How The Other Half Lives: Episode 22

Craig mounts the steps to the statue plinth just outside the New Washington Senate building. This plinth has served as an unofficial speakers' soapbox since time immemorial. He has bought a new suit for the occasion, neatly tailored to his new, leaner frame. This will not, after all, be an audience of country bumpkins.

Triangusul is thinking that that was a waste of time. These rituals of "press conferences" really don't make much sense to his in-T sensibility. He sees a press conference as an event in which the reporters try to elicit stereotyped replies which the politicians make a point of not providing.

Tsibola is also looking forward to getting some real work done. He knows how vital press conferences are, but the tedium of explaining the boring facts of government to a press more interested in the salacious and the bizarre is not the favorite part of his job.

Craig turns to see a large crowd streaming out of the main doors of the Senate. There must be some sort of meeting or press conference just ending.

Pollovic begins working his way through the crowd. For all the relevance this particular conference had to his work, he might as well have stayed in his office and gotten something real done.

Triangusul wonders on days like this why he spends time among the liars of Gen Territory at all.

Pollovic steps into the bubble of clear space around the retainered Sime reporter and gives a friendly nod to Triangusul, taking advantage of the Sime-avoidance zone to move a few bodylengths closer to the door.

Triangusul: Greetings, Senator P.

Pollovic: Waste of time, wasn't it?

Triangusul: For the verbal content, certainly. There would certainly be interesting things to zlin -- if I had a higher sensitivity and discrimination. Oh well.

Pollovic: How's that interview project going?

Triangusul: About half done, I'd say.

Pollovic: Anything I can do to help, just let me know.

Triangusul nods so he doesn't have to shout again.

Seruffin has the higher sensitivity that Triangusul lacks, but just now, he'd be happy to trade it for some nageric peace and quiet.

Craig mounts the last step, turns to face the crowd, and summons his best nail-them-to-their-chairs public speaking voice.

Seruffin has spent an arduous day trying to be diplomatic, as his retainers pinched more and more, the stench of boiled coffee filled the conference room, and Gerrhonot's healthy young Gen appetite grated on his nausea.

Gerrhonot eyes the crowd unhappily, hoping they'll clear soon so he can get his channel back to the embassy and out of retainers as safely and easily and quickly as possible.

Craig: Brothers and sisters, Gens and Simes, I bring you the Word of God!

Gerrhonot: Do you think we should go back to our safe room and wait, Hajene? ~~ soothing ~~

Seruffin considers the option, then reluctantly shakes his head.

Seruffin: I've got some research to do before tomorrow's session, and it'll be hours before this building clears out enough to make a difference.

Gerrhonot moves closer to Seruffin and covers one retainer with his hand, projecting ~~ sympathy ~~ and ~~ comfort ~~.

Craig: ...but like so many of you, I saw Simes only as the incarnation of evil. It took personal tragedy and God's intervention to show me that Simes are the agents of God's Truth!

Seruffin: Thank you, Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot responds with ~~ happiness ~~ that his beloved channel appreciated his efforts.

Seruffin: I think I can make it, now.

Gerrhonot replies with ~~ confidence ~~ in his channel.

Craig continues, building volume and momentum as he explains how God has created Simes to force us to avoid all deceit, by zlinning our lies and exposing our falsehoods.

Seruffin is trying not to zlin, to save his stomach the distortion of retainers, and so he doesn't spot the logjam in front of the marble soapbox.

Gerrhonot doesn't either -- he's been too concentrated on concealing his ~~ apprehension ~~ that the well-armed Simephobe guard who is on duty in the lobby today will react to Seruffin's presence.

Tsibola hears a rant coming from the speaker's corner, a place he usually avoids unless he's looking for some light entertainment.

Fennik is accompanying Ruthven. They're planning to lunch at a nearby restaurant, and met up after the press conference.

Tsibola thinks he hears a familiar voice, however, and not one he was expecting.

Tsibola: That sounds like... but he's at your place still, isn't he?

Tsibola stands on tiptoe, trying to see the face of the speaker over the crowd.

Fennik squints toward the ranting voice.

Fennik: Craig? I don't know where he is, Ruthven. I haven't heard anything from him.

Tsibola mentally kicks himself for assuming that Craig wouldn't do anything stupid.

Triangusul zlins the ~~ startlement ~~ from Tsibola, which stands out from the general nager.

Seruffin zlins it, too, and tries to move a little away, in case it was someone's response to him.

Gerrhonot stays close to his channel, ~~ protecting ~~ him more intensively in the crowd.

