Tsibola is ~~ furious ~~ at the underhanded tactics being employed by his rival conservative to publicize his shame, and ~~ determined ~~ not to become a laughingstock.
Bernice comes back from her stroll the length of the train, an effort to keep her joints from stiffening up, to find out that her husband is finally going to donate, and under some duress because of Rundle's latest move.
Tsibola's blood pressure, needless to say, would not read 120/80 on an Ancient monitor.
Bernice hasn't told her husband that she donated last night. She's been waiting for a time when it will be less likely to upset him but concludes that even though this is a bad time, she'd better tell him now instead of later. She knocks and enters their compartment.
Tsibola: The nerve of that... Bernice, did Maklinn tell you what Rundle has done?
Bernice: Yes. Despicable, as usual.
Bernice wonders whether she can calm her husband down, even a little.
Bernice: Here, have a seat.
Bernice sits, herself.
Tsibola is ~~ very tempted ~~ to continue his rant, but he's rather tired, so he complies ~~ reluctantly ~~.
Bernice takes his hand, and strokes it soothingly.
Tsibola: I won't give him the satisfaction of making my humiliation public, Bernice. I won't.
Bernice: Of course not. After all, we've got a channel right here with us.
Bernice pats his hand, then leans against his shoulder lightly.
Tsibola: Yes. And the only photographer on board knows who pays his salary.
Bernice: Last night I was thinking about this whole situation, and decided to do something about it.
Tsibola can't imagine anything Bernice could do to ward off a media feeding frenzy.
Bernice: I decided that if they were going to make you donate, I should show solidarity by donating myself. It ought to embarrass these people, to see what they've pushed a respectable woman into.
Tsibola is ~~ shocked ~~ and ~~ touched ~~.
Tsibola: Bernice, you don't have to do that. This whole thing is a power play against me; it shouldn't be you who pays for it.
Bernice: We're a team, aren't we? They should see that what they do to you affects me too.
Tsibola: It's a potent publicity angle, to be sure, but Bernice, we aren't that desperate for publicity. You must think of yourself.
Tsibola is quite ~~ solicitous ~~ of his wife's comfort.
Bernice smiles and squeezes his hand.
Bernice: Too late now. I went ahead and did it last night. So go ahead and make the most of it.
Tsibola's heart throbs with ~~ shock ~~.
Tsibola: You what?
Bernice: I donated to Hajene Katsura. She's a very nice woman, quite well bred, for a Sime.
Tsibola: Well, they'd hardly send a peasant to babysit the new Ambassador.
Bernice: It wasn't at all difficult. She's aware of how distasteful we'd find it, and did her best to make it as little unpleasant as possible.
Bernice squeezes his hand.
Bernice: I actually feel quite relieved. I think it will be less difficult for you than I imagined.
Tsibola: Maklinn said she had a smooth touch.
Bernice: She does indeed. She's very polite and sympathetic. According to her Companion, she has a very high professional rating. One of the highest in the Tecton. So they are doing what they can to provide us with the best.
Tsibola: Good. That bodes well for putting together some degree of real influence.
Bernice is pleased to note how very much calmer Ruthven is now than when she came in. Is it possible that he's viewing the donation with a less negative bias? Maybe it will be less of a strain on his heart.
Bernice: Indeed. Now that we're committed, it's time to start taking a more positive stance.
Tsibola: I suppose you're right, like usual, dear.
Tsibola pats Bernice's hand.
Tsibola: What would I ever do, without you to give me perspective?
Bernice: Oh, I'm sure you'd get by, but it would be harder, eh?
Bernice smiles and pats his hand.
Brenda, who has been hunched in the room's tiny, private bathroom for what seems like hours, has been unable to avoid hearing every word of the discussion.
Brenda, who originally dived into the chamber right after breakfast when her nerves got the better of her digestion, has no idea how to get out of here now without even greater embarrassment. All she can think of to do is sit tight for as long as she can, and hope for a chance to escape from her illicit use of the private facilities as soon as the Ambassador leaves.
Brenda is all too aware that she herself still must donate, either before or at the border.
Katsura approaches the door of the Tsibolas' compartment.
Katsura: Bernice is with him, Nick, and he doesn't seem anything like as upset as he was.
Katsura zlins the presence of Mrs. Tsibola's maid in the compartment beyond, most distressed, and with nervous bowels because of it. Well, she supposes she can offer the girl a tranquilizer if necessary, or let the border channel handle her donation.
