Seruffin is spending a ~~ mildly frustrating ~~ afternoon, trying to figure out a new approach to some trade negotiations that haven't been going as well as predicted. He has already tried three of his best approaches, but they don't appear to be working.
Seruffin is debating whether it would be productive to call a halt to the negotiations and let his opposite numbers talk some sense into their bosses, who appear to have quite unrealistic expectations.
Seruffin has decided to read over his notes one more time, just to make sure he hasn't missed anything.
Gerrhonot is coming back from his lunch and exercise break. He bought some fresh apricots from a farmer who was selling produce from a wagon. He hopes Seruffin will enjoy them.
Gerrhonot stops on his way in to pick up any mail or messages, and arrives in the mail room just as a telegram for Seruffin is brought in. He continues to the office, signals and enters.
Seruffin looks up from his papers.
Seruffin: Ah, Gerrhonot, welcome back. Did you have a good lunch?
Gerrhonot: Yes. I found a guy who was selling fresh fruit from his wagon and got us some nice ripe apricots.
Gerrhonot opens the bag and hands one to Seruffin. ~~ delicious ~~ aromatic ~~ sweet ~~
Gerrhonot: Oh, you got a telegram too.
Seruffin isn't particularly hungry, but he allows himself to be convinced, and takes a bite.
Seruffin: Who's it from? The World Controller's office, wanting to know why there isn't any progress?
Gerrhonot puts it on the desk and sits in his comfortable chair.
Gerrhonot: Dunno. I didn't open it.
Seruffin reaches for the telegram and slits the envelope neatly.
Gerrhonot hopes it isn't the World Controller putting more pressure on his channel. He thinks Seruffin is already working too hard.
Seruffin pulls out the paper inside, expecting a routine communication, then blanches as he reads.
Gerrhonot is alarmed at Seruffin's reaction but keeps it out of his field. ~~ SUPPORT ~~
Seruffin: It's from Professor Nattin. Young Mik Gegg has gone into changeover, without giving sufficient warning.
Gerrhonot is acutely conscious of the calendar.
Gerrhonot: Hajene Bibi is in hard need now, isn't she?
Seruffin: Yes. And Nattin is worried that her replacement Donor won't be able to arrive in time.
Gerrhonot: Poor Bibi. It must be awful for her. ~~ concern ~~ compassion ~~
Gerrhonot: Um. Maybe she served Mik herself? Instead of assigning him Cristal?
Seruffin: Bibi? I doubt it. She's an optimist, even in need, and it really is better for a channel to have First Transfer from a Donor.
Seruffin stares at the telegram for a moment, imagining what he's starting to think of as his Bibi facing the grinding horror of hard need with no Donor within miles, dying of attrition while surrounded by Gens she can't touch.
Gerrhonot: I guess she can keep going on shunts, but it would be really painful, wouldn't it.
Seruffin: Yes. And ultimately futile. She's got, how long? A week? Perhaps a bit more.
Gerrhonot: Won't they find her somebody by then?
Seruffin: That's not long, for her Controller to locate a Donor, who would then have to travel to the Ford.
Gerrhonot knows the Tecton has its faults, but surely they won't let Bibi die.
Seruffin: And things have gotten mixed up, with all the summer traveling.
Seruffin also is of the opinion that Bibi's Controller is inclined to dither, which is not conducive to fast decision-making.
Seruffin ~~ frets ~~... er, rather "~~ contemplates the situation looking for a productive solution ~~"
Seruffin has, of course, no acceptable reason to interfere with matters between Bibi and her Controller. He didn't let that stop him with the matter of increased selyn pick-ups, and he has no intention of letting it stop him now.
Gerrhonot: Um. If they don't have anybody for her here... um... maybe we could go? You could serve her, right? You're a First so it would be almost as good as a Gen.
Seruffin: Well, I could certainly do a better job for her than a low-field Donor assisting with shunts.
Gerrhonot can see how worried Seruffin is about Bibi and he knows how much he cares about her. As a side benefit, it will get the channels together at a time when they are both pre-turnover, and capable of assisting each other in avoiding the CDs. He feels uncomfortable in discussing CD avoidance with Seruffin directly.
Seruffin: Of course, we're assigned here in New Washington for a reason: our first responsibility is to the negotiations.
Gerrhonot waits for Seruffin to figure out how to get around that detail.
Seruffin contemplates the stacks of notes on his desk with ~~ annoyance ~~. He's even less inclined to waste his time arguing politely with obstinate idiots when someone he cares about is in genuine danger.
Seruffin wonders if he can figure out a way to break out of the diplomatic impasse within the next twenty-four hours. He fears it is more likely to be twenty-four years.
Gerrhonot: Could you just tell them that an unexpected emergency has come up?
Gerrhonot wants to be encouraging but realizes he doesn't know how to do these things. He also figures that even with his own skill at supporting the channel, Seruffin is going to have a hard time concentrating on his work with Bibi in trouble.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, Bibi is important to both of us, but the Gens would ask, with some justice, why we in particular had to be the ones to go. New Washington has other channels with less urgent assignments, in their mind.
