Plans and Promises: Episode 4

Katsura is browsing in Senator Pollovic's elegant walnut-paneled library. As well as a selection of relatively modern books, he has many that must have been bought by ancestors of several generations.

Katsura figures it's safe to be out of her suite while poor Nick tries to catch up on his sleep, since the staff seem to be much more comfortable with her since Fulberg's donation.

Pollovic is home early. Today's budget committee meeting was cancelled at the last minute, and he decided to come home rather than returning to the office to catch up on his in-basket. He knows he should be either catching up his sleep or working on something, but on a whim he heads for his library, looking for something frivolous to read. Or at least, something utterly irrelevant to anything currently going on.

Katsura takes a beautifully illustrated book on wildflowers to a comfortable chair at a reading table near a window overlooking the snow-covered garden. She stiffens as Pollovic approaches and enters.

Pollovic enters the library, entirely unaware that there's anyone else in the room. He moves towards the shelf of modern novels.

Katsura speaks up to avoid startling him later.

Katsura: Good afternoon, Senator.

Katsura zlins that her host is rather tired and frazzled.

Pollovic: Oh. Good afternoon, Hajene.

Pollovic is not particularly startled. With so many staff in the house, total privacy is rare outside the bedroom.

Katsura wonders if she should leave, since her presence is one more stress on the poor man.

Pollovic: I hope I'm not disturbing you.

Katsura: Of course not. You have some wonderful books here.

Katsura gestures to the hand-colored illustrations in the book she has open on the table.

Pollovic: Thank you.

Pollovic is ~~ proud ~~ of his library, which the family has been building up for at least four generations.

Katsura smiles at the Senator's pride, which seems to counter some of his stress.

Pollovic: Ah, yes, that one. It's always been one of my favorites.

Katsura: The illustrations are so detailed and accurate, but aesthetically pleasing as well.

Pollovic: When I was a boy, I used to stare at one of the illustrations till I thought I had it memorized, then go out on the grounds and try to find a specimen of that plant.

Katsura: Many of these plants are only found in unusual habitats -- old growth forests, river margins, and so forth. But some are the progenitors of cultivated plants.

Pollovic: Plants are a particular interest of yours, then?

Pollovic settles into a chair, near enough to see which page the book is open to, but far enough away (he hopes) to not shove his nager at the channel.

Katsura: Just a casual interest since I grew up, aside from medicinal plants. But I love to walk in the woods when I get a chance. It's very relaxing.

Pollovic: It is, isn't it? That's one of the things I miss, living in the city.

Katsura: I'd been living in Konawa, a fair-sized city in Nivet, until just before I went to Cottonwood City, so I haven't had much opportunity to enjoy nature either.

Pollovic massages his temples with his thumbs, trying to imagine a stroll among snow-covered trees.

Pollovic: If you're in town long enough, we might go out to my country house for a day.

Pollovic remembers something.

Pollovic: Or perhaps not; that's where I sent all the staff who didn't want to be under the same roof with a Sime.

Katsura nods. That's too bad -- Nick would certainly enjoy a trip to the country.

Katsura: The staff here seem to be more comfortable with us now.

Pollovic: You're very good at quieting people's fears. And Sosu Nick seems to have a knack for relating to the servants.

Katsura: He's comfortable when he can relate informally.

Katsura wonders if her Genlan is expressing what she intends.

Pollovic: The chef's wife seems to have taken him under her wing; she wants to put a few healthy pounds on him if she can. ~~ mild amusement ~~

Katsura: That would be good. He lost some weight on our travels -- too much exercise and not enough good food, unfortunately.

Pollovic: You two have had a stressful time of it.

Pollovic can ~~ sympathize ~~ with stress.

Katsura: We're both fairly young and were in pretty good health to start, but I'm certainly glad not to have to do without basic amenities, like a clean dry warm bed and water to wash with. Your hospitality exceeds our needs, and we are very grateful.

Pollovic: You're welcome to every bit of it.

Katsura: Thank you. I wish there were something we could do to repay you.

Pollovic: Actually, there is one thing I could use your help with.

Katsura: Yes?

Pollovic had almost forgotten about this issue, but this does seem like a good moment to tackle it.

Pollovic: Cottonwood City's recovery would be helped a lot by having a local Sime Center, and your team certainly set a good precedent for people wanting to donate. But if I go through the usual bureaucratic channels, it'll be years before we can get anything in there.

Katsura nods.

Pollovic: Do you think Sat'htine might be willing and able to sponsor a Sime Center there? As a follow-up to your disaster relief?

Katsura hesitates, trying to come up with a tactful way of putting it.

Katsura: The out-T Sime Centers are all run by the Tecton. Some Householdings in Nivet sponsor or run a local Sime Center, but that's for historical reasons. We wouldn't be in a position to run a Sime Center so far away.

