A Walk in the Woods: Episode 9

Firlith strides briskly through the night-dimmed corridors of the World Controller's Office building in downtown Capital, on her way to report on the aftermath of the latest Audnes Revolt. She hasn't been able to fully resolve all the lingering issues to her satisfaction, but at least the Snake River Dam is finally under control, and no renSimes are in immediate danger of going junct.

Firlith has hopes that the Tecton has once again survived a challenge to its necessary authority, although things could easily have turned out differently.

Jaklin sits in her office, working through some relaxation routines. She's not looking forward to this meeting.

Firlith reaches the World Controller's office, and announces her arrival to the renSime in the outer office.

Jaklin zlins Firlith's arrival, sighs, arranges her face and nager into a carefully neutral, civil and cooperative state, and goes out to meet Firlith.

Jaklin: Good evening, Controller Firlith. May I offer you some tea?

Firlith: Thank you.

Firlith offers her tentacles in formal greeting.

Jaklin returns the gesture and projects a ~~ courteous welcome ~~. She ushers the other channel into her office and over to the comfortable arrangement of chairs and sofa by the window. She pours tea for both and settles into an upholstered chair.

Firlith accepts the cup and sniffs it with ~~ appreciation ~~.

Firlith: Narosian! I must say, for all their other faults, they do grow the best trin.

Jaklin: Indeed they do.

Jaklin agrees with the caveat about their other faults, but avoids that topic.

Jaklin: Thank you for coming to Capital so speedily.

Firlith takes a careful sip, ~~ savoring ~~ the delicate flavor, then sets the cup down and removes two pieces of paper, fastened together with a clip, from a portfolio.

Firlith: I have here a summary of my peoples' reports from the Snake River Dam.

Jaklin takes the papers. She's read the detailed reports about the situation at the Dam and the efforts made to sort the situation out, prepared by a number of different participants in the process.

Firlith: You'll get the full version from your staff tomorrow, I expect, with their summaries and comments, but I expect they'll agree with me that the Tecton has salvaged more from the situation than was thought possible, when we went in. The area is stable now, and the selyn delivery system secure.

Jaklin: An extremely difficult, dangerous and delicate situation, very well handled by you and your staff.

Firlith smiles with ~~ pleasure ~~ at this praise, although she is forced by her conscience to be honest.

Firlith: Thank you, although I must admit that there are still some loose ends that disturb me.

Jaklin nods. ~~ encouragement ~~

Firlith: I wish there was a better road in to the area. To have it almost completely isolated for the entire winter is asking for trouble, given how recently it's regained stability. I think the team that I left there will do a good job, but if the criminal elements stage another uprising, or just decide to make random trouble, we won't know about it until spring. For that matter, an epidemic could overwhelm the area, and there are still enough people living in inadequate shelter to make that a real danger.

Jaklin: I wonder if a telegraph line would be more feasible than an all-weather road in that terrain.

Firlith: It would help, if it's possible. I admit, I don't know the details of that technology. The route across the lake from Gen Territory stays open much longer than the trail up the river.

Jaklin: In an emergency, people could be brought in over the lake, then. I wonder if Salmonton has a telegraph line. Perhaps theirs could be extended to our side.

Firlith: I'm not sure how eager Salmonton would be to cooperate with us, but it's better than nothing, if we can convince them.

Jaklin nods. She knows that Salmonton, the nearest Gen Territory settlement to the Dam site, has an uneasy relationship with it.

Jaklin: But there's another issue I've asked you to come here to discuss.

Firlith: Oh?

Jaklin: Sosu Nick Reckage.

Firlith winces.

Jaklin: I understand one of your subordinates attempted to... detain him.

Firlith: Yes. That incompetent Muslin let him escape, but I take full responsibility. I should have given more explicit instructions.

Firlith is ~~ apologetic ~~.

Jaklin's nager becomes nearly opaque to the lower rated Firlith.

Jaklin: What was the reasoning behind this effort to remove this Donor from his assigned duty and his assigned channel?

Firlith looks a little ~~ surprised ~~ at being asked.

Firlith: Why, he had clearly violated the terms of his rehabilitation. Running out on the Tecton for, what, the third time? Or is it the fourth?

Jaklin: In what sense was he running out? He was performing the duty assigned him by his Controller, Hiram Farris, Sectuib in Sat'htine.

Firlith: He was supposed to be undergoing rehabilitation under close supervision at Sat'htine, not creating diplomatic disasters in Gen Territory.

