Compromising Situations: Episode 4

Coleman returns from one of the few things that can drag him away from his mine: a family funeral. The stupid git was no great loss, but sometimes blood actually is thicker than water. He naturally goes straight to the office to see if the preacher he ordered up has arrived.

Coleman: Ountar. What's the story, hey?

Beank Ountar smiles.

Beank: The revival meeting was today. I didn't go myself -- I had the payroll to finish -- but there was very good attendance among the workers. And Security reports no undue disturbance.

Coleman: Excellent. And where's the preacher now?

Beank: He accepted your offer of hospitality, so I put him up in your house. Most of the rest of his crew is in company housing.

Coleman: Well, fair enough, fair enough. Any other problems since I left?

Coleman is pretty sure there weren't, or he'd have been met by a bearer of bad news.

Beank: Debree is here. So far, he's spending most of his time with the Sime he brought with him.

Coleman: Hrmp. Well, there's bad, and then there's worse. You warned him against inciting violence, hey?

Beank: Yes. He said he was here to help negotiate a settlement. For what that's worth.

Beank is ~~ skeptical ~~ that it's worth much.

Coleman waves a hand.

Coleman: Well, he would say that, wouldn't he, hey? In any case, I'll go talk to the preacher, what's his name, Greg?

Beank: Craig.

Coleman: Right.

Coleman leaves Ountar abruptly and heads for his own house, walking quickly. If there's a problem with this Craig, the sooner he finds out, the better.

Craig is relaxing with Royben and his wife in Coleman's sitting room. Today's tent meeting went well, despite the warnings of local unrest. Tomorrow's is scheduled for early afternoon, to catch the second shift of miners.

Craig: More trin, Yarrina? Royben?

Royben: Thank you.

Craig raises Coleman's elegant silver teapot and pours. He's learned to tolerate trin, though it still isn't his infusion of choice.

Yarrina pats her husband's knee ~~ comfortingly ~~. His mood has improved since he found out that a Farris channel is in town, but need is always hard to take, and all this travelling among ignorant Gens is very hard on him.

Coleman gets to his door, notices with irritation that some fool has tacked a sign of some sort to it, but can't be bothered to tear it down -- that's what he pays his staff for, hey? -- and walks in. Instantly his eyes fall on the trio in his sitting room.

Coleman: What? What? Who are you? What's this? ~~ flabbergasted ~~

Coleman is as close to speechless as he ever gets.

Yarrina puts her arm around her husband's shoulders, hoping to shield him as much as she can from this unruly Wild Gen.

Craig rises and offers a handshake.

Craig: Mr. Coleman, I presume? I'm Reverend Andrew Craig. And these are two of my staff, Tuib Royben and his wife, Yarrina.

Royben tries to discreetly hide behind his wife.

Royben: Greetings, Tuib Coleman.

Royben is careful to keep his tentacles retracted, and does not offer to shake hands.

Yarrina: Greetings, Tuib.

Coleman rubs his hands over his face, and tries to start over.

Coleman: Pleased to meet you, Reverend Craig.

Craig takes a step forward, still offering the handshake.

Coleman accepts Craig's handshake, and finds it is stronger than he expected.

Craig: Thank you for your hospitality here, and for making our message so welcome.

Coleman: Why, uh, certainly. But, but, you have a Sime on your staff?

Coleman is beginning to realize he's found a mare's nest, and doesn't even know what color the mare is.

Royben smiles weakly, not liking the hostility he's zlinning.

Yarrina takes Royben's hand, trying to ~~ support ~~ him, although she has very little Donor talent. She does ~~ love ~~ him, though.

Craig: I find my message is best received when I can show an immediate example of exactly what I'm talking about.

Coleman: I ... see. An example, hey? I certainly have to admire your guts, Reverend.

Coleman thinks: if not necessarily your common sense.

Royben: He does, boss.

Royben leans on his wife's nager, then zlins Coleman again.

Coleman: I do, hey? And how would your tame Sime know that?

Royben: I could miss it, when you're high field and projecting everything you feel all over the landscape?

