Winter Vignettes 2017

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Just Old Al
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Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by Just Old Al »

Well, we did it last year, and we're doing it again this that makes it an annual tradition.

With the thanks an gratitude of the are some winter vignettes from the EW.

This first is DInky Inky's, with me assisting in my own thumb-fingered way. Brilliance is hers - typos are mine.


Sterling fumed. "Of all the times for me to make a bet with Flash," she thought, "Al shall never hear of this."

Sterling was busily clearing her not inconsiderable drive and walkway with a large snow shovel, punctuating the air with sweetly spoken curses in Gaelic (so the littles living nearby wouldn't understand and repeat foul language) as she hit a spot of ice, sending the snow flying towards her yet again.

Dig, pitch. Dig, Pitch. Dig, pitch. The end of the driveway seemed no closer than it was when she began. Cursing quietly she persisted, pitching and cursing.


Al was bored. Due to the blizzard warnings, he closed shop and kept everyone safe at home. So he was bored, working on his second mug of coffee, and pacing with calculations running through his head for the millionth time.

Daisy, getting mildly annoyed at his fidgeting and pacing, made a command decision. Setting her coffee cup down, she thought, then spoke, her words interrupting the pacing feet of her mate.

"Al, why don't you go visit Sterling? Didn't Fergus say you needed to work on sharpening your mage-skills in other elements? What better way than working with a water mage? She must have all sorts of interesting ways of dealing with snow that you could learn from. Even if you never master it, knowing just a little can help in a pinch I bet."

Al stopped, and sheepishly looked at his dam. "Would it be far off to say that you'd shoot me with a Maxi-14 if I declined to do so and went off to my office to sulk?"

Daisy smiled sweetly. He’s becoming SO much better at picking up cues – another ten or twenty years and I’ll have him housebroken! "You read my mind dear. Do send my love to Sterling."

Kissing his cheek, she gracefully left the room so he could concentrate on the portal.

Stopping in the kitchen Al grabbed a basket from the larder, loading it with a selection of Rosalita’s baked goods and a small container of Kona beans. Absconding with his prize, he went to the cloakroom and equipped himself against the cold.

Dressed in layers appropriate for the weather, as well as heavy insulated boots, a muffler, and earmuffs, Al donned his lined leather gloves, grabbed the hamper of treats, and stepped outside; drawing from the land until glutted, casting his portal. Stepping through, he left behind a shower of green and gold. A moment later inside the house, a hand snaked through a small opening and grabbed the fedora off the hat rack, a tiny shower of green and gold left in its' wake.

On the other side, Sterling was distracted. So much so, she failed to notice the sounds of a portal opening and closing, or Al appearing behind her on the freshly shoveled walk.

Never one to shy away from an opportunity for mirth, Al silently formed a snowball and set it sailing for the completely unaware mage, saving the laughter until it struck the back of her head.

Whirling around with a snarl, her action stilled as she saw Al laughing amusedly at her discomfiture.

"What brings you here to Camp Permafrost, not that I mind company. Daisy toss you out for orbiting again?"

His sheepish grin and offer of hamper of gifts confirmed her suspicions.

"Need a break anyway, let us have a warmup with a cuppa."

Al, however, was curious, and not quite prepared to retreat to the comforts of the farmhouse. "Why the shovel? I assumed one like yourself would have many entertaining ways of dealing with all of this. Your sister was always surprising us with well cleared walkways. Not so much as a hint of ice or snow."

Sterling, a bit discomfitted by the question, attempted to pass it off. "Eh? Oh, well, better to fit in with normal folk if I am seen with a shovel once in a while. One must blend in, as the torches and pitchforks are never far away."

"Shovel? Why not a snowthrower?" Al was unmoved by the glib answer, and pressed a bit.

"I do not actually own one," she said with a rueful chuckle. "First fall in almost a decade of living here worthy of one."

"Ah." he said, unbelieving.

"Sterling, dear lady, while I trust you with my life, my fortunes and my sacred honour, in this particular instance I feel I am not hearing all of the story." He walked over to her porch table and swept the snow from it, setting the basket down on the cleared surface. A snap of the wrist and a bit of muttering had a cranked-shaft snow shovel in his left hand, and with that spinning like a majorette's baton he turned back.

Sterling snickered. "Showoff. I would be far more impressed if you'd stop 'moving your lips when you read' and perform mental incantations." A crafty thought came to her mind as Al walked back toward her.

