Hiram glances around the small meeting room. On the table in front of him are Nick's telegram, a stack of correspondence from the World Controller's office, and a thick file of notes from Sat'htine's legal department.
Lusinka busies herself pouring tea all around.
Lusinka: So, Hiram, what progress on our fugitives?
Hiram pushes the telegram to the middle of the little table.
Hiram: This just came in, fifteen minutes ago.
Hiram sits back to wait while the others read and react to the message.
D'zoll is the youngest at the table, so doesn't need to pick up the telegram to read it.
Lusinka captures the telegram and reads aloud:
Lusinka: "Arrived safely. Please send money. Virla sends greetings to Gegg. Letter follows. --Kat"
Lusinka: Whatever does that mean?
Shorsh: Probably that they're in or near Gumgeeville.
D'zoll: Virla is the local Church of Unity leader.
Shorsh wonders how and why they ended up there, so far from where they crossed the border near Cottonwood City.
Lusinka: Gumgeeville? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that a rather bad area for a Sime to visit?
Hiram: Why do you say that?
Lusinka: I thought that most residents of the town were more than little skeptical about having a Sime in town, even for a short visit?
Lusinka has had more conversations with Sanda Gegg than most of the others, and her perspective might be a bit skewed as a result.
D'zoll: They're a mixed group, certainly. But even the most anti-Sime elements aren't likely to set off pogroms.
Hiram: Gegg had channels in his barn for weeks, and nobody put together a posse to try to shoot us.
Chaos wakes up in her nest under the couch in the conference room.
Hiram: As for why they're there, I'm guessing they picked up on the first round of classified ads I put in the major Gen newspapers.
Lusinka: That, or they just picked the most isolated spot they could identify to us.
Chaos stretches in her typically elastic way, licks an orange stripe on her shoulder back into order, and peers out from her den.
Hiram: Either way, at least now we know where they are, and that they're unharmed.
Lusinka: They're out of funds and stranded in the back of nowhere, however.
Hiram: The former is easy enough to fix, now that I know where to send the money.
Chaos yawns, revealing very white, pointed fangs.
Lusinka: This Virla person who heads the local Church of the Unity?
Chaos sees a tasty-looking ankle in front of her den, and crouches, tail lashing gently back and forth.
Hiram: I didn't meet her, D'zoll, but if you consider her trustworthy, I'll address the bank draft to her instead of to Kat or Nick. That way, every telegraph operator and bank clerk along the way won't be reading a name that's been in the news lately.
D'zoll: She's personally wealthy, at least by Gumgeeville standards. I doubt she'd steal the money.
Chaos's haunches wriggle in the approved fashion, and she springs, wrapping both front paws around her prey and going for the death bite.
Shorsh's nager remains undistressing despite the surprise and pain.
Chaos's fur stands out impressively, making her twice her usual size and very daunting.
Lusinka: What about Farris-specific....Shorsh, what's the matter?
Shorsh reaches down and picks up a half-grown kitten by the scruff.
Chaos looks innocently at Shorsh with big green kitten eyes, and starts to purr.
Shorsh shifts Chaos to his shoulder.
Chaos settles down to view her domain from this perch.
Shorsh: Isn't this animal supposed to be doing its part to keep the Householding free of rodents?
Hiram laughs affectionately.
Shorsh moves the kitten around so he can speak to it face to face.
Lusinka: I think she could use a bit more practice on species identification.
D'zoll: On the other hand, maybe we *are* all rodents, actually.
D'zoll bares his upper teeth.
Hiram: She's such a pretty little thing, and female orange tabbies are so rare, that I thought I'd let her patrol this wing for us.
Chaos reaches out with one paw to bat gently at the large proboscis in front of her. She has a look of ~~ blissful innocence ~~ on her kittenish countenance.
Shorsh blows in the kitten's face.
Hiram: This may have been an error on my part.
Chaos swats at the moving air.
Hiram: Nobody seems to do any work once they have her in their lap.
Shorsh scritches the kitten's belly.
Hiram shrugs helplessly.
Chaos grabs the attacking enemy and tries to disembowel it.
Hiram: See what I mean?
Lusinka: As I was asking... What about Farris-specific medications? They wouldn't be available locally, I expect.
D'zoll: If Nick's been able to hang on to anything besides his shoes, he has a bag of them. I'd bet anything on it.
Shorsh: If Kat required anything right now, she'd have asked in the telegram. Maybe there'll be something in the letter.
