Rundle is still ~~ furious ~~ about how he's been cheated out of his proper inheritance, but he's also had a few hours to begin planning how to deal with the problem. The first step towards approaching the boy and working out something suitable is to find out where, in the vast uncharted (to him) expanse of Sime Territory, the little snake is.
Rundle has already had several run-ins with the lesser bureaucracy of the Sime Embassy, and is now faced with the unwelcome prospect of begging at Seruffin's door. Hajene Seruffin. Mustn't forget the honorific at a time like this, however galling it might be to have to show respect to a snake.
Rundle has faced more unpleasant tasks before. He takes a moment to brace himself, then takes the last few steps to Seruffin's door and raises his fist to pound.
Seruffin hastily opens the door before the highfield, untrained Gen disrupts the ambient more than he already is.
Seruffin: Senator Rundle. What brings you here?
Rundle gives a grudging nod of respect, while his field is ~~ very far from respectful ~~ .
Gerrhonot is a little ~~ embarrassed ~~ that he didn't get the door himself, but Seruffin was standing near it, while Gerrhonot was busy making tea.
Rundle: Hajene Seruffin. I find that I need your assistance.
Rundle figures there's no point in beating around the bush with a Sime.
Gerrhonot ~~ intensifies ~~ his support. This Gen looks like nageric trouble for his channel.
Seruffin ~~ leans ~~ on Gerrhonot's support, while keeping his expression bland.
Seruffin: Is there some difficulty regarding the fabric imports?
Seruffin mentions the topic of a recent trade negotiation affecting Rundle's district.
Rundle shakes his head.
Rundle: I'm afraid this is a personal matter. ~~ embarrassment and resentment ~~
Seruffin: You intrigue me. Please, come in.
Seruffin gracefully retreats to behind his desk, which not incidentally puts Gerrhonot between himself and Rundle.
Rundle enters the office. For some reason, his usual manner of "stride in and occupy the space" doesn't quite seem to be working today. He looks around. The decor is quiet, tasteful. Almost human. Not what he'd expected at all.
Seruffin doesn't particularly like or respect Rundle, and this is his own office, on Nivet soil, and so he gestures Rundle towards a chair with a graceful wave of two tentacles.
Seruffin: Have a seat, and tell me what this personal matter is.
Rundle shifts the chair sideways a bit, so his view of the snake isn't blocked by his young human sidekick. He sits.
Rundle clears his throat, trying not to stare at the repulsive... things... displayed on the Sime's wrists. He's quite aware that the creature is probably waving them around deliberately to intimidate him, and is determined to show no trace of his ~~ disgust ~~ . He reswallows his stomach.
Rundle: I find it necessary to contact my...
Rundle makes a deliberate effort to get the word out without inflection.
Rundle: ... my son regarding some family business.
Rundle clears his throat again.
Seruffin: The son whom you were claiming doesn't exist, just a few days ago?
Rundle: Yes. Well, it appears that some other people believe that he does exist, and have acted accordingly. Therefore I must find him and speak to him. You seemed, when we spoke of him, to have some knowledge of where the boy is?
Seruffin: I make it my business to know such things, yes.
Rundle: I need that information.
Rundle braces himself, knowing the negotiation is about to start. And that the snake has him over a barrel.
Seruffin leans back in his chair, wrapping his handling tentacles around the mug of tea that Gerrhonot handed him in a ~~ contemplative ~~ fashion.
Rundle struggles to avoid staring at the mug. Or at what's wrapped around it.
Gerrhonot sips his own tea, now that Seruffin is clearly not offering tea to Rundle on purpose.
Seruffin: Your feelings about the boy haven't changed. However, I might be persuaded to forward a message to him. Whether he chooses to respond, of course, would be up to him.
Rundle: I need to speak with him face to face.
Rundle knows that a request in an impersonal message is easy to ignore, while face to face, Clarence will still remember his habit of obedience to his father.
Seruffin looks at Rundle somewhat ~~ skeptically ~~.
