Gramigna: God damn it, I say we've always had a Pollovic representing us from this district and we are always going to have one. What was good enough for my father and grandfather is good enough for me.
Gramigna is in the traditional smoke-filled back room of a political club in Yarzh, the largest city in Pollovic's district, though it's mostly the fire that's smoking it up.
Stiles: Your father and grandfather weren't stuck with a Senator who can't get his legislation proposed, much less passed. There should never have been any question about that waiver getting passed. It's a sled factory, for goodness' sake.
Epinard: I'd say the blood's run a bit thin in this generation, Gramigna. This man's an embarrassment to both the party and his ancestors.
Gramigna: What, because he's actually out there leading instead of acting like the rest of the sheep?
Epinard: Kissing a Sime in public, posting his townhouse as Sime Territory, nearly getting killed hauling a berserker around New Washington...
Stiles: And a fine mess that would have been, if he'd gotten himself killed and left us without any representation at all.
Epinard: My God, I'm glad we've got at least some Sime Centers, but he doesn't have to act like he's the Nivet ambassador, for heaven's sake.
Gramigna: Okay, so that was a stupid mistake. A man's entitled to a stupid mistake.
Stiles: Yes, he is. One stupid mistake. Not a half dozen and counting.
Epinard: They're not mistakes. He's doing it on purpose, the fool. Thinks he's proving something, or making a statement, but all he's doing is embarrassing even the people who agree with him.
Gramigna waves his hands.
Gramigna: Well, whatever. I don't notice you suggesting anyone to replace him, which means this is nothing but grousing. People are all the time grousing.
Stiles: It's a little more than grousing. If this goes on much longer, we will have to find a replacement.
Gramigna: Where? Who? To get elected how?
Epinard: Find someone who will stick to the party platform without all this grandstanding.
Gramigna: The party platform has both feet firmly planted in mid-air, and you know it, Epinard.
Stiles: Look, Gramigna. It's very convenient to have a Pollovic representing us. Someone who's been trained up to the job, as it were. I've got nothing against Bren Pollovic. He seems like a nice fellow, and if he wants to take up a project on the side, I'm fine with that.
Gramigna gestures "Go on".
Stiles: Let him grandstand. As long as he gets me that waiver so I can get the steel I need for my factory. That's got nothing at all to do with Simes, but it's the sort of work we elect a Senator to do. Without it, our district will at too severe a disadvantage to compete.
Gramigna: Well, I can't deny he's been distracted. But that means we get him to focus. It does not mean we try to replace him with a freshman who won't have any influence at all. After all, marrying anybody would have been a distraction.
Stiles: Touring Simeland will also be a distraction. However, I agree it's easier to lay down the law to the Senator we've got than to replace him. In aid of which, Gramigna, what do you have in mind to provide a wake-up call to our erring Senator?
Gramigna: Well, as I say, I think appealing to the platform is hopeless. The thing's a mass of deliberate ambiguity, and anyone clever can twist it into meaning whatever he wants it to mean.
Stiles: Forget the platform. It's only to make the masses happy. What's important is what the Senator does. Or doesn't do, more importantly. Like introduce a routine waiver for a constituent who's supported him in the past.
Epinard: I'd like to have a senator who gets press for his political activities, not his public embarrassments.
Gramigna: Well, I presume you're not the only fella in that pickle, Stiles?
Stiles: No. I know of three others who are in similar difficulty.
Epinard: Is he refusing, or just ignoring you, Stiles?
Stiles: It's hard to tell. He's not exactly good at communicating with his district, as you may have noticed.
Epinard: Too busy sucking up to those channels, it looks like.
Stiles: Or letting them suck from him.
Gramigna gestures "Whatever".
Gramigna: Okay, if we can find a lot more, then we can put together a list of jobs Pollovic hasn't done because he's been, mmm, preoccupied.
Epinard: Granted, he did go out to Cottonwood when they had their problems, but how well has he followed up on that, once it was off the front page?
Gramigna: Hmm. Good point.
Stiles: He's lost credibility in the Senate. It's not surprising they are less eager to support his legislation. Even if it's something that wouldn't normally be controversial.
Epinard: Right. You wouldn't have seen his father making a fool of himself in public, over and over like he has. Who'd want to ally himself with a senator like that? They'd be tarred with the same brush.
Gramigna: So what would he have to do to get credibility back?
Epinard: Show some dignity, some reserve, some stability.
Gramigna: Fine, fine. But by doing what, exactly? Pushing through a lot of private member's bills isn't going to do it. Much though we may need them.
Epinard throws up his hands.
Epinard: If he can't act like a senator, he shouldn't be one, no matter who his father was. And if he keeps this up, he's not going to be one. Another party's candidate is going to get in on a platform that doesn't match our goals.
Epinard gestures widely.
Epinard: You want those religious fanatics in the Purity Party representing us? That's just the kind of backlash he could set off.
Gramigna: Don't be ridiculous. What did they get at the last election, ten percent? This district is solidly Liberal and always has been, and nobody knows that better than you.
Stiles: That can change. At the moment, I find myself envying Cordvain Valley. If they'd had the sense to keep him, they'd still have one of the most effective Senators in recent times representing them.
Gramigna: Well, that's what happens when you make promises you can't keep, eh? Pollovic hasn't done that.
Epinard: I'm exaggerating about the Purities, but a more conservative party might get in here if Pollovic keeps up his antics. Even people who are all for Sime Centers are wondering whether their senator is more interested in doing things for Nivet than for us.
