Pollovic finishes another dance, leads the young woman back to where her mother is sitting, then heads for the buffet. He's both hungry and thirsty, and wants a few moments of peace and quiet to think.
Pollovic takes a glass of fruit punch, while reviewing his mental lists. As far as he can figure, he's now danced with or spoken with every genuine candidate for the position of his future wife, apart from the two who were, as he approached them, loudly complaining to each other about the mere presence of Simes.
Pollovic takes a plate and begins piling it with food. First choice, Pametta Doyle. Alternates, the Rittenberg girl and Rob Almay's daughter. Almay is from Pollovic's side of the aisle, so Eulalia will probably complain, but she'd still represent a good alliance.
Pollovic spares a thought for the lovely Donor, Cydonia. It's too bad he has to rule her out. But he knows, realistically, that he has to marry someone from this side of the border, and the Senate's social circles.
Pollovic reaches for the nearest serving plate and freezes. The platter is piled with pickled squid tentacles. Tentacles! In the presence of Simes!
Pollovic scowls. He knows how carefully his mother planned every detail of tonight's menu. He can't construe the scarce and expensive pickled tentacles as anything but a deliberate insult to the Sime Territory guests.
Pollovic is determined to confront Eulalia about the matter. But... not before he's had a bit to eat. And a few minutes to sit and rest his not-so-young feet.
Palma Doyle is pleased that her daughter got on so well with the senator. Things look promising indeed. However, she's rather concerned about that other man Pametta danced with. The Sime-kisser, although she'd never say the word aloud.
Palma doesn't think it's quite healthy for her daughter to associate in any way with such a person, especially so soon after what had to be done about her brother.
Palma is as good at denial as anybody, and assumes that once Pametta marries Pollovic, the senator will behave more properly and give up his unseemly grandstanding about Simes.
Pollovic had drained a second glass of the excellent fruit punch before he noticed that it was alcoholic. Ah, well, it scarcely matters now, as his real work for the evening is done. He's still thirsty; he accepts a third glassful from a passing waiter as he sits back to survey the room.
Consoli has sought temporary refuge from the chaotic ambient in the room set aside for the in-Territory guests. She sent her Donor off to get some food, being too near to need to be interested in strange edibles herself.
Palma isn't too pleased at seeing all these Simes and their Companions, is that what they call them? at a social function like this, but she supposes it's one of those tiresome political moves the men are so fond of.
Palma surveys the crowd and sees that same man with another woman. He's not dancing this time, but the two of them appear to be... intimate in some ill-defined way. She wonders if he's some kind of womanizer, and likely to bother her daughter in the future. He's certainly good-looking, in a raffish sort of way.
Sarton, who has spent the entire evening removing the noxious "Sime Territory" signs, as per Mrs. Pollovic's instructions, grabs the corner of the "Sime Safe Room" sign and pulls it down, then goes on his way.
Palma is appalled by the thought and decides to find out whether the... dirty Sime-kisser is likely to be a threat to her daughter's peace of mind, and more importantly, her future in the marriage market.
Consoli was hoping those luscious-zlinning Donors accompanying the Farris channels would be around to drool over, but no such luck. She has the safe room to herself, and lounges at her ~~ ease ~~ on a comfortable sofa.
Palma recalls seeing a "Sime Safe Room" sign on the door of one of the small parlors. Some kind of place for them to get out of public view, she supposes. Might as well go find one of them there, and get the goods on this Nick fellow.
Palma notices the sign is gone, and opens the door. There's a Sime in there, a female one. Subconsciously, she assumes the females are more harmless.
Palma: Hello. ~~ brave, disgusted, hopeful ~~
Consoli looks up, ~~ bracing ~~ herself against the return of the ugly ambient.
Consoli: Yes? Are you looking for the ladies' withdrawing room? I believe it's the next door down.
Palma: No. I was looking for a Sime. I mean a Tecton employee.
Consoli: I'm a channel.
Consoli wonders if someone has been hurt.
Palma knows that the channels are less dangerous, and have higher status.
Consoli tries to think of a tactful way to send this person off to one of the Firsts, so she can continue to enjoy her rest.
Palma: Well, I was wondering if you can tell me about another Tecton employee, a human man named Nick, who's here tonight. I suppose he's one of those Companion people.
Consoli: Nick? Oh, you mean Hajene Katsura Farris ambrov Sat'htine's Companion. They just pledged him, you know, although no one thought a respectable House like Sat'htine would grab him.
Consoli likes to gossip as well as anyone, and Nick's pledging has been the most juicy tidbit to pass through New Washington in quite a while.
Palma finds most of this to be gibberish. Perhaps this Sime doesn't speak English very well.
Palma: So he doesn't work for the Tecton, then?
Consoli: Well... he has, recently. Before that, he was a rogue.
Palma: A rogue? ~~ confused ~~
Consoli: An illegal Donor, not bound by a pledge to the Tecton, and subject to severe penalties, if they'd caught him. Part of the criminal underground, like the insane channel who trained him.
