Plans and Promises: Episode 15

Pollovic stops outside the door to Hajene Seruffin's office and tries to signal his presence. It's only recently that he learned there's more to signaling for admittance than simply standing outside the door, so he's not sure how well he's doing.

Seruffin looks up, temporarily ~~ alarmed ~~ at the "medical emergency" signal coming from the other side of his door, then ~~ relaxes ~~ as he recognizes the nager. He opens the door.

Pollovic could, of course, have approached Hajene Kat without making the trek to the Nivet Embassy. But somehow, he'd rather be talking to a man his own age about the topic at hand, and not to a young woman.

Seruffin: Senator Pollovic! Please come in.

Pollovic: Thank you for agreeing to see me, Hajene Seruffin.

Pollovic enters the office.

Seruffin: I'm always glad for an excuse to break from these reports.

Pollovic is suddenly ~~ awkward ~~ and ~~ nervous ~~ .

Seruffin raises an ~~ interested ~~ eyebrow, then gestures to a chair.

Seruffin: Please, sit down. Have some tea.

Pollovic sits, and absently accepts a steaming cup. He stares into the swirling patterns of the rising steam, considering how to approach the topic at hand.

Seruffin: What brings you here today? Hajene Kat and Sosu Nick haven't gotten themselves into more trouble, have they?

Pollovic: Oh, no. It's nothing like that. They're just fine. I'm afraid that this is a purely personal matter.

Seruffin controls his ~~ apprehension ~~ at this news, since the last "personal matter" Pollovic brought to him was that request to have his donation taken in the Senate rotunda.

Seruffin: I see. Well, how can I help you?

Pollovic: Um. Tell me, Hajene, does Nivet ever practice the custom of arranged marriages, for purposes of inheritance?

Seruffin: I believe that the Householdings used to trade members at times, both to exchange specific skills and to provide marriage opportunities. Outside of that... well, Nivet has never had the large numbers of wealthy families that Gen societies build up. There were a few associated with the larger Genfarms, but not enough to form a tradition like that.

Pollovic feels a moment of ~~ startlement ~~ that his current situation could be compared with anything that took place on a Genfarm.

Pollovic: You're at least familiar with the concept, I hope? Of political marriages, I mean.

Seruffin: I've heard about it, yes.

Pollovic: Then I hope you'll be able to understand my current position.

Seruffin: Your position?

Pollovic takes a sip of the cooling trin.

Pollovic: I'm under pressure to marry and produce an heir.

Seruffin zlins, and hazards a "guess".

Seruffin: I gather you're not happy about this necessity?

Pollovic sets down the cup of tea. It's not nearly as good as the stuff he's been drinking at home lately.

Pollovic: I was married once, Hajene. When I was barely twenty. It was a suitable marriage in every way; Calitha was the niece of one of my father's colleagues. But it was also a love match.

Pollovic takes a deep breath.

Pollovic: She died less than a year later, miscarrying what would have been our firstborn son. After that, I had no wish to go through that sort of thing again. Or to put another woman through that.

Seruffin: Most pregnancies don't end in fatal miscarriages, you know. The majority are perfectly routine. Unless there is some problem in your family?

Pollovic: Not that I know of.

Seruffin: Well, then, there's no reason to assume that if you and a new wife have a child, there will be difficulties.

Seruffin is under the misapprehension that Pollovic wants to know the risks his future wife would face with a pregnancy.

Pollovic: Intellectually, I know that. Emotionally...

Pollovic shrugs.

Pollovic: But at any rate, avoidance is no longer a reasonable option for me. I have to choose a wife.

Seruffin gives a shrug.

Seruffin: I'm afraid I can't help you there. I've never married.

Pollovic: Actually, I'm hoping you can help me, once I've outlined the rest of the situation.

Seruffin settles back to listen.

Seruffin: Please, explain.

Pollovic: My mother has come out of retirement, to take this matter in hand. She's planning a grand ball, to be held this spring, at which suitable candidates will be paraded in front of me.

