After such extensive preparations for the peace talks, Alison’s brain needs peace of its own. First she sleeps for about twenty hours. She thinks that she might then be good to return to the audience chamber, but her rotten brain continues to lie prostrate and whine about needing more rest. She then spends the next two days in the library with more cat therapy, as well as a selection of books recommended by the Doctor’s TARDIS for beautiful and mentally unstimulating pictures.
The Magister, appearing for the first time since she crashed, thus finds Alison under a flower light. The jade cat’s in her lap, the floral incense in her nose, visions of the fantastical dreamscapes that she has just studied in her head. The Magister comes toward her swiftly, body stiffly bent forward, all the lines upon his forehead flattened instead of curved. As soon as she perks up and catches his eye, though, he straightens, unwinding the tension from his stance and smiling.
He sits down in front of her and wants to know how she fares, so she tells him as much detail as she can about a period during which she was either unconscious or daydreaming. Though she wants to drag her brain kicking and screaming back into the peace talks, he appears thoroughly delighted with her hiatus. He calls it excellent and exactly what she’s needed. Well, of course he’s so cool about it. He’s not the one whose brain is fucked up.
“So that’s the thrilling news from my sector of the TARDIS,” says Alison, rubbing around the base of the jade cat’s ears. “What’s going on with the diplomacy? From the way you came in here, I figure that it can’t be going well. Tell me?”
With a tremendous sigh, he heaves himself up from the chair. “Ah…”
Sensing an imminent pacing attack, Alison closes her eyes. “I’m listening,” she assures him. “Your pacing makes me queasy, so I’m not looking. But I know that’s how you think, so go ahead and do it. Just know that I won’t be hanging onto your every move.”
“What a pity -- and I did so hope that I could make of you my worshipful follower. --Well, in any event, the whole mission recalls to me the reasons that I have always avoided diplomacy. The time-consuming tangents! The serious consideration of foolish ideas! The endless rules governing the least action! The sheer...democracy of it all!”
“Aww, is someone upset that no one’s bowing down to him?”
“To be sure, my dear! One may not simply discard a lifetime of habits and desires within mere days. And yet fear not, for, though I may be unfamiliar with the restrictions you have given me, I am obedient to your will in all things.” There’s a silence. “And yet…” he says, an inquiring upturn to his voice. “While I know I chafe against the diplomatic protocols because of my nature, I suspect that the Agricole may be abusing the rules of order. I would like your perspective -- that of someone with more experience in discussion, negotiation, and compromise than I.”
Wow, did he just admit that he wasn’t a master of something? Alison pops her eyes open. “Uh, sure, how can I help you? Do you want me to watch TARDIS TV tapes?”
He, having stopped walking [thank God], rolls his eyes. “Dear me, not at all! The vicissitudes would try your patience. If I may provide you with certain representative instances, could you then extrapolate and give me an assessment?”
“Ah, okay, summaries are much more efficient anyway.” Giving him a sideways glance, she adds, “And you look like you’re just dying to do something in a more efficient way than that perfectly awful democracy bullshit! So please -- summarize away.”
He begins moving again, switching back and forth in short laps. Alison shuts her eyes as he struggles to identify just one example where the Agricole raised his ire. She’s pretty sure that he, like her, started off this mission trying to be civil and open-minded to the Agricole. But then she used up all her politeness just trying to get Trix Curriendi on the phone, while he probably expended all of his convincing the Agricole to sit down with the Schuaschen in the first place. By this time, both of them are sick of the Agricoles’ bigoted bullshit, but have little recourse but private fuming. Now that he has time alone with Alison, his long-held annoyance, though, threatens to overwhelm his ability to explain its source.
Finally he brings up an anecdote about Trix Curriendi. When the time came to debate the enfranchisement of all the Schuaschen currently in pots and gardens, she brought up the subject of those Schuaschen who could not live without pots or gardens. As moderator, the Magister thought this topic an excuse for the Agricole to justify their supremacy over the Schuaschen by invoking the disability of a few, so he decided to let her speak.
He soon regretted this permission, as Trix Curriendi took an excursus into the importance of caring for the crippled, in her words, especially those creatures to which the Agricole had duties as creators. After summarizing the services that the Agricole provide for the cripples, Trix Curriendi asked what provisions the Schuaschen will make for their unpotted and ungardened fellows. The commander gave a curt synopsis of the ways in which Schuaschen institutions helped and supported trees like her, which appeared to satisfy Trix Curriendi. And yet this item had taken most of the day during which Alison was resting. In so many words, the Magister asks her if she considers this obfuscatory drivel or legitimate, albeit long-winded, diplomacy.
Alison replies that one of her first lessons in the democratic process concerned its unavoidable length and tedium. Rules of order allow safeguard fairness by making sure that everyone has a chance to speak their piece. Some people do so succinctly, and some do so verbosely. She considers Trix Curriendi’s concern valid, though long-winded. The Magister’s impatience, then, betokens no bullshit, only a side effect of the rules of order.
When the Magister moves to the subject of Ter Praedius, however, Alison quickly detects bullshit in full force. The junior Agricole ambassador merges an encyclopedic knowledge of parliamentary procedure with an avidity to demonstrate this knowledge whenever possible. As Alison witnessed during the first day, he loves to call points of order, especially when the Schuaschen ambassadors have the floor. Both the commander and Loriischi, knowing that the Council mediation team ultimately supports them, let him speak up repeatedly, as they know they will win. Meanwhile, the Magister’s infuriation grows.
No matter what he has tried thus far, the Magister says, Ter Praedius continues to derail the debate. He slows the talks and distracts the Schuaschen delegates, but Trix Curriendi doesn’t seem to care. The Magister suggested that she restrain her overzealous younger colleague, but she, baffled, said she would do nothing to quash her promising protege’s ambitions.
“I said the same thing to the culprit in question,” the Magister goes on. “I have noticed that you frequently seize upon points of order. I would ask you to please refrain from slowing the discussion with such interruptions. They challenge our prompt conclusion of this urgent and important business. Somehow, though, the fool took this as an opening to accept a compliment on his parliamentary prowess, which, I assure you, I did not offer. He also tried to argue with me -- me, of all people! -- that his care and thoroughness, in his words, were vital to the success of the talks. I wonder that human politics ever accomplishes anything when beset with such vacuous personalities!”
“I knew there was a reason I wanted to punch him in the face,” Alison mutters. “Sounds like he’s not only an impolite arsehole, but he’s also impervious to common sense. Hmmm, there’s got to be something behind all his bullshit, though: some way to get through to him, something we can use as leverage to make him shut up and behave himself.”
“Of course,” says the Magister, nodding, “everyone has such motivations, such desires, upon which others may play for good or for ill. For example, clearly the culprit -- “ That’s how much the junior ambassador angers the Magister: so much that he has been demoted into namelessness. “--Covets my approval, as he’s forever staring at me like some sort of pet. And he -- “
“I know just the thing!” Alison sits up straight. The jade cat, having been asleep, chides her for the sudden movement. “You said that he’s been in the Ambitio for like three years. Well, Trixicula Sideris has been there even longer. I don’t know if you noticed, but she was trying really hard not to make faces whenever he yelled out one of his precious points of order. I think,” she concludes, “that she’s got some inside information on him. Let me talk to her. I’m not sure I’m up to Agricole blathering and bullshit, but I can definitely ask her some questions about her coworker.”
“Excellent idea, especially since you two already share some report,” says the Magister. “Yes, please gather what intelligence you can about the culprit.”
“Okay,” promises Alison, “I’ll go on my fact-finding mission tomorrow. I’m sure I can get some idea of what makes him tick.”