Tsibola offers his wife his arm as they make their way up the steps to the Horkins Art Gallery, which is open after hours tonight to host the benefit for Cottonwood City.
Bernice is now on speaking terms with her husband, and things have gotten back to normal between them.
Tsibola is forced to pause halfway up the steps, to catch his breath.
Bernice notices. She's concerned about his health. She thinks he works too hard and gets too upset about things.
Tsibola takes a few careful breaths, trying to make the nagging ache in his chest go away.
Bernice: Ruthven, I want you to make a real effort not to let anybody get you too incensed, no matter what they say.
Bernice intends to stay close to him, preferably with both of them seated as much as possible.
Tsibola: Yes, dear. This is a charity event, I know.
Tsibola's assurance isn't quite the formulaic thing it would have been before Pollovic's ball.
Bernice: So try to be charitable and suffer fools calmly, if not gladly.
Tsibola: I will, I promise. For instance, there's Senator Pollovic waiting in the receiving line.
Bernice pats his arm and smiles, a genuine smile this time.
Bernice: Good. You can practice on him.
Tsibola takes a careful breath, pats Bernice's arm back, then lifts his foot (which seems to be heavier than usual) to take the next step.
Pollovic, unbeknownst to the Tsibolas, is trying very hard not to do anything controversial tonight. As his first major social appearance since the disastrous ball, he wants it to go perfectly smoothly.
Triangusul zlins the room as well as he can with retainers. If he ends up reporting this piece either openly or otherwise, it'll be important for his readers to understand the emotional ambient, particularly of significant figures.
Pollovic, from his place in the receiving line, glances across the room to note that Pametta seems to have found a cluster of younger women to chat with. He relaxes and returns his attention to the receiving line.
Pollovic: Bernice, Ruthven. Thank you for coming tonight.
Pollovic smiles and offers his hand to shake.
Tsibola obliges, ~~ stiffly ~~.
Bernice produces a smile.
Bernice: We've been looking forward to it.
Tsibola: It is a worthy cause, Brenn.
Pollovic: I really do appreciate your support.
Bernice notes that her husband is looking a bit pale, in the better light.
Pollovic might have said something more, given Tsibola's fierce opposition to more funding for Cottonwood in the Senate, but decides to hold his tongue.
Tsibola: It's nice to be at one of these events that's for a cause both sides of the aisle can support.
Tsibola has no objection to charity raising money for the residents of Cottonwood; he just doesn't want taxes paying for all the rebuilding. He prefers saving some of the funds for folks who aren't blatant Simelovers, like his own constituents.
Pollovic: Disaster is no respecter of politics, that's for certain.
Bernice spots that Sime reporter across the room, and hopes Ruthven won't.
Tsibola is ~~ glad ~~ to notice that there are no "Sime Territory" signs posted on the door.
Tsibola: I see you aren't repeating your -- interterritorial experiment.
Tsibola nods at the unposted door.
Pollovic: I'm not the sole sponsor of this event. The Rebuilding Hope Society isn't interested in making political statements. And, frankly, I think I've made enough such statements for one year. There are some Simes on tonight's guest list, but no special provisions have been made for them.
Pollovic has, in fact, apologized to each Sime as they arrived, for the lack of Sime-related comforts. And for the strawberry tarts among the refreshments.
Bernice thinks that since the purpose of the affair is to raise money, driving away potential contributors by allowing Simes in is a bad idea.
Tsibola: Come, dear, let's mingle.
Bernice: Yes, dear.
Pollovic turns his attention to the next guest in line and murmurs a polite welcome.
Tsibola really wants to find a drink and a place to sit down, not necessarily in that order, to ease the pain in his chest.
Bernice heads toward some benches arranged around a large sculpture.
Seruffin is significantly trying not to wince, as his retainers pinch.
Triangusul is distracted from what he's doing by the Sime pain and Gen pain coming from opposite directions. Shen.
Triangusul involuntarily notices the Gen pain more. Shenshay! Trouble in progress. He homes in on the channel nager.
