A Stable Relationship

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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby FreeFlier » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:04 am

Warrl wrote:And I got an idea for another segment to go right here - before a few more that I already have at least partially written - and spent about two hours writing it, and then another hour and a half rewriting most of it...

... and realized that while it makes perfect sense for the characters, no matter what I do it'll be 98% rehash for the readers. And therefore, not worthwhile.

The other 2% can safely be implied to have happened off-camera.

I hate it when that happens.

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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Just Old Al » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:51 am

Warrl wrote:By the way, I've read some stories - I think set in either Callahan's or Lady Sally's (both the work of Spider Robinson) - involving a were-beagle. I don't recall any were-chihuahuas though. (I've known some people who would make great were-Yorkies.)[/i]


Lady Sally's. Callahan had the 7-foot alien - Mickey Finn.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Thu Oct 27, 2016 11:52 pm

Friday, December 2

The weekend at Rowdy's family estate had done Dawn a world of good. She found that she actually had adapted to the rigorous schedule of medical school, and had simply needed a chance to catch up on her rest. She was finishing the week feeling better than she had at the end of any day of classes since the first week, three months earlier.

"Miss Hazelton," the instructor said as she walked toward the door, "I was asked to pass a message to you."

"Oh?" She stepped aside to let others pass.

"Dr. Fitzsimmons wants you to stop by his office for a moment. That's the whole message."

"Thank you. I'll see if he's still in."

She went up a floor, as most instructors' offices were on that floor. Alex Smith, their shared receptionist and coordinator of the universe, sat at his desk by the elevator, and directed her to Fitzsimmons' office.

"Fitz doesn't have any first-year classes," Alex said. "Any idea why he wants to see you?"

"Not really. It might be about some furniture I sold him this summer."

She went down the hall and knocked on the doctor's open door to announce her presence.

"Come in. Good afternoon, Miss Hazelton. How are things going?"

"Pretty well, sir, I have been just as busy as you warned I would be. And exhausted, until this week."

"Oh, not this week?"

"I spent Thanksgiving weekend with my boyfriend and his family. They know how to help a person rest and relax. I think I finally got my feet under me, so to speak." He gestured for her to shut the door. "And I still got in the study time I needed."

"You'll probably see a handful of your classmates drop out over the next three weeks, but it appears you won't be one of them. Now, what I wanted to talk to you about. Not the furniture, it's excellent, and my father-in-law - who also used to make furniture - thoroughly approves. My niece in California sent me a picture, that she got from a friend, who got it from her cousin, who's a sophomore here. I thought you might find the picture interesting; it bears a strong resemblance to the young man, your brother I believe, who was helping you at the street fair." He handed her his cell phone.

The picture was indeed of her brother Durango. In centaur form, with what appeared to be the remains of an exploded shirt draped around one arm.

"It does look a bit like Randall. Photoshopped, of course."

"I choose to believe that. The alternative - I'd rather not contemplate."

"May I send it to myself? My brother will get a serious kick out of it." She carefully didn't detail the nature of this kick.

"Certainly." She spent a half-minute tapping on the doctor's phone, then returned it to him; a moment later her phone chirped inside her bag.

"On the subject of boyfriends", Fitzsimmons said, changing the subject, "most female doctors either get married before graduation, or keep their maiden name after marriage at least for professional use. Or both. Either way, they avoid having to get their name changed on diplomas and licenses. Is your boyfriend a doctor or med student?"

"No, he is not. And I have considered that question. His family name has a fairly large shadow in this city, and he is enlarging it. Professionally, I think I should not stand in it."

"If this shadow isn't in the medical community, that's probably the wiser choice. And I can't, offhand, think of a family in the medical community that casts a notable shadow outside of it."

"Well, if that is all, sir, I do have a dinner appointment."

"Have a wonderful weekend."

"You too, and thank you for the picture." She got up and left his office.

In the stairway, which was much less occupied than it had been five minutes earlier, she stopped and got out her phone to send two messages.

To Durango: Your plans for the evening just got cancelled. My place. NOW.

To Rowdy and Daisy: May I bring my idiot brother and a problem to dinner? Here's a picture of both. This one got the picture attached.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:06 pm

November 26, 2016 - a week earlier

Durango walked through the woods a few steps behind classmate Sheila Roberts and Professor Jackson, listening to the mutterings of the undergrowth. The three-day hike was the labwork of his Forestry 103 class, and he almost wished there had been an option to test out of it – the major purpose of the class, it seemed, was to discourage those who couldn’t handle actually being in the forest, and he had more winter-camping experience than the professor. On the other hand, it got him out of the city and into the woods for the weekend...

As the three of them walked along the top of a bluff above a shallow, rocky stream and the professor pointed out the various plants - most of which Durango could identify and describe the nutritional and medicinal properties of, at least for centaurs - the young man was wondering just what a berry vine meant by 'tight roots'.

As they approached a jutting corner above a bend in the stream, he suddenly lunged forward and down. The special rigging of his backpack straps opened as designed, unnoticed in the pain before his clothes practically exploded off him and fell away. The barrel of his body slammed into the ground, drawing protests from his hind legs as well as a number of ferns. But he succeeded: in each hand he held the upper arm of one of his companions, dangling over the new edge of the bluff as the ground they had been standing on fell into the stream below.

"Are you two okay?"

"My shoulder hurts," Sheila answered. She looked down and shuddered. "Not complaining though."

Professor Jackson asked "Randall, how did you manage to react that fast?"

"I had warning," Durango answered. "Some plants screamed as their roots broke."

"You'll have to explain what you mean by that. And," turning his head, "I don't remember your arm being that thick."

"It'll be easier to understand once I pull you up. But I can't lift both of you at once. Sir, please hold my arm with both of yours, you might need to climb it a bit, and there's a root a bit to the left of your left foot that I hope will take some of your weight. Sheila, I'll roll a bit to lift you, be ready to help get yourself over the edge - then give me room to roll the other way. Ready?"

"Any time, please," Sheila said. The professor nodded.

