Craig stares with trepidation at the gates of Householding Zalmos. The deeper into his fact-finding mission he gets, the more he realizes he should have had a few more facts before he began it.
Craig's main concern at the time had been to track Fennik's movements in Sime territory before the trail grew cold, but he's beginning to realize there may have been more important considerations than haste.
Karpik stands next to his client, ~~ bored ~~. He's a Gen who sometimes supplements his donation payments by acting as a guide and translator for out-T travelers. Craig is turning out to be a lot more trouble than he's worth.
Craig has at least managed to hire a translator he found at a borderside inn, and has set in motion his plan to try to assign his donation payment to Fridda. However, he's exhausted by the constant stress of being around so many Simes, though he's grateful that none of them have come terribly close to him.
Karpik advised the Sime cashier at the Sime Center Craig visited to just keep the money herself if she couldn't track this Fridda down. Craig didn't have an address or much info for her to go on. It looked strange to Karpik, but it's none of his business.
Craig's next plan is to visit one of GMM's clients on this side of the border, to provide a plausible cover story for his visit, and perhaps to get some help with what he's trying to do.
Craig: Sten, can you please knock at the gate and announce me? I'd like to speak to Mr. Morwin ambrov Zalmos, or one of his senior assistants.
Karpik never invited Craig to call him by his first name, but the client is always right. Right.
Karpik: Sure, Tuib.
Karpik pulls the bell cord.
Ryn opens the window in the door, a holdover from pre-Unity days.
Karpik: [Simelan] Good day, Tuib. This fellow is from out-T, and wants to see Tuib Morwin.
Ryn inspects the pair of Gens for a moment, then shrugs.
Ryn: She's a busy woman. What's his business?
Karpik: [Simelan] He's from some out-T company that sells you stuff, he says.
Ryn: Hmm. All right. Wait here a moment, and I'll see what I can do.
Karpik: [Simelan] Okay, thanks.
Karpik turns to Craig.
Karpik: [English] He says to wait, he'll see what he can do.
Craig: Okay. Thanks.
Ryn closes the window, and trots off to see if Naztehr Morwin is willing to see this fellow.
Craig: Uh, Sten?
Craig: Do you suppose, at the first opportunity, you could ask the location of the nearest privy for me?
Craig went just half an hour ago, but nevertheless needs to go again.
Karpik is getting pretty tired of this routine. Why can't the guy pee behind a bush like everybody else, when he's out in the country?
Ryn returns shortly, a bit surprised that Morwin is willing to see this unannounced visitor. He opens the gate, which isn't kept barred these days, at least during the day.
Ryn: She's got a little time. Come on in. You can tie your horses over there.
Karpik takes the reins of both horses and enters.
Karpik: [Simelan] Tuib here has to urinate. Where are the facilities?
Karpik is a native Simelan speaker, and Simelan doesn't bother with euphemisms for what everybody can zlin.
Ryn: He couldn't take care of that while you were out on the road?
Ryn: Tell him to go over there.
Ryn points to a small house over by the stable.
Karpik: [English] It's the shed over there, with the crescent cut in the door.
Craig: Okay, thanks.
Craig hurries off in the direction indicated.
Karpik ties the horses where directed.
Ryn watches Craig scurry off, then turns to Karpik.
Ryn: What does he want with Morwin, anyway?
Karpik: Talk to her. Dunno about what. I'm just the guide and translator. I think he's trying to find some people named Friddle or something.
Ryn: What do they do?
Karpik: No idea. He won't tell me what he's up to.
Ryn: Doesn't sound like he's all that eager to find these people, then.
Karpik: It pays the bar bills.
Ryn: Well, if he isn't amusing, Morwin will send him packing soon enough. Even if that means she's stuck finishing the accounts today, after all.
Karpik: We won't be long, then.
Craig returns, feeling much better... physically, at least.
Craig: Is Mr. Morwin ready to see me now?
Karpik nods to Ryn.
Karpik: [Simelan] Ready to go?
Ryn shrugs, supposing that Karpik has to maintain the illusion of usefulness.
Ryn: Sure. Come on.
Ryn leads the way.
Karpik: [English] This way, Tuib.
Craig: Thank you.
Craig follows, glancing around with a mixture of ~~ curiosity ~~ and ~~ nervousness ~~ .
Ryn enters the most imposing of the buildings around the courtyard, and before long stops in front of a door. He signals, not that Craig can perceive that.
Morwin: Send them in, Ryn.
Karpik waits for Ryn to open the door then enters, gesturing for Craig to follow.
Craig enters the office and stops short at the sight of a female Sime.
Craig: Uh, Miz Morwin?
Morwin is sitting behind a desk in her well organized but obviously busy office. She's a middle aged Sime woman with that formidable air of competence and authority that the better schoolteachers and management types seem to have.