Seruffin zlins an approaching Sime, and ~~ controls ~~ his discomfort, with help from Gerrhonot's nager.
Triangusul: [Simelan, murmured] Hajene, zlin him.
Triangusul isn't being ambiguous: he means Tsibola.
Seruffin signals for Gerrhonot to move aside, giving him a clear zlin.
Triangusul thinks it's better not to use names or out-T titles here.
Gerrhonot is ~~ puzzled ~~ and waits for further instructions.
Seruffin switches to Simelan, and briefly describes what he suspects.
Seruffin: At least I'm pretty sure -- this ambient would be bad enough, even without retainers. The question is, what if anything can we do about it?
Seruffin looks at Gerrhonot and Triangusul, in hopes they will have some suggestions.
Gerrhonot hopes his channel won't send him over there to talk to the Tsibolas, since Seruffin is having a hard time of it tonight and Gerrhonot really doesn't want to leave him unprotected.
Triangusul: Is he going to die if nothing is done?
Seruffin tries to get a clearer zlin across the room, then shakes his head in ~~ frustration ~~ as the shifting crowd comes between them.
Seruffin: I can't zlin clearly enough to tell. It's not trivial, though, or I wouldn't be able to zlin even this much.
Gerrhonot: Maybe we could go closer?
Seruffin: All right.
Triangusul tags along in case a routine event is turning into stop-the-press. He figures he can always hide behind Gerrhonot if things really go west.
Seruffin takes Gerrhonot's arm and steers him towards the entrance, where Senator Pollovic is greeting the last of the arriving guests, in a path that will take them significantly closer to the Tsibolas.
Gerrhonot: ~~ calm ~~ supportive ~~ protective ~~ replete ~~
Pollovic finishes greeting arriving guests and begins drifting across the room towards his fiancee, with many pauses and detours to speak with various guests. He is oblivious, however, to the Simes' concern over Tsibola.
Pollovic pauses with his hand halfway extended towards a tray full of sausage rolls. The Simes seem to be converging on... the Tsibolas?
Seruffin pauses when they have passed the Tsibolas.
Seruffin: It's definitely his heart, and the damage is only going to get worse if it isn't treated.
Seruffin gives a few more specifics in Simelan, his English not being up to the task.
Pollovic looks more closely at the couple. Bernice Tsibola looks worried. And Ruthven... Ruthven looks ill.
Bernice is getting quite worried. She'd like to suggest they leave, but doesn't want Ruthven to have to walk out before he can catch his breath, which isn't happening.
Pollovic hurries over.
Pollovic: Ruthven, what's wrong?
Tsibola looks up in ~~ irritation ~~ that makes it harder to catch his breath.
Bernice pats his hand.
Tsibola: Nothing's wrong. I'm just not as young as I used to be, that's all.
Pollovic: Something's wrong. You look terrible.
Tsibola: Just a little short of breath, that's all.
Bernice: Is there somewhere he can lie down and rest a bit?
Pollovic: Let me call Hajene Seruffin. He can probably help.
Pollovic looks up and waves to the channel, clumsily trying to shape a nageric ~~ call ~~ to match.
Tsibola is getting ~~ upset ~~, which isn't helping his breathing one bit.
Bernice: He just needs to rest and catch his breath. ~~ covering her worry ~~
Pollovic: I think he needs more than that.
Pollovic silently ~~ calls ~~ Seruffin again.
Seruffin catches Pollovic's signal, and Tsibola's worsening distress, and responds.
Gerrhonot stays close to his channel.
Triangusul hovers out of range of anything nageric, but where he can still hear what's said.
Bernice: Brenn, can you ask a servant to have our carriage brought around the front? I think we'd better go home.
Pollovic: Hajene, can you tell what's wrong with him?
Pollovic speaks as soon as the channel is within more-or-less discreet earshot.
Bernice gives Seruffin a Look. The last thing Ruthven needs is to get into an argument with his long time opponent.
Seruffin: It's his heart -- part of it isn't getting enough blood.
