Marvin: Well, let's see if Bart makes it on. The big trouble with telegrams is you can't expect replies from whistle-stops like Gumgeeville.
Bart stands on the Gumgeeville platform, watching the train pull in. He spots the open baggage car door and runs over.
Marvin: Yup, I guess so.
Bart sees Marvin inside, tosses in his pack and vaults in himself.
Bart: Hi, Hajene Marvin! ~~ excited ~~ happy ~~
Ammenia looks at Bart ~~ curiously ~~, while keeping the ambient as steady as practical.
Bart modulates his nager. ~~ calm ~~ happy ~~
Marvin: Hey there, Bart. Meet my Donor of the month, Ammenia, who is much too good for me. [winks]
Ammenia: I'm glad to meet you, Bart.
Bart: Hello, Sosu. ~~ curious ~~
Ammenia looks like a very ordinary woman, about ten years older than Bart.
Marvin: Glad you could make it, Bart. All the harvest is in?
Bart: Pretty much. There's still some garden stuff left, but not much else.
Bart picks up his pack and wonders where to sit. It's actually his grandfather's Gen Army pack.
Marvin: So your parents okayed you at least for the Genland part of the trip, then?
Bart: Yeah. I've got a letter from my dad, saying it's okay with him.
Marvin: Excellent. I'm afraid Sime cars don't run to much but crates, although there are some soft sacks over there. Your pick.
Bart sits on a crate close to the channel and Donor.
Bart: Is here okay?
Ammenia: It's fine. Just try not to interfere with the shielding I'll be doing for Marvin, once we start moving.
Marvin: Ammenia is a First Order Donor, so her field overwhelms yours no matter where you sit. So do whatever makes you comfortable.
Bart: Uh. Okay.
Bart is somewhat ~~ relieved ~~ that he's less likely to hurt Marvin by a nageric mistake, but also a little ~~ disappointed ~~ that Marvin will be less in need of his beginner's skills.
Ammenia sees Bart's disappointment.
Ammenia: Once we're out of town, so there's less ambient confusion, if Marvin agrees I'll let you try helping him.
Marvin waves agreement.
Bart: Oh, good. ~~ happy ~~
Marvin: Sure, I'm all for it. We'll have some fun -- on the Q.T.
Bart smiles and tries to keep his nager from reaching out to engage with Marvin's.
Marvin: [Simelan] Er, that means "on the left", Ammenia. Don't tell anyone.
Ammenia offers ~~ conspiratorial agreement ~~.
Bart: [Simelan] Do you want me speak Simelan now? I then learn more.
Marvin: [Simelan] A good idea, Bart. Although Ammenia's Genlan is very good. What's your view, Ammenia? Should I tell Bart to relax and let his nager engage lightly with mine?
Ammenia ~~ considers ~~ .
Bart maintains a ~~ calm ~~ well colored with ~~ happy anticipation ~~.
Ammenia: All right, but Bart, you must relinquish to me as soon as the conductor gives his last call. And gently -- like most channels, Marvin finds moving trains a bit nauseating.
Ammenia is perhaps overreacting, but she's used to working with Firsts, who are far more susceptible to motion sickness. She lightens her own hold on Marvin's field to something that only offers protection if Marvin actively leans on it.
Bart: I guess Hajene Marvin can signal me how fast to relinquish.
Bart has learned as much as he can about the signals, including the ones that can be done without the use of tentacles. He looks to Marvin for a cue on when to attempt to engage.
Marvin signals Bart to assume support, and says:
Ammenia settles back, watching Marvin closely herself to make sure that she can intervene quickly if he seems to be in distress, or if Bart has trouble disengaging.
Bart lets his nager flow out to carefully ~~ support ~~ Marvin, and experiences a flash of ~~ delight ~~ as he feels it engage with the channel's.
Marvin smiles ~~ happily ~~ and leans gently on Bart's field.
Bart: I can feel that! ~~ pleasure ~~
Bart looks at Marvin with ~~ gratitude ~~ and ~~ happiness ~~.
Marvin picks up Bart's pleasure and smears great gobs of it all over the ambient, though nobody benefits from it but him.
Ammenia: A little less intense, Bart. I know it feels good, but you won't have the stamina to do it all day, at that level.
Bart does a breathing exercise and becomes more ~~ calm ~~ although still very ~~ happy ~~.
Bart: Is that okay, Hajene?
Marvin slowly shifts so he is leaning about 50% on Bart, 50% on Ammenia.
Bart feels the shift although he can't interpret it.
Ammenia cocks her head at the conductor's cry of, "All aboard!"
Ammenia: Relinquish, Bart.
Bart watches Marvin but gradually withdraws his concentrated attention from him.
Ammenia moves in with smooth haste to make sure Marvin is properly shielded when the train starts to move.
Bart looks to Ammenia when he thinks he's completely disengaged.
Marvin slowly shifts to leaning 100% on Ammenia, then moves to not leaning at all, signaling Ammenia for "minimal support".