A moment later Sheila scrambled over the edge and onto firm ground, then away from her rescuer. Then she turned - and froze, staring.

"Sheila, another yard or so, please."

"oh my lord!"

"SHEILA!" - she startled - "three steps back, please!" She finally complied and tripped on a root, landing on her buttocks. "Thank you." He turned his attention back to the professor still dangling over the creek.

In a few moments Professor Jackson was also on firm ground. "Interesting. I thought I saw a horse leg dangling over the bluff, but decided it had to be an oddly shaped root or something of that nature. Instead, I learn that you’re a centaur."

"Speaking of that horse leg, sir, I could use a bit more room to get myself up."

"What? Oh! pardon me." He moved a good twenty feet away, taking Sheila with him.

It took a few rolls and twitches for Durango to get safely away from the edge and onto four feet. "Ouch - that knee will want stabilized for a few hours. Sheila, do you know what's needed to splint a human leg?"

"Sorry, no."

"Professor, can you advise her?" He took off his backpack and held up the remnant of his shirt that the pack had held in place. "Unplanned shifting can be hard on clothes." Stuffing the rag in a side pocket of the pack, he dug for a spare outfit.

Sheila blushed and turned away. The professor grinned and said "Randall, I suspect this is something you'd prefer we not mention to anyone else?"

"Yes, that would be much appreciated. I'll answer a few questions later if you like - but only about me. The more a question touches on others, the less specific the answer."

"Fair enough. I believe that's known as 'not telling other people's secrets'. Come, Sheila, let's go find a pair of splints."

They returned a few minutes later to find Durango, in human form and fully dressed, sitting with his back against a tree and an instant-cold pack on each side of his knee. Sheila splinted his leg under the professor's direction. Then they helped him to his feet.

"That's better," he said. "Let's see how it's doing in about three hours."

"We'll be meeting the others before then," the professor said. "What's the story about why your leg's splinted?"

"The truth, of course. A bluff gave out under us. Somehow we all managed to not fall with it, but I bashed my knee and Sheila wrenched her shoulder. It happened so fast that none of us are sure exactly what happened. How're we doing on time?"

"Camp's about an hour away in a straight line. So we should be there before anyone gets worried, even if Sheila and I have to carry you."

"Don't do that - rig a travois first. Shall we head that way, then?"

As they walked, Sheila asked "So centaurs are real... how many centaurs are there?"

"I know of more than two. I also know of more than two humans."

"Can you go... um... all the way to horse-shape?"

"Yes."

Professor Jackson had the next question. "How do you change shape?"

"If you’re asking how it’s possible, I don’t really know. Some say there's magic involved. I think it's plausible, considering how much my weight changes when I shift."

"Are there other sorts of people who... um..." Jackson paused, not knowing just how to finish the question without being insulting.

"Who aren't always strictly human? There are."

"How much of mythology is true, then?"

"Quite a number of mythological creatures and beings actually do or did exist, but often that and a general physical description are about all that the mythology gets right about them. And they are no more fond of bloodthirsty rampaging monsters than humans are."

"No vampires or werewolves, then?" Sheila asked.

"Too specific."

"Were you born a centaur, or did something happen later?"

"I don't recall." He grinned. "I'm told I was born with the ability to shift."

"Were your parents surprised?"

"That’s a question about very specific other people."

So the conversation went as they hiked to the campsite.

Some distance behind them, Kathy Black, a fine-arts student at the University, flipped through the photos she had taken with her newest telephoto lens. Shooting from her parents' back porch, she had just missed getting a shot of a bluff collapsing, but thought the newly-exposed surface might be interesting.

What was on top of the bluff in some of the pictures was even more interesting.

She quickly selected the best shot, cropped it, and emailed it to several of her friends under the subject "OMG! THIS IS REAL!"
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby FreeFlier » Wed Nov 02, 2016 10:17 pm

Oh dear.

I hope MiB is on the ball . . .

Wolf-who-watches wrote:Two-legs snoop too much.

:lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:24 pm

FreeFlier wrote:Oh dear.

I hope MiB is on the ball . . .

It happened on 11/26. Dawn was given the picture - by someone who is carefully trying to NOT be para-aware, it sounds like - on 12/02.

Even the best screen develops an occasional hole.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:59 pm

A nod to fellow author Glytchmeister for helping with Glytch's dialogue.

Durango finished his tale, and everyone sat contemplating it. "I'm sorry to cause such a fuss," he mumbled.

"I don't see how else you could have saved them, Randall," Atsali said, "and you sure as heck couldn't just let them fall."

"It appears that you handled your two companions well," Buck added. "Glytch, has there been any apparent leakage from them?"

"Nobody at MIB has seen anything about centaurs from this area pop up for over a month. There's a weird one that made a few rounds in California before we got to it... But nobody has been able to successfully trace it all the way back yet... I haven't seen the image or the file yet, but it seems the photographer ran in some rather privacy-concerned circles. The files are all scrubbed at some point on every main branch. And the centaur in that photo isn't matching anyone on the local databases."

"Glytch, you might want to tell those people about this," Dawn inserted. "Doctor Fitzsimmons said he got it from a niece in California."

"Huh. Ok, gimme a sec." He took a copy of the photo and walked out to have a video chat with one of the agents working the California case.

While he did so, Atsali spoke up. "This picture has some artifacts - stuff caused by the camera or by editing. I've been working with enlargement and telephoto lenses and stuff for school, and the artifacts look like some of the stuff I've been getting. I think this was taken from quite a ways away, with a big telephoto lens."

"If so," Al noted, "it was also taken from below. Everything is leaning slightly away from the camera. And does anyone else think that the bit in the lower left looks like it might be the fresh face of the bluff?"

Several people concurred as Glytch returned. "Yeah, it's the same pic. The team working the California breach had the same thoughts."

"Then we can set aside any thought that either of Randall's hiking companions took this picture. They weren't at a distance across the stream."

"What does it take to get it stopped?" Dawn asked.