Pollovic: Can you do anything?
Bernice squeezes Ruthven's hand.
Tsibola's nager ~~ protests ~~ at the suggestion.
Seruffin: Only if he wants me to.
Bernice: Our own doctor can see him in the morning.
Pollovic: But there is something you could do?
Seruffin: Yes. Not as much as I could in a fully equipped Sime Center, but better than nothing.
Tsibola's ~~ upset ~~ is making the situation worse, and he is starting to feel ~~ lightheaded and disoriented ~~.
Pollovic: If it's his heart, all our doctors could do would be willow bark tea.
Seruffin: That would help, certainly. Is there any available?
Pollovic signals to one of the circulating waiters, and murmurs quick instructions to him.
Pollovic: If there is any, it'll be here in a few minutes.
Triangusul would be scribbling notes if he didn't have total recall. He only takes notes when he thinks people expect him to.
Seruffin zlins Tsibola again, ~~ frustrated ~~ at being within zlinning range of a medical emergency, without being able to lift a tentacle to assist.
Pollovic notices that a number of the other guests are beginning to stare.
Seruffin can't even offer basic nageric support, in the cluttered ambient and through retainers.
Pollovic: There's a small lecture room just through there. We should get him away from this crowd.
Pollovic points to a nearby door.
Seruffin: That's not a bad idea.
Seruffin looks at Bernice for permission, her husband being increasingly unable to make such decisions.
Bernice: Can you get up, Ruthven? We can get some privacy and some air.
Seruffin gestures Gerrhonot forward to help.
Tsibola: Air. Yes.
Tsibola can't seem to get any.
Gerrhonot: Can I help you, senator?
Gerrhonot offers a hand to help him up.
Gerrhonot: You can lean on me.
Tsibola fumbles, trying to stand, then accepts the offered help: Gerrhonot is a Gen, however misguided in choice of profession.
Pollovic moves around to support Tsibola's other side.
Tsibola staggers forward with their assistance.
Bernice follows, keeping her hands at her sides instead of wringing them. ~~ desperately worried ~~
Seruffin brings up the rear, unwilling to get any further away from Gerrhonot than absolutely necessary.
Gerrhonot maintains his ~~ strong reliable protective support ~~ for the channel behind his back as he physically supports the senator on his arm.
Triangusul is torn between covering what's happening to Senator Tsibola and what's going to happen when the crowd notices the two Senators and their Sime entourage (!) exiting abruptly.
Tsibola makes it about halfway before his legs give out entirely.
Pollovic staggers under the suddenly greater weight. He barks at Triangusul.
Pollovic: Help me hold him.
Triangusul spots one of his Gen colleagues in the ~~ increasingly aware but not yet worried ~~ crowd and gives him a House-private gestural signal.
Triangusul: Of course, Senator.
Triangusul complies, using his Sime strength to hold Tsibola up.
Pollovic: Bernice, get the door.
Gerrhonot extends some ~~ support ~~ to the renSime, who really shouldn't be exposed to Gen pain like this.
Triangusul sends ~~ gratitude ~~, and is glad Gerrhonot knows how to split his attention.
Seruffin tries to get closer to help as well, but backs off when Tsibola responds unfavorably.
Gerrhonot hopes Seruffin will tell him what to do before he makes a protocol error. He can handle the medical situation but not the political one.
Pollovic mentally reviews the guest list, and confirms what he already knew: there are no Gen doctors in tonight's crowd.
Seruffin: Sit him down against the wall, Gerrhonot, Triangusul. He'll breathe better if he's not flat.
Gerrhonot exchanges a glance with the renSime and the two settle Tsibola against a wall.
Triangusul positions himself behind Gerrhonot again.
Gerrhonot loosens the sick man's collar.
Bernice: Can't we get him out of public view? He'll be humiliated. ~~ distressed ~~
Pollovic glances around at the converging crowd.
Seruffin: He could use some space.
Gerrhonot is reluctant to move away from his patient, but wants to get closer to his channel, who no doubt needs him.
