Mr. Ambassador: Episode 17

Tsibola has succeeded in setting aside his problems during a nice dinner, but now the beef and potatoes are gone, as is the sweet. He views his empty plate ~~ thoughtfully ~~.

Tsibola: You know, if things go as they might, I might not see another meal like this for a long time. Years, perhaps.

Fennik: Your doctor is going to take away more of your pleasures?

Fennik plans to serve herbal tea instead of brandy or coffee in his study this evening.

Tsibola: No. It's complicated, but... Did you hear about Burgess and the Rittenberg girl?

Fennik: Quite the scandal, isn't it? I can't imagine what either of them were thinking.

Tsibola: I expect they weren't. In any case, there's no way anyone would think Burgess a suitable candidate for ambassador, after this came out.

Fennik: Well, it should die down in a few months. Sooner, if something juicier comes along.

Fennik thinks the scandal over his brother-in-law being saved from death by Seruffin has died down reasonably quickly.

Tsibola: I'm sure it will, but there are short-term consequences Burgess won't be able to avoid. Even if his wife is right, and the girl was no better than one would expect of a homebreaker, it shows an unacceptable lapse in common sense and disqualifies Burgess as a candidate for ambassador to Nivet.

Fennik: So who else is in the running? Besides you, that is. I know that isn't serious.

Fennik knows that because Ruthven told him so at the time it was proposed.

Tsibola: The only other serious candidate is Brenn Pollovic. Can you imagine the damage that man would do, as the Nivet ambassador? He'd have everything I've accomplished in twenty years swept aside in six months.

Fennik: He could make quite the mess. But certainly the Senate wouldn't ratify anything that was out of line. And of course, they can recall him if he's too embarrassing.

Tsibola: Two months ago, I would have agreed with you. Today -- I'm not sure I could manage to swing enough of the Senate to defeat his proposals. I lost a lot of support, when I was treated in public by a Sime.

Fennik: Surely your colleagues have the sense to act in our interests without being prodded by you?

Tsibola: With the conservatives in disarray, the liberals might well succeed in getting things past us.

Fennik: Yes, but even they have some sense. More than Pollovic has shown lately, at least.

Tsibola: Unless... well, Pollovic has baggage of his own. He could be defeated by another credible candidate.

Fennik: So who's stepping forward?

Tsibola looks down at his empty plate again.

Tsibola: I've been approached about running for real. With Burgess gone, the votes are there, apparently, but they come with conditions.

Fennik: Conditions?

Tsibola: The Centrists have decided, for reasons known only to them, that the next ambassador must not exercise diplomatic privilege in certain matters.

Fennik tries to puzzle that out.

Fennik: What matters?

Tsibola's fists clench in ~~ anger ~~.

Tsibola: I would have to waive my right to remain... unmolested... in Simeland.

Fennik: Ah. Donation. That is asking a lot of you, after your strong stand all these years.

Tsibola: It would also destroy much of what's left of my reputation among the Conservative base.

Fennik knows how much his public resolve never to darken the door of a Sime Center means to Ruthven, although personally he no longer sees donation as anything to be upset about.

Tsibola: I don't think that's an accident.

Fennik: Surely you're not going to let them push you into this? It's an outrage.

Fennik feels for his brother-in-law's loss of dignity.

Tsibola: It's sheer blackmail. The question is, is it worth giving in to it to stop Pollovic? Or to put it another way, is my reputation worth more to me than accomplishing what I believe to be right for New Washington?

Fennik: No one else will? Some younger man, with a less established stance?

Fennik says 'established' but he means 'hardened'.

Tsibola: There aren't any volunteers, so far. Why else would the Centrists be willing to throw their support my way? Besides, the Simes would walk all over an inexperienced youngster.

Fennik: Well, not a youngster, but someone with a reasonable level of experience and acumen. It's a lot to expect from you, at your age and position.

Tsibola: There aren't any volunteers, as I said. For some strange reason. Unless something changes, it's me or Pollovic.

Fennik: What does Bernice think?

Tsibola: She said she'll support me in whatever I decide to do. I don't know if it's fair to subject her to living in Simeland, but... it might be my only chance to salvage something from my career. I'm not ready to retire, Jon.

Fennik: Do you think the party is trying to force you into retirement? Will they keep turning the screws until you do?