Jaklin: As I understand it, he was working under the close supervision of his assigned channel, Hajene Katsura Farris, who was acting as Sectuib Hiram's proxy in this project.

Tenger hurries up the stairs towards the World Controller's office. She welcomes the climb after the long train ride; it gives her a chance to work off some of the tension she built up as she contemplated Sectuib Hiram's instructions on the journey. She shares Sectuib's justified anger at the current situation. She pauses at the top of the stairwell to get her nager in order.

Tenger's Companion was working hard during the train ride, and has now been sent off to get some sleep. She hopes she'll be able to be her usual diplomatic self without that support.

Tenger stretches all of her handling tentacles towards the ceiling, then takes three slow, deep, calming breaths. She straightens the collar of her traveling cloak in Sat'htine colors, then opens the door and strides into the Controller's outer office.

Jaklin zlins another channel in the anteroom, despite the good insulation of her office, and wonders what kind of problem brings her here at this hour.

Firlith: The supervision wasn't close enough, if he found time to gamble with impoverished locals, and use their losses to compel them to donate. I realize that the man has never bothered to learn Tecton protocols, but surely anyone could see why that would be a bad idea?

Jaklin is ~~ startled ~~. That sounds... oh, dear... not all that unlikely for Reckage, who is notoriously and willfully naive about the political consequences of his actions.

Jaklin: Surely the channels there didn't take donations from Gens attempting to donate under duress.

Jaklin hopes not, but she knows it can be hard to read out-T Gens, or understand their motivations.

Firlith: How would they tell the difference between that and a Gen donating under the duress of financial disaster due to the earthquake?

Jaklin: Do you have solid evidence, or is this just a rumor?

Firlith: I have it from a Donor of mine named Pedro -- he's only a Second, but there's nothing insensitive about his eyes and ears. I sent him to Cottonwood City to assess the situation for me. Reckage was running wild: out of uniform and going native.

Jaklin wonders why Firlith believes it's her job to send somebody out-T to spy on Reckage.

Tenger notes that the Controller's receptionist seems to have stepped out for a moment. She goes directly to the door of the inner office and signals.

Jaklin zlins the signal and figures it must be an emergency.

Jaklin: Excuse me, there's someone with an urgent need to speak to me.

Jaklin goes to the door and opens it. She sees and zlins a somewhat distressed and travel-worn female channel.

Tenger: Tenger Farris ambrov Sat'htine, here on behalf of Sectuib Hiram.

Jaklin: Good evening, Hajene Farris.

Jaklin thinks the timing couldn't be worse.

Tenger: I'm sure you know why I'm here, Controller.

Tenger glances at the other channel in the office but shows no sign of recognition.

Firlith wonders if Sectuib Hiram is asking for help in rescuing his kidnapped channel before Reckage ruins her. She's quite ~~ sympathetic ~~ to anyone who has been victimized by Reckage's superficial charm.

Tenger: I apologize for the interruption, Hajene, but I'm here to deal with a time-sensitive issue.

Tenger makes an apologetic tentacle-lift towards Firlith.

Firlith accepts the apology with a gracious tentacle gesture.

Jaklin: Come sit down, Hajene Tenger.

Jaklin gestures to the comfortable chairs.

Tenger enters and sits down.

Tenger: Thank you, Controller.

Jaklin has decided to let the two channels find out each other's positions directly. She pours Tenger a cup of tea.

Tenger spares a glance at the unfamiliar channel before turning her attention back to the Controller.

Jaklin: This is Regional Controller Firlith, Hajene. She's concerned in this matter. What is Sectuib Hiram's message for me?

Jaklin is careful not to address Tenger as naztehr in front of Firlith.

Tenger: I trust you've received his telegrams and both of the letters he's sent? I'm here to co-ordinate with you as we try to salvage this situation.

Jaklin: Yes. Has Sat'htine heard any further news?

Tenger: Not a word. Only the ongoing speculation in the press. We've put classified ads in newspapers both in-T and out-T, but it's as if Hajene Katsura and Sosu Nick have disappeared into thin air.

Jaklin: It might be difficult for them to send a telegram, or even mail a letter, if they've gone west into the mountains. It would be safer for them to be far from settlements.

Tenger: Sectuib is aware of that. He's not counting on them seeing any of the newspapers, either.

Jaklin glances at Firlith.

Jaklin: I'm quite concerned about Hajene Katsura's health and safety.

Firlith: So am I.

Firlith is, too.