Coleman shakes his head, trying to get that remark to sink in, but failing.

Craig: That is the Sime gift, their gift of God's grace.

Yarrina: Sime knows if you say sincere.

Yarrina's Genlan is not as good as her husband's.

Royben can't help thinking that if the guy went to the trouble of bringing them all the way out here, he really ought to have taken the time to donate himself.

Coleman takes a deep breath, yells "Brandy!" -- though normally he's quite abstemious -- and waits for it to arrive.

Coleman gulps down the shot-glass that a servant silently brings, shudders, pulls himself together, and determines to start over.

Craig, who has been on is feet most of the day, takes the liberty of reseating himself.

Coleman: Now, sir. Just what sort of preacher are you, and what is it you think you're doing?

Craig: Surely you know, Mr. Coleman. You did invite us here, after all.

Coleman: ~~ grim ~~ Assume I don't.

Royben can zlin that things aren't going as expected, for anyone, but Coleman is standing in the doorway, and might take offense if a Sime tried to pass him.

Yarrina can feel her husband's tension increasing, and hopes her ~~ compassion ~~ for him is getting through.

Craig: I was once a businessman like yourself, sir. But then God gave me a new message, a new understanding, and so I founded the Church of Sime Truth. I spread the word that Simes are not, as we thought for so many generations, soulless demons, but rather the gift of God's grace to humankind.

Coleman: Oh really. ~~ sarcasm ~~ You mean by disposing of the surplus Gen population?

Craig: ~~ forced calm ~~ Certainly not, sir. Now that there are channels, Simes do not kill unless isolated from help.

Royben nods vigorously in confirmation.

Craig: Those poor children who kill in changeover won't do so any more, once there is a Sime Center in every town and village.

Royben: No offense, sir, but I'd choose a transfer from either of the channels here over one with you.

Royben is nonjunct, after all.

Coleman: Well, even if so, what is supposed to make Simes so useful, hey? Useless and dangerous isn't that much better than -- demonic.

Royben: Useless? I work for my pay, same as anybody else.

Royben wouldn't normally have gotten so ~~ indignant ~~, but need is shortening his temper, and it's been a long day.

Yarrina pats his knee again. ~~ agreement, calm ~~

Craig: The ability to sense selyn fields gives Simes also the ability to read emotions, to expose lying and corruption, to bring truth and justice to light. And their need for our selyn teaches us compassion. These are the gifts of God's grace, and that is my message.

Craig lets the practised phrases roll from his tongue, but is closely watching Coleman for his reactions. The man is not what he'd been led to expect.

Craig: But surely you knew that, when you called us here?

Coleman: What I knew about you, Reverend Craig, is that you preached about Simes and that you were good at getting people to change their minds without violence. My town here has been infested with Simes, and they're upsetting the economy hereabouts. I expect you, sir, to do something about that.

Coleman still thinks if he says what he wants slowly enough he'll get it.

Royben: Oh, the local economy will prosper after today's show, sir. We've never had so many people interested in our message.

Royben still thinks that telling the truth about their activities will moderate Coleman's upset.

Coleman: So. You are telling my miners about truth and justice? What about respect for one's superiors? What about submission to the duly appointed authorities?

Craig: My message is that Simes are not an infestation, but a gift, and that donation is an act of compassion. As a by-product of that, donation will pump considerable new capital into the local economy, so that everyone will benefit. As for authorities, God is the ultimate authority over us all.

Coleman: Capital? Capital? You said you were a businessman, sir! What happens when the lower orders get more money without working harder for it?

Craig: They prosper. They have better health, can afford better food. They will do better work, with fewer days off for illness.

Coleman shakes his head at such profound ignorance.

Coleman: For how long? As long as it takes for prices to rise! And then the ones worse off are those who can't or won't donate, as you call it.

Craig: There are few who truly can't donate, if they decide they wish to. And even when prices rise, the benefit of better health care with the help of channels will remain.

Royben: Not to mention that not having berserkers around makes everybody's life safer.

