Fall of a Senator: Episode 4

Tsibola has dropped by unexpectedly to enjoy a brandy with his brother-in-law. He's seeking a bit of solace after what's been a very trying few days.

Fennik has some undergraduate course lectures to review before he presents them for the eighth or tenth time, but is willing to defer that to the faculty common room, just before said lectures.

Tsibola reflects that his brother-in-law's house is very peaceful, albeit lonely.

Fennik tosses a chunk of apple wood on the fire so they can enjoy the fragrance as well as the heat. He returns to his own comfortable leather chair and relaxes, willing to let his brother-in-law come around at his own rate to what's apparently upsetting him.

Tsibola: I'm grateful that you were able to receive me, Jon.

Fennik: Oh, well, it's not as if I've got a lively social life going these days. It's good to have you drop in and share the brandy.

Tsibola: I admit, I was looking for an excuse not to go home. There it is: I'm a pariah in my own home.

Tsibola doesn't blame Bernice for her displeasure, but he'd rather not be there to absorb it.

Fennik: Bernice is offended by something you've done?

Tsibola: She's still upset about Senator Pollovic's ball.

Fennik: Oh? What happened?

Fennik isn't in the loop about senatorial goings on except via his brother-in-law.

Tsibola winces.

Tsibola: I got into a... disagreement... with a Sime.

Fennik isn't going to say "But you always disagree with Hajene Seruffin, so what's new?".

Fennik: A disagreement? Which Sime?

Tsibola: A Hajene Crynwyr. Who apparently has a very large mouth.

Tsibola's ~~ aggravation ~~ is a little more personal than usual, when he talks about Simes.

Tsibola: And loose lips.

Fennik doesn't recognize the name.

Fennik: Hm.

Tsibola: I had hired him, very discreetly, to help me talk some sense into Craig, since the boy's so convinced that tentacles make a man incapable of deception.

Fennik: And it didn't work, of course.

Fennik remembers Ruthven telling him he planned to do that, and subsequent events, and Craig's escape, have made the result obvious.

Fennik: == if I have patience, I will check out the continuity problem here, what did Fennik hear from tsib anyway? ==

Fennik: He didn't spill the beans about you, Craig and himself in public, did he?

Fennik can imagine the effect on Ruthven's blood pressure.

Tsibola: No, it's worse than that.

Fennik is startled.

Fennik: Worse?

Tsibola: He told me, in the most offhand fashion, that he told your friend Seruffin about the whole thing, when he was arranging for that Sime mind-healer.

Fennik: Oh no. I suppose he had no notion of the political aspects.

Tsibola: Or perhaps he simply didn't care. As far as that goes, for all I know, he did it on purpose to sabotage my work -- I'm not exactly known as a friend of the Tecton. Whatever his motivation, he couldn't have picked a neater way to hobble my effectiveness.

Fennik: I wonder... I believe there's some kind of instinct Simes have, to defer to, or depend on, a Sime with a greater nager. So perhaps it seemed natural to him to go to Seruffin. Or maybe he just figured Seruffin was more in a position to get the other channel to come here.

Tsibola: It apparently never occurred to him to check with me, before blabbing my family secrets all over the Sime Center.

Fennik: Surely Seruffin would be discreet.

Tsibola: Oh, I'm sure he will be. After all, having the threat of disclosure hanging over me does far more to advance his position than having me lose my position to another Senator who doesn't have a Sime-related skeleton in his closet.

Fennik shakes his head.

Fennik: I can't see Seruffin stooping to blackmail.

Tsibola: Outright blackmail I could deal with -- no one has sympathy for a blackmailer. No, he'll just hint at it, ever so obscurely, when I'm trying to face him down. Or just give me that Look he has, like he's evaluating how much selyn he could get from me.

Fennik sighs.

Fennik: That's quite a bind.

Tsibola: I honestly don't know what I can do about it.

Fennik believes that Seruffin has a great deal of personal integrity, so what Ruthven is describing could well be more in the senator's mind than in the channel's. Still, Seruffin does have a job to do, and he does work for the Tecton, whose interests are not often the same as Tsibola's party's.

Fennik sips his brandy and thinks.

Fennik: Since you don't think he'd use direct blackmail, and I agree with you there, the only thing you can do is ignore the looks and the innuendos. You wouldn't let them influence you, anyway.

Fennik knows that Ruthven is also a man with a great deal of personal integrity, not likely to vary his stance for any personal issues.

Tsibola: I will certainly try. On the other hand, I've never been very good at hypocrisy. What's most frustrating is that I can't really blame this one on anyone but myself. Yes, Crynwyr blabbed, but I should have known there was something of the sort going on.

Fennik: You were trying to do your best for your nephew. Certainly no one else was stepping forward to take on that family duty.

Fennik smiles a little.

Fennik: The Ancients had a phrase: "No good deed goes unpunished". Rather cynical, but apropos, wouldn't you say?

Tsibola: I think many would prefer another apt phrase: "You reap what you sow."

Fennik: Do you know how far word has spread? Farther than this Crynwyr and Seruffin and the other channel? And their Donors, perhaps, I suppose.

Tsibola: Yes, and any "secret" known by half a dozen people is no secret.

Fennik: And of course Craig knows, and who knows what he'd do with the knowledge. Wherever he is. Any word on that?

Tsibola: No. I have people looking. I suspect he crossed the border to break his trail, though, and if he did, we won't find him until he comes back. With luck, he won't.