Hiram: I'm thinking of sending a courier. The question -- besides what else to send -- is whether to wait for the letter, or send someone right away.
Shorsh continues to play with the kitten, which has fortunately already learned to be careful with its claws and human skin.
Shorsh: How long did it take the letters D'zoll and I sent home to get here?
Hiram: Eight or nine days.
Shorsh: We could send them, or Virla, a telegram letting them know we got theirs, and wait for the letter. Also that we're sending money.
D'zoll: I'd definitely recommend against sending in one of our couriers cold into a situation of unknown volatility, Sectuib.
Chaos chews contentedly on Shorsh's hand, alternating between grooming it and pretending to rend and tear it.
Hiram: We've got people in New Washington; one of them could be out there in a day or two. They wouldn't have to go out in a Tecton uniform, not if we sent a Gen.
Lusinka: Any stranger will be noticed in a town as small as Gumgeeville.
Hiram: D'zoll, how well stocked is the Sime center in Hannard's Ford?
D'zoll: In Farris-specific meds? Probably not at all. No real reason for it: you and I are probably the only Farris channels ever seen there. In any case, I'd recommend sending anything through Marvin. He's already known there, and it's easy for him to make an extra stop in Gumgeeville on his route.
Hiram: Would he help our people, or tip off Nick's enemies on their location?
D'zoll: Who monitors the comings and goings of mules?
Lusinka: Anyone with sense, who wants to know what's going on.
Shorsh: Their Controllers, of course.
Lusinka: Firlith may be a lorsh about the Audnes, but she hasn't got as far as she has without knowing how to get information.
Shorsh: Jaklin has told her to leave Nick to us.
Hiram: With some of what's been printed in the out-T press about Nick, Firlith wouldn't even have to do anything direct. Just tip off some out-T Simephobes that Kat and Nick are there.
D'zoll: As far as I can recall, though, Bibi's Controller and Firlith are on the outs, so Firlith isn't likely to hear about Marvin's movements from her.
Shorsh: Well, in that case, the best thing to do would be to get them to come home as soon as possible.
Hiram: The lawyers still haven't untangled all the bits of this mess. Until they have, I think the safest place for the two of them is still out of sight, and across the border.
Chaos takes advantage of Shorsh's momentary distraction to launch herself across the table.
Shorsh makes a grab for the flying cat, but of course, misses.
Hiram, with quick Sime reflexes, grabs the feline in midair.
Chaos yowls with ~~ indignation ~~.
Hiram: Where do you think you're going, small one?
Chaos thought she was a Mighty Huntress Striking Terror into Lesser Creatures. She figures that it's just like said lesser creatures to be too big and dumb to pick up on such important nuances.
Hiram settles the furball against his shoulder, restraining her pointy bits gently with several handling tentacles.
D'zoll is ~~ amused ~~ at the way the dynamics of these meetings always break down when cat-petting is added to the agenda.
Chaos experiments with pointy-bit-restraint-evasion, then curls up for a nap.
Hiram figures the distraction of having a cat underfoot in the office wing is well repaid by the way a little purring can dissolve tension.
Lusinka: So we leave our fugitives out there, and tell the lawyers to get cracking?
D'zoll: I guess so. How many links do we have to chase to reach Marvin?
Shorsh: His Controller's office should have his schedule.
Hiram: Anything you can think of that we should send besides a Farris meds kit?
D'zoll: Out-T money comes to mind. Kat's going to need to do some work, for which the locals will have to be paid.
Lusinka: What about clothing? Will they be able to get sufficient locally?
D'zoll: Probably, given the money. [English] "Money has no soul", they say out-T.
Hiram jots notes on a scratch pad.
Shorsh: I expect they'd appreciate a can of trin.
Hiram: A packet of spices and seasonings?
Lusinka: Good thinking. Is there anything else you missed while you were out there, that can be sent out easily?
Shorsh missed a clean, warm, comfortable bed, hot baths and decent cooked food, but figures they're getting that in Virla's house.
Lusinka: Reading material, perhaps?
Hiram nods and scribbles again.
Lusinka: I assume they can get any necessary Tecton forms in Hannard's Ford?
D'zoll: And lots of old copies of Donor magazine, which they keep around in case the stove wood runs out.
D'zoll groans theatrically.
Chaos sees the pencil moving, and reaches out to capture it.
Lusinka looks at D'zoll.
Lusinka: Were you forced to resort to that, during your stay?
D'zoll: No. I forced Shorsh to tell me stories to keep me amused.