Seruffin: Do you have any concept of what that would require?
Rundle: I don't want to inconvenience the boy. I'll go to him, rather than expect him to come here.
Rundle knows that dragging the boy back to New Washington would not be a smart way to begin asking for what he needs.
Seruffin: You've never crossed the border before, have you?
Rundle: No, but I don't see that it should be a problem. As a senator, I have diplomatic immunity, do I not?
Rundle lets his body language announce that that had damned well better be a rhetorical question.
Seruffin: You do, for certain official functions. Which this is not.
Rundle is unused to thinking like a supplicant, and can't hold the mindset for more than a few seconds at a time.
Rundle: The situation is actually a by-product of some Senate business.
Rundle knows that it is, insofar as it was his attempt to bring Connington into line for the party that led to the worst of his current financial predicament. Not to mention various similar incidents in the past.
Seruffin: I am unaware of any official Senate function involving your son. And you were maintaining earlier that the matter was a personal matter. Which is not covered by diplomatic immunity.
Rundle: And I am unaware of why I should expose, to a negotiator for the other side, the inner workings of the Senate. ~~ anger and hostility ~~
Seruffin: Your son is not a member of your Senate, or even a citizen of your Territory. He is, in fact, a citizen of my Territory, and I have an obligation to act in his interests.
Rundle grits his teeth and reminds himself of the barrel he's over.
Rundle: And it's in his interests to keep him from the possibility of a reconciliation with his father?
Rundle keeps his voice quiet and reasonable, even while ~~ seething ~~ inside.
Seruffin: It would be, and I have assisted in such reconciliations. But you have no more affection for your son today than you did last week, when you were pretending he doesn't exist. I see no advantage to the boy in a meeting with a father who loathes him.
Rundle: He has something I need. Something that's supposed to be mine. I'm prepared to make certain concessions to get it back.
Seruffin zlins that this last statement, at least, is more or less honest.
Seruffin: And what might that be?
Seruffin has some idea, having just that morning received a similar inquiry regarding the former Clarence Rundle from a certain law firm.
Rundle: That's none of your business.
Seruffin lets his laterals emerge from their sheaths just a bit as he zlins his unwelcome guest ~~ thoughtfully ~~.
Rundle swallows hard, aware of the hairs rising at the back of his neck as the slimy, dangerous little tentacles come out after him. He struggles to control his reaction; it's doubtless just another intimidation tactic.
Seruffin: You realize, I trust, that I can be of only limited assistance to you, under the circumstances?
Rundle nods and raises an eyebrow, waiting for the followup.
Seruffin: I can't arrange a diplomatic exemption for you to travel on unspecified personal business.
Rundle: But you can let me know where to find my son? And expedite the paperwork for me to...
Rundle braces himself mentally.
Seruffin: If you wish to visit your son anyway, I will refer you to someone who can help your staff arrange the logistics. Whether your son will choose to see you, of course, is up to him.
Rundle: Yes. That would be... excellent. Thank you.
Rundle doesn't quite let out an audible sigh of relief.
Seruffin: If you are willing to take some unsolicited advice, I would suggest that you work on your attitude. Your son is hardly likely to cooperate with your plans if you project the same loathing at him that you are currently projecting at me.
Rundle gives a tight nod.
Rundle: I will take that under advisement.
Seruffin: In fact, I am going to recommend that a Donor be present when you talk to your son, for the protection of both of you. Even lowfield, your lack of self-control could be more than he ought to be asked to tolerate.
Rundle: A third party at a private conversation between family members? ~~ anger ~~
Seruffin: Yes. If that is unacceptable, you can always use the mail.
Rundle shakes his head.
Rundle: Clarence and I have always spoken face to face. That is how I must talk to him now, if this is to have any meaning at all.
Seruffin: Then you know what you must do.
Rundle clenches his jaw.
Rundle: I will do what I must.
Rundle is trying very hard not to think about what he must do to become, as Seruffin put it, "low-field".
Seruffin examines the contrast between Rundle's words and his emotions with ~~ clinical interest ~~.
