Senator Tsibola is pacing back and forth along the railway spur behind the Hannard's Ford Sime Center. He's dressed in nondescript clothing his colleagues in the Senate would gape to see him in. He has even washed the fashionable hair oil out of his hair and let it dry as it pleased, creating a tousled, untidy look that no one would expect from him.
SenTsibola has actually done a pretty decent job of imitating the appearance of a penniless coffee-shop poet some ten years younger than his actual age. His nager lacks the mandatory dreamy lack of focus, practicality, and so on, but who's zlinning?
SenTsibola left New Washington after telling his staff that he was heading for a quiet weekend at home, and paid for his train ticket and hotel with cash, under a pseudonym. He's hoping that the meeting he has arranged will not come to general attention. It is, after all, a private family matter. He is, however, encountering a key difficulty.
SenTsibola: Where is the girl, anyway? Fifteen minutes late. And they say Simes are always on time!
SenTsibola mutters to himself.
Cristal and Bibi are in the controller's office.
Bibi is having a hard day. In fact, she's having a hard week.
Cristal: Bibi, I know you are the Sime and all, but aren't we late for the appointment with that out-T Tuib?
Bibi is still upset over Gegg's panic several days ago, and she's well into need. Fridda isn't recovering as fast as she'd hoped, which is discouraging.
Bibi: Right. I don't understand why the man won't at least come up onto the back porch!
Cristal shrugs, indicating his general incomprehension of out-Territory Gens.
Fridda is sitting in the common room, waiting for Bibi and Cristal. She's feeling more positive, but her tentacles still hurt a lot, and the distal parts are still partially paralyzed.
Fridda was really glad to hear from her uncle that she won't be completely cut off by her family, but hopes that she won't have to conceal her identity indefinitely. She has some ideas about how she can promote the Tsibola family fortunes in-T.
Bibi gets up and leads the way to the back door.
Fridda looks up.
Bibi: Just wait here, Fridda, we'll come get you, okay?
Cristal scoots around Bibi and holds the door.
Bibi strides across the porch and down the path between garden beds to the back of the lot, Cristal following.
SenTsibola is scowling as he paces along the outside of the cedar hedge, somewhat spoiling the illusion of a simple poet. His ears are cocked for any noise from beyond the hedge.
Bibi zlins a lot of ~~ annoyance ~~ and homes in on it.
Cristal establishes ~~ medium support ~~
SenTsibola hisses at this sign that security has been broken.
SenTsibola: Don't call me that. Who are you? And where is my niece?
SenTsibola's voice is too low to be heard more than a few feet away, but it carries undeniable ~~ authority ~~.
Cristal ramps up the ~support~~ at this overt hostility.
Bibi: I'm Hajene Bibi, Controller of this Sime Center. What would you prefer I call you?
SenTsibola: Ruthven, if you must. Where is Fridda?
Bibi: She's indoors. Perhaps you could join her.
SenTsibola: Madam, I gave my word that I would never set foot inside a Sime Center. If I renege for mere personal convenience, what is my integrity worth?
Cristal: Sir, if you won't adjust your ethics to the needs of a sick relative, what are your ethics worth? ~~ outrage ~~
SenTsibola: Who's that?
SenTsibola's voice is sharper, and he tries to find a place to peer through the hedge.
Cristal: Sosu Cristal, TN-2 in the Tecton, and assigned Donor to Hajene Bibi.
Bibi: Perhaps we can compromise on the back veranda as a venue?
SenTsibola: Has that wretched niece of mine told the whole world I was coming? I told her to keep it quiet!
SenTsibola is frankly surprised that Fridda would misunderstand the necessity for secrecy so completely.
Cristal: Your niece is Hajene Bibi's patient, and as for me, a channel has no secrets from her Donor.
Cristal knows this isn't the whole truth, but it is the Tecton party line.
Bibi: Ruthven... you can harm Fridda with your emotions, because you are high field, so Cristal or I must be present during the discussion to protect her, unless you donate, which I can't expect of you.
SenTsibola: I should hope not.
SenTsibola's nager, unlike Gegg's, doesn't flare with fear at the mention of donation.
Cristal raises an eyebrow in Bibi's direction at this surprisingly calm tone.
Bibi makes a tentacle gesture equivalent to a shrug to Cristal.
Bibi: Wouldn't you prefer to meet your niece face to face, rather than talking through this rather thick hedge?
SenTsibola: Of course. But not so much that I'm willing to become a liar to do so.
SenTsibola considers speaking through the hedge to be the equivalent of mail, only much more private.
Bibi wonders if it's worth pointing out that the abattoir workers often sit under the big tree at the crest of the hill behind the Sime Center to eat their lunches, and it's nearly noon.
SenTsibola is willing to grant himself that much of a concession, given how easily other means of communication can be compromised.
