Senator Pollovic looks around the reception. It's full of most of the usual moderate crowd, and is hosted by a group he's never heard of before. Still, as head of the Committee on Interterritorial Liaison, Pollovic must try to keep up with such things.
Pollovic takes a sip of his wine and studies the crowd. With it being a holiday, several of the usual movers and shakers are missing. They're probably off at the parade, commemorating the great victory against the Sime raiders that happened sixty-two years ago today.
Pollovic spots Hajene Seruffin in the crowd. If such an important Sime personage is here, maybe this lobby group is more important than he'd thought.
Seruffin would not normally have accepted an invitation from a group of lobbyists promoting the rights of waterfowl, but he heard a spurious rumor that Senator Iksburn would be present. He hasn't zlinned a dynopter of Iksburn's nager, though the food is good enough to please Gerrhonot, at least.
Gerrhonot would enjoy the food a lot more if he weren't so concerned that someone was going to suddenly realize Seruffin's larity after getting much too close and blast the poor channel with fear or hostility. He's staying very close to his channel and trying to keep an eye on everyone within Seruffin's considerable zlinning range, a task for which he could really use some eyes in the back of his head. ~~ vigilant ~~ protective ~~ concerned ~~
Seruffin smiles at his Donor.
Seruffin: Relax, Gerrhonot. This isn't the Senate.
Gerrhonot: People don't expect to see a Sime here. They could get startled.
Seruffin: I haven't zlinned any outright hatred, yet, and there are several general-class donors among our hosts. Here, let's move off to the side, away from the crowd.
Gerrhonot follows his channel, and steps up his support as he sees Senator Pollovic approaching. Pollovic isn't usually hostile, but he's untrained in moderating his nager.
Pollovic moves towards the little bubble of clear space around the channel and his young Donor. While he would never dream of donating himself, it's good to be seen talking amicably with a Sime occasionally.
Seruffin zlins Pollovic approaching.
Seruffin: Senator Pollovic, it's good to see you.
Seruffin is far too much the diplomat to say, "It's nice to zlin you."
Pollovic: Hajene Seruffin, I'm surprised to see you here. I hadn't thought you were a wildlife enthusiast. Or are you simply avoiding all the festivities commemorating the great victory against the Simes? ~~ mellow bonhomie ~~
Seruffin: Great victory? Oh, you mean the Ox-bow Incident?
Pollovic: The Battle of the Green River Marsh.
Seruffin: Well, your side brought soldiers to the conflict, at least.
Pollovic: A small and valiant band of border patrollers, against a vicious group of Sime raiders. Or so the history goes. Frankly, I'm not sure why it's so much more important than a thousand other such battles, that it's worth building a monument to.
Seruffin: Our accounts maintain that the Simes involved were a group of entrepreneurs, gathering bird feathers for fancy hats. Oh, and when your troops crossed the river in pursuit, they also ran into some itinerant laborers working the harvest. Our history isn't generally any more reliable than yours, but a swamp is a rather unlikely place for professional junct Raiders to have used as a staging area.
Seruffin spreads his hands (carefully, to avoid lateral damage) in a "what can you say?" gesture.
Gerrhonot is glad the birds got a good deal out of it -- they got to keep their feathers.
Pollovic: That's not the story I learned in school, Hajene. It was all about junct raiders, valiant defenders, and noble sacrifice. And the raiders were crossing the river there because the marsh was easier to wade across than the strong current farther upriver.
Pollovic: But they always write the history books to make everything sound more glorious and patriotic than it was, don't they?
Seruffin: Indeed. And you still have the same government, unlike us.
Pollovic: Isn't it usually when the government changes that the history books get rewritten? So our accounts should, in theory, be more reliable than yours.
Seruffin: Only if you fail to consider that the Tecton, unlike your government, has no political stake whatsoever in promoting any particular account of the incident.
Seruffin is ~~ enjoying ~~ this reasonably light-hearted sparring.
Pollovic: True. But -- bird feathers, you say. And now a lobby group that wants a bird sanctuary.
