What's Yours Is Mine: Episode 18

Hiram glances at the top item in his morning stack of mail, does a double take, then reads it again. Then he turns and hands it to his First Companion.

Hiram: What do you make of this, Lusinka?

Lusinka reads over Hiram's shoulder.

Hiram rubs at his temples with both sets of dorsals. Even with Lusinka's help, his turnover a couple of hours ago was rough.

Lusinka: The Tecton's premier diplomat has finally been driven stark raving mad by the Wild Gens?

Hiram: It certainly looks like it. What in the name of shen makes Seruffin think I'm going to send a Sat'htine Companion within arm's reach of the Wild Gens who tried to have him kidnapped just a few weeks ago?

Lusinka: He does seem to think that there is potential for a public relations disaster that Nick could avert. Why else would he even propose such a thing?

Hiram thinks about it.

Hiram: Because he's desperate, and he knows I still owe him a couple of favors?

Lusinka: There is that. But I can't see him calling in those favors without reason. Whether giving in is in Sat'htine's best interest is another question entirely, of course.

Hiram: I'm not even sure what use Nick would be. He can still be a bit... immoderate... in situations that call for careful diplomacy.

Lusinka rereads the note.

Lusinka: You know, this might be a chance for him to work on that particular character flaw. He's going to have to fix it before he can be a credible First Companion. As far as I can see, it's a limited situation. The Wild Gens as a whole aren't likely to start another war if he messes it up.

Hiram: But if we're already thinking in terms of damage control, why set up the situation in the first place?

Lusinka: It's a risk, to be sure. Do you think Nick is so much of a loose cannon that Seruffin and Kat together can't keep him in line?

Hiram runs his ventrals through his hair, which has acquired a lot more gray since Nick first landed on his doorstep.

Hiram: If Nick's high field, and set on a particular course of action, I'm not sure the entire Tecton, in plenary session, could slow him down for more than a minute.

Lusinka chuckles.

Lusinka: The Tecton in plenary session has far too many impressionable channels just waiting to be led around by their laterals.

Hiram attempts a look of mock insult, but he's weary enough today that it comes off more as if it were the real thing.

Lusinka zlins ~~ thoughtful ~~.

Lusinka: You know, it might do that young man good to have to deal with a situation where he can't use his nager to charm himself out of any difficulty.

Hiram: He's been there before. Don't forget, he used to live out there. That's how he got into trouble with the mining company in the first place.

Lusinka: That was a long time ago.

Hiram: But what I'm saying is that he already knows how to influence things even without the use of his nager.

Hiram is developing a monumental headache, and suspects he isn't communicating as clearly as usual.

Lusinka: Yes, but he hasn't demonstrated that he can do it responsibly.

Lusinka starts massaging Hiram's temples.

Hiram: This still zlins like... ahhhh, right there... a situation where there's a lot to lose, and not a great deal to gain.

Lusinka: There is the matter of clearing our obligations.

Hiram: True. There is that. And...

Hiram hesitates, unsure whether he wants to expose this particular weakness even to his most trusted Companion.

Lusinka: Yes?

Lusinka offers ~~ encouragement ~~.

Hiram: There's a very childish part of me that would love to parade Nick, with full diplomatic immunity and a splendidly turned out Dar honor guard, right under the noses of the folks who tried to kidnap him.

Lusinka breaks into ~~ laughter ~~.

Lusinka: Now, that would be a sight!

Hiram: Except that, knowing Nick, he'd probably show up in a threadbare plaid shirt and give his guard the day off!

Lusinka: We could have his luggage stolen... except for some dress uniforms.

Hiram breaks into a chuckle, then quickly sobers.

Hiram: You really want me to okay this, don't you?

Lusinka sobers.

Lusinka: I'm concerned. In many ways, Nick would make a very good First Companion when I retire. He's got his quirks, to be sure, but mostly they just affect Sat'htine's plants.

Hiram nods.

Lusinka: But before I can trust him to carry on for me when I retire, I've got to know he can handle himself for a week or two without creating diplomatic incidents.

Hiram: You sound as if you're in a hurry to retire.

Lusinka: I'm not, but realistically, Kat and Nick are going to be taking on more and more of our duties over the next ten years or so. And when we do retire... I don't want to leave Kat in the awkward position of a Sectuib whose Companion can't be her First Companion.

