Nick joins his channel in the back room after seeing the union representative on his way. He's still carrying the list of demands.
Nick: Are you feeling better? I brought some tea.
Katsura sits up. She'd been dozing. She hasn't been sleeping at all well lately, with the lack of adequate insulation and constant stress of being out-T and having to wear retainers so much.
Katsura: Oh, thanks. I was just trying to nap.
Nick ~~ smiles ~~, which makes his nager glow warmly.
Katsura smiles back, enjoying what she zlins.
Katsura: So what did that man have to say?
Katsura could zlin him, but didn't try to follow the conversation.
Nick: He was a spokesman for the worker's union. He gave me this.
Nick holds out the papers.
Nick: Kat, they have so much faith in me. I don't want to disappoint them.
Katsura takes the papers and works her way through them. She doesn't read bad penmanship in Genlan very easily.
Katsura: They can't hope to get all this in one go, can they? This is a starting point for bargaining -- they expect to give in some, right?
Nick: Some. They threw in some extra demands to give me some bargaining room. But the essential ones are still going to be awfully hard to get out of Coleman.
Nick: What they really want is a complete change of the way he does business. They want to actually gain money, rather than losing it every month.
Katsura: I hope they don't expect they can get Coleman to cooperate with all this. Allowing some competition to the store might be possible, but a 30% pay hike? I'd really like them to get some concessions on safety matters. What good is a raise if you're too crippled to work?
Nick: The raise is essential, because without it, as soon as we leave, they become virtual slaves again. As long as they're in debt, they can't leave, no matter how bad the conditions are. And if they can't leave, Coleman has no incentive to provide them with anything.
Katsura: But 30% is a lot. If production costs get too high, the mine will have to close, and they won't get anything. But I suppose they're starting high so they have something to concede.
Katsura: I hope they're saving their donation money to pay off their debts and get out, if they have to.
Nick: They can't concede much, unless their expenses go down or they get alternative income.
Katsura: If they can form a buying co-op to purchase bulk staples from somewhere on the rail line, they can get their expenses down. According to Gerrhonot, the prices in the store are outrageous.
Nick: They are. Deliberately so, to make sure everyone ends up in debt. Part of the problem is that the storekeeper is some sort of relative of Coleman's. So if he cuts the man's profits, he'll hear about it for a long time.
Katsura: What does Seruffin think the chances are that Coleman will make a policy change of that character?
Nick: Coleman isn't talking to Seruffin much. Not about things like that, anyway.
Katsura: What does Seruffin plan to do to get things moving?
Nick: To start with, get Coleman to sit down with all of us.
Katsura: How's that going?
Nick: I think he'll give in. He doesn't have much choice, really.
Katsura: I wonder how that preacher and that poor renSime he's got in his house are affecting his mood and intentions.
Nick: They haven't been evicted. Which may or may not be a good thing.
Katsura: How so?
Nick: Would you want to live in the same poorly insulated house as Coleman?
Katsura shudders ostentatiously.
Katsura: Well, no, but a renSime should be able to stay far enough away from him. It's a big house.
Katsura glances around the two room shack she's sharing with her Companion and six ambrov Dar. At least the Dar are polite in-T Gens, but she's an exceptional sensitive Farris.
Nick: At least this should give Coleman a chance to get used to the idea of Simes before he has to sit across the table from us.
Katsura: There's that, I suppose. And the preacher will give him an earful about Simes zlinning insincerity.
Nick: I wish his sincerity would extend to being open about how much he can afford to give.
Katsura: You can't expect him to lay his cards on the table before he even starts negotiating.
Katsura enjoys using the Genlan idiom, albeit translated into Simelan, despite the mixed metaphor.
Nick: Well, it doesn't do us any good to try to negotiate for something Coleman genuinely can't give, either.
Katsura: I hope he'll level with Seruffin, then, before the negotiations get going.
Nick: I don't know if he'll have the sense to do that. He's used to being in charge, and he hasn't the faintest idea that Seruffin is a diplomat.
Katsura: Surely Seruffin has told him! Doesn't he believe him?
Katsura can't imagine that anyone would doubt the word of a First.
Nick: Maybe, maybe not. Either way, he's pretty isolated here, and his family are in business, not politics.
Katsura: I think it's up to Seruffin to get the man to agree to negotiate. I assumed he had, or what are we here dodging entran and bullets for?
Nick: I'm not too worried. About half the families here have cleared all or most of their debt. If they threaten to leave, Coleman's mine goes under. Unfortunately, that threat only lasts as long as they can donate. So for the miners, it's now or never. They have to make Coleman change things now, or leave while they still can.
Katsura: I wish things would get moving. Seruffin is being good about letting me have a bigger share of the work, but it's not enough. This past year has been one bout of entran after another, with all this travelling out-T.
Katsura is getting pretty ~~ fretful ~~ about it.
Nick: Here, let me unkink your tentacles.
Nick takes Kat's hands, coaxing her tentacles to extend.
Katsura ~~ gratefully ~~ wraps her handling tentacles around Nick's arms, then cautiously extends her laterals.
Katsura rests her head against Nick's shoulder and more deeply engages his field.
Nick lets his nager massage the cramping nerves.
Katsura takes a deep breath and lets out a sigh.
Nick: I'll tell Seruffin we have to move forward quickly.
Katsura: He must want to go home too, poor man. He's been out here a long time now.
Nick: Yes. And he spent a lot of time at the Dam, too.
Katsura: He's very dedicated, for someone who isn't a Householder.
Katsura reveals one of her unconscious prejudices.
Katsura: You didn't get along very well with him at the Dam, did you?
Nick: Frankly, I didn't see him all that much. I was too busy keeping Snake and Arat alive. I don't think he trusted me very much. I know he didn't trust Snake and Arat.
Katsura nods against Nick's shoulder. She wouldn't have trusted him when he was so committed to those two aberrant channels, either.
Katsura: He should regard you as more trustworthy now.
Nick shrugs, carefully to avoid moving his forearms and upsetting his channel.
Nick: He as least seems not to distrust me as much. He was raised by juncts. Of course he feels better about me, now that I'm under the control of a channel he trusts.
Katsura: The three of us should get things sorted out as soon as we can. Let's go over there this evening.
Katsura really means "the two of you" but figures she can moderate the discussion a bit, if Nick gets too unrealistic.
Nick: Yes, we should.
Katsura fondles Nick's arms with a few tentacle tips.
Katsura: Just who is under whose control, eh?
Nick: Oh, we Gens are always in control. We just let you run things so we can have time out to eat and sleep.
Katsura: I'll ask for your help to sleep tonight. It's either that or go out into the bush a few kilometers, and find some large rocks to get behind.
Nick: I don't mind. You don't sleep that long, if you sleep well.
Katsura: It's good to have you here to look after me.
Katsura continues to apply confidence building positive enforcement, even though it's nowhere near as needed as it used to be. Besides, she means it.
Nick smiles, and turns his head to kiss her.