Marvin reflects that riding the train in-T is a lot better than doing so out-T, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile trying to stretch one's legs as often as feasible.
Ammenia doesn't spend nearly as much time riding trains as a mule, so she hasn't built up his stamina for it.
Marvin is more than doubtful about the quality of the trin he's likely to get here at Mom's, but it's better than nothing.
Ammenia is also unused to working with Seconds, who are both less able to fight her control, and less sensitive to it. She's a mid-range First who has been assigned to Marvin to allow her to have a short month, rephasing her cycle for her next assignment.
Ammenia looks at the trin shop.
Marvin: You know what they say, Ammenia, about places like this?
Ammenia: At least it's not boiled coffee?
Ammenia understands that out-Territory Gens drink a lot of coffee, and never mind that when it boils Simes find the odor nauseating.
Marvin shudders theatrically.
Marvin: No, it's "Never play cards with a man named Doc; never eat at a restaurant called Mom's; and never ..."
Marvin quickly chokes off the final admonition of that hoary old saying.
Marvin: But here we are, and there it is, and what can we do in the time we've got?
Ammenia: Never what?
Marvin: I think we'll have to ask for an amnesty in that direction.
Marvin winks mysteriously.
Ammenia: All right. I'm too thirsty to argue with you, I'm afraid.
Marvin: So I zlin.
Ammenia: Bad trin is better than no trin at all, I suppose.
Marvin and Ammenia have reached the front of the line.
Marvin: Two trins, please.
Mom, an unusually muscular Gen woman, makes a point of wiping the mugs with a relatively clean rag before filling them with trin from the urn.
Mom: Here you go, Hajene and Sosu. Anything else?
Marvin: [to Ammenia] Do you want anything to eat?
Ammenia: One of those muffins, if you don't mind.
Ammenia doesn't think they look all that appetizing, but she is a Gen, and the food on the trains is worse.
Mom puts a muffin on a plate, wiping her fingers on the rag first. She knows Tecton staff are picky about these things.
Marvin pays Mom and heads outside, where at least it doesn't smell funny.
Mom wipes her forehead and nose with the rag and serves the next customer.
Ammenia brings her tea and muffin, settles down on a bench outside the shop.
Marvin begins to drink the tea; it's marginally better than he had hoped.
Marvin: Grade Z trin, but at least the water's the right temperature.
Ammenia: At least we've got some time to stretch our legs. I don't know why sitting all day should be more exhausting than running around after a channel, but it is.
Marvin: [seriously] I think you're picking up on the tensions of all the Simes who feel the world moving out from under them at an unnatural speed.
Ammenia braces herself, and takes a bite of her muffin, chewing it ~~ thoughtfully ~~.
Marvin: [not so seriously] Trains are a bad idea. We should never have let you Gens invent them. --How's the muffin?
Ammenia: I've had worse, though not recently.
Marvin: Very smooth job of not dumping the flavor on me, by the way. Thanks.
Ammenia: You're welcome. I do miss that little bake shop around the corner from the Arnwood Sime Center.
Marvin savors the ~~ nostalgia ~~.
Ammenia: Maybe Vidnor will have something similar.
Marvin: I hope we have time enough to eat a decent meal there. Probably more like gobble'n'git.
Ammenia: I expect you have all the decent eating places on your usual routes scoped out?
Marvin: Yeah. But the best is this tiny Sime Center where the cook is a-mazing, believe it or not. And she's out-T to boot.
Ammenia: Really? Will we be going there?
Marvin: [distracted] Another train coming in, but not ours. Boy howdy, what a weird distortion in the selyn field they make.
Ammenia obligingly reinforces her nageric shielding of Marvin.
Marvin: Mmpfh. Too much! I feel like I've been wrapped in a wool blanket.
Ammenia lightens it up a bit.
Marvin: [snapping back] I'm not sure; I'd have to check the schedule to see if you'll still be with me then.
Ammenia: How's that?
Marvin: That's the ticket. Where is that schedule!
Marvin rummages around in his bag to try to find the current schedule: no luck.
Ammenia: Is that it, in your book?
Ammenia points to the novel that Marvin has been reading, when the train was going smoothly.
Fridda gets off the train, stretches, adjusts her backpack and trudges into the station. The backpack is heavy since it contains several large books, including a Simelan dictionary and grammar.
Marvin wraps his tentacles around his neck.
Marvin: I'd probably lose my laterals if they weren't attached, eh?
Ammenia: I've done the same, many a time. That's usually where my transfer assignment card ends up, actually.
Fridda examines the schedule board and sees that the train to Capital is running late. She'll have at least a two hour wait.
Fridda thinks she should probably eat one of the apples she has in her pack. She's been thoroughly indoctrinated in correct nutritional practice at the First Year camp. But some trin would be nice right now, too. She's developed quite a taste for it.