Seruffin: It was a passing fad, for a year or two. I believe it was replaced by embroidered hatbands. What is this about a bird sanctuary, though? I admit, I came here hoping to see Senator Iksburn. I don't know much about our hosts.
Pollovic: Well, as I understand it, these folks want to turn the Green River site into a wildlife sanctuary and peace park. On the other side, there's a move to create a battlefield memorial and tourist facility there.
Seruffin: A tourist facility? In the middle of a swamp? Doesn't sound very promising to me. Wouldn't there be lots of mosquitoes and such? And swamps smell.
Pollovic: The river's shifted again, and that bit of land is dry now -- and on your side of the border. Undoubtedly there are still mosquitoes, though. Frankly, I don't see that the land is worth arguing over.
Seruffin: Perhaps not, although I don't see it becoming a tourist mecca, either.
Pollovic: Still, the folks in that area are looking for another income source. Your people have been dumping bull calves onto our market, and the price of beef is way down.
Pollovic knows much more about the price of farm products than about battlefields and birds.
Gerrhonot wonders what the Senator expects the dairy farmers to do with the bull calves. You have to breed your cows every year to get milk, and there's a limit to how much calf meat people's dogs can eat.
Seruffin: Knowing what I do about how complicated it is to do anything involving cooperation between our Territories, the locals might just do better doing bird tours. At least they wouldn't have to cross the border to do that.
Pollovic: ~~ irony ~~ It does seem rather odd to want to build a monument to a Gen victory on the Sime side of the border.
Seruffin: Admittedly, it wasn't much of a victory; the Gen troops were pushed back to the river as soon as real Sime troops could respond. Still, it does seem a bit... tactless.
Pollovic: I'm not sure that tact is a big consideration to farmers struggling to make a living. Now, if your people were willing to pay more for grain, so that some of our farmers weren't so dependent on beef and pork...?
Seruffin: That might not be practical -- the swamp makes transportation difficult.
Pollovic: If they go with the tourist facility, they'll be building another bridge there anyway.
Seruffin: On the other hand, if the citizens of the area wanted to request a Sime Center in their town, the actual monetary gain for each farmer would be far greater than either tourism option, or a grain deal, for that matter. And it wouldn't require any investment in infrastructure, either. At least, for your citizens.
Gerrhonot allows a small smile to affect his effort to display a calm, professional look. Seruffin always has the Tecton's best interests at the front of his mind. And it would save more kids, too.
Pollovic: You know I'm all in favor of more Sime Centers. But the locals have to request one. They have to want to donate.
Seruffin is aware that Pollovic has never felt the urge to do so, himself.
Seruffin: Well, if they get around to requesting some sort of arrangement to run tours in Sime Territory, I'm sure someone will suggest that as an option.
Seruffin intends to ensure that.
Seruffin: If nothing else, it would get the local people extra income a great deal more quickly.
Pollovic: Farmers have pride, though. When they're starving, sometimes pride is the only thing they've got left. And donating is hardly as proud a thing as celebrating a battle. Or selling food.
Seruffin: I don't know about that. I've had some recent experience with some of your farmers, and they didn't seem to have that attitude. And if you think about it, selyn is a sort of food.
Pollovic would actually rather not think about it that way. It makes it easier to ignore the occasional donation appeals.
Seruffin: Many of your citizens begin donating when they learn that a Sime relative is dependent on the selyn they could provide for life itself.
Pollovic: I'm frankly surprised that you folks find it cost-efficient to buy selyn from us.
Seruffin: It's only cost-efficient in the sense that it's cost-efficient for your chemical industry to buy sulfur from us.
Seruffin names a Sime-controlled resource which generates annual howls of price gouging from the Gen industrial base.
Seruffin: When you can't do without a resource, you pay what you have to, and economize elsewhere.
Pollovic: Are you saying you really don't have enough Gens on your side of the border to produce the selyn you need?
Seruffin: No, we don't. At least, not with any degree of security.
Pollovic is ~~ uncomfortable ~~ with this idea. The image of starving Simes puts a very different complexion on his own reluctance to donate.
Pollovic: I've always thought you folks were just naturally thin, not that you were all starving.
