Sazerac walks with determined stride to Controller Pietra's office, determined to get to the bottom of this injunction. He thinks: "It's just not fair to stuff me away in a rural fire-watching post, with no choice at all, and without anything resembling an explanation!"
Sazerac will let nothing stand in his way. He reaches and opens the door of Pietra's outer office and walks up to the desk where her secretary is sitting.
Vashti shuffles some papers into a neat pile and puts them in the Controller's In tray. She yawns and wonders how long until trin break.
Sazerac: Excuse me, I need to talk to the Controller about this injunction. Right away.
Vashti: The Controller is a very busy woman. She doesn't have time to talk to anybody who wants to see her on a whim. If you'll state your business, I'll ask her later if she'd like me to make an appointment for you.
Sazerac: This is not a whim! This is an injunction issued by the Controller! I have rights, you know. I'm not about to accept this injunction without explanation.
Sazerac waves the embossed seal at Vashti.
Vashti: Now, young man, calm down.
Vashti wonders just what rights a camp inmate thinks he has, but has more sense than to ask such a rhetorical question of an agitated Sime.
Vashti: Let me see that paper.
Sazerac anticipated this.
Sazerac: Oh no you don't. This is a certified copy.
Sazerac takes the copy out of his satchel and gives it to Vashti.
Vashti: Why give me that? You could have written anything on it.
Vashti doesn't think much of these barbaric out-T types, Sime or Gen.
Sazerac points to the notary's certificate at the bottom and reads out loud: "The above is a true and certified copy of Controller's Injunction number ..."
Sazerac: You think I'm going to get a conviction for fraud hung on me when I'm only a few months old?
Vashti takes the paper and scans it. It looks like a strange thing to do to this young Sime, but the Controller must have her reasons. You can never tell what kind of mutant riffraff comes over the border.
Vashti: It looks perfectly in order to me, young man.
Sazerac: But...but...but..... Without a word of explanation! Without a word! I'm a citizen of Nivet Territory, even if I am an inmate in this ... this camp. I'm entitled to a fair hearing, which means I have a right to an explanation in order to prepare my case.
Vashti sighs heavily.
Sazerac's anger collapses.
Sazerac: Please? I don't want to be shipped to the middle of the forest for the rest of my life, and not even know why.
Vashti: I'll speak to the Controller when I bring her her trin. Perhaps she can fit you in some time next week.
Sazerac: By next week I have to report to this ... this listening post. Look, here, see?
Sazerac points to the relevant section.
Vashti carefully copies down Sazerac's outlandish name from the notarized copy.
Vashti: Very well. Sit down over there and be quiet and I'll ask her shortly.
Sazerac sits down ~~ meekly ~~ to be quiet.
Pietra glances up as she zlins a very upset young Sime outside her office. She hadn't thought she had any appointments scheduled this morning. She stands, stretches her arms and wiggles her tentacles, then goes to the door and opens it a crack.
Pietra: A problem, Vashti?
Vashti sighs heavily again.
Vashti: This young man demands to speak to you about one of your orders.
Vashti's nager indicates how unsuitable she feels such a demand is.
Sazerac: "Requests", Hajene. "Begs", even.
Sazerac's voice is loud enough to be heard, but under control.
Vashti rolls her eyes. These barbarians are such little weasels.
Pietra: And your name is...?
Sazerac: Sazerac Himinola, Hajene.
Pietra thinks for a moment, then remembers the case.
Pietra: Ah, yes. Very well, then. I can give you five minutes. Come in.
Sazerac comes in, trying to zlin humble, which in his case can only be achieved by actually being humble. Which isn't easy.
Pietra signals silently to Vashti to allow exactly the indicated interval, then use one of their standard interrupt routines.
Sazerac: Hajene, I respectfully request an explanation of this assignment, and of why it is in the form of an injunction rather than a recommendation.
Sazerac has been composing that line since his trip to the notary.
Pietra: Sit down, sit down.
Sazerac sits down.
Pietra closes the door gently and follows her own advice.
Pietra: It's in the form of an injunction, because if it had been phrased merely as a recommendation, I doubt you would have followed it.
Sazerac nods acquiescently.
Sazerac: And the reason, then?
Pietra: It's very important that you report exactly as indicated.
Sazerac: I see. Would that be "important to me" or "important to the Tecton"?
Pietra has been stonewalling young Simes for over a decade.
Sazerac: Please elaborate? How does the Tecton benefit, and how do I benefit in particular, rather than in general as a Nivet citizen?