Seruffin: When do you wish to leave?
Rundle: As quickly as it can be arranged.
Rundle knows he has a well-trained staff that can smoothly handle a sudden absence of a few days.
Seruffin: In that case, should I have Gerrhonot show you to the Collectorium? I believe you might even see one of your colleagues there; Senator Pollovic usually donates during his lunch break on the sixth of each month.
Rundle's ~~ revulsion ~~ at the notion is overlain by an even bigger wash of ~~ embarrassment ~~ .
Rundle: I would prefer not to risk being seen there. Especially not by a colleague.
Seruffin: I see. That presents a problem, doesn't it?
Rundle: There are facilities other than the one here, are there not?
Seruffin: The University Sime Center is currently staffed by Thirds. They only work with experienced donors, and would simply refer a case like yours to the main Center here.
Rundle: How about the border station?
Rundle would far rather be humiliated by some anonymous border flunky than by someone who would recognize him, as no doubt most of the staff here would.
Seruffin: They are set up to deal with inexperienced donors at the border, although they'll be a little overwhelmed by the music festival this week.
Seruffin is referring to a widely known event that attracts top talent and lots of fans from both sides of the border.
Rundle thinks he understands what this is about, now. This is Seruffin's price for his help.
Rundle: What are you suggesting?
Gerrhonot is concerned that his channel is going to offer to do the donation here and now, and wonders why he wants to.
Seruffin: Only that it may not be possible for you to keep your actions completely secret. If that is important to you, you should consider just how much you want to do this.
Rundle: I have no choice. I will do whatever is required of me.
Rundle knows it's the same for humans as for dogs: when you're beaten, your last best hope is to roll over and expose your throat. He hopes it works for Simes too.
Seruffin sighs, his conscience getting the better of his good sense. He fishes in the file drawer of his desk, and finds one of the donation consent forms that he started stocking when it became apparent that he has become the go-to channel for Senate connections seeking confidentiality.
Seruffin: If it's that important to you to avoid notice, go ahead and fill that out.
Seruffin looks ~~ apologetically ~~ at Gerrhonot, who has already had a trying morning in the Senate, and ought to have had the afternoon free.
Gerrhonot smiles back, and nods. ~~ whatever you want, Hajene ~~
Seruffin thinks he doesn't deserve a Donor like Gerrhonot. He pushes the form across the desk with two tentacles.
Rundle closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. It's as he'd feared: this is Seruffin's price, and it's far, far worse than lining up anonymously with a bunch of the unwashed at the border. He opens his eyes and quickly fills out the form, then stands and begins removing his jacket.
Seruffin moves around the desk, signaling Gerrhonot to buffer him from Rundle as long as possible.
Gerrhonot moves to comply.
Seruffin: Have you ever actually read any of those Tecton pamphlets that you object to having distributed in the New Washington schools?
Rundle drops his jacket on the chair and rolls up his shirt sleeves.
Rundle: I'm sure I looked at one at some point.
Seruffin zlins in an attempt to determine whether this ambiguous answer means "I glanced at it and dropped it in the waste bin" or "I read every word with prurient interest".
Rundle doesn't hear the unspoken question, but in fact it was the former.
Gerrhonot suppresses his anxiety about what Seruffin is about to attempt, reminding himself that he's helped his channel through far worse, like Pollovic's public donation and those really scary things that happened at the Dam. ~~ strong reliable devoted ~~
Seruffin: Would you like me to go over what they say about donation?
Rundle shakes his head.
Rundle: Let's just get it over with.
Rundle doesn't want to hear all the Sime propaganda about how easy and pleasant it is.
Seruffin: As you wish. Do at least try to contain your emotions, though. It will make things go much smoother.
Rundle thinks back to what he saw during Pollovic's stunt. He has to stand a lot closer to the Sime than this. He takes two steps forward.
Seruffin holds out his hands.