Seruffin: We have enough selyn -- as long as there are Gens in New Washington Territory who are willing to provide it.
Gerrhonot thinks this talk of selyn shortage might be a bit anxiety-provoking for Seruffin, so adds some ~~ all my selyn, and there's lots, is for you ~~ to his support.
Seruffin: Without the selyn we collect in Gen Territory, we'd be right back where we were when the Pen system collapsed, nearly forty years ago.
Pollovic: ~~ guilt ~~ I'd never thought of it that way.
Pollovic is silent for a few minutes, ~~ contemplating ~~ an idea he doesn't like.
Pollovic: I suppose anything that could be done over here to take the stigma off of donating would be a good thing, then.
Seruffin: Indeed, at least from our perspective. I admit, I much prefer the security of knowing there is enough selyn for everyone.
Seruffin puts a hand on Gerrhonot's arm.
Gerrhonot: ~~ reliable ~~ full of selyn for his channel ~~
Pollovic reaches for a scrap of his own most treasured kind of dignity: the maintenance of his reputation as a harsh but fair bargainer.
Pollovic: What would it be worth to you in terms of trade concessions to have a Senator set a good example in public?
Seruffin raises an eyebrow.
Seruffin: An influential one? Say, the head of the Committee for Interterritorial Liaison?
Pollovic: Something like that.
Pollovic is ~~ reluctant ~~ but feels almost as if he's already committed now.
Seruffin: I could put in a word for you on the fertilizer issue, and didn't one of your constituents want to import specialty fabrics? The fashion designer... what's the name?
Seruffin: Rinaldi, yes.
Seruffin surreptitiously zlins Pollovic, as best he can in the nageric chaos of a Gen party, to see how favorably his offer is being accepted.
Gerrhonot does what he can to cut out the nageric clutter so Seruffin can zlin more effectively.
Pollovic: He's already a donor. Makes quite a public production of it.
Seruffin: Yes. He's traveled quite extensively in Nivet, I believe, and he's adopted some of our clothing conventions. Comfort, for instance.
Pollovic: I'm amazed at how many people I've seen wearing his loose sleeves.
Seruffin: I admit, I've never cared for those cuffs you wear, myself.
Seruffin is aware that the flamboyant Rinaldi is something of a power broker among the wealthy, and for Pollovic to take credit for helping to set up the spring fashion line would be an asset in some quarters.
Pollovic: I really think Rinaldi himself is doing more than enough to motivate Nivet to open up to what is, after all, a profitable market for fabric. Now fertilizer, on the other hand. And beets. Sugar beets.
Seruffin: There is additional acreage down south that could be planted, if there was a market. Perhaps something could be arranged. The refining capacity is the limitation, I believe.
Pollovic: The refineries on this side of the border have a bit of spare capacity at the moment. It's the beets that are the problem.
Seruffin: Well then, perhaps something can be managed. I'll have to consult our agricultural authorities; they may have ideas on specifics.
Pollovic: I'm thinking I might go shopping for one of Rinaldi's shirts tomorrow. The kind with the loose sleeves that are so easy to roll up. Whether I actually decide to wear it to any noteworthy event...
Pollovic: ... will depend on... specifics. And the right sort of handling of them, of course.
Seruffin: I see. Perhaps one of your assistants could come by in a few days, to discuss the details?
Pollovic: I'll send Walliver over. Day after tomorrow?
Seruffin: Good enough.
Pollovic doesn't want to think too much about what he's committed himself to.
Seruffin zlins Pollovic's uneasiness, and decides to slip a pamphlet about donation into the information packet he will have his staff make up on the fabric, fertilizer, and sugar beet possibilities.
Pollovic grabs another glass of wine from a circulating staffer.
Seruffin raises his own glass.
Seruffin: To Unity -- and all the possibilities it has generated, on both sides of the border.
Pollovic: To Unity!
Pollovic clinks glasses with Seruffin and Gerrhonot, and takes a sip.
Seruffin smiles, thinking that perhaps Pollovic has started to understand Unity, after all.
Gerrhonot sips his apple juice and smiles.