Fennik nods.

Fennik: I don't suppose anyone over there would be listening to him. As I understand it, people in Nivet aren't interested in religion, or at any rate, our religion.

Tsibola: Craig can't speak their language any more than I do. That alone would limit his opportunities in Simeland.

Fennik: True.

Fennik gets up and pours the senator more brandy.

Tsibola takes a grateful swallow, a bit larger than is considered strictly polite.

Tsibola: So how can I face him over the bargaining table, when he's got that whole mess hanging over my head?

Fennik: Since he won't act on it, you'll just have to carry on if as if it's not there.

Tsibola: That doesn't work with Simes, Jon. You of all people should know that. No, he won't tell anyone the details, but it would never occur to him that our interactions wouldn't be colored by the fact that I came to him for help as a channel -- however unwittingly.

Fennik: But you didn't. Someone you hired did, without your knowledge or consent.

Tsibola: I doubt he knows that -- Crynwyr at least seemed utterly surprised that I would think a low-level channel like him could gain access to a specialist in any other way. Why would Seruffin assume any differently? Come to think of it, he has been a little more -- cordial -- lately. In a sort of "we're really on the same side" fashion.

Fennik: Perhaps his notions of honor forbid him to take advantage of the situation. As a channel, he has a physician's ethics, more or less, I'd think, so maybe it would be unethical for him to allow what he learns as a physician to affect his diplomatic work.

Tsibola: His diplomatic work has always taken full advantage of the Sime convention that people who say one thing while doing another can't expect to get away with it.

Fennik suppresses a chuckle.

Fennik: So now you feel constrained about saying anything in his presence about the undesirability of obtaining help from any Sime? Surely you feel that just as sincerely as ever -- perhaps more so?

Tsibola: I've gotten as far as I have with him precisely because in the past, I could honestly say that I've followed my oft-stated principles. Now I can't. It might have been worth it if that Sime "expert" had managed to talk some sense into Craig, but he didn't. So I became the worst sort of hypocrite for nothing.

Fennik: Well, you didn't actually enter the Sime Center to recruit this Crynwyr, did you? So that principle isn't compromised any more than it was when you visited Fridda after her changeover.

Fennik feels a little thrill of happiness and pride over Fridda's survival and success in Nivet.

Tsibola: Oh, I've kept the letter of my word. It's the spirit that's compromised.

Fennik nods, instead of shrugging.

Fennik: So what's got Bernice so upset with you?

Tsibola: I tried to keep the whole matter of Craig -- and the treatment he was getting -- secret from her.

Fennik: Oh dear.

Fennik can readily imagine Bernice's reaction to finding that out.

Tsibola: And then at Pollovic's ball, when I saw Crynwyr chatting with Seruffin, and then he told me that my secret was known by half the Tecton -- well, I'm afraid I lost my temper. In public.

Fennik: So you had to explain it to her.

Tsibola: Yes. And she didn't take it well. Said if I'd had the sense to consult her, I wouldn't have ended up making such a muddle of things. The worst of it is, she's probably right.

Fennik: And Bernice is not one to be placated by flowers or chocolates or jewelry.

Tsibola: No. I'm afraid my penance will take a great deal longer than that.

Fennik: Have you asked her advice on how to handle the situation?

Tsibola: She's not quite speaking to me yet, but I will. I may be a slow learner at times, but I'm not a hopeless one.

Fennik laughs.

Fennik: So what else happened at this event? Pollovic is becoming quite a showman, with all these Unity antics.

Tsibola: He's out of control. He got into a screaming argument with his mother, and proposed to Pametta Doyle on the spot.

Fennik snorts.

Fennik: And did she accept on the spot?

Tsibola: Of course not. Her mother hustled her out before she could give a peep.

Fennik: There something rather vulgar about a man his age looking for a wife among girls who could be his granddaughters.

Tsibola: And of all the girls there, he falls for the one whom I would have placed as "most likely to be a spinster".

Fennik: Hm?

Tsibola: She's a mousy little thing, the type that always has her nose in a book.

Fennik: Perhaps he thinks he'll do best where he has the least competition.

Tsibola: Nonsense. There were plenty of girls willing to be a Senator's wife. It's not as if there are all that many unmarried Senators, after all.

Fennik: I suppose at that age they don't realize what they'd be getting into.

Tsibola: I don't think it would stop a lot of them, even if they did know. Women can be as ambitious as men, and they have fewer outlets.

Fennik: Well, a docile, mousy one may be a good choice for a man his age, then.

Tsibola: At least she probably won't argue with his mother much.

Fennik snorts, and has another sip of his brandy.

Tsibola demonstrates that he has no personal knowledge of Pametta Doyle.

Fennik: I understand Pollovic's mother is rather strong willed.

Tsibola: She's one of Bernice's closest friends, and you know Bernice doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Fennik smiles, wondering if Ruthven realizes what he's just implied about his current situation.

Fennik: Indeed.

Tsibola catches the implication, and quirks one side of his mouth in a half-smile.

Tsibola: In aid of which, it would be foolish of me to linger for another brandy, much as I enjoy it.

Tsibola ~~ reluctantly ~~ sets his snifter down.

Fennik: You're welcome any time, Ruthven. And I'm sure things will work out with Seruffin.

Tsibola: I do appreciate the refuge you provide, Jon. As for Seruffin -- well, that remains to be seen.

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