"That's pretty much done." Glytch shrugged. "Stopping the spread and removing it from circulation isn't the issue. Now that we know what's going on in the photo and who is in it, we can start oldschool backtracking. A couple agents should be by soon to have a chat with you two. They're gonna want to know where you," he looked at Durango, "were, as exactly as you can possibly tell them."

"I'll be happy to help."

"Honestly," Glytch continued, "the photo isn't that big a deal. Stuff like this happens pretty frequently. The real problem is how we missed it for around 72 hours. We have a bunch of people working overtime - considering how things can go viral nowadays, three days is a huge hole. I honestly don't know how it slipped past us for that long. We were lucky it didn't spread like wildfire. It easily could have. We usually have things locked down in a matter of minutes... maybe an hour, tops. Three days is... bad. The difficulty of quarantine and cleanup increases exponentially with time."

"Could the artifacts have confused your computers, made them think the photo's a fake? I mean," Atsali flustered, "you wouldn't want to block all fake photos of paranormals - it'd be too obvious."

"Maybe." Glytch scratched the back of his head. "This is no grainy Patterson-Gimlin film. It's all nice and clean - that's usually indicative of a good fake. I don't know the search algorithm on a first-name-basis by any means, so it's possible the system ignored this because it thought the photo was just too good to be true."

Glytch turned to face Randall. "By the way, next time you pull a stunt like this, ya might want to let MIB know. Preferably ASAP. A tightly controlled introduction of a very trusted friend in a private space, that's fine... Well, unless they freak out. But if you just up and show yourself, letting us know helps out a lot with either stopping a breach in progress... Or even better, locking things down before they can spread at all."

"We never worried about it, back home," the young centaur complained.

Dawn interrupted. "Back home, little brother, most people are centaurs, half the exceptions are paranormals, and the rest know about us. This is not Hyde Park. Around here most people have no clue, and MIB works hard to keep it that way."

"Sleepy little town in the frozen north - not a big issue. Especially since it sounds like 'home' is one of those 'we'll ignore you if you don't eat us' kinds of places." Glytch grinned reassuringly. "Don't kick yourself, though. You did what you had to. Just remember you aren't in Kansas anymore." He turned toward the others, speaking to the group as a whole. "Is anybody else getting hungry? I think I smell something tasty..."

"Oh, Glytch," Dawn interrupted him, "frozen north? Hyde Park is actually further south than Independence." She grinned.
Last edited by Warrl on Mon Nov 14, 2016 2:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Mon Nov 14, 2016 1:54 am

A hat-tip to Al and Glytch for assistance on this one, and a nod to Sarge as well.

After the usual fantastic dinner from Rosalita's talented hands, Dawn spent a few minutes with one MIB agent telling about her chat with Doctor Fitzsimmons, then stood support for her brother as both agents worked with him to get as much detail as he could recall and used maps and aerial photographs to work out where the collapsed bluff might have been.

After a mentally-exhausting eon or three, they were finally done. The agents politely thanked both the Hazeltons for their assistance as well as Al and Daisy for the use of their home, conversed with Glytch briefly, and left. Dawn was surprised to discover that the questioning had only taken a bit under two hours.

"I could use some grass under my hooves," she said. "How about you, Durango?"

"That sounds great, if it's allowed here?"

"We have room to run," Cinnamon replied, "and that's a good idea. Anyone else care to join in?"

"Would you mind, Dear?" Daisy asked her husband.

"Not at all. Would that I could join you."

In the end all six centaurs went out the back of the new mansion, after a brief delay while those who weren't already feral stripped and shifted. Long runs alternated with strolling conversation about college, the stars overhead, and life in general.

Cinnamon noticed that from time to time Dawn seemed oddly tense. Finally she spoke up. "Dawn, is something bothering you?"

"Yes, I... I think I need to go talk with Al. No, it isn't about him. But he might be able to help."

"I'll walk back with you, darlin'" Daisy announced.

Dawn looked at her brother. "Durango, if you meet them, remember: they have earned this family's respect, trust, and friendship." And the two went off toward the new mansion.

Durango looked at their withdrawing backs. "What does that mean? Who was she talking about?"

Buck replied "It has to be the elves. There's nobody else to meet out here, and they certainly match her description. But why would she need to talk to Al about them?"

"I know, more or less," Rowdy said. "But it's her story to tell, or not, and she didn't give me much detail. Right now we should go show Randall the centaur quarters - we may want to get a room ready for him, since he didn't come expecting to spend the night."

"Spend the night? Seriously?"

"Or one of us could take you home, if you prefer. I think Dawn and Al will be up very late, and she'll be in no shape to drive when they're done."

--------

"Sergeant-Major, could I have a private conversation with you?"

Al looked up, startled. He hadn't been addressed by that title, in that tone, in many years. His mate, with a concerned expression, stood behind a nervous, pleading Dawn. It was the latter who had spoken.

"... Certainly, lass. My study? Daisy, could you arrange refreshments for us please? And Glytch, I'm afraid our conversation must be cut short this evening."

Glytch, sensing something was just a bit... off... nodded to Al. "No worries. I've got work to do anyway. Thanks for dinner and the intelligent conversation... And thank you," he nodded - it was almost a bow - to Dawn, "for bringing that photo to our attention. I don't know if I'll be officially assigned to that case... but I'll be keeping an eye out. You helped us out a lot." He turned and politely exited the room. A "See ya!" Was heard, immediately followed by a VORP.

Dawn and Al walked in silence to the study and sat down. Al waited... and waited. The beginning of the pattern formed in his mind: The Stall. Chuckling to himself, he thought The stall – how appropriate for a centaur. However, none of this crossed his exterior as he waited patiently, a small smile of friendship on his face.

Rosalita came in and placed on the credenza a tray with two pitchers (one iced tea, one lemon water) a plate of biscuits and Al’s ever-present pot of Bewley’s, then left.

Dawn poured a glass of iced tea, sipped it, and nibbled on a biscuit while Al had his cuppa. The Stall continued. Soon she would get to The Indirect Approach To the Problem, probably beginning with The Barely Relevant Question.

