What's Yours Is Mine: Episode 21

Nick returns to his and Kat's temporary quarters at the closest Sime Center to Coleman's mine, some hundred miles and many stops away from the nearest non-company town. He insisted on stopping, rather than pushing on, to give Kat more time without retainers. Or so he argued.

Nick's nager ~~ greets ~~ his channel.

Katsura smiles back, glad that her Companion has returned, although she's continuing her Iron Farris act under the stress. She really would rather have carried on.

Nick: Are you feeling less pinched with the retainers off?

Katsura: Yes. And less brain-clogged.

Katsura stretches and twirls her tentacles in a rather attractive little exercise routine.

Nick: You see? You'd be miserable if we'd pressed on today.

Katsura: Yes, but we'd have gotten the trip over with. That would be worth a little more misery.

Nick: It's better to arrive a bit slower, but with all necessary supplies. Think how much easier Cottonwood City would have been.

Katsura: Let's hope this isn't as much of a disaster area!

Nick chuckles.

Nick: Not an earthquake, but it's not always easy to get what you want. There's only the one store. So I did some shopping.

Katsura: What did you get? Food?

Nick: Yes. Fruit, vegetables, cheeses. Also chocolate. That's better than money, where we're going.

Nick is hopeful that it will be effective as an entran-prevention measure.

Katsura laughs.

Katsura: Chocolate -- I'm sure you're right!

Nick: Let the word spread that we're handing it out to the donors, and we won't have to worry about entran.

Katsura: Better check that out with Seruffin first. Didn't you say the political trouble he was in was due to paying for donations?

Katsura was hoping Nick was doing better at thinking out the longer term consequences of his great short term solutions.

Nick: Yes, but it's too late to stop that particular trouble. The miners already know what they can earn donating, and if I know Irthman, they've put together a decent strike chest.

Katsura: Well, I think we should consult with Seruffin on whatever we do. If nothing else, we should present a united front.

Nick: Certainly.

Katsura strokes Nick's forearm.

Katsura: I don't mind doing outfunctions with you. You're very good.

Nick: I've had way too much practice at entran outfunctions.

Katsura: Never too much. Your skill has certainly been coming in handy this year.

Nick: I've also got together some extra medical supplies, blankets, and that sort of thing.

Katsura: Good thinking. It can't have cost much compared to all the Gen Territory money we've brought to pay donors.

Nick: It would if we were buying them at the company store. That's something that will have to change, if this situation is going to be resolved without violence.

Katsura: What do you think should be done?

Nick ~~ considers ~~.

Nick: Ten years ago, I would have said that Coleman and his goons ought to be kicked out and punished for what they've been doing to the miners. Now, though... I don't think that's necessarily the best plan.

Nick: Coleman and his management team are an important part of what has made the mine successful. The miners hate him, but I think they'd be willing to live with him if they were paid enough that a reasonably prudent person could raise a family without getting hopelessly into debt.

Katsura: But aren't the low wages a big factor in the mine's success?

Nick: I'd have to learn a little more about the business, but I don't really think so. The miners' debts aren't that large, objectively speaking. It's just that there is almost no chance of paying them off, so they can't leave. Also, if the miners are less discontented, there would be less reason to maintain a private security force.

Katsura: I wonder if the union has thought of starting a buyer's co-op. They could order staples like flour and beans in bulk from here or somewhere else on the rail line and resell it at cost to their members. They'd have some capital now, from donation payments.

Nick: The only reason they haven't done something like that years ago is that Coleman won't allow any competition to the company store. No peddlers, no other stores, no regular transportation to the nearest market. That's a large part of what his security force does. It was trying to circumvent that problem that got me run out of the Territory.

Katsura: So that's already an issue for the union, assuming they can persuade Coleman to negotiate, or Seruffin can.

Nick: Yes. Coleman and his miners have been close to open warfare for a long time. All Seruffin did was shift the balance of power just a bit. And by doing so, he just might have opened the possibility of a solution. If both sides can be convinced that is to their advantage.

Katsura: That's the big question. Seruffin is a diplomat. And the miners have requested you as their representative. If you can work with Seruffin and Coleman, we could get a good resolution here.

Nick: Yes. A lot will depend on the miners' willingness to accept things they'd rather not hear from me.

Katsura: You learn to be a diplomat and I learn by watching you.

Nick: Seruffin's the diplomat. He'll have to handle Coleman. He's not going to listen to anything I say.

Katsura: You'll have to convince the miners, and work closely with Seruffin to get Coleman to cooperate. All the time considering the long-term implications of anything you say or do.

Nick: Yes. You and I do have an advantage that nobody else will have. Sat'htine is living proof that it is possible for a business to benefit both management and the rank and file.

Katsura chuckles.

Katsura: Imagine Coleman as Sosectu of Householding Coal Mine.

Nick: The trick will be to make him imagine it. And how much his personal quality of life can be improved if his work force is more prosperous.

Katsura: It's a lot to hope for. But if we can just extract Seruffin from a bad situation and help at least some miners get away, giving the rest ideas and hopes for the future will be a bonus.

Katsura isn't counting on the negotiations, if any, being a success. There's too many years of hard feelings for the two sides to have anything but adversary attitudes.

Nick: I've got to try for more, Kat. These people were my people, if only for a short while. I owe them a chance at a better life.

Nick does have a habit of feeling ~~ responsible ~~ for random people he meets, such as psychotic Farris channels.

Katsura: We can try our best, but if Seruffin feels it's hopeless and we should withdraw, argue with him, but comply. United front, right? No going it alone. You're no longer just Nick Reckage, you're ambrov Sat'htine.

Nick: All right. ~~ reluctant ~~ I suppose he will have the best feel for whether Coleman is about to send his enforcers out to make trouble.

Katsura: He'll have the best feel for what's the best for Nivet and the Tecton.

Katsura is still surprised that Seruffin has wandered so far from his original objective of investigating reports of Distect activity in the area.

Nick: I suppose if worst came to worst, I could advise the miners to make a run for the border. Maybe most of them could reach it before they were dragged back as debt evaders. Although that would leave Coleman hurting badly, until he could recruit another workforce.

Katsura: It's a complicated situation, and what's best for the individual is at odds with what's best for the group. The union probably wants everybody to stay.

Nick: I think most of the people would prefer to stay, if they can do it without destroying their families.

Katsura: We'll have to find out when we get there. Talk to people and consider how objective they're being. Objectivity may be too much to expect under the circumstances.

Nick: And I expect Coleman would be glad to have his own family willing to stay with him.

Katsura: Oh, well, Coleman's interests are another matter entirely. What kind of family does he have? Wife and children?

Nick: He did, when I was there. They didn't live with him -- his wife wouldn't raise his children in a mining town.

Katsura nods. She can understand that.

Nick: The children would be nearly grown by now, so I don't know what's happened to them. A lot can happen in ten years. Look at me: third apprentice miner to your Companion.

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