D'zoll is talking to Shorsh in the collectorium of the satellite Sime Center where Kat has been working.
D'zoll: It's a bit unorthodox, I suppose, but how about if we switch, and you and Kat handle the donors while Nick and I, umm, have a bit of a chat? Okay with you?
Shorsh: No problem. I can talk to him another time.
Shorsh: After Nivet's great Wild Gen expert gives me his evaluation.
D'zoll tries to chuckle and roll his eyes Shorsh-style at the same time.
Katsura enters the Sime Center alone, as Nick continues on to pick up coffee and scones.
Katsura: What's so funny, D'zoll?
D'zoll: Sosu here has accused me of being the top Nivet expert on Wild Gens. If there really is such a thing, it's probably a Gen academic somewhere.
Katsura: But aren't you? Their psychiatric problems, at least. ~~ almost credible innocence ~~
D'zoll shrugs expressively.
D'zoll: Maybe so. I certainly wouldn't think so, based on my glorious success with Craig and the Big Cheese, as Hajene Crynwyr calls him.
D'zoll is careful not to mention Tsibola's name here in the Sime Center.
D'zoll: ~~ whimsical ~~ Why cheese, anyhow? He strikes me as more, well, meat than cheese.
Katsura: I thought the problem there was a disagreement on who requires the therapy.
D'zoll: Yes. His Cheesiness thinks Craig does, whereas Craig and Crynwyr and I all agree that they both do. Naturally, he has us outvoted.
Katsura is glad that psychiatry of either larity is not her specialty.
Katsura: Do you want to talk to Nick about pledging, you two? One of you could support me while the other talks to him.
D'zoll: Shorsh, it seems, has agreed to work your shift, or at least part of it, so Nick and I can talk, if that's all right with you.
Katsura: Of course.
Katsura smiles. It will be like home, working with Shorsh.
Shorsh smiles back. ~~ affection ~~
D'zoll: But before he comes, let me know what your thoughts are.
Katsura: I told him that Sectuib has invited him to pledge. He was astonished. He really believes he's more trouble than he's worth, and can't see why we'd want him and his baggage.
D'zoll sucks air through his teeth.
D'zoll: [English] It figures.
Katsura: I zlinned that the idea appeals to him, but he doesn't want to bring us his troubles.
D'zoll: Well, I think I have a useful analogy that may help convince him.
D'zoll looks around.
D'zoll: I assume we are all still agreed?
Katsura nods, although her ~~ agreement ~~ is clear in her nager.
Shorsh nods ~~ agreement ~~ too.
Katsura: I zlin Nick approaching.
D'zoll: Good. Okay, then. I'll go and catch him and leave the room to the two of you.
Nick enters bearing goodies.
D'zoll: Oops, too late!
D'zoll wipes his hand across his forehead, tragically.
D'zoll: Nick, you're just too quick for me today.
Shorsh rolls his eyes.
D'zoll laughs outright this time.
Nick looks at Shorsh ~~ inquiringly ~~.
Shorsh: D'zoll is just being his usual histrionic self. But I'd like you to take him in back and get him to eat something. I'll support Kat here for now.
Nick: Sure. There's no one out there just now, so have a latte and a cookie. They were sold out of the scones, alas.
Shorsh fishes a cookie out of one bag, breaks it in quarters and hands one to Kat.
Katsura takes it and nibbles.
Katsura: Thanks. This is good.
Nick distributes drinks, and waves D'zoll towards the back room.
Nick: After you, Hajene.
D'zoll leads the way to the back room, cookieless but hopeful.
Nick drops his satchel in the corner, then settles on a couch and offers D'zoll a cookie.
Nick: Here. Have some nutrition, of sorts.
D'zoll nods eagerly and nibbles on the cookie.
D'zoll: Thank you, thank you, oh best of Donors!
D'zoll pats Nick on the head.
Nick toasts D'zoll with his mocha.
Nick: All part of the service.
D'zoll: So. I understand Kat has given you the news?
Nick: If you mean that Sectuib Hiram has offered to take me in permanently, yes.
Nick still has ~~ misgivings ~~ about whether it would be a good thing, at least for Sat'htine.