Sazerac figures it can't hurt to remind her of his permanent, as opposed to his temporary, status.
Pietra wonders if this young Sime comes from a family of lawyers, out-T.
Pietra: You benefit by not incurring the punishments that would result from violating a directive that came down from the Regional Controller's office.
Sazerac: ~~ controlled impatience ~~ Forgive me, Hajene, but that is no answer, as you very well know. It's circular.
Pietra is now sure that Sazerac's family must include lawyers.
Pietra: Is it not enough to ensure your co-operation?
Sazerac: With respect, no, Hajene. It is enough to ensure my immediate appeal to the Regional Controller. Unless...
Pietra waits him out.
Sazerac: Unless the matter can be resolved to our mutual satisfaction at the local level. I really don't wish to make unnecessary difficulties.
Pietra: The difficulties would be to yourself, young man.
Sazerac: But not only to me, Hajene.
Pietra waves a dorsal in inquiry.
Sazerac: Tell me, though, is this maneuvering really necessary? Why not simply be frank with me? I'm quite willing to do my duty, if I can see why it is my duty.
Pietra: It's your duty because the Regional Controller has ordered it.
Sazerac: No, Hajene. I am neither a channel nor a Donor. I have taken no oaths to subject myself to arbitrary authority.
Pietra: You are a citizen of Nivet Territory.
Sazerac: And as such, I have the right to a fair hearing. At such a hearing, I cannot prepare my case that I should not be subject to this injunction if I don't know why it's been imposed. Unlike the old junct council, this is a government of laws.
Sazerac sighs heavily.
Pietra: And the law says that a Regional Controller's injunction is absolute, and takes precedence over all other directives or procedures.
Sazerac: ~~ getting stubborn now ~~ I am not offering to disobey the injunction. I am simply requesting the courtesy of an explanation. Must there be an immense foofooraw over such a straightforward matter?
Pietra: If there is, as you put it, a foofooraw, it is of your making.
Pietra actually feels considerable sympathy for this young man, but she also understands why it's so important that he not be told too much.
Sazerac: Hajene, I don't want to play politics with your career. But you and your superiors are playing politics with my life.
Pietra considers carefully, then allows just a tiny flicker of ~~ compassion ~~ to show beyond the solid wall of her nager.
Sazerac spots the compassion and is ~~ relieved ~~ but maintains his insistent ~~ stubbornness ~~ at the same time.
Pietra: This is not a matter of politics.
Sazerac: [flatly] In that case, why are you being so evasive?
Pietra: Because giving you too much information at this point would not be in anyone's best interests.
Pietra hopes this will be enough to satisfy him.
Sazerac: With respect -- no, with not too much [English] damned [Simelan] respect, that is the excuse of every ruling class in every period of human history from Most Ancient times to today. "Necessity, the tyrant's plea." Shall I renounce my citizenship and return to Gen Territory?
Sazerac is quite ~~ serious ~~.
Pietra doesn't quite manage to conceal a moment of ~~ alarm ~~ .
Pietra: You wouldn't want the consequences of that.
Sazerac: Of course I wouldn't. But a short sharp death from the guns of the Border Patrol would be, to my mind, greatly preferable to a lingering death, if not actually by attrition, then by isolation and loneliness, cut off from every kind of human contact. ~~ sincere determination ~~
Pietra: No one intends that you should be harmed by this.
Sazerac: Why do I find that so difficult to believe? ~~ exasperation ~~ If you want to find out something about Simes, or about me, or about forest fires, [English] for God's sake, [Simelan] get my informed consent. [darkly] I understand those towers are pretty tall. It would be ... tempting.
Pietra searches for an explanation that will satisfy this stubborn young man.
Pietra: Did you ever, as a child, ask your parents something, only to be told, "You'll understand when you're older"?
Sazerac: Certainly, Hajene. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. By your own laws, I am an adult now.
Pietra: I agree that you're not a child, Sazerac. That wasn't my point.
Sazerac notes that more than five minutes have passed, and wonders if Vashti is listening at the door.
Sazerac: Go on, then.
Pietra: When your parents said that, were they right? Did you understand later?
Sazerac: Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Pietra: When you understood, did you also understand why they couldn't have told you when you first asked?
Sazerac: Yes. Because I wasn't fully -- legally -- responsible for myself at the time, and they were my guardians. That's not the case here.
Pietra: That wasn't why they couldn't tell you. They couldn't tell you because at that point, you wouldn't have been able to make sense of any explanation they might have given. They could have lied to you, and made up some story, or they could be honest and simply tell you to wait.
Sazerac shakes his head.