Seruffin: If you believe it's time for you to marry again, that might be a convenient way to meet some possible candidates.

Pollovic: Her list was prepared with the aid of her friend Bernice Tsibola, and the young women on it are all from some of the most conservative families in New Washington.

Seruffin: I'm surprised your mother didn't search among the less conservative families. Surely some of your father's former colleagues also have eligible daughters?

Pollovic: I believe my mother is looking for a woman who will "take me in hand" and "Bring me back to the straight and narrow". And if I fight her too openly, she may simply make an arrangement, make an announcement, and back me into a corner I can't get out of without offending some of the most powerful people in this city.

Seruffin: She wants your wife to moderate your political positions?

Pollovic: I'm afraid so. She says it's important to build alliances on the other side of the aisle, but I know that's not her only reason.

Seruffin: That doesn't mean that among her candidates there won't be a candidate or two who is willing to support your positions instead.

Pollovic: Which brings me to the first of my two requests. ~~ hopeful ~~

Seruffin: Oh?

Seruffin hopes Pollovic isn't going to request something too drastic, like that he be on hand to publicly take the donations of any woman who wishes to be considered as a candidate.

Pollovic: I want to invite you and Sosu Gerrhonot -- and several other channel/Donor pairs -- to the ball. I'm afraid it will be a rather hostile environment for you. But if any of my mother's candidates are actually comfortable in the presence of Simes, you'll be able to tell me.

Seruffin: A ball usually has a lot of guests. It can be difficult to discern individual nagers clearly in a crowd, especially through retainers.

Pollovic: I'm planning to post the entire banquet hall as Sime territory. Or, of course, if we end up holding the event at my house, the entire house and grounds are already so posted.

Seruffin: Will your guests be aware of that, before they arrive? Or better yet, before they accept the invitation?

Pollovic: I intend to indicate as much on the invitations, although I'm sure my mother will object rather strenuously.

Seruffin: Will you be sending out the invitations, or will she?

Pollovic: She'll be sending them out, but it will be one of my staffers who orders them from the printers, and collects the order.

Seruffin: I see.

Pollovic: I intend to make sure that my own invitees' invitations are not sent out by my mother. I want to make sure they're actually sent.

Seruffin: You believe that your mother would not accept such guests?

Pollovic: She has said, repeatedly, that this is my event.

Seruffin: But in what sense does she mean that?

Pollovic: She would never veto a guest I'd already invited. That I'm sure of. If she could prevent the invitation being sent, and could claim it had been an accident, she might very well do that.

Pollovic's ~~ adrenaline rush ~~ makes quite clear that he doesn't look forward to the confrontations with his mother that he knows he'll face.

Seruffin: I see. Hence your trip here today, to deliver the invitation in person, as it were?

Pollovic: That's one of my reasons.

Seruffin: And the other?

Seruffin doesn't really like the zlin of Pollovic: he doesn't want to end up in the middle of a very public family spat.

Pollovic grins.

Pollovic: I've seen you in enough trade negotiations to know that you understand the basic pattern of haggling over a deal. You say fifty wagonloads of wool, I say twenty, and we compromise on thirty-five.

Seruffin: And this is relevant how?

Pollovic: I'd like, with your advice as to suitable candidates, to invite a few eligible young women from Nivet to my ball. I assure you, it will be the grand social event of the season.

Seruffin: You wish to show your mother how bad a choice you might make? From her perspective, that is?

Pollovic: Exactly. Though I won't, absolutely, rule out the possibility I might actually be interested in a woman from Nivet, if she is truly suited to the role.

Pollovic hopes he has added qualifications enough to make his position clear.

Seruffin: I admit, I know very few Nivet women who would be comfortable attending such an event, and even fewer who are actually in New Washington.

Pollovic: Even two or three such candidates would be sufficient for my purposes.

Seruffin: Just what exactly are your requirements?

