On the Run: Episode 1

Hiram has been having a good, pre-turnover day, marred only by the mountain of paperwork he's currently trying to cut down to size. He flips another file into the out-basket, sits back and wiggles his fingers and tentacles, then gets up to pour himself another cup of trin. Things have been going smoothly of late. Almost too smoothly. Not that Sat'htine's Sectuib minds this.

Tinnet arrives with a wrench to throw into Hiram's smooth-running day. He's dressed in a conservative suit, as becomes a senior partner in the cross-Territory firm of Tinnet, Tinnet, and Zitt.

Hiram sips at the trin. A lawyer from some out-T firm has an appointment in a few minutes. No doubt it's about something simple and routine. He glances idly at another routine report.

Tinnet presents himself in good time at the Sectuib's outer office.

Garriath glances up as the door to the corridor opens.

Garriath: Hello. How may I help you?

Tinnet: Ref Tinnet from Tinnet, Tinnet, and Zitt. I have an appointment with Sectuib Hiram.

Garriath glances at the appointment book and nods.

Garriath: Very well. One moment, please, while I notify Sectuib that you're here

Letiv stuffs his hands into the pockets of his uncomfortable suit. To say it's far from the kind of work clothing he's accustomed to would be an understatement. He silently curses his bosses again, inside his head, for sending him on this mission. ~~ agitation ~~

Tinnet gives his client a warning look.

Letiv glances at Tinnet somewhat ~~ nervously ~~, trying to trust that he'll be able to safely guide him through whatever weird rituals and customs may be required.

Tinnet: Calm down. Sectuib Hiram is a channel. He's perfectly safe, but if you annoy him with undisciplined emotions, he'll be less interested in what you have to say.

Letiv sighs, smooths down his newly-combed hair, and tries (badly) to relax.

Hiram nods a polite greeting as the lawyer and, presumably, his client, are ushered in.

Tinnet ~~ hopes ~~ that this Hiram is in a good mood.

Tinnet: It is good of you to see us, Sectuib Hiram.

Hiram: Good morning, gentlemen. What can I do for you?

Hiram's good morning goes downhill a bit as he zlins Letiv. Whatever this is about, it's probably not routine after all.

Tinnet: I am Ref Tinnet of Tinnet, Tinnet, and Zitt. I am working on behalf of an out-Territory mining concern, Consolidated Coal, which also employs Mister Letiv here.

Hiram: Ah. Well, please come in and sit down. Would you like some tea?

Tinnet: Thank you, Sectuib Hiram.

Tinnet hopes that refreshments will calm Letiv down.

Hiram pours the trin, and pushes the milk and honey across the desk.

Hiram: Would you like a biscuit?

Letiv takes the tea, and sips it ~~ nervously ~~. It doesn't taste much like what he thinks tea should taste like.

Tinnet: We are here on a somewhat delicate mission.

Hiram: Indeed?

Hiram sits back to listen, twining his tentacles around the handle of his mug.

Tinnet: Yes. It appears that Sat'htine may inadvertently be harboring a fugitive from justice.

Hiram: How so?

Letiv looks at the tentacles and feels slightly ~~ urpy ~~. He decides to decline the biscuits.

Letiv: I recognized his face! I'd know him anywhere!

Hiram: Who is this that we're speaking about?

Letiv isn't the most diplomatic or eloquent man in the world, but neither are requirements for being a manager at a mining company. He never imagined he'd have to be the one wrangling through a task that required either.

Hiram doesn't want to jump to conclusions, but suddenly he's afraid he knows who this is about.

Letiv: That Nick fellow.

Tinnet: Nicholas Debree.

Hiram: Hmm. I know of no Nicholas Debree.

Letiv tries to look Hiram in the eye.

Letiv: You don't have anyone called Nicholas or Nick? Even some guy who might've called himself that in the past? ~~ skeptical ~~

Hiram: Sat'htine has hundreds of members, and many more employees and associates. Surely several of them are named Nicholas.

Tinnet: Mister Letiv has a picture of him which might help to jog your memory.

Letiv suddenly remembers that he does have the picture with him, and starts digging it out of the pocket of his suit. He hands it across the desk.

Letiv: Him. That's the one. I tell you, I'd recognize him anywhere.

