Mr. Ambassador: Episode 9

Layna is ~~ fidgeting ~~ on a hard bench in a hall in the Gen Senate building, waiting for her major professor to finish testifying in the committee room down the hall. She doesn't do the "sit still and wait patiently" thing all that well, strangely enough.

Layna has a box with her, containing the evidence that Larry's pawn shop was fencing items stolen from in-T, just in case Yilma's questioners actually want to see the evidence.

Pollovic strides down the hallway, eager for coffee. He's got half an hour before he's supposed to meet Pametta and her father in the Senate cafeteria for lunch. He's immersed in thought. He still finds it awkward talking to his future father-in-law, though he hopes Pametta's presence will make it a little easier.

Pollovic sidesteps a gaggle of flunkies going in the opposite direction, and almost bumps into the legs of a young woman seated on a bench.

Layna is wearing Dar livery today, which is designed to allow fighting, and thus is far too comfortable for formal Gen occasions.

Pollovic: Oops. I'm sorry, miss.

Pollovic takes a better look at the young lady.

Layna looks up. She looks fresh-faced, very healthy, and utterly out of place.

Pollovic is trying to remember his Simelan phrasebook, then settles for English.

Pollovic: Respect to, um...

Pollovic's Sime heraldry is even weaker than his Simelan.

Layna grins.

Layna: I'm Layna ambrov Dar, and pleased to meet you.

Pollovic offers his fingertips.

Pollovic: Senator Pollovic. Respect to Dar.

Layna: Thank you, Senator.

Layna brushes fingers.

Layna: Not many people out here seem to recognize House livery.

Pollovic: I've been taking a crash course in everything Sime-related. I've barely made a beginning at it, I'm afraid.

Layna chuckles.

Layna: I know from painful experience just how difficult that can be.

Pollovic: You're from here, originally?

Pollovic doesn't think so, given the young woman's accent.

Layna: Nah, I'm Housebred for generations. But my first major professor was working out-Territory, so I joined him for a bit.

Pollovic decides Layna is much more interesting than a cup of stale coffee.

Pollovic: You're a scholar? What's your field?

Pollovic reflects that Layna doesn't look like a scholar. She looks much more like a farmer, or maybe some kind of athlete.

Layna: I'm not a scholar yet, just yet another slob graduate student. In anthropology.

Pollovic: That must be fascinating. There's so much of Ancient culture we don't understand yet.

Pollovic finds it awkward talking, with him standing and Layna sitting.

Pollovic: Mind if I join you on your bench?

Layna: Please do.

Pollovic: Or are you studying modern cultures?

Pollovic sits, at a respectable conversational distance.

Layna: I was, but that didn't work out well, and I had to change major professors. I'm working at that dig over by Shen, these days. We had a shipment of Ancient artifacts stolen, and we've been trying to trace them.

Pollovic: Ah. Is that what brings you here today?

Layna: Yes. There are indications that at least some of the shipment ended up here in New Washington. We're hoping that we can get your Senate to do something to curb the trade in illegal artifacts.

Pollovic: That must be almost impossible, with so much traffic going back and forth across the border these days. Aren't most artifacts quite small?

Layna: Some are, some aren't. But they get stolen because they can be sold for a profit. If people can be convinced not to buy them, it won't be worth the criminals' time to steal them. And our mutual heritage can be preserved.

Pollovic: You've got an uphill battle, I'm afraid. They seem to be very trendy to possess, especially among the conservative set. The ones who believe Gens and only Gens are the heirs of the Ancients.

Layna gives a snort of the sort well-bred Gen ladies pretend they can't make.

Layna: Well, at least they can't deny that there's smuggling going on, any more. Not with this.

Layna pats her box with ~~ affection ~~.

Pollovic: What have you got there?

Pollovic is genuinely ~~ curious ~~ .

Layna: Solid evidence. There was a shipment stolen from the Shen dig, about a month ago. It was being sent to Frihill, so it had no business getting close to the border.

Pollovic nods, trying to picture a map of Nivet without being so rude as to close his eyes.

Layna: And yet, two objects from that shipment have been purchased at a certain pawn shop in New Washington, complete with false papers.

Pollovic: Hmm. Yes, I'd say that's solid evidence. Is that what you've got there? The artifacts?

Layna: Yes.

Pollovic wonders whether it would be crass to ask for a peek at them.

Layna opens the box, showing a metal disk and a multicolored blob of melted plastic, of the sort that can be picked up at any Ancient site.

Pollovic: They don't look like much, do they?

Pollovic bends in for a closer look, but he knows better than to touch. He's seen Ancient objects shatter at the touch of a fingertip.

Layna: They're pretty much worthless, actually. I packed them in around the more valuable objects because I thought they were pretty. I expect the valuable objects are being held for real collectors, and the thieves were just trying to get rid of them. However, they are distinctive, and I have pictures of them in my catalog of the stolen shipment.