Bibi: Well, I'll go get Fridda, then. Cristal, you can stay here. Or perhaps the two of you can move a few meters further along where the hedge is thinner.
SenTsibola: Very well.
SenTsibola had already spotted the thinner part, but had moved away from it during his pacing.
Cristal moves down to the thin spot and waits with ill-concealed ~~ impatience ~~.
Fridda looks up as Bibi enters.
Bibi: He won't come in, even as far as the porch. He's made some kind of vow never to enter a Sime Center. So you'll have to peer through the hedge.
Fridda: Yes. It's a campaign promise he makes every time.
Bibi: Cristal will stay with you and protect you from your uncle's nager. He's feeling annoyed and impatient right now, very irritable.
Fridda: Okay. Thank you, Hajene.
Bibi: It's okay. Come. ~~ encouragement ~~ support ~~
Fridda follows Bibi outside and over to the hedge. ~~ nervous ~~ determined ~~
Cristal resumes ~~ enhanced support ~~, trying to divide his attention between the two Simes. He hopes that the Senator will back off so that he can focus less on Bibi and more on Fridda.
SenTsibola's attention ~~ focuses ~~ on the noise of the new arrivals.
SenTsibola: Fridda, is that you, girl?
Cristal steps back to the neutral field point for the new configuration.
Fridda zlins someone behind the hedge. He doesn't zlin like she thought her uncle would, but then again, she doesn't have much experience at zlinning people.
Fridda: Yes, Uncle Ruthven. Thank you for coming.
SenTsibola decides not to make an issue of Fridda's lateness, since it appears quite likely it was the doing of the interfering channel and Donor. He just hopes that Fridda will be able to keep in mind that they don't have privacy.
Fridda feels more at a loss than she expected, facing her uncle as a Sime. She notices that her tentacles are drooping out of the orifices again and pulls them back in.
Fridda: Sosu Cristal and Hajene Bibi are here with me too.
SenTsibola: Your father sends his love. He probably won't be able to get away before you're sent to Sime Territory.
SenTsibola isn't sure how long they will be allowed to talk, and wants to get the important parts said early.
Fridda: ~~ immense relief ~~ Please give him my love, too. I'm so glad he.. doesn't wish I were dead.
SenTsibola's voice softens.
SenTsibola: Fridda, girl, there was never any danger of that. Your father wouldn't have stopped loving you, and wanting you to live, even if he'd been left with no choice but to shoot you.
Cristal thinks that the one by no means follows from the other, given the barbaric out-T attitude about "dying pure".
SenTsibola: We're both glad you found an alternative, and proud that you acted on it in a responsible fashion.
SenTsibola is, indeed, ~~ proud ~~, not that he'd have expected irresponsibility from a member of the Tsibola clan. He's aware that an awful lot of less well-connected children, faced with changeover, don't take precautions to avoid killing.
Cristal judges that the Senator is indeed calming down, and switches more of his ~~ divided attention ~~ to Fridda, and especially her tentacles.
Fridda: I wanted... to live, but not if I killed someone. I was so lucky, Uncle Ruthven. If Hajene Marvin hadn't been on the train, and if that girl hadn't been willing to donate...
SenTsibola: Yes. This twelve-year old. How much trouble is that causing?
Fridda: I don't know. Her parents came in here a few days ago and her mother donated.
SenTsibola: They're poor, then?
SenTsibola has a tendency to think of donors as either the desperate poor, or kids on a dare.
Fridda: Well, compared to us... but a lot of people in this town donate, not just for money. It's their religion, or they have relatives in-T now, and sort of want to help them.
Fridda: I guess I see the whole issue differently now. I can't live unless Gens donate selyn.
SenTsibola makes a mental note to have his staff investigate this new religious doctrine, so that the clergy among his own constituents can counter it.
Fridda: I didn't get to speak to the Geggs, unfortunately.
SenTsibola: You wanted to speak to them? Why?
Bibi sees Ghan signaling to her from the back porch. She looks serious.
Fridda: I wanted to thank them, for their daughter's gift, that saved my life.
Cristal: ~~ I'll cover for you here ~~
SenTsibola: I see. Do you think they would have wanted to speak to you?
Bibi acknowledges Cristal's signal and sprints for the Sime Center.
Fridda: I don't know. They were too upset over other things this time to talk to me, but I'll likely be in-T before they come by again.
SenTsibola: I see.
SenTsibola thinks he's starting to, anyway.
Fridda: I still want to do something for them, but I guess it will have to be by mail.
SenTsibola: What do you have in mind?
SenTsibola has a certain respect for his niece's intelligence, even if it is still inexperienced and untrained.
Fridda: Well, two things. Their son... Um, when a child is going to change over as a channel, he often has premonitions of changeover. Their son is like that. They don't think much of Simes, but don't want to shoot him either.
