Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

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jwhouk
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Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Thu May 17, 2018 8:35 pm

I got the note about the Wacom, and realized we'd need to reopen the club room.

This time, though, I sought out the Library's custodian before I did anything.

The transport system took me right to Erza's office - which was more or less a room off of one of the lesser-used areas of the Library. I was impressed by the various knick-knacks and what-nots around - almost a classical version of a man-cave. Not quite on the same level as Neil's office, mind you, but pretty impressive.

The tall troll... or was he a half elf? I could never remember... was kicking back and reading something by James Patterson.

"Uh, Erza?" I called out. I vaguely remembered that he was mute, but could hear.

He looked up and saw me. Locking eyes with me, I knew he was slightly perturbed at being interrupted from his reading.

"Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to let you know - Pablo has things on hiatus again, so we're gonna need the room open and operational again."

His eyebrow raised, and he put the book down for a moment. Motioning to me, he then motioned back to himself, and then put his palm up to the air.

"Well, I was just remembering what happened last time," I began. "And I wanted to make sure the portal was working properly. I mean, we do need libations and all."

He nodded with his eyes closed, and gave me the thumbs up, then made an "OK" sign with his cragged fingers.

"Great! Thanks, Erza!" I said as I headed back to the Library transport.

Time to get the room back open, I thought as the doors closed.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Sat May 19, 2018 11:02 pm

I put the bags on the counter in the kitchen area of the meeting room.

Digestives, tea, Tina's best blend, a few quarts of Doctor Custard, and some Vanilla Coke. Oh, and some summer sausage, too.

Out of a separate bag, I pull some more stuff, putting it in the proper places. This might be a long hiatus, so might as well get stuff we like this time around, I thought.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by TazManiac » Sun May 20, 2018 10:20 pm

It was early evening on a Sunday night and Stan was lazing around after having running around the whole morning gathering ingredients and spending the following few hours preparing a strange but, while eclectic, somehow all-knitted-together Sunday Meal for himself and Tina.

As a matter of fact he'd fallen asleep on the couch before he'd gotten to cleaning up after himself, and stretching a bit he raised his weary bones up and headed towards the kitchen, determined not to let things wait for 'tomorrow.

Glancing around he didn't immediately see Tina anywhere but figured she'd pop up as she heard him rustling around...

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by Sgt. Howard » Sun May 20, 2018 11:52 pm

"Miss Annie, it seems the 'Wapsiholic Anonymous' clubroom is going back online... I suspect I will be expected there..."

"Well, don't bring anything home unless it fits on the gun rack or in the oven- actually, you could bring me back a cappuccino from Mucho Mocha if the hours are right."

"I will see what transpires along those lines- c'mere, gimmea kiss..."

"Eww! Boy germs! I don' wanna! (giggle)"

There was a brief chase with both parties laughing until Greg cornered Annie and spend a luxurious amount of time sporting with her mouth and nibbling her neck-
"You BETTER come back and FINISH that job!" Annie purred at him- he winked and slipped out the front door.

Roger Oyler watched from his kitchen window as his crazy neighbor went traipsing his way to the outhouse in the north alfalfa field. He had given up understanding this lunatic from California long ago... but still he puzzeled over Greg's obsession with the outhouse... and how he could dissapear by entering it. After a small eternity of internal debate, he decided that perhaps it might be better if he never knew and went back to doing the dishes...
Rule 17 of the Bombay Golf Course- "You shall play the ball where the monkey drops it,"
I speak fluent Limrick-
the Old Sgt.

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Mon May 21, 2018 7:19 am

Diane Martinez was having another awful day.

Ever since the teacher walkout, her kids had been progressively getting worse on her afternoon runs. She'd tried everything - praising what little good behavior they showed, pleading, bargaining, threatening. She had actually written up at least one of her junior high students - climbing over the seats and then throwing a book bag out the window! - but he was back on the bus from his suspension.

Now, only a week remained in the school year (thank GOD), but it was looking to be the longest week of her life.

Fortunately, she only had a few more stops on her last run - most of the bad kids were gone by this point - but it was that gawdawful drive up Meridian to McDowell, where she'd have to turn around in the trailhead parking lot before driving all the way back to base.

Meridian was the far end of both the city of Mesa and of Maricopa County. Between Brown Road and McDowell Road, there was little in the way of any domiciles. Yet it was still part of the Mesa Public Schools district, so they had to run a line up here for the junior high school. All the way near the end of Meridian, she had three stops - one in front of a farmhouse, the second in front of a gated community, and the third right before the end of the road, at the corner of Meridian and McDowell.