Pollovic: Ideally? Mature enough to handle the role of becoming a senator's wife, but young enough to give me several healthy children. From a family of similar social standing in Nivet to my own family's position here. And skilled enough to make herself at home in the community of political wives here.

Pollovic doesn't seem aware that that last condition practically rules out anyone except the handful of young women who might already have been on his mother's list, had they not gone through changeover.

Seruffin: That means willing to immigrate, and thus Gen.

Pollovic is briefly ~~ startled ~~ ; even he hadn't gone so far as to consider a Sime candidate.

Pollovic: And not a Donor; being a senator's wife is a full-time job, and she wouldn't be able to work for the Tecton as well.

Seruffin: That makes it much more difficult: most Nivet citizens living in New Washington are working for the Tecton in some capacity. You might have to settle for a file clerk, or there's a pleasant young lady working in the embassy kitchen...

Pollovic doesn't think a file clerk would know how to behave in high society, even allowing for the strange customs of foreigners.

Pollovic: Your leading families are all channels, aren't they? Is there ever a non-Donor Gen born in a channeling family? If necessary, I'd be willing to cover the travel expenses of a young lady or two who'd like a spring holiday in New Washington. And her chaperone, of course.

Seruffin: There are occasional Gens in channeling families who don't Qualify as technical-class Donors. However, most of them are Householders, and most Houses only marry in-House. I take it that you are not willing to pledge to a Householding in order to recruit suitable candidates?

Pollovic laughs.

Pollovic: If I did that, I wouldn't exactly have an inheritance to worry about passing on, would I?

Seruffin smiles.

Seruffin: No. Most Householders hold property in common. It's a holdover from the centuries when half of their adults were legally classed as livestock.

Pollovic: That's not quite the sort of solution I had in mind. Besides, then I'd be a Nivet citizen, and no longer eligible for a Senate seat here. If I went that far, my mother would be right that I'd overstepped all reasonable bounds.

Pollovic grins.

Pollovic: I don't think I'm quite crazy. At least, not yet.

Seruffin: Well, it's a moot point, anyway. I'm not a Householder, and I don't necessarily have the right connections to recruit some for your ball. Have you asked Hajene Katsura if she could suggest anyone? She actually does have the proper connections, you know.

Pollovic is faintly ~~ embarrassed ~~.

Pollovic: I'd hesitated to speak to a young woman about my concerns. Um, especially a lovely, single one. I, um, wouldn't want to give the wrong idea.

Pollovic is almost stammering.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I assure you, Hajene Katsura is an old-style Householder. She wouldn't think of marrying a man who wasn't pledged to her House. And I have reason to believe that if she is looking outside her House, it isn't in your direction.

Pollovic takes a not-so-wild guess.

Pollovic: Sosu Nick is more than just her Donor, isn't he?

Seruffin: I haven't spent that much time with them, but I suspect he is. He's a very personable young man, and they've been through a lot together.

Pollovic: He's an excellent person from all that I've seen. Everyone in my house is quite taken with him. Even my mother, who keeps trying to hire him as her gardener. ~~ amusement ~~

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I expect he'd be good at it. He did spend a decade as an agricultural laborer.

Pollovic: She can't seem to get it through her head that he's got a good job already.

Seruffin: Rather few people on your side of the border have any idea what sort of salary a top Donor brings in. And Nick Reckage does tend to overcompensate for his father being such a clothes horse.

Pollovic laughs.

Pollovic: Maybe I should get my staff to lose all his clothes in the wash, and then apologetically buy him a new set.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: It's been tried, I understand. He likes comfortable clothes, and is allergic to the Tecton uniform.

Pollovic: I wonder how he'd look in some of Rinaldi's outfits?

Seruffin: Rinaldi? Nick's tastes run more towards practical work clothes. As I'm sure you've noticed.

Pollovic: I was joking. I think. Rinaldi's stuff is too fancy even for me.

Seruffin: The outfits he designed were certainly... unique.

Pollovic: Oh? They were supposed to be based on Sime fashions.