SenTsibola understands the feeling.
Fridda: Hajene Bibi has arranged for him to work at a local farm, but his family really needs his labor. So I thought of paying for them to hire somebody until he changes over. A life for a life, well, a Sime life for a Sime life, since their daughter saved my life.
Cristal has all the while been maintaining ~~ standard light support ~~, basically treating Fridda as a channel.
SenTsibola considers this argument.
SenTsibola: That's not unreasonable. And the other thing?
Fridda: Well, the girl, Sanda. Her parents are upset that she did something they regard as so dangerous, so impulsively without getting their permission. So if I did something for her openly, it would kind of flout their authority.
SenTsibola: Yes, it would. ~~ dry ~~
Fridda: So I thought about putting some money aside for her, for when she's sixteen, that she can use for more education, or as a dowry or whatever. I'd tell her parents but they can decide whether to tell her.
SenTsibola: I see.
SenTsibola isn't quite as enamored of this idea.
SenTsibola: That could be tricky, if her parents are that unhappy about the whole thing. If she tends to run wild, already...
Fridda: Things seem to be very unsettled for the entire family right now. I don't really know what's happening with them.
Fridda looks to Cristal, hoping he can explain.
Cristal: I can't claim to understand the entire issue, Senator, but it's a complicated tangle. The most sensible thing from our point of view would be for the boy to move to Sime Territory directly, but that doesn't seem to be acceptable to his family; they need his labor, and they have to feel, for whatever reason, that they are paying for whatever they receive no matter what, and ...
Cristal: Well, as I say, I'm no expert.
SenTsibola thinks that last is obvious enough.
SenTsibola: Proud, are they?
Cristal: For sure.
SenTsibola has met poor, dirt-grubbing farmers before, and knows the type. He generally prefers the almost-as-poor factory workers and miners, who usually aren't so bloody thick-headed.
Fridda: That's why I thought of phrasing it as an exchange... Their daughter made it possible for me to survive, so I want to make it possible for their son to survive... as a Sime.
SenTsibola: Well, I suppose it is appropriate to offer some token of thanks, although I assume the girl was compensated in the normal fashion?
Fridda: Yes, she was. Uncle Ruthven... if Sanda hadn't donated, the channel would have had to break my neck, there in the jail cell.
Fridda still feels a chill of horror when she thinks about it, although she understands why it would have been necessary.
Cristal: It's true. It's a lot less painful death than attrition, you know.
SenTsibola: So I've been told.
SenTsibola: Fridda, are you asking me to arrange for some appropriate gesture?
Fridda: Could you, Uncle Ruthven? I'd do it myself, but I have to stay here at the Sime Center, and then go in-T.
Fridda doesn't want to come right out and say she has no idea of what her assets are, and what she'll need to make a life in Sime territory.
SenTsibola: Very well, I'll come up with something before I return to New Washington.
Cristal: ~~ approval ~~
Fridda: Thank you. Uncle, I'm sorry about spoiling the sixteenth birthday party you planned.
SenTsibola waves away the apology.
SenTsibola: These things happen. I can find another occasion to hold the gathering I wanted.
Cristal thinks the party would have been a lot more spoiled if Fridda were deceased.
SenTsibola: Right now, you must concentrate on your own future.
Fridda: I've been learning a bit about how things work in Nivet, and I think there are some things I can do there, for the family.
SenTsibola raises an eyebrow.
SenTsibola: Such as?
Fridda: Well, it seems that being a woman there isn't the disadvantage it is here. The leader of the Tecton is a woman, and upper level managers and politicians are about half women.
SenTsibola: I see. Do you plan to go into politics, then?
Fridda: I don't know yet. But if General Metals wanted to open a branch plant in Nivet, there wouldn't be a problem in having a woman run it. Of course, I need more education first. I thought I might major in economics and business management.
SenTsibola: Don't forget law. Even if you hire lawyers, you should know enough to follow their briefs. And you can't rely on what you know of law on this side of the border.
Cristal: That's for sure.
Cristal is rather surprised to find himself agreeing with the Senator on anything.
Fridda: I have to spend a few months at a kind of orientation camp. I'd like to consult with you about what I do next. How can we correspond, confidentially?
SenTsibola: You can have letters forwarded through Arbuthnot and Witherspoon.
SenTsibola names the old family lawyers.
Fridda: Good. I'll do that.
SenTsibola: It might be wise to select a suitable pseudonym for the return address.
Fridda: Yes, I will.
Cristal: She'll have a personal identification number at the camp; she can just send it in the first letter. Mail addressed to her by number at the camp will be delivered properly.
SenTsibola: You identify people by number, not their names?
SenTsibola thinks this is an unnecessary bit of depersonalization, although it is convenient for his purposes.
Cristal: Not in general. But you aren't the only Genland family that's needed anonymous mail in the past few decades.