Palma: A criminal? And Senator Pollovic invited him to this affair? ~~ horrified ~~
Consoli: Oh, he's supposed to be reformed, now. Really, he's been cleared of treason by at least two investigations.
Palma: And he dared to dance with my daughter? ~~ outraged ~~
Consoli: From what I zlinned, he's a fine dancer. And quite personable. I don't think he'd be rude to your daughter.
Palma charges out in search of the senator, ignoring the Sime's babbling.
Consoli shakes her head at the mysterious ways of out-Territory Gens, then settles back to enjoy her solitude.
Pollovic sips at his punch. He notes that the Threes' niece, Slina, seems to be sharing a third consecutive dance with the second oldest Rittenberg boy. That would be an interesting match, politically speaking. He takes another sip of punch.
Pollovic spots Hajene Rikki browsing the buffet, apparently unattended by her Donor. It would be best to intercept her before she spots the plate of pickled tentacles. He pushes himself to his feet, and goes to offer her a dance.
Eulalia sees her son approaching a Sime with that determined stride of a man seeking a dance partner.
Eulalia is hurting badly, Katsura's efforts that morning not being adequate to the strain of the day, and she doesn't want her sacrifice to be for nothing. She considers Hajene Rikki a definite "nothing", as far as getting her son married is concerned. Or at least she'd better be.
Eulalia hobbles as rapidly as she can, and manages to intercept.
Pollovic wants a word with his mother, but not while he's in the middle of a dance with a charming lady. He pretends not to notice Eulalia's approach.
Eulalia: Miss Foor could use a more respectable partner.
Pollovic considers a number of responses, while whirling his partner through a dance turn. He has no wish to dance with the obnoxious Slina Foor again.
Pollovic: I'm busy, Mother. And I should think young Joey Rittenberg is the height of respectability.
Eulalia: She's danced with him three times already! And you haven't danced with some of the young ladies at all.
Eulalia mentions the two who were distressed at the presence of the Simes.
Pollovic gives an apologetic nod to Hajene Rikki and then whisks her through a gap between two dancing couples, hoping his mother will be too slow to follow.
Eulalia plows through the couples, who lose the rhythm of their dance but manage not to trample her -- barely. She reaches out one gnarled, ~~ throbbing ~~ claw and grips her son's sleeve.
Eulalia: Don't you run away from me! You have a duty here, Brenn. As host, and as a loyal son. And it's time you started meeting your obligations!
Pollovic gives up on the dance and turns towards his mother, the ~~ anger ~~ visible in his eyes.
Pollovic: Let go of me, mother.
Pollovic is thoroughly ~~ fed up ~~ with Eulalia's interference.
Eulalia: You forget yourself. How much of that punch have you been drinking, anyway?
Pollovic shrugs off the question, unaware that his breath is answering it for him.
Pollovic: I have done everything that was required of me, mother, and I'm tired of your interference.
Pollovic keeps his voice low, quite aware of the dancers swirling around them, just inches away.
Eulalia: Interference?? Is that what you call it? You should be glad that your mother is looking after your reputation before you ruin it forever.
Eulalia looks pointedly at Rikki.
Palma spots Pollovic on the dance floor and pushes her way over to him.
Palma: Brenn Pollovic!
Pollovic: My reputation is undamaged, unless you've done something to harm it. Such as serving pickled tentacles to our guests. Tentacles, Mother.
Palma moves closer, demanding attention.
Pollovic turns, with relief, to the new interruption.
Pollovic: Yes, Mrs. Doyle?
Pollovic is carefully polite to his colleague's wife, in deliberate contrast to his manner with his mother.
Palma: How dare you invite criminals to this affair, where they can associate with my daughter and the other respectable young ladies!
Pollovic: Criminals, ma'am?
Palma: It's an outrage. It's bad enough that you... consort with these... people, but to have one of their criminals here, dancing with my daughter, telling her who knows what!
Palma huffs with ~~ outrage ~~.
Pollovic: I'm not aware of any criminals among tonight's guests.
Pollovic is ~~ uncomfortably ~~ afraid that he knows exactly whom she's referring to.
Palma: I asked one of the Simes, and she told me about this Nick fellow. A true disgrace, and he should be in prison even by their rules.
Palma isn't very strong on the details, but she doesn't need them to react, and get angrier the more she reacts to it.
Eulalia knows that look.
Palma: Mrs. Pollovic, do you realize what kind of... person your son has housed under your roof?
Eulalia: Brenn!! Is that true?
Eulalia may not be able to zlin, but her mother-radar is just as infallible a lie detector, at least as far as her son is concerned.
Pollovic: I'm afraid you're misinformed, Mrs. Doyle. Sosu Nick was cleared of all charges, and the World Controller herself declared that he was unjustly imprisoned. He is no more a criminal than you or I.
Eulalia: Charges! Imprisoned? You told me they were respectable! You let your own mother associate with them, unknowing.
Pollovic is starting to sweat, and it isn't from the exertion of the dance.