Tenger: Sosu Nick is rated below her, but not so far below her that he can't serve her an emergency transfer. They wouldn't have been sent out together otherwise.

Firlith: I hope that she will make her way back to civilization before that becomes necessary.

Jaklin: I believe she'd be close to hard need by now. She must have been strongly motivated to protect her Donor, to take such a risk with her own safety as going into Gen Territory.

Tenger: We're not even sure whether she had retainers with her when they fled.

Jaklin: The danger from heavily armed Gens would be bad enough, but Farrises are very susceptible to serious complications from entran.

Firlith: Trust Reckage to sweet-talk an innocent channel into running off with him.

Tenger's nager suddenly goes ~~ opaque ~~ at Firlith's statement.

Firlith: If Reckage runs true to form, he'll be recruiting donors and patients for her. Whether or not they really wish to be recruited.

Firlith is finding the thought ~~ frustrating ~~.

Jaklin: Hajene Katsura is Sectuib Hiram's choice as Heir to Sat'htine. I doubt she'd be easy to sweet-talk, nor would she be naive.

Firlith: But she is a Farris channel, and Reckage's nager is almost as seductive as his father's. Or is that his grandfather's? He had, what, several weeks to work on her, during which he was the only Donor who could possibly help her?

Tenger: Hajene Katsura has every bit of Sectuib Hiram's strength. She's never been led anywhere she hadn't already chosen to go. ~~ cold ~~

Firlith: Reckage -- and his father -- specialize in leading people into predicaments they would never have gotten into without assistance.

Jaklin ignores Firlith's attempt to blame the consequences of her actions on Nick's alleged magical Singolly-like powers.

Jaklin: So it seems that your subordinates, acting under your orders, put Sosu Nick into a position that Hajene Katsura felt it her duty to take substantial risks to rescue him from.

Tenger turns to stare at Firlith.

Tenger: You?!

Tenger takes a moment longer than usual to mask the ~~ fury ~~ in her nager.

Tenger: You're the one who set this... situation... into motion?

Jaklin projects ~~ calm ~~. A shouting match isn't going to solve anything.

Tenger smoothes her nager but ignores the Controller's attempts to soothe her.

Firlith: I had reliable information that Reckage had left Sat'htine's grounds and was running amok in Gen Territory. Yes, I took steps to contain the situation before any more damage was done. That's my responsibility as the Regional Controller. I regret that Muslin botched my orders, and that your Hajene Katsura has been placed in danger because of it, but I don't regret trying to rein in Reckage. He's a dangerous loose cannon.

Tenger: Hajene. Sosu Nick was traveling with his assigned Sat'htine channel, on a Sat'htine mission, when he was abducted.

Jaklin: Sosu Reckage was performing his assigned work in Gen Territory, which territory is not in your Region, Hajene Firlith. What's more, he was returning with his assigned channel to Sat'htine at the time your subordinates apprehended him.

Tenger swallows the rest of what she was about to say. She knows it will come with more force from the World Controller.

Firlith: He wasn't supposed to leave the grounds of Sat'htine until he had been thoroughly rehabilitated. Which he obviously wasn't, judging by his dangerous behavior in Gen Territory.

Jaklin: That was not my agreement with Sectuib Hiram. I put Nick under his authority, to manage as he thought best.

Tenger: Sosu Nick remained under the supervision of a Sat'htine representative, until he was kidnapped away from her. And she took immediate steps to retrieve him.

Firlith: Are you telling me that your Hajene Katsura was a party to Reckage's donor recruitment scheme? And his black market dealings?

Firlith is ~~ genuinely shocked ~~ at this admission.

Firlith: That they were done at her orders?

Jaklin: I doubt that these alleged activities were done at Hajene Katsura's command, Hajene Firlith. ~~ dry ~~

Firlith is ~~ relieved ~~.

Tenger silently ~~ thanks ~~ the Controller, who put it much more diplomatically than Tenger would have.

Firlith: Then we are agreed that Reckage was out of control, and that his activities jeopardized our relations with Gen Territory?

Jaklin: No, we aren't agreed at all. Evidence appears to be lacking.

Tenger gives a tight nod.

Jaklin: I sincerely doubt that an operation managed by Sat'htine's well-trained search and rescue teams would be as much of a disorganized mess as you imply. Despite what your spy reported.

Jaklin makes it plain that "lackey" would be a better term than "spy", and that Firlith's lackey would tell her what she wants to hear.

Firlith: Reckage didn't make much effort to hide his activities. His donor recruitment scheme made the New Washington Times.

