Dancing Around The Problem: Episode 18

Craig looks around the backstage area with satisfaction. The crew is already starting to strike the tent; with God's blessing and a little bit of luck, the team will be packed and ready to move on before sunset.

Royben is enjoying his last few moments of freedom, before he has to don retainers for the train ride. He finds the retainer laws a definite drawback to what's otherwise a pretty cushy, easy gig.

Royben: Good show tonight, boss.

Craig watches as a scrawny young man carries out the sign reading, "Church of Sime Truth -- Tent Meeting Today". Two others are busy folding chairs and loading them onto the wagon.

Craig: I thought it went well. Seventeen people stood up to testify. that's a good percentage for a crowd this size.

Royben: Too bad all but two of them were liars.

Ploidy looks away. This will be his last try at salting the crowd with paid shills. ~~ chagrin ~~

Craig: I'm afraid that's how it's going to be, until word starts to spread. But that's why this work is so necessary. That's why God has asked me to do this.

Royben is still ~~ astonished ~~ at how easily Wild Gens lie, even when it's not necessary and then have no particular reason to fudge the truth.

Royben: You'd think they'd believe you about Simes detecting lies, after you get up and explain it.

Craig: In time, the people will learn that God wants them to speak truth. That's your job here, Royben, as His instrument. People are so used to lying, many are no longer sure what the truth is. That's what God wants us to change.

Royben: Yeah, I call them on the lies. They don't seem to appreciate it much, though.

Craig: The truth isn't easy to face. It never is.

Craig looks at the Sime with concern.

Craig: Are you holding up all right, Royben? I know this work is stressful for you.

Royben: It's a lot harder than I thought it'd be. Not zlinning the lies, but zlinning the reactions when they're exposed. The Gens out here don't have even basic control.

Royben includes Craig among the poorly-controlled inhabitants of Genland, although at least he's lowfield.

Craig: I've been thinking: would it help if we had some sort of barrier, some sort of insulation you could step behind after you speak? So you don't have to zlin the reactions?

Royben: I dunno. It's the reactions I'm trying to zlin in the first place.

Craig: Say, maybe, if you had a a chest-high lectern? You could raise your arms to zlin, then lower them before you speak. Make a bit of a theatrical gesture of it.

Royben: I don't suppose you could require them to donate first, before they "testify"?

Royben thinks it's a strange term for standing up in a tent full of strangers and babbling nonsense.

Royben: Might be worth a try, especially in another two weeks.

Craig considers the Sime's suggestion.

Craig: People donate more, I think, after they've seen the miracle performed. Two weeks? Ah, right. Your cycle.

Royben: Speaking of which, boss, any chance we can manage to be in a big city around then? New Washington or Cago, maybe?

Craig: One with a Sime Center?

Royben: I need a good transfer after all this, and the really good channels aren't in the small town Sime Centers.

Craig: I'm not sure if we're ready, yet, to work in so large a place. The team is still learning the logistics. Still, maybe this is God's way of encouraging us to move up.

Craig gives a decisive nod.

Craig: Let's aim for Cago, then. Ploidy, do you think you can have the boys in shape by then?

Ploidy: They're shaping up good. Getting a system going with set up and take down now. They've got the show running pretty smooth.

Royben: Does that mean they can wait a little longer before striking the tent?

Royben's voice is ~~ plaintive ~~ as he looks down at his much-abused arms.

Ploidy looks at his watch.

Craig looks at Royben, ~~ puzzled ~~.

Royben: I'd like a little longer to rest, before I put those things on.

Royben looks at the retainers on a nearby folding table with ~~ loathing ~~

Ploidy: I guess we can start hauling stuff to the platform before we take the tent down. Strike it, pack it and haul it last.

Royben: Thanks. ~~ real gratitude ~~

Craig: Ah. Um, how about if we post the freight wagon and bring it right up to the back flap? You could go right in there, without stepping outside.

Royben: Sure. That'll let me put it off until the train station, at least.

Craig: Until we get that lectern made, would it help if your wife sat in front of you, instead of off to the side? Or would that stop you from zlinning what you need to?

Royben: I won't be able to zlin through her with enough discernment to catch the lies. Especially when the marks are standing in the middle of a crowd. Maybe you could have them come up to the front, away from the others? It's a little less spontaneous, but a lot less wear and tear on me.