Hiram: You know what happens to a channel who retires. I'm not ready for that yet. Kat still has a lot of years... maybe even to find someone completely new, someone who hasn't even established yet.

Lusinka: We have only two prospects for Farris-level Companions among the children. There's no guarantee either will be up to handling Kat, and they would both still be very young when we retire. I'm more inclined to see what we can make of the material we know we have. Besides, Kat and Nick have made a very good team. I don't like the idea of breaking them up.

Hiram feels his Companion's nager working its soothing magic, but isn't trying very hard to fight it. Not while it's doing such amazing things to his aching vriamic.

Hiram: Whatever you think, then. The Gen always wins, right?

Hiram has a vague and increasingly distant feeling that he's going to regret this, once he's had a few days to recover from his rough turnover.

Lusinka: Not always, I hope. Particularly not in a situation like this. I think there are possibilities -- but the risks are real. So: what are the dangers, and can they be minimized?

Hiram raises one tentacle to begin the tally.

Hiram: Item one: the same people who hired a man to kidnap Nick before will try to capture him again, diplomatic immunity or not.

Lusinka considers that.

Lusinka: They might, but I think it's unlikely, actually.

Hiram: Hmm?

Hiram raises an eyebrow.

Lusinka: They tried to kidnap Nick to intimidate their workforce into not rebelling. That's a lost cause, now. There's nothing more to gain by going after Nick -- and much to lose.

Hiram: And now, it seems, they're rebelling again. What better way to quash them than by making an example of their hero?

Lusinka: Oh, they'd try to make an example of him, I'm sure. But not by offering violence or arresting him.

Hiram: How, then?

Lusinka: They'd try to make him look ineffective or ridiculous.

Hiram breathes out a tiny laugh.

Hiram: Ineffective, he's not. Ridiculous... well, sometimes.

Lusinka chuckles.

Lusinka: How any son of Naros could have such dreadful taste in clothes is a continual source of amazement to me.

Hiram: Overcompensation, I think. He wants to be anything but what his sire was.

Lusinka: Well, who can blame him for that?

Hiram shakes his head.

Hiram: Not me, certainly.

Lusinka: So, what other dangers do you see?

Hiram: He sides too heavily with the miners, forces an unfair agreement, and garners ill will for the Tecton.

Hiram raises a second tentacle as he speaks.

Hiram: Come to think of it, no matter what the settlement is, someone is going to be unhappy and blame the Tecton.

Lusinka: That's the price of meddling with the outside world. It's never stopped Sat'htine before.

Hiram: True.

Lusinka: His objectivity is a potential problem, but there are a couple of things that will keep him in check.

Hiram: A couple of channels, you mean?

Lusinka: Yes. And don't forget, he's not the innocent he was the last time he visited Coleman's mine. He's spent enough time in management to give him at least a little perspective.

Hiram: Hmm.

Hiram sounds unconvinced.

Hiram: A very little.

Lusinka: True. But perhaps enough, combined with Kat and Seruffin, to let him actually listen to Coleman's side of the dispute.

Hiram concedes the possibility with a gesture, then raises a third tentacle.

Hiram: He does something completely off the wall to create an incident. Not something he's already done, like sending someone into sugar shock with his taffy, or cheating at cards, but something completely new that we can't even think to warn him against.

Lusinka concedes that objection.

Lusinka: He is certainly capable of doing the unexpected.

Hiram: That's what worries me the most, I think. He learns from his mistakes... but there are always so many brand new kinds of mistakes to try.

Lusinka: Yes. On the other hand, where are such mistakes more likely to hurt Sat'htine? At Coleman's remote mine, or at Capital, under Jaklin's eagle eyes?

Hiram: The trouble is, Nick just doesn't have common sense. Or, well, he's got a farmer's kind of common sense, I guess; he knows better than to plant this plant in that kind of soil. But he hasn't got the kind of common sense he requires for his work now.

Lusinka: So, how do you intend to teach it to him?

Hiram lets his row of raised tentacles sag back into their sheaths with a weary sigh and concedes with a flick of his hand.

Hiram: All right, all right. I'll send him. Write it up and I'll sign it.

Lusinka: I'll write it up, and you go over it with an eye to closing the loopholes I overlooked.

Hiram nods, then folds his arms on his desk and buries his forehead in them, hoping Lusinka will take the hint and massage his tight shoulders.

Lusinka obliges, and throws in a neck massage as well, to acknowledge Hiram's graceful concession.

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