Pollovic: ~~ disappointment ~~

Katsura thinks about what encouragement she can give.

Katsura: As I understand it, the committee that decides where to place new Sime Centers out-T considers several factors. One is how good transportation to the Nivet border is. Cottonwood City gets high marks there.

Pollovic nods, listening ~~ attentively ~~ .

Katsura: The other very important factor is how willing the community is to have a Sime Center, and how great a volume of selyn might be donated.

Katsura spreads hands, but not tentacles.

Katsura: Cottonwood City and environs has a fairly large population, and many people are much in need of money after the disaster. However...

Katsura again tries to find a tactful way to express this.

Katsura: It isn't clear that the citizens would be comfortable with a Sime Center and support it with donations. If there were opposition... the Tecton would not be eager to put its staff in a dangerous position.

Pollovic: The last poll there was taken before the quake, but for whatever it's worth, it was one of the areas most in favor of my pro-Unity stance. I can only think it would be more so, after your people's help.

Katsura: I would hope so, but we found it discouraging that no children in changeover were brought to us. I expect that several started to change over while we were there.

Pollovic: People fall back on habit in emergencies. Habit doesn't include having channels available for that sort of thing.

Katsura: We did mention to many people that they might consider petitioning the Tecton for a Sime Center. If many people sign the petition and say they will donate, the Tecton will regard that as a very good factor.

Pollovic smiles and nods.

Pollovic: That's something my people can organize.

Katsura: But there is also the problem of people who are opposed for religious or other reasons. They can cause a lot of trouble for a Sime Center, so the Tecton tries very much to avoid places where active opposition is likely.

Pollovic: Cottonwood is large enough to be a bit cosmopolitan in its attitude. I expect the local paper will be quite supportive, too. They even forgave me my silly first donation stunt.

Katsura: I hope they will give the opponents a chance to express themselves too, so they won't be resentful and harden their attitudes.

Pollovic grins.

Pollovic: Oh, don't worry. They have a letter column.

Katsura: Yes, but not every letter may be printed.

Pollovic: Their policy is that, for every three letters on a topic or a position, they print the most literate one. If only one or two people write in, it depends on how interesting their letters are.

Katsura: I see.

Pollovic: They do screen out the letters that are just my name, preceded by a string of expletives. Or anyone else's name, for that matter. ~~ wry amusement ~~

Katsura smiles.

Katsura: If you like I can write to the committee and recommend that they consider Cottonwood City's application, once they make it. If the mayor and council support it, that will help too.

Katsura doesn't have much to recommend from her own experiences there, but the political value of doing a favor for a Senator is worth pointing out.

Pollovic nods. Council support should be easy enough to arrange.

Pollovic: I'll appreciate your support. ~~ gratitude ~~

Pollovic sits back in his chair and massages his temples again.

Pollovic: You say you know medicinal herbs. Is there anything for headaches, that's easier on the stomach than willow bark tea?

Katsura hesitates again.

Katsura: I could work on you nagerically, next time you have a headache.

Pollovic: I'd appreciate that.

Katsura: I would be glad to help you. Just let me know.

Katsura has already found that she can zlin the Senator's headaches from a substantial distance within the house, but usually tries not to.

Pollovic: You mean I haven't been broadcasting my headaches all over the place at you?

Katsura: I have been aware... but I didn't wish to alarm you by speaking of it.

Pollovic: ~~ puzzled ~~ Why would I be alarmed?

Katsura: Some people are... worried... that a Sime might zlin their pain and react... badly.

Pollovic gives a wry grin.

Pollovic: Somehow, I didn't think that was the sort of pain that triggered a Sime to attack. Besides, you're a channel.

Katsura: I also didn't wish to appear to be complaining.

Pollovic: You're allowed to complain, you know. If you don't complain, how do I know what you require that you're not getting?

Katsura: I would rather help, but didn't want you to feel pressured.

Pollovic gives a ~~ bitter ~~ laugh.

Pollovic: Why shouldn't you pressure me? Everyone else does.

Pollovic immediately ~~ regrets ~~ the outburst.

Pollovic: Forgive me. That was uncalled for. You've got enough problems without listening to mine.

Katsura makes a casting away gesture.

Katsura: Your job is very responsible, so of course it is stressful too.

Pollovic: It wouldn't be so bad, if I were actually any good at it.

Katsura: Your... the people keep voting you back to the job, so they must think you do it well.

Pollovic: My father died in the saddle; I rode in on a wave of sympathy in a by-election. Since then...

Pollovic shrugs.

Pollovic: The incumbent always has a certain advantage at the polls.

Katsura: Still, if you were doing a bad job, they would not vote for you to stay in it.

