hope that Bibi manages to resolve matters with Mik and his family before she tries her hand at rewarding them, though.
Gerrhonot: Well, Toria said she'd bring Mik to Bibi within two days. I think she probably did it. I hope so.
Seruffin: I hope that Bibi can manage Toria's husband. That sort of problem really ought to be handled by a First. Preferably a therapist. And with only Cristal to help her...I wish I'd been able to stay longer.
Gerrhonot: Maybe we can stop there on our way back again.
Gerrhonot places a gentle hand over Seruffin's swollen ronaplin glands.
Gerrhonot: Try not to worry too much for now. ~~ comfort ~~
Seruffin smiles, as much as he can, in hard need.
Seruffin: You are very good to me, Gerrhonot.
Seruffin lets his handling tentacles caress Gerrhonot's forearms lightly.
Gerrhonot: ~~ happiness ~~ a taste of need-to-give ~~ a boundless wealth of selyn for you ~~
Gerrhonot: I try to. You're really good to me, too.
Seruffin: Ah, but I'm a Sime. I can't ignore what I owe you, even if I wanted to.
Seruffin doesn't, however.
Seruffin: It comes with the tentacles.
Gerrhonot is getting a bit stoned as his field intertwines with his channel's.
Gerrhonot: This is the way it's supposed to be. Every Gen should have a channel like you.
Seruffin: When I think of how easily a Gen can be damaged, and lose his interest in having any channel at all...well, I can't take it for granted.
Gerrhonot: You would never hurt me. ~~ absolute trust ~~~
Seruffin: Not intentionally, no.
Seruffin is all too aware of exactly how far intentions matter, to a Sime in need.
Gerrhonot: I outmatch you. You're always safe with me.
Seruffin long since gave up on "always", but is willing to settle for the more realistic "almost always".
Seruffin: I know. And I'm very glad you're here.
Gerrhonot: I'm glad I'm here. I want to be with you. I love giving you transfer. ~~ an ever-flowing spring of selyn for you ~~
Seruffin: I know. And that makes all the difference.