Fridda is sitting at a corner table in a student coffee house, warming her hands on a large mug of trin. She's thinking that so-called spring in Capital is a lot colder than in New Washington City.
Harless is sitting next to Fridda trying to imagine that just sitting next to a Sime is enough to warm him up. No luck.
Kabran blows into the Bunmin, collects a Gen-friendly sandwich to go with her trin, and looks around for company good enough to justify not pulling out her history book and studying.
Kabran: Fridda, Harless, do you have room for one more?
Fridda: Sure. Plenty of space.
Kabran settles across from Fridda, and takes a big bite from her sandwich.
Harless had hoped for another Sime on his other side. No luck again. It's ~~ coooooold ~~ in this place. He pulls a broadsheet newspaper out of his jacket and glances through it.
Kabran is ~~ hungry ~~, since she didn't have time for a proper breakfast and has been running around from building to building ever since.
Fridda can zlin how cold Harless is.
Fridda: Here, put on my cloak.
Fridda pulls it from the back of her chair and offers it.
Harless accepts, as is etiquette for a Gen in such a situation, and wraps the cloak tightly around him and puts the newspaper down open on the table. Time to deal with that when he's a bit more lively, but his eye is caught by one of the smaller articles.
Harless: Hey, a new ambassador from out-T's been appointed. Anybody you know, Fridda?
Harless puts a hand out, pushes the paper to Fridda, and rewarms his hand.
Kabran cranes her neck to read the the indicated article upside down, but it's too far away.
Fridda looks for the article. Her father wrote to her about her uncle's heart attack, and his party's effort to punish him by making him go through the motions of being a candidate for ambassador.
Fridda knows it was just for show, so she's only mildly curious about who got the appointment.
Kabran: How do you pronounce that crazy name, anyway? I can see S and T, but T and S is a weird combination.
Fridda's mild curiosity turns to ~~ shock ~~ when she sees the new ambassador's name.
Fridda: Oh, no. My uncle.
Kabran: What's wrong, Fridda? Didn't you say he'd been sick?
Harless: Looks like he got over it awful fast if he's going to come here.
Kabran: Come here? You mean...?
Harless believes, like most other Sime Territory citizens, that out-Territory the sick either die or get better by themselves.
Harless: Yup. Newly appointed Ambassador Sibowla. Says so right here.
Fridda is trying to figure out how it could have happened. Her uncle is so astute politically, so thoroughly experienced...
Kabran: Wow. Your uncle. I thought you said he didn't like Simes?
Harless: Yup. "Notorious for his anti-Sime politics", it says.
Fridda: He had a heart attack. It's a pretty common thing to happen to Gens that age.
Fridda knows that there are very very few people over the age of fifty or so in Nivet, almost all of them Householders.
Harless: And that changed his mind? How's that?
Kabran: It's easy. Where else can he get proper treatment?
Fridda: Uh. It's complicated. Very complicated.
Kabran: Do tell!
Harless: Yes, please.
Kabran has a Current Events discussion session tomorrow evening, and her grade could use a boost.
Fridda: Well, my uncle's political platform has always been to oppose Sime influence in New Washington. So he pledged to his voters never to enter a Sime Center or have anything to do with Simes outside of his senatorial duties.
Kabran: He sounds like a real lorsh. Literally, I mean.
Fridda: Things are different out-T.
Harless: High-powered Gen like that, no berserker is ever gonna get near him.
Kabran: Funny that it takes that kind of power and position for a Gen out there to have the same degree of safety as dirt-poor starving students like you and me, Harless.
Harless: It's still the junct era in Upside-Down Territory. Being insulated from Simes is kind of like the opposite of getting access to Choice Kills was over here.
Harless is one of those people full of odd scraps of information about all subjects, but with no expertise in any of them.
Fridda: Well, he's not all that insulated. Most berserkers kill a family member. He doesn't have any children. I suppose he could have really bad luck and get attacked by a berserker he doesn't know, but it's not all that likely, really.
Harless: So what about his being sick?
Fridda: He had his heart attack at a public gathering and fortunately a channel was present, and treated him on the spot and saved his life. He wasn't able to give consent but his wife, my aunt, was there and told the channel to go ahead. But some people in my uncle's party decided that he'd broken his promise because the channel worked on him, so he should be punished for it.
Kabran: And has he changed his mind about Simes?
Kabran: I mean, if he's going to be ambassador, he'd have to, wouldn't he?
Fridda: I don't know if he's changed his mind personally, but he can't really change it publicly. His stand on Sime influences out-T is really basic for his position.
