Saag Doyle relaxes on a cushion on the floor of his two-room apartment in Capital. It's his rental but his friend Randayl has been sleeping there for the past several weeks.
Saag is really at an unfair advantage over most new Simes from out-T, since his sister is assigning her donations to him, freeing him from a crushing load of selyn taxes.
Randayl finishes up his post-work ablutions, quite necessary after spending the day digging holes on the grounds of the New Washington Embassy. He's glad enough of the job -- it pays his living expenses, sort of, and his poor Simelan is less of an issue than it would normally be.
Randayl towels himself off and settles down on his sleeping mat.
Randayl: Hi, Saag. How was your day?
Saag: Not too bad. The cook wanted me to translate some recipes from a Genlan cookbook. I never realized there were so many special words for things you could do to food.
Saag was glad to find a section of the book that explained stuff well enough that he could wing the translation into Simelan.
Randayl: Gens. I never realized how much time out-Territory society spends talking about food, until I came here.
Saag: Yeah. Speaking of which, we both ought to eat something. I got a couple of buns from a cart on the way home.
Saag rummages in his shoulder bag and tosses a bun filled with spiced vegetables to his friend.
Randayl looks at it ~~ without enthusiasm ~~.
Randayl bites into it anyway. He finds it ~~ comforting ~~, if a little too filling.
Saag nibbles his own bun. He's gotten used to the idea of eating even if he isn't really hungry, and taken to heart the lessons of his nutrition class at First Year Camp.
Saag: The cook says those new security guys, the Householder pair, came around the kitchen asking questions.
Randayl: I heard there was a commotion up there this morning. Was that what it was all about?
Saag: Well, he said it sounded like they're looking for somebody pilfering stuff, and one of his assistants got really nervous looking and ran off.
Randayl: The assistant was stealing?
Saag: Well, maybe. No proof, as far as I know.
Saag isn't acculturated enough to make a derogatory remark about trusting Gens with a storeroom full of food.
Randayl: I heard a really strange story -- maybe you can tell me if Artsan was pulling my laterals?
Saag: What did he say?
Randayl: He said that the thief was a baker's assistant who was trying to master bread. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out, and the evidence ended up buried in the back woodlot.
Saag: That's pretty bizarre. I wonder if it was the same guy, the one who ran off. And if he went back there to the scene of the crime.
Randayl: I wonder if that sort of thing goes on out-Territory, as well? My mother used to complain about the servants doing strange things.
Saag: Yeah, my mother too. I guess I can understand it more now -- they must have been afraid of losing their jobs if they screw up and get caught.
Randayl: Yeah. Jobs are hard to get, and living is expensive.
Saag: Not the way we'd figured it would be, eh?
Randayl: No. I should be helping my father, getting ready to take over his seat when he's ready to retire. And instead, I spent the day digging holes in the ground for the convenience of the groundskeeper.
Saag: I guess I'd still be in prep school, getting ready for university. My father figured I should be a lawyer like him, first, then get into politics. So I'm a gofer and half-assed translator of recipes and stuff.
Randayl: At least you can afford the rent.
Saag: Yeah, I'm really lucky there. A lot luckier than almost anybody.
Saag feels somewhat ~~ guilty ~~ about his luck.
Randayl: I'd never be able to afford a place in this neighborhood.
Saag: Hey, there's plenty of room for two in here. Who needs a bedroom when they hardly ever sleep?
Randayl: Yeah. Or a kitchen.
Saag: Yeah. For sure. And it's good to have another out-T Sime in here. We can compare notes.
Saag is trying hard to keep his friend from feeling like an object of charity.
Randayl: Yeah. And it helps, having someone who speaks my language. I never was good at Simelan.
Saag: And you've been here longer so you know how things work here. So much is different from back home. Or maybe I never ran into it back home.
Saag now understands what a sheltered life he led before his sudden leap into adulthood.
Randayl: I don't think either of us ever thought we'd be working this kind of job. I wouldn't have known how to go about getting a job as a junior groundsman, anyway. I was Clarence Rundle. A good future was a given. Except for... well, you know.
Saag: I thought I was practically adult. Then I found out that I didn't know how to do the basic stuff that we had servants for. Buying food. Cleaning clothes,
Randayl: Yeah. The first time I had to wash my clothes, it was a disaster.
Saag: I ruined my only sweater. I thought hot water got things cleaner. I didn't know you weren't supposed to do that to wool. And I didn't know that you can bargain for stuff, either. I just paid what they said.
Randayl: There are times I still dream that I'm back in New Washington, and just had a bad dream. And my father will be there to greet me in the morning.
Saag: I know what you mean. But we were lucky to have a Sime Center to go to. Or get taken to. I don't know what my father would have done if it had happened at home. I hope he'd have taken me to the Sime Center.
Randayl: Yeah. If that woman hadn't found me in the park... I didn't even know where the Sime Center was. Once I suspected what was happening, I didn't dare see my father. He has very... traditional views on such matters.
Saag: I thought I was doing okay, almost grown up, that I knew most of what I should, and I didn't even know where the Sime Center was.
Randayl: I can't help but think that omission was deliberate. At least for my father.
Saag: My sister managed to find the place.
Randayl: Your sister must be something.
Saag: Yeah, I think so. But she's marrying that old guy. I mean, even if he is a senator already, he's three times her age. Older than that. I hope it's not just to get away from my parents.
Randayl: My father dislikes Senator Pollovic. That's a pretty good recommendation, under the circumstances. And if your sister would run off and donate for you, every month -- I guess she can make up her own mind who she wants to marry.
Saag: She's only fifteen. And it's not like here -- you get married out there and you're stuck, pretty much for life.
Saag shrugs again.
Saag: Oh, well, it's not as if I can do anything about it.
Saag is still ~~ hurt ~~ that his parents have made no effort to contact him even though they now know he's alive.
Randayl: Given Pollovic's age, that isn't going to be all that long. She'll be a widow while she's still young enough to enjoy her freedom, if that's what she wants. Not that I'm wishing her fiance ill, but there are some realities that can't be ignored.
Saag: I guess. But she could end up a widow with a bunch of kids. That's not exactly freedom.
Randayl: And plenty of money to hire a nanny. Pollovic isn't as rich as some, but he's not poor, by any means.
Saag: Well, I hope so.
Randayl: She'll never have to take the sort of jobs we're doing, to pay for her living.
Saag: I guess so. I hope so.
Saag really cares about his sister, especially after she risked her reputation for him. But he feels helpless to do anything in return, stuck here in Simeland.