What's Yours Is Mine: Episode 8

Gegg is pitching hay down from the loft for the horses. He's somewhat bleary-eyed, thanks to the colicky twins.

Gegg: I hope you slept better than we did, Senator.

Pollovic is not especially alert either, despite a bracing wash in rain barrel water.

Pollovic: I'm a newlywed, Gegg.

Gegg: Ah. Well, then, I expect you at least had a more congenial night.

Pollovic says nothing. In fact, it was Pametta's accidental elbow against his newly healed ribs that ruined his sleep.

Pollovic: Have you any further thoughts on what we were discussing last night?

Pollovic doesn't really remember much of last night's conversation; he's just looking for a change of topic.

Gegg shrugs.

Gegg: You were asking about how Hajene D'zoll treated my fear of Simes. I think he could help you, if you ask him.

Pollovic: I'll be passing through Sat'htine anyway. I'll at least talk to him.

Pollovic tries lifting the second pitchfork, then sets it down as his ribs twinge again.

Gegg: You sound kind of doubtful, there. Do you want to get over this fear? A lot of people never bother.

Pollovic: Is being comfortable around Simes anything more than a self-delusion?

Gegg: A self-delusion?

Pollovic: I help shape policies that affect our entire Territory. I've got to have a clear-eyed view of Simes. Is what I've been doing all these years right or not?

Gegg leans on his pitchfork as he contemplates the question.

Gegg: What view of Simes do you have?

Pollovic: I'm not sure any more. It depends on which way I look at them.

Pollovic runs his hands through his hair, plucking out a stray bit of straw.

Gegg: A lot of things look different from different angles. What do you see?

Pollovic: On the one hand, they're just people, as civilized as we are. Some of them can even make good friends.

Gegg nods.

Gegg: Yup. I'd agree with that. And on the other hand?

Pollovic: On the other hand, they're driven by selyn and need. We can never truly understand that, and we aren't safe living too close to it. And the culture they've built to deal with it isn't really good for us. And sometimes when I close my eyes in the dark...

Pollovic shrugs.

Gegg: You realize that they can be dangerous?

Pollovic: All I see is tentacles coming at me, and I agree with the folks who want to shoot them all on sight.

Pollovic tries, unsuccessfully, to repress a shudder.

Gegg: You know, there's really nothing contradictory about those views.

Pollovic: But they certainly lead to different policy decisions.

Gegg: Not really. Not if you realize that all your views are of the same thing. Simes are just people, like Gens are.

Pollovic: But...?

Gegg: And most people are quite civilized, but just about anybody can be dangerous when pushed too far. A Sime can kill. So can I, if I have to. So could you.

Pollovic: But not with my bare hands.

Gegg: Let me guess. You never joined the Army, did you?

Pollovic shakes his head.

Pollovic: I was old enough to, during the last of the war, but my father said he needed me at home.

Gegg: Figures. Well, trust me, it's not that hard to kill someone with your hands. Or any tool that's handy, for that matter. They teach the grunts to do it in a week.

Pollovic doesn't want to think about how one would practice something like that.

Gegg: So if you think about it, Gens are pretty darned dangerous, too.

Pollovic gives a cautious nod.

Gegg: On the other hand, we have pretty firm rules about when and where it's all right to be dangerous. And almost all people obey those rules. Right?

Pollovic: Right. Though the few that don't cost society a lot.

Gegg: Yup. There's a rotten potato or two in every bushel.

Pollovic: And they'll rot the whole thing if they aren't dealt with.

Pollovic has traded adages with farmers before.

Gegg: But it's easy enough to sort out the bad ones, and the rest make good eating.

Pollovic nods again.

Gegg: So if you apply that to your original question, what do you get?

Pollovic is too underslept to think clearly, so he gives the obvious answer.

Pollovic: Sorting out the bad Simes.

Gegg: Not a bad place to start. Although they're pretty good at doing that, themselves. What's important is whether you think the Simes in charge over there do a good enough job that you can live with it. And them.

Pollovic thinks about it.

Pollovic: I haven't seen "over there" yet. I've only seen our side of the border.

Gegg: You'll have a chance to see how Simeland works, right?

Pollovic nods.

Pollovic: But how it affects our side of the border is what's most important for us.

Gegg: From what you said, you want to know how it works on their side first, and then decide what should be imported?

Pollovic nods.

Pollovic: That makes sense. Doesn't it?

Gegg: It works for me.

Gegg is struck by a thought.

Gegg: You don't have Donor potential, do you?

Pollovic: I don't think so. Nobody's ever said anything, if I do. Why do you ask?

