Marvin decides to take a walk with Bart, and let Ammenia recover from the train trip this time. Channels can only do so much to help with swollen feet, and Etsiville is usually a very quiet place where there has never been any trouble.
Marvin: Feel like seeing the sights, Bart? Not that there are so many here.
Bart: Sure, Hajene.
Bart is ~~ delighted ~~ at the prospect of acting as Marvin's Donor for a while.
Marvin: Call me "Marvin", Bart. You're not in training yet.
Ammenia looks up from the couch, stifling a groan, but nonetheless starts getting to her feet.
Ammenia: Do you want me to come along to handle the fields?
Marvin: No, you rest up. Nothing ever happens here, and it's a good opportunity for Bart to stretch his skills a hair, not to mention his muscles.
Marvin tweaks Bart's biceps.
Bart: I guess I'm used to doing more than just sitting in a train all day.
Bart doesn't consider the effort it takes to stay seated in a baggage car on rough track as work.
Ammenia is momentarily ~~ conflicted ~~, her feet saying nay while her conscience says yea.
Marvin: Relax. Spare your feet.
Ammenia knows that the responsibility would mean a great deal to Bart, however, and Marvin did say it was a peaceful place.
Ammenia: All right, but stay out of trouble, both of you.
Marvin: [whimsically] Yes, Sosu. We will, Sosu.
Bart: Uh, sure.
Marvin puts his retainers on unaided, goes out of the room, considers sliding down the banister, and figures that Bart will feel better if he sticks to the stairs.
Bart stays close to him, like a proper Donor should.
Marvin whistles the theme from the Appassionata, and goes out the door of the Sime Center into the main street of Etsiville, Bart following closely.
Marvin: Well, that way [pointing uphill] is Haighaville, and that way [pointing downhill] is Hattaville. Do you have a preference?
Bart looks both ways. They both seem interesting.
Marvin: Haighaville is closer but harder, and Hattaville is easier but further.
Bart: Are you sure it's safe to go that far from the Sime Center?
Bart is used to towns being a long way apart.
Marvin: Oh yes. Nothing ever happens in the Three Sisters -- that's what the three towns are called. They're even good about taking their changeover cases to the shared Sime Center. It's all close enough, really.
Al Tone is busily patrolling the business district of Etsiville, such as it is. He joined the Etsiville police to Champion Law and Order, but the closest he's come all week was dutifully taking down the particulars about the cooper's dog's foray into the butcher's shop next door.
Marvin: Okay, Iniminimainimo...
Bart thinks it looks like there are more stores and things downhill.
Marvin goes through the mysterious ritual of selection.
Marvin: ... my mother says that you're a Gen! Hattaville it is.
Tone wonders if he should drop by the pub to see if the bouncer needs help. ~~ boredom ~~
Marvin sets off downhill, being careful not to outrun Bart's legs.
Bart's neck muscles get a fair workout looking at the shops as they pass them.
Marvin: If you see anything specially interesting, let me know.
Bart realizes that the lacy garments in a shop window are female underwear and ~~ blushes ~~.
Tone sees a possible source of diversion ahead, and quickens his step, putting a very authoritative frown on his face.
Tone: Here now, what's going on, here?
Marvin: Good day, Sergeant! We're off to Hattaville for a walk.
Marvin is a believer in promoting all out-T police officers.
Tone looks at Marvin ~~ skeptically ~~, then inspects Bart closely.
Bart moves closer, projecting what he hopes is ~~ calm and safety ~~ to his channel.
Marvin is pleased by Bart's efforts, and smiles at him in a mildly proprietary way.
Tone: This kid's not wearing a uniform. What are you doing with him?
Tone hasn't missed the proprietary look. He hasn't missed the ladies' unmentionables in the window, either.
Marvin: He hasn't had his training yet, but given the generally peaceful nature of the Three Sisters, I didn't see a problem with it. My Donor's back in the Sime Center recovering from bad feet.
Bart: It's okay. We're traveling together, the three of us.
Tone: So he hasn't been "trained" yet? Trained to do what? And you're "traveling" with him. It sounds a little -- irregular -- to me.
Tone gives them both his most intimidating glare.
Marvin: Trained to work as a Donor, I mean.
Marvin has stood up to extremely intimidating Controllers many times in his life.
Marvin: As soon as this trip is over, he'll be off to Simeland to get that training. This is just a little bit of seasoning -- after all, there's no law against traveling in your own country.
Tone turns the intimidation on Bart.
Tone: Your parents agreed to give you to the Simes? What did the snakes bribe them with?
Marvin is indignant at the implication, but decides to see how Bart will handle this pressure.
Bart: I'll be sixteen next month, so it's up to me. It sounds like a good job. Good jobs aren't so easy to find back home.
Bart figures this argument is simpler and more universal that trying to explain Donor talent.
Tone: So they bribed you, instead? What with? A few handfuls of ladies' underthings?
Tone is a bit ~~ scornful ~~.
Bart ~~ blushes ~~.
Marvin wishes he could provide emotional support to a Gen, but no such luck.
