Plans and Promises: Episode 17

Shorsh is looking forward to hearing what progress D'zoll is going to report in his progress report meeting with Senator Tsibola.

D'zoll wanders in to the back room to meet Shorsh, looking about as exhausted as a healthy pre-turnover channel can.

D'zoll: Hello, Shorsh. I really don't know how he does it. I really don't.

Shorsh: Who does what?

D'zoll: Seruffin. How he deals with Tsibola. I really don't. The man's impossible.

Shorsh: Oh, Seruffin's not so bad, D'zoll. He's just an old timer like me. ~~ teasing ~~

D'zoll splutters and rubs his forehead.

Shorsh dispenses a nageric pat on the back.

D'zoll: No, no. It's Tsibola who's impossible. And before you say it, he may be an old-timer, but he isn't like you. At all. He's so, so perfectly reasonable about his unreasonableness. He explains calmly and clearly why his interests require that he lock up his own cousin, although he freely concedes that there's nothing wrong with Craig's mind.

Shorsh: Does he really? I thought he was convinced that Craig has to be nuts to behave as he does.

D'zoll: No, we've gotten past that stage. The trouble with my understanding him is that I come from a culture (and so do you!) that's based, when it comes right down to it, on idealism. And he just doesn't have a shred of idealism anywhere. He holds power so that he can... hold power. He isn't even small-minded, or petty, or vindictive, or.... Nor venal, either. He has plenty of money. Whatever long-range motives he may have, they baffle me entirely.

Shorsh: I don't think that's it, D'zoll. He has ideals, but they are very different from ours.

D'zoll does a theatrical out-T-style shrug.

D'zoll: Enlighten me, then.

Shorsh: Well, for us, it goes without saying that anything which promotes Unity, better understanding and cooperation between Sime and Gen, is ipso facto a Good Thing.

D'zoll nods.

Shorsh: For the Senator, it's ipso facto a Bad Thing, and he'd like to see as little of it as possible, without actual military conflict, of course. He's fighting a holding action, but he believes in it strongly. He's losing ground slowly, fighting every step of the way.

D'zoll is bewildered by this so-called explanation.

D'zoll: But why? What does he have to lose by it? It's not like this is going to become Sime Territory or anything.

Nick wanders into the back room to fetch a mug of tea, there being no customers at the moment, in time to hear D'zoll's last question.

Shorsh: He believes that that's the goal of the process he's fighting, and he's right, too. Ultimately, Unity will mean that there will be Simes living everywhere -- there will be no Gen territories.

Nick: Who's got you tied in knots, D'zoll?

D'zoll: Senator Tsibola, Nick. I just can't understand how he thinks. Shorsh says he'll do anything he can to hold back Unity, but it's not even that he feels his version of civilization to be superior to ours. He just -- wants to keep it. Even though it involves the death of huge numbers of children and Gens.

Nick is a little ~~ surprised ~~ at that.

Shorsh: He feels that his version of civilization is the right way for Gens to live.

Nick: Of course he wants to keep his own version of civilization. It's done very well by his family and those like them. Probably better than Unity would, to tell the truth.

D'zoll looks from Shorsh to Nick and back to Shorsh.

Shorsh: As for all the deaths, well, that's how things go, but I suspect he's glad that children can be surreptitiously brought to the Sime Center rather than shot these days. I believe a lot of people of his class do so, but keep quiet about it.

D'zoll: [English] Okay, okay! [Simelan] I understand your point. But it's not really consistent with what I zlin when he discusses Unity and Craig's Truth.

Nick: What do you zlin, D'zoll?

D'zoll: My sense is -- and I could be wrong about it -- that Tsibola doesn't really fear, still less hate, the triumph of Unity. For him, it's a -- game. He doesn't want Unity to prevail because he, Tsibola, doesn't want to lose the game. What kind of sense does that make?

D'zoll looks at the Gens again.

Nick: I admit, I don't have much experience with upper class Gens, but I have had some interesting conversations with Senator Pollovic's mother, and she is good friends with Senator Tsibola's wife, I gather.

D'zoll perks up a bit and looks at Nick hopefully.

Shorsh: What does she say about it?

Nick: She hasn't said a whole lot about Tsibola personally, although she admires him a great deal. But her general attitude...

Nick considers.

Nick: She doesn't fear Unity, either. Not specifically, because as far as she's concerned, it's something that will only affect the lower classes, and they don't matter. Well, that's the way it ought to be, in her opinion. Her son's recent antics aside. What was Hajene Seruffin thinking of, to let himself be backed into that idiotic stunt, anyway?

D'zoll gives another of those shrugs.

D'zoll: From what I understand, which isn't much, he thought it was going to be a normal private donation here, with a press conference to follow. Then he was called back to Capital, and when he returned... the plan was in motion.

Nick: Still, they couldn't have gone through with it if he'd said "no".

D'zoll: No. But it would have been a huge embarrassment for everyone concerned.

Nick: You may be right. Anyway, I expect your Senator Tsibola views the existence of his own class as an essential keystone of New Washington civilization. If it collapses, so does everything good: art, music, beauty, etiquette, literature, and so on.

D'zoll: None of which are to be found in Nivet?

Nick: Not in the distinctively Gen form that he values most. Nivet culture is distinctly alien to him, and Householding culture even more so, I expect.

D'zoll nods soberly.

D'zoll: If we did get real Unity, I'd expect that the Gen Territories would be dominant culturally if not politically. They have most of the population and, except for Nivet, most of the land area too.

Nick: Whatever good things Unity might bring, it won't necessarily preserve what he values. At least, not unless it happens on upper-class Gen terms, which is unlikely. Among other things, what Senator Tsibola values about the way rich Gens live here assumes that there are lots of dirt-poor Gens who have no choice but to support that lifestyle, at the expense of their health and sometimes even their lives.

