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Ai spends the summer traveling Karhide. He takes in the sights, investigates the Gethenian way of life, and wears—we imagine—one of those tacky tourist shirts with the camera constantly hanging around his neck. You know, just doing his thing.
While staying in a place called Gorinhering, he hears a radio broadcast that the King is pregnant with an heir.
No, that's not a typo.
Beyond that, Tibe takes up most of the radio time as prime minister. He speechifies about patriotism for Karhide and distrust/hatred of other countries such as, oh, we don't know, Orgoreyn. In short, he has developed into quite the demagogue.
With that thought, Ai decides it's time to head to Orgoreyn and chat with them as Envoy for the Ekumen.
Ai hears a radio broadcast about a scuffle in the Sinoth Valley. He imagines full-on war might become a reality for the first time on Gethen, as Tibe sets himself up to reap the rewards.
That night, a Gethenian visits Ai. It's Ashe, and he gives Ai the money he tried to give to Estraven in the first place. Ai agrees to pass it along to Estraven if they cross paths.
Permission to enter Orgoreyn comes much sooner than Ai expects. He heads out, with a small detour to see this Sinoth Valley everyone keeps talking about.
Because that sounds like a good idea, right?
There, he crosses a bridge into Orgoreyn. After playing 20 questions with the inspectors, he's in.
He finds a Commensal Transient-House, has a meal, and goes to bed. While sleeping, he has a bad dream, "the kind in which you run down a strange street in the dark with a lot of people who have no faces, while houses go up in flames behind you, and children scream" (8.50).
Yikes. Can't say we've ever had one of those.
Still in a dream, he ends up in an open field with his pack but without his pants and barefoot.
At least he doesn't have to give a report naked in front of the whole class.
And even in bad dreams, he still has his ansible and rubies.
He follows a bunch of refugees to a communal farm-center. Wait, is this still a dream or has the dream bleed into reality? Was it ever a dream in the first place? Hmm, we'll have to read on.
Orgoreyn officials interrogate the group. Those without papers, including Ai, are separated and sent to another room.
Seems it wasn't all a bad dream after all. Some of it was just bad reality. Ai now lives with a bunch of other refugees who ended up here after being yanked out of their beds in the middle of the night.
Ai overhears some people talking about how the city was attacked with guns and fire. No one complains.
The door opens, and Ai is called out. Officials recognize him as the Envoy and give him new papers and a car.
Sure, it only goes twenty-five miles per hour, but hey, better than the pants-less alternative.
Ai drives to the city of Mishnory, listening to some tunes on the radio. He notices that no one mentions the attack. Otherwise, the drive seems pleasant, and Ai reaches his destination.
In Mishnory, he drops off the car and heads to Commissioner Shusgis's house by either invitation or command; he's not sure.
Shusgis sets Ai up in a sweet pad in his own building. It's warm, has electric heating, and even a hot shower. On Gethen, those alone equal an MTV Cribs level of opulence.
His host lays it on a tad thick, claiming that Karhide was afraid of Ai and the changes he would bring. Not Orgoreyn, though. Orgoreyn can appreciate him.
Ai knows a line when he hears one, but he plays it cool.
Shusgis invites Ai to a bigwig get-together, so Ai showers, primps, and gets ready to mingle.
At the dinner party, Ai meets the who's who of Orgoreyn. Obsle (remember him? The head of the Orgota Naval Trade Commission?) asks Ai questions about Earth, and Ai answers.
Ai's answers blow his mind a little. What do you mean that some planets are composed entirely of deserts?
Then Estraven enters the room. Ai tells him he has a message for Estraven in the form of money.
Like us, Ai starts sensing that Estraven has planned this all along.