Fennik refreshes his brother-in-law's snifter and his own, and relaxes again into the comfortable leather chair in front of the fire in his study.
Tsibola takes a reverent sip, as such a fine vintage deserves, and feels himself almost relax, for the first time in weeks.
Tsibola: Ah, I haven't taken nearly enough time lately to savor the simple pleasures of life.
Fennik: Indeed. One must stop to sniff the brandy sometimes.
Fennik follows suit.
Tsibola: It's evenings like this that convince me to keep fighting to preserve our heritage and traditions.
Fennik nods agreement, with some reservations about the value of preserving a certain few of those traditions.
Tsibola sincerely ~~ hopes ~~ that his efforts to that end are successful -- and that they remain secret.
Tsibola: These are perilous times, and what we do may determine the course of civilization for generations to come.
Fennik: More perilous than a generation or two ago?
Tsibola: In some ways, yes. Then, the issue was survival, which made for very simple choices. Now we're at the point that we can pick and choose how to build our future, and so the choices are much less obvious.
Fennik: I suppose we are.
Fennik is disinclined to get into an argument with Ruthven, on top of an excellent dinner and the warm glow of the fire and the brandy.
Tsibola: The more I deal with Simes, for instance, the more danger they seem to present to the ground rules of our civilization.
Fennik: How so?
Tsibola: It seems as if every time I try to deal with a Sime on what ought to be a straightforward issue, they end up tackling the problem sideways. And then they accuse me of going the wrong direction.
Fennik: It's a different culture, Ruthven. What's straightforward to you may not be straightforward to them. And vice versa of course.
Fennik: Even the Nivet Gens have rather different attitudes than we do.
Tsibola: Yes. And while I'm sure it's useful for a Gen in their position not to share our culture's aversion to Simes, there are other differences that are far less benign.
Fennik shrugs and has another sip.
Fennik: Less benign?
Tsibola: How can a person develop a true sense of self-worth, and use it to accomplish something in the world, when he knows that everybody else in his society judges him first and foremost as a producer of selyn? And that no matter what else he might accomplish, nothing will ever be considered more important?
Fennik: The other Gens, too?
Tsibola: Yes, even people who have every reason to know better will adopt the controlling attitudes of their parent culture.
Fennik: I doubt it's that simple, Ruthven. I'm sure most people in-T, Sime or Gen, don't think a person's selyn production is the most important thing about them, any more than we think the number of children a woman has is the sole measure of her worth.
Tsibola: Perhaps not.
Tsibola of course shares his culture's prevailing view that a woman's ability to bear children ought to limit her choices and activities, whether or not she actually has any children, or indeed wants to have any.
Fennik: Certainly Fridda doesn't feel that way about either of us, or her Gen professors, either.
Tsibola: I would hope not. She's far too intelligent to accept that sort of cultural nonsense when she knows better.
Fennik: I would assume her classmates, Sime and Gen, agree with her, at least with regard to the Gen faculty.
Tsibola: Do they? Or do they just think that being a professor is suited to a Gen's limitations? It's a rather sedentary profession, after all.
Fennik: It certainly has nothing to do with selyn production.
Tsibola: But there is no way it can interfere with that all-important function, either, and thus it's a perfectly acceptable activity for a Gen.
Fennik shakes his head at Ruthven's bullheadedness.
Tsibola: The limitations tend to apply when a Gen picks an "unsuitable" occupation or hobby. Or doesn't follow his dreams, for fear of upsetting others.
Fennik: I'm sure that sort of thing happens to many people on both sides of the border. According to Fridda, women of either larity are far more likely to advance in management and the professions there than here.
Fennik has never regarded himself as a feminist but is pleased that Fridda will have an opportunity to develop her talents to the full, more so than she would here.
Tsibola shrugs: women's opportunities in the general sense don't interest him, as opposed to what his power and privilege can grant particular women in whom he has a personal interest.
Fennik decides to divert from an unproductive line of conversation.
Fennik: More brandy, Ruthven?
Tsibola: Thank you.
Tsibola smiles a bit ~~ apologetically ~~ for letting his frustration color their evening.
Fennik serves more brandy and resumes his seat.
Fennik: Have the Simes been giving you a hard time again at the negotiating table lately?
Tsibola: Not too much more than usual. I guess I'm just getting more sensitized to Sime ways of doing things.
Fennik smiles. He suspects "sensitized" means "irritated".
Fennik: For example?
Tsibola: Oh, it's little things. The way Hajene Seruffin always insists on a break just when my morning coffee makes itself known. As if I were not capable of figuring that out on my own.
Fennik: He's probably zlinning your full bladder. If you're uncomfortable he can hardly help zlinning it.
Tsibola: I thought that was what his Donor was for? Keeping him from zlinning things he doesn't want to zlin? He might at least grant me the dignity of knowing when I need to go to the men's room.
Fennik: I'm not entirely clear how it works, but if I understand it correctly, his Donor makes it easier for him not to be troubled by what he zlins. But at any rate, he's probably being tactful in taking the burden of calling a break on himself.
Tsibola: I'm sure he's being what his culture considers polite. But his "tact" is based on the assumption that I'm incapable of finding a reason to take a break when I need one.