If, of course, you could really call McDowell a "road" at that point. It was signed as such, but was mostly dirt road in both directions. By the time she got to that point, only one little girl remained. She would usually scamper off to the west, across the road (as all of her students on this leg of the route did), and disappear into a huge building on the corner. It never crossed her mind about it, because she was used to the monolithic construction of adobe-style housing in the Valley. Heck, her abuela had a huge one over in Gold Canyon that she remembered visiting when she was younger.

She motioned the kids at her next-to-last stop across the road, and as the last one reached the driveway of Norwood Estates, she snapped off the student lights, put the bus back in drive, and made her way down the road.

One last stop, then home to rest for a while, she thought.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Mon May 21, 2018 9:20 pm

I got home to the trailer and immediately hoofed it on over to the portal entrance of the park. I waved at Mindy as I headed out to get some coffee at Tina's before heading to the Club Room.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself instead outside another door, still in the Arizona heat, looking out past some cactus at what appeared to be a dirt road.

I was a bit shocked; but decided that I was in no hurry – save the fact that I was still in my bus driver uniform. Figuring there was a reason why the Library had dropped me here, I took a little walk up the dirt road to what looked like pavement.

I saw a sign on the far side of the road saying "TONTO NATIONAL FOREST LAND – KEEP OUT". This told me that I was still in Arizona – as if the temperatures weren't enough to convince me otherwise. When I got to the corner, I saw the signpost on the other side of the street: Meridian Rd and McDowell Blvd. Okay, that's odd, I thought. What's a portal doing all the way over here?

After doing a brief calculation that I was about two miles away from home, I was about to head back to the portal when I saw a school bus coming down the road. Before I could move, the bus had already put its amber warning lights.

I froze as I watched the bus pull to a stop. I recognized the woman behind the wheel – she worked out of the same bus yard that I did, and she was frequently having issues with the kids on her route.

After a moment, a little girl got out of the bus. She dutifully went ten feet in front of the bus and waited for the driver's instruction to cross. It just so happened that I was practically right there on the other side of the road as the girl ran over with her backpack over her shoulder.

She also immediately recognized me.

"Oh, hey, you're Mr. Houk!" she said, walking up to me while the bus pulled ahead into the trailhead parking area to turn around. "Great to meet you! My cousin Devyn told me you lived out this way!"

I only looked at her. "Devyn?"

"Yeah, she's a friend of Atsali's, from Gryphon?" She stopped for a moment. "Oh, you must have ended up at my portal by mistake. It's only active about this time every day…"

We were both interrupted by a loud hissing noise coming from the parking lot. The bus had turned around, but it was now blowing steam from under the hood.

"Hold that thought," I said, as I ran over to the bus. The driver was already out and trying to figure out what was going on.

And she was also not very happy.

"Oh FRIGGIN GREAT," she yelled. "Bus has to wait until the END of my ROUTE to finally OVERHEAT!" She went to remove the hood latches, but I called out to her to stop.

"Hey! HEY! Hold up! Don't think that's a good idea," I said, a bit winded as I showed up beside her. "You might get scalded from the steam built up under the hood. Let it sit for a bit and just relax. Did you already call dispatch?"

She looked at me like I'd appeared from nowhere (which was close to the truth). "How'd you get here?"

"I'm friends with your last stop's family," I explained quickly – something I wasn't sure was true, but she had mentioned Devyn. "You have any more kids on the bus?"

"No, no, this is my last stop." She stepped back from the bus, then looked at me. "Diane. You are?"

"Oh, Joe Houk. I drive small bus out of Fremont." I looked at her bus. "Does this thing usually overheat like that?"

"It was well over the coolant fill mark when I pre-tripped it this morning," she said. "Only thing I can think is that a hose let loose or something."

"Even better reason not to open the hood until it's cooled down," I said. "Did you already call dispatch?"

"What? Oh, uh, no I hadn't." She re-entered the bus, turned the key to get the radio working… and nothing happened. "Oh, GREAT, now it won't turn over."

"That's impossible," I commented as I ascended the stairs in the bus. "This thing has multiple batteries, they can't all go dead at once." She turned the key over in the ignition – and nothing happened. Just a series of clik-clik-clik-cliks.