Craig: Can do. It'll be more effective from the congregation's point of view, too, not having to crane their necks to see who's speaking.

Royben: Well, you're the showman, so that's your call. But do you think they'll be willing to get that close to a Sime? I'm the first Sime a lot of them have seen, at least when they're not in mortal danger.

Craig: Hmm. Ploidy, what do you think? If we make it not just a lectern, but sort of a chest-high box? Would that make people feel safe enough to come up to the front?

Royben snorts.

Royben: I wouldn't even have to augment to jump out of a chest-high box.

Ploidy: Yeah, but they might not know it.

Craig: It wouldn't be any real protection, of course, but then, you're not really going to touch them.

Ploidy wonders if a locked cage would be more effective in allaying fears, but it wouldn't give the same message of Simes-are-sent-by-God....

Craig: You think it would help, Ploidy?

Ploidy shrugs.

Ploidy: Depends. Some people think Simes can do anything, in the way of violence and strength. But the real scared ones wouldn't come here, would they?

Royben: Probably not, at least if they paid any attention to your advertising.

Craig: "Church of Sime Truth." I wasn't going to call it that, you know. I was just going to make it "Church of Truth." But it turns out that name has been used already, by a very different group.

Royben: Truth's truth, isn't it?

Royben hasn't bothered learning a whole lot of Craig's nutty theology.

Craig: One would think so. But God has granted some people clearer insight than others. There is truth, and there's what fallible mankind often mistakes for truth.

Royben: That's a distinction that's hard to zlin. So you figure those "Church of Truth" guys were liars? Or wrong, anyway?

Craig: Maybe it's not given to mortal man to know absolute truth. To tell honesty from lies, that much God has granted us. Perhaps, for our sinful generation, it's enough of a beginning.

Royben: Dunno. We've been doing it on the other side of the border for generations, and we've still got plenty of failings.

Craig: The "Church of Truth" believed, like most others, that Simes are the gift of the devil. Not truth, but not a deliberate lie, either. Just a failure of understanding. Humans are fallible, Brother Royben. Gens and Simes both. We do the best we can with what God grants us, that's all.

Royben: Whatever you say, boss.

Royben is most interested in his share of the take, with which he and his wife hope to live in the style to which they want to become accustomed.

Craig, almost as if zlinning Royben's thought, turns to Ploidy.

Craig: Has today's offering been counted yet? Did we make expenses?

Ploidy: Well, no, we didn't. Not by a big margin.

Craig shrugs.

Royben: Does that mean we don't get paid?

Craig: Everyone will be paid, don't you worry. We are not without material resources. And things will improve, once word spreads and the congregations increase.

Royben is a little ~~ skeptical ~~, but resolves to stick it out as long as the cash lasts. He does resolve to save train fare home, however.

Craig: I've finally found a worthy use for the gains of a misspent youth. You need not fear poverty with us, my friend.

Craig has calculated, in fact, that he could run the church on this scale for more than a decade, even at the current income level, before his money would run out.

Royben: Good. I can't afford to work for charity.

Ploidy nods.

Ploidy: Nor the boys.

Craig: God had a purpose in letting me be born into a family of sin and wealth. No one here will starve for doing God's work.

Craig believes, in fact, that spending his huge personal wealth on the church is the atonement God expects of him.

Craig: My family has cast me off, but I am part of God's family now.

Royben has more sympathy for Craig's family than would be prudent to admit, but the money is better than he can get as a simple laborer, and is legal as well.

Craig makes a mental note to transfer the rest of his assets into a Nivet bank, before the team arrives in Cago. Once Ruthven hears he's back in New Washington Territory, he might try to block Craig's control of the money once more.

Craig: God will provide.

Ploidy sees that the crew have packed everything and are ready to move it out. He looks at his watch again.

Ploidy: Looks like we'll have to strike the tent pretty soon if we want to catch the train.

Royben: All right.

Royben ~~ reluctantly ~~ picks up his retainers.

Royben: See you on the road.

Ploidy: Yeah.

Royben seeks out his wife on the far side of the tent, so that she can help him put the torture devices on.

Ploidy heads out to supervise the loading of the wagon.

Craig bows his head briefly in prayer. His new life may not be easy, but it's more fulfilling than anything he's ever done before.

Craig: Thank you, God, for Your gifts of today. May we all be worthy of your blessings tomorrow.

Craig takes a final look around the tent and goes to find his suitcase.

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