Pollovic stands on the lowest step of the stairs leading up to the musicians' platform, surveying the hall again. He's determined to be seen dancing with at least three of his own invitees before tackling any more of the nieces and daughters of senators on his mother's list. But at the moment, all the young ladies he himself invited seem to have vanished.
Pollovic spots a lovely young woman with long golden hair, in a gown that isn't exactly a current style in New Washington. She's presumably one of the off-duty Third Order Donors Seruffin had promised him, to round out the otherwise scanty complement of young ladies from Nivet.
Pollovic decides Hajene Seruffin has an excellent eye for Gen standards in feminine beauty. He steps down onto the floor and makes his way through the crowd, in pursuit of the pretty blonde.
Cydonia is sipping a light flowery wine and observing the party from the side of the dance floor. She's finding the customs and costumes very interesting.
Pollovic reaches the young woman's side and bows.
Pollovic: I don't believe we've met yet. I'm Senator Brenn Pollovic, your host.
Cydonia: Good evening, Senator. I'm Sosu Cydonia Nguti.
Cydonia's family is a wealthy and long established one in-T.
Pollovic is happy to have his guess confirmed.
Pollovic: May I have the honor of the next dance?
Cydonia: Why, yes. I'd enjoy that very much.
Cydonia's family is rather proud and indulgent about her making her way in the world in a prestigious profession, not the sort of thing a Gen can be expected to do, right?
Pollovic offers the young woman his arm, and glances up at the musicians. They're just beginning a stately waltz.
Cydonia is a Third Order Donor, but being raised in the upper echelons of Nivet society has prepared her to be comfortable in this similar venue. She takes his arm gracefully.
Pollovic leads the way onto the dance floor, offering the young woman -- Sydonia? -- his best smile.
Cydonia smiles back. The senator is rather old for her tastes, but he seems to have very good manners.
Pollovic: So tell me about yourself, Sydonia.
Pollovic eases the two of them into a simple waltz step.
Cydonia: I've been working here in New Washington for about a year now, and find it fascinating.
Pollovic: What's the work like?
Pollovic is genuinely curious. He's spent business time with channels and Donors, but very little social time except with Hajene Seruffin, and Kat and Nick.
Cydonia: Oh, the usual, supporting a channel in the Collectorium. But I've been exploring the city in my time off and enjoying that very much.
Pollovic: Ah. What have you been seeing?
Cydonia: The museums, the theaters, the concerts, and of course the fashion district.
Pollovic has very little interest in women's fashion, but he wants to hear more of this woman's rich contralto voice.
Pollovic: The fashion district?
Cydonia: There are some very interesting designers here, working from a different tradition than I'm used to.
Cydonia is used to a design tradition that is based on the spare Sime body type, not that of a well-developed female Gen like herself.
Pollovic: What are some of the major differences you've noticed?
Cydonia laughs, beautifully.
Cydonia: Well, designers here are accustomed to Gens!
Pollovic: As opposed to the... slender... Sime women?
Pollovic knows how to phrase a description politely, while still managing to imply that he prefers the opposite.
Cydonia smiles, charmingly.
Pollovic: Is it true, then, that despite nominal equality, Gen women find themselves trying to fit into a Sime world in Nivet?
Cydonia: Hm. Perhaps less than your women find themselves trying to fit into a man's world, but there is still a lot of prejudice about what Gens can accomplish.
Pollovic: Then I'm sure that you have made your family quite proud with your achievements.
Cydonia: Oh, yes. They're very proud that their little Gen has made such a good career for herself! Of course, my Sime sister is the chief financial officer in the family business.
Pollovic smoothly swings Cydonia into a sidestep to avoid crashing into a nearby couple, led by a young man who seems to have two left feet.
Cydonia notes that the Senator is a pretty good dancer for such an old man.
Pollovic: Your family business?
Cydonia: Yes, we have several textile factories in Nivet. Cotton and linen, mainly.
Pollovic remembers something about the Nivet textile industry.
Pollovic: You're not from Zeor, are you?
Cydonia: Oh, no. Not a Householder. But even before Unity, Zeor used to buy some of our fine cottons for their textile printing mill. Several of their Arensti awards were printed on our fabrics.
Pollovic is busy re-evaluating this young woman. She wasn't visiting the fashion district because of a frivolous interest in dressing up; she was doing market research for her family. She goes up a notch or three in his estimation.
