Compromising Situations: Episode 20

Busset is sitting in his office at the warehouses of Busset and Son Exports, working his way through some inventories. He's trying to figure out what to ship where.

Busset's Son is out on the floor, supervising a crew that is packing the first half of the current shipment.

Lucy, Busset's secretary, opens the office door.

Lucy: Mr. Coleman is here, sir.

Busset: Coleman? I wasn't expecting him for another two weeks. Show him in, then, there's a dear.

Lucy used to blush when Mr. Busset called her things like that, but she's gotten used to it now.

Busset sets his inventories aside.

Lucy steps out and returns with Coleman breathing down her neck.

Lucy: Shall I go out, or will you need dictation?

Busset: Just get us some coffee, sweets.

Lucy nods and ducks out.

Busset: Come in, Coleman. Have a seat.

Coleman: Hello, Busset.

Coleman sits in the chair opposite Busset's and extends his hand.

Busset: I wasn't expecting you just yet. How's business? I heard you had some labor trouble.

Coleman: You might say that, yes. But it's getting straightened out. It's another thing I wanted to talk to you about, strictly in confidence, hey?

Busset: Now, that's interesting. Looking for something special for your wife? I have some trinkets that might amuse her. Or is it a ladyfriend?

Busset winks bawdily.

Coleman holds up his hands.

Coleman: Neither. No. I wanted to ask you about something I heard about. I understand that these sn--Simes, they can tell when people are lying, hey?

Busset shrugs.

Busset: Pretty much, yes. It's different doing business with them.

Coleman: So I was thinking, if I could hire one to sit in on my business deals, hey? Be awful handy to know who was lying and how much.

Busset blinks.

Busset: You want to keep a Sime around? Have you ever even met one in person?

Busset knows how many Gens discover that they react more strongly to Simes in person than in theory. Busset makes a good living, in fact, acting as an intermediary for people who prefer not to be within grabbing distance of a Sime.

Coleman: Yes. Several now.

Busset hadn't expected that answer.

Coleman: But none of them are available for hire.

Busset: What? It seems your life has been more interesting than mine, lately. Do tell.

Coleman: That labor dispute got ... complicated. Inter-territorial complications. But it's all under control, as I'm saying.

Coleman is not going to admit that the union got, even for the moment, the best of him.

Coleman: I even brought in a preacher who tows a tame Sime with him to camp meetings. Kind of an oddball fella, but it works for him.

Busset: A preacher with a Sime? That sounds oddball indeed. What does he want a Sime for?

Coleman: Part of the act. He calls himself the Church of Truth, hey? He thinks we all need Simes around to keep us on the up-and-up, hey? But what I figure is, I'll keep my own Sime around, and then I'll know and the other fella won't, hey?

Busset considers.

Coleman: [smarmy] Not that I'd use that against you.

Busset: I suppose it might help in some situations. Although it takes some practice to get used to working by Sime rules. I remember my first trips to Simeland. It was quite an education.

Coleman laughs.

Coleman: In this case, the Sime 'ud be working by my rules! Well, within reason. I'd let him have what he needed, obviously.

Busset: That might be a bit difficult, out at your mine.

Coleman doesn't know the special meaning of "need" here, but he gets the gist.

Coleman: Sime Center's only half a day away by rail. I don't have a business negotiation every day.

Busset: You will have to arrange your schedule around that, you know. And work with a Sime's variable temperament.

Coleman: Temperament? How's that work, hey?

Busset shrugs.

Busset: Simes tend to be pretty jolly for a week or so after they have transfer. They make up for it by being really irritable and impatient as they go into need.

Coleman: I can live with that. I'm pretty irritable and impatient most of the time myself.

Coleman tries to smile, but ends up looking even more like a hungry shark than usual.

Busset: That's exactly what you can't afford to be with a Sime approaching need.

Coleman pushes out his lower lip.

Coleman: Hmm. I thought they had 'em trained not to pounce nowadays.

Busset: They do what they can, and it works pretty well most of the time. Mostly, though, their whole society is designed around avoiding that sort of trouble. You'd have to do that, too, before the Tecton would let a Sime work for you.

Coleman: Do what? Stay calm, is it?

Busset: That's part of it. Helping the other people around you stay calm is another part. You wouldn't be able to indulge in your famous outbursts when the Sime was around.

Coleman sighs deeply.

Coleman: Well, I suppose I could squelch 'em for just a few hours now and then.

Busset: What's the Sime going to be doing the rest of the time?

Coleman: Whatever. I'll pay him enough. He's a specialist, that's all. I got plenty of specialists on payroll, because I can't just hire one when I need him and then let him go so easy. Not like mine hands, hey?