"Warhorse, what do you say I teach you snow removal? I AM a water mage after all, and a bit of linked learning would have you able to do it. It requires a fair bit of energy, true, but it would be a handy skill for those dark nights stuck in a ditch." Sterling smiled ingratiatingly, thinking to herself I teach Warhorse, he moves the snow, I get my driveway cleared - problem solved!

Al pursed his lips, wondering how to state his objections. "While I would love to learn this I am FAR more interested in why YOU are not doing so." He walked up, threw the shovel into the air, seized the handle in the proper manner and drove its edge into the waiting blanket. "While you tell me your story we can continue to clear the Lady's gift to your Spring water table."

His request, while not unexpected, did not sit well with Sterling. "I told you, after my fantastic blunder with you regarding how you should feel about magic, I decided to try things the mundane way once in a while, to understand what it is like. If you want to learn a spell or three like my sisters do, fine, I will show you, otherwise, button it and get to shoveling, move it move it!"

Al leaned on the shovel, chuckling quietly, then began to dig, moving smoothly and with the economy of effort of one familiar to moving snow by hand. "Dear lady - there is no way I would hesitate to help you, as you well know. However, when you attempt to Command Voice me to get me to stop asking awkward rarely works.

Block after block of snow flew from his shovel, adding to the piles on the side of the drive. Sterling was hard-pressed to keep up with his output, and soon was breathing hard and sweating attempting to clear an equivalent swath to his.

"Having a bit of difficulty, dear? Perhaps I should let you teach me those spells - but you'd really have to demonstrate them to show me properly even with linked learning."

Sterling snarled in his mind."You MISERABLE, USELESS Sassenach GIT. I should ball you up and stuff you into your own fedora, you lily-livered spawn of a scrapyard!" With the end of that Al stopped shoveling, leaning on his shovel and bent over. Realizing her words she thought she'd offended him, till she realized that he was laughing so hard he was having trouble breathing.

Oh, dear. Now I really MUST insist on knowing what has your knickers in a twist. Knowing you and behaviour completely outside your had to be a bet. He snapped his fingers and pointed at her. So, which one of your relatives did you lose it with? Fergus catch you taking shortcuts? That being the case I'm surprised you didn't taunt Flashburn into coming out here and melting this down for you.

He smiled beatifically, returning to his shoveling. Or...could it have been....Flash?

Sterling thought to herself Not a chance Warhorse. I'll never admit that freely.

She then smoothly said to Al, I have NEVER had to shovel snow a day in my life. I felt so guilty telling you how fortunate you were to be more when you were content with the joy of your life as it was, and brought horrible sorrow and harm to ye when you saw it changing. This...

She gestured all around her, the huge walls of snow a magnificent backdrop to her misery.

This is my penance. Go inside and have a cuppa to warm yourself. I need to finish this.

Al continued to sling snow, moving with the economy of motion of one who has done much manual labour and knows how to work. In her mind Sterling heard Let us not talk of penance or other stupidities. You Did Not Know. There is no shame, no harm, and no need to atone. There is just learning, love and realization of past mistakes. Anyway, if you're going to make a mistake, make a new one.

He looked up and grinned at her, and pointed to the shovel she had in her hands. "Are you planning on using that, or are you going to simply lean on it in a supervisory position?"

Sterling, amused, said "Well, if ye have that side, I can do this." She turned to, matching the old man's work on the other side of the drive.

The motion, Sterling realized after a bit, was almost hypnotic. Bend, scoop, throw, move, bend, scoop, throw, move...the slow clearing of the pavement and the calm, rhythmic action was almost a Zen koan to the upset in her mind.

They continued onward. When they were approximately 2/3 of the way through Al straightened, stopping and stretching. "That does get the back after a while. In any case, one must pace - this is strenuous work for those of us who inhabit a swivel chair for a significant portion of the day - or an artist's stool." He grinned as Sterling straightened as well.

She flexed her hands, grimacing. "This will be the death of me career. Me hands will never be the same. Crabbed claws from that wretched shovel." She favoured the implement with a grimace, which it absorbed with the aplomb of any inanimate object.

"At this point, meduck, I have had my exercise for the morning. Shall we move on to the instructional portion of this program?" He leaned against his, and Sterling silently thanked her stars.