Sazerac: "Trust us, trust us, and all will be well in the end."
Sazerac: I learned better than that with my mother's milk, Hajene.
Pietra knows that even given a Gen's sloppy time sense, Vashti should be at the door by now. What's delaying her?
Sazerac: I understand she was nursing me in between oral arguments at the New Washington Territory Supreme Court. Most of which were about arbitrary authority and the individual citizen.
Sazerac isn't going to come off as a backward Wild Gen by admitting it was his father who was making the arguments.
Pietra: I won't deny that authority is sometimes misused, on both sides of the border. But I assure you -- and I'm not just parroting a directive from the regional office -- that this is not an arbitrary or unjustified action.
Pietra shenning well hopes that she's right, and that the results of this experiment will be worth the grief they're costing.
Sazerac: Then I'm entitled to know that justification, morally. If I don't understand it, then I don't, and I've already said that I'm not going to disobey. But if this isn't an exercise of power for power's sake, then all the worse.
Pietra also hopes that this very sensitive young Sime isn't zlinning too much from her nager.
Sazerac: It means that there is, in your opinion, something wrong with me, of a dangerous kind, and you're leaving me at the mercy of whatever it is. "First, do no harm." Are you doing me no harm here?
Pietra feels a surge of ~~ relief ~~ that she doesn't bother to try to conceal.
Pietra: On that, at least, I can reassure you. There is nothing wrong with you.
Sazerac: That's reassuring, at least. But can't you see that all this, this, mystification is going to seriously distort whatever you want to find out? If I had just gone along with it, all might have been well; I'd be a naive subject. But I'm not, and it isn't "all well". I hate to say this, because it's an abandonment of principle. But -- find someone else, who will go along!
Pietra: What makes you think we're trying to find out something?
Sazerac waves a tentacle.
Sazerac: Obviously you don't want to contaminate the experiment by telling me too much. It isn't really that I can't understand, is it.
Pietra: If you were right, then you would understand why I would neither confirm nor deny such a statement. If you were wrong, you might not understand why, but I still intend to neither confirm nor deny your hypothesis.
Sazerac: Then it comes down to this, Hajene. I confirm that I am not a radish (which may not know its rights, but I do). And I deny that I am a mushroom, to be kept in the dark and fed on [English] bullshit. [Simelan] Good day.
Sazerac turns on his heel, opens the door, and stalks out, closing the door behind him without slamming it.
Sazerac, as ordered, waits in the outer office.
Pietra augments out of the office and past Sazerac, and plasters herself against the only door out of the outer office.
Sazerac casts on eye on Vashti, who is a witness to this ... event.
Vashti eyes Sazerac with ~~ contempt ~~.
Pietra: Please. Come back and sit down.
Pietra signals to Vashti to make sure there are no interruptions.
Sazerac gets control of his limbs, which are quivering.
Sazerac: Very well, Hajene.
Sazerac politely holds the inner door open for Pietra's return.
Pietra: Thank you.
Pietra waits for Sazerac to seat himself.
Pietra: I don't want to see you shot to death at the Gen border. Nor jumping off a fire tower. Nor imprisoned for disobeying a Controller's injunction.
Sazerac raises his hands over his head.
Sazerac: Neither do I!
Pietra: I can't give you the information you want. But there's something I can give you, instead, if you will accept it.
Sazerac looks intently at Pietra.
Sazerac: Your personal word, perhaps?
Sazerac: I thought that would be it.
Pietra zlins, from the way the young Sime picked that up, that he may indeed have a talent precious enough to be worth nurturing in such an unusual fashion.
Sazerac: Forgive me, Hajene. But my father the lawyer and my uncle the psychologist would never forgive me if I didn't do this.
Sazerac gets out a pen and a tablet from his satchel and scribbles on it.
Sazerac: There. "I, Pietra, Controller of Westlake First Year Camp, swear by my personal word, my oath to the Tecton, and the Oath of Firsts that I believe my injunction on Sazerac Himinola is for his benefit as well as that of the Tecton, and I will hold myself personally responsible for the consequences if, when all the facts are made known to him, the said Sazerac does not agree with my judgment. Signed and sealed this day etcetera etcetera."
Pietra: You haven't really absorbed yet, have you, that Simes don't lie?
Sazerac: I'm gambling that you hold your personal honor higher than your belief in raison d'etat, when all is said and done.
Sazerac hands Pietra the document and looks at her ~~ expectantly ~~.
Pietra: I can't be certain whether any human being other than myself will agree with my judgment. If you insist upon this phrasing, I must ask for specific limits on my liability.
