Pollovic emerges from the committee room feeling both frustrated and weary. After hours of talk about the Cottonwood City disaster, there's still not a penny of additional aid in the works. He's beginning to think the Simes are the only people besides himself who care about Cottonwood's people. They, at least, sent help.
Tsibola follows, equally ~~ frustrated ~~ at his attempts to maintain some kind of budgetary discipline. He's well aware that the situation in Cottonwood City is dire, and even agrees that short-term help should be provided. He does not, however, believe that the government ought to cover the whole expense of restoring the city to the conditions its inhabitants wish it had had before the earthquake.
Pollovic glares at Tsibola as the older man brushes past him.
Tsibola sighs at the younger Senator, wishing that Pollovic wasn't so... overly enthusiastic.
Pollovic: It would be different if it were in your district, wouldn't it? Then maybe you'd care.
Tsibola: If it were in my district, you and your colleagues would be the ones trying to make sure that no blank checks were being written. And much the same compromise would be reached: enough immediate aid to get people through the worst of it, but not more than be afforded.
Pollovic: People are suffering, Ruthven. Isn't that why we got into politics in the first place, to help people?
Tsibola: Brenn, if you want to help people, you should have gone into medicine. Our job is to look after the best interests of the nation as a whole, and of our particular districts. It's a somewhat different responsibility.
Pollovic: You know, sometimes I think the Simes care more about our people than you do! ~~ frustration ~~
Tsibola raises an eyebrow.
Pollovic: They, at least, sent help. They weren't fussing over the bottom line; they helped where they could.
Tsibola: If I understand the situation properly, the Simes that showed up were a private disaster response team who were getting ready to run a practice exercise, and decided to practice on a real disaster instead. The Sime government proper was not involved in providing the assistance. Although I'm sure they were glad to find a use for the extra selyn they gleaned from the refugees.
Pollovic: Most of what they collected, as I understand it, was spent by their team right there on the site, working round the clock. For us.
Tsibola: How is that different from any number of other private charities that have responded to the Cottonwood City disaster by sending assistance?
Pollovic: Only that I'm sick and tired of the way you always assume, no matter what Simes do, that they think of us only as cattle.
Tsibola: Not only, perhaps. But they never stop viewing us primarily as a source of harvestable selyn.
Pollovic spots someone who can help settle this for him: the Sime reporter Triangusul, working his way through the gap in the crowd, that always seems to surround him.
Pollovic Mr. Triangusul! Come here a moment, please.
Triangusul steps up briskly but not Sime-quickly, so nobody is actually trampled as other people try to get out of his way.
Triangusul: May I do you a service, Senator Pollovic? Greetings, Senator Tsibola.
Pollovic Triangusul, what am I?
Triangusul knows a trick question when he hears one.
Triangusul: A very powerful man, Senator.
Pollovic turns to Tsibola with a look of ~~ triumph ~~ .
Pollovic: You see? Not "a Gen", not "a donor". Just a man.
Tsibola looks at his younger colleague in a somewhat jaundiced fashion.
Triangusul: I could have said those things too, Senator. But I zlin a conflict, and I don't like going into a conflict zone unarmed.
Tsibola reaches out with a foot and neatly trips his younger colleague.
Triangusul, of course, being a Sime, catches Pollovic before he even knows he's going down, sets him neatly on his feet, and withdraws before Pollovic knows what's happening.
Pollovic looks slightly ~~ startled ~~ .
Pollovic: What did you do that for, Ruthven?
Tsibola: You see? He wouldn't have bothered to do that if a fellow Sime had tripped.
Triangusul: Simes don't trip, Senator Tsibola.
Triangusul demonstrates by doing a handspring.
Tsibola is ~~ skeptical ~~ of this pronouncement.
Tsibola: If you say so.
Pollovic At any rate, thank you, Triangusul. Perhaps, as a knowledgeable reporter, you can help us with a bit of data here.
Triangusul: Certainly, Senator.
Pollovic: Did the Sime team that helped out in Cottonwood City take home any significant amount of selyn? Or did they spend almost all of it onsite, helping out?
Triangusul looks up briefly.
Triangusul: I believe the overall selyn balance for the Sat'htine disaster team was slightly negative. That is, they spent all of what they collected on-site, and more.