Morwin: Yes. Who are you?
Craig struggles against the ~~ fear ~~ which tempts him to back out of the office and run. He can't afford to be a coward now.
Karpik: [English] She asks who you are.
Craig: Ma'am, I'm Andrew Craig of GMM. We've dealt with one another by mail, and I'm delighted to meet you at last.
Morwin can zlin that Andrew is anything but delighted.
Karpik: [Simelan] He is Antrew Kreg of Zhiamem. He says he sent you letters.
Karpik figures the Sime can tell if he's delighted or not.
Craig offers his best effort at a smile, and tentatively reaches out to shake hands.
Karpik rolls his eyes. He's told Craig not to do that.
Craig remembers what his translator told him, and snatches his hand back with ~~ relief ~~.
Morwin ignores the offered hand, being in no mood to cope with bad manners.
Morwin: Is he always this rude?
Karpik smiles ~~ ingratiatingly ~~.
Karpik: [Simelan] Not always.
Karpik figures he's not rude when he's asleep, or alone.
Morwin: Humph. What does he want, anyway?
Karpik: [English] She asks what you want.
Craig: I'm paying a courtesy call to you and several of our other major clients on this side of the border, hoping to improve relations between our business and yours, and look for ways to expand it to our mutual profit.
Karpik: [Simelan] He says he's visiting the customers to drum up more business.
Craig: I find business always flows more smoothly when we know each other as people, not just as signatures on paper.
Craig is trying very hard to think of Morwin as a person, and not as a Sime.
Karpik: [Simelan] He thinks it's a good idea to check out the customers in person, instead of just trusting what they write.
Morwin: I see. A rather strange ambassador, don't you think, Tuib? Does he have anything specific to propose?
Morwin sits back in her chair and steeples her hands, tentacles weaving between them as she zlins Craig ~~ thoughtfully ~~
Karpik: [English] She wants to know if you have anything special to say.
Craig: (smiling) Are there any of our products with which you're... less than fully satisfied? Or any items you wish we offered for sale, which thus far we have not? Anything we might do to increase your satisfaction as a customer?
Karpik: [Simelan] He wants to know whether they've sent you any junk, or screwed up an order and didn't send what you wanted. And if there's any way he can bribe you to buy more from them.
Craig tries not to stare at the tentacles resting on Morwin's desk, nor to associate them with the Sime who's wearing them.
Morwin: Well, it might help if they could manage to get us replacement blades for the harvesters on time.
Karpik: [English] She says you're always late with the knives.
Craig doesn't think GMM has ever sold knives.
Karpik: For the farm machines.
Karpik gets along fine winging it English, but his vocabulary is limited.
Craig: Ah. Harvester blades? Or plowshares?
Karpik thinks harvester blades sounds more like it.
Karpik: Yes. The blades.
Morwin's English is much more fluent, but she's finding the exchanges between Craig and Karpik enlightening.
Craig pulls a small leather-covered notebook from an inside pocket and jots a memo to himself.
Craig: I'll look into it and see that your next shipment is expedited as soon as I get home. Is there anything else?
Karpik: [Simelan] He promises to send you some when he gets home. He wants to know what else you want.
Morwin: I want to know why he's really here. I can zlin he wants something.
Karpik: [English] She zlins you want something. She wants to know what.
Craig: ~~ shock ~~
Morwin grits her teeth against the unseemly outburst.
Karpik observes the effect on the Sime, and is ~~ embarrassed ~~ to be associated with the barbarian. He makes an ~~ apologetic ~~ gesture to Morwin.
Craig feels as much caught out as he did in grade school when Miz Huxley caught him without his homework.
Craig: Uh, ma'am...
Craig struggles to regain a little ~~ composure ~~ . He tries to think of a way to explain away his ~~ embarrassment ~~ .
Craig: Ma'am, a few weeks ago, one of our board members, Jon Fennik, visited Sime Territory.
Craig spent considerable thought, on his way here, to how to phrase his request. For some reason, the words feel awkward in his mouth now.
Karpik: [Simelan] He says a few weeks ago a guy from his company, Zhon Vemmig, visited Nivet.
Craig: When he returned home, Professor Fennik became very ill, and has been unable to brief us on the outcome of his trip.
Morwin can easily zlin that part is a lie.
Karpik: [Simelan] He went home and got sick and didn't tell them what happened.
Morwin: Not surprising, since the bit about being sick is nonsense.
Karpik: [English] She says he didn't get sick.
Craig: One of my purposes on this trip is to reconstruct Professor Fennik's itinerary, in order to make sure we are able to follow up on all his dealings.
Karpik wishes Craig would use ordinary words, words that he knows.
Craig does a double take as his mind processes what Karpik just said. He suddenly begins to understand some of what he's read about how Simes can zlin.