Hiram moves the pencil out of reach just in time, narrowly missing getting a scratch that would have given the cat a nasty selyn flashburn.
Chaos looks indignantly at the pencil, which didn't behave the way any decent prey should and fall victim to the Mighty Huntress. She jumps down from Hiram's lap and waddles in kittenish fashion towards D'zoll.
D'zoll makes here-kitty-kitty noises with nageric accompaniment, patting his chair with his left hand.
Chaos can't zlin, of course, but she's not averse to demonstrating that she doesn't have to limit herself to victims who evade capture.
Hiram: All right, then... money to be wired to Virla, parcel through Marvin, telegram to the channel in Hannard's Ford... Bibi, wasn't it?
Lusinka: Yes. Although if they've any sense, Kat and Nick will have contacted her already.
Chaos scales D'zoll's chair with built-in pitons, the better to pounce on the patting hand.
Hiram: If all she's heard is what's in last week's newspapers, she might not know whether to help them, or arrest them as soon as they cross the fence line.
Chaos wrestles D'zoll's hand into submission, purring loudly.
D'zoll scratches Chaos with part of his attention and tries to put the rest on the conversation.
Hiram: Anything I'm missing?
Chaos is missing the rest of her nap, and after giving D'zoll's hand a friendly lick or two, she settles down to resume it.
D'zoll: Not that I can think of.
Lusinka: You do realize that if Nick is going to serve Katsura for another month, she'll have to upgrade him considerably.
Shorsh figures that since Nick survived the previous transfer in apparently working condition, he's no doubt been upgraded, though perhaps not enough to really satisfy Kat.
Hiram: We were hoping to upgrade him anyway, if he decides to stay with Sat'htine.
Lusinka: Will he have a free choice, after this?
Hiram: Are you suggesting we should send out a different Companion to serve Kat this month?
D'zoll: I'm not so sure. Kat may be over-sensitive, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have the full Iron Farris capacity for living on shunts and partials.
Hiram: Two months in a row, though?
Lusinka: They're not a close enough match to end up in a dependency, and Nick might take it as a sign of distrust if we send someone else out for Kat. Unless we sent a channel for him, as well, and that could get very complicated.
D'zoll: She is your Heir, Sectuib. Couldn't you do that for two months?
D'zoll looks innocently at Hiram, then at Lusinka.
Shorsh rolls his eyes.
Hiram: That's not the point. She's been under a lot of other kinds of stress as well, lately.
Lusinka: Unless you think that Nick isn't up to the task of looking after her in Gen Territory?
Lusinka looks at D'zoll in ~~ question ~~.
D'zoll: If he doesn't have to do too many transfers -- and I'm not saying how many is too many at this point -- I think he'll be entirely up to it.
Shorsh thinks that most Farris channels would line up for the opportunity to spend all their time with Nick, and take transfer from him repeatedly, judging by the reactions he's observed to Nick's nager. Besides, Nick's lived out-T before, and looked after his rogue channel with essentially no support or backup.
Hiram: Then, for the time being, let's leave that arrangement alone. If they're out there for a third month, we'll look at the issue again.
Lusinka: Good enough.
Hiram: You've raised another interesting point, though. What do you think all of this will do to Nick's attitude to the possibility of joining Sat'htine?
D'zoll had hoped that Hiram wouldn't bring that up, but no such luck.
Hiram zlins the sentiment and fixes D'zoll with an inquisitive glance.
D'zoll: He's not my patient, Sectuib. I don't know.
D'zoll knows that Hiram knows that if Nick were D'zoll's patient, he couldn't tell Hiram anything then either.
Hiram: Speculation? Anyone?
Hiram zlins the resounding silence on the ambient and shrugs.
Hiram: Another topic for the future, then.
Hiram: If there's nothing else, I'll let you all get back to your interrupted duties.
Chaos, in proper feline fashion, has expanded to fill D'zoll's lap and then some. She views providing bedding as a very important duty for D'zoll, just now.
D'zoll carefully puts the kitty on the floor and makes his escape while he's still intact.
Chaos gives her ambulatory mattress a kitten glare, then retreats back into her den beneath the sofa.
Lusinka: Well, I think we've all been shown our places.
Hiram: Cats have a way of teaching us perspective.
D'zoll: See you all at the next meeting, then. And remember, the only reason she doesn't eat us is that she's too small and we're too big.
Chaos would dispute that; mouse tastes better, and she has her standards.
Chaos drifts into dreams of mice, birds, and butterflies as the room empties.