"It's possible," she replied.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Wed May 23, 2018 12:40 pm

"Aw, man," a voice said from behind us. "My dad said somethin' like this might happen. The portal's fine for most of the time when I use it…"

I suddenly realized two things: one, the portal was not only the reason why I was here, but it was also the reason for the bus to completely short out. And two, this little girl – who I was suspecting was far from an innocent little girl – was about to blab out something that her bus driver should not know.

"Uh, I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name again, dear?" I said as I intentionally covered the distance between the girl and Diane.

"Addison," she said. "I bet the whole thing got shorted out 'cause…"

"Uh, Addison?" I stopped her from saying anything more. "You and I might know why thing happened, but your bus driver doesn't, so why don't we help her get the bus going before we say anything, 'kay?" I was really hoping she would get my meaning.

She nodded and stood there for a moment. "I don't think it's gonna start up again anytime soon, though."

I looked at her, then briefly back at the building where I'd emerged, then back at Diane.

"Diane, why don't you check the battery compartment, see if anything came loose at all?" I asked.

She shrugged. "Okay, but I'd have noticed it if something had come loose." She walked around to the other side of the bus, which gave me a chance to talk to Addison.

"Okay, you and I know that the portal is probably the reason why the bus went blooey, but portals aren't supposed to do that," I said with some emphasis. "What's the deal with this one?"

"Well, it's kinda more powerful 'cause it's right by a grid anchor," she said. "Notice that there ain't too many homes out here?" She pointed up at the mountain range to the north. "There's a reason, and it ain't 'cause the native tribes claim sacred ground. Weird things happen up here."

"But how do you use the portal to get home, then?" I asked.

"It's only open a short time…" She didn't get a chance to finish, as Diane came around from the other side of the bus.

"All the wiring is intact, but the batteries are all bulging out like they melted or something," she said. "It's like it got hit with some sort of electric wave or something."

"An EMP," I said. "Do you have an iPhone or anything?" She looked at me, then fished one out of her pocket. "Check to see if it still works."

She looked down, switching it on. "What in the world… deader than a doornail! And I charged it up fully before I got to work!"

"Electro-magnetic pulses tend to do that," I said. "I think there was a naturally occurring one that you accidentally drove the bus into – which means that thing is probably a nice oversized paperweight right about now." I hooked a thumb toward the bus.

Diane's reaction was simply to look down. After a moment, she said, "Well, then, how do we get a hold of dispatch?"

"I left my phone at home, unfortunately," I lied, as I knew that if I did have my phone, it'd be in the same condition. "Let me see if Addison and I can contact base from her home?"

I looked down at the little girl.

"Uh, I don't know if the portal… er, doorway… is unlocked," she said.

"We can check it," I said, leading her back to where I'd come. "Diane, stick with the bus, I'll see if we can get someone out here."
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Wed May 23, 2018 9:26 pm

"So why in the world are you going to school in Mesa, of all places?" I asked a bit testily.

"Well, coz I kinda live here," she said. "Sorta. My dad's part fire mage. He likes the heat and all, y'know? But the dryness isn't his strong suit, so we have a portal."

We'd covered the distance from the bus to the door where I'd appeared. She sighed.

"Mom said she shoulda realized sumthin' was up when the price of this place was so low compared ta others we were looking at." She went up to the doorway, touched the door handle, and turned it.

Nothing happened.

"Crap. The portal's offline." She grumbled a bit – though for some reason, it sounded more like a growl. Taking a key out of her backpack, she unlocked the door. "This has happened before, so mom gave me a key to the house. We only use it in the winter, usually, but I still hafta come in 'n out coz of school."

The door opened into a foyer, with walls that belied the adobe-style construction of the home.

"The phone should still be workin'," she said. "There's shielding 'round the place; my dad put it in after finding out about the anchor's proximity."

"Good to hear," I said. She pointed me to the phone on the wall – which I noted was of the rotary type. "How old school," I commented.

"What? Oh, yeah, that was part of the deal. Only type of phone line that works."

I picked up the receiver and heard a dial tone. "Now if I only remembered the phone number for Mesa Public Schools…"

"That would be a drawback, wouldn't it?" Another voice came from behind me. When I turned around, I saw a tall, matronly woman in a checked blouse and a dark blue skirt – and glasses.