Pollovic: Which makes them very valuable, now.

Layna: Yes. If the authorities here can be persuaded to take action, perhaps the smuggling ring can be tracked back and broken.

Pollovic thinks for a moment.

Pollovic: You ought to have a bodyguard. If whoever smuggled them knows you've got them, the first thing they'll do is try to get them back.

Layna grins.

Layna: I hope they do. I could use some fun.

Pollovic: Fun? Er, perhaps you don't understand...

Pollovic knows that Gens are usually sheltered in Nivet. Gen women, presumably even more so.

Pollovic: They could get physically violent about trying to get them back.

Layna: All the better. I haven't had a good workout since last week. And that was only two muggers, and they were trying to run away before we'd hardly had a chance to get started.

Layna peers ~~ eagerly ~~ down the hall, looking for the promised treat.

Pollovic stares in ~~ amazement ~~ .

Pollovic: Workout? Muggers?

Layna: Yeah. Two thugs with no technique at all, trying to rob some girl a little younger than me.

Pollovic: Two against one, and you just a...?

Pollovic stops himself barely in time to avoid saying, "just a young girl".

Layna is a little ~~ insulted ~~.

Layna: I'm not a combat instructor yet, but I'm hardly incompetent.

Pollovic: I thought you said you were an anthropologist. ~~ puzzled ~~

Layna: I am.

Pollovic: But...?

Pollovic, when he thinks "combat instructor", usually thinks of some hulking, male, Gen army sergeant.

Layna sighs, remembering that this Senator Pollovic claimed he was just starting to learn about in-T matters.

Layna: Dar's specialty is combat. Our main income comes from providing bodyguards and other services that the military or police can't or won't provide.

Pollovic: Oh.

Pollovic is busily trying to rearrange what he thought he understood about this young woman. To keep the conversation going while he thinks, he asks an almost random question.

Pollovic: So who was this girl the muggers were after?

Layna: Oh, no one I knew. Jay something. Jaysin? No, that's a man's name out here, isn't it?

Pollovic: Jaysel? Jacind? Jayanna?

Layna: Jacind, that was it.

Pollovic knows of only one Jacind who's anywhere close to Layna's age.

Layna: It wasn't much of a fight -- Wolfie and his friend ran as soon as I threw them.

Pollovic: Jacind Rittenberg? About so tall, with long hair just a little bit lighter than mine?

Pollovic marks a point several inches below his chin. He thinks again and raises his hand an inch or so. The last time he saw the girl, at his own ball, she'd grown considerably from what he remembered of her.

Layna: That could describe a lot of girls.

Pollovic: Jacind's not all that common a name. And if it's the girl I'm thinking of, she'd look rich enough to be worth mugging. I'm surprised she didn't have guards, though.

Layna shrugs.

Layna: As it turned out, she didn't require them. If it's even the same girl.

Pollovic shrugs. It doesn't really matter. He fishes for a change of topic.

Pollovic: So what were they trying to steal?

Layna: Anything that was valuable enough to sell or trade, I imagine. They didn't stick around afterwards to explain themselves.

Layna winks.

Pollovic: It's a good thing you were there.

Pollovic is ~~ annoyed ~~ by that; New Washington shouldn't have to depend on civilian visitors for its crime control.

Pollovic: New Washington owes you for your help to that young lady. Is there anything you require, that I might be able to help you with?

Layna: Not unless you can help convince your fellow Senators that the past is worth preserving. Oh, and do you know a good place to find gardening trinkets? I promised my mother something from New Washington.

Pollovic: My mother has some of the best rose bushes in the Territory. I'll ask her, if you like. Where are you staying?

Layna: That little bed and breakfast at the edge of campus. One of my professor's colleagues found it for us.

Pollovic: Magda's Hearth? The one with the blue and gold sign?

Layna: Yes. Next to the pub. Their ale isn't bad, but the lager's awful.

Pollovic: I've never tried it, so I wouldn't know.

Layna grins.

Layna: You really should get out more, then.

Pollovic: Oh, I'm quite the social butterfly this season. And shall be forced to be even more of one, I expect, once I'm married. Speaking of which...

Pollovic takes out his pocket watch and glances at it.

Pollovic: I'm meeting my fiancee for lunch in just a few minutes.

Layna: You mustn't be late then.

Pollovic stands, and offers the fingertip touch once more.

Layna reaches out to brush fingers.

Pollovic: It's been a pleasure, ma'am.

Layna: Thank you. I wish you and your wife-to-be the best in your future.

Pollovic: Thank you. You may be seeing us in Nivet, sooner than you think.

Layna: I hope I do.

Layna isn't thinking in terms of a position as a bodyguard for an Ambassador.

Pollovic is. For an Ambassador's wife, at least.

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