Ammenia takes another bite of her muffin, making sure that the soda aftertaste doesn't reflect in her nager.
Fridda goes through the station and out the front door. She sees a trin shop with some tables on the sidewalk across the street and down a short way, and heads towards it.
Marvin's jaw drops
Marvin: Well, I will be an egg-sucking son of a stuffed monkey. See that Sime over there, the young one with the backpack?
Marvin signals the correct direction for Ammenia to look.
Ammenia turns to spot the indicated individual.
Ammenia: Yes, I see her. Is she a friend of yours?
Fridda pauses to study some clothing in a store window. She plans to wait until she gets to Capital to buy clothes. She wants to see what other students wear first.
Marvin: She's one of the new Simes I escorted across the border some months back. What an amazing coinkydink!
Marvin raises his voice but doesn't actually shout.
Marvin: Hey! Fridda! Over here!
Fridda turns at the sound of her name and zlins and sees Marvin. ~~ amazement ~~
Fridda: Hajene Marvin?
Fridda hurries over to the table where he and his Donor are sitting.
Marvin grins, hoots, exclaims, and generally does the ape act, as is suitable for a reunion of old friends.
Ammenia watches the reunion with ~~ bemusement ~~
Fridda: You're all right, aren't you? They didn't retire you? ~~ concern ~~
Marvin: Oh, of course not. I was just being melodramatic that day. But let me look at you, girl!
Marvin zlins Fridda closely.
Ammenia looks at Marvin, instead.
Fridda stands there ~~ diffidently ~~. ~~ relief ~~
Marvin: You really have grown up. I never get over being surprised, even though it happens every time.
Fridda: My tentacles are a lot better too.
Marvin: So I see, yes.
Marvin remembers his manners.
Marvin: Ammenia, this is Fridda, um, sorry, I can't remember your last name. Fridda, Ammenia, my Donor for this month.
Ammenia: Pleased to meet you, Fridda.
Fridda nods politely to the Donor.
Ammenia: Marvin, why would you be worried about being involuntarily retired?
Marvin: That's a loooong story for a long train ride. What it amounts to is, I made some mistakes in Fridda's case, and mistakes out-T are a thing to avoid. But it all turned out happily, as you can see.
Fridda: He saved my life. ~~ loyalty ~~ gratitude ~~
Marvin: Aw shucks. Just doing my job. (Or rather, not doing it.)
Ammenia: That does sound like a tale. What did you do, Marvin?
Ammenia has not had time to really get acquainted with Marvin, yet, and there are always a lot of things that don't appear on the short version of a channel's file.
Marvin gestures for patience.
Marvin: I'll get to that. I want to hear what Fridda's up to, now that she's been let out of durance vile, I mean First-Year camp. But first, grab some of this trin -- you won't like it, but it's better than nothing -- and come back and sit with us!
Fridda: Okay. Thank you.
Fridda drops off her backpack and heads into the trin shop.
Ammenia looks after Fridda.
Ammenia: That young woman seems to be adjusting to life as a Sime pretty well.
Marvin: Considering what happened to her -- being thrown onto a train with her arms tied up while in changeover, and then carried by an empty channel (that would be me) to an out-T jail, she certainly is.
Ammenia's jaw drops in shock, although her nager displays much less ~~ disturbance ~~.
Ammenia: They put her in jail, for being in changeover?
Marvin: No, I put both of us in jail because it was the only insulated building available -- made of stone, y'know.
Marvin: I had to steal the officer's pencil. Or was it my Donor who stole it? I can't recall.
Marvin winks again.
Ammenia: A pencil? I thought you said that you tended to leave your paperwork undone, if there was any sort of an excuse?
Marvin: Well, I had to do something illegal, or he wouldn't lock us up, would he.
Ammenia: You'd think he'd have the common sense to look at the situation, and come to the obvious conclusion. At least, if it was the only insulated building around.
Marvin: Well, there are rule-bound bureaucrats out-T as well as in, let's say.
Ammenia: I admit, if it was me in that situation, I'd have been tempted to kick over the trash and try for a littering charge.
Marvin waves his hands, expressing "Whatever."
Fridda returns with a mug of trin and sits at the table.
Marvin polishes off his trin.
Fridda smiles at Marvin. ~~ admiration ~~ gratitude ~~
Marvin: So. Have a drink, sit back, relax, and tell me what's what.
Fridda sips her trin. She thinks it's pretty good, never having had good trin to compare it to.
Marvin vicariously enjoys Fridda's enjoyment, which somewhat makes up for his own judgment on the stuff.
Fridda: Uh, they had a specialist examine my tentacles. She said they'd keep improving but they wouldn't be completely normal. She gave me some exercises to do.
Fridda glances at Ammenia, then extends her short, weak, clumsy tentacles for Marvin to zlin.