D'zoll: "Take you in" is not the word, Nick. You aren't a stray cat, you know.
D'zoll: I may say that Sectuib required that Kat, Shorsh, and me agree unanimously on the offer before it was made. I zlin your misgivings, and I gather from Kat that it's about whether you are going to cost us more than you're worth, eh?
Nick: I come with a lot of baggage. I'm not sure Hiram even knows the extent of it.
D'zoll: I'm quite sure none of us knows how much baggage we come with. Some of us, indeed, do not come with baggage, but that is because we keep it in storage in a warehouse.
Nick: That's possible?
D'zoll: Not really. Although some of our older members make me wonder from time to time. In any case, all the older Houses have plenty of experience with taking in people with, umm, difficult backgrounds.
Nick: I suppose they were limited in how thoroughly they could interview potential Gen candidates before they were purchased at auction?
D'zoll chuckles again.
D'zoll: [English] You got that right.
D'zoll: Besides which, well, you're a special case. Not the only special case, to be sure. You have very special skills that Sat'htine knows how to make use of. It's very obvious that the wider Tecton does not. So for us to leave you to their mercies would be a loss to the overall social organism. It would not only serve you ill, it would serve the Tecton ill, though they don't know it.
Nick: I think it's more that the wider Tecton has doubts as to whether my rather arcane and limited set of skills are generally applicable enough to bother dealing with a rogue.
D'zoll: [English] Rogues, shmogues.
Nick: How so? I've been given the impression more than once that the Tecton would be better off without rogues.
D'zoll: If your original channel hadn't gone completely batty, and it weren't legally impossible to found completely new Householdings these days, you would have been First Companion in the House of Snake.
Nick: I almost was, for a few months. ~~ wistful ~~
D'zoll: Just so. That kind of skill, which is not just a Companion's skill, is very rare. But we can use it. And of course it's pretty obvious what all we can do for you: steady work, an accepting environment, legal protection, and so on.
Nick: I do miss Sat'htine. It's the closest I've found to the sort of home I used to wish I had.
D'zoll: I miss it too. So does Kat, I think; she's spent the last few years working outside, and -- actually, maybe you know more about that than I. Has she told you anything about her plans?
Nick: No, although I think she'd like to return to Sat'htine. Neither of us thought the Winter Disaster Games would last this long.
D'zoll: Nobody did, for sure. So I do urge you to put aside your concerns for us (which, by the way, are just another bit of evidence of how suitable you actually are) and take the plunge -- the pledge. Your turn, Nick.
Nick takes a contemplative sip of his mocha, and fishes another cookie out of the bag. He breaks a chunk off and hands it to D'zoll.
D'zoll nibbles on both cookies in turn, just to be polite.
Nick: I do have qualms about giving another person authority over my life -- that's a large part of why I haven't gotten along with the Tecton very well. I lost that one when I decided to Qualify, though, realistically speaking.
D'zoll: Well, yes and no. For one thing, you might consider that by asking you to pledge, Hiram is giving a considerable measure of authority over his life to you. In addition, these aren't the junct days. You can take your pledge back any time: there's all the Sime Territories, New Washington Territory, and overseas for that matter. The world is open to you.
Nick: I could exist that way, but... I'm not going to be happy without a channel who matches me, and you'll agree that Farrises are a bit hard to find without the proper connections.
D'zoll: True. And we do have those connections. But you'll always have the right to pull back if you require it, so no one will be able to impose on you. You were far more under authority at the Dam, by all reports, than you'd ever be at home -- and far less benevolent authority, too.
D'zoll unconsciously speaks of "home" as if Nick were already his naztehr.
Nick: Well, it's certainly true that Hiram is more reasonable than Arat. He is a little harder to manipulate in some ways, though.
D'zoll: True, true. But you won't be alone. There's Lusinka, and Shorsh, and me, and all the other Companions and channels, too.
Nick: A grand conspiracy of Sectuib-management.
D'zoll: [English] You betcha. It's fun.
Nick chuckles, with nageric ~~ shimmer ~~.
D'zoll appreciates the combination.
D'zoll: Y'know, there's another thing. Or two things, really. One is that Sectuibs do retire younger nowadays than they did before Unity, when Klyd's grandfather hung on until 120, or whatever it was.