Hiram glances, with concealed ~~ resignation ~~ , at the picture. It's Nick, all right.

Hiram: And what is this gentleman alleged to have done?

Tinnet: He has an outstanding arrest warrant for disturbing the peace. Something about a labor strike, I understand.

Hiram relaxes a little. This doesn't sound too bad.

Letiv: He's trouble, he is. Wouldn't trust him farther than I could throw him. He riled up the workers and dragged out the strike.

Hiram: The man in that photograph appears to be Nick ambrov Sat'htine, recently pledged as one of our top Companions. As ambrov Sat'htine, he is under the full protection of our House.

Hiram hopes the lawyer gets the message: if this is about something trivial, pursuing it will be more trouble than it's worth.

Tinnet looks ~~ sharply ~~ at Letiv.

Tinnet: I thought you said the man was a laborer?

Letiv: We tried to break the strike by shutting down the company store, so they wouldn't have any choice except to come back to work. But he made some kind of underhanded deal, and trucked in his own supplies that he was getting from somewhere.

Hiram suppresses a chuckle. This sounds just like Nick.

Letiv: He was! It's the same man. I'm not saying he's not no Companion or whatever you call it, but he sure did work for my company once.

Hiram: This scarcely sounds like a crime, to provide food for hungry Gens.

Letiv: ~~ frustration ~~ Yes, well, we normal people, Mr. Sectub, need to eat every once in awhile. Closing the company store was our last resort to try to get them to come back to work.

Tinnet: His crime was interference in the legal monopoly of the company store. He didn't have permission to sell goods on Company land.

Letiv: He wasn't selling it legally.

Hiram: This sounds like a misdemeanor, at most.

Hiram is not going to offer, immediately, to pay whatever fine Nick owes. Not if he can get the whole thing dismissed, instead.

Tinnet: His actions cost Consolidated Coal a significant sum, both due to the losses of profits from the store and from the concessions they were forced to make to get the miners to return to work. That is theft, and must be punished as an example to others who might take such actions.

Letiv: Well, whatever the lawyers call it, Mr. Sectub, it'd be nice to have a little compensation for the money he caused us to lose. Our earnings haven't been so good lately. More important, we need to send a message that troublemakers in our company will be punished, so no one goes thinking they can get away with rabble-rousing like that.

Tinnet: It is the principle of the thing. The law must be upheld, without exception or favoritism.

Hiram considers. It doesn't sound like this one is going to go away. Still, he doesn't want to be seen to give in too easily.

Hiram: Has this man actually been convicted of anything?

Hiram delivers the question with a faintly ~~ skeptical ~~ air.

Tinnet: His associates were, I believe, but he fled before he could be apprehended.

Letiv: No, sir, he was run out of town.

Hiram: Then it sounds to me as if your company passed up its chance to penalize him, by driving him away instead.

Letiv looks somewhat ~~ bitter ~~.

Tinnet: He was warned and escaped. The company would much have preferred to have him in custody so the matter could be resolved quickly and fairly.

Letiv: Not for lack of trying to catch him. He's a clever one.

Hiram has, privately, already resigned to buying off this one.

Letiv: Look, you Simes, you can read minds or something, can't you? It should be obvious, I'm telling the truth! And that is the same man, I'd stake my life by it.

Letiv punctuates his statement by jabbing his finger at the photograph.

Hiram: The same man as what, exactly?

Letiv: ~~ frustrated ~~ The man in the photograph, here in the fancy uniform, he's the same one who trucked in supplies illegally at my company, and dragged out the workers' strike.

Hiram: You are certain of this?

Letiv: Sure of it. If you brought him in, if I could look at his face closely, I'd be even more sure. I don't care if he's done good work for you, doing -- whatever it is he does. He needs to be punished in order to send a message.

Hiram: At the moment, I'm afraid, he's not here at Sat'htine. He is on assignment in Capital. But, supposing for the sake of argument that this is the same man, and he did do what you allege, what do you expect Sat'htine to do about it?

Hiram deliberately waves a graceful tentacle to underline the question.

Letiv very deliberately glances away from the waving tentacle.

Letiv: Ideally, Mr. Sectub, since you're harboring a criminal right now, we'd like it if you turned him over to us.