Pollovic: An old and respectable business, then?
Tsibola takes a shortcut through the ballroom looking for his wife, whom he promised a dance, but doesn't see her.
Cydonia: Four generations, counting my sister.
Cydonia doesn't point out that that's far more remarkable in Nivet than in a Gen territory.
Tsibola does see his host dancing with a young lady who is not wearing the latest fashion, at least not on this side of the border.
Pollovic nods. From what he understands of pre-Unity Sime culture, four generations is a long time.
Tsibola has his suspicions which side of the border the young lady calls home, and his upper lip curls with ~~ disgust ~~.
Pollovic sees, over Cydonia's shoulder, Ruthven Tsibola sneering at him. He feels a sudden manic impulse to dance with a Sime or two, and really annoy his conservative colleague.
Pollovic: What does a respectable family like yours think, then, about their daughter spending her time out here among the Gen barbarians?
Cydonia laughs again.
Cydonia: "Better her than us"?
Pollovic: They're not upset?
Cydonia: Not really. I think my sister is a bit jealous. She thinks it's a rather romantic adventure.
Pollovic is beginning to see this lovely young woman as something more than just a way to make a point with his mother.
Cydonia: Out here where few Simes dare to tread. The exotic land of the Wild Gens.
Pollovic: Does this evening seem exotic to you?
Cydonia: The details are... different. But I must say that I've attended parties at home that were quite similar at heart.
Pollovic nods. She's comfortable in high society, then.
Pollovic smiles, and prepares to ask another question, but at that moment the music winds into the final chords and the dance ends.
Cydonia: Thank you for the dance, Senator. I'll tell my sister about it when I write home.
Pollovic smoothly escorts Cydonia to the sidelines and makes the necessary polite noises to disengage from her. But his mind is working overtime, and his emotions are troubled.
Nick escorts Kat into the ballroom, so they can resume their task of evaluating the debutantes. He thinks it's a pity that so few of them seem to have any interest in roses; they'd be easier to handle if there weren't so many all in the same room.
Pollovic had not seriously considered a bride from Nivet, despite his protestations to his mother. Until now, that is. Now, he's seriously tempted. A young woman of good family, good education, good manners, accustomed to high society... he frowns at himself.
Nick was moderately ~~ encouraged ~~ when Kat reported that one of the girls was lowfield, but too many of them have been reacting unfavorably to the presence of a Sime.
Katsura stays very close to Nick. The ambient is chaotic in the crowded ballroom.
Pollovic glances around and spots his two houseguests studying the dance floor from the sidelines. He approaches them and smiles.
Nick: Senator, it looks like your mother's party is a resounding success.
Pollovic: Indeed. Have either of you any observations on any of the young ladies?
Pollovic's mind is still preoccupied with his thoughts about Sosu Cydonia. He suddenly remembers his manners.
Pollovic: Hajene Katsura, would you honor me with a dance?
Katsura is ~~ startled ~~, and automatically moves closer to Nick.
Pollovic nods politely to Nick, by way of asking his permission to borrow his date.
Nick's ~~ concern ~~ is a pale shadow of the active ~~ alarm ~~ he'd have been projecting at the idea if no Simes were present. He isn't used to fancy Gen society, but he's fairly sure that it's bad manners to refuse to dance with one's host.
Katsura doesn't find the idea of swirling around the ballroom amongst a lot of untrained Gens, some of them fearful or hostile or both, to be particularly appealing, especially in close contact with a non-hostile but just as untrained one.
Nick looks at Kat for guidance, offering ~~ support ~~ whatever she decides to do.
Pollovic, still lost in his own thoughts, misses all of this byplay.
Katsura considers whether dancing with the Senator is part of her duty to repay his help over the past few weeks. She decides that she can manage it. She'll go hypoconscious if necessary.
Pollovic is picturing Cydonia's face, her golden hair, the sparkle of intelligence in her eyes. His nager ~~ warms ~~ .
Katsura is ~~ startled ~~ again as she zlins the change in Pollovic's nager. She hopes he isn't feeling personal attraction to her.
Katsura: Perhaps a slow dance? I don't have any experience with out-T dances, unfortunately.
Pollovic nods, and signals to the musicians.
Pollovic: This one has a simple, four-beat step. Can you manage that?
Katsura: I think so.
Nick had hoped for an unsuitable gallop, and looks around for inspiration as he tries to figure out how to protect his channel when she's off in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by hostile, high-field Gens.