Fennik hopes these reporters will have more sense than to notice a ranting crackpot at the speaker's corner.

Tsibola doesn't dare assume that reporters won't glom onto a story, but they'd pounce for sure if he was caught trying to silence a speaker.

Craig spots Tsibola and Fennik and launches into his big headline-grabber.

Craig: ...and here is God's proof: Fridda Fennik, that man's daughter and Senator Tsibola's niece, Fridda Fennik, whom everyone thought dead, is alive and well and living in Nivet as a Sime!

Tsibola's ~~ shock and anger ~~ are clearly zlinnable on his high field, although fortunately there are only two Simes around to zlin them.

Fennik winces. As much as he'd like to break the secrecy around Fridda's survival, witnessing Ruthven's wrath is not something to look forward to.

Tsibola can't imagine a worse way for the news to get out.

Triangusul zlins Craig's ~~ sincerity ~~.

Triangusul: He means it, Senator.

Tsibola wishes he'd known Craig was in town, so he could have had him quietly arrested and committed.

Pollovic glances in the direction Craig is pointing. He remembers Fennik from their one brief meeting. Now he understands why an associate of Tsibola's would be pro-Sime.

Pollovic: This could be a very interesting development.

Craig pauses in his sermon, giving the excited babble his revelation has triggered a few moments to run its course.

Seruffin is, for once, too ~~ miserable ~~ to consider fully the implications of the public revelation of Fridda's survival.

Fredricks elbows his way through the crowd to Tsibola.

Fredricks: Senator Tsibola, do you have comment on that... charge?

Tsibola: My cousin has been mentally ill for some time. I'm sure he means well, but his reasoning is... flawed. At least, he seems to have developed a very strange theology since I last saw him.

Tsibola lets his face assume an expression of ~~ dignified concern ~~.

Fredricks: That doesn't necessarily mean his facts are incorrect, Senator. Just because the world's biggest fool says it's raining outside does not mean the sun is shining.

Tsibola: It doesn't mean it is, either.

Fredricks: Ah, Professor Fennik. Is it true, sir?

Tsibola: It's really none of his readers' business, Jon.

Tsibola hopes Fennik will take the hint, and decline to comment.

Fennik really, really hates to be put in a position like this, and takes Ruthven's implied suggestion gratefully.

Fennik: I have no comment for the press.

Triangusul zlins ~~ evasion ~~ from both men, and winces.

Tsibola is ~~ grateful ~~ for his brother-in-law's forbearance.

Fennik expects that Fredricks won't interpret that as anything but a "yes", but he's done the best he can, for all the good it will do.

Tsibola knows the rumors will fly, especially if he can't get Craig silenced, but rumors are much less damaging than a confirmed fact would be.

Fredricks shrugs internally and closes his notebook. Follow the power, he reminds himself.

Tsibola is debating whether to corral Craig now, demonstrating his concern for an ailing family member, or to leave him to avoid a scene.

Fennik wishes he'd arranged to meet Ruthven at the restaurant instead.

Tsibola is a man of action, so he pushes towards Craig's podium.

Fennik isn't, so hangs back.

Gerrhonot is ~~ concerned ~~ that the crowd has stopped and is milling around, blocking their exit. It doesn't look like it would be any easier for them to go back into the building, either. He watches Seruffin carefully, and does his best to ~~ protect ~~ him.

Seruffin: This is getting ugly, although none of it's directed at us, at the moment.

Gerrhonot: Do you think we should try to get back inside? ~~ concern ~~

Gerrhonot doesn't really want to go near that Simephobe guard, who is probably twitchier than ever.

Triangusul decides this isn't a safe place to be a renSime, and works his way slowly to the channel-Donor pair.

Seruffin: No, that might draw exactly the kind of attention we'd prefer to avoid.

Pollovic sees Tsibola approaching through the crowd. He makes brief eye contact, nods, then turns away. Later, in private, will be the time to discover what political gains can be made if the speaker's announcement holds water.

Tsibola hadn't realized that Pollovic was present, and it's not making his day any more pleasant.

Tsibola is automatically repeating, "No comment" as he moves through the reporters left over from the press conference. He intends for there to be no comment until he's had time to draft one that strikes exactly the right note.

Triangusul reaches Seruffin.

Triangusul: [Simelan] Hajene, I...

Seruffin has, of course, spotted Triangusul long since.

Seruffin: Here, stay between us. There's nowhere to go at the moment, I'm afraid.

