Ambassador Tsibola is in his study, relaxing after a stressful Senate session. He wishes he could have a brandy, but has resigned himself to the cup of tea Bernice allows him.
Bernice is sitting in a comfortable chair by the window, going through her correspondence. She looks up as a servant ushers Mercedes Templeton in.
Bernice: Why Mercedes! How good to see you again.
Mercedes rushes up to her old friend -- everyone who is anyone is an old friend, an old enemy, or both -- embraces her, and plants the statutory two air-kisses, one on each cheek.
Mercedes: Bernice, at last! It's soooo good to see you and of course Ruthven too after such a long time apart.
Bernice: Of course.
Bernice dislikes effusiveness.
Bernice: Would you care for some tea?
Mercedes: Gallons, if you have them. This business with my darling Adrian has me soooo stressed out.
Bernice signals to the servant to fetch another cup.
Bernice knows Adrian as a rather overindulged and feckless young man.
Mercedes: And I was hoping the Ambassador might be able to ... well, do whatever he would do in such a situation.
Bernice: I don't think he has a place for him on his staff, Mercedes.
Bernice assumes Mrs. Templeton is trying to find a respectable position for her son.
Bernice: Has he decided not to go into the family business then?
Mercedes: No, no, no! Oh, you haven't heard?
Bernice: We've only been back in town for a few days. What's happened?
Mercedes: He's over there. With them.
Bernice tries to be patient.
Bernice: Where, Mercedes? With whom?
Tsibola has a ~~ bad feeling ~~ about this.
Mercedes: With the Simes, Bernice.
Bernice: In Nivet? What's he doing there?
Mercedes: He ran off to see his second Templeton cousin three times removed, or whatever he is, at that awful Sime place.
Tsibola: At what place, Mercedes?
Mercedes: Satheen, or whatever it's called. And he hasn't come back. And he hasn't written.
Tsibola: Sat'htine? What is a cousin of yours doing there?
Mercedes: From what I heard, he was sent there on a mission by the Gen Army, and he was caught and they bought him up and kept him in a cell until he agreed to be a counter-spy for the Simes.
Bernice remembers chatting with Roger ambrov Sat'htine, formerly Roger Templeton, at that historic house in Capital and mentioning it in some letters to her friends. She represses a groan.
Mercedes: And of course now that we don't have raids any more he's just sitting there, and what he may be doing to my Adrian I can't think.
Bernice: I met this man in Capital, Ruthven. We were both sight-seeing.
Mercedes: And I -- You did? And you knew who he was?
Bernice: Yes. He told me he was a Templeton, but he'd given up his inheritance long before the war. He was assumed dead, of course.
Tsibola: Do you know something about this, Bernice?
Bernice: Apparently, he held quite a high position in Sat'htine, but he's retired now. Of course, I have no idea how Adrian fits into this. Has he gone to visit his relative?
Mercedes: Yes, I just said he ran off there to see him. Just like that! With no explanation whatever!
Bernice doesn't see why Mercedes is surprised -- as far as she knows Adrian has always been impulsive and inconsiderate.
Mercedes: And Dayvid won't do anything, says there are plenty more just like him in the family, but he is my son.
Bernice: I don't see the problem, Mercedes. Why shouldn't he visit his cousin? He's always liked to travel, hasn't he?
Tsibola: Have you received any communication from the boy?
Mercedes: Not a word. Not. A. Word.
Tsibola: Have you tried to contact this cousin of yours at Sat'htine?
Mercedes: [highly indignant] Me? His mother? Contact a Traitor To The Race? And one who's seducing my poor boy into his perverted lifestyle?
Tsibola: Well, yes. For one thing, the fellow could tell you whether Adrian ever arrived at Sat'htine. And whether he has left. All of which is very useful information, if you want to locate him.
Mercedes: I want him to be returned, or rescued as the case may be. And I thought that you, Ruthven, in your new position ... well ....
Tsibola: You thought that I might have better luck getting a response than you have?
Mercedes: Well, isn't that your Job, I mean, really?
Tsibola: Well, yes. Along with representing New Washington Territory at all sorts of boring functions, and gathering information to aid treaties.
Bernice: I can't imagine that he'd need rescuing, Mercedes. Sat'htine, I understand, is a prestigious organization in Nivet. They don't need to kidnap new members these days.
Bernice's tone is quite dry, but she doesn't expect Mercedes to pick up on it.
Tsibola: Adrian may simply be enjoying himself too much to bother keeping in touch.
Tsibola is aware that the boy is a bit irresponsible.
Bernice: He doesn't usually write home regularly when he travels, now does he?
Mercedes looks at both Bernice and Ruthven in frustration, which leads to anguish, and finally to a burst of passionate weeping.
Mercedes: [broken] I beg you... for the sake... of what we once... meant to each other... save my baby!
Tsibola is ~~ distressed ~~ by this display of female emotionalism.
Bernice looks to Ruthven and rolls her eyes.
Tsibola: Now, now. I'll make some inquiries about the boy, and see if we can locate him. But really, he's probably just enjoying himself.
Bernice: Indeed. Things have changed a lot in the past forty years.
Mercedes lurches into another embrace, of Tsibola this time, wrapping herself around him.
Mercedes: Thank you! Thank you! You are my hero! My boy's savior!
Bernice shakes her head.
Bernice: But I'm sure if you write to him at Sat'htine, yourself, perhaps care of his cousin, it will get to him.
Bernice expects it won't get an answer, however. Mercedes has gotten worse with time -- no wonder her son wants to escape.
Mercedes doesn't even hear Bernice, not when she's busy embracing her husband for the first time since before his marriage and weeping passionately on his shoulder.
Tsibola manages to detach himself.
