Fantasies and Realities: Episode 1

Fridda is sitting on a park bench, working on a piece of bobbin lace, as physical therapy for her short, clumsy tentacles. She got up before dawn, as usual, and decided to take a long walk to enjoy the late spring flowers in a wealthy, elaborately landscaped part of town.

Tsibola is taking his mandatory morning walk, which is gradually getting longer as the weather gets warmer and his chest stops hurting quite so often. He walks slowly, of course, with the help of his father's gold-handled cane, but he has gone as far as the nearest park, and has sat down on a bench to rest before heading back.

Fridda isn't making a point of zlinning anybody but notes a strangely familiar nager settling nearby. She looks around, spots her uncle sitting not far away, and wonders if it's okay to approach him in a public place.

Tsibola's eyes are not all that good, so he has not yet noticed Fridda.

Fridda gets up and approaches him.

Fridda: Uncle Ruthven?

Tsibola blinks, and focuses.

Tsibola: Fridda? Child, whatever are you doing here?

Fridda: I just went for a walk. I thought the flowers would be especially nice in this area.

Fridda waits to see whether she'll be invited to sit, or if she should excuse herself.

Tsibola: Yes, yes, I came to see them myself. Sit down where I can see you without craning my neck, girl. I'm too stiff to look up at you for long.

Fridda sits, not too close, although her uncle doesn't zlin nervous about her larity.

Tsibola is ~~ glad ~~ to see Fridda.

Fridda smiles. She'd worried that he would be uncomfortable around her.

Tsibola: So, how is the Sime university? Are you learning as much as you would have at New Washington University?

Fridda laughs.

Fridda: Probably a lot more. I don't know if my father told you, but Simes can learn a lot faster than normal in their First Year after changeover. So I'll be earning my degree in less than half the time I would have at home.

Tsibola: That'll save some time, I suppose.

Fridda smiles.

Fridda: It's really wonderful to be able to absorb things so fast. I'll be sorry when it's over.

Tsibola: What will you do for an encore? Take over the Tecton, or just run the Nivet economy from behind the scenes?

Tsibola is ~~ more than half serious ~~.

Fridda: Oh, well, I don't have any really detailed plans yet. I'll probably work in a large company for a few years to get some practical experience before I take over the whole Territory.

Tsibola: It will make my job simpler when you've succeeded.

Fridda: How are you enjoying being ambassador so far?

Tsibola considers.

Tsibola: It's a little too early to tell -- we're still very much settling in, meeting the proper people and so on.

Fridda nods.

Tsibola: It's a bit warmer here than in New Washington, which I find pleasant, but I don't care much for the food.

Fridda: The food does take some getting used to.

Fridda doesn't bother to tell her uncle that food isn't much of an issue for Simes, and she has adapted to the local culture to the point where the idea of eating meat makes her a little queasy.

Tsibola: I feel like I haven't had a decent supper in weeks, but I suppose I shouldn't complain. I'm under doctor's orders to eat lots of vegetables.

Tsibola's tone implies that this is a sentence of death, or at least a dismal prospect.

Fridda: They tell Simes to eat a lot of vegetables too, but it's supposed to be good for Gens as well.

Tsibola: There are things that are good for you, and things that are simply good. I, for one, prefer the simple life.

Fridda can't zlin much about her uncle's health, being only a renSime. She attributes the general weakness of his nager to his age. She hasn't zlinned many old people.

Fridda: Uncle Ruthven, I'm really glad we can meet, but I don't understand how you ended up as ambassador to Nivet. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing you'd want to do.

Fridda has also acculturated to the habit of direct speech.

Tsibola: I had the misfortune to hand my foes in the party enough ammunition to destroy my influence in the Senate. This was the only position of influence that was open to me -- and I'm not quite ready to retire and write my memoirs yet.

Fridda: Ammunition?

Tsibola: A Sime saved my life, very publicly. And while it was your aunt who gave permission, when all's said and done I couldn't honestly claim that I regret it.

Fridda: You mean when you had your heart attack at the museum? Hajene Seruffin?

Tsibola: Yes.

Fridda: He's a very powerful channel. You were lucky he was there.

Fridda met Seruffin the day after she changed over, and despite her inexperience, was very impressed by his sec.

Fridda: I read about it in the paper. It doesn't seem fair that the other senators would hold it against you.

Tsibola: They covered the story all the way out here? I'm surprised.

Fridda: There were some feature articles about you after you were appointed. People would want to know more about you and your attitudes about Simes and Nivet.

Fridda particularly liked the article in the Capital New Times, which showed a light hand with the irony of the anti-Nivet Senator being saved by a channel, and some sympathy with him ending up exiled to Nivet for it.

Tsibola: Fridda, when has politics had anything to do with fairness? I've been a leader of the conservatives in the Senate for nearly two decades. It's hardly surprising that some of the younger Senators started chafing for their own chance to make the headlines. It was only a matter of time before something came up that they could use.

Tsibola: I am surprised that it was covered in the Nivet papers, though. They don't usually bother with internal party politics.

Fridda: They mostly discussed your history with the Inter-Territorial Relations Committee, and your stance on the Tecton's activities in New Washington. There was some speculation about whether your recent experiences would have changed your views.

Tsibola: Why would they?

Tsibola is ~~ genuinely curious ~~.

Fridda shrugs without adding the usual tentacle gesture.

Fridda: Like I said, speculation. Perhaps that your coming to Nivet showed a change in attitude.