Craig: As a businessman, surely you can find ways to share in the new prosperity?

Craig begins enumerating on his fingers.

Craig: Bring in new goods and services for the workers; take a percentage cut of each. Offer them upgraded housing, again for a price. Attract and keep better workers, because you offer a more attractive place to live and work.

Coleman blinks rapidly.

Craig looks at Coleman with a mixture of ~~ contempt ~~ and ~~ pity ~~ .

Coleman: I grant those sound good, Reverend, but I'm sure there are problems someplace. Do you have a white paper on it? If so, send it to the office, hey?

Craig: If the bottom line is your only concern, then you can surely work out these solutions without my help. God does not bind the mouths of the horses that pull the plough.

Craig is deliberately paraphrasing an Ancient religious text with that last remark.

Royben nods in ~~ support ~~ of his boss, ~~ hoping ~~ that it will calm their host down.

Coleman: Look, sir, you're trying to sell me on a proposition. You need to write down your arguments. Preaching may sway the masses, but for educated men .... But what is this about exposing lies? ~~ curiosity anxiety ~~

Craig: That is the Sime gift, and the heart of my message. A Sime can zlin -- can sense -- your emotions as clearly as he can hear your spoken words, and thus he can tell when you are lying. In Sime territories, no one bothers to lie; there's no point in it, since Simes can see right through it. Therefore, God's gift to us, through Simes, is a new culture based on honesty and truth.

Coleman: Ahhhh. Now that's a real advantage. Hire a Sime, tell if your business partners are betraying you... That has possibilities.

Royben tries to look ~~ modest ~~.

Craig: But remember that the blade cuts both ways: you too must learn to speak only truths. It does not come easily to most of us.

Royben: It becomes habit before long, though.

Craig nods in confirmation.

Coleman chuckles.

Coleman: Not if I have a Sime and my opponent doesn't, hey?

Craig raises an eyebrow.

Craig: I remember my business days well enough to know that what new technology one businessman has this year, all of his competitors will have by next spring.

Coleman: True. But there's plenty of profit in a first-mover advantage.

Craig: As I have said, God does not forbid you to profit from serving his cause.

Royben: Of course, to keep a Sime this far from the border, you'll have to get at least one decent channel out here, too.

Craig: This town is large enough to provide work for a Third order channel, don't you think, Royben?

Royben: Probably. Especially if most of the people here donate.

Coleman's mood is ~~ rising ~~ at the thought of not only profit but unfair (as they call it) advantage.

Craig: Today's meeting suggested that that's a feasible goal. Especially with the encouragement of their employer.

Coleman: Okay. Have that report on my desk by the end of your stay, and, well, you may have made a convert here, Reverend.

Royben nods at his boss, confirming Coleman's sincerity.

Craig: I shall have to draft something up; I've never been asked for such a document before.

Craig is ~~ glad ~~ that at last his business past, which had seemed such a blot upon his soul, may at last be turned to God's service as well as the rest of him.

Coleman: Good, good. I'll leave you to your work, hey? Holler if you need anything.

Craig stifles a sudden urge to yawn now that the tension is off.

Coleman turns on his heel and walks out of the sitting room.

Royben sighs with ~~ relief ~~ as the irritating nager retreats.

Craig: You can stay up all night if you wish, Royben, but I'm off to bed. If you're up for it, maybe you can write a page or two on how they do things in Nivet.

Royben: Er... what things, boss?

Craig: You heard what we were discussing. How business works without all the deception that's common here; how the economy works when selyn is part of the capital supply. That sort of thing.

Craig glances at Yarrina, who appears to have drifted off to sleep.

Royben: Oh. Well, I'm not good at writing, especially in Genlan, but I'll try. Right now, though, I'd better get Yarrina to bed.

Craig: Your wife's father is a businessman, isn't he? Maybe she can help with some ideas. And don't worry about the wording; I can polish up that part.

Royben: All right, boss. I'll have something for you in the morning.

Craig yawns openly and precedes Royben down the guest wing corridor, holding the door open so he can carry Yarrina through.

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