She put down her glass. "At Thanksgiving - what happened with Yana - ?"

Befitting the pattern, the answer would be more relevant than the question. "PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Take the name literally; it is what it says on the tin. There may or may not have been physical injuries, but the mental trauma is the paramount concern. In her case, it was seeming trauma from her youth – she did not offer and I did not pry. PTSD does not need to be from battle, though it usually is from some sort of a traumatic event. Psychological aberration from undesirable situations usually manifests in other ways than trigger phrases and situations."

"Is it the same - I mean, does everyone react the same to it?"

"Absolutely not. Everything about the cause matters; but two people who had precisely the same cause at the same time, still most probably will respond differently. Most everyone, though, has one or more specific triggers." That was the pattern's standard response: The Question Disguised As A Statement.

She paused for another sip of tea. Staring into her glass, she said one word: "Drow."

"Drow?" She nodded. "And what reaction do they trigger?"

"I want to kill them. Again"

Too personal, too quickly. She might be backing off, most likely with The Story About Someone Else, Really. Or with a Completely Irrelevant Distraction, but that usually comes from someone who is insufficiently ready and determined to face their problem, and he sensed Dawn was extremely determined.

But wait, did she say -

"Again?"

She took a deep breath, stared into her tea, and set it down again. "Once there was a little girl, a budding Healer, 13 years old..."

------

Perhaps it was not the longest or most difficult such session Al had sat through, but it was high on both lists. Not much shy of 2 AM he emerged from the study and found his lady and two young men - Rowdy and Randall - sitting nervously in the great room. Reading their expressions, he gestured for Rowdy to go past him, and was nearly knocked over by the wind of his step-son's passage.

"Can you tell me what's going on?" Randall pleaded.

"The generality is PTSD. I suspect this is the first time she has ever revealed the full cause to anyone."

"So what was the cause?"

"Severe emotional disturbance from a traumatic event." Al non-answered. “The poor young lady has been through Hades, and is still suffering from the effects of it."

Randall sat, every line of his posture radiating worry and uncertainty. “Was it because of what happened – the photo?"

Al considered the question as seriously as it had been offered. “I can assure you that you were no part of the cause. Considering when it occurred, the fact that you don't recall is evidence of good parenting and support in your family – I applaud them for handling it as well as they did."

"But - what happened!?"

"That is not my story to tell. Ask her - but not tonight, and best not tomorrow either. For tonight, I recommend she not be left alone. Daisy, if you feel you should stay with her, do so, though I shall miss your warmth."

"Mercy, no, she's got these two fine young men to dote on her - go on, lad! - and Cinnamon said to wake her up if she's needed. You're plum tuckered out and needin' your comfort."

"Thank you; I'll not argue. However my bladder also needs some comforting. Excuse me."
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:41 pm

December 19, 2016

Dawn had a bit of paperwork to be finished after the holiday break officially started, so she and Rowdy did not leave the Alexander estate until late Monday morning - after confirming by phone that it was ready.

They stopped by the medical school to deal with the paperwork, and the dormitories to pick up Durango and his suitcase. Then to Dawn's apartment to get her luggage for the trip.

As Dawn reached the bottom of the stairs into the basement, her neighbor Florian stuck his head out of his apartment. "Ah, Pauline, perfect timing - is Mr. Alexander with you by any chance?"

"Yes, he is out front waiting - why?"

"Would you go ask him to come in please? There's a matter we need to discuss with him."

"My brother is out there too."

"Bring him too, then."

Sensing no hostility, Dawn went out to the car and returned with the two stallions. Florian guided the three of them into his apartment, where a female werewolf sat on the sofa in a hybrid form.

Seeing them arrive, she rose from the sofa and hip-swayed toward Rowdy. "Hello, lover-boy," she said in a voice that invited a trip to the bedroom.

"Madam," he replied, "if I've met you before, you weren't in this form."

"Winnie, what are you doing??" Florian asked, panicking.

"Oh, maybe you remember this one a bit better." She shifted to human, ignoring Florian. "You should - after all, you're the father of my first child." She put her hands around the back of his neck and smiled.

He looked her face over carefully, finding nothing familiar in it but a likely family resemblance to Florian. "I still have no memory of seeing you, and there are reasons why what you say is extremely improbable."

"I'm surprised you don't remember," she pouted, then stepped back. "Actually" - dropping the seductive tones - "not at all. The only place I've seen you is on a newspaper page. And yeah, I've seen a centaur-man naked. It's quite impressive, and so not happening. But I said some really stupid things once, in a fight with Mom... and now I need to apologize to you and to Flo. And perhaps to that centaur lady beside you, before the glare she's giving me burns a hole through my head."

"Why don't we sit down," Florian interjected, "and my sister Winifred can explain. I have coffee made if anyone wants some. Winnie, you've obviously recognized Franklin Alexander; this is his girlfriend and my neighbor Pauline, and her brother Randall."

Winnie took an easy chair while Durango occupied the other; Rowdy and Dawn claimed the sofa, each with an arm around the other. After a moment Florian returned with coffee for himself and his sister, as the others had declined it, and leaned against the wall beside her chair.

"I was seventeen," Winnie opened her explanation, "and perhaps a bit headstrong. Quiet, little brother! Mom, though, is extremely controlling and domineering, as I'm sure His Snarkiness here will agree."

"The single best thing about going to college," Florian commented "was not having to deal with Mom every day. And I think Winnie got it twice as bad as I did."

"College - that was a sore point," Winnie said. "We were raised in a church that thinks the Southern Baptists are too liberal and tolerant. A bitch's proper place is in a den having pup after pup, and of course keeping the place clean and her mate happy. Don't need college for that."

"I assume you took a somewhat more, ah, flexible view," Rowdy suggested.

"Damn straight. This bitch's place is in structural engineering. Got a job based out on the west coast, mostly designing and building bridges. Flo tells me Pauline's in med school, so I guess you folks take a 'more flexible' position too."

"So the argument started over college?"

