Gegg is doing the evening chores in the barn, slowly, to avoid going back among the colicky twins any sooner than necessary.
Pollovic, looking awkward, is holding a shovel and trying to help.
Gegg is finding the sight of a fancy New Washington Senator shoveling out Petunia's pen quite ~~ amusing ~~.
Gegg: It's a bit different from arguing in the Senate, isn't it?
Pollovic moves injudiciously and his mostly-healed ribs give another twinge.
Pollovic: Ungh... definitely.
Gegg: Every time my nose complains, I remember how tasty bacon is.
Pollovic: I'm certainly going to appreciate my pork a lot more after this.
Gegg: You've never spent much time on farms?
Pollovic is searching for a manly excuse to stop shovelling for a few minutes. He rests the shovel against the rails and tries to give Petunia a scritch behind the ears. The pig backs away from him.
Pollovic: None at all, really.
Pollovic grips the shovel once more.
Gegg: It does give one a better appreciation for one's food, to know where it comes from.
Pollovic: It definitely does. Seems odd, though, to know you're eating a creature with at least as much personality as a dog.
Gegg: I've had a time or two that I was hungry enough to eat a dog, if I'd had one.
Pollovic nods, though he can't really sympathize. he's never gone hungry, except for a few hours.
Gegg: Times have been a bit better since Toria started donating. The income helps a great deal.
Pollovic has heard this sort of thing a lot from his staff and constituents.
Pollovic: I'm sure it does. So you have three donors in the family, now?
Gegg: No. Just two, mostly.
Pollovic: I thought young Sanda...?
Gegg: She does. I'm the one who doesn't, mostly.
Pollovic raises an eyebrow.
Pollovic: I thought you said Hajene D'zoll had helped.
Gegg: He did, a great deal. The channel at Hannard's Ford is Second Order, though. We were both advised that it was better if I only donated to First Order channels.
Pollovic: Because they're more skilled?
Gegg: Yes. I am more difficult to handle than most Gens.
Pollovic studies Gegg. The man seems easygoing and gentle enough, though tough in the way all farmers are tough.
Gegg: It's a combination of Donor talent and the remains of my problem that D'zoll couldn't fix.
Gegg: You may have noticed that channels tend to be rather conservative, when it comes to donor safety.
Pollovic: They promise that donations are zero-risk, from the donor's side. I'm not sure how anything in life can be zero risk.
Pollovic had never really thought about that, until his wedding night.
Gegg: I suppose there's always the chance of someone having heart trouble or something.
Pollovic: If they do, of course, there's no better place to have it than when you're with a channel.
Gegg: I suppose.
Pollovic flashes on a memory of Tsibola's heart attack.
Pollovic: Mind you, not all of the consequences of that are physical.
Gegg: A lot of injuries can stay with you long after you're healed.
Pollovic: Indeed. Um, that reminds me.
Pollovic: I'd wanted to ask you.
Gegg strikes an ~~ interested ~~ pose.
Pollovic: What, exactly, did Hajene D'zoll do in his sessions with you? How does one heal panic?
Gegg: One doesn't. Panic isn't a disease, it's a symptom. You have to confront the underlying cause.
Pollovic: What if you already know what the cause was?
Gegg: Then you can get rid of the fear by confronting the cause until it stops preventing you from functioning.
Pollovic stares at the farmer in dawning horror.
Pollovic: You mean I'll have to let a berserker grab me again?
Gegg: No. You don't consider not wanting a berserker to grab you a problem, right? You just want to be able to donate again.
Pollovic: And be around Simes without tying myself in knots.
Gegg: So, you have to convince yourself, deep down where the fear is being generated, that there is a real difference between berserkers and adult Simes.
Pollovic nods slowly.
Gegg: Once you've done that, you'll be able to function around Simes.
Pollovic: But how? What, exactly, does D'zoll do?
Gegg: It depends on what his patient is afraid of.
Pollovic sets down the shovel again and turns directly towards Gegg.
Pollovic: I've told you about my situation. What would he do with me?
Gegg: He spent a lot of time just talking to me, going over what had happened to me. Then we worked on the fear more directly, until I could tolerate him being in the same room, using his tentacles, then touching me, and finally donating.
Pollovic: Oh. I...
Pollovic clamps his jaw shut.
Pollovic: I... could always cross the aisle. Or simply retire from politics.
Pollovic can't believe he's said such a thing out loud.
Gegg: If you don't mind losing what you've had, that would probably take the least effort. Is that what you want?
Pollovic looks anywhere but at Gegg for a long minute.
Pollovic can't admit that kind of weakness, to this man who so courageously confronted his own fears.
Gegg: In that case, I think you'll have an easier time living with yourself if you can get over this problem.
Pollovic: I need to know whether my new doubts about Unity are the sanest thoughts I've ever had, or the craziest. I have to do whatever that takes.
Gegg: What doubts are those?
Pollovic: Whether we even ought to try to live side by side with Simes. Whether it's possible. If it's possible, whether it's right.
Gegg: We never have lived any other way than side by side with Simes, really. All we have to choose is how we do so.