Pollovic: Ladies and gentlemen, please move back. Give the medics room to work.
Bernice: Medics? Are there doctors here tonight, then? ~~ hope ~~
Pollovic: No, but we do have a topnotch channel.
Bernice kneels beside her husband and takes his hand. It's cold and damp.
Tsibola is no longer able to talk; it's taking all his energy just to gasp for breath.
Pollovic begins picking individuals out of the crowd.
Gerrhonot takes the initiative, forgetting the political aspects in his concern for the suffering Gen before him.
Gerrhonot: Mrs. Tsibola, please let Hajene Seruffin help him.
Bernice: What? He wouldn't want a Sime to touch him. Certainly not in public.
Triangusul: That's a done deal, Mrs. Tsibola.
Bernice has ignored Triangusul's part in helping Ruthven get this far.
Pollovic: Nick, Bert, Rebecca, Doug. I need a human chain to mark a boundary. Allan, Rosa. If we can't move the patient, we'll have to make it possible to treat him here. (Louder) Ladies and gentlemen,please move into the next gallery.
Gerrhonot: [Simelan] He's dying, isn't he, Hajene?
Gerrhonot is getting ~~ upset ~~ and tears are coming to his eyes.
Seruffin really would rather not zlin an upset Donor, on top of everything else. He answers in English.
Seruffin: The damage doesn't have to be fatal. Not yet, anyway.
Pollovic quickly organizes his human cordon.
Gerrhonot: Please, Mrs. Tsibola. Hajene Seruffin can save his life.
Pollovic: Say the word, Hajene, and on my authority everything inside this boundary will become temporary Sime Territory.
Bernice: Is he dying, Seruffin? ~~ tight control over strong mixed emotions ~~
Pollovic rips pages from a small pocket notebook and, mindful of the legalities, begins scribbling "Sime Territory" on each sheet.
Seruffin: As far as I can tell, through the retainers... it's likely, if he doesn't get help.
Bernice: And you can save him?
Triangusul: [Simelan] Hajene, if you're going to defibrillate him, I should go back outside, shouldn't I?
Bernice is trembling. She knows that her husband wouldn't consent, on principle, but she'd rather he were alive to be angry at her than dead on principle.
Seruffin: [Simelan] Yes. [English] I can get his heart to beat more normally, probably. It will help his breathing, too. After that, it will be up to him.
Pollovic: Let him help, Bernice. Please, let him help.
Pollovic is still scribbling.
Bernice: Can you hear me, Ruthven? I'm not going to let you make me a widow. We can deal with the consequences later.
Bernice brushes a lock of white hair off Ruthven's sweating forehead.
Bernice: All right, Seruffin. Do what you can.
Triangusul returns to the main room and walks over to his aforementioned Gen naztehr.
Pollovic: On my personal responsibility, this space is now Sime Territory.
Gerrhonot breathes a sigh of ~~ relief ~~ and offers Seruffin help in removing his retainers.
Pollovic quickly distributes the slips of paper to the members of his human chain.
Pollovic: Now, all of you think warm, calm thoughts.
Seruffin can't help feeling the ~~ relief ~~ as the pinching retainer is removed.
Pollovic himself is now broadcasting the ~~ icy calm ~~ that often finds him in moments of impersonal crisis.
Gerrhonot notes the mark where the retainer pinched and resolves to chide Seruffin later for not saying anything about it.
Pollovic notes that the string quartet and the caterers have packed up and moved into the next gallery, along with all but a few stragglers among the guests.
Seruffin bends over his patient, laterals extending.
Pollovic ducks under a pair of joined hands, and goes to make reassuring noises to the crowd in the next room, still broadcasting an air of artificial ~~ calm ~~ .
Gerrhonot moves behind his channel, hands on his shoulders, adjusting his nager to help him work. ~~ strong reliable support, love admiration devotion ~~
Bernice stands back and wrings her hands, hoping that Ruthven will survive.
Triangusul briefs Truckner on what's going on, in accordance with doctrine.