"Yeah, but it didn't stay there - it went everywhere. It seemed every choice I'd made for years was wrong, everything I'd done was unsatisfactory, and every one of them had to be brought up. And I got madder and madder until I was blurting out anything I thought would shock her - so I told her I was pregnant. Naturally she wanted to know who the father was, and there was a newspaper lying there with a spread about something your foundation was doing at the time. It had a picture of you, with your name in large type under it. That's how you got dragged in."

"I see."

"And of course you weren't taking any responsibility for it, and I refused to push the matter, on top of which you aren't a werewolf. So Mom threw me out, and Dad backed her on it."

"Ouch."

"I think they would have forgiven me in a year or so, if I'd had a kid. But I didn't - I never was pregnant in the first place - so they decided I must have had an abortion. Which totally finished it. As far as they're concerned, I'm dead and in Hell right now. And I think maybe I like it that way."

"I don't approve of your attitude, but I understand it. I've known other people with close relatives who didn't act much like family."

"Thing is, they're willing to believe I had sex outside of marriage (a sin) with a person of a different species (another sin) without proper attention to birth control (stupid), and then had an abortion (a major sin) - but not to believe I would make up a story in the middle of a very loud argument."

"Well, lying to them does not exactly fit with 'honor thy father and thy mother'," Dawn commented.

"Nope, but it would be only one sin instead of several. Even relatives who attend the same church mostly think they should be less rigid. And maybe if I had told some of the family who would still talk to me - Florian for example - that the pregnancy was a lie, rather sooner..."

"She didn't tell anyone until I confronted her about it, over the phone. And that was after Randall here showed me a few things a couple months ago," Florian explained.

"Just one thing," Durango said.

"Plenty big enough for more than one."

"Anyway," Winnie said, "now I've told most of our relatives the truth, and learned that several didn't believe the lie in the first place; my parents prefer to pretend I never existed and I don't care; and I get to spend the next week visiting with family worthy of the name. And I can clean up some bits of the mess my lie made, including apologizing to you for getting you involved even peripherally."

"Well," Rowdy said, "the closest you've come to harming me, that I'm aware of, is making your brother angry at me for no true reason, which caused a minor bit of conflict one day. Did he tell you about that?"

"Yes, I did," Florian said. "And I apologize for the incident."

"Accepted. Both of you."

"And Pauline," Winnie said, "will you forgive me for that act I put on when you came in? You looked ready to kill me."

"Not even close," Dawn answered, "but I was ready to shave your ears and tail. Using a butter knife. In a while - maybe not right away - I will forgive, and probably laugh."

"That will do, and thank you both. Randall, I don't think either Flo or I owe you an apology, but you did apply the lever that got this boulder moving. So thank you as well."

"You're quite welcome. Now, Franklin, you didn't say what time our flight is, but shouldn't we be getting to the airport?"

"Our flight is when we get there, but the earlier the less we'll be driving after dark, so yes we should."
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Tue Dec 27, 2016 6:53 pm

"Good afternoon, Mr. Alexander. You're looking much better than last year. I take it these two are the Hazeltons? Your other three guests are all aboard."

The other three passengers were two of Rowdy's classmates and a third-year medical student, all from the general area of Burlington, Vermont, and happy to get a direct flight to that city for less than the cost of a commercial flight with a stop - or even a transfer - elsewhere. Rowdy had suggested that Dawn and Durango seek a few such passengers.

"Yes, Miss" - he read the woman's nametag, noting the pilot's wings above it - "Okimura. That was not a pleasant trip last year - ah, let me clarify that. The reason for the trip was not at all pleasant. The flight, frankly, I didn't notice; I was somewhat distraught."

"I suspected as much. We'll have your luggage stowed in a minute or two, and everything else is ready and checked. So if you'd care to board?"

The four of them walked up the stairs; the door was closed behind them and the stairs rolled away as they took their seats. "Baggage stow and compartment closed, verified," Okimura said into her headset a moment later, and the plane began to move as the young man in the back wearing the NetJets uniform stood and said "Now, my apologies everyone, but it's time for the legally-required insult to your intelligence. This is how you use a seatbelt..."

The flight was uneventful, and a bit shy of three hours after departure - plus an hour lost to the time zone change - the plane landed in Burlington. Rowdy, Dawn, and Durango caught a taxi to the Land Rover rental place as the others went off to their various local-travel arrangements, and loaded their gear into a metallic-white Range Rover.

Half an hour later, as the sun set behind them, they reached Waterbury. As the radio reported icy conditions on highway 100 to the north, they decided to have dinner and wait for the temperature to drop further and make the ice more stable.

An hour later they returned to the rented vehicle and headed north toward Hyde Park.

Note: the next section has some technical stuff I have to work out details on - with thanks to several other authors in this forum for assistance - and it also has a certain rather messy and unpleasant aspect to it.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:25 pm

Thanks to Al, Joe, and a bit to Sarge for help on getting part of this designed right - even though most of that design's effect went into what would have been the next scene if I hadn't decided it was chock full of unnecessary detail with not much to redeem it.

Also, this segment gets downright squicky in the last two paragraphs. People with sensitive stomachs or nerves are invited to skip them, or at least to not think very hard about them.



"MISTER Robertson!" shouted James, the director. "Get your ass over here, NOW!"

Andrew Robertson weaved his way across the stage, adding to James' suspicions - which were confirmed a moment later with one breath.

"Ricky, come here!" James called out. As a second, younger man emerged from backstage and came toward him, he turned back to Robertson.

"Andy, I've had ENOUGH! You're done!"

"Waddaya mean? I'm a graaate act'r! An' Ricky - he han't been rehash- rehur- doin' the lines!"

"Maybe you USED to be a DECENT actor, but NOW you're nothing but a DRUNK! This is TWICE you've shown up BARELY able to WALK, and you MISSED TWO rehearsals COMPLETELY! And that's FOUR. IN. A. ROW. Now GET! OUT! of the PLAYHOUSE!"

"Awright, awright! I'll see you op'nin' nigh"

"Don't. Bother. Ricky, the part is yours."