Pollovic feels, for a moment, the old ideals stirring in him again. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.
Pollovic: It's Unity, or going back to the killing.
Gegg: Pretty much, yes.
Pollovic: And now that I've made myself a figurehead, I can't afford to quit.
Gegg: You'd know more about that part of it than me, I guess.
Pollovic: The opposition would have a field day.
Gegg: I expect they would.
Pollovic's face takes on a look of resignation.
Pollovic: Shall I give D'zoll your regards when I see him?
Gegg: Please do.
Pollovic takes up the shovel and begins mucking out the pigpen once more.
Gegg: And Mr. Pollovic, you might find living with your decision a bit easier if you consider that both your old and new views of Simes are true.
Pollovic: Despite being so different?
Gegg: Think about it. Simes are people, right?
Pollovic: Of course.
Gegg: Then it's no surprise that just like Gens, most of them are quite safe to be around: perfectly normal folks.
Pollovic gives a cautious nod, and keeps shovelling.
Gegg: But even folks without tentacles can be pushed into antisocial actions if they get desperate.
Pollovic nods again.
Gegg: All a berserker is, is a person who is literally insane with need.
Pollovic: Like... a beggar with a crowbar?
Pollovic has never known desperation firsthand, except in the abstract political sense.
Gegg: Yes. Or more likely, a drowning person, grabbing at anything he can touch.
Pollovic: So we have to toss out... lots of life jackets?
Gegg: Yes. And put a lifeguard on duty, and rope off the more dangerous currents.
Pollovic: There was a Sime Center right there in town. It almost wasn't enough.
Gegg: Even with lifeguards on duty, it's possible to drown, too.
Pollovic: Swimming lessons. Swimming lessons for everyone would help. But you can't force people to take them.
Gegg: No. And somebody's always going to think the rules don't apply to him, and he's a good enough swimmer to jump in right after a big meal.
Pollovic: I thought I knew what I was doing. It turned out I didn't at all.
Gegg: Who does? That doesn't mean you stop doing anything.
Gegg: Well, I suppose you can, but if you go that way, you accomplish nothing.
Pollovic: And as soon as you stop shovelling, you're up to your neck in manure again in no time.
Pollovic gives Petunia a baleful glare.
Gegg: It may smell bad, but that manure makes the soil fertile. So you get quite a bit more than a clean pig pen when you shovel.
Pollovic takes another shovelful.
Pollovic: But what is the manure of ignorance and Sime-hatred good for?
Pollovic knows he's generated his own share of the stuff.
Gegg: Nothing much, compared with the value of the manure of knowledge.
Pollovic figures this metaphor has been stretched to the breaking -- or stinking -- point.
Pollovic: So... I've never been to Sime Territory before. What are some of the surprises I can expect?
Pollovic hopes any change of topic will help take his mind off the smell of what he's doing.
Gegg: The thing that surprised me the most was how much the same it was. Sat'htine does have very good farmland, though.
Pollovic smiles. Of course that's the first thing a farmer would notice.
Gegg: And then, just about the time you think you've figured things out, some difference will come along and clobber you over the head.
Pollovic recognizes an incipient anecdote when he hears one.
Gegg: In my case, it was discovering that mending the roof was considered too dangerous for me.
Pollovic takes one last shovelful, then rests his backside against the rail as he settles in to listen.
Gegg: The Simes were literally terrified that I would fall off.
Pollovic: Was it an unusually steep roof?
Gegg: No. Less slippery than my house, too.
Pollovic: Then what was the problem?
Gegg: There was no problem, for me. For them, it was an insane risk. They'd much rather a Sime do such jobs.
Pollovic: Simes are more agile than we are. We all must seem clumsy to them.
Gegg: There's that. There's also the assumption that selyn is the most important public resource. Not only are Simes protecting their own lives, they're making sure that they and their neighbors don't become dangerous to others. It made a weird kind of sense after Sectuib Hiram explained it, although it was still annoying.
Pollovic: But... doesn't an injured Gen produce even more selyn while healing? Why should an injury or two bother them? Especially with channels around?
Gegg: You can ask that, when you're wincing every time you lift that shovel?
Pollovic hadn't thought his discomfort was so obvious.
Pollovic: I'm nearly healed. You should have seen me a week ago.
Gegg: You have to agree, it's bad enough to live through that sort of thing when you brought it on yourself. A Sime is left living through the injuries of those around him, even when he had nothing to do with the injury.
Pollovic hadn't thought about that before. He'd had all the pieces of the puzzle; he just hadn't put them together into a picture.
Gegg: It does give them a communal assumption that it's everybody's job to avoid injuring anybody.
Gegg: And that goes double if protecting that person also protects the selyn supply on whom everybody depends.
Pollovic: So... clumsy Gens get packed away in cotton wool?
Gegg: Or at least everyone makes sure that they don't do the more dangerous jobs. Like mending a leaky roof.
Pollovic: I'd love to know what they did to try to stop you.
Pollovic has long since figured out that Gegg is as tough and proud as any farmer.
Gegg: Now, that's a tale.
Pollovic overturns an empty bucket to sit on and settles in to listen.