Tsibola: Very likely, There are plenty who resent the discipline I've imposed. Also... Jon, I might not be able to keep working in the Senate much longer, in any case. I've been having more chest pains, off and on.

Fennik: The ambassador position could just as stressful, if not more so.

Fennik enjoyed his trip to Nivet, especially in retrospect, but wouldn't want to live there, and he's far more sympathetic toward Simes since Fridda's changeover than Ruthven could ever be.

Tsibola: It might be, but at least I'd be accomplishing something.

Fennik silently adds "...or trying to."

Fennik: You've managed your negotiations with Seruffin and his team quite well over the years. And donation isn't difficult if you view it objectively.

Tsibola: I find it hard to be objective about that sort of... humiliation.

Fennik: I suppose the trick is not to view it as humiliating. You could think of it as a gift of life to Fridda, perhaps.

Tsibola: I thought it was your selyn donations that support her?

Fennik: If you like, you can assign your donations to her, and I'll just send her the money. I've found it very gratifying to think of how I'm helping her.

Tsibola: That won't be necessary. What really bothers me the most about the situation is that if I accept, I'll be handing the Simes a personal victory over me. That's petty, I know, but there you are.

Fennik: It's unfair of the Centrists to require this of you. Perhaps they're using it to make you resign your candidacy.

Tsibola: Perhaps. Or maybe they just want to have a hold over me.

Fennik shrugs.

Fennik: You're the politician of long standing. I'm sure you can see it more clearly than I can. But it looks like they're all trying to manipulate you in some way. Perhaps you should let Pollovic have it, and let the rest of them cope with the results.

Tsibola: That would be very gratifying, on a purely personal level, but the larger consequences would be a disaster.

Fennik: But is it up to you to save them from their folly at such a great personal cost?

Tsibola: Who else is there? And if the answer is "nobody", can I in conscience stand aside, whatever the personal cost?

Fennik: This started out as a formality to punish you for letting a channel save your life, which wasn't even your conscious decision. Need you let them railroad you into it? They're expecting you to back down from positions you've maintained throughout your career, and in the direction they were punishing you for.

Tsibola: It's two different "theys", Jon. It was our fellow Conservatives who wanted me humiliated for what happened at the charity ball, and the Centrists who insist that I destroy my remaining credibility with the Conservative base as a condition of their support.

Fennik: If I may quote the Ancients: "A plague on both their houses!"

Tsibola: Yes. It's tempting to just... leave the Senatorial halls. And then prove that their attempts at humiliation don't mean I've given up on my ideals, even if I can't live them. No one in Simeland will care about that particular form of humiliation, after all, so it wouldn't handicap my ability to do my duties.

Fennik: With the proper attitude, donation need not be humiliating. Perhaps you'll feel better donating to someone other than Seruffin, however, considering that you've been opponents for so many years!

Tsibola: It's true that he's one of the few Simes who might actually understand the political situation here well enough to have some perspective. However, it's not likely that they'd recall him to Simeland to deal with me.

Fennik: Well, if you have a channel looking after your health, you could donate to him or her. That would put it in a medical context for you.

Tsibola: I suppose I'm not likely to get Dr. Young to go to Simeland, am I?

Tsibola gives a ~~ sigh ~~.

Tsibola: How does one go about finding a physician in Simeland, anyway?

Fennik: I'm sure the Tecton will be glad to help you find someone suitable.

Tsibola: I'd really prefer not to have it be an official diplomatic request. There's no point in letting everybody know my health is compromised before I even arrive.

Tsibola has a somewhat unrealistic view of how the Tecton manages "interesting" patients.

Fennik: When you donate, the channel evaluates your health, so they'll know anyway.

Tsibola: That one will, yes. I'm more concerned about the people I'll be up against at official functions and meetings.

Fennik shrugs.

Fennik: Simes zlin. Channels can zlin very acutely, but less so than when they're in a transfer contact. Retainers interfere with their sensitivity, but of course they don't wear retainers in Nivet.

Tsibola: You're saying my private medical information might as well be written on my forehead for everyone to see?

Fennik: Well, not everyone. Just the better channels, and not in a great deal of detail unless they specifically examine you. Of course, I'm no expert!

Tsibola chuckles.

Tsibola: Neither of us is, if it comes to that. Let's hope we're not too old to learn the minimum, if and when it comes to that.

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