How The Other Half Lives: Episode 6

Zeth sits in an upscale trin shop in Sommerin, waiting for Buslee ambrov Dar.

Zeth is a disjunct QN-3 who changed over and came in-T in the early years of Unity. He worked as a channel but was later phased out with other disjunct Thirds and founded the now well-established and successful GeoZlin company of consultants in salvaging materials from Ancient ruins.

Buslee waddles in, dressed in maternity clothes, and obviously requiring every inch of expandable waist.

Zeth stands politely, and pulls out the other chair.

Zeth: Welcome, Tuib.

Buslee: Thank you.

Buslee sits with some ~~ relief ~~; sitting is less awkward than walking, these days.

Zeth: I appreciate your meeting with me on short notice, but I'm in Sommerin unexpectedly.

Buslee chuckles.

Buslee: I'm a Gen, and eating for two these days at that. Any invitation to lunch is greatly appreciated!

Zeth smiles.

Zeth: Please, order whatever you'd like. It's the company's treat.

Buslee grins.

Buslee: Fair warning: it might do serious damage to your profit margin. ~~ hunger ~~

Zeth: Things have been going well for us lately. I've sure you can't eat us into bankruptcy!

Zeth waits until he zlins that Buslee has made up her mind then signals the waiter. He orders a small plate of Sime delicacies for himself, and a fresh pot of trin.

Buslee orders considerably more and settles for cleaning up the small complimentary appetizer plate while she waits for the main course to arrive.

Buslee: So, you said that you wanted to know some things about the Cordvain Valley?

Zeth: Yes, we're considering doing some work there, evaluating the remaining resources.

Buslee: What exactly did you want to know?

Zeth: I'd like to learn more about conditions there, especially for Simes. We've never taken an out-T contract. I understand you ran into some difficulties yourself.

Buslee shrugs.

Buslee: We were invited in by the miners, as part of their strategy to gain leverage against the parent company. Naturally, we weren't popular with the management types.

Zeth nods.

Buslee: Our official mission was to clear the ruins of berserkers. But in fact, we were supposed to deprive management of their justification for maintaining a private army of ill-disciplined thugs, which not incidentally spent more time breaking up the union than searching for changeover victims.

Zeth: So it was the management's thugs who attacked you, not the miners themselves?

Buslee: Certainly. Why would the miners attack us, when they desperately required the presence of the channel who came with us? The donation payments were allowing many of them to see an end to what was essentially slavery.

Zeth: So you'd say that the local people were generally not hostile to Simes? Simes from in-T, of course.

Zeth wouldn't expect them to be sympathetic to junct berserkers.

Buslee: The union members were very glad to see us, and the mining families who were afraid to join the union were mostly also too afraid to make trouble for us. That left the mine management -- most of whom tried to ignore us -- and their goons, most of whom wished we would conveniently disappear without any effort on their part. When they were forced to take action, they picked me because I'm Gen, and a woman. They never did anything more than name-calling to our Simes.

Zeth: That sounds promising. I'm reluctant to put my people in a position of possible danger. I realize the Gens there have firearms.

Buslee: Most do, especially those with adolescent children. They also use the guns to hunt rabbits, squirrels, and other small game. Food is a major drain on a miner's salary.

Zeth isn't revolted. He grew up out-T, and ate meat himself, as a child, when he could get it.

Buslee: In fact, high food prices are a deliberate part of the strategy General Metals uses to keep the miners from leaving. They run up debt at the company-owned general store, and aren't allowed to leave until it's paid off.

Zeth: I'm thinking of taking a small crew out there for a preliminary survey before winter really sets in. We'll probably take one of the company rail cars -- they're set up for our equipment, for office work and as living quarters. I suppose we could bring in adequate supplies for ourselves.

Zeth smiles.

Zeth: I wouldn't count on the company store being eager to sell to us.

Buslee: It might not even be in business, any more.

Zeth: Oh?

Buslee: When I left, there was a rumor circulating that General Metals wanted to close down the mine.

Zeth: There's some truth in that rumor.

Buslee: Well, if they want to force the miners to leave, cutting off their food would be a good way to do it.

Zeth: They'd still be operating the smelter, though, so the smelter workers would have to be supplied.

Buslee: If they want to drive out the miners badly enough, bringing in a few supplies for the smelters would be cost-effective, compared to hiring enough goons to evict them.

Zeth: I suppose the union has considered its options for that case. Perhaps they could start their own store.

Buslee: With the donation payments, they would have that freedom.

Zeth: That they would. I can see how it would have made a big difference in a place like that.

Zeth pauses while the waiter delivers their food.

Buslee digs in to her Gen-sized portions with ~~ enthusiasm ~~.

Zeth allows Buslee's enthusiasm to tempt him to try a few tidbits from his Sime plate.

Zeth: Do you know how much longer your naztehrhai, the Tecton team, will be there? Is the Tecton going to put in a permanent Sime Center?

Buslee: I have had no word of exactly when the team will be withdrawn, or what, if anything, the Tecton will put in its place. I don't think it's been decided, yet: the situation has been in flux since the onset.

Zeth figured as much, but it was worth asking.

Buslee: If your company is hired to zlin the ruins, surely the Tecton will arrange for a channel?

Zeth: I'm a Third Order channel myself, as are several of my associates, while others are Third Order Donors. However, we aren't authorized to work as channels these days.

Buslee is ~~ sympathetic ~~.

Zeth: I'd probably go out there with my wife, who's my usual transfer partner, and another pair.

Zeth and his wife are sometimes affectionately called the Sectuib and First Companion in GeoZlin by their colleagues.

Zeth: Of course, we couldn't use any renSimes out there if there weren't a Tecton channel to serve them.

Buslee: Would that make too much of a limitation for you to accept the contract?

Zeth: It would depend on how extensive the site is, and how readily discernible the deposits. We won't know until we make a preliminary survey.

Buslee: It was big enough that our team was able to spend weeks scouring the ruins. As it turned out, there weren't any Simes living there at the time, and proving a negative is difficult. I don't know how extensive and minable the deposits were.

Zeth: It's not too difficult to zlin metals, but it takes experience to assess the quantity and evaluate how difficult they'd be to recover.

Buslee: That's your area of expertise; I can't give you even an estimate of what you might find.

Zeth: Of course.

Zeth pours trin, and sips.

Zeth: I hope the Tecton will put a permanent Sime Center in before your naztehrhai are required to leave. It could be a real hardship for everyone with no channel to take donations and manage changeovers.

Zeth is ambivalent about being put into the position of being the only channel available to serve First Transfer.

Buslee: Yes. Once a person gets used to the idea that a child in changeover doesn't have to die...

Zeth: Or kill.

Buslee: Yes.

Zeth: And it sounds like giving up donation payments would be considerable hardship for many.

Buslee: It would certainly change the whole political balance of power.

Zeth: Well, let's hope the Tecton shows good sense and doesn't forgo such a rich source of selyn.

Buslee: Even if it is out in the middle of nowhere.

Zeth: It is a long way from the border, an awkward distance to haul the selyn.

Buslee: It's more a matter of good faith than profit, for the Tecton.

Zeth: Yes, it is.

Zeth consumes a few more tidbits, taking advantage of Buslee's healthy appetite.

Zeth: Let's hope they're inclined to keep good faith.

Buslee lifts her cup of trin.

Buslee: To faith in our fellow human beings, and the wonders it can accomplish.

Zeth touches his cup to hers, and drinks.

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