Beank Ountar is perched at his desk in the mine's front office, going over the accounts one more time. His efforts to determine long-term strategies are foiled by the irregular but significant influx of cash into the local economy since the Simes arrived. He ~~ hopes ~~ things will go back to normal soon, before he tears out what little hair he has left in ~~ frustration ~~.
Ozger is probably the lowest status member of the Coleman mine security force, so he gets stuck with all the stupid jobs nobody else wants. Today it's showing this preacher who just got off the train where the office is.
Craig enters and looks around the office with curiosity. His ministry has been thriving these past few months, but it's rare for him to be invited by the local powers that be. Especially not in a town too small to have a Sime Center.
Beank looks up from his ledger.
Beank nods at Ozger, but addresses Craig.
Beank: Can I help you, sir?
Craig: My name is Reverend Andrew Craig. I was invited to this town by a Mr. Coleman, to preach.
Craig glances at Ozger, hoping he's been brought to the right office.
Ozger nods vigorously. He didn't believe it either, but his boss assured him it was for real.
Beank ~~ perks up ~~ at the news.
Beank: Of course, sir. Mr. Coleman is out of town at the moment, but he left instructions for me to aid you in all things. He has high hopes that your sermon can help restore peace and prosperity to our venture here.
Craig: I shall certainly do my best.
Craig offers his hand to shake.
Beank hesitates, not being used to greeting dignitaries, then shakes.
Craig: I don't believe I caught your name, sir.
Beank: I'm Beank Ountar, company clerk. I don't know what you were told about our situation here?
Craig: Only that this is a mining town, and that my message was urgently required here. I find this odd, since few people think much about Simes in a town too small to have a Sime presence.
Beank: Oh, we have Simes. And they're causing a lot of unrest. Ozger can tell you about that part of it...
Beank sends a ~~ pleading ~~ look towards his fellow local.
Craig turns to his guide for an explanation.
Ozger: One of them came in here and started paying guys for their stuff. Then another come in, a woman, so there's a lot of unrest and disturbance.
Craig raises an eyebrow.
Craig: Two channels in a place this size?
Ozger: They're not supposed to be staying. They're looking for some kind of Simeland criminals.
Ozger figures explaining about Nick Debree, who's some kind of Sime kisser now will just make it too complicated.
Beank: At least, that's what they said. They're talking to a lot of people, sticking their noses in where they're not welcome. It's harming the smooth operation of the mine.
Craig: Ah. And you're hoping my message will quiet things down?
Beank: I believe that is Mr. Coleman's hope, yes. Help folks deal with the new and strange in a proper, productive way.
Craig: I shall do my best.
Craig pauses to consider.
Craig: Actually, having a channel here will simplify the main logistical problem I'd intended to discuss with you.
Beank: I think I understand. It helps to have a live example of the object of your sermon, right?
Ozger: Now, wait a minute here. You're not to stir up them miners to violence! Them Simes have some kind of diplomat protection and if they get hurt, it could be big trouble.
Beank: That's right. You've got to be subtle.
Craig: I already have a Sime in my entourage for my demonstration, as a matter of fact. Indeed, that's the problem you've just solved for me. I have to get him to a channel for his monthly transfer by the end of the week.
Beank's eyes widen.
Craig: With a day for setup, a day for teardown, plus the three days of tent meetings Mr. Coleman requested, he would have been tight for time. This takes the pressure off.
Beank: You have a Sime with you?
Beank finds this somewhat ~~ confusing ~~.
Craig: Yes. It helps my message a great deal to have, as you say, a live example to illustrate my sermons.
Beank: I see. You certainly are... thorough. I can see why Mr. Coleman went to such trouble to invite you.
Craig: ~~ pride ~~ My message is important. I try, in God's name, to deliver it as effectively as possible.
Beank: I see, sir. How can we help you deliver your message, then?
Craig: We have with us the meeting tent and other things we require. We'll want somewhere to set up... I've got a sheet here outlining the space requirements...
Craig pulls out a folded sheet of paper from his pocket.
Ozger wonders if he should suggest to the boss that the Simes be encouraged to leave town during these tent meetings, for their own safety, but nobody ever listens to his suggestions so why bother?
Beank takes the paper and scans it, absorbing the data with an accountant's speed.
Craig: Aside from that, a sermon is meaningless without an audience; I trust you'll handle the local publicity. And, as a luxury, not a necessity, it would be nice if you could put up our staff in something a little solider than our second tent.
Beank: Of course, sir. Mr. Coleman left orders that you were to be offered the use of his own house until he returns. Your people can be placed in some of the company housing.