Seruffin: They were? I never thought of the yawal as anything but a cheap equivalent to a horse blanket.

Pollovic: A... horse blanket? ~~ puzzlement ~~

Seruffin: They were what the Gens from the government Pens were dressed in, at least when the weather allowed.

Pollovic: Oh? Oh! And Rinaldi...

Seruffin: Knows this? I have to assume he does.

Pollovic dissolves into peals of ~~ laughter ~~ entirely out of proportion to the slight humor of the situation.

Seruffin: That chain-like trim around the wrists and neck were very suggestive, you have to admit.

Pollovic laughs even harder, with a touch of ~~ hysteria ~~ .

Seruffin starts to chuckle himself, as Pollovic's nager affects him.

Pollovic, unaware of his direct effect on the channel, doesn't even try to rein in his ~~ hilarity ~~ .

Seruffin starts to get a little ~~ concerned ~~.

Seruffin: Senator, stop laughing. Please.

Pollovic takes a few moments to register Seruffin's request, then struggles to get a grip on himself. It takes a few minutes. He gasps for air.

Pollovic: Sorry.

Seruffin ~~ gratefully ~~ stops laughing himself.

Pollovic: I... did I start you...? Sorry. ~~ embarrassment ~~

Pollovic's embarrassment ends his hysteria more effectively than the proverbial bucket of cold water.

Seruffin: That kind of laughter can be contagious. When Gerrhonot is here, he can protect me from it, but otherwise...

Seruffin shrugs, and gives a small, whimsical smile.

Pollovic: I still have a lot to learn before I'm fit to be around Simes, don't I? I'm more of a burden on my houseguests than I'd realized.

Pollovic tilts suddenly over into ~~ depression ~~ .

Seruffin: Hajene Katsura has Nick Reckage to protect her... and I don't know of any Donor who's had more experience protecting a channel from random encounters out-Territory.

Pollovic: Oh.

Pollovic doesn't like to think of himself as someone Simes have to be protected from.

Pollovic: Is there... a way to learn this stuff? How to protect Simes from myself?

Seruffin: Since you do seem to have contact with Simes pretty regularly, the easiest way is to be a good observer.

Pollovic is listening ~~ intently ~~ .

Seruffin: If the Sime you're talking to shows signs of discomfort, it may be that your nager is doing something you don't intend.

Pollovic nods carefully.

Pollovic: I can control expressing emotions, usually. But how do I control the emotions themselves?

Seruffin: You can control expression by suppressing emotions, but the only way to control how they are expressed in your nager is to accept them -- and then move on. Most young in-Territory Gens pick up the knack within a few months. You don't have as much opportunity to practice, but it's not impossible for you to learn.

Pollovic is trying to do as the channel suggested, to accept his ~~ embarrassment ~~ and ~~ depression ~~.

Pollovic: It's not easy.

Pollovic stands.

Pollovic: I should be going. Make my mistakes where you don't have to zlin them.

Seruffin: I don't mind. Well, not usually. And I will try to find at least one or two young women that meet your requirements.

Pollovic: Thank you. I appreciate your help.

Pollovic tries not to ~~ appreciate ~~ it too "loudly", however.

Seruffin: I will be in touch. And, Senator?

Pollovic: Yes?

Seruffin: Try to get more rest. If you don't, it's going to be affecting your health, and not for the better.

Pollovic nods.

Pollovic: I'll try. But things are hectic now. And not likely to get better for a while.

Seruffin: Just... don't wait too long. You can't go on like this forever.

Pollovic heads for the door, wondering just how it came to be that his closest, almost his only friend, is a Sime.

Pollovic: We all do what we have to. But yes, I'll try. You take care of yourself too, Hajene. And say hi to Gerrhonot for me.

Seruffin: I will.

Pollovic leaves, closing the door quietly.

Seruffin looks after Pollovic, hoping that the Gen doesn't ruin his health in his quest to do the impossible.

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