SenTsibola raises an eyebrow, but doesn't stoop to comment.
Cristal: First Year training camps as well as general post offices routinely provide the service. In camp, it's part of the government-supported package, and afterwards, there's a small annual fee.
SenTsibola does make a mental note to have his research staff keep an eye out for such mail, among those they watch. He's surprised about one thing, though.
SenTsibola: There's that much traffic, that you've rearranged the entire postal service around it?
SenTsibola oversaw a few postal reform bills early in his career, and has a healthy respect for what's involved.
Cristal: Not at all. Most mail is quite ordinary. For the rest, it's just a matter of having a list of numbers and names and keeping it locked up except after bulk mail deliveries.
SenTsibola: I see.
SenTsibola hopes they keep it very well locked up.
Cristal: After all, trusting mail carriers is unavoidable, and we -- if I may say so -- have better methods for determining who is and isn't trustworthy in such matters.
SenTsibola is ~~ highly skeptical ~~
SenTsibola has seen far too many innocent freshman politicians with high ideals get tangled in their good intentions to believe in anyone's incorruptibility.
Cristal: A word with you in private?
SenTsibola is a bit ~~ annoyed ~~, as Cristal has not, so far, impressed him. He also hears that particular phrase about fifty times a day.
Fridda is ~~ mystified ~~ and knows her uncle's annoyance bodes ill for Cristal.
SenTsibola then remembers what Gerrhonot said about Fridda having possible medical problems.
SenTsibola: Very well.
SenTsibola walks down the hedge a few yards.
Fridda moves away from the hedge into the garden.
Cristal follows SenTsibola on his side and nods to Fridda.
Fridda thinks things went well. The poppy syrup certainly helped her stay calm and objective.
Cristal: Senator, as Fridda's therapist, I believe that a few words of comfort from you would be extremely helpful toward her complete recovery, psychological as well as physical.
SenTsibola wonders what the hell the man thought the whole past fifteen minutes was all about.
Cristal sees he hasn't made his point and presses on.
Cristal: You should tell her that you support her unconditionally. And try to mean it when you say it; Simes detect hypocrisy automatically and can be damaged by it.
Fridda rubs her arms and does some tentacle exercises. Her tentacles have a lot more mobility and sensation than they did, but they are still far from normal. She's using less poppy syrup, but there's still a lot of pain.
SenTsibola: Are you calling me a hypocrite, Mr. Donor?
SenTsibola uses the voice he uses on hapless staffers who can't seem to learn the realities of politics.
Cristal: Not at all, Senator. I'm telling you why you can't afford to be one.
Cristal's experience in the Tecton lets him handle this level of crankiness without breaking a sweat.
SenTsibola: I'm sure your advice is well meant.
SenTsibola starts back along the hedge towards where he was talking with Fridda.
Cristal, satisfied that the Senator now understands, moves back to his earlier location.
Fridda also approaches the thin spot in the hedge.
SenTsibola: Fridda, I can't stay much longer; it wouldn't do to have this meeting widely known. Can you ensure that your... new acquaintances... are discreet?
Cristal: ~~ indignant ~~ Patient confidentiality is the very backbone of the Tecton, Senator!
Fridda: I understand. Yes. People here just know me as Fridda Fennik. They don't know about my connection to the Tsibolas.
SenTsibola: Good. Let's try to keep it that way.
Cristal: We certainly will.
SenTsibola ignores Cristal's outburst.
Fridda: Uncle Ruthven... I'm sorry we had to talk through the hedge like this. I wish I could see you.
SenTsibola: I know. Someday, it might even be possible.
Fridda really wishes she could hug her uncle. He's been as much a father to her as her own father, and a much stronger figure in her life. She's taken the place of a daughter for her childless uncle.
Fridda: I hope so. Please give my regards to my aunt, and the rest of the family.
SenTsibola is just as glad he can't see Fridda, and the tentacles that have taken her from her family.
SenTsibola: I will. Write when you've had the chance to assess your situation.
Fridda: Thank you so much for coming here. I know what a risk it was.
SenTsibola: I don't think I was recognized.
SenTsibola: Goodbye, then, Fridda.
Fridda: Goodbye Uncle Ruthven. I love you as much as ever.
SenTsibola's voice softens again.
SenTsibola: I love you, too, Fridda.
SenTsibola turns and walks briskly down the track, telling himself that he will not cry until he's safely back to his hotel room.
Fridda stands frozen in the garden, determined not to cry again either.
Cristal knows that out-T people aren't allowed to cry for some weird reason, and is glad things went as well as they did, and better than he expected.
Fridda: Thank you, Sosu. I appreciate your helping me.
Cristal: Just doing my job, Fridda. ~~ satisfaction relief ~~
Fridda: I guess we should go back in.
Cristal: ~~ agreement ~~