Bart: No. I'm just going to try it, and if I don't like it, I can go back home.
Bart doesn't expect to go back home.
Tone: Or did they promise you ladies to go inside the underthings?
Bart thinks this is really bizarre, but this guy is a policeman. He's got a uniform and badge and stuff.
Marvin: No need for that, I think. Bart here is growing into quite a handsome fellow, don't you think? Plenty of ladies should go for him all on their ownsomes.
Bart blushes again, wondering if Marvin thinks he's taking his side.
Tone: Not if he gets mixed up with Simes. Have you thought about that, kid? What decent girl would marry a boy who kisses Simes for a living?
Bart: Well, maybe girls in-T.
Marvin smiles and nods.
Bart is not planning to get married any time soon. He wants to see more of the world before he settles down.
Tone: Sime girls? Or at the very best, Sime-lovers? Girls who don't even speak your language?
Marvin: Donor work is taught in Simelan -- has to be -- and Bart should have no trouble learning it. I didn't, after all.
Tone: You're a Sime. Only natural that Sime talk would come easy to you.
Marvin: I wasn't born a Sime, though, or even in Sime Territory. My family, for all it matters now, is the leading family in Gardenertown. Place is named after them, in fact.
Tone: So you're the black sheep of your family, and now you want this boy to become a disgrace as well?
Marvin: Bart's family thoroughly supports his ambitions, fortunately for everyone.
Bart realizes that he's let his support for Marvin slip while the cop was hassling him and reinforces it. ~~ support ~~ ~~ chagrin ~~
Marvin: As for the Gardeners, they probably think I'm dead.
Tone: I'm sure they do, if they're decent, respectable folks.
Marvin sighs deeply.
Marvin: It's not that simple, and I think you know it.
Tone: Boy, have you stopped to think what your neighbors are going to think, if you join the Simes? You won't have to live with it, of course. You won't be there. Your family will, though.
Tone is actually ~~ concerned ~~ for Bart, underneath the ~~ contempt ~~ for his radical behavior.
Bart knows that most of Gumgeeville doesn't think much of his father and his father's... independent... style of thinking anyway. He doesn't think his career choice is going to make much difference.
Bart: My father thinks it's a good idea. He's pretty good at sticking up for the family.
Marvin smiles and nods some more. He's getting quite good at the nodding and smiling racket.
Marvin: You know how it is. When kids grow up, they have to live their own lives. We can't live their lives for them, can we.
Tone: So the kid's father has decided to sacrifice himself? Noble of him, I'm sure, but I can't think much of a son who would accept such a gesture. Honestly, son, what are you thinking of?
Marvin looks at Bart encouragingly.
Bart has more sense than to say "fulfilling my destiny" or even "getting a better break than I ever would in Gumgeeville", so tries something he thinks this guy will like.
Bart: It seems like it's worth trying, and my father agrees.
Tone: Worth trying? Why? So you can become a pariah, too? It's... indecent.
Tone is ~~ deeply offended ~~ at Bart's apparent seduction into an illicit lifestyle.
Bart figures that this isn't going anywhere, and who is this guy to harass him anyway? So he just shrugs.
Marvin: Sergeant, I certainly understand your point of view. But try to understand the boy's a little, too, eh?
Tone: The boy's under age, still. And rather immature for his age, I suspect, or he wouldn't be haring off after something like this.
Bart can't help but feel a stab of ~~ resentment ~~ at that dig about immaturity.
Marvin thinks you have to be fairly mature to make such a decision, but doesn't think it'll help any to say so.
Tone: I can't help but wonder if I'm getting the whole story here. Why don't you just come along with me, and we'll let the chief sort this out.
Tone is not phrasing it as a question.
Marvin: Sure, why not?
Bart is ~~ worried ~~ about that. Didn't they promise not to get into trouble? But what can they do?
Tone: Right, then, the station house is down that way.
Tone indicates the proper direction.
Marvin sets off in that direction, followed by Bart. The police station is made of wood, and it's fairly easy to zlin which one it is: the emotional set of police officers is distinctive.
Bart hopes things are going to be okay. There is that letter of permission from his father. He hopes Marvin didn't leave it back at the Sime Center.
Tone follows along, a ~~ grimly looming ~~ presence behind them. He does grimly looming well, if he does say so himself.
Marvin represses his thousand-Genpower grin; it would only upset Bart, and probably the policeman too.
Bart tries to continue projecting ~~ calm ~~ but ~~ worry ~~ shows through it. Marvin did manage to get into and out of the Gumgeeville jail, but that was different. He hopes an internationally renowned diplomat like Hajene Seruffin won't be required this time.
Marvin: [whispers to Bart] Relax. Stop worrying. Everything will be fine.
Bart: Uh, okay.
Bart makes a stronger effort to ~~ support ~~ his channel.
Chandler looks out the front window of his corner office on the first floor and sees the procession coming up the street. He comes out of his office.
Tone herds his charges into the station house, and looks around for his boss.
Chandler: Looking for something, Officer Tone?
Tone: Chief Chandler, I found this Sime in company with this underage boy, who apparently has conceived an idea that running away to Simeland will set him up for life.