"Yes, if you insist. I was just getting into the swing of it, though - it is rather relaxing mentally when you get to it."

At that Al laughed unashamedly. "Liar. I can hear your grumbling from here...and could from the other side of the planet, to be honest. Shall we?"

"Very well then." In his mind he heard Now, this is not unlike simple motion, but with the twist of dealing with a semisolid medium. If Flash were here he would just raise the temperature of the substrate and melt it, but we will treat it like the water it is.

Understood. Will you demonstrate?

No. You can do this. Follow my mind.

It is simple. Water flows. This be frozen water. Draw until you are over-full, as you do not want to drop out here from overextending yerself. Make it flow like a gentle current from here to there.
She pointed from the drive to the edge where they had piled it.

Al concentrated, and the snow began to move. A gentle, rippling tide, it flowed from the center toward the outside, smoothly piling itself in a hillock at the far edge. As soon as Al cast, a portal opened, and Flashburn strode out yelling, "CHEATER! I knew ye could nae resist it!"

Seeing Al moving the snow while Sterling continued to shovel, he deflated.

"Bollocks! You were supposed to cheat! You ALWAYS CHEAT!"

Sterling said nothing, continuing to shovel while Al looked at the display in amusement.

"Oh ho! And what pray tell, was she supposed to be cheating at, oh mighty flamethrower?"

Flash looked disgustedly at the pair, Al winded from the effort and Sterling diligently chugging along with her shovel. "Nothing. Leaving now. Me prank did nae work. Going to leave and have a sulk-on. Have fun."

With a CRACK his portal opened and he strode back through to his studio. The portal collapsed, and Al stopped Sterling. Again he cast and the rest of the snow on the drive moved to the side, adding itself tranquilly to the piles already there.

“Shall we go to tea? The baked goods I brought might be a bit chilled, but I assure you they are delicious. And then, O mage, you can tell me what that damp squib was prattling on about.”
"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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Just Old Al
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Re: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by Just Old Al »

And another - this one from my pen...

It was quiet in Al's office at home, here at the end of the year. The snow outside was a thick blanket on the ground and that, coupled with the short days, led to a somnolent feeling in the house.

A small CRACK sounded in the air and a blue and silver nimbus hovered scant inches from the top of the desk. Hands reached through, holding a gaily wrapped package. Said package was deposited on the blotter, the hands withdrew and with a SNAP the nimbus evaporated.

Al wandered into the room, frowsily dressed in old MOD gymnasium clothing and a worn pair of moccassins, holding a tray with tea things. He stopped as he saw the package, remarked "I say!" and set the tray on the credenza.

Approaching the package Al noted a card stuck in the gold ribbon on the top. Extracting that, he broke the wax seal on the back of the envelope and extracted a simple card.

Made of handmade paper, the cover was a coloured rendition of Fergus, standing next to his mount Beitris in the snow. Beitris was bedecked with fir boughs and holly and the entire sketch breathed peace and tranquility. Al flipped it open and on the inside was a simple note, written in a feminine but strong hand.

Dear Warhorse,

It's been a long year though a happy one.We hope this note finds you and yours well, and looking forward to the Solstice and Spring. Please accept these trinkets in the spirit of the season, and may they brighten your holidays.

Happy Christmas/Yule,


"Indeed! Now, I am truly curious." Tea things forgotten he hefted the parcel and set off for the main room.

As he entered Daisy looked up, surprised that he'd returned. "What do you have there?" she asked, mystified at the package Al carried.

"Found this on my desk when I retired for my tea. Have a look at this." He handed her the card. As she examined it Al remarked "Remind me to get that mounted and framed. Unless I miss my guess that is an original Damnhait - not a print job."

Reading the note and examining the cover Daisy agreed. "That would go well in the cabinets in your office - it's a pretty piece of art no matter the time of year. What's in the box?"

"No idea. Brought it down so there would be witnesses - I love Sterling dearly but do not under any circumstances trust her sense of humour." He grinned, taking the sting from his words, as he set the box down on the coffee table and sat in front of it.

A gentle pull undid the ribbon and the wrapping came undone - it had been folded in place rather than taped, so was easily removed. Underneath the wrapping was a blue satin box, with a slip-on lid. Removing that showed several packages, each labeled for an individual.