Harless: In Ancient days even enemy countries exchanged ambassadors, if they weren't actually fighting.
Fridda: But he wasn't supposed to actually become ambassador -- he was just supposed to be a candidate, and let another guy win it. I don't know what happened.
Fridda is actively ~~ worried ~~.
Kabran: So you think something went wrong?
Fridda: He's a very old man -- over 70 natal years -- and now he's got a bad heart. It would be awfully stressful for him. I don't see why he'd take the job.
Fridda shakes her head.
Kabran: Over 70? You're kidding us, right?
Fridda: No. Lots of people out-T live to that age, or even older. My grandfather was over 80 natal years when he died.
Harless: Yeah, they just rot from the inside outward. --No offense intended.
Fridda turns to Harless.
Fridda: You've never met any old people. Some of them stay very sharp, like my uncle for example.
Harless: So the brain goes last?
Harless's curiosity verges on the prurient.
Fridda: I guess it depends on the individual. Some old people get tired and their memory isn't so good.
Kabran: It stands to reason. I mean, there's only so much you can stuff into your brain before something else has to go.
Kabran proved it by forgetting all her calculus while she studied for her history class.
Fridda: I guess people here will live to old ages now too. Now that we have Unity.
Kabran: So is your uncle all wrinkled and white-haired and stuff?
Fridda: His hair has pretty much turned white, and I suppose he has about the amount of wrinkles a man his age gets, if he isn't out in the sun all the time, like a farmer.
Harless tries not to feel ~~ disgusted ~~.
Fridda: Well, if you live that long, you'll look like that too. White hair is distinguished. And your only other choice is to die younger, after all.
Harless: True, true.
Harless has never heard of the Who, so his emotional state returns to ~~ neutral interest ~~.
Kabran: When you put it that way, it makes sense, I guess.
Harless: So what's your best guess as to what it's going to mean for him to actually be ambassador? He won't go trying to tear up the First Contract, will he?
Fridda: Well, it's not like an ambassador has all that much power. He has to express the will of his government, right? Even if it conflicts with his own opinions.
Fridda shakes her head again.
Fridda: I just don't see why he'd agree to do it.
Kabran: Maybe he really did want to sneak off here, where he can get decent medical care?
Fridda: I don't know. That doesn't sound like him. But nearly dying can have a big effect on people's thinking.
Harless: Maybe not power, but he's got to still have influence.
Harless: He knows where the bones are buried, is that the phrase?
Fridda: [Genlan] Where the bodies are buried.
Harless: [Simelan] Bones, bodies, whatever.
Fridda: Or maybe, who has a skeleton in their closet.
Harless ~~ winces ~~.
Harless: Who would do such a thing, except an anatomist?
Fridda: It's figurative. Something you'd really want to hide, if you got it by murdering somebody.
Harless: I guess you would at that.
Harless is warm enough now to take the newspaper back and continue reading the article.
Kabran: Are you going to go see your uncle when he gets here?
Fridda: I'd like to, but he might not want to publicize that he knows me, so it would be up to him.
Harless: But he knows you're here?
Fridda: Yes. He visited me after I changed over, before I came in-T.
Harless: Hmm, this is interesting. In the last paragraph: "Unlike previous ambassadors to Nivet, Senator Sibowla and his staff will be donating regularly." No explanation of why.
Fridda is ~~ shocked ~~ again.
Fridda: Oh, dear. That will be very hard on his dignity. I just can't see why he's doing it at all.
Kabran: Well, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? How else can he function, here?
Kabran has donated every month since she established, and doesn't see why it would even be an issue.
Harless: Why would there be an exception before?
Fridda: Out-T, people have very strong opinions about donating. They think it's humiliating or crass.
Harless: Upside-down Territory.
Kabran: Maybe your uncle decided that out-T folks were wrong about channels when one saved his life? An ambassador who didn't donate would have a hard time getting anything done here, right? Maybe your uncle just decided he wanted to be effective.
Fridda: Maybe. But the other ambassadors must have done okay without donating, right?
Harless gives the "It makes no sense at all" gesture.
Fridda: I hope he'll be all right. I'll write to my father and see if he knows what's going on.
Kabran: Why wouldn't he be all right? It's just a donation.
Fridda: I mean, over all. All this stress has got to be bad for a man with a bad heart.
Kabran: At least he'll be able to get to a channel when he gets here. Does the article say when that will be?
Fridda looks again.
Fridda: No, it doesn't say. Maybe my father will know.