Randayl is hard at work, digging post holes for the new fence-to-be around the embassy. He would never have thought he'd do something like that, but fortune has a way of spoiling the best plans.
Lusid, one of Randayl's fellow Ph.D.'s, walks up to him waving a page torn from a newspaper.
Lusid: Hey Randayl, you can read Genlan, cantcha?
Randayl is ~~ glad ~~ enough to take a break.
Randayl: Yeah. Grew up out there.
Lusid: What's all this yap about the Ambassador? I picked this up from over there --
Lusid waves at a remote part of the grounds
Randayl: What, the outhouse?
Lusid: Naah, it got loose somehow and was blowing in the wind. I figured I'd try my Genlan on it, but this makes no sense.
Randayl takes the paper and scans it.
Randayl: "Ambassador Caught in Scandal, Calls for Resignation..." What the shen? I don't recall the fellow doing anything more scandalous than straying off the sidewalk occasionally when he's walking in the park. Do you?
Lusid: Says there he's sleeping with his niece. Do they really do that out there?
Lusid waves about more generally this time, signifying Gen Territory.
Randayl: Not in New Washington, that I've heard, although there are rumors about some of the isolated communities in the mountains.
Lusid: Oh, well, yeah, you hear things about hicks from the sticks here too.
Randayl: I used to think there might be something to them, but now that I've traveled a bit -- well, I'd want to see very good proof. More than the picture there, anyway.
Lusid takes the paper back.
Lusid: Anyhow, why would he have to resign over his sex life at all? It's not gonna make Simes look down on him, for shen and shid -- after all, they're both grownups.
Randayl: It's not the Sime opinions that matter. It's his former colleagues in the Senate, who appointed him to carry out their interests here.
Lusid: Well, for sure he can still do that.
Randayl: Not if they don't think he'll represent the best of New Washington society.
Lusid laughs incredulously.
Lusid: Him, the best? Maybe if his name was Logan, I guess.
Randayl: Oh, he's very well thought of, in the New Washington Senate. He's been there forever -- forty years, I guess... since before Unity, anyway.
Lusid: ~~ disbelief ~~ Which is why they sent him a thousand klicks from home?
Randayl: He got into trouble, and had to quit his Senate seat. Which means his integrity was already in question. Would you want somebody you knew was a lorsh representing you?
Lusid: Well, no. But I wouldn't pick him in the first place.
Randayl: He was sent here because even the folks who were upset about Hajene Seruffin working on him didn't really believe he'd go native. Now, they aren't so sure. And if the Ambassador ever really did decide to throw in his lot with the Tecton... well, he knows where all the bodies are buried, and which closets have skeletons in them.
Randayl's grasp of Simelan idiom is limited, so he tends to translate Genlan idioms into Simelan instead.
Lusid: You mean he knows a lot of murderers?
Randayl: Huh? No, not at all. At least as murder is defined out there.
Lusid: You were talking about bodies and skeletons?
Randayl tries to think through his Simelan vocabulary.
Randayl: He... knows who's done things they'd rather not have publicly known. Who has financial difficulties, who's had sexual affairs they'd rather their wives didn't know about, and so on.
Lusid: So he can use that to give himself sec?
Randayl: What he knows could be very embarrassing to a lot of people, if he were inclined to use it that way.
Lusid: Yeah. And the threat of a move is even more fiendish than the move itself.
Randayl: True. So something like this...
Randayl waves the paper.
Randayl: ...it makes them worry that maybe he's not so much against Sime influence as they thought.
Lusid: Because he's letting a Sime have influence over him. I -- see. ~~ sexual interest in the picture ~~
Randayl: Come on, Lusid. You're a lot closer to the Ambassador than they are. You know how sick he is. Do you think he'd survive the sort of wild fling that paper is suggesting?
Lusid: Yeah, ya got a point there. Still, if she is his niece, maybe she does all the work.
Lusid elbows Randayl in the ribs, nagerically speaking.
Randayl: Look Lusid, give up on what you're thinking right now.
Lusid rolls his eyes.
Randayl: Fridda Fennik is going to University. She owns a nice chunk of General Metals stock. She's not going to look to the likes of you or me for company.
Lusid: She owns --? ~~ confusion ~~ But how -- ? I always thought when you came over the border it was just with your clothes.
Randayl: Her father didn't disown her when she sprouted tentacles, the way mine did.
Lusid: Ah. Well. Okay, I guess. My father didn't disown me either, but it's not like he has much to give me either.
Randayl: Fridda Fennik's dad is a professor at New Washington University. He managed to marry the sister of one of the most powerful Senators around. Trust me, Fridda will never worry about where her selyn tax is coming from.
Lusid sighs deeply.
Lusid: You're right. She's out of my league. But you, my friend, no reason you shouldn't make your way up the ladder. You aren't going to be a Ph.D. forever.
Randayl: Huh. If I'm lucky, maybe one day I'll have a job that doesn't involve manual labor. Without family or connections, I don't have much hope at all.
Lusid taps his head.
Lusid: Yeah, but you got this. With that, you don't need background. This place is wide open for anybody with a good idea and enough drive to get it started.
Randayl: I got some education, but not in the right things. I'm no good at building things, or getting people to cooperate with me. Truth to tell, I never paid all that much attention in school. I didn't think I'd require it.
Lusid ~~ sympathizes ~~.
Randayl: I was supposed to marry a girl of good family -- like Fridda Fennik -- and take over my father's seat, while waiting to inherit a fortune.
Lusid: His seat?
Randayl: In the Senate. Now, of course, my father has declared me dead, my mother is no doubt trying hard to pretend I never existed, and I'm here digging holes.
Randayl feels an old ~~ bitterness ~~, then sets it aside with long practice, since it's never made things better.
Lusid puts out a hand and rubs Randayl's neck where it ~~ hurts ~~.
Randayl shrugs a shoulder, working out the tension.
Randayl: Thanks. Sorry; your questions made me think about some things I've been trying hard to forget.
Lusid nods soberly.
Lusid: Yeah. So, looks like it's quitting time. What do you do to forget these days?
Randayl: I go back to Saag Doyle's place, and try not to think about how cramped it is. Because if he wasn't willing to let me stay cheap, I'd be someplace worse. It's funny, isn't it? If I hadn't gone through changeover, I'd have plenty of ways to forget, and no reason to use them.
Lusid: Well, c'mon, I'll drop a porstan on you, and then you can come and check out my place -- if you want. It ain't much, but it's home.
Randayl smiles, an expression with which is face is no longer familiar.
Randayl: You know, it's been months since I've been in something that could be called a home. Thanks, Lusid.
Lusid throws a comradely arm around Randayl and walks over with him to the toolshed. He puts away both tools after knocking off the dirt, and leads Randayl to a little joint he knows, Sime-only of course, that features not only porstan but shiltpron. After a little of that, the rest of his plan should be no trouble at all.