Beank reflects that there are more empty houses than usual since the Simes arrived.
Craig: That will be much appreciated.
Beank taps the paper.
Beank: As you may have noticed, we don't have much flat ground around here. You'd better set up on the lawn in front of Mr. Coleman's house.
Craig: Provided Mr. Coleman doesn't mind the damage to his lawn, that will be fine.
Ozger is glad he isn't the one suggesting these things. Coleman's temper is unpredictable.
Beank: Mr. Coleman ordered me to make sure that everything went smoothly for your effort.
Craig: That's much appreciated.
Craig doesn't add, and very rare.
Craig: Is there anything else we ought to discuss? Or can Mr. Ozger come with me now and show my people where to start setting up?
Beank looks at Ozger in ~~ question ~~.
Ozger shrugs. Whatever.
Beank: I don't think so. Ozger can show you where the store is, and anything else you need, but I will be here all afternoon if you have any problems.
Craig follows Ozger back to the train station and introduces him to his setup crew before going to tell his object lesson the good news.
Royben is pacing a corner of the platform, trying not to show his ~~ growing need paranoia ~~. His tentacles are feeling ~~ mangled ~~ from the long train ride.
Craig: Royben! I have some good news. ~~ happiness ~~
Royben gathers his self-control as best he can, then turns to face his boss.
Royben: What is it, boss? Did you find me a Farris channel?
Craig: Well, I don't know about Farris, but there are two channels in town right now. And the management here seems to be very Sime-friendly.
Royben: You're kidding.
Craig: That's why they wanted us, as a matter of fact. Apparently there's some unrest over the presence of the channels, and they're hoping our message will help calm everyone down.
Royben shakes his head.
Royben: I guess I'll never understand folks out here.
Craig: So as soon as the company liaison gets back from showing the crew where to set up, we can get him to show you where the channels are.
Craig: Yes, it was a bit of a surprise to me, too. But let's enjoy it while it lasts. For once, I don't think we'll be asked to lock you up for the night in the town jail.
Royben: That's a relief. Although the tent doesn't have much insulation.
Craig: We won't be in tents. They're putting us up in houses.
Craig: They're putting me in the mine owner's big house. It's probably better insulated than any of the others. If they don't have room for both of us, I'll trade places with you and your wife and let you have the better insulated place.
Ozger has discharged his obligation to show the crew where to set up by pointing down the main drag at Coleman's nice house well beyond the edge of town, surrounded by a strong fence. He heads back along the platform, wondering if he has time for a snack and a little nip at home before going back to work.
Royben: Thanks, boss. We appreciate it.
Craig has only a faint idea of what this job puts a Sime through, but it's enough that he tries to pamper the man whenever he can.
Craig spots Ozger and waves him over.
Ozger figures he can't ignore him at this distance.
Ozger: Yes, Reverend?
Craig: Two things: first, is there any chance a second room might be made available in the big house for one of my staff and his wife?
Ozger: You'll have to talk to Mr. Ountar about that.
Royben has been traveling in Gen Territory for quite a while, and has already managed to cover his retainers with his loose shirt.
Ozger isn't going to have anything to do with giving anything of Coleman's away.
Craig: Very well. I'll do that. In the meantime: Mr Ozger, this is Royben. Would you be so kind, once you're done here, as to show him where the channels are staying? He needs to have a little... talk... with them.
Ozger: Yeah, okay. I'm heading back that way now.
Craig: Thank you very much.
Royben: I appreciate this, Mr. Ozger.
Royben's Genlan is improving, but he still has an accent.
Ozger has evaluated Royben as a harmless looking skinny little beggar, and no problem. Maybe he wants to sell his stuff to buy himself a good meal or two, or just check out the channel situation for this tame Sime that the preacher is hauling around in a cage.
Royben follows Ozger through the town, noting the general air of dreariness and disrepair.
Ozger: See that shack over there? The only one in the row with clean windows? That's where the female Sime is staying with her man. He's a Gen, and he keeps her under control, you see.
Royben: Her Donor?
Ozger: I guess. His name's Nick, but around here, his name's mud. With us, that is. The miners think he's some kind of hero, but he's just a troublemaker who ran out on them during a strike some years ago.
Royben's Genlan isn't quite up following this explanation.
Royben: Nick Mud?
Ozger: Yeah, right. You okay now? I gotta get back to work.
Ozger figures he still has time for that snack and the nip, if he hurries.
Royben zlins, and thinks he can make out a very nice nager, even though the retainers. He might be imagining it, but it's a lovely bit of imagination.
Royben: Yes. Thank you for showing me the way.
Ozger: Yeah, sure.
Ozger takes off.