Triangusul nods. ~~ gratitude relief ~~

Gerrhonot is ~~ sympathetic ~~ to the Sime reporter. It must be awful for him out here in Genland without a Donor to help and protect him.

Seruffin tries to pull himself together sufficiently to provide some ~~ protection ~~ on the other side, without inflicting too much of his retainer-generated woes.

Triangusul begins to feel ~~ better ~~.

Triangusul: Hajene Seruffin, I don't suppose you have any comment on the record, do you?

Seruffin: Of course. The negotiations concerning the assignment of responsibility for implementing the treaty worked out over the summer are progressing nicely.

Triangusul ~~ grins ~~.

Triangusul: Full and frank discussions, eh?

Seruffin: Come now, are they ever? But progress is being made, nonetheless.

Triangusul: Good.

Tsibola reaches the base of Craig's platform.

Tsibola: Craig, what are you doing here?

Craig, who had been about to launch back into his sermon, turns slowly and theatrically to look down at Tsibola.

Craig: Speaking God's Truth as He has given me to understand it, Ruthven.

Tsibola: Have you any idea how idiotic you look, standing up there?

Craig: Do you object to my speaking of the Truth, cousin?

Fennik is feeling extremely ~~ uncomfortable ~~, ~~ embarrassed ~~ and ~~ resentful ~~, stuck in the crowd, repeating "no comment" over and over to the reporters besieging him.

Tsibola: There is nothing Godly about subjecting the members of your family to the full glare of a media feeding frenzy. What has Jon ever done to you, that you should treat him with such lack of common courtesy?

Fennik considers going over to join Seruffin, hoping that the reporters will be reluctant to follow him there, but then he notices that the Sime reporter has preceded him. He knows well that he can't manage a nageric "no comment" that would convince a Sime.

Craig, now that he's back in the familiar urban world of business and politics, knows how to hold his own in front of an audience.

Craig: Truth is Truth. Only the ungodly need fear it. Do you count yourself among their number, Ruthven?

Tsibola: All of us are naked under our clothes, Craig. Does that mean it's proper to run around without your shirt? If you wish to discuss anything with the rest of your family, we can meet over lunch. In privacy, which is where family discussions belong.

Craig also, after many childhood Sunday mornings in a pew, knows how to use the language of religion to effect.

Craig: I would give up my shirt gladly, cousin, if another man were freezing. And I will give up my privacy, if that privacy harms God's children or enshadows God's word.

Tsibola: If you convince me that you are now mentally unstable, and acting in a manner disgraceful to the family, I will take steps to see that you are treated appropriately.

Craig: Is free speech now a crime in New Washington? Or is any disagreement with you a sign of instability? We differ in our understanding of God's will, cousin. I am sorry if that offends you, but I cannot keep silent. Silence conceals Truth, and God's will is Truth.

Craig knows, in the worldly part of his mind, that if he can stay calm and ministerial while Tsibola rants, it will only increase the impact of his message.

Tsibola: The only Truth coming out here is that you haven't recovered from your trauma. You are sick, Craig, or you wouldn't go about saying hurtful things about people who only mean you well.

Craig: I mean no harm to anyone, cousin. How is it hurtful, to say a young woman is alive and well, a living example of God's loving will?

Craig keeps his voice raised, for the benefit of the listening crowd.

Tsibola shakes his head ~~ sorrowfully ~~.

Tsibola: Please, come back to your family. There are excellent psychologists who can help you recover from your mental breakdown.

Tsibola says that bit loud enough to be heard.

Tsibola: We will welcome you, when you are ready to rejoin us.

Craig knows that he is where God wants him to be, doing God's will.

Craig: All of God's children are my family now, Ruthven.

Tsibola turns his back on Craig, and moves away, working his way back to rescue Fennik. He turns briefly back to face Craig.

Tsibola: I hope you treat them with more consideration than you're offering to your own family, then.

Craig: The price of Truth, brothers and sisters, is sometimes high. But know that God is with you. His Truth will prevail

Tsibola finally finds Fennik.

Tsibola: Let's go. There's nothing we can do about this, for now.

Craig continues his sermon, letting the sonorous phrases roll more and more easily from his tongue.

Fennik: As you say.

Tsibola is glad to hear that without himself and Fennik present to taunt, Craig's sermon degenerates into less politically damaging bad theology.

Fennik lets Ruthven break a trail through the crowd and follows him.

Tsibola makes a mental note to have GMM security locate Craig's current dwelling, and find a way to bring him in for treatment, or out of town, whichever is easiest.

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