Pollovic smiles and leads the channel out onto the floor.
Katsura looks around to see what the other women are doing and tentatively puts her hands on the Senator in the same position. This exposes her forearms, but she keeps her tentacles tightly retracted.
Pollovic lets the channel choose her own grip upon him, quite aware that he doesn't know what to do with a Sime arm. It's a bit odd, but it works.
Pollovic: One-two-Three-four, One-two-Three-four. Just follow my lead.
Katsura does so with Sime grace and agility, zlinning his next motion before he makes it.
Nick is reminded as his eyes scan the other guests that not all of the Gens here are highfield, and in a moment of ~~ inspired desperation ~~ he approaches the lone lowfield debutante, who by a stroke of luck is nearby.
Pollovic: You're an excellent dancer, Hajene.
Katsura: Thank you, Senator. You're helping me a great deal -- I'm just following you.
Pollovic nods and swings Kat into a graceful turn. She follows, apparently effortlessly.
Katsura cringes mentally as the impact of other dancers noticing her larity falls upon her like a series of blows.
Pollovic: What would you say if I were to tell you I'm almost seriously considering a candidate from Nivet?
Nick notes the cringe, and bows to the lowfield girl.
Katsura: I'd say that I was very surprised.
Nick hastily introduces himself, and asks if she would be willing to dance.
Pollovic: Oh, you can relax, Hajene. I didn't mean you. I'm quite aware that your attention is all for your Donor.
Nick is somewhat surprised when this Pametta Doyle agrees, and steers her rapidly towards Kat and the Senator.
Katsura: Oh, I didn't think you meant me, but I expect marrying a citizen of Nivet would have a great impact on your political career.
Katsura doesn't mean a favorable one, either.
Pollovic: I know. I hadn't intended to seriously consider such a thing. But I admit that I'm genuinely tempted by Cydonia Naguti.
Pollovic struggles with the pronunciation of the surname.
Katsura smiles. The Donor is certainly an attractive young woman, and has more poise than most young Donors.
Nick concentrates on not tripping over his own feet or Pametta's, while faking the dance and extending nageric ~~ protection ~~ to Kat.
Katsura smiles at Nick around Pollovic's shoulder. She appreciates Nick's efforts.
Pollovic: She's a Third Order Donor, isn't she?
Katsura: Yes, she is.
Pollovic: I seem to recall hearing, at some point, that the only human resource the Tecton has an oversupply of is Third Order Donors. Do you think she might be spared?
Katsura: It wouldn't harm her health to resign the way it would a higher order Donor, but most Donors are very reluctant to give up their profession.
Pollovic dances on for a few steps without speaking.
Nick's partner notices that he is paying a lot more attention to Kat than to her, and he is forced to explain what he is doing.
Katsura: She might also be very reluctant to live out-T permanently, away from all Simes.
Nick is ~~ relieved ~~ when the girl decides not to take offense at being used as a prop.
Katsura is too tactful to add: "and among people who fear or despise them".
Pollovic: She'd still be able to spend a bit of time at a Sime Center. But you're right, of course. I really can't afford to marry outside the New Washington social circle.
Pollovic reluctantly sets the temptation aside.
Pollovic: Unfortunately, thus far I haven't found anyone among my mother's candidates who's really suitable.
Katsura tries to think of a tactful way of suggesting that an older woman would be more likely to be compatible than these young debutantes.
Pollovic: Is there anything you can tell me about any of the candidates? Anyone to rule out, anyone worth a second look?
Nick is well aware that his efforts, appreciated as they might be, are totally inadequate for a Farris channel.
Katsura, fortunately, has toughened up a lot in the past months.
Nick notes a rivalry being resolved on the other side of the dance floor, and decides to imitate it. He maneuvers behind Pollovic and taps him on the shoulder.
Nick: Might I cut in?
Nick offers to take Kat, in exchange for Pametta.
Pollovic notices the relieved look on the channel's strained face, and gives in gracefully.
Pollovic: By all means. But I'll want your answer after the dance, Hajene.
Katsura: I will write out a list for you of my impressions.
Nick hopes the girl finds dancing with the object of tonight's party sufficient compensation for the humiliation of being traded.
Pollovic smoothly exchanges partners with Nick, and spins his new partner off across the floor.
Katsura: Thank you, Nick.
Nick: Any time. Shall we retire to the sidelines?