Pollovic: You see, Ruthven? ~~ triumph ~~
Tsibola: See what?
Pollovic: No selyn. They helped anyway.
Triangusul now understands what the conflict is about.
Tsibola: Do you think that they aren't capable of thinking beyond the moment? I expect there will be additional personnel in the local Sime Center when the dust settles, taking advantage of those new recruits.
Pollovic: There isn't a local... hey, that's a great idea, Ruthven. Thank you.
Tsibola shakes his head at his younger colleague's gullibility.
Triangusul: I'm far from sure that the Tecton will be willing to install a Sime Center there. We're no more immune to earthquakes than you are, Senators.
Tsibola: They don't happen very often.
Pollovic: Well, obviously you'd know not to build on that jelly clay down by the river. But think of the boost to the local economy.
Tsibola thinks ~~ sourly ~~ that the aid package that Pollovic had originally introduced would have created a booming economy from scratch.
Pollovic is ~~ enthusiastic ~~ about this new idea.
Pollovic: Everybody will benefit. The Simes get their selyn, Cottonwood gets the money it needs, and Unity advances one more step.
Tsibola doesn't consider that necessarily an advantage.
Triangusul: Unfortunately, such a project will stand or fall on things like supply lines, local attitudes, and conservative Sime Territory politicians, Senator.
Pollovic is ~~ undaunted ~~ .
Pollovic: Now, Ruthven, does that sound as if the disaster team was just a sinister plot to get a Sime Center into Cottonwood?
Pollovic is already thinking tactics: who to talk to first, where to apply a little nudge, who to send on what task.
Tsibola: Just? Probably not. That doesn't mean the Tecton doesn't intend to take full advantage of the opportunity, and more for their own purposes than those of the residents of Cottonwood City.
Pollovic: This good gentleman, who ought to know, doesn't seem to think they'll be falling all over themselves to take advantage of the chance. We'll have to work to get it.
Pollovic isn't afraid of a little hard work. This is the kind of thing he got into politics for.
Tsibola: You'll have to set up conditions to be maximally profitable for them, certainly.
Pollovic has the ~~ sudden realization ~~ that he has an expert adviser, and an inside line, on tap in his own guest room.
Pollovic: But of course.
Triangusul nods vigorously.
Tsibola: Brenn, I have helped some towns in my district negotiate with big corporations to have a new factory placed in their town, rather than some other one. Many of the deals I brokered have provided much-wanted employment possibilities to the townsfolk.
Pollovic: I'd welcome your advice, then.
Tsibola: But I don't kid myself that the big corporations are primarily concerned with the town's benefit, or that of its citizens.
Triangusul: I expect the issues are pretty much the same: transport, security, capitalization, ... Well, not selyn balance. But that should be jam for any of your economic advisers.
Triangusul: Selyn works much like money.
Pollovic: Which should make the process easy enough to understand, even for those of us who can't zlin.
Pollovic is a bit ~~ smug ~~ . With the Heir to Sat'htine in his sitting room, he'll be able to cut through a lot of red tape.
Triangusul: Especially with someone to put you on the inside track, eh?
Pollovic suppresses a moment of pure ~~ panic ~~ . Triangusul can't possibly know about his house guests, can he?
Pollovic: What makes you say that?
Pollovic's outward manner, at least, is cool and unruffled.
Triangusul: Come now, Senator, we both know, and this is a rather public place.
Pollovic leads Triangusul down a side corridor, trying to make the movement seem random.
Tsibola tags along, hoping to hear something interesting.
Pollovic: I'd be curious to hear what you think you know.
Triangusul: Since you insist.
Pollovic is not going to panic. Not yet, he's not.
Triangusul: Did you not receive an off-the-record briefing some time ago from a rather knowledgeable person from Sime Territory?
Pollovic: I deal with people from Sime Territory all the time. There's no secret to that.
Triangusul: Obviously. You are talking to me, here and now. For that matter, so is Senator Tsibola.
Pollovic pounces on the diversion.
Triangusul: [dryly] Surely he'd agree that you can get very useful information from your political opponents?
Tsibola: My dealings are hardly the same thing as his.
Tsibola sincerely ~~ hopes ~~ that Triangusul can't prove they're not, anyway.
Pollovic: Now if you had unofficial dealings with Simes, that would be news.