Setting aside those for Cinnamon and Rowdy Al and Daisy examined the rest of the box. Daily pulled out a small, gaily wrapped one whose tag said "Ailean".

"Open it!"

Al did, sliding his finger under the paper. In it was a small wooden chest with an amazing aroma coming from it. Opening the chest he faced several small bottles, each with a label as to its contents. A note was in the package as well, and it stated I know you run to myrrh and earthy scents when you wear them. These are from Black Phoenix - enjoy them." Al lifted one bottle, then another - and started to laugh. He showed it to Daisy, who barked with startled laughter.

"Fuck You, Said The Raven." Rather emphatic, don't you say?"

"Indeed." He opened the cap and took a whiff." However, an amazing scent."

Another package, this one labeled "Rosalynd". On opening, this was handmade jewelry - specifically three pendants. One had a cloisonne representation of Alexander House (the old one) on it, the second was the AHI logo, and the third...was her.

Standing tall and proud on her hooves, wearing her Elven Kevlar, the tiny image on the pendant breathed dignity and grace. In image, she was truly kin to her warrior ancestors, lacking only a helm and shield to complete the picture.

"How...beautiful. How did she...?"

Al chuckled quietly. "You can blame me for it. When she and I talked I told her of the time..back then.. and how magnificent you looked with your armor. That was a bad time....but being so in love with you then as now that image is graven on my mind. She asked her sister for the details on the bodice - the rest came from me in a sketching session." under linked learning, but we won't mention that Al thought.

"She then sent off the drawing to a cloisonnier to be made into what you see. Amazing work."


"When you asked that I was told to answer, "For not shooting me in the arse over borrowing Warhorse so often." Al smiled.

"Pity I'll never be able to wear it..." Daisy said, regretfully.

"Why not? It's a fantasy image straight from the company logo. Only one who knows will connect the dots - to anyone else it's a beautiful fantasy."

The rest of the package was unearthed - small packets of coffee and tea, others of homemade shortbreads, one of chocolates. Last in the box was a small stone, mounted on a base with a silver hammer attached by a chain. A tag said "Tap the stone".

"Do we dare?" Daisy was uncertain.

"I can't see it being anything inimical - Sterling has a sense of humour but she's not malicious. Were it her" With that Daisy picked up the tiny hammer and tapped the stone on its base.

Starting low and gaining in volume, the plaintive wail of a bagpipe played. At first the tune was hard to recognize, but then the sounds of "Silent Night" floated in the air. Enchanted, Al and Daisy listened until it ended, the last notes fading in the air. Another tap provided another tune, and another after it.

Al turned to Daisy. "Merry Christmas, love."

"Blessed Yule, love." she said, and they kissed.
"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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Just Old Al
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Re: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by Just Old Al »

Well, all of the author types wanted to invite you to a here we go. This may not be finished per se, but all of us put our bits into it in discussion if not in character. I expect there's still some fun to be had here as we go...

Happy Holidays from:
Dinky Inky
Just Old Al
Sgt. Howard
Shneekey The Lost


The call roared out from the old man standing on the balcony. With that, the two mechanics on the floor and the angel in her office stopped what they were doing and filtered out.

“Everyone, get changed and let’s get prepared. Come along now – it’s time for the party!”

“Ah swear if he sez “God Bless Us Every One” ah’m gonna throw sumthin’ heavy at ‘im.” Smokey grumbled good naturedly. With that John laughed, as did Al.

“No, I hardly think that, you reprehensible redneck. Now let’s get busy – the folks from the prototype shop will be here soon. I expect the catering truck will be here…ah, yes, there it is.”

A honking outside the main door prompted Ari to press her remote, and the door opened. In pulled a panel van, and within minutes the granite surface plate had been covered with a drape of tablecloths and arranged as a buffet.

Plates, napery and food whisked from the van and soon it pulled out, leaving a magnificent spread behind. Cold drinks both alcoholic and not were iced in coolers, and rented folding chairs set up around tables.

“The march from the prototype shop should be here momentarily. Ari, would you let them in, please?”

“Sure. Who else is coming?”

“Actually, I’m hoping the MIB contingent will come along, and Sergeant Howard said he was going to come along as well. Mrs. Alexander-Richer will be here as well, and if Buck has a chance he might drop by. Anyone who shows up will be most welcome – it’s not like we don’t have enough.

“Al, Christmas parties aren’t typically your speed. Why’re we doing this – not complaining, just curious.”

