Randayl is relaxing in the main room of Saag's apartment, waiting for his friend to return from his sister's wedding in New Washington.
Randayl has upgraded his wardrobe with inexpensive working clothes that don't have holes in them and he has laid in some fruit and cheese with which to celebrate Saag's return.
Randayl has gotten a little bit of an advance from the lawyers, but most of his spending money is still coming from his job digging post holes. He was forced to put almost all the available funds into his first payment to his father, and the next few payments have to be saved for the second installment.
Randayl is finding his situation better due to the reduction in his selyn taxes, however.
Saag slogs up the stairs to his apartment. He walked home from the train station to save cab fare, and his arms are really tired from carrying his suitcase. He zlins to see if the door's locked -- it isn't -- and goes in.
Saag: Hi, Randayl. Boy am I ever glad to be home.
Saag sets down his suitcase, stretches, and gets a glass of water.
Randayl: Saag! It's good to have you back. It's been lonely. Is your sister duly married off?
Saag: Yup. Married. Probably managed to, uh, consummate it by now. I assume her husband is in functional condition what with all those channels working on him.
Saag's nager shows he has quite a story to tell.
Randayl leans forward to offer a plate of goodies.
Randayl: So, pour yourself a cup of tea and tell all.
Saag: Gosh. What a trip.
Saag refills his glass from the pot of cold tea, flops onto a cushion and takes off his shoes and socks.
Randayl: How is what we used to call Civilization?
Saag: It's really different when you can zlin it. And people treat you really differently too, when you're the kind of person who can zlin. ~~ chagrin ~~
Randayl: Knowing that is different than zlinning it, huh?
Randayl is ~~ sympathetic ~~.
Saag: It would have been impossible without the Escort Senator Pollovic hired for me. It was wonderful having a Donor to help me tolerate it, but still, it would have been a lot more wonderful if I didn't have to have an ambient like that to tolerate.
Saag sighs deeply.
Randayl: How was your sister? Was she like you remember?
Saag: More grown up, but basically, yes. She was sincere about being happy to see me. My parents... well, my mother just avoided me, pretended I don't exist. My father... gosh that was strange.
Randayl: Really? How did he zlin?
Saag: Well, he told me that he had had no idea I was still alive and in Nivet. He claimed that his staff must have been censoring his mail. He acted all friendly and like he cared about me, and the weird thing was he zlinned sincere in what he said, like he had himself convinced too. But of course, he's known for months, ever since Pollovic's party when it came out that Pametta was donating for me, and he never did a thing. Not a friggin postcard.
Randayl: I take it, then, that he's still very high field?
Saag: Oh, of course, that goes without saying. But he zlinned like he believed what he was saying, even though his actions are completely contrary to it. I didn't know Gens could do that.
Saag: And of course, for all his concern, he didn't offer to help me out with tuition for college or anything. It was all an act.
Randayl: But one he sincerely believed?
Saag: I guess so. Like I said, it was really weird.
Randayl: Does he have the slightest idea what your life is like, here? That you're living in a two room apartment and working as an errand boy?
Saag: I don't have any idea. He's certainly had plenty of opportunity to ask Pametta about what I've written to her. I mean, I may have made things sound better than they are by mostly writing about the better things, but still, it's pretty obvious that I'm not living the way we all assumed I would before I changed over. Especially that I'm not getting an education.
Saag shrugs again.
Saag: Oh, well, I'd already written all that off a long time ago.
Saag gets up.
Saag: You want a refill too?
Randayl: Thanks. What's your sister's new husband like? My dad hates him, which is a pretty good recommendation.
Saag: I guess he's okay. He nearly got himself killed on his wedding night. I'm not sure what that shows -- maybe that his heart is in the right place, but his brains are off in the ozone somewhere? I mean, he could have got my sister killed!
Saag shakes his head.
Saag: You'd think a guy that age would have some common sense.
Randayl: Killed? What the shen happened?
Saag: Well, me and Sosu Ettil came back early from the reception. I mean, there's only so much standing around in a crowd of Gens who are pretending you're not there but zlinning like there's a pile of fresh manure where you're standing that a guy can take, eh? And then talking with my father...
Saag shakes his head again.
Saag: Anyhow, we were at the back of the house resting, and him and Pametta came home and there was a neighbor kid in changeover hiding in the bushes out front and they found him.
Saag throws up his hands.
Saag: So here he's got not only a live nonjunct Sime as a consultant, but a very experienced high field Donor on the premises, but does he call us? No!
Saag takes a deep breath.
Saag: The lunatic gets Pametta to chain his leg to the kid's and they all three of them pile back into the carriage and head for the Sime Center.
Randayl's eyes widen in ~~ alarm ~~.
Randayl: Why the shen did he do that?
