After T’rif dropped Garatt off at the Candidate trip, T’rif went in search of Nayari. He hated to interrupt her at such a time, but this wasn’t something that could wait.
On the one hand, she was sure it would be a good idea to send the Candidates off for a few days. Not to mention it might encourage them to keep their hands off each other if they were too tired out from gathering numbweed. But with the Hatching looming, she was trying to keep on top of all the files, the Healer notes, the class notes and at the same time, keep half an eye on her office door for a furious Weyrwoman to burst through it again. But, she needed a break. And more klah. And to stretch her legs. So as it happened, she was just stepping out of her office, empty mug in hand when she saw T’rif striding through the corridor towards her.
“Sorry, ma’am,” he said. “We need to talk again. But if you want to get your klah first, I can wait that long.” He’d just be glad to catch her at all.
Nayari’s expression at her empty mug was almost amusingly mournful. Instead she sighed and stepped back towards her office. “It can wait. I have a feeling I’ll be needing it after we’re done. I still have juice so don’t mind me busying about a moment. Come on in.” She held open her door and waited for T’rif to settle himself.
T’rif stepped inside and took one of the chairs. He hated that he was back in here to complain again so soon, but his duty was to the Candidates. He wasn’t going to hide away just to not cause a problem and let a Candidate keep struggling. If nothing else, it was his duty to let her know that Garatt needed to be referred up the chain.
“Can I get you anything?” Nayari asked as she carefully removed a small pitcher of juice from the cold storage box she kept. “And why do I have a feeling that this isn’t a social call?”
“No, ma’am, and I wish it was.” T’rif got right to it. “I’m really concerned about a Candidate by the name of Garatt. When he was in my class previously, he was an average student who didn’t like doing more than he had to, but he was never a troublemaker. I was concerned about him after the thing at the Caverns which he witnessed rather closely, but since then his behavior has deteriorated significantly. And I don’t think that it was caused by what he witnessed at the Caverns.
“He didn’t show to my scheduled appointment with me, which isn’t usual. I went looking for him and he was a gibbering mess. It took me a long time even to get back to my office. He kept saying he needed to get his papers done. When I finally got him back to my office and convinced him to part with his papers, half of them were nonsense papers about how he wouldn’t do some minor issue that all Candidates do like daydream or fidget and he was talking about a lot of detention. I wanted to find out who he was getting in trouble with so I could follow up, but he was nearly panicked and refused to tell me.
“I get that he was afraid of not getting to go to the trip, but it seemed more than that. Either way, the boy’s not sleeping and needs a break, so I took him to be on the trip anyway so he can maybe relax and start over.”
When Nayari returned to her desk, she brought with her the pitcher and an empty mug that was set in front of T’rif in a silent gesture of “help yourself if you want”. She didn’t interrupt as he spoke but the frown on her face deepened and the tight set of her lips drew them into an even thinner line as she listened. “And did he say anything to you about what might have caused this level of distress?”
“No,” T’rif admitted. “The closest he got was talking about how much work he’s getting. But I’ve been at this a long time and lived through Fort. This just isn’t normal even for a kid that isn’t used to getting in trouble occasionally and is now getting in trouble with us being more firm. I couldn’t even get him to tell me how much time he’s spending in detention. Every time I got close to finding out anything, he’d get panicked again. I’m all for getting these kids in line, but there’s a difference between occasional day dreaming when the kid is still learning the information and one that’s stopped paying attention entirely, let alone one who is being actively disruptive.”
If it was at all possible, the frown deepened. The name was already niggling. “Garratt. Isn’t that the boy you came to me with that note about? Getting all the detention marks? As far as I’m aware the Candidate homework schedules haven’t changed.” She paused a moment, clearly deep in thought as she sipped at the juice she had brought with her. “Are you thinking that all this extra work has come from M’ayen? I’m still making enquiries into that matter.”
T’rif shook his head. “I don’t think so. At least not only from him. There were two different assignments in there for him to stop fidgeting. So either he got it twice or he got it from two different people. Either way, there were quite a few assignments in there and only one was actually about a real assignment. D’xon’s class, I believe. I’m not saying that he’s not day dreaming or fidgeting or whatever other minor annoying thing he could be doing, but every Candidate does those things and yet he’s the only one getting assignments and detention for it.”
“Fidgeting…” And the flat note and questioning look on Nayari’s face seemed to suggest that she was waiting for the rest of the sentence to follow. But when it didn’t, she seemed… baffled. “I know I told the Assistant Candidatemasters to crack down on nonsense and tomfoolery, but I don’t expect to see punishment for trivial matters.” Sitting back in her chair, she rubbed the bridge of her nose and seemed to be thinking hard. “What are your thoughts about all of this?”
“Look, this kid was having trouble dealing to start with, so I can’t be entirely certain but my suspicion is that this kid is being singled out. This kid hasn’t been sleeping, which I know can be a part of the problem, but I think the number of assignments and detentions is part of this. He as much told me that. He lays awake thinking of it and then can’t sleep which means that he’s going to be more tired and do more of what they think is wrong, especially if anyone is looking for a reason to think he’s a troublemaker. The only concrete thing I got out of him is that M’ayen is making him stand to stay awake which I consider on the line of acceptable, especially if it’s a frequent thing. My gut is that he’s being picked on, whether consciously or not, and that’s really not good if it’s the ACM’s.”