Bart watches the signals ~~ attentively ~~.
Marvin: [English] Ammenia, you're still over-supporting me; I'm not a First, and you make me feel like I'm all wrapped up for a long sea voyage -- as cargo.
Ammenia lightens her ~~ support ~~ a bit.
Marvin: About twice that much reduction, if you please.
Ammenia: I keep forgetting that they tend to send mules out with Donors who never advanced much past the basics.
Ammenia reduces as asked.
Ammenia: I assure you, any First I've ever worked with would have been yelling for ten times what I was offering you at the start, there.
Marvin: You also have to remember that QN-2s are a lot tougher than Firsts generally, even though we don't have the same capabilities.
Marvin grins his thousand-Genpower grin.
Ammenia is not immune to Marvin Charm.
Bart wonders why Marvin was sent out with a Donor who overmatches him by so much.
Ammenia: Are you sure that it's not just that you Seconds can't inflict your discomfort on as many hapless underlings?
Marvin: Well, there is that. In my case, of course, I don't have hapless underlings.
Ammenia: And they don't always send the most competent Donors along with you, do they?
Marvin: They don't have to, for the most part.
Ammenia: Just remember: just because you have to live with a less skilled Donor most of the time, that doesn't mean you can't wallow in sybaritic luxury when they make a mistake like this.
Ammenia gives a nageric ~~ wink ~~.
Marvin: Oh, I will, I will. Provided you let me do my own breathing now and then.
Marvin winks back both nagerically and physically.
Ammenia throws up her arms in ~~ amused resignation ~~.
Ammenia: All right, already!
Marvin: Bart, I zlin you're wondering what Ammenia and I are doing together. Well, here begins the First Lesson.
Bart nods. He has been enjoying the pair's companionable exchange.
Marvin: Assignments of channels and Donors are made by Controllers, and Controllers are Tecton officials who do things to us for our own good. Explanations are not their strong point, as a rule.
Bart nods again. The only Controller he knows is Bibi.
Marvin: Somehow, somewhere, someone decided that Ammenia and I would be good for each other, so here we are, and we have to work out the issues ourselves. Fortunately, she's extremely competent whereas I'm extremely Marvin.
Bart is ~~ puzzled ~~ but nods again. He doesn't know what questions to ask, so waits to hear more.
Ammenia keeps her ~~ support ~~ steady as the train begins to accelerate, watching Marvin for a signal to increase it.
Marvin: That's fine. I'll draw on your support as I need it.
Ammenia is starting to wonder whether Marvin's usual Donor is incapable of offering active support, leaving Marvin accustomed to using the man's nager as best he can without assistance.
Marvin: Anyhow, we have about three hours until the Ford, which is our overnight stop. Wanna play some whist?
Marvin looks at Ammenia and Bart inquiringly.
Ammenia: Whist? What's that?
Ammenia, being the only one of the group raised in-T, is the one least familiar with the game.
Bart knows whist is a card game, but has never met anybody who plays it.
Marvin: [English] A card game. I deal the cards and then put down a card, and you have to either follow suit or play a trump, or if you have neither, play any card. Whoever plays the highest card wins.
Bart is ~~ confused ~~.
Marvin: Like for example if I play the Eight of Swords, then you have to play a Sword if you have one, or one of the Trump cards if you don't. If you play the Nine of Swords, then you beat me -- but if Ammenia plays the King of Swords, she beats both of us. The Trump cards are the ones with the weird pictures on them.
Marvin repeats the explanation in Simelan for Ammenia's benefit; her Genlan classes didn't cover card games.
Bart: Uh. I don't have much money, Marvin, so I can't play any betting games.
Marvin: We won't bet. Just play for fun.
Bart: Uh. Okay.
Ammenia: There should be a penalty, though.
Marvin raises his eyebrows.
Ammenia: There has to be some risk, Marvin. Loser has to carry everyone's baggage up to their rooms when we get to Hannard's Ford?
Bart relaxes. That doesn't sound too bad, even if he loses.
Ammenia never had any intention of making a forfeit that would do more than cause a minor inconvenience for the loser.
Marvin: Fair enough for you two, but I can do that even without augmenting. What do you suggest for me?
Bart wonders if he should suggest that Marvin's penalty be for Bart to support him the following day.
Ammenia: You can rub my back. This train is putting a kink in it.
Marvin smiles again.
Marvin: I liiiiiike it. Okay, let's play one practice round, no penalties, okay? We have time. On the next round we'll flip to see who goes first then, Ammenia or Bart.
Ammenia: All right.
Marvin shuffles the deck and offers it first to Ammenia, then to Bart, to be cut, then takes it back and deals out all the cards.
Ammenia picks up her cards and regards them ~~ thoughtfully ~~, then allows just the barest hint of ~~ back discomfort ~~ to show, along with ~~ anticipation ~~.
Bart studies his cards, and wonders how much of a Donor's time is spent keeping his channel from boredom.
Marvin plays -- sure enough -- the Eight of Swords.