Bart thinks this is completely ~~ unfair ~~.
Marvin: I'm responsible for Bart here, at least on this trip. His father gave me a letter to that effect.
Tone: Some responsibility! Chief, I found them looking at the ladies' underthings in the window of Millie's. Somehow, I doubt that was the sort of care this young man's father had in mind.
Marvin: Bart's from Gumgeeville, but I don't suppose there's any law against window-shopping in any event, Chief.
Chandler: I see. Anything else, Tone? ~~ suspending judgment ~~
Tone: The Sime was looking at the boy in a rather proprietary fashion, at Millie's, and... well, let's just say that I can't yet eliminate one of the obvious reasons why a boy would choose a profession where he spends half his time kissing men.
Tone is rather ~~ revolted ~~ at the thought.
Bart, on the other hand, is ~~ outraged ~~ but says nothing.
Marvin can't restrain his laughter at this one.
Marvin: Chief, you look to me to have some education, not to mention some common sense. Do you have any idea just how impossible that is?
Tone: Impossible for you, maybe, if that isn't just another story. But for the boy?
Bart doesn't know what they're talking about.
Tone: How many boys have been lured away from their homes with that particular fantasy?
Chandler: Hmm, I don't know. How many?
Tone: Even one is too many.
Chandler gestures "Granted".
Tone: Take a boy off the farm, promise him money, and good times, and you can get him to do just about anything. Any recruiting sergeant knows that.
Bart decides this is a good opportunity to demonstrate his self-control and Donor talents. He takes a deep breath, relaxes and projects ~~ calm ~~ to his channel. He's surprised how well that worked, and how the whole situation looks more amusing than scary now. Officer Tone is making a fool of himself in front of his boss.
Marvin: It's not like we're asking for any promises until Bart's training is complete. He can go home any time he likes.
Tone: Scant welcome he'll get there, outside of his family.
Marvin: You can't have it both ways, Sergeant.
Marvin: I've found it never hurts.
Chandler: In any case, let's clear this up. You have this letter with you?
Marvin, fortunately, carries his important papers with him wherever he goes -- his passport and so on -- and this was one of them.
Chandler takes the letter from Marvin's outstretched hand and reads it over.
Chandler: Looks like all's in order here. You're in loco parentis until the boy gets back to Gumgeeville or turns sixteen, whichever comes first.
Chandler: I take it you hadn't seen this letter, Tone?
Tone: No, Sir.
Tone's tone is a little stiff, as he finally realizes he's being humored.
Chandler: Mister Gardner, we take parental responsibility real seriously here in the Three Sisters. You understand that?
Marvin: Yes, sir.
Chandler represses a ~~ smile ~~.
Chandler: Be off with you, then. And make sure that boy gets plenty of exercise, you hear? We don't want him harboring any sinful thoughts.
Bart is ~~ startled ~~ at that notion, then remembers the underwear and ~~ blushes ~~.
Marvin: No indeed. Well, it was interesting talking with you, Chief Chandler, Officer Tone.
Marvin chuckles inwardly.
Tone listens to the verdict, ~~ dissatisfied ~~ with the outcome, but unable to act on his dissatisfaction.
Marvin leaves the building, Bart following closely again.
Bart doesn't realize how much the expression on his own face resembles one commonly found on his father's.
Chandler: You have something to say, Tone?
Chandler's tone invites comment, but not complaint.
Tone: It's just not right, having an innocent like that being seduced by Sime glamor. By the time he's old enough to make an informed choice, he'll find that he's burned his bridges.
Chandler: You're probably right. But what our feelings are is one thing, and what our duty is, is another. That Sime's got the law on his side, and if we don't respect that, how can we expect the citizens to respect us?
Tone: We can't. We can only watch, and be ready to act if the Sime slips up and acts outside the law.
Chandler: Exactly. So how about you go back to watching and leave me to do this friggen paperwork, eh?
Chandler claps Tone on the back and returns to his office.
Tone: Yes, sir.
Tone leaves to follow Marvin and Bart, watching closely in case they drop some paper, or spit in public, or something equally actionable.
Marvin returns to the Haighaville-Hattaville road.
Marvin: [cheerily] Still up for a walk, Bart?
Bart: I guess so. I hope Ammenia doesn't get upset. I'm sorry I caused you that hassle.
Marvin: Bart, nothing that happened here was your fault. Underneath his anti-Sime attitudes, the sergeant is genuinely worried that you're going to ruin your life, especially if your Donor training doesn't work out.
Bart shrugs ~~ uncomfortably ~~.
Marvin: [reassuringly] Not that there's any reason at all to expect that. I have the utmost confidence in your abilities, Bart. But as for the officer,
He's just a Gen whose intentions are goodMarvin grins his thousand-Genpower grin openly.
Oh Lord, please don't let us be misunderstood.
Bart: I'll be glad when I turn sixteen.
Marvin: So will I. And I'll be glad when I can call you "Sosu".
Bart smiles back at Marvin. ~~ joy ~~ ~~ gratitude ~~
Bart: Me, too.