"Nesht play, then."

"Forget it, Andy. There'll be no part for you. Just go away."

Andy staggered off and exited the building, stage right. As it closed behind him, he heard applause from inside.

James turned and found he was getting a standing ovation from most of the cast and crew. Naturally, he bowed in acknowledgement.

One of the stagehands, though, was dialing her phone. As the applause died down, he realized she was talking to the police. "Yes, Andrew Robertson. Just left the Playhouse. Drunk out of his gourd. Drives a gorgeous old red Caddy, sorry, I don't know the license number. Lives a bit north on Gregg Hill Road, I think. Thank you."

"Good move, Suzie," James said. "I have no more time for the guy, but I don't want him wrapping himself - or someone else - around a tree either. Now back to work, everyone! From the top of Scene 3, please!"

Andy found his car, got in, and drove away, approximately on the highway. "I'm a grate actor," he said to himself. "Hell, ish all I do." He turned onto the south end of Gregg Hill Road, and managed to focus long enough to get through the state-park portion without major mishap. "Ain't foun' no other talent, livin' off Gramma's money she lef' me." Reaching the long nearly-straight section, he relaxed. "Hell, I got nuthin' but a bit part in m'own life."

Officer Jim Feccia switched on his headlights and flashers, and reached for his microphone as he pulled onto the road. "Dispatch, Unit 3. Red Cadillac circa 1965 just passed my location, driving erratically. Pursuing northbound on Gregg Hill, half a mile north of the park. License plate is" - he read off three letters and three digits.

"Aw, SHIT! Judge shed I'd be locked up fer a year next time!" Andy stomped on the accelerator. "No way dat tiny car c'n outdo this beast!"

The officer got his sirens wailing, then hit the microphone button again. "Dispatch, Unit 3. Red Cadillac is attempting to evade at high speed. Is this Andy Robinson?"

"Unit 3, Affirmative. His home address is" - a number - "that would be 1.5 miles from the park."

"Dispatch, Acknowledged." He noted with relief that other vehicles were clearing a wide path before the two speeding vehicles - then realized that he had just blown past the indicated address at 80 MPH, and the red Caddy was still ahead of him.

"Dispatch, Unit 3. Subject vehicle has passed that address. Will be on Highway 100 soon. Hope it's clear."

"Unit 3, Acknowledged and agree. Backup is en route, six minutes to that intersection."

The highway was not clear.

The speeding Cadillac, attempting to head north on the highway, struck the driver's door of a metallic-white Range Rover, then swung around to smash the sides of the two vehicles together along most of their length. The Rover, pushed off the road onto a downward slope, slowly tipped over and landed on its side in the ditch where it slid to a stop several yards short of a driveway.

The Cadillac, lifted by the tipping Rover, went airborne, taking out a rack of mailboxes before landing on the far side of the same driveway and continuing into a tree - where one branch speared through the windshield.

Shaken loose by the impact, snow fell from the limbs above in waves like the folds of a curtain closing on Andrew Robertson's final scene.
Last edited by Warrl on Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Dave » Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:32 pm

:shock: :shock: :shock: :o :(
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby FreeFlier » Thu Dec 29, 2016 9:19 pm

Ouch.

One hopes he didn't kill or seriously injure anyone else.

(After picking up the pieces at several similar scenes, the drunk can take care of himself.)

--FreeFlier
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby chicgeek » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:59 pm

Warri, I'm on the edge of my seat! But I can wait until next year. :D
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Sat Dec 31, 2016 6:13 pm

"Hazelton residence, Jonathan Hazelton speaking."

"Mr. Hazelton, this is Nurse Greenfeld at Waterbury Hospital. There's been a traffic accident, and your children Randall and Pauline are here in our emergency room."

"What???? How bad is it?"

"Neither are in apparent danger, but we haven't completed our evaluation yet. Randall definitely has a broken leg. Pauline has neck pain that we think is probably a soft-tissue injury. There could be other injuries we haven't found yet, but so far they both seem stable."

"That's a relief."

"The doctor wants me to ask you if you're aware of skeletal abnormalities in your family. It seems they are present in both your children."

"Yes, certain oddities are pretty common here - small town, you know, almost everyone's related. I take it Dr. Smithers is not on duty this evening? She's somewhat familiar with the pattern."

"We'll call her, then."

"Anything else? No? Then my wife and I will be there shortly."

"Highway 100 is closed for about a quarter mile at Gregg Hill Road - that's where the accident happened - and the police say it'll be at least another hour."

"Thanks for the warning, I know a way around it."

The nurse hung up the phone. "Doctor, he says that Smithers knows about the abnormalities - some sort of a family thing, I guess."

"Then we'll call her in. And maybe she can explain why Mr. Alexander has the same thing."

-----

"Hospital calling" said an electronic voice in Eklara Smithers' ear. She gestured to her husband, then pressed the button on her headpiece.

"Smithers. What's up?... sorry, one moment."

Soon she was secured against the wind, with her family waiting. "Sorry, I'm outside and was in kind of a windy spot. Now, what's up?"

"Yes, I'm familiar with the Hazeltons' abnormalities. Do you need me to come in?"

"Who is it?"

"Yeah, I knew there are others, but aside from the folks up at Hyde Park I don't know many of their names - haven't needed to. Those abnormalities bother doctors more than the people who have them."

"Okay, I'll be there inside of half an hour."

She pressed the button again to terminate the call. "Sorry hon, the ER has three centaurs and Jones doesn't know what's normal for them in the X-rays. Tari, come here." Hugging her daughter, she said "I won't be any longer than I have to. You be good for Daddy and Grandma, okay? Now get going."

The three unfurled their wings and took off, two toward Grandma's in Hyde Park and one toward the hospital.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Sat Dec 31, 2016 6:14 pm

(If you're wondering why the nurse didn't mention Rowdy: not family.)
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:35 am

Rowdy, moved to a ward for observation, listened to the sounds from the hallway and decided that Dawn's parents had arrived. After waiting for the sounds to diminish somewhat (indicating that they had gone into Dawn's room next door) he pushed his call button.