Tenger: As hearsay. We still don't have the facts.

Jaklin: One reporter related a rumor which he picked up from a Gen in Cottonwood City. There are no doubt thousands of Gens there who would relish such rumors about us "evil snakes".

Firlith: All the more reason not to provide fuel for such rumors.

Jaklin: Certainly. But we don't know whether this rumor, or any others, are based on fact or on malevolence by anti-Sime factions.

Tenger: Controller, I didn't come here to sling mud and play with rumors. I came to work towards a constructive solution to what we all agree is now a mess.

Firlith: In this instance, my agent personally talked to at least two donors who mentioned how "kind" Reckage had been to accept a donation in lieu of cash. Or taking off his clothes, in one instance -- I'm not quite sure what that involved. Fortunately, Pedro is discreet. He didn't tell anyone but me, and he won't. The Gen reporter may in fact have been reporting exactly such as baseless rumor as you proposed.

Jaklin: Hajene Tenger, did the other Sat'htine channels who returned from Cottonwood City report anything about this rumor? Were they asked by donors to take their selyn as payment for gambling debts to Sosu Reckage?

Firlith turns to Tenger.

Tenger: Not to my knowledge. A number spoke about requiring the money from their donations, but that's always the case.

Firlith is ~~ relieved ~~.

Firlith: Then perhaps the situation isn't completely out of control, and the Tecton can emerge relatively unscathed.

Jaklin: Or perhaps it was never at risk of being out of control.

Tenger: What is still at risk, however, is the wellbeing of two people Sat'htine has great concern for.

Jaklin: Indeed. And they are at risk entirely due to the campaign of persecution Hajene Firlith has taken upon herself.

Tenger restrains herself from glaring at Firlith.

Firlith ~~ does not agree ~~ with Jaklin's phrasing.

Tenger: What do you propose, Controller, to salvage this situation?

Jaklin: We'll discuss that later. For now, I'm advising Hajene Firlith that Sosu Nick Reckage has been and is still mine to dispose of within the Tecton, and my assignment of him to Sat'htine stands.

Tenger: ~~ relief ~~

Jaklin: Hajene Firlith, I'm directing you to cease spying upon and harassing Sosu Reckage, should he return.

Tenger hadn't seriously doubted Jaklin's position, after Sectuib's exchange of telegrams, but it's still good to zlin it face to face.

Firlith: With any luck, he'll stay out with the Wild Gens where he can't drag the Tecton into any more dangerous situations.

Jaklin: Wherever he is, he's not your concern.

Firlith ~~ reluctantly ~~ nods. She is, after all, completely loyal to the Tecton, unlike Reckage. She will not support Jaklin and her backers during the next election, of course, but that doesn't change the present situation.

Jaklin: If there's any information you can offer that may help us assist Hajene Katsura and Sosu Reckage to return safely to Nivet, I hope you will share it with us, and not act on it yourself.

Firlith: If I hear anything, I will of course let you know.

Jaklin: Thank you, Hajene.

Tenger makes a mental note to remind Sectuib to lend Jaklin a few extra Sat'htine members as full-time campaigners at the next election. Assuming, of course, that Jaklin is crazy enough to want the job again. She's aware how rare good Controllers are. Jaklin must be persuaded to want the job again.

Firlith is a bit ~~ hurt ~~ that her concerns about Reckage are once again being dismissed out of hand, rather than being investigated and judged on their merits.

Jaklin: If there were abuses of donors in Cottonwood City, it will land in my lap soon enough, and be dealt with.

Jaklin sighs. Well, she can stick poor Seruffin with it, if it does happen, now that the trade negotiations are over.

Jaklin: I appreciate that you have the best interests of the Tecton at heart, Hajene Firlith. This was perhaps a matter of excessive or misdirected zeal.

Firlith doesn't bother to protest any more: it's obvious that Jaklin isn't open to persuasion.

Jaklin stands.

Firlith stands politely at this dismissal.

Tenger hesitates a moment, then stands as well.

Firlith zlins that Tenger wants a private word with the World Controller, and takes her leave. She doesn't believe in staying where she's not wanted, after all.

Jaklin feels that she didn't handle this as well as she might have, but so it goes.

Jaklin: Hajene Tenger, what is Sectuib Hiram planning so far?

Tenger sits back down and reaches for her tea.

Jaklin sits as well, and spares some ~~ sympathy ~~ for poor Hajene Katsura, in hard need, off in the wintry wilderness with a rogue Donor who undermatches her.

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