Gegg: That's all right, then. Seruffin would have told you.

Pollovic: Why does it matter?

Gegg: When I went to Sat'htine, they kept me away from the Simes except when I was very lowfield, because my field is stronger than most Gens'. You'll have a lot more freedom to talk to people. You're lowfield, right?

Pollovic: Um. Just about two weeks. Half field, I guess.

Pollovic hasn't really thought about that, except that it means he's got two weeks before he would normally donate again.

Gegg: You've got some time, then. Although they may ask you to donate early, if your problem keeps flaring up.

Pollovic's "problem" flares up at the mere thought.

Pollovic: I guess these are the kinds of things I'll have to learn about. Day-to-day details of living with Simes, when they aren't all channels.

Gegg nods.

Gegg: It's just a different set of manners, really.

Pollovic: It seems to me that it goes a lot deeper than that.

Gegg: The most important thing to remember is that if a Sime moves away from you, don't follow.

Pollovic nods, making a mental note.

Pollovic: All right. But why?

Gegg: If your field is getting to a Sime, he'll leave before things can get dangerous. If that happens too often, they'll ask you to donate.

Pollovic thinks about that.

Pollovic: It's a whole different way of looking at things, isn't it?

Gegg: Yeah. Everybody knows that Simes have the potential to be dangerous to Gens, but what we forget is that we can be equally dangerous to them.

Pollovic looks startled.

Pollovic: Oh. I thought you meant our emotions could make them dangerous to us.

Gegg: They do. But that's also dangerous to the Sime. Do you know anything about disjunction?

Gegg's Simelan accent isn't too bad, for a subsistence farmer.

Pollovic shakes his head.

Pollovic: What's that?

Gegg: It's the process of a Sime who's killed learning to live without killing. It's pretty unpleasant, and only very young Simes can survive it at all.

Pollovic: Ah. I'd heard of the concept, just not the word for it.

Gegg: So Simes have a big incentive to leave if your field is starting to get to them.

Pollovic finds himself fidgeting at all this talk of killing.

Pollovic: Maybe I shouldn't go over there. Maybe I should stay on this side of the border. Pametta and I could spend the entire time just touring my district.

Pollovic doesn't have to close his eyes, right now, to imagine tentacles coming at him.

Gegg: I don't know your wife as well as you do, of course, but I somehow don't think that young lady would be happy with such a change of plan.

Pollovic: She's amazingly adaptable. A lot more so than I am.

Gegg: The young often are. My Sanda certainly made herself at home at Sat'htine quickly enough.

Pollovic senses the opening for a shift to a less loaded topic.

Pollovic: Oh?

Gegg notes the change of subject.

Gegg: Look, I don't think you'll be happy with yourself if you cancel this trip. Right?

Pollovic hesitates.

Pollovic: I'd promised our grandchildren would have a world without borders. I've got to know what that would look like, before I can go on. I...

Pollovic takes a deep breath.

Pollovic: I can't afford to be a coward.

Gegg nods.

Gegg: So, you're going. Even though there is a risk. Which if you think about it, would be there if you toured your district instead. Right?

Pollovic shrugs.

Pollovic: A senator is always a target. Most of my constituents have always seemed happy with me, but all it takes is one who isn't.

Gegg: So, go to Simeland and learn what you have to know. And if you're nervous about it, stop and donate at the border. That way you'll know you're too lowfield to make an interesting target for anything but a berserker. And those are a lot rarer in Simeland than here.

Pollovic presses his lips together. He's still not sure he can face donating again, but there's no point in reiterating it in front of this courageous man. He gives a brisk nod.

Gegg recognizes the behavior and its cause, having experienced both often enough.

Gegg: Not sure you can?

Gegg is not unsympathetic.

Pollovic gives a careful shrug.

Pollovic: I guess I'll find out.

Gegg: Yeah.

Gegg: Look at it this way. It doesn't really matter, one way or the other.

Pollovic stares at him.

Pollovic: It doesn't?

Gegg: Channels are Simes, remember? They won't touch you without your consent; it's a professional ethics things. But your cooperation isn't strictly necessary.

Pollovic isn't reassured by this.

Pollovic: This is supposed to make me feel better?

Gegg: It means that you can decide what you want to do, however you feel about it.

Pollovic feels a sense of inevitability descend upon him. He nods slowly.

Gegg claps the Senator on the shoulder.

Gegg: That's the spirit. Here comes Jed's wagon. I guess the train is fixed.

Pollovic nods, and turns his back on the haystack with a sense of relief.

Next Previous Table of Contents