Nick: That's good.
Katsura taps at the door in an effort to emulate Gen custom.
Tsibola's hand tightens on his wife's at the tap.
Katsura does, with Nick following.
Katsura: Good day, Ambassador, Mrs. Tsibola.
Nick: Good day, sir, ma'am.
Nick has caught on to using "ma'am" instead of "miz" for people in the Tsibolas' class.
Tsibola: I trust Maklinn has told you of the trouble at the border, and the solution we devised?
Tsibola is hiding behind the rigid formality of Gen upper-class society so he can ignore his ~~ anger ~~ and ~~ shame ~~ at being put into such a situation, or his ~~ savage glee ~~ at the prospect of foiling the worst of Rundle's plot.
Katsura: Yes. We're glad to oblige you in any way we can.
Katsura finds Tsibola's complex mix of emotions interesting, and is glad that they aren't out of control.
Katsura: Do you have any questions about donation? Or concerns you'd like to discuss?
Nick settles into the usual pattern of support he uses when protecting Katsura from worried, frightened, or upset Wild Gens.
Tsibola has plenty of concerns, but the border is approaching rapidly and he's not the only highfield Gen remaining.
Tsibola: There really isn't time for that now.
Katsura: We have time. Donation only takes a minute or two, so we can spend as much time as you like to prepare for it.
Katsura's voice takes on the characteristics of a channel at work.
Tsibola is getting ~~ tense ~~ as the moment approaches, and he has to pause a moment as he takes off his jacket to ease the beginning ~~ ache ~~ in his chest.
Katsura zlins the ache, and hopes it won't get worse. She's not very optimistic about it, though.
Bernice stands and moves to Ruthven's other side to make room for Kat. She takes his jacket and puts her hand on his shoulder in a coincidentally Donor-like manner.
Tsibola finds that ~~ comforting ~~, although he intends to have a word with the channel in the future to discover if it really was his wife's uninfluenced decision to donate.
Katsura: May I sit next to you here?
Tsibola nods shortly.
Katsura sits, not touching him. She's glad she has Nick's strong, beautiful and reliable nager to lean on.
Nick moves to what would be the neutral point if it weren't for Brenda's field, and stands there. He does have a subtle feeling that that's not quite right somehow, but passes it off as an effect of the moving train or some other disturbing factor.
Katsura recognizes that Nick can't be aware of the Gen in the next compartment, then realizes she isn't in the next compartment, but in the tiny washroom attached to this compartment.
Katsura wonders if the Tsibolas are aware of her presence there, or if they've stationed her there for some mysterious purpose. Her distress, both mental and abdominal, adds another unpleasant note to the none-too-pleasant ambient.
Katsura wonders if she should say anything, but she's noticed that out-T Gens are strangely reticent about normal bodily functions and the places they are performed, and decides to let it go and discuss it with Nick later.
Brenda continues to sit in the tiny washroom, struggling to contain the nervous whimper that wants to force its way from her throat.
Tsibola finishes rolling up his sleeves, in a hurry to get the whole unpleasant business over with so he can lie down and rest for a while before they arrive at the border.
Katsura nods at the sleeve rolling.
Katsura: Thank you. May I take your hands?
Bernice gives her husband's shoulder a subtle and encouraging squeeze.
Tsibola is not usually so sparing of syllables, but he is finding this entire process ~~ distasteful ~~, and he's a little short of breath from the stress-induced ~~ ache ~~ in his chest.
Katsura slowly reaches over and takes the Gen's offered hands.
Tsibola doesn't try to avoid her hands.
Nick moves closer to Kat, but instinct tells him that's the wrong way this time.
Katsura: Just a moment.
Katsura: [Simelan] Nick, the maid is in the washroom. I have no idea why, but she's very distressed and it's affecting the ambient.
Katsura knows that Nick won't need further information to take it into account.
Nick: [Simelan] Shall I try to... oh, no, I can't, she's from out-T.
Nick gives it up and moves to the right place now that he knows.
Tsibola: Is something wrong, Hajene Farris?
Katsura: No, I'm just telling Nick about something I zlinned, so he can take it into account.
Nick nods abstractedly as he concentrates on blocking the waves of upset presumably coming from the maid.
Katsura: These walls aren't really insulated from a nageric point of view.
Nick: But it's nothing we can't handle, Ambassador.