Sazerac gestures "Go on."
Pietra: If you do not agree with my judgment, I will resign my post as Controller of this camp, or whatever other post I may hold as of a year from now, and accept no other Controllership for a period of five years. Furthermore, if harm is done to you..."
Pietra hesitates, asking herself how far out on a limb she's willing to go for this.
Sazerac: "... I promise to do everything I can to make sure this kind of thing never happens to anyone in Nivet Territory again."
Pietra tries to conceal her relief. She'd been considering offering considerably more.
Sazerac frowns and nods.
Sazerac: Running out of your office like that is what convinced me that you take this seriously, you know.
Pietra: I do. Very seriously.
Sazerac smiles, with some difficulty, but ~~ genuinely ~~
Sazerac: As one human being to another, what would you recommend I take with me to the tower? Besides a Companion, I mean. ~~ nageric wink ~~
Pietra: If you enjoy reading, a tall stack of good books. Otherwise, whatever materials you'd want for your favorite handicrafts.
Sazerac: I think I'll make it both.
Pietra: And a good warm cloak. I understand it's a pretty windy site. I presume you'll be wanting a witness to our signatures?
Sazerac: Sure. Your secretary will be fine; she was actually rather nice to me just now.
Sazerac winks physically this time.
Pietra goes to the door and sticks her head out into the outer office.
Vashti: Yes, Controller?
Pietra: Would you come in here for a moment, please?
Vashti: Of course, Controller.
Sazerac: [softly] Don't forget to have her bring the seal.
Vashti goes into the inner office ~~ wondering ~~ what's up.
Pietra reaches into her own desk for the seal. Not all of her assistants are as organized as Vashti, and the last time the seal went missing, it took a week to find it.
Sazerac: [still softly] I'm impressed.
Pietra: Vashti, we require a witness to our signatures on a document.
Vashti: Yes, Controller. ~~ curious, but isn't going to ask any questions ~~
Sazerac signs on the line for "party of the second part".
Sazerac: Thank you, Controller.
Pietra signs in the blank space above Sazerac's name.
Vashti signs as "Witness" and adds the date, time and location.
Sazerac: ~~ gallantly ~~ Allow me.
Sazerac picks up the letter opener on Pietra's desk and slashes the side of his thumb.
Vashti ~~ recoils ~~ at this bizarre out-T behavior.
Pietra suppresses her wince. She'd heard of this particular out-T custom before, but had never thought to actually be a part of it.
Sazerac holds the thumb up within easy reach.
Sazerac: The seal?
Pietra takes the seal and firmly imprints the document.
Sazerac smears the other thumb against the cut and fingerprints the document with a smooth rolling motion.
Sazerac: There. And thank you.
Pietra resignedly nicks her own thumb and adds a smear of her own blood.
Vashti is ~~ revolted ~~ that a First Order Tecton channel is engaging in this barbarism too. Fortunately, as an in-T Gen, her nageric control is pretty good.
Sazerac: With your permission, Hajene.
Sazerac turns to Vashti.
Sazerac: We'll need three notarized copies. One for me, one to send to Himinola and Son in New Washington, and one for the Regional Controller. I trust that will be satisfactory all around?
Pietra: Now, if you'll just give me your hand for a moment?
Sazerac does just that.
Pietra quickly heals the small cut on Sazerac's thumb.
Sazerac: Thank you, Hajene.
Sazerac resolves to use his own knife next time: at least it's decently sharp.
Pietra reflects that her letter opener isn't as blunt as she'd thought. She'll have to take it outside and saw at a paving stone with it.
Sazerac: And now I have a lot of preparation to do and only a few days to do it in. Do I have your leave to depart?
Pietra: By all means. Good day, Sazerac.
Vashti thinks this formality is ~~ ludicrous ~~ after Sazerac's previous departure at a run.
Sazerac steps out quietly and closes the door behind him, gently again. His father and uncle impressed on him the importance of never, never slamming doors, ever.
Vashti: Anything else, Controller? Some wash water?
Pietra sinks into her desk chair.
Pietra: My Donor, if you can find him.
Vashti: Of course. I'll send a runner.
Pietra rubs at her temples with her thumbs, incidentally smearing blood onto her hair.
Vashti leaves the inner office, carefully closing the door behind her.
Sazerac reflects that if Pietra had noticed the wording "I hold myself responsible", as opposed to "I will be held responsible", she'd not have been so quick to add all those definite provisos. A sense of honor, among the honorable, is worth far more than any particular expression of penalties.