Saag: They've got no idea what they're doing. They think because they both donate, a berserker won't touch them! The chain is so the driver won't refuse to drive the coach. I guess it's so the kid will grab somebody else first. Like my sister, for example, if not the Senator.
Randayl: At least there's one person there with sense.
Saag: Yeah, for all the good it did.
Saag gets up to pace.
Saag: So they get halfway to the Sime Center, and they hit a pothole and the coach breaks down. Pametta flags down a guy on a horse, gets the horse to throw him, the Senator and the kid get on the horse, face to face, chained together, right, and head for the Sime Center. The kid's in stage five for cryin' out loud!
Saag: Well, at that point, Pametta was safe, at least.
Randayl: Yes. Although you said she has some affection for her husband?
Saag: Well, yeah, I'm sure she didn't want to be a widow on her wedding night, but better him than her, I figure. I mean, he's supposed to look after her, and he's a lot older. He should have some sense!
Randayl: He's a politician. They're all a bit... odd. Believe me, I know. It's something about having so much power... they tend to think that they can just order the world to do whatever they want.
Saag: I know what you mean. It kind of explains my dad's act, too.
Saag sighs deeply.
Saag: Meanwhile, me and Sosu Ettil came out just as the coach got out of sight, and we run into the kid's mother, who's a real Simephobe. I'm afraid to let her know I'm Sime, and Sosu Ettil covers for me pretty well. So we talk her into going to the Sime Center, and we three pile into her carriage...
Randayl: In a carriage? With a Simephobe? You have more nerve than I do.
Saag: Right. I'm keeping Sosu Ettil between us, but I can't help acting abnormal, like the mother twisted her ankle, and I'm afraid to touch her to help her walk so Sosu does instead. Here's this healthy young guy letting this ancient grandmother do the physical stuff, right?
Saag shakes his head.
Randayl: Did she think you were ill-bred? Or was she just glad that you were farther away?
Saag: Well, partway there, she figures out why I'm hiding my arms, but Sosu Ettil cools her down. These Donors are amazing -- they can even manage Gens.
Saag: But once we got there, and I found out what had happened!
Randayl: They got there in time, right?
Saag: My God, Randayl, the kid was in breakout and had the Senator by the arms when a channel dived in and grabbed him!
Saag: They fell off the horse and the Senator broke some ribs and got banged up, but if the channel had been five seconds later!
Saag puts his hand on his chest.
Saag: My heart is pounding just thinking about it again.
Randayl tries to ~~ calm ~~ their mutual ~~ agitation ~~.
Randayl: It worked out, right? The channel got there in time?
Saag: Yeah, but, imagine -- bad enough somebody gets killed, bad enough my sister's a virgin widow, bad enough the poor kid is junct -- but a Senator killed on the grounds of the New Washington Sime Center! Can you imagine what would happen?
Randayl: I'd rather not, to be honest. I have enough need nightmares already.
Saag: And a Senator from the liberal side of the floor? One who's been making all these noises about Unity, and donating, and honeymooning in Nivet?
Saag sets his glass down by the sink.
Saag: Shedoni, Randayl, I'm glad I'm back home. I just hope Pametta will be okay with that lunatic.
Randayl: Yeah. Here, all we have to worry about is ordinary need.
Saag: Well, it's not like they'd let us go into attrition even if we couldn't pay our taxes, anyway. People here have a clue about changeover, too.
Saag notices the plate Randayl offered him some time ago.
Saag: Hey, nice of you to get all this stuff. What are the purple things? Some kind of berry, I guess.
Randayl: Yeah. They looked pretty.
Saag tries one.
Saag: Good. Sweet and sort of flowery tasting.
Saag has another.
Randayl: Yeah. Most of what I've gotten from my great aunt has gone to my father, of course. But there's a little spending money left over. I'll be able to help out a bit more with the rent.
Saag: Well, it's just a matter of time before you'll never have to pick up another shovel again as long as you live. But, yeah, I appreciate the help with the rent. Maybe we can go out sometimes, too. Have a porstan or something now and then.
Randayl: Yeah. It'll be a while before I can do without the job, though.
Randayl: It looks like my father actually has started my sisters on changeover lessons. So I've got to take care of the rest of his debts.
Saag: That's okay. We were doing fine before and we'll do fine now. I'm glad your sisters are going to have more of a clue than we did if it happens to them.
Saag isn't going to tell Randayl what he overheard Churri telling her friends about Simes. It was clear that she was just trying to impress them and hassle him.
Randayl: I don't know. I've gotten a couple of letters from them, but they weren't very real, if you know what I mean. They read like they were dictated by their governess.
Saag: They probably were.
Saag: But at least they know you're alive and in Nivet and not a monster.
Randayl: They used to want to talk to me. They were really cute when they were little.