Katsura holds Nick's hand. She wishes she dared wrap her tentacles around his forearm.
Katsura: That wasn't as bad as I expected.
Nick: Your toes survived, untouched by Pollovic's shoes?
Pollovic struggles to remember this young woman's name. She's one of the prime candidates, he's sure, but he can't remember which one.
Pollovic: How are you enjoying the evening, Miss-- ?
Pametta: Pametta Doyle, Senator. I'm having a lovely time.
Pollovic smiles, while quickly bringing back to memory what he knows of her.
Pametta: I want to thank you for inviting us. My family has been rather retired since my younger brother...
Pametta stops, remembering just a moment too late that changeover is not a subject approved for polite company.
Pollovic: Mmmm? Your younger brother?
Pollovic is still trying to remember why his mother included a girl from such a very hardnosed conservative family.
Pametta: He is... no longer with us.
Pametta uses the proper euphemism.
Pollovic snaps back to the present conversation.
Pollovic realizes a moment too late that he's been hanging around Simes too much. He's gotten too blunt about such things.
Pollovic: I'm sorry, Miss Doyle. Forgive my rudeness.
Pametta blushes with the social awkwardness.
Pollovic: I'm very sorry for your loss.
Pametta: It happened when he was traveling with the running team, and the coach... is not a conservative, as my father found out to his distress.
Pametta's chin sets mulishly.
Pametta: But I'm glad!
Pametta: I like the things he writes about how things are in Simeland. I always wanted to travel, but my parents don't think it's proper for a young girl.
Pollovic, who had been trying to contain his bitterness at the needless waste of yet another young life, is suddenly ~~ elated ~~ .
Pollovic: He's made a good life for himself, then?
Pametta has secret hopes of sneaking off to visit her brother in Shen, some day, but so far she hasn't gotten any further in-Territory than the Sime Center.
Pametta: He's trying. It's only been a few months, and he's still learning the language.
Pollovic: How is your family dealing with this?
Pollovic suddenly realizes that Pametta's father has been absent from the Senate a lot lately.
Pametta: My father... hasn't been very approachable, lately. It upsets my mother, I think, although she's trying to put a good face on it.
Pollovic: Pretending he never existed? ~~ bitter ~~
Pametta: Would it be kinder to inflict our loss on everyone else?
Pollovic's throat closes over the conventional answer. He takes a deep breath.
Pollovic: It would be kinder...
Pollovic puts harsh emphasis on the adjective...
Pollovic: ...to be glad their son is still alive, and not ashamed to say so.
Pametta: You can't blame them. They don't know.
Pollovic: They don't know he's alive?
Pametta: The coach didn't tell them what he did. I only know because Saag's best friend told me.
Pollovic: Ah. Yet you trust me with this information after...
Pollovic vaguely remembers dancing with this same young woman earlier in the evening.
Pollovic: One and a half dances, and a few minutes' conversation?
Pametta: I don't think you're going to tell my parents, or at least, not that I've been sending letters to Saag from the Sime Center.
Pollovic: And what's a proper young lady like you doing at a Sime Center?
Pollovic hopes he's already guessed the answer to that.
Pametta: I plead the right not to incriminate myself. At least not until I'm of age, anyway.
Pametta smiles back.
Pollovic studies the girl more closely.
Pollovic: How old are you?
Pametta: I'll beg your indulgence until midsummer.
Pollovic studies the well filled out figure, the dowdy gown, the mousy brown hair. All of them had served to make the girl look at least twenty years old.
Pollovic: Tell me, Miss Doyle...?
Pametta is actually looking a bit less dowdy and mousy as she speaks, and she dances well.
Pametta: Yes, Senator?
Pollovic: How does your very conservative father feel about a young lady of your tender years being seen dancing with a fifty-four year old man?
Pametta: He's not allowed to have any feelings on the subject that would get in the way of what my mother believes is a solid alliance.
Pollovic: An alliance with a man notorious for being a Sime-kissing hothead?
Pametta: A Senator as a husband is not to be scorned. There are too many other possible well-bred suitors who have no such position. Or so my mother insists.
Pametta: As for myself -- I could hardly criticize a fault I share, could I?
Pollovic smiles. It feels like the first genuine smile he's worn all evening.
Pollovic: Then you would not be unhappy if I were to invite you on, say, a luncheon date some time in the near future?
Pametta curtsies politely as the music stops.
Pametta: Senator, I'd be delighted.