Pollovic: I often feel like the musician's tone-deaf son. I do my best to carry on with the family trade, but I don't have anything like my father's talent for it.

Katsura: You will get better with practice, I think.

Pollovic: I was actually coping pretty well at first, but then I advanced to the point where I started having some real responsibilities. The budget committee, for example. It's a prestigious appointment, and I didn't dare turn it down, but it eats up a great deal of time and effort.

Katsura nods sympathetically.

Pollovic: The agriculture committee. I can't turn my back on that. Inter-Territorial Trade; I can't leave that to the likes of Tsibola.

Katsura smiles.

Pollovic: Then Cottonwood. And...

Pollovic stops himself just in time to not say, "And a couple of Nivet fugitives."

Pollovic: And lately I've come to be seen as the Senate expert on all things Sime.

Katsura thinks this is unfortunate, since Pollovic's knowledge is not very extensive.

Katsura: I would be happy to answer any questions you have about Simes, and perhaps Hajene Seruffin can assist you as well.

Pollovic: Seruffin's been a tremendous help. But I'm quite aware of just how far out of my depth I am. And it's only so often that I can get away with, "Let me check that and get back to you."

Katsura thinks that must be one big difference between in-T and out. Simes would rather have an honest statement like that than zlin somebody trying to fool them with bullshit.

Pollovic: Okay, here's a question for you. Something I run into a lot among the opponents of Unity. The idea that Simes value Gens only for the selyn they produce, and not for their contributions as a whole human being. Or maybe not "only"... but primarily.

Katsura: Before Unity, outside the Householdings, few Simes saw Gens as anything but sources of selyn, except for their friends and loved ones who established.

Pollovic nods.

Katsura: But those who thought that way have been dead for more than a generation now, and almost everyone has a more enlightened attitude. They see Gens doing responsible work, showing themselves as fully human as any Sime, so that attitude is almost gone.

Pollovic nods again, still listening.

Katsura: Still, some Simes don't like to think of Gens doing dangerous activities, where they may be injured, but most heavy physical work is done by Simes who are stronger and faster by nature, so they can escape injury better. There is still prejudice about what kind of work Gens can do, but not as bad as right after Unity, when it was very hard for Gens to find work.

Pollovic: Are there things Gens are considered better at than Simes?

Katsura: Gens are steadier and more reliable, week after week, because they don't have a need cycle. This makes things much easier for an employer.

Pollovic is taking mental notes.

Katsura: Most people think they make better cooks, too, since food is more important to Gens. But there are plenty of Gen bad cooks, I suppose!

Pollovic manages a laugh.

Katsura thinks of D'zoll's stories about Shorsh trying to feed him channel chow.

Pollovic: Myself, for one. I'd be helpless without my kitchen staff.

Katsura: The food we have eaten here is very good.

Pollovic: I do have good staff.

Katsura has been careful to eat only things she can recognize the ingredients of, but Nick has been enjoying his meals a lot.

Katsura: Yes. They have taken good care of us.

Pollovic: I'm glad. And, as you pointed out, they're getting used to you now.

Katsura: If there is anything I can do to make things easier for them, please let me know.

Pollovic: Compared to some of the dignitaries I've hosted, you and Sosu Nick are very easy guests.

Katsura figures it helps a lot that they are away working more than they are present.

Pollovic smiles.

Pollovic: You don't grumble about the color of the wallpaper, you don't blame me for the weather, you don't insist on specifying the gender and age of the staff who clean your rooms.

Katsura is surprised that guests would be so rude and demanding, but maybe Pollovic is exaggerating for effect, which wouldn't zlin like lying.

Pollovic: My last house guest took rain as a personal affront.

Katsura shakes her head. How foolish.

Pollovic: I think he just liked complaining; he was from a faction that didn't really want a trade deal with us, and I think he was sent to try to sabotage any arrangement we might suggest. What politics chose him as his territory's trade rep, I never did fathom.

Katsura: One would expect such a person to be more diplomatic, but perhaps being difficult was a... do you say "ploy"?

Pollovic: I'm pretty sure it was. Either that, or he was so powerful back home that he didn't have to be diplomatic.

Pollovic smiles.

Pollovic: Anyway, compared to him, you're a pleasure to have around.

Pollovic takes out his pocket watch and glances at it.

Pollovic: Half an hour till supper time. You'll be coming downstairs for supper?

Katsura: Nick is still asleep, but if he wakes up in time? I don't like to keep him from getting his sleep.

Katsura figures she can manage a meal with Pollovic in Nick's company.

Pollovic: I think it's spinach souffle tonight, if that's any temptation.

Katsura: That sounds very good.

Pollovic pushes himself to his feet.

Pollovic: I'll see you in a while, then.

Katsura: Yes. Thank you.

Katsura glances out the window at the dark garden. She'll go check on Nick in a little while.

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