Tsibola has not really considered the awkwardness of calling a break for such a purpose, in a society where people learn as very young children that they can't get away with lying.
Fennik: Maybe he needs a break from your discomfort.
Tsibola looks ~~ thoughtful ~~.
Tsibola: You know, perhaps I could use that, when he's being particularly stubborn. Refuse to take a break until we find a solution.
Fennik: Now there's a tactic.
Fennik decides to avoid the topic of Simes, since it seems to get poor Ruthven even more ruffled that usual tonight.
Fennik: So how goes the board of GMM? How's Craig, for example?
Fennik takes a somewhat unworthy pleasure in Craig's downfall, after his unpleasant behavior towards Fennik after the board meeting.
Tsibola shakes his head.
Tsibola: God help me, I don't know if I've done what's best with him. I thought I was doing the right thing, but instead of making him sane, it seems to be driving me crazy.
Fennik represses a smile. Ruthven really has trouble with people he can't bend to his will.
Tsibola: I took a chance, Jon. I tried to argue with Craig on his own terms. All of them. I went out and hired a channel, so that his delusions could be identified as such by a source Craig had committed himself to believing.
Fennik is startled.
Fennik: You hired a channel?
Tsibola: Yes. There aren't that many other Simes in town who don't have connections to the press.
Fennik: You thought a Sime could zlin a delusion?
Tsibola: I thought Craig would be more aware than he is that what he was saying was nonsense. A few years ago, he wouldn't have had any problem.
Fennik: Ruthven, the man isn't rational. He doesn't realize that he's deluded.
Tsibola: I hadn't realized that his delusions extended to things that are really quite far removed from his primary delusions. For instance, he wasn't able to admit, even to himself, that what he was doing might damage the reputation of our family. Now, I could understand him deciding that he didn't care whether or not the family's reputation was damaged, although I certainly wouldn't approve, but to be completely oblivious to the fact that damage was occurring... You can see why I resorted to drastic measures.
Fennik: He wouldn't admit it, or he thinks his divine inspiration supersedes that concern?
Tsibola: He wouldn't admit that the damage existed at all.
Fennik: And was the channel able to help?
Tsibola: He didn't make much progress, but he recommended a specialist, a "mind healer", whom he was confident could get to the bottom of Craig's problem.
Fennik: Interesting. I suppose channel psychiatrists could be quite effective. Are you going to call this fellow in?
Tsibola buries his face in his hands.
Tsibola: I did. And it hasn't worked out the way I thought it would, at all.
Fennik is alarmed at Ruthven's unusual display of emotion.
Fennik: What happened?
Tsibola: The fellow's got a talent for worming out unguarded confidences, I'll give him that much. But he seems more interested in "treating" me than Craig.
Fennik: Treating you?
Tsibola: Convincing me to let Craig go, rather than making sure that Craig isn't a danger to the family.
Fennik thinks about this through the brandy haze.
Tsibola: He seems to think I'm unreasonable on the subject of releasing Craig without some sort of guarantees.
Fennik: I suppose the idea of keeping a Gen confined is something of an issue for a channel, unless it's for the Gen's own protection, I suppose.
Tsibola: Considering that Craig would have to be stopped some way or the other, confinement in a comfortable house seems mild enough to me.
Fennik: Maybe you'll have to convince this "mind healer" that Craig has to be stopped. He may not understand why it's an issue.
Tsibola: I've explained several times that I can't allow Craig his freedom until I am convinced that he will abide by a promise not to involve the family in his activities, even after he is out from under close supervision.
Fennik: Hmm. And what does the channel say?
Tsibola: He says that Craig genuinely means what he promises -- at least when he's promising it.
Fennik: And what's his opinion on how well Craig will hold to that promise?
Tsibola sighs in ~~ frustration ~~.
Tsibola: He won't venture one. Nor can he tell me yet if Craig is even able to tell that certain actions would hurt the family.
Fennik: Ruthven, is the main issue Fridda's survival? The rest of the religious lunacy... well, it's embarrassing, but it's hardly your fault. Most families have members they're not too proud of, and lunacy is a disease, not a character flaw.
Tsibola: Fridda is part of it: it would certainly be used against me in some circles. Craig also knows far too much about General Metals to be allowed to babble freely. At the moment, I can't be sure that he would even recognize that the inner workings of the boardroom oughtn't to form the subjects of one's sermons.
Fennik: Well, if this mind healer can't heal him, you could find a discreet psychiatrist to commit him to an institution. A discreet one, of course. I don't suppose anyone would believe his ravings after that.
Tsibola closes his eyes, and nods.
Tsibola: I was hoping to avoid destroying what his madness has left of Craig's life.
Fennik spreads his hands, glad that it's not his own problem.
Tsibola: I don't know what's best to do, Jon, and I'm not used to that. Should I give this Sime expert a chance, or just lock Craig up for good? Can I even afford to take that chance?
Fennik: Give the Sime a chance. If you ask him whether it's hopeless, he won't lie to you, after all.
Tsibola: Yes, but will he know what constitutes hope out here?
Fennik: I suppose you'll have to define your terms very carefully.
Tsibola: Yes. And a translation by its very nature is never exact.
Fennik: Here, have a bit more brandy, Ruthven.
Tsibola holds out his glass, seeking solace.