Hiram raises an eyebrow.

Letiv: I'm not even sure he's all there in the head, if you know what I mean.

Hiram: You are aware, Mr. Letiv, that you are in Sime Territory?

Letiv: Sure I am. They stopped me at the border to suck out a little of my... saline, or whatever you call it here. Said I couldn't enter otherwise.

Letiv decides not to bring up the fact that the donation was a very grudging one for him.

Hiram: And you are aware that a person can murder a Gen on your side of the border, then escape to Sime Territory? And that there would have to to be a formal process of extradition, even for such wrongful death?

Letiv: Are you saying this Nick killed someone on top of everything else?

Letiv is unfamiliar with the different Simelan meaning of the word. He is also definitely in over his head as a negotiator, but doesn't have much choice except to see this through.

Hiram: Not at all. I am simply pointing out the difficulty of trying to force a person across the border, even in far more serious matters. You are also aware, I trust, that you could shoot a Sime on your side of the border, and not be brought here to face charges?

Letiv: Well, yeah. If it's your life or theirs, it's self-defense, not murder, isn't it?

Hiram thinks privately that this Letiv is just the sort who would shoot a Sime if he ever got the chance.

Letiv fidgets in his overly heavy suit.

Hiram: And if it is simply a quiet, well-behaved Sime who happens not to be wearing retainers? But I digress; I was simply trying to point out the difficulty in extraditing anyone, even on far more serious grounds.

Tinnet: This has nothing to do with the... peculiar customs... of the various Territories on how to manage the Sime problem. Disrupting the lawful business of a lawful company on its own property is illegal on both sides of the border.

Letiv nods ~~ gratefully ~~ at Tinnet, not being fluent in legalese.

Letiv: And he sure did. On our own property! He set up shop with this great big wagon and he was selling to workers right out of it. Strikers, I should say. They sure weren't working at that point, except to cause us trouble.

Hiram: Do you wish, then, to bring this matter to the attention of the Nivet justice system? Bearing in mind that, on this side of the border, the benefit in feeding hungry Gens would likely override such lesser matters as a business monopoly?

Letiv wishes everyone would stop saying "monopoly" like it's a bad thing.

Tinnet: If there had been no other way to feed them, perhaps. But in this case, the only reason they were hungry is that they refused to do the honest labor for which they had been hired.

Hiram is pretty sure that a Nivet judge would laugh the case out of court. If a Nivet court had jurisdiction at all, which in this case it doesn't.

Hiram: These workers were slaves, then? Your law does not permit them free will in the matter of how or when they will work?

Letiv: Of course they weren't slaves! ~~ offended ~~ They worked, and we paid them for it. When they did the work they were supposed to do.

Hiram: And when they did not work, I presume you did not pay them?

Tinnet: You can hardly fault the company for not paying workers who refused to enter the mine.

Letiv: I don't know what you call that here, but on my side of the territory, that's called a job, Mr. Sectub. If you work, you get paid. If you don't, there's no reason to pay you, now, is there?

Tinnet: And no reason to continue to operate a store for the benefit of non-workers.

Hiram: But surely your law does not forbid the sale of food to people who are willing to pay for it?

Letiv: Not if they're selling it where they're authorized to, no. This Nick wasn't authorized to sell on company property.

Hiram: Then he was guilty, at most, of trespass. Surely that is a minor misdemeanor, at the worst.

Letiv: He was disturbing the peace, encouraging the workers to stay on strike.

Tinnet: And he may have had more extensive involvement with getting the strike started in the first place. We won't know until he's in custody and can be properly interrogated.

Hiram: Again, I would presume, a misdemeanor. Surely nothing worth entangling yourself in an interTerritorial legal quagmire to pursue.

Tinnet: The possible charges amount to a bit more than a few misdemeanors.

Hiram decides to grasp the berserker by the wrists. He knows that, in business, matters of principle almost always have a price tag attached.

Letiv fidgets again, thinking that if he comes back to his bosses empty-handed, it won't look good for him or the company. ~~ agitation ~~

Hiram: Very well, then. Assuming that everything you have said is correct -- not that I concede any such thing -- what is your realistic estimate of the fine this man would be asked to pay? Please bear in mind that I will know if you exaggerate.