Gerrhonot puts a hand on his channel's shoulder, briefly caressing his neck. ~~ affection, reliability, strength, kindness ~~
Rundle stares at the hands. In every encounter that mattered, in all the years of his adult life, he has always been the one in charge. The winner. The dominant one. Now he has no choice but to submit.
Seruffin reaches up one hand long enough to caress Gerrhonot's hand with one handling tentacle, then returns his attention to Rundle.
Gerrhonot: ~~ happiness, confidence, love ~~
Rundle forces down his ~~ revulsion ~~ at the scene in front of him. How can any human being be in that position so willingly?
Rundle slowly raises his hands, and in an act of total submission, reaches forward. As his fingers come to rest against the hot Sime flesh, something breaks inside him.
Seruffin cups Rundle's hands, zlinning deeply.
Gerrhonot opens his nager further, ~~ inviting ~~ his channel to lean on him as much as he likes. He has a bad feeling about this Gen.
Rundle: Go ahead. ~~ quiet, meek ~~
Seruffin doesn't trust this sudden meekness from the usually belligerent Gen, but on the other hand, as long as it lasts, he'll be easier to handle. He shifts his grip to Rundle's wrists in what he hopes will be interpreted as a businesslike and nonthreatening manner, and lets his handling tentacles emerge to reinforce his grip.
Rundle barely twitches as the hot dry ropes wrap around his wrists.
Seruffin takes that as a positive sign and, leaning on Gerrhonot, completes the contact.
Rundle tilts his face downwards, offering his mouth to the much shorter Sime for the "kiss".
Gerrhonot maintains his ~~ steady strong support ~~. Rundle is such a huge man, his size alone is intimidating, but of course, any Sime is stronger.
Seruffin makes an equally businesslike lip contact and starts working to lower the Gen's field, keeping a wary part of his attention poised to respond to any untoward reactions. He wants to do a thorough job, to spare the man's son as much of his unpleasant field as possible.
Rundle stands, passively enduring the contact, wondering what Seruffin is waiting for.
Seruffin finishes draining the GN-3 level, and decides that will do.
Rundle suspects, after a moment, that the channel doesn't want to start until he's sure his victim isn't going to crack under the stress.
Seruffin dismantles the contact with some ~~ relief ~~ .
Gerrhonot adjusts his field to support his channel in recovery from the functional and adds some ~~ admiration ~~ to his ~~ comforting ~~ projection.
Rundle: Aren't you going to do it?
Seruffin: I did. You're lowfield.
Rundle absently wipes his mouth on his sleeve, while staring at the Sime.
Rundle: I didn't feel a thing.
Seruffin: That's right.
Seruffin is pretty sure that Rundle was referring to the lack of the feeling of selyn movement, not the unpleasant emotions he's been inflicting on both of them.
Rundle opens his mouth to say something else, then closes it. Numbly, he rolls down his sleeves and buttons them, then reaches for his jacket.
Seruffin: What were you expecting, a berserker attack?
Rundle shakes his head. He can't seem to summon the energy or focus for the usual sort of sparring session.
Seruffin has a certain understandable ~~ pride ~~ in his professional skills. He sits down and fills out a voucher, then pushes it across the desk.
Rundle stares at the voucher. For once he can actually understand how it's enough money to persuade a farmer to roll up his sleeves. Even though it isn't a drop in the bucket against the size of his own debts.
Rundle: Thank you.
Rundle pockets the voucher mechanically.
Seruffin: You're welcome. I'll have my staff start working on the arrangements. It should go quickly; they just finished processing a similar request.
Rundle gathers a few of his stray wits.
Rundle: I'll be notified, then, when everything's in place? I can leave on a few hours' notice.
Rundle is still too dazed to pick up Seruffin's hint that someone else is off to see his son about his inheritance.
Seruffin: I'll arrange for you to get to the proper city, and for your son to be informed of your presence. Whether he wishes to see you will be up to him.
Rundle shuffles towards the door like a beaten dog.
Seruffin stares after him, ~~ bemused ~~.
Seruffin: Gerrhonot, I don't think I'll ever understand out-Territory Gens.