Gerrhonot: I guess so.
Seruffin: They see this matter as of prime importance, or at least their backers do, and they'll be inclined to take any side trip of ours as an indication that the Tecton isn't serious.
Gerrhonot has a lot of faith in Seruffin's ability to solve problems like this. ~~ confidence in his channel ~~
Seruffin rarely gets practical advice from Gerrhonot on matters unrelated to Donoring skills.
Gerrhonot: Um. Maybe the Sime Center has somebody they are sending.
Gerrhonot is trying to reduce Seruffin's stress level.
Seruffin: Bibi's Controller will be looking, of course, but it takes time to free up a Donor, and more time to travel.
Seruffin finds, on the other hand, that his Donor's confidence does inspire the best from him.
Seruffin: Ravvan is competent, but she overextended her credit this winter, and that will make it harder to find a trade.
Gerrhonot: But they have to do something for Bibi, don't they?
Seruffin's eyes rest on the piles of notes once more, and he feels ~~ rising resentment ~~ that he is tied to New Washington by a lesser matter.
Seruffin: Morally and legally, yes. Practically... well, mistakes happen. Miscommunications, travel delays....
Gerrhonot is getting ~~ worried ~~ now. As he thinks about it he begins to get ~~ horrified ~~.
Gerrhonot: But she could die! Or... be tempted to...
Gerrhonot can't bear to say that a nonjunct Tecton channel could kill.
Seruffin feels his laterals extend as Gerrhonot's horror and his own imagination give him a very vivid mental image that he would much rather not have experienced.
Gerrhonot pulls his nager in and enforces ~~ calm ~~ on his field.
Gerrhonot: I'm sorry, Hajene.
Seruffin: Yes. Even channels have limits.
Seruffin finds himself able to think again, but that doesn't change the fact that his negotiations are stalled, and he can't leave New Washington without insulting the Gens.
Seruffin's eyes settle on his notes concerning the Gens' endless objections to a particularly troublesome provision. He can read them quite clearly, thanks to the proverbial 200-watt light bulb that just appeared over his head.
Seruffin: Of course!
Seruffin is grinning in ~~ relief ~~. He's a bit old to get up and start dancing around his desk, but the spirit is there, even if the joints are stiff.
Gerrhonot is full of ~~ admiration ~~ that his channel has once again come up with a solution to a hard problem.
Gerrhonot: What, Hajene?
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, in the spirit of promoting diplomacy and interterritorial amity, don't you think we should look into this matter of donations being required before Gen ranchers can move their cattle onto the new rangeland? After all, as long as they stick to the wilderness, they won't bother any Simes.
Gerrhonot thinks about it, and realizes that Seruffin isn't really asking for an informed opinion from him.
Seruffin: Admittedly, it would be very inconvenient indeed for them to bring all their supplies for several months with them, but I think a slight yielding in principle, even if it has no practical effect, might smooth the way.
Seruffin: Of course, I can't simply write such an exemption into the treaty on my own authority. Jaklin's office would have to give authorization. However, if we raised the possibility during tomorrow's session, we could get an unofficial response to take back to Capital for consultation.
Gerrhonot: Maybe we could take the afternoon train.
Seruffin: Realistically, it will take at least a day or two, but with any luck, we'll be on our way before the situation in Hannard's Ford becomes desperate.
Gerrhonot: Oh, good. ~~ happiness ~~ admiration ~~ devotion ~~
Seruffin: If Ravvan finds a Donor, well and good, but Bibi doesn't deserve to suffer, either way.
Gerrhonot: Do you want to send her a telegram? I can take it to the office right now.
Seruffin: I think it might be better to wait until we're sure that we can make it, and roughly when. I wouldn't want her to lose her expected transfer twice in one month.
Gerrhonot sees that Seruffin is right, as usual. He plans to get the packing done tonight, however.
Seruffin: In the mean time, I'd better put together a reasonable-sounding compromise to present in the morning.
Seruffin has the additional challenge that its actual effect must be negligible.
Gerrhonot takes two more apricots from the bag, hands one to Seruffin and eats one himself, concentrating on the ~~ delicious ~~ flavor, the ~~ wonderful ~~ velvety texture, and the ~~ enticing ~~ rich aroma of the fruit. ~~ pleasure ~~
Seruffin sets his apricot down on the desk.
Seruffin: I'll eat it later, I promise. Right now, though, I've work to do, and it won't be aided by apricot stains.
Gerrhonot is a little disappointed that his projection didn't make the apricot irresistible, but concedes.
Gerrhonot: Sure, Hajene.
Seruffin picks up his pen and begins to scribble notes.
Gerrhonot picks up his novel and projecting ~~ alertness ~~ continues reading about the Householding beleaguered by Raiders in the year before Unity.
Seruffin is as susceptible to Gerrhonot's nager as any Sime, but before turnover, even a channel's priorities are focused a bit lower than his laterals.