After a few minutes the nurse came. "What can I do for you?" he asked.

"That's Mr. and Mrs. Hazelton visiting Pauline, right?"

"Yes, it is. And you should be lying down; you'll hurt less."

"If I lie down I'll fall asleep. When they come out of Pauline's room, could you tell them - quietly - that I'd like to talk to them?"

"If you want, but really, you'd be better off sleeping."

"I do want; it's important. Please?"

"Very well. Anything else?"

"No. Thank you."

Half an hour later Rowdy heard voices from the nurse's desk again. "Nurse, our son? Is he up here yet?"

"Yes, he's in that room, but he's sound asleep on pain killers. He barely woke up at all when we transferred him from ER's gurney to the bed. He has a broken leg, plus assorted bumps and bruises probably of no consequence, and we expect you'll be able to take both of them home sometime tomorrow."

"I should have asked earlier," Mr. Hazelton said, "they had someone else with them. Do you know anything about that person?"

"I believe that would be the young man in the room next to your daughter's. Since you aren't family I can't tell you anything." Then the nurse lowered his voice and added "He wants to talk to you two - but I hope he's fallen asleep."

"Thank you. I hope he will understand if we take a moment to look in on our son."

After a few minutes the two walked into Rowdy's room. It took them a moment to recognize him. Responding to his gesture, they closed the door.

"And how are you, Mr. Alexander?" Mr. Hazelton asked as his wife sat in the chair and leaned her cane beside it. "You look like you aren't quite sure you survived."

"That's about how I feel. They tell me that if I'd been hit the least little bit harder I'd have a broken hip or leg. As it is I'll be on crutches or a cane for several days, because everything is severely bruised. How's Dawn?"

Mrs. H. winced. "She'll be fine - a bit of neck trouble for a while and the pain killers knocked her out."

"I'll be asleep too, as soon as I let myself. I'm sorry to meet you again like this - arriving today was supposed to be a distraction, not a reminder."

"Yes, it was a year ago today. Do you know anything about the driver of the other car?"

"Not definitely, but... well, the police and paramedics didn't spend much time around that car..."

"Indeed," Mr. Hazelton replied. "Now, what did you want to talk with us about?"

"About a possible future meeting under rather happier circumstances - say, a wedding."

Mr. Hazelton's jaw dropped.

Mrs. Hazelton smiled. "You have my approval, young man - if you can satisfy me on one issue."

"Why am I not surprised that you knew? And what's the issue?"

"You aren't surprised because you know your mother. You never could keep a secret from her, could you? And the issue is, convince me that you want to marry Dawn - not her sister's ghost."

"I can do that. Even with the little time I spent with Dusk, it's obvious they are rather different. For one thing," - he paused to rub his eyes - "Dusk was impulsive but uncertain. Dawn considers things carefully, and then is confident in her choice. Like the paint job on her car - Dusk didn't have anything like that, did she?"

"Yes, but Dawn had to talk her into it. And you're fading, and should go to sleep. One last question: how far along in law school is your sister?"

"She's in her second year - but she's planning to go directly for a master's in international law, so she has two years after this.
"International law - not a lot of use for that in Hyde Park, and that's definitely where Durango's ambitions lie. Oh, well."

"There are centaur fillies at the university besides my sister, Ma'am, and he's dated a couple of them already. He still has at least three years before he graduates."

"True enough. Well, we'll go and let you rest, and see you tomorrow. Help me up, dear, this chair is too low."

Just a few minutes later, Rowdy was asleep.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Sun Jan 08, 2017 3:51 pm

By the way, there's some crossover between this story and the Cross-Time Cafe's 2016 holiday party. Warning: the latter is rather long.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Thu May 04, 2017 11:57 pm

Shortly after noon the next day, Mr. Hazelton again entered Rowdy's room, a nurse behind him. "Good afternoon, Mr. Alexander! You're to be shoved out the door - literally." He gestured to the wheelchair he was pushing, empty but for a plastic sack.

"I'm ready. The police came earlier and took my statement of what happened. Not that I could tell them much - that car came at us from behind, I didn't see it until after it hit us, and then I was busy trying to avoid a utility pole. Dr. Smithers is good. How are Pauline and Randall?"

"They're doing fine and will be going with us. I picked up some pants for you, as you asked." He fished in the sack and pulled out the pants. After handing them over, he picked up the sack. "Now you let the nurse help you. She says you don't bend well. I'll see you in the hall, once Randall and Pauline are ready." And he left the room.

Fifteen minutes later, the three patients were pushed out to the hospital entrance and, after a brief delay for Mr. Hazelton to fetch his SUV from the parking lot, began the process of loading into the vehicle. Durango needed the front seat for room to maneuver his cast, and both the young men needed the nurse on one side and Mr. Hazelton on the other to get up into the vehicle. Dawn, in her neck brace, had a rather easier time of it, and the aide who had pushed her wheelchair through the hallways handed her the two pair of crutches pre-positioned near the entrance, along with the bags of personal belongings and hospital miscellany.

A few minutes on the road, proper centaur introductions attended to, and they arrived at the towing company's lot to retrieve their luggage. "Dawn, you come with me to count stuff - but let me do the lifting. Durango, Rowdy, did either of you have anything loose besides your luggage?"

"I had my phone out," Durango replied. "I have no idea where it ended up."

"I was driving, so no."

"We had two suitcases each," Dawn added.

It took a bit to get through the office paperwork, since there were no Hazeltons listed on the Range Rover's rental paperwork, but the clerk went out to the car and verified Rowdy's identity. With his approval, the clerk grabbed the handle of a large cart. "The insurance adjuster'll be here this evening, and we got the police report for him, so if ya get all yer stuff outta the car ya should be done with it. You gonna need this wagon ta haul stuff? It's a bit back in the lot."

"That would help, thank you," Dawn replied.

"'S a shame, though," the clerk added as the three walked through the lot. "Th'other car, a gorgeous classic Caddy, not many people show their babies as much love as that car got up till yesterday. An' nowt but scrap metal, over 'tother side of the crusher. Yer Rover, rental agency won't want it back, but it's fixable."