Saag: Well, maybe they'll figure out how to send you letters that don't get censored. If not now, maybe when they get a little older.
Saag doesn't think it's very likely, judging by Churri, but who knows? He's used to doing what he can to cheer Randayl up.
Randayl: I remember one day when Churri brought me a necklace she'd made out of daisies. It was pretty squashed and wilted, but she was so proud of it that I wore it to dinner.
Randayl: Father wasn't amused, but Mother made him let me be.
Saag: That's really nice.
Randayl: Letters that aren't censored... Saag that's it!
Randayl: They have a tutor -- a channel. Father explained that in his last letter. I can't remember her name offhand, but he did mention it. If I can send the girls a letter through her, she could make sure that they get it uncensored. And that their replies are equally uncensored.
Saag: I guess. Unless she doesn't want to piss your father off. It's worth a try, for sure.
Saag figures Randayl is better off with the formula letters than the kind of venom Churri was spouting.
Randayl: She's a channel, right? She doesn't live on what my father is paying her.
Saag: Yeah, but she may figure it's more important that your sisters get changeover training. But it's definitely worth a try.
Saag hopes the channel will censor the letters for Randayl's sake.
Randayl: I'll get on it. Seeing as how we're going to have to wait a bit longer for those porstans.
Saag: Oh! I brought you something.
Saag opens his suitcase and digs through his dirty laundry.
Saag: Remember we were talking about those candies you get around Year's Turning with the sort of pictures that run through them? Flowers and pinwheels and stuff? I found some.
Saag gives Randayl a good sized box.
Saag: No parents doling them out to you a few at a time, or slapping your hand if you try to grab some from the dish.
Randayl takes the box with ~~ delight ~~.
Saag: I got a lot of different kinds. Pametta helped pick them out. Sosu Ettil, too. She'd never seen them before. She got some to take home with her.
Randayl opens the box.
Randayl: They're lovely!
Saag: Aren't they? Almost too pretty to eat.
Randayl tries a particularly delectable offering.
Randayl: I've never had any problem eating them...
Saag laughs, ~~ happy ~~ that his gift is appreciated.
Randayl chews and swallows, then looks at the box again.
Randayl: It's ironic, isn't it? All those years, I imagined having a whole box of these to myself. I imagined that I'd gobble them down all at once. And now I have them, and my Sime appetite means that I really don't want more than one at a time.
Saag: Well, you're a grown-up now, too. Grown-ups don't eat whole boxes of candy at once, no matter what larity they are.
Randayl: I guess not.
Randayl sets the box aside.
Randayl: It does seems that growing up is a lot more complicated than it seemed.
Saag: Oh, I dunno. It seems to me that it just happens, no matter what you do.
Randayl: I used to think that grownups controlled things. And maybe some of them do, but I don't see myself among them, anytime soon.
Saag: You're doing okay, Randayl. Look at what you've gotten your father to do for your sisters.
Randayl: I was shaking the whole time. Until I got my will signed, I was sure he'd find a way to murder me and get the money.
Saag: Standing up to him takes a lot of strength. You did it -- you succeeded.
Randayl: He wouldn't even think of it as murder, given my tentacles.
Saag: I know. My father isn't anything like that vicious about Simes.
Randayl: What about your mother?
Saag: I have no idea what she thinks. But all through the wedding and the reception, hours that we were in the same rooms, she never made eye contact, and I never saw her looking at me.
Randayl: Was her attention on you, at all?
Saag: Not that I could zlin. Of course, I was wearing retainers, and there was a crowd and Sosu Ettil was protecting me. She never got close enough to really zlin even without retainers.
Randayl: Is she generally afraid of Simes? I mean, outside of normal caution.
Saag: I have no idea. Never saw her with a Sime. I don't remember her ever talking about Simes or changeover. We were never close, anyway. I don't remember ever having a real talk with her.
Randayl: Maybe you ended up the lucky one. You have a sister who loves you, and your father... well, at least he isn't hostile. Someday, I'd like to meet them.
Saag would like to point out that Randayl had his great aunt, who seemed to really care about him, but doesn't want to sound like he means the great aunt's money.
Saag: Well, Pametta is going to be here in Capital on her honeymoon, unless they change their plans after that wedding night. You can meet her then. As for my father -- well, I don't know when or if I'll ever even hear from him.
Randayl: He didn't offer to communicate?
Saag: He didn't say anything. It was all just surface, here and now, nothing about doing anything about the future. Lies about the past, lies he believed. If he wants to write, he can get my address from Pametta, but I'm not counting on it.
Saag: Like I said, the whole thing was weird.
Saag: Yeah. Well, you can pick your friends but you can't pick your relatives. We're friends, you and me.
Randayl dredges up a ~~ smile ~~ for his only real friend.