Nick has sought a temporary refuge from the hubbub of the conference in an obscure corner of a lounge near the laundry facilities. He's been finding the content of the talks interesting, what he can understand of it, but he's getting tired of being an Exhibit.
Rimona zlins his location.
Rimona: Nick's in the lounge down the hall there, Hiram. Poor boy is probably hiding from zlin-prying gawkers.
Hiram zlins in the indicated direction.
Nick would much rather be outside, running the children around in circles to get rid of their excess energy, but he doesn't dare get his one dress Sat'htine livery dirty, and there isn't time to change before he's due back.
Hiram: Hmm. Yes, there he is. Shall we go get him?
Rimona: We could leave him in a little peace, for a change, you know.
Hiram: We could. But we'd be letting him miss his best chance to counter some of the gossip and skepticism.
Nick is staring out the window ~~ longingly ~~.
Rimona: He could use some cheering up, and some bolstering of his confidence.
Rimona wonders why Katsura isn't doing just that.
Hiram: Let's go have a word with him, then.
Hiram leads the way to the small lounge Nick's hiding in, and strides into the little lounge as if he owned the place (which of course technically he does.)
Rimona follows, a bit more slowly and stiffly.
Nick turns around as his nager ~~ responds ~~ to the presence of the two powerful channels, and gives a ~~ sheepishly guilty ~~ nageric greeting.
Hiram: Ah, Nick. I zlin you've managed to find the one oasis of peace and quiet in the entire conference.
Rimona: So have we, and now we've spoiled it for you.
Rimona smiles in a kind and friendly manner though.
Nick: Ah, well. I suppose I ought to get back before too much longer, anyway.
Hiram lets his nager engage ~~ lightly ~~ with the Gen's, in one of the more playful patterns Sat'htine's channels sometimes use at home.
Nick: Mustn't deprive the assembled dignitaries of their chance to gawk, after all.
Nick follows Hiram's lead, but without much of his usual sparkle.
Rimona: They are a rude lot, some of them. Comes of having whole Householdings look up to them. Spoiled.
Hiram strokes Nick's nager with a ripple of ~~ encouragement ~~ , then gives Rimona the nageric equivalent of a ~~ mock glare ~~ .
Hiram: Are you implying that I resemble that remark, Hajene?
Rimona: If you insist, Sectuib.
Nick: They don't mean to, I expect, or at least not most of them, but I've been feeling like the star exhibit at the freak show.
Rimona: There's no reason they can't restrain themselves and be polite.
Rimona sits next to Nick.
Rimona: Well, I'm ready to take the load off my feet for a bit.
Nick notes Rimona's stiff movement, and reaches to ~~ soothe ~~ her discomfort.
Rimona smiles at him ~~ affectionately ~~.
Hiram moves to position himself opposite Rimona, with the Companion neatly sandwiched between the two powerful channels' nagers. He begins a gentle nageric massage, that should feel good to both of the other two.
Nick's ~~ peevishness ~~ is fading as he settles in to work he knows and is comfortable with.
Rimona moves a bit closer to Nick, with a tentacle gesture of appreciation for his efforts.
Nick: It's the channels, mostly. And I suppose expecting channels not to stick their laterals as far as possible into anything resembling an interesting nager is too much to hope for.
Hiram: Bear up under it as much as you can, naztehr. This is a rare opportunity to convince a lot of movers and shakers, with evidence they can zlin for themselves, that you're better than what they've heard about you.
Hiram: I could talk to them till I drift into attrition, and it still wouldn't do as much good as letting them zlin the truth for themselves.
Rimona: He's pledged to us. His channel this month is the heir to the House. If that doesn't convince them of our confidence in the boy, none of their zlin-prying will. Not that it's any of their business, of course.
Nick: I think at least some of them are half expecting Katsura to faint away from mistreatment any moment.
Rimona: Fools. You brought her through some bad situations, situations that could kill a Farris, and all she needed was an intensive work load for a few days to get her back into prime condition once she got home.
Nick: There are a few channels who've noticed that, and are asking me if I have space on my schedule.
Hiram lets his nager ~~ sparkle ~~ .
Nick: I'm not quite sure how I should be answering them...
Hiram: How do you wish to answer? We can arrange your schedule accordingly, within reason.