Tinnet: Fine? These charges carry jail time -- five or six years minimum, with more if Debree was one of the ringleaders, as we suspect. What would be the point of fining laborers? They haven't got enough money to make it worthwhile.

Letiv: Unless this Nick guy makes a lot of money now working for you. ~~ touch of aggression ~~

Hiram: He earns exactly as much money as any other member of Sat'htine: his House is his family, and we provide for one another. If you choose to pursue this, he will have the support of our entire legal staff. Name a reasonable price, and let us all be spared the... difficulties of taking this matter further.

Tinnet: The value of prosecuting him lies in the deterrence of future problems. I doubt Consolidated Coal would be willing to settle for mere money when a principle is at stake.

Tinnet isn't sure, mind you, but he at least knows their preferences.

Hiram: Principles can be costly. I offer you a reasonable alternative.

Letiv: What would that be?

Hiram: How much do you suggest?

Hiram intends to haggle a little, for form's sake, but if Letiv suggests a reasonable amount, he'll go for it.

Letiv: You're offering to pay us back for the money he lost us?

Hiram: Some reasonable fraction of it, at least. Surely one man is not to blame for all of your troubles?

Letiv snorts slightly.

Letiv: He was responsible for a pretty large chunk of them.

Letiv fidgets again, not entirely sure he's been authorized to secure an exact sum.

Letiv: A month's worth of profits, for the mine production and company store combined. Can you do that?

Hiram gives no external reaction, but it's far more money than he expected. However, he can envision the diplomatic mess this case could become, and he's serious about making it go away.

Hiram names a figure that's three-quarters of Letiv's opening offer.

Letiv: You can't make it a little more than that? ~~ desperation ~~

Hiram: Hmm.

Hiram pretends boredom.

Letiv already figures he's going to be in some kind of trouble for not being able to bring this guy to his bosses.

Hiram: Another ten percent?

Letiv: How about fifteen?

Hiram pretends to think about it.

Letiv doesn't want to push it too much, especially since math isn't his strong suit either. He has little idea any more of the exact sum of money that's being negotiated here.

Hiram: Agreed.

Letiv: Thank you, Mr. Sectub. ~~ grudging ~~

Hiram offers Letiv an out-T style handshake.

Letiv reaches his hand across the table with ~~ trepidation ~~. He didn't much care for the feel of tentacles on his wrists when he experienced them at the border. On the other hand, his out-T manners do demand that a firm, manly handshake is called for here, and he has to rise to the challenge.

Hiram feels oddly vulnerable, exposing his wrist to a completely untrained and hostile Gen.

Letiv shakes hands with Hiram, his grip not as firm as he would've liked.

Hiram does not seal the gesture with tentacles, as he's tempted to for safety's sake.

Letiv is ~~ relieved ~~.

Hiram: Very well, then. I'll have my accounting department draw up the cheque before you leave.

Letiv starts to ~~ panic ~~ slightly. He didn't think he had agreed to a firm deal.

Hiram: Is there a problem? I can instruct them to issue the amount in cash, if you'd rather.

Letiv: I, uh... I didn't think I had agreed to a firm deal back there.

Hiram: Oh?

Hiram raises an ~~ intimidating ~~ eyebrow.

Hiram: Have I misunderstood the Gen Territory interpretation of a handshake?

Tinnet: Mr. Letiv means that any final arrangement will have to be confirmed by the owners of Consolidated Coal. They, after all, are the injured parties.

Hiram: Ah. Very well, then. I shall await confirmation by your employers. But make them aware that this is the best they will have from me. The person of one of my members is not a negotiable commodity.

Letiv nods, ~~ relieved ~~, and moves to exit the room. He figures he can't get out of there soon enough.

Tinnet: Thank you for your time, Sectuib Hiram. We will be in touch when my clients have made their decision.

Hiram stands.

Hiram: Good day, gentlemen.

Hiram drops back into his chair as soon as his guests have left. He could definitely use an hour of Lusinka's time, about now.

Hiram: (sotto voce) And it started out as such a good day.

Hiram isn't too worried, though. He's sure the cash will suffice.

Next Table of Contents