Stiles: Really, if all he wants is to deal with Sime-related issues, he should resign and do that full-time. There's certainly a lot of productive work to do along those lines. He might well be happier.
Gramigna: Maybe so. But what platform would he have? And I don't mean the party kind.
Stiles: Who cares? Let him do what he can. As long as the work of the district goes forward.
Gramigna: Then he's going to stay in the Senate unless and until there's a credible alternative Liberal candidate, even if a more conservative Liberal.
Epinard: Or a more liberal conservative, and not from our party.
Stiles: Fine. But that will take time. In mean time, how do we salvage the mess?
Epinard: I suppose we should approach the party leaders with our concerns. Maybe they can rein him in.
Stiles: You'd think they would have tried before this.
Stiles gets an idea.
Stiles: Do you think there's a chance of getting other Senators in the party to introduce some of the more pressing measures?
Gramigna: Why should they? You don't vote for them.
Stiles: A professional courtesy for a colleague who is taking time off after his wedding?
Gramigna: Worth a try, I suppose.
Stiles: Who's the best prospect?
Gramigna: As you say, he's been losing influence even within the party.
Epinard: He should have arranged for this sort of thing, if he's taking the summer off, don't you think?
Epinard is pretty generally disgusted with his senator.
Stiles: He should have. Has anyone thought to actually contact his staff left behind and see what arrangements were made?
Gramigna: Why haven't you, if it comes to that? You're the man with the ax to grind.
Stiles: You mean, you haven't inquired?
Stiles shakes his head.
Stiles: Never mind. Of course you haven't. So all our urgent messages are probably waiting on Pollovic's desk for his return.
Gramigna: Did you send them personal and confidential, or something?
Stiles: I've sent them personal and screamed them to the skies. Even written the papers. Nothing's gotten a response.
Gramigna shakes his head.
Gramigna: What you need to do is get organized with the other people in your situation.
Stiles: I think I may have to take a trip to New Washington, as well. Sleds sell in the fall. I can't wait all summer for supplies, or I won't have stock to sell.
Gramigna: Fair enough. Epinard, do you actually have anyone in mind at all?
Epinard: Well, not really, not yet. But there must be some up-and-coming types in the party who are ready to stand for office. Not too young, experienced, with a good record for reliability...
Gramigna: You don't mean yourself, surely.
Epinard: Oh, no. God forbid!
Gramigna: So name names.
Epinard: Not time to name names yet. Have to do a fair bit of looking around. Pollovic is still a name to conjure with around here, but Bren isn't his father, and it doesn't look like he'll ever be.
Stiles: He's just got married; that might steady him a bit. It's happened before.
Epinard: Maybe if he'd married someone closer to his own age. Not a child like her.
Gramigna: Well, nobody can say the Doyles aren't a well-respected family.
Epinard: I think they'll get a bit less respect after this past year.
Gramigna: C'mon, Epinard, Pollovic isn't a sexual disease.
Stiles: Nobody seems to know anything much about the girl.
Epinard: You don't read the tabloids, eh? My wife can't resist them. Pollovic told the whole world at that ball of his that she was donating for her Sime brother -- blew her secret, and her family's all at once.
Gramigna: Oh, that. Plenty of folks do that right here, y'know. Nobody's going to take that seriously.
Epinard: Well, the Doyles aren't liberals -- staunch conservatives back to the Ancients, they'll have you believe.
Gramigna: They probably descend from an Ancient ancestor who was hanged for theft.
Epinard: And Pollovic couldn't keep his mouth shut. Maybe it was a scheme to force them to let him marry their child, but I doubt he's that subtle.
Stiles: No, Bren's nothing if not straightforward.
Epinard: Well, the whole matter lacked the kind of dignity one likes to see in one's senator. Apparently he just blurted it all out in front of the crowd, in the middle of a scene with the girl's mother.
Epinard shakes his head.
Epinard: I'm surprised his mother didn't have a heart attack. Poor woman, after all those years with the old senator.
Stiles: If the worst his wife has done is support her brother, that shows an uncommon degree of sense. Maybe we should contact her.
Gramigna: What, you want to elect her to the Senate?
Epinard laughs at the absurdity of the notion.
Stiles: There's many a Senate wife who's made a mediocre husband into an effective Senator.
Gramigna: Well, I think that's the dowager Mrs. Pollovic's theory. She's been pushing for him to marry for years. Preferably a Tsibola.
Epinard: If Eulalia Pollovic couldn't shape up her son it's hard to see how some sixteen year old girl can, especially one who was secretly defying her parents.
Stiles: If you don't know how a shapely sixteen-year-old can have more influence than an elderly mother, you're older than I thought you were, Epinard.
Gramigna: Gotcha there.
Epinard: Oh, influence, yes, but the kind we'd like to see? I wouldn't count on it. Not in a timely fashion, at any rate. Even if she wanted to shape him up, would she know how?
Stiles: Not left to herself, no. But Eulalia Pollovic's no fool, and with an instructor like that, who knows what the girl could accomplish.
Epinard: Well, you've got a point there. Time will tell, assuming they've got the time. Which I, personally, am not entirely confident of.
Gramigna: Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
Epinard isn't sure whether that's intended to be funny, so ignores it. He consults his watch.
Epinard: I've got to go. Shall we continue this next week?
Stiles looks at his own watch.
Stiles: Is that really the time? I was supposed to meet my wife half an hour ago.
Stiles gets up and reaches for his coat.
Epinard: Next week, then.
Epinard gathers his own things and leaves.
Gramigna packs up his traps and follows suit.