Nick: Meaning Kat will become Sectuib when Hiram retires?
Nick can't help but find that ~~ interesting ~~, as he is more comfortable working with Kat than Hiram.
D'zoll: Yes, and that might not be all that far off. If Hiram steps aside within a reasonable time, you might wind up being the First Companion in a Householding after all.
Nick: But there are several more accomplished Companions in Sat'htine, who are a lot more familiar with the Householding, as well.
D'zoll: The Sectuib's choice has a lot to do with who becomes First Companion. So does that very special talent I mentioned before, which you have already exhibited that you have -- the ability to be a "founder". With every transfer of power, the Householding reinvents itself.
Nick: I don't know if I understand what you mean by that "founder" talent.
D'zoll: The lower levels of the hierarchy in a Householding require, with occasional exceptions like me --
D'zoll: -- primarily routine talents. At the top, what's needed is a deep knowledge of what has been done and the insight to see how to go beyond it when necessary. Knowledge can be acquired, and so can good judgment. Intuition can't. And the First Companion needs even more of it than the Sectuib, who after all tends to be chosen primarily for nageric strength, not leadership skills.
D'zoll zlins Nick to see how he's taking this in.
Nick: So you think I would be good at keeping Kat out of trouble and on her toes? And with her, Sat'htine?
D'zoll: I do. Of course I'm not a prophet. But yes, I do.
Nick: That's a pretty big risk, for Sat'htine: going with somebody from outside the House, rather than someone who grew up with it and understands it in a way I may never be able to do.
D'zoll: It is. And it may never happen. But if it did, ah, if it did.... I'm not the only one who thinks we require new blood, and I don't mean in the strictly genetic sense.
Nick wrinkles his nose.
Nick: Good. Because if it's the genes you want... well, they're not exactly in short supply.
D'zoll chuckles again.
D'zoll: No. Although if it comes to that, you have demonstrated survival skills that most of your close relatives haven't.
Nick: Different environment. And very different training. With Snake... well, you do not make the same mistake twice, if you know what's good for you.
D'zoll shrugs in turn.
D'zoll: Anyhow, that's not my point. Sat'htine is mentally ingrown.
Nick considers the implications of that.
Nick: So, you figure that any decision that another Sat'htine First Companion might come up with would be something I'd hear, from someone or other, anyway?
D'zoll: Just so. But you bring a unique perspective. And you're still very young, of course. You'll have lots of time to learn and grow.
D'zoll has wiped out both cookies at this point.
Nick notes the food consumption automatically, along with the fact that his channel-feeding technique hasn't deteriorated too badly since he stopped trying to force-feed Arat.
Nick: You said you had two points?
D'zoll: Yes. The other one is not really my business, although it is related to the first one to some degree. And I hope you aren't offended when I bring it up.
Nick raises an interrogative eyebrow.
D'zoll: Sat'htine doesn't marry out of Sat'htine.
D'zoll: If you have -- thoughts -- in that direction, you need to take that into account.
Nick: I see.
Nick hasn't had such thoughts, so far, because he assumed he would not be able to stay in Kat's vicinity long enough to put them into effect. He finds the thought ~~ potentially interesting ~~, however, now that he's thinking it.
D'zoll notes Nick's reaction and is secretly ~~ pleased ~~. He claps Nick on the shoulder gently.
D'zoll: Nick, the final decision is yours and no one else's. But let me say for myself that nothing would please me more than to be able to call you "naztehr".
Nick's nager ~~ warms ~~, and reaches to mesh with D'zoll's.
D'zoll merges the nagers smoothly and effortlessly.
Nick: Thank you for that, D'zoll.
D'zoll: Sure, Nick.
Nick lets himself ~~ enjoy ~~ the blending for a moment, then smoothly disengages.
D'zoll: And now perhaps we should spare poor old Shorsh the necessity of working a double shift, eh?
Nick: Indeed, or he might change his mind about the advisability of adopting the Tecton's poster child for trouble.
D'zoll: Go get him so he can escort poor D'zoll home.
Nick gives D'zoll a warm ~~ chuckle ~~, then waves and heads for the door.