Ammenia is a Donor, and therefore ~~ sympathetic ~~.
Marvin zlins them.
Fridda wriggles them, demonstrating their inferior flexibility.
Marvin: Well, I see what she means. But even if you can't expect any further extension of length, there's no reason why they shouldn't be plenty strong enough, given that you're obviously keeping up the exercises.
Ammenia: Yes. It's not a life-endangering condition, these days.
Ammenia is well aware that such an injury would have made killing almost physically impossible.
Fridda: Yes. And after all, I expected to be Gen, and then I'd have to do without tentacles of any kind.
Marvin: And as for that lack of wiggle, I don't think it's scar tissue, so that should improve with time too, eh? But never mind your tissues, tell me about your plans!
Fridda: Things worked out well, Marvin. My father even came in-T to visit me. And he tried to learn how to act around Simes, so they let us talk and even touch each other. ~~ happiness ~~
Ammenia: He must be quite a progressive, from what I've heard about what's normal in Gen Territory.
Fridda: Uh. He wasn't like that before I changed over. I didn't expect... I thought the family would disown me. If I survived. I almost didn't.
Ammenia: It was close, then? ~~ sympathy ~~
Fridda: Well, I was just a few days from my sixteenth birthday. And I was tied up with my arms behind my back for hours. I was in stage four arrest. And then I got thrown in the freight car and landed on my arms.
Ammenia works very hard to control her ~~ rising horror ~~ at this litany of brutality.
Fridda: I was augmenting in convulsions, and getting psychospatial disorientation from being unconscious on the train.
Ammenia: I'm surprised you survived the journey.
Fridda: I was sure I was going to die, but Marvin said he'd make sure I didn't kill anybody and that he'd save me.
Fridda looks at Marvin, and her ~~ gratitude ~~ increases.
Ammenia: He got you help from the Sime Center in time, then?
Fridda: No, he saved me himself. His Donor wasn't even with us. I would have died if I'd had to stay on the train to get to a Sime Center. It would have been another couple of hours.
Ammenia: He saved... Marvin, you gave her transfer?
Ammenia is ~~ shocked ~~.
Fridda gets a ~~ sinking feeling ~~ as she realizes she shouldn't have said so much.
Marvin: The only alternative would have been euthanasia, which would have been safer for everyone, admittedly.
Ammenia: Well, I've been known to go along with more than one channel who wanted to risk himself in a tight situation.
Marvin: [reluctantly] It was the risk to the First Contract that was the real problem.
Ammenia: ...The First Contract? I thought you said you found a locked, insulated room?
Marvin: Yes, but I had to take a donation from, well, from an out-T minor -- a Gen, but legally a child out-T.
Ammenia: You took a donation? I thought they didn't train mules in that sort of functional?
Marvin shrugs expressively.
Marvin: I improvised. The whole thing was improvised.
Ammenia: You improvised taking your first donation? Without even a Donor around to steady you?
Ammenia is ~~ incredulous ~~.
Marvin nods with a rueful expression.
Marvin: I know it's hard to swallow.
Fridda: She wasn't hurt at all. Hajene Seruffin told me that later, after he'd examined her. And he's a high First.
Marvin: I would have had my Donor, except I sent him to try to round up a proper donor as a selyn source. Unfortunately, he fell victim to a practical joke.
Ammenia: A proper donor? Don't tell me the girl wasn't a general class donor?
Marvin: No, she wasn't. But the important part is that out-T she had no legal right to consent to the donation.
Ammenia's incredulity is starting to take on a tinge of ~~ horror ~~, although she manages to keep it from becoming too annoying.
Fridda zlins the horror and really ~~ regrets ~~ what she's gotten Marvin into with his Donor. She feels a strong need to defend him.
Ammenia: You risked injuring, or killing, an out-Territory girl. How did you get her parents to agree to such a stunt?
Marvin: There was no time to get their consent, and anyhow she had no permission to be at the jail in the first place.
Ammenia: She was disobeying her parents by being there, and you went ahead and talked her into a donation, one that you didn't know how to take safely?
Ammenia wants to make sure that she understands the situation.
Fridda unconsciously edges closer to Marvin, wanting to give him some moral support, at least, since renSimes can't work their nagers to provide nageric support.
Marvin: I did say "First Contract", you know. I'm not proud of it. But I am proud of how Fridda turned out.
Ammenia: I thought you were exaggerating for effect.
Marvin: [thoughtfully] Yes, I've been known to do that sometimes. But not about Sime~Gen Unity. That I take very seriously.
Fridda: He could have... euthanised me. I might have died anyway. He did very competent work, bringing me through changeover. And taking the donation, too. All the channels who've examined me have told me that he didn't leave a... mark.
Ammenia: That's something of a miracle, for a channel with no experience. I've seen plenty of experienced channels make mistakes in less serious cases.