Triangusul finds this remark interesting, and wonders if it's a shot in the dark or not.
Triangusul: It seems to me that you do, Senator Tsibola. At least on occasion.
Pollovic gives a little internal sigh of ~~ relief ~~ as the reporter picks up on the diversion.
Pollovic: Oh, my, Ruthven. Have you been talking to Simes out of school? ~~ teasing ~~
Tsibola is starting to wonder whether following Pollovic and the Sime was a good idea. He's more experienced at handling such situations than his younger colleague, and therefore has the sense to go on the attack.
Tsibola: If either of you have any accusations to make, make them. Otherwise, I believe you were asking about my junior colleague's unofficial association with certain prominent Simes?
Triangusul: I make no accusations, Senator Tsibola. But is your association with me, here and now, official?
Tsibola: No, it had better be off the record.
Triangusul: Oh, this conversation is extremely off the record.
Pollovic: Answer carefully, Ruthven. What's tea with a friend to me would be a violation of your own anti-Sime policy from you.
Pollovic is ~~ happy ~~ to see his opponent squirming a bit.
Tsibola: Only if it took place in a Sime Center.
Pollovic: Oh, so you can do anything you like with a Sime, so long as you stay out on the front lawn? That seems a bit hypocritical, doesn't it?
Pollovic so rarely has the upper hand over Tsibola that he's ~~ gloating ~~ far more than the situation seems to deserve.
Pollovic: It gives, "Your place or mine?" a whole new meaning.
Triangusul restrains himself from laughing: it doesn't do to alienate a powerful man.
Tsibola: Humpf. There are some activities that belong in a Sime Center, and only there.
Triangusul: [placating] I think we can all agree on that.
Tsibola: I'm glad you learned something from that debacle.
Pollovic bristles, a bit ~~ defensively ~~ .
Triangusul: Surely he wasn't the only one who did, Senator. Senator Pollovic's constituents, for example. At least that's what the polls seem to show. And there's no doubt that occasional consultations with, say, Hajene Seruffin are entirely legitimate, no matter who makes them. Perhaps I should say "conversations" instead. [ironic] Forgive me.
Pollovic tries very hard not to react.
Triangusul zlins Pollovic briefly, then turns his attention to Tsibola.
Tsibola: If you are asking whether Hajene Seruffin is my personal physician, the answer is no.
Pollovic finds it very interesting that Tsibola qualifies his denial so narrowly.
Triangusul: That's plain to anyone who can zlin. No channel would allow you to get into that shape, Senator.
Tsibola is as yet blissfully ignorant that Crynwyr saw fit to consult Seruffin in Craig's case.
Tsibola: I beg your pardon, Sir. ~~ affronted ~~
Triangusul: No, I beg yours. That was tactless of me. I'm sure Senator Pollovic will refrain from remembering that he overheard that.
Pollovic: Overheard what? ~~ deadpan ~~
Triangusul: That's the spirit, Senator.
Pollovic knows when to concede a small point in favor of a larger goal.
Pollovic: But a channel like Seruffin is an excellent conversationalist, isn't he, Ruthven?
Tsibola: He's certainly eloquent enough, when it comes to finding excuses not to give an inch on treaty negotiations.
Pollovic recognizes a dodge when he hears one.
Pollovic: And at other times?
Tsibola: I'm sure you would know better than I, if you've been having excellent conversations with him.
Pollovic: My conversations with him aren't an issue. Yours, given your political stance, might be.
Tsibola: I assure you, my conversations with him have been professional, not social.
Pollovic is firmly determined to keep Tsibola, not himself, on the hot seat.
Tsibola has no intention of staying to be asked more awkward questions. He may not share Craig's theology, but does share his view of Simes as living lie detectors.
Tsibola: If you will excuse me, gentlemen, I believe my aide wants to start briefing me on the Agriculture Committee agenda.
Pollovic nods. While baiting Tsibola is amusing, he's quite aware that it's himself who has the Sime secret at the moment.
Pollovic Very well, then. Good day, Ruthven. And you, Mr. Triangusul.
Tsibola gives Pollovic and the Sime a stiff nod of farewell, and makes his escape with some ~~ relief ~~.
Pollovic, too, hurries away, disappearing down a side corridor that leads back to his office.