Gathering the suitcases and Durango's phone didn't take long. They signed the clerk's list of what they took from the vehicle, and returned to the SUV. "Screen's cracked," Dawn informed her brother as she handed his phone over, "and either the battery is dead or the whole thing is."

"Probably just the battery - it was low before dinner. If not, I'll deal with it later."

A bit over half an hour later they pulled into the garage of a house in Hyde Park, next to a compact sedan. Mrs. Hazelton stood in the doorway. "I know you needed the SUV to haul stuff," she said as Mr. Hazelton and Dawn stepped out of the vehicle, "but it's a devil of a thing to get in and out of with a bum leg. I asked Maple to come over in case we need another strong back."

She stepped aside and another centaur woman more than filled the space. "Hi, Uncle Buzz. I'll get Durango out - I can still pick him up with one arm. Where should I not squeeze, Cuz?"

Soon everyone was ensconced in the living room and Maple had delivered suitcases to bedrooms. "So, Mr. Alexander - "

"Rowdy, please."

"Rowdy - you managed to catch the fancy of both of Aunt Sycamore's twins, it seems."

"Their attention, yes. There's no way of knowing whether I would have held Dusk's interest, or she mine."

"Well, true enough I suppose. I don't blame them any. Are you hoping to lure Dawn out of medical school?"

"Oh sure," he smiled, "but first I have to convince her that she's a mermaid, not a centaur."

"WHAT????"

"Well, that would be easier, wouldn't it? Seriously, absolutely not. I respect her and what she's doing far too much to try nonsense like that."

"So, what are your ambitions? Not that you aren't doing fine running that family foundation. Yeah, Uncle Buzz asked me to look you up."

"Finding out if I'm really good enough for his daughter. Nobody is, of course." Rowdy grinned and nodded at the older stallion. "But, ambitions... frankly, at least for the moment I have no career ambitions that I haven't already achieved. I really enjoy what I'm accomplishing at the Foundation. The family doesn't need my spot there for someone else, probably for at least another ten years. If I moved to AHI - Alexander Harvester - I'd be in Marketing, which is currently well-staffed with excellent people, and in line to be President, but my brother is in that job as well as Chairman and is doing fine; they don't need me now rather than later. I don't see a problem, so I'm in no hurry to fix it."

"And if something changes?" Buzz Hazelton asked.

"I'll evaluate the situation and do what's best for the family. Now for ambitions, your son has plans... or at least he does when he's awake. The pain-killers and the ride up here seem to have gotten to him."

A soft snore from the other sofa verified his observation.

"And you look like you could use a nap too, Rowdy," Sycamore said. "Maple, help him up, and thanks for your help."

"I should check in at the office. This week's payroll includes the Christmas bonuses, so there's extra room for things to go wrong." Buzz helped his wife to stand, then headed toward the garage door.
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Re: A Stable Relationship

Postby Warrl » Sun Jun 25, 2017 4:27 pm

Hey, after nearly two months I'm back to this! Although you may want to reread the earlier parts so you know what's going on.

Sorry for the delay. In the interim I have committed story, but it's for another market and currently in the queue at Critters.Org.

There are somewhere between two and seven other stories in development at the Wapsi writers' private forum...

Now, to the new scene...



Soon, Dawn and her mother were the only ones awake in the house.

"Dawn, how about you? Do you need a nap too?"

"No, I do not. I have taken no painkillers so far today, and hope to not need them. This collar is doing a good job."

"But with a neck injury - do you have a collar that fits in feral?"

"Dr. Smithers gave me a second one, extra-large, but of course there was no chance to fit it properly. She suggested I visit her mother."

"I'll call her. I need your advice on a project, and in this snow I can't even get to it on my own."

An hour later, with Dawn in centaur form and her mother on her back with a bag of Dawn's clothing, they arrived at the old sawmill. They went inside, where Dawn knelt to allow her mother to dismount next to a strange assembly of new, heavy timber. The older mare lit a propane heater. "Now we both need to shift."

Dawn shifted and began dressing - the propane heater didn't do a lot unless one stood quite close to it. "Mom, are you sure? With your hip..."

"Oh, I can shift. I just can't do much while feral - barely walk, can't carry any weight, can't even stand for long. That's what this contraption is for, actually."

"I see no wheels. And if it had wheels, turning would be difficult."

"Maple and I thought to first get the structure working with an eye toward where wheels might go, then think about what sort of wheels and how to turn it. But really, what I want it for is to help me stand and bear some weight. A lot of weight."

"Well, it will hold a lot of weight. Two, maybe three tons, I would guess."

"Four tons, according to Maple. The problem is, it's very uncomfortable. And it needs to be comfortable enough to not be distracting. There are times when a girl really doesn't want any distractions."

"Huh, what - oh!" Dawn smiled as she noticed the leering grin on her mother's face. "Well, okay then! Now that I know the plan, let me see if the problems are where I think they are. This end is the front?" She studied the device a moment, then sketched a diagram of it and started taking its measurements. As well as several measurements of her mother's feral form, and where the known problems were with the older mare on the device.

"Any immediate advice?"

"Get someone who knows human and centaur form, in detail - like an artist or a physical therapist - involved sooner. Maple can handle the structure, but she does not know how to do curves in wood."

"Maple said the same thing herself. Dr. Smithers thought we really need an orthotics specialist, but she couldn't find a para-aware one anywhere close. In fact she suggested you as a substitute - she says those chairs you made for them a few years ago are very comfortable and accommodate their wings nicely."

"Well, I could make it a little better very quickly, but I would prefer to think about it for a day or two so I can make it much better. And how hard would it be to take these top pieces off - oh, they just lift off some pegs!"

"Maple thought your wood-shaping would be easier that way. That's only one of the places she tried to make it easy to adjust."

"Well, she was right. I'll take these and see if I can borrow some time at Aunt Hickory's workshop once I figure out just what to do with them."
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