Tsibola chuckles.

Tsibola: They'll soon find out the truth.

Fridda: I think your decision to donate was a surprise as well.

Tsibola: It would have been, if I'd had a choice in the matter. As it was, it was a condition of the position. I think the Centrists expected me to bow out, and leave them next in line to fill the position.

Fridda: It wasn't... bad for you, was it?

Fridda knows all her Gen friends donate, and regard it as routine, but wonders what it was like for her uncle.

Fridda: I mean, you must have had a good channel and all.

Tsibola: I've never cared for humiliation, but at least I was able to avoid having to make a public spectacle of myself -- barely.

Fridda: People here don't see it as humiliating. They see non-donors a lot like we see freeloaders out-T. Dog in the manger, is what they say. So donating would give you a lot of goodwill from people here.

Tsibola: We shall see how long it lasts.

Fridda: How's Aunt Bernice taking it all?

Tsibola: She is settling in still. She did decide to share my humiliation, which surprised me a great deal.

Tsibola is also ~~ touched ~~.

Tsibola: She had an exemption, you know. I made sure of that.

Fridda is interested to zlin her uncle's emotions when he thinks of his wife. She knows her aunt as a strong and strong-minded woman and wonders whether she found donating humiliating or merely distasteful.

Fridda: I'm really looking forward to seeing her again.

Fridda is especially looking forward to zlinning her. She always found her aunt difficult to read -- she's very skilled at concealing her emotions when desirable or useful. That won't work on a Sime.

Tsibola: As she is looking forward to seeing you. It may be a few weeks before we can free an afternoon for you to visit, however.

Fridda: I understand. You have a lot to do, getting used to a foreign country, a new position, and all these new people to figure out.

Tsibola: Yes. And we both tire more easily than we used to.

Fridda reaches out but stops before she touches her uncle's hand.

Fridda: If you'd prefer that people don't know about me, it's okay too.

Tsibola hesitates, then reaches to put his hand on Fridda's.

Tsibola: I'm not ashamed of you, Fridda. But until I've felt my way into this new position, I'd rather that our relationship not be public knowledge. Reporters can be as vicious as wolverines, and as sticky as leeches, when they think they have a story.

Fridda nods, a little disappointed, but not surprised.

Fridda: I'll try to be discreet, but some of my friends know you're my uncle. They were present when I read in the newspaper that you'd been appointed.

Tsibola: I'd like to meet them, some time.

Fridda smiles.

Fridda: Maybe some time. For now, I'll make a point of avoiding the issue.

Tsibola: I don't insist that you keep the fact that you're my niece secret, Fridda. That's not reasonable, and it would practically guarantee that it became the top story for a week. Avoiding the topic is fine, but don't insist that it be a complete secret. Secrets attract interest; things that simply aren't interesting enough to talk about often don't.

Fridda: Okay. I understand. You're my uncle, you're the ambassador from New Washington, but it's no big deal.

Fridda smiles and winks.

Tsibola smiles back.

Tsibola: It's a pity you won't become a Senate wife -- you'd make a formidable one.

Fridda: Ha! Maybe I'll be a senator myself -- or the local equivalent, that is. It's not out of the question here, for a woman.

Tsibola: I thought you would have to be a channel for that?

Fridda: Oh, no. Channels don't usually run for office. The ones in government are civil servants, more or less.

Tsibola: They seem to have a lot of power, for mere civil servants.

Fridda: Most channels just work at Sime Centers, or hospitals and such. Channels... have a sort of charisma, for Simes. They're sworn not to use that power selfishly, but it can be useful for an upper level manager. They can only work for the Tecton, of course.

Tsibola: Of course. Leaving the real power in the hands of the top echelon of the Tecton -- whenever they choose to exert it. I can certainly understand why they'd leave the day-to-day operation of the government to others. There were many times when my Senate work was painfully boring.

Fridda: But industry and business -- the channels can't run that.

Tsibola: No, they wouldn't have time, would they? Is that what you want to do? Run a business?

Fridda: I think so. Then politics later, perhaps. A woman can be a top executive in a large company here.

Tsibola: What sort of business did you have in mind?

Fridda: I don't know yet. At the top level, it doesn't really matter what kind of business -- managing it is more or less the same. I want to get a few years' practical experience, and keep looking around for opportunities.

Tsibola: Don't you believe that the kind of business doesn't matter for a moment, Fridda. You can't supervise people credibly if you don't know enough about what they're doing to judge the quality of their work and offer corrections.

Fridda: Oh, of course, whatever I get into I'll have to learn thoroughly. But what I'm learning about economics and business management should work for any industry. Or so my professors say.

Fridda smiles.

Fridda: But then again, they teach, they don't manage businesses.

Tsibola: In a broad sense, yes, but the particulars matter. More than the broader picture, in some cases. But there is plenty of time to go into that. I've had my rest, and your aunt will be wondering where I've disappeared to.

Fridda: Please give her my regards. I'm looking forward to seeing her again.

Tsibola: I will. We will let you know, as soon as we can find an afternoon free of official engagements.

Fridda: Good. It was wonderful to run into you here, uncle.

Tsibola: I'm glad we ran into each other. Be well, Fridda, and study hard.

Fridda: You, too, uncle. There's a lot to enjoy in Capital.

Tsibola: I'm sure there is.

Tsibola is pretty sure the attractions don't include a good steakhouse, however.

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