“Mph… not to mention the incident in the Caverns likely won’t be helping with his sleep either. Which reminds me, has he been referred to the Mindhealers yet?” Nayari had by now put down her mug and pulled out a small notepad, jotting a few notes down as T’rif had talked. “At this moment in time, do you believe that it is more than one person involved? I can easily see how there might be an inclination to “follow suit” as it were if it’s picked up on that he’s being singled out by one person - for example M’ayen.” The more snippets of information she was getting about the “M’ayen Situation” as it had become known in her head, the more her instincts were starting to prickle. “And I agree, it’s one thing if a Candidate appears to be nodding off in class now and then and… coming up with harmless ways to keep their attention, quite something else if this appears to be deliberate in order to make an example of him.”
“No,” he admitted. “I was wanting to give him a couple of days to see how he did before I referred him to the Mindhealers because I was hoping that it was something not too bad and less likely to end his career. I definitely have to now.”
He ran his hand through his hair. “He kept saying ‘them’, not ‘him’. So, yes, I think it’s more than just one. I just don’t know who beyond D’xon. I...don’t think that D’xon is the original culprit here.” That was as close as he would get to expressly implicating M’ayen again without having more evidence. “I just know that I’m not seeing a lot of other Candidates getting excessive amount of work to do. Some extra, certainly, but not like this. I wish I was running the classes he was in to see how he’s doing, but I doubt it’s that bad.” And maybe then the poor kid could have a class where he wasn’t getting in trouble for breathing.
“Would you class Garratt as an easy target? Someone it might be easy to make an example of to say, make the others fall in line? You’ve probably had more direct dealings with him than I have.” Sadly the sheer amount of administrative work meant that her opportunity to deal with classes directly was significantly limited by comparison to the ACM’s which meant that a lot of the time, they would know the Candidates better than she did. She didn’t begrudge them for it, it was just a fact.
T’rif nodded. “Even before the Caverns thing, I’d say he’s an easy target. He’s quiet, keeps to himself, seems a bit timid. His biggest class faults are that he does exactly what is asked for and not any more. Not to be rude about it, but I don’t know that thinking is something he’s as good with, but he’s never been a troublemaker.”
Nayari nodded, following where T’rif was going with it. “Easier to pick on a quiet Candidate with perhaps, a little less drive than optimally desirable than a known troublemaker with enough gusto and self-inflicted confidence to answer back and challenge any punishments they’re presented with, wouldn’t you say?” Not that she knew of any outright troublemakers but she knew that of the ones she had encountered in the past, they usually had so much confidence in themselves that they were almost impossible to even remotely fluster. “So you think it’s about marking territory as to who is in charge or something else to it?”
“There could be a lot of reasons,” T’rif said. He hesitated and then decided to just go for it. “I haven’t seen this happen before M’ayen came on. He’s caused problems in the past and I don’t think he ever lost his Fortian side. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these particular ACMs are just misinterpreting what you meant when you had to crack down. I don’t know. A lot of the ACMs are careful not to talk to me or around me because of my role as Counselor and/or being the Weyrwoman’s uncle, so as far as to what the ACMs are thinking, I’m on the outside and can only guess.
“I do know that it can easily start out as wanting to prove a point and then escalate.”
“Hmm…” The thoughtful sound matched the expression of intense concentration on Nayari’s face. “Whilst I do think that to an extent, the Candidates need to be made very aware of the fact that this Candidacy is not an all expenses paid trip to the Gather, I do not expect to hear of specific and targeted cruelty that is designed purely to use a Candidate as a means to scare the rest into submission.” The stylus was moving deftly across her notepad, more and more notes appearing under it. “Tell Garratt not to worry about his assignments and that he has been given my permission to attend the Candidate trip. Regardless of what else he might be told, unless he hears it from me and only me, he is still attending. I think getting him out of here for a few days might help him.”
“Absolutely,” T’rif said. “Whever’s going on, I think he’ll be better after a couple of days to relax. If I thought he was a troublemaker, I wouldn’t be suggesting it at all, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. And I’ll talk to the Mindhealers in the meantime. I’ll keep tabs on him, but between everything, I don’t think I can handle it here. Maybe he’ll feel better talking to someone who’s not also an ACM. And I hope that if there is any bullying going on as I’m afraid, that they don’t move onto someone else.”
“As I will be remaining here during the trip, rest assured that I will be spending some time looking into this matter further - taking full advantage of the limited staff and Candidate body. When everyone returns, I intend on calling a staff meeting where in all appearances, it will appear to be an innocuous catch up on what has been noticed so far and if there are any particular concerns I need to be aware of. What I will actually be looking for is who brings up any names and what they’re raising. I will also be politely reminding the staff to keep me informed of any Candidate that has been issued detention or other disciplinary measures - likely under guise of my considering whether to forbid them from Standing all together. I want to see who speaks and just as importantly, who chooses not to.”
T’rif nodded. “Thank you for taking my concerns seriously, ma’am,” he said. “It’s fully possible that I’m wrong, but I couldn’t leave without addressing this with you. I’ll watch Garatt personally while we’re on the trip to make sure that there’s not something I’m missing and I’ll keep you apprised. Is there anything else I can do for you before I go?”
“Obviously you know nothing of this meeting and will look appropriately surprised when the instructions to attend are issued. Keep your ear to the ground during the trip too. You’d be amazed at how loose tongues can become when guards come down.” Internally Nayari was filled with an ugly mess of conflicting feelings. She didn’t like having to look into her staff, to potentially undermine them. But even so, sometimes it was called for. “Other than that, nothing unless you want to add anything further. If necessary, I’ll send Vecna to you.”
“I know nothing.” T’rif stood and half bowed. He was glad he wasn’t one of the ACMs leading the trip. He wouldn’t be needed until a bit later, so he’d been able to slip off. Now he could quietly slip back in. “I’m sorry for such bad news, ma’am. I hope the rest of your day goes better.”
With that he slipped away into the Barracks, the place quiet for once.