Cox looks down at his unwelcome visitor over his after-dinner brandy. He has never approved of his son-in-law, and considers separating from the man his daughter's wisest decision.
Cox: So, we both know you didn't come here on a social visit, and you can afford your own brandy. So, how much do you want to borrow this time?
Coleman: I'm not looking for a loan this time, Mr. Cox.
Cox is ~~ openly skeptical ~~.
Cox: Then what are you after?
Coleman: That'll take some telling. That brandy smells good, hey.
Cox: Flattery will get you nowhere. I've things to do, so get on with it.
Cox settles back to listen to what he's sure is going to be another sob story.
Coleman: I believe the greatest threat to prosperity today is the union movement; not just in the mines, but in every industry. A threat to industry isn't just a threat to industrialists, it's also a threat to those who invest in them. And as you know, that includes a lot of your so-called "landed class" today.
Cox: I've no love for unions, but they're a nuisance. Any good manager can beat them. And if that fails, that's what company police are for.
Coleman: Exactly. But now the unions have a new ally. The Simes. One of the union scum I chased off some years ago, name of Nick Debree, has become a major, major player over there. And now he's back, with diplomatic immunity, so none of my boys can touch him.
Cox: A union scum with diplomatic immunity? How did he manage that?
Coleman waves his hands in the air.
Coleman: He's got more... stuff than a hundred of you or me, so he's got the Simes mesmerized. They wouldn't care if he was a murderer or a land pirate.
Cox: Simes. What do you expect?
Coleman: Up to now, they've been content to leave things alone on our side, except for doing a certain amount of investment themselves. But now they're saying not just that they're responsible for the health of all Simes -- they're welcome to 'em -- but all Gens, too, because if Gens aren't coddled from cradle to grave, they won't make as much ... stuff.
Cox: Well, it's not like they're going to come out and collect... stuff at your mine.
Coleman shakes his head.
Coleman: They are. Well, not at the mine, but in town. And when I intimated to that Sime that we don't do business like that around here, he had the gall to threaten me. I mean, I may have a few useful friends, but I can't hold off an army, much less two armies. Remember, those Simes have already had a revolution. I'm sure there's lots of 'em would like to see another one, here, and are willing to use whatever excuse they have to make it happen.
Cox: So they're here. They'll leave soon enough, when they don't get the customers they wanted.
Coleman: Wro -- uh, that turns out not to be the case. They are getting customers. My workers are paying off their debts and walking faster than I can replace them. And the union knows it.
Cox: They're pressuring you?
Coleman: They're trying to dictate terms to me, backed up by the implicit promise of Sime intervention. This Sime Seruffin, he reports to their top man. And he's got influence in the Senate. So far I'm telling them to go to hell. But I can't keep it up forever. If they're determined enough, they can shut me down. And, well, they have a saying down in the mines: It's me today and you tomorrow.
Cox waves that away.
Cox: Tenant farming is different.
Coleman shakes his head.
Cox: As far as your problem goes, what's your timing? How long can you hold out?
Coleman: At the current attrition rate? Three months. Four at a pinch.
Cox: So you've got some time.
Coleman: After that I won't have enough workers left to run three shifts, and then I can't compete with other mines. And with respect, tenant farming isn't different. Donating stuff isn't much of a living, but it's a lot easier than walking at the south end of a northbound mule. And Simeland is in food surplus these days. Food for stuff? Your tenants are going to start running off just like my workers.
Cox: The Simes are running a scam. So run one yourself.
Coleman: Scam, hey? What are you thinking of?
Cox: The oldest trick in the book. Your workers are uneducated cowards. Scare them back into line.
Coleman actually thinks about that for a bit.
Coleman: The workers, sure. But the leaders? Not. Even Debree has picked up a fair amount of sophistication, and all he was doing back in the day was running food.
Cox: It doesn't matter if the leaders are scared. In fact, scare the others into line but not the leaders, and you'll make the leaders irrelevant.
Coleman: Okay. Say you're right, hey? Scare them with what, then? Words won't cut it. I need force, more force than I've got.
Cox: Huh. You never did have the sense to be subtle. "The pen is mightier than the sword" and all that.
Coleman: Oh, you think I should hire a public-relations firm instead?
Cox: No. What do those ignorant rubes know about public relations? You said you can't threaten them directly, right? You don't have enough enforcers. So use an indirect approach. Make them want to stay away from the Simes.
Coleman: Anybody who's got enough brains to put his pants on one leg at a time knows to stay away from Simes.
Cox: Right. It's immoral and not healthy. So bring in someone they'll trust to tell them that.
Coleman: I already thought of that. A preacher won't work.
Cox: Whyever not? That diplomatic immunity won't prevent you from bringing one in.
Coleman: He can get 'em all fired up, true enough, make them into a lynch mob. But then what? The Territory will bring in the army then, just to put down the mob. I'll probably wind up burned out.
Cox: You don't need a mob. Just get them to rethink giving their stuff to the Simes.
Coleman: You ever hear of a low-key preacher, hey?
Coleman's natural sarcasm is breaking through his attempt to be respectful.
Cox: Actually, yes. A fellow named Craig. Specializes in sermons about Simes, but I haven't heard of any riots or unrest associated with them. He's supposed to be very good about getting people to rethink their choices.
Coleman suddenly reverses course, emotionally, and chuckles.
Coleman: Huh. Maybe so. How do I find him?
Cox: There's a flyer of some sort in the store. I saw it when I was arranging deliveries the other day.
Coleman: Excellent. I'll pick one up on my way home. But do remember, sir, what I said about tenant farmers not being much different from miners. Money for nothing, or almost nothing, threatens us all.
Coleman holds out his hand to shake.
Cox considers just long enough that his son-in-law can't quite claim insult, and then shakes.
Cox: Good day, sir.
Coleman: Good day, and best of luck in your future -- endeavors.
Coleman turns on his heel and walks out.
Cox turns back to his neglected brandy, reminding himself to check his own tenants more closely for a while.