D'zoll: True. Maybe that's it: he thinks all those poor Gens are living exactly as they should be.

Nick: I doubt he thinks of them much at all, except when they fail to provide service or otherwise make trouble.

D'zoll: Good point. Well, anyhow, none of this is bringing me any closer to a resolution of Tsibola's and Craig's problems. I don't see that Craig could possibly give any assurances that Tsibola would respect, and because Tsibola's attitudes are basically opaque to me, I can't see any prospect of getting him to change his mind. In short, my mission here has failed.

D'zoll is not in need, so he's not actually gloomy, but he is ~~ resigned ~~.

Shorsh projects some ~~ reassurance ~~.

Nick: What you really ought to do is find a way to spend some time observing other upper-class Gens in action..

D'zoll: Doubtless. But I'm not going to find myself on their guest lists, I don't suppose. Just being a Farris of Sat'htine isn't going to accomplish that, not for [English] a demon Sime.

Nick: Surely they can't stop a well-behaved visitor from observing them, hmm, maybe in the Gen Senate? Hajene Seruffin goes there regularly, doesn't he?

D'zoll: He's a diplomat. Still, I suppose it couldn't hurt to ask. But it's probably pretty ritualized and unnatural.

Nick: Of course it is. Gen high society is all about being ritualized and unnatural. What's important is that you'll be able to observe Senator Tsibola and others of his class interacting.

D'zoll: Fair enough. Okay, I'll talk to Seruffin about getting a ticket, or whatever is required.

Shorsh: This should be interesting.

Nick: There must be some moderately interesting piece of legislation that's going to be up for debate.

D'zoll: Doubtless. Seruffin will know.

D'zoll hesitates for a while and zlins Nick closely.

D'zoll: Nick, you don't have anything to tell us, do you? About your own situation, I mean.

Shorsh rolls his eyes. He thought they'd agreed to refrain from probing Nick about pledging.

Nick: I've been thinking about it a lot. Goodness knows I'm ~~ tempted ~~: Sat'htine has an awful lot of the things I've wanted from a home. It's... a pretty big step, though.

D'zoll gives a "go on" nod. He would give Shorsh a nageric "I'm not probing" signal, but he knows Nick would detect it too, if not necessarily understand it.

Nick: I've made a couple of big steps in my life, and well, a lot of them have exploded in my face, to use a Gen metaphor.

D'zoll waits silently as only a mind-healing Sime predator can.

Nick: Well, except for running away from the Tecton training camp. That was probably the only big decision I've made that worked out the way it was supposed to.

D'zoll: Perhaps you were a square peg being hammered into a round hole?

Nick: Very much so. And my grandmother was an excellent sledgehammer. As far as she was concerned, she had bred me, and she deserved my earnings to support herself.

D'zoll: Almost a parody of the Householding viewpoint. All for one, but not one for all.

Nick: Prunida was basically an old-fashioned Gen breeder, but since it was no longer legal to buy Gens for the purpose, she used herself, at least for the first generation.

D'zoll shakes his head rapidly in ~~ revulsion ~~.

Shorsh isn't really revolted -- he saw a lot of that kind of attitude in the years both before and after Unity.

Nick: At least Arat was able to scare her off and make it stick, almost. Snake made the mistake of treating her like family. At least at first: Prunida did back down when Snake told her to leave. She wasn't completely suicidal, after all.

D'zoll: I know that Snake wasn't -- normal, but surely she wasn't junct. I mean...

D'zoll is appalled that any channel could threaten anyone with death by whatever means.

Nick: She wasn't junct, but there are other ways to cause a death than killing, and Prunida is old, by renSime standards.

D'zoll nods hastily.

D'zoll: Yes, of course she would be. But still.

D'zoll is wondering how he managed to let the conversation drift so quickly to the horrific.

Nick: Anyway, getting away from her was about the best decision I ever made. That's also why I joined Snake. I didn't dare get trained in a Tecton camp, or my grandmother would have found me. Not that the idea of a training camp had any particular appeal, mind you.

D'zoll laughs for the first time tonight.

D'zoll: Yes, I can see that. Not that I know from personal experience: our naztehrhai are trained at home, of course.

Nick: Oh, for that option! No wonder you're soft enough to consider a comfortable barn with lots of nice hay "primitive".

D'zoll laughs again.

D'zoll: Well, some of us do go to Rialite for advanced training, but Hiram's never much liked the idea. He's a conservative sort of Sectuib.

D'zoll looks at Shorsh nostalgically, remembering youthful times in the southwestern desert.

Nick: I expect you end up teaching the classes. Admit it.

Shorsh snorts.

D'zoll: I admit nothing!

D'zoll's eyes dance.

Nick: Aha! A confession, verily.

D'zoll elevates his Farris nose snootily and says nothing very differently from before.

Nick laughs, with his usual nageric ~~ shimmer ~~.

D'zoll admires the resulting artistic effect.

Nick: I should go rescue Kat. I think that was the door?

Nick looks at D'zoll for confirmation, knowing that the insulation isn't quite up to Farris standards.

D'zoll: It was. Off you go, then.

Shorsh nods farewell.

D'zoll lets Nick out and closes the not-quite-insulated-enough door.

D'zoll: And before you say anything, Sosu, I was not probing.

Shorsh: Oh, sure.

D'zoll: I'm glad you agree with me.

D'zoll is ignoring the evidence of his own Sime senses, of course.

Shorsh: Simes always tell the truth; even Craig knows that.

D'zoll imitates Shorsh:

D'zoll: Oh, sure.

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