Rimona: If they're ambrov Sat'htine, it can be arranged, eventually, if you want it. Outside the House... well, they had their chance at you before you came here.
Nick: So I should brush them off?
Hiram: Actually, if you'd like one or two assignments outside the House, carefully chosen for maximum impact, I'd be willing to allow it. It's up to you. Not more than two in the year, though. Our own channels are clamoring for a chance with you, too.
Nick thinks this over for a moment, and concludes that Hiram wouldn't have offered twice to rearrange the schedule if he didn't think it important.
Nick: I think most of them are just curious, and want to see how well my training compares. None of them actually requested a transfer.
Rimona: What, they want to see if you do weird rogue things in the dispensary or collectorium? Letting them work while they're here is a courtesy.
Nick: Well, it wouldn't make any sense to have them unable to listen to the talks because of entran, would it?
Rimona: A two-day conference isn't going to drive anybody into dire straits from entran.
Nick: Probably not, but it frees up the schedule so our own people can attend, too, doesn't it?
Rimona makes a tentacle gesture conceding the point.
Nick has been trying to work through how the scheduling works at Sat'htine, with Kat's encouragement, but is finding it hard going.
Hiram: It's cheap political capital, too. On that level, by all means, any time Kat can spare you, take a few minutes with each of them. Either swap with their Donors for part of a shift, or just take a few minutes during breaks to play with them.
Rimona: Assuming you want to, of course. You don't have to engage with anyone you don't like or trust. Those you can brush off politely.
Hiram: Um, in particular I'd advise you to avoid Hajene Moroh. And Grendon.
Rimona: The boy doesn't have to zlin to tell if someone is hostile, Hiram.
Nick: Grendon? Short, bald, silver hair?
Hiram has to stop and think about the man's visual appearance.
Hiram: Yes, that's the one.
Nick: I don't think there's any danger that he'll want to work with me. After one zlin, he remarked loudly to his Companion that Sat'htine must be attending the secret Choice Auctions the tabloids love to talk about.
Hiram's nager ripples with ~~ wry laughter ~~ .
Hiram: You haven't truly made it in the Tecton till you've been insulted by Grendon.
Hiram: What was it he called me, Rimona? Was it something like...?
Hiram pauses, trying to remember the exact words.
Rimona: You're sure you want to inflict it on our naztehr's tender sensibilities?
Hiram: An overpuffed excuse for a tribal witch doctor, with delusions of competence?
Hiram has edited out several expletives.
Nick gives a wry smile.
Rimona: Jealous. He couldn't heal a hangnail without a Companion to collapse on.
Nick: It was after that when a woman nearby -- she introduced herself as Badry, but I didn't recognize her livery?
Hiram: Um, yellow and mauve? If I'm thinking of the right person. That would be Incornal. Tiny northeastern house.
Nick: Ah. She asked if I could fit her in for an hour or so.
Hiram: I don't know her well, but I've zlinned no ill of her. And it's a reflection on her judgment, don't you think, that she does the opposite of what Grendon advises?
Rimona: What kind of impression did you get about her, Nick?
Nick: She seemed friendly enough, although she did impress me as a person who likes adventure.
Rimona: What do you think, Hiram? Does she want to poach a bit of germplasm for her House?
Rimona is only slightly serious.
Hiram: Then bore her pleasantly and by the book, and stay dressed. The last thing you want is fresh rumors about how "exciting" you are.
Hiram adds a broad nageric ~~ wink ~~ .
Hiram hastily adds a visible wink as well, for the Companion's benefit.
Rimona pats Nick's arm.
Rimona: You're ours now, and our policy is that it's up to you what you want to do with your genes. Up to you and whoever you want to combine them with, of course.
Hiram: Indeed. That was advice, Naztehr, not orders.
Rimona leaves out the possibility of persuasion from an initially negative position for the good of the House.
Hiram still sometimes forgets that rights most Sat'htine members would take for granted are not necessarily things Nick is accustomed to.
Nick: Are there any of the guests whom I ought to seriously consider working with, more than others?
Nick is still trying to work out who's important and who's not.
Hiram: Anyone with a white lining. Anyone from Zeor, Dar, Imil, Frihill, Imcholee...
Rimona: You may enjoy the Sectuib in Dar. Quite a character.