Palma: Cleared, you say. Where there's smoke, there's fire. Everyone knows that. At the very least he's questionable, not the sort of person I want my daughter dancing with!
Eulalia: Your daughter can take care of herself, Palma, at least on a public dance floor. But I let the man take care of my roses!
Pollovic: Sosu Nick was recently adopted into House Sat'htine. A more certain proof of his respectability, I can't imagine.
Palma snorts in disbelief.
Pollovic: And Mother, I thought you were delighted by his handling of your precious roses.
Pollovic is struggling very hard to remain calm. ~~ simmering fury ~~
Palma: Eulalia, I can't see my daughter having anything to do with your son until he develops a better sense of propriety. I'm very sorry that your efforts have come to this.
Palma looks around for Pametta but doesn't see her. She hopes she isn't off with someone... unsuitable.
Pollovic glares at the mother of his primary candidate for bride, and bites back several possible replies. He's not going to say anything that would reveal what Pametta so obviously wishes to keep secret.
Eulalia: Palma, I'm sure there's been some misunderstanding here.
Palma: The Simes themselves told me.
Palma glares at Pollovic.
Pollovic: And what, precisely, did they tell you? That he had been illegally imprisoned? That he has political enemies? That House Sat'htine offered him their protection, which they would not have done if he were unworthy?
Pollovic is unaware that his voice has begun to rise.
Palma: Hmph. Where there's smoke there's fire. And you should know that any Sime you bring in here should be above reproach. Have you no sense at all? It's bad enough that you let that Sime get his tentacles... and lips on you in public.
Pollovic: Mrs. Doyle --
Palma: I can understand political expediency. But you've gone beyond all bounds. I'm taking my daughter and leaving.
Pollovic reaches out and almost grabs Palma's wrist, but stops himself at the last moment.
Pollovic: Mrs. Doyle, I beg you to reconsider.
Pollovic: Your daughter Pametta is an excellent young lady, intelligent, thoughtful, and well-read. I find her a most charming young woman, and I would regret to find her family alienated from me.
Palma: I'd regret to find your dirty ways contaminating her!
Rikki zlins that her host is attracted to the young woman, and is increasingly worried that the quarreling Gens will come to actual blows.
Pollovic: Ma'am, I consider donation entirely a matter of personal conscience, and would never demand such a thing of my bride.
Rikki is used to in-Territory Gens, who are careful not to fight in the presence of Simes. She of course assumes that there are no fights out of zlinning range, which may not be realistic, but at least isn't nerve-wracking.
Rikki: If the girl you mean is that one over there...
Rikki indicates Pametta, who has just returned to the ballroom after taking a break in the library.
Rikki: ...then I wish you happy. A very nice young woman. Very steady donor now.
Palma doesn't absorb this, what with the broken English, and ignores it.
Pollovic's eyes widen in ~~ horror ~~. Pametta's secret is out.
Palma: Well, my daughter would never do anything like that, letting a Sime touch her.
Palma shudders with ~~ disgust ~~.
Rikki flinches away at the burst of emotion.
Eulalia: But... Palma, the Sime there just said...
Palma glares at Rikki.
Palma: I've been told Simes don't lie. Obviously I've been told wrong.
Pollovic: I shall marry her, ma'am, if only to free her of her family's censure.
Pollovic is unaware that he is shouting now.
Pollovic: And as for your slurs against Sosu Nick...
Pollovic is hoping to divert attention from poor Pametta with the return to the previous topic.
Rikki: Sosu Nick is nice. Looks good, too.
Pollovic: Would you agree, Hajene, that his detractors are mistaken, and that he is entirely respectable?
Palma's ~~ disgust ~~ intensifies. Perhaps this Sime is just exactly as respectable as Nick -- after all, she can lie.
Rikki: I don't know much about his past, but a nager like that is always respectable.
Palma is far beyond persuasion by reasonable discourse.
Palma: Pametta! Pametta, dear! We're leaving now.
Palma turns on Pollovic.
Pollovic is suddenly aware that the musicians have stopped, and that everyone in the hall is staring at them.
Palma: You'll marry my daughter over my dead body. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but now I see that you've been totally corrupted by these monsters yourself.
Palma turns on her heel and pushes through the silent crowd toward her daughter.
Pollovic elbows dancers aside to get past Palma and reach her daughter before she can. He drops to one knee.
Pollovic: Pametta, please forgive me for letting your secret be revealed. Will you marry me?
Palma grabs Pametta's arm.
Palma: We're leaving now, dear.
Palma tugs at her daughter.
Palma: Come with me. Now is no time to make such decisions.
Pametta is still in ~~ shock ~~, and allows herself to be hustled out of the room, only looking over her shoulder at Pollovic.
Pollovic stares after her, more than a little in ~~ shock ~~ himself. And not only because of his precipitous marriage proposal.
Pollovic pulls himself together after a long moment, and signals the musicians to resume playing. After an awkward moment of total silence, they comply.