Tsibola: Now, Mercedes, there's no need for that. Go home, now, and try not to worry. I'll send word when I have it.
Mercedes isn't used to being detached from, but whatever.
Mercedes: Very well, Ruthven Tsibola. I'll hold you to that.
Mercedes bows slightly to Bernice -- her emotional temperature has just dropped about a hundred degrees -- and stalks from the room.
Bernice: Oh, dear, you've upset your old flame.
Tsibola looks ~~ amused ~~.
Tsibola: I'm afraid Mercedes was never any good at losing. I, on the other hand, make a habit of winning. Hence my picking you as my bride instead.
Bernice: And she still has that extravagant imagination, it seems.
Bernice shakes her head.
Bernice: Although it appears she can't imagine that her son would want to get away from her histrionics.
Tsibola: I will send an inquiry to Sat'htine. Although if the boy really has decided to jump the border permanently, I will be at my most cowardly, and inform her by letter only.
Bernice: We'll likely be back in Nivet by then, anyway.
Tsibola: A perfect excuse.
Himinola is shown into the study by another of the Tsibolas' servants.
Himinola: Good day, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you for agreeing to see me on such short notice.
Tsibola is ~~ relieved ~~ that at least this visitor is male, and therefore less likely to collapse into tears.
Himinola turns and bows to Bernice.
Himinola: Mrs. Ambassador.
Bernice nods back politely.
Tsibola: Ah. You would be Mr. Himinola?
Himinola: Yes, sir. I'm here on behalf of a client who requires anonymity at present. My client is a former employer of the present Nick ambrov Sat'htine.
Tsibola: I've met the fellow. Was your employer traveling in Simeland?
Himinola: Sime Territory? Not so far as I know, sir.
Tsibola is assuming that this mystery client is a dissatisfied escortee.
Himinola: He has offered a most substantial reward for the bringing of the said Sosu Nick, formerly known as Nick Debree, to justice in the matter of labor law violations some ten years ago.
Tsibola: ...labor violations? Ten years ago?
Himinola: At the time Sosu Nick, or Mr. Debree, was working as a union organizer among miners here in New Washington Territory. His conduct arguably amounted to an incitement to riot, not to mention such lesser matters as primary and secondary boycotts.
Tsibola: And? He's not likely to come back and repeat his youthful indiscretions. And he can't do much agitating from Simeland. Why pursue the fellow now?
Himinola: I believe that my employer may feel that failing to pursue wrongdoing, however long ago, sets a bad example to future malefactors, sir.
Tsibola: Nonsense. Pursuing the matter so long after the fact just makes your employer look weak. Or is there something more to the issue than you have told me?
Himinola: [coldly but deferentially] That's as may be, Mr. Ambassador. Considerations of strategy of that sort I must leave to him.
Himinola: In any event, my employer sent a bounty hunter into Sime Territory to return Sosu Nick to face the legitimate consequences of his actions. And so far from cooperating with justice, the Sime Territory courts have now sentenced the bounty hunter to several years in prison, showing no respect whatever for his necessary legal function.
Tsibola's eyes widen.
Himinola: You or I might not care for such a career, sir, or the people who follow it, but bounty hunters play an essential role in the workings of our legal system.
Tsibola: Your employer sent a man across the border to kidnap a high ranking Donor?
Himinola: [freezing] I must object in the strongest terms, sir, to the use of the term "kidnapping" in this connection. Nor did my employer either know or have reason to know that his outside agitator had become, as you say, a high-ranking Donor.
Tsibola: So neither your employer nor his flunky bothered to do any research on their target? Nor on the relevant sections of the treaty law between our Territory and Nivet?
Himinola: As to that, I cannot say. I'm sure my employer has his own legal advisers, however. I will point out that it's hardly probable that a mere demand for extradition would have been respected. Or are you suggesting that if he had come to you first, his efforts would have been more successful?
Tsibola: For your information, bounty hunters are not allowed to operate across the border except in cooperation with local authorities. What your employer has done could easily turn into a major incident.
Himinola: I'll be sure to tell my employer that. In any case, his brief requires that I register a protest with the Ambassador, and that I have done. If you have any other messages you wish to send, I'll be happy to pass them on them either now or later.
Tsibola: I do have a message for your employer. I wish to advise him in the strongest possible terms to drop this matter immediately and be prepared to apologize abjectly if the Nivet government chooses to take offense.
Himinola: Noted, Mr. Ambassador. If there is nothing else, I'll take my leave.
Himinola waits until it's clear there will be no further response.
Tsibola: Good day, then.
Himinola: Good day, sir. Good day, ma'am.
Himinola lets himself out.
Tsibola looks at Bernice.
Bernice: Good heavens. Bounty hunters?
Tsibola: This could be a problem, if the Tecton chooses to take offense. You know how overprotective they can be.
Bernice: Yes. Especially of Donors like Nick. I understand he's as high up as they can get. And Householders are unusually touchy, too, aren't they?
Tsibola: Yes. If they were willing to overlook his participation in a rebellion, they aren't going to allow Sosu Nick to be deported with prejudice on ten-year-old charges of union agitating.
Bernice: Well, they do have the bounty hunter in jail. Perhaps they'll be content with that.
Tsibola: I hope so. fortunately, the fellow didn't succeed. If he had...
Tsibola doesn't want to think about it.
Bernice looks at the mantel clock.
Bernice: I think it's a bit late to see any more visitors today. Shall we go have a rest before dressing for dinner?
Bernice is glad that with Ruthven using his study as an office she's in a position to prevent him from working too hard.
Tsibola: I'm always ready to rest with you, my dear.
Tsibola used to find it less restful, but he'll take what he can get.