Nick: I haven't had much success working with Zeor channels, but Dar's Sectuib did introduce himself.
Rimona: You never know what he'll pull out of his cloak.
Rimona's ~~ amusement ~~ is clear.
Hiram: Indeed. I enjoy his company; he never bores me. As for the rest, if in doubt, ask Kat about particular individuals.
Rimona: And you can always use her as an excuse -- these highly-bred Farris aristocrats can hardly move without a Companion to hold their tentacles.
Nick gives a very lower-class snort.
Hiram: ~~ dry ~~ I'm sure you noticed just how aristocratic Kat was, wandering the elite establishments of the back country.
Nick: Yes, indeed: fir needles and mud make marvelously aristocratic additions to one's aristocratic hairstyle and fashion.
Hiram: Almost as aristocratic as her Sectuib, who's been known to share a barn with swine.
Hiram still hasn't forgotten Petunia's delicate perfume.
Nick: Frankly, it may be unaristocratic of me, but I usually prefer the company of swine to that of large numbers of strange dignitaries.
Hiram: On some levels, there's amazingly little difference between the two. You're not an aristocrat, Nick; if you try to pretend you are, you'll just look silly. Be what you are, and be proud of what you are.
Nick: I'm not quite sure what I am, at the moment. It keeps changing.
Rimona: Good. Keep that up.
Rimona strokes Nick's hand with a tentacle.
Rimona: Don't ever get into a rut. Always something new to learn and do and be.
Nick: Like how to be a proper Sat'htine Companion?
Hiram: Just remember there's no one right way of doing that.
Nick: There are wrong ways to do it, however. And I expect hiding out when there are guests to be entertained is one of them.
Nick has a sense of duty that would not be out of place in a pirate apprentice.
Hiram checks his internal time sense.
Hiram: Four minutes till the next session starts.
Nick: That's the one about how to adjust expected selyn use and production statistics for the weather?
Rimona: Or try to. ~~ wry ~~
Hiram: Insofar as the weather can ever be predicted. Or even described, after the fact.
Nick: It's said that the Ancients could predict the weather, at least for a week or so in advance.
Hiram: Ah, but they had resources we're a long way from duplicating. Cameras in the sky. Huge calculating machines.
Nick: A camera in the sky would be very useful. You could watch the clouds move in.
Hiram: And they were still wrong often enough that it seems to have been a standing joke in their literature.
Rimona: Our outdoor workers do pretty well just looking at the sky from the ground, and remembering previous seasons. Of course, predicting that tomorrow will be the same as today is right at least half the time.
Rimona gets up, a little less stiffly.
Hiram: "Sunny today with cloudy periods and a chance of rain or snow." Can't go too far wrong with that, in most places.
Nick: It's the critical difference between rain and snow that matter, when you're tramping from here to there down the road.
Hiram: Hmm. Here, figure on snow in January and rain in August. Anything beyond that, sniff the air and guess.
Rimona: I get the feeling that Sectuib is not eager to sit through this session, but he'll insult the speaker if he doesn't.
Hiram: And therefore, we should be on our way. Two minutes.
Hiram leads the way to the door.
Nick stands, with some ~~ reluctance ~~.
Hiram: Back to the battlefield, naztehrhai.
Rimona: Come, Nick, I'll protect you from all those slavering-at-the-lateral-orifices types. I may be very old, but I have a very big nager!
Hiram: Let them slaver. Sat'htine has plenty of carpet shampoo.
Nick takes a moment to check that his clothes and hair are reasonably neat, then offers a hand to Rimona.
Rimona takes the hand and affectionately wraps a tentacle around his wrist.
Nick: But what about the potential for slipping? Should we alert the janitorial staff?
Hiram: Ronaplin dries quickly enough. Don't trouble yourself.
Hiram gives a grin that ripples all the way through his nager, then puts on his sedate Sectuib pose and opens the door.
Nick lets his nager mesh with Hiram in ~~ reinforcement ~~, then brings Rimona into the link to provide a wall of nageric solidarity, Sat'htine flavored mostly, but with a hint of the exotic here and there.
Rimona smiles and squeezes Nick's hand, glad to have him home.
Hiram zlins the traces of difference in Nick's nager. In a few decades, he suspects, some of those will be part of the new Sat'htine norm. Which is exactly as it should be.