Fridda turns to Marvin.
Fridda: I know now that you're disjunct. I didn't understand it before, but I do now.
Fridda turns back to Ammenia.
Fridda: My tentacles were paralyzed. I couldn't even break out -- he had to cut. But he managed to hold me back to conserve selyn until he had some for me, and he gave me a wonderful First Transfer. Maybe he should have murdered me, but I'm glad I'm alive.
Marvin: [softly] So am I.
Fridda is filled with intense emotion. She reaches for Marvin's hand.
Marvin holds Fridda's hand and extends his field a bit to prevent her strong emotion from affecting anyone else.
Ammenia is just as much of a softy when it comes to defenseless Simes as any Donor.
Fridda is ~~ comforted ~~ by the contact, and does a breathing exercise to ~~ calm ~~ herself.
Marvin takes Ammenia's hand in his other hand.
Ammenia: I'm not going to pretend that I'm not glad it turned out all right. It's just that, well, I worked in a channel's training camp for a while.
Marvin: Oh? Tell me.
Ammenia: I've seen a lot of mistakes made, including a few serious injuries, to the donors and renSimes who volunteered to be the guinea pigs for the new channels.
Marvin: [sympathetic] I can believe it.
Ammenia: The renSimes got the worst of it, usually, but there was one instance when a channel lost control halfway through a donation... It wasn't pretty. And these were channels who had already undergone preliminary training.
Marvin nods soberly.
Ammenia: It's probably just as well that your victim and her family didn't know what she was volunteering to do.
Fridda doesn't think it's fair to use the term "victim". She's ~~ offended ~~ on Marvin's behalf.
Ammenia sees Fridda's offense.
Fridda: He did well. It's not his fault the Tecton wouldn't train him. They should have. And they shouldn't make him go out-T with his secondary empty.
Ammenia: And how else could he have the capacity to bring back enough selyn to make the trip worthwhile?
Marvin: New Simes are worthwhile too.
Marvin is trying to stay nondefensive, but it isn't easy.
Fridda: Enough to serve one renSime shouldn't make that much difference. Enough to keep him from having to... murder a child.
Ammenia: But, he's not supposed to be serving renSimes. There are reasons for not training disjunct channels. And whether or not you agree with them, to attempt what he did without proper training was wrong. You had nothing to lose, but the Gen did.
Marvin: Both of them had their lives to lose, Ammenia. After all, if I might have botched the donation (and I might), I might have botched the transfer too. It cuts both ways.
Ammenia: Quite true. But while this young lady had nothing to lose except a slightly more painful death, the other one was a different story.
Fridda: They should give mules basic training for emergencies. And let them carry enough selyn to serve a changeover in an emergency. It's cruel to expect them to murder.
Ammenia: It is cruel. But there are good reasons for not using disjunct channels for transfers, especially to nonjunct renSimes. You could easily have ended up craving Gen pain, even though you didn't hurt a Gen in First Transfer.
Marvin: Ammenia, I know that's the official Tecton line. But I must tell you that I don't think it's the whole truth.
Ammenia: Not in every case, certainly. But there's no safe way to separate the exceptions from the more usual situation.
Fridda: You think I'd be better off dead than having taken First Transfer from a disjunct?
Marvin: It's about whether you crave Gen pain. Which even I can see you obviously don't.
Marvin: In any case, I don't think arguing about it is productive. What's done is done. And I really do want to know about your plans! It's the best part of First Year, finding out all the things that suddenly open up to you. To begin with, where are you off to and what will you do there?
Fridda: I'm going to university in Capital, Marvin. That's where I'm headed right now.
Ammenia settles back to listen to the conversation, having reached the conclusion that Marvin is one of the luckiest individuals she's ever known.
Fridda: My father arranged for me to have the money I inherited so I can pay for it.
Marvin: Excellent. What are you going to study after you're done playing catch-up?
Fridda: Economics, probably, and business management.
Marvin: That figures, given that you're one of that family, the one whose name I can't remember.
Marvin winks at Fridda this time.
Fridda looks down.
Fridda: I'm very lucky. Most of the other new Simes at the camp have nothing. My father... my father is even donating and assigning the selyn credits to me.
Marvin: Wow. Wow wow wow.
Fridda: Marvin... if you're ever in Capital, please come visit me?
Marvin: I absolutely will. I'll contact you through the Sime Centers, if you don't have an address yet. Being a channel, even a mule, has some advantages.
Fridda: Good. Thank you. Oh, Marvin... thank you so much for everything.
Fridda fights back tears.
Marvin lets go of Ammenia's hand for the moment and sweeps Fridda into a hug, narrowly avoiding knocking over her trin cup.
Fridda hugs him back, subliminally aware of his masculine scent. It's been almost four months since she changed over.