Tsibola: Good. It would be difficult to halt the train.
Katsura: I'd like to extend my tentacles onto your skin now. May I?
Tsibola nods his permission, although his mouth twists in ~~ distaste ~~.
Katsura finds that unsurprising and takes his arms in a snug but not tight grip with her handling tentacles.
Katsura: In the next step, I'll tighten my hold and extend my lateral tentacles. They may feel a little strange, but it won't be painful. It's important that you don't move when my lateral tentacles are in contact with you because they're very delicate and you could injure me.
Bernice remembers the strange but not particularly disgusting feel of the channel's laterals and pats Ruthven's shoulder.
Tsibola's physical and emotional ~~ discomfort ~~ doesn't prevent him from seeing through that one, but he figures that it's not worth arguing.
Tsibola: Go on.
Brenda silently clenches her fists in the fabric of her skirt, which is still bunched up in her lap as she sits.
Katsura smoothly tightens her grip and extends her laterals into transfer contact.
Katsura: Next, we'll make the lip contact. Then I'll draw the selyn. You won't feel anything, and it will take only a minute or two. Please lean forward when you're ready.
Tsibola's ~~ disgust ~~ at the whole process is sufficiently strong to upset both of them.
Katsura has gotten used to the reactions of out-T Gens forcing themselves to donate, after her experiences at Cottonwood City, so she can manage despite the disgust.
Nick senses the channel's discomfort and boosts his protection slightly. ~~ unconditional support ~~
Tsibola figures he might as well get it over with, however, and leans forward.
Katsura meets his lips and zlins him carefully. Other than his heart, he's in reasonable shape for a man of his age, but his heart.... oh, dear. A frightening percentage of the muscle is dead and being replaced by tough inelastic scar tissue. No wonder even mild stress causes him pain.
Tsibola is not aware that his heart is being evaluated; if he were, he might feel a bit less like a faceless commodity.
Katsura takes mental notes on what she zlins then moves to draw his donation. She does it somewhat more slowly than she usually would, out of caution, but finishes and breaks the contact in only a bit over a minute.
Katsura: There. Finished.
Katsura dismantles the tentacle contacts and releases the Gen's hands.
Nick ~~ modifies his support ~~ as Kat disengages.
Tsibola feels as ~~ shamed and humiliated ~~ as Rundle could wish, albeit with fewer witnesses.
Bernice pats his shoulder.
Katsura: I'm very sorry you were coerced into this, Ambassador. I know you wouldn't have done it otherwise.
Tsibola: Certainly not. Do you know where my pills are, Bernice?
Bernice: Yes. I'll get them for you.
Katsura: I examined your heart while we were in contact, so I'll be able to write a report for the specialist the Tecton has found for you. She'll be meeting with you in Capital.
Katsura stands, figuring that the man won't want to be close to her for any longer than necessary.
Tsibola finds the greater distance at least a partial ~~ relief ~~.
Nick remains ~~ alert ~~ and ~~ supportive ~~ , unconvinced that the worst is over.
Bernice opens the washroom door to get the pills, and gasps with ~~ surprise ~~.
Bernice: Brenda! What in the world are you doing in there?
Katsura moves closer to Nick.
Brenda: I... I...
Brenda stares up at her employer in ~~ terror ~~ and ~~ humiliation ~~ .
Brenda: I needed... couldn't wait...
Brenda buries her face in her hands and bursts into tears.
Bernice sighs. She really didn't think it was a good idea to bring the girl with her, but she really wanted to come.
Tsibola is ~~ outraged ~~ that his careful plan to gain privacy for his humiliation has been unsuccessful.
Katsura zlins the outrage with ~~ concern ~~.
Katsura: Please let us know if there's anything else we can do for you, Ambassador.
Nick shifts a little closer to his channel. ~~ ready ~~
Katsura signals to Nick and moves toward the door.
Tsibola: I think you've done quite enough for me, personally, Hajene. And I believe there are others awaiting your... services... if we are to avoid delays at the border?
Katsura: Nick and I will be in our compartment, ready to help. We'll tell Mr. Maklinn -- I believe he's keeping track of the personnel.
Brenda whimpers. She knows she's one of the "others".
Katsura: Good day, Ambassador, Mrs. Tsibola.
Katsura wants to get away from the scene, and let the Tsibolas handle their servant in their own way. She exits, Nick in tow.