"Hey, mom," Addison said. "This is Mister…"

"…Joseph Houk, yes, I'm aware. I happened to be at the Library when I got word that our portal had activated incorrectly. Fortunately, I was able to poit back here, with a little help."

"Help?" I asked.

"Linda works with our MIB office here in Arizona." A slightly more familiar voice emerged behind Addison's mother. "Joe, you have more trouble with these portals than any mortal should have the right to claim."

"Hey, Bud," I greeted her.

"I'd ask if you'd done something to piss off Nudge, but she happened to be sitting next to us when we got the report." She turned to Addison and knelt down to her level. "And we were worried something had happened to you."

"Nah, I'm okay. My school bus, however, is a mess."

Bud was confused. "She rides on your bus, Joe? I thought you drove small bus."

"No, it happened right after I found myself here instead of at the clubhouse," I explained. "You did hear about that, right?"

"Oh, no – did he hurt his shoulder again?"

"Nope, he's goin' digital this time. Might take him a while."

Addison and her mother looked at each other in confusion.

"Long story. Bottom line is, right after I got through, Addison got home, and apparently your timed portal opened up and overloaded the circuit." I motioned back towards the street. "Result is that Addison's school bus out there got an EMP pulse that not only fried the electronics, but caused the coolant to let go. Bus probably wouldn't run even if they got the batteries fixed."

"Oh. Yeah, that's kinda bad," Bud commented. "Linda, do you have the emergency number for MPS's bus department?"

"Yes, it should be there on the fridge." Bud quickly zipped into the next room, which was obviously the kitchen.

"Here it is. Joe, you want to do the honors?"

"Yeah – you want to deal with the driver out there? Diane wasn't too happy that her phone got fried."

"Linda and I can handle it. You tell your people about the bus. Just say the electrics went out. We can explain something when they get out here to tow it back to the yard."

"Oh, joy," I said as I dialed the phone.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Thu May 31, 2018 6:51 pm

---

"So, they bought it that the battery blowup was temperature related?" I asked, sipping slowly on a glass of lemonade.

"Yep. Turns out a weather station in the vicinity of the trailhead had logged a temperature spike right around the time of the incident." Bud sat back in the chair as she put her bottle of water back on the table. "The little issue with that portal has been dealt with, to boot. Found out it had a harmonic that got affected with all the shenanigans Daylla and Castela pulled last week."

"Mmm." I munched on one of the Hobnobs from the plate on the table. "Too bad things got resolved so quickly. I got these specifically as a peace offering for Al."

"I'm sure he'll appreciate it," Bud said. "Bryn told me that Kath is still a little upset about the whole black-hole-in-a-school thing, so I'm going to have to get going."

"Sure thing," I stated as she rose to leave. "I can close things up. I can stop by the Library and let Erza known we're back on."

"The digital art looks pretty good, doesn't it?" Bud said. "Can't wait to see how he does me - if he even remembers how I look."

"He wouldn't forget. Remember? He was your landlord?"

"True." Bud smiled. "Take care, and say hi to Sarah."

"Same to you and Kevin," I added.

Bud vanished into the portal while I put the Hobnobs away, and bused the table.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by jwhouk » Thu May 31, 2018 10:44 pm

Just as I was about to head over to the portal, my iPhone buzzed.

"No comic until Monday. Again."

I sighed.

"Better keep the lights on, then," I said to no one.

After taking one last look around, I took the portal back to the Library.

Erza was back at his desk in his workshop-cum-office. It appeared he was playing with a paddleball.

"Uh, excuse me, Erza?" He suddenly turned around, only to get whacked on the side of the head with the ball attached to the paddle. He grunted and grimaced in pain. "Oh, I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

He waved me off, slowly untangling himself from the band attached to ball and paddle.

"Uh, just wanted you to know that I'm done down there at the club room, but it looks like Pablo isn't going to be back until Monday," I explained. This brought a raised eyebrow from him. "There's still some grub left in the cupboards and such, if you're interested."

He nodded furiously, which caused the paddleball band to get wrapped back up around his hand. He looked at it in annoyance, but then waved at me, giving me a thumbs up as he did so.

"Okay... have a good day," I stated in departure.

As I reached the Transport System, I heard him going back to playing paddleball, with a satisfying whump-whump-whump-whump.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin

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Re: Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking (May-June 2018 Edition)

Post by TazManiac » Fri Jun 01, 2018 12:01 am

(place where I'm going to post something on Friday, after a bit of travel. Go Warriors!)

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