Medith Riggs’ Debut: The Courtship of Caren’s Father (fragment)
The first I knew of Medith Riggs she was a voice on the other side of a door. The fragment may eventually be fleshed out – the story of the Nurail widow that decided her boys needed a father, Stildyne’s “maister” had done a lot of Nurail sons out of their fathers, so Andrej owed her sons a father and she’d decided to take Stildyne, since Stildyne had no sons and was lacking the grief and aggravation in his life that would help him along his pathway to human being.
But that’s neither here nor there. This is the debut of Medith Riggs, and I knew nothing more of her than what is in this fragment at the time that I wrote it; except that this happens some time after “Blood Enemies.” Then she made First Contact with the thula – setting her point-of-entry as before “Blood Enemies,” and after “Warring States” – and we were off.
Enter Medith Riggs (the Courtship of Caren’s Father)
Caren struck, and Stildyne parried. Caren struck again, and Stildyne caught his fist and covered it, holding fast. Caren kicked, and Stildyne lost his grip, going down hard against the chair beside his desk, but Stildyne came right up again before Caren had quite caught his balance and took him from one side in a manner Caren didn’t quite understand – arms wrapped around his chest; one leg bent at the knee with the calf of the leg brought against the backs of Caren’s knees in a way that took Caren’s feet out from underneath him.
Vaguely as the two of them crashed down to the floor together Caren recognized a wrestling hold. Stildyne had the advantage of height, but not of youth; only just for now height and experience was enough. Caren did his best, but he couldn’t break the hold. Stildyne spoke quietly as Caren struggled, not close to his ear – where Caren could have bashed his cheekbone with his skull, not that that would have made any impact – but quietly enough that Caren had to still himself to hear, despite himself.
“I’ve fought with Dolgorukij,” Stildyne said. There was a curious note of resigned humor in his voice that maddened Caren. What was the point? That Caren was nothing compared to that Koscuisko, also an old man, and over whom Caren had the advantage of height? Was that what Stildyne was saying?
“Let me go,” Caren hissed. “Fight like a man, not a – ”
Imagination failed him. Fight like a what? What could he honestly call Stildyne that would express the depth of his frustration, the depth of his antagonism toward the hospital and its entire administration, the safe privileged sanctuary of it all, the soft life they were making for Black Andrej Koscuisko? “Hit back. You. You.”
Stildyne broke the hold and rolled away too quickly, too cleverly for Caren to be able to realize what had happened in time to take advantage of proximity. “Won’t,” Stildyne said. “Sorry. Not happening.”
“Why?” Caren said, pounding one fist on the floor. He heard the frustrated anger in his own voice, and hated himself for the childish protest he could hear there as well. As if he’d been some brat wriggling at the end of someone’s fingers with a firm grip on his ear. It was humiliating. “You think I’ll stop? You think I’ll ever stop?”
Expressing his resentment. Bleeding that damned Dolgorukij for all he could, breaking windows, vandalizing construction sites, breaking into waste containers to contaminate whole sections of loading docks to stop the facilities processing and force a work stoppage while the mess was cleaned up. It was fun. It felt good.
“There’s no point,” Stildyne said. Pulling one of the chairs into its upright and proper position he sat down, and took a whitesquare out of his pocket, daubing at his face where Caren had cut him with a lucky blow. “I should know, that’s how I got to be me. Wasted half my life. Now look, I’ll show you something.”
Caren found himself just confused enough to sit silent on the floor trying to figure this out as Stildyne slid down out of the chair to his knees and came toward him on all fours. Wasted half his life? What? Was Security Chief of a rich new hospital, position of influence and power in Safehaven, privileged seat at Provost Marshal’s weekly meetings, was that Stildyne’s idea of a wasted life?
“I’ve got you pinned on the floor. Like this.” Stildyne wrapped his arms around Caren’s chest once more, one leg thrown over Caren’s thighs to press down against Caren’s knees and control the flex of Caren’s legs. “You’re thoroughly screwed. Right? No, you only have to learn how to do this. Follow my force rather than trying to fight against it. Right? You know how to do this, you were just distracted because I got you down. Notice where your hip-joint is, and I’m between it and the floor. Any ideas?”
Not only his hip-joint. If he followed Stildyne’s force he could get Stildyne turned to one side with their combined weight against the point of Stildyne’s elbow. Caren thought about things. Then he made his move. Stildyne yelled out loud and tumbled; Caren was free. Damn. That easy? No, not easy, but it had worked.
“Don’t lose your advantage,” Stildyne said. “Here’s where you decide whether you’re trying to disarm me, disable me, or kill me. But. And this is important. If you’re trying to kill me I’ll know, and then I’ll fight for my life, that puts you at a disadvantage – ”
Knock at the door, at just the wrong time. Stildyne held up his hand; Caren froze.
“Lot of banging around in there.” Security officer of the watch on duty. Caren had walked in right past her and she hadn’t stopped him, but by the look she’d given him she clearly didn’t think he was anything Stildyne couldn’t handle. He’d been insulted. “Everything all right?”
Caren watched as Stildyne looked around: desk shoved to one side where someone had fallen against it. Two chairs down. In-box splintered. Beverage server all over the floor. Stildyne laughed. It was scary. “No problems, Medith,” he called back. “Nearly finished here.”
No answer; so whether or not Medith believed Stildyne she wouldn’t interfere. Stildyne stood up. “Take a piece of advice,” Stildyne said. “Go and talk to Pyotr. Or Garrity, or Godsalt, or even Hirsel. Tell them what you asked me. And once you’ve done that, either put yourself on scheduler for hand-to-hand, or I’ll put you out for three weeks next time, you have my promise.”
Whatever that meant. Those people? He’d be damned. Caren got up carefully – he was sore – he picked up a chair, two chairs, and helped Stildyne square his desk. Further than that he was not willing to go.
Slamming out of the office Caren got out of the administrative center as fast as he could go, to find a quiet place in which to plan suitable vengeance for this – whatever it had been – or at least think about it.