Busset: I guess. How were you planning to convince the Sime government that you can be trusted with one of their citizens? They tend to be pretty skeptical about Gens from our side of the border.

Coleman: Aren't they free, over there? Can't they come here whenever they want, provided they wear those metal things?

Busset: A Sime can't wear those for more than a few hours at a time.

Coleman pushes his lip out again.

Coleman: So, I give him a house, he stays inside mostly. Maybe get two, a Sime and one of their tame Gens.

Busset: So, you expect this Sime to be a virtual prisoner? And do you even have a house that's insulated well enough?

Coleman waves his hands again, differently this time.

Coleman: Details. For that I got engineers. I can hire knowledge about Simes, I don't have to have it. What I haven't got, is any way to get the Sime I need. Can't exactly put a want-ad in the paper, hey? That's where you come in.

Busset raises an eyebrow.

Busset: How so?

Coleman: You know Simeland. You know Simes. You've got connections over there.

Busset: You want me to hire a Sime for you?

Coleman: Yes, subject to my final approval by interview, of course. I've got to be able to work with the man.

Busset: You might want to do some preparation for that interview, yourself.

Coleman: I will, then. Will you do it?

Busset: For instance, you'll have an easier time convincing a Sime to work for you if you make a good-faith gesture.

Coleman: Name it.

Busset: At the minimum, you should be lowfield. It wouldn't hurt to learn some Sime Territory manners, either. That way, the Sime would have some reassurance that you have associated with Simes before.

Coleman: Lowfield, as in give up my stuff?

Busset: Yes.

Coleman waves that away.

Coleman: No problem, I'm sure. As for manners, I don't change how I act just for the hired help. He'd have to get used to my style.

Busset shakes his head.

Busset: Simes aren't as flexible as Gens. Most of the "manners" I'm talking about are the minimum accommodation they need to associate with Gens with nobody getting hurt.

Coleman shrugs.

Coleman: Like what? You already told me about my temper.

Busset: A lot of it is adjusting your behavior according to how close the Sime is to need. And your feelings. If you let yourself get angry or afraid near a Sime who's in need -- well, that's how accidents happen.

Coleman: Afraid's not a problem. Angry -- well. I'll see.

Coleman is confident that he has an unlimited ability to manipulate his own personality for his business advantage.

Busset: You've got to stay calm around Simes. Because the Sime can't be calm if you're not.

Coleman: I can act as calm as anybody.

Busset: An act won't work. They feel your actual emotions, not the ones you're acting out.

Coleman throws his hands up into the air.

Coleman: Well, it's all for the business. I'll do what I can. The guy can't expect me to be perfect.

Busset: That's the whole point. If you can't convince him that you're at least close to perfect, he'll leave. Nothing you can pay will be worth the man's life -- which is what you're asking him to risk. If you provoke him into attacking you -- or someone else -- he'll be executed by his own people.

Coleman mops his sweaty brow.

Coleman: Okay, I get the point.

Coleman is beginning to wonder if this game really is worth the candle.

Busset: Look, it's not that hard. It's just the manners that every Gen living in Simeland learns.

Coleman waves that away too.

Coleman: Starting when, in their teens? And everyone around them behaving the same way.

Coleman unconsciously discounts, of course, that some of those "everyones" are Simes.

Busset: True enough. If a kid can learn it, you can, too. I did.

Coleman was about to say "I'm set in my ways", but realizes that would undermine his whole position.

Coleman: Hrrmph. Perhaps. Busset, I get the impression you're trying to talk me out of this.

Coleman's suspicions, never far from the surface, begin to be aroused. Is Busset already using this approach himself? But he isn't Coleman's competitor, on the contrary.

Busset: I just want you to know what you're getting into. I admit, though, if you want me to hire someone for you, my reputation will also be at stake if you can't make it work.

Coleman understands that.

Coleman: Have you ever thought of using this approach yourself, hey?

Busset: Not really. I make my living acting as a go-between for people who don't want to trade with Simes personally. Why would they pay me to do it for them if I made them deal with a Sime directly anyway?

Coleman nods and hrrmphs again.

Coleman: Fair enough. Well, you're a busy man, I'm a busy man. Send out your feelers, or whatever, and when you have somebody, get in touch, hey?

Busset: All right. And if you change your mind about this, let me know.

Busset privately resolves to wait a few weeks before starting on this chore.

Coleman: Of course. But I won't. You know me.

Busset has known a lot of people who change their minds after close personal contact with a Sime.

Coleman gets up and extends his hand.

Busset shakes.

Busset: Yes, I do know you.

Coleman laughs, then wonders if he should have.

Coleman: See you in two weeks, per usual?

Busset: Yes, in two weeks.

Coleman turns on his heel and walks out, politely shutting the door behind him.

Busset shakes his head and turns back to his inventories.

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