Karpik: [Simelan] They want to find out what he promised the customers.
Craig realizes only literal truth might save him now. ~~ terror ~~ He swallows hard.
Morwin is starting to get really ~~ annoyed ~~ at this guy.
Morwin: Tell him he can tell me what he's really after, or leave.
Karpik: [English] She says tell her what you want or get out.
Craig: Well, all right. Not "sick" in the usual sense. It's rather embarrassing... I hate to discuss the personal weakness of a relative.
Karpik: [Simelan] He's ashamed to say.
Morwin: It figures.
Craig decides to dump his last thin handful of cards on the table.
Craig: I've discovered in the last few days that I was woefully unprepared for this trip. I need help to figure out where Professor Fennik went and what he did.
Karpik: [Simelan] He wants help to find out what Vemmig did.
Craig: I'm prepared to offer substantial business concessions for your help.
Karpik: [Simelan] He offers a good fee.
Craig is prepared to give up half of his quarterly profits to buy this intimidating Sime's help.
Karpik is ~~ dubious ~~ about the generosity of this monetary offer, judging by his own experience with Craig.
Morwin: Has he thought about simply asking the guy where he went? Or hiring a private investigator?
Karpik: [English] She asks why you don't ask Vemmig. Why you don't hire a guy who finds out stuff for a living?
Craig buries his face in his hands. He has fallen into a nest of telepathic demons, and doesn't know how to save himself.
Karpik reminds himself that the money he's making from Craig will go a long way to impress his girlfriend.
Craig: My people who usually do this for a living refused to go into Sime Territory. I have to do it myself, and I don't know how.
Craig would run from the room in total disgrace, if he could make his legs move. Instead, he stands fast, like a deer caught in a beam of light.
Karpik: [Simelan] He says his investigators won't come in-T, so he did even though he doesn't know how to do their work.
Karpik: [English] She agrees you don't know.
Karpik wonders whether any of his buddies can convince Craig that they are private investigators, and give him a cut of the proceeds.
Craig: (with a whimper) I'm asking for your help.
Morwin fixes Craig with The Look.
Craig would put his tail between his legs, if he had one.
Karpik: [Simelan] He wants your help.
Morwin: I still want to know why he's so reluctant to simply talk to his relative. Or his other relatives, for that matter.
Karpik: [English] She wants to know why you don't talk to Vemmig or other family.
Craig wishes the floor would just open and swallow him.
Craig: It's complicated. Private family stuff.
Karpik: [Simelan] He says it's complicated and private family stuff.
Craig, for once, zlins perfectly ~~ sincere ~~ .
Morwin: He's doing something the other members of his family would disapprove of, then?
Karpik: [English] She asks if you're doing something your family doesn't like.
Craig's knees go to jelly and he crumples to sit cross-legged on the floor.
Craig: (in a small voice) Just kill me now.
Karpik is ~~ shocked ~~.
Morwin is glad of that, because it gives her a way to cover her own ~~ shock ~~ She hadn't thought the man zlinned suicidal, after all.
Karpik: [English] Tuib, that is very very insulting to her!
Karpik doesn't have to be Sime to know that implying someone is or wants to be junct is about as politically incorrect as you can get, and even more offensive to a Householder.
Craig has wrapped his arms around his knees and is sobbing now.
Karpik: [Simelan] He withdraws his request.
Morwin: I should hope so!
Karpik doesn't notice that Morwin has revealed her comprehension of English. He's too ~~ upset ~~ himself. He signed on as a translator, not a psychiatric nurse.
Karpik: [English] Let's get out of here.
Karpik tugs at Craig's arm.
Morwin: He's ill. Perhaps a channel should zlin him over, before you leave.
Craig: Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I must die before my time protect me from the demon Sime.
Karpik doesn't translate that one.
Craig huddles more tightly into a ball.
Morwin thinks this is really serious, if the man is reciting bad poetry.
Karpik: [Simelan] I think you're right, Tuib.
Craig: Protect me from the demon Sime protect me from the demon Sime protect me from the demonsime protectmefrom.... (sob)
Morwin: Our infirmary is the next building over, use the door on the left. Under the circumstances, I don't think I'd better escort him.
Karpik: [Simelan] Yes, Tuib, I understand.
Karpik does his best to haul Craig to his feet and get him moving. He's willing to ditch this client on a channel, even if he doesn't get his full fee. He wasn't anticipating much of a tip anyway.
Karpik: [English] Come, Mr. Kreg, let's go away from the Sime.
Craig grabs Karpik and clings to him.
Karpik: [Simelan] Apologies, Tuib. I'm just the translator...
Karpik staggers to the door, dragging Craig.
Morwin: It's not your fault. From the zlin of him, he should have stayed on his own side of the border.
Karpik: [Simelan] Yes, Tuib. I agree.