“The ladies and gentlemen of the prototype shop always cover for us, and do amazing work despite time pressures or novelty of the work. The chassis work on the DeLorean, the body work we farm out to them, the endless one-offs…we owe them.

“This is just a lovely way to say ‘Thank You’ and is approved of by senior management at AHI. SO, we get to have fun with our 20 best friends from the prototype shop. That suit you?”

“Perfectly. You’re absolutely right. They’re always there for us, and we try to do the same for them.”

A pounding at the personnel door heralded the arrival of their guests. Ari opened the door and was swept up in a bearlike hug by the jovial, rotund McAdams. Behind him was Juan, and behind them the men and women of the prototype shop staff.

“Merry Christmas, Ari! Good to see you!” Ari for her part hugged back as best she could – not easy when presented with a mountain of a man. McAdams set her carefully back down on her feet and Ari started to greet the rest of the partygoers – hugging, shaking hands and occasionally bussing a select few.

Al concentrated momentarily and the main audio system blared the trumpet beginnings of “Fanfare For The Common Man”, then switched to Christmas music. Nudging the volume down a bit Al bellowed “WELCOME, WELCOME ALL! Come in and be merry!”

“Ah Swear he’s beginnin’ ta remind me a Fezziwig. Ah hate that book!”

“Be glad it’s only once a year, eh?” John laughed at the grumpy Texan, and opened the coolers and started to pass out drinks.

There was an alarmed shout from the entry to the back shop, followed shortly by what seemed like the sound of an enormous quantity of silly string being released at high velocity and something small and metallic pinging around a room. Everyone stopped in their tracks to stare at the door, which banged open to briefly reveal a somewhat panicked Glytch in a bright green hoodie with grumpy yellow eyes stitched into it... and a concerningly white backdrop. “NOTHING TO SEE HERE I HAVE THIS UNDRR C-YIPE!” A small metal canister bounced off the back of Glytch’s head and ricocheted around the main shop, trailing what appeared at first glance to be a white string. Several people had to duck while Glytch hauled out a rather frosty-looking magnetic traction beam generator and took very careful aim...



Glytch was suddenly pulled off his feet and flung in a straight line high up to the ceiling, collecting the offending can of strange silly string along the way, and finally stopped, thoroughly stuck to an I-beam several meters above the concrete floor. After a few more moments, the can of concentrated chaos finally stopped hissing (after a few coughs and spits) and fell silent.

Everyone’s eyes were pinned first on Glytch, but then their attention could not help but wander as the white string seemed to be... blooming. White fractal crystals, flowers, shards, and icicles were slowly growing from the string as it hung all around the shop, sticking to random objects. A powdery, snow-like substance filtered down from the string as well, evaporating as it fell and re-forming as air circulation took the substance back up to the strings.

It was really quite pretty.

“Yes, yes, I’m a god damned genius, and it’s wonderful, oh how beautiful, praise be to me, yadda yadda yadda. Can someone please go get something to interrupt the ionization polarity cycle so I can unstick myself and climb down... uh... somehow... please?”

Everyone finally looked back up at Glytch, whose arms, which had been firmly latched tightly onto the traction beam generator, were now enveloped in a mass of simulated ice flowers. The rest of him hung there, dangling, feet swinging nervously, like a victim of a Wampa kidnapping.

“Is the ice holding you up or is the magnet doing it?”

“Magnet’s still on, so I won’t drop unexpectedly. But this ain’t exactly an OSHA approved suspension situation, I think, right?”

“No, no, we’ll have to get you down, not to worry. Smokey, would you mind getting the scissor lift? Ari, meduck, I need a small VanDeGraff generator - just enough to release our madman but not enough to destroy all of it. I am getting a camera - Emerauld will be rolling...”

While Al headed for his camera over on the bonnet of the Series I, another voice spoke up.

“Someone call for a VanDeGraff Generator?"

A tall, statuesque woman with grey hair began to rummage in the pockets of her lab coat. Out came a small bottle with a preserved snake in it, a bag of lemon drops, an antique hair comb which she stuck in her hair at the back and finally a box that looked like a transistor radio with a probe ending in a sphere extending from the outside. Pulling the probe from the box and clicking it in place, she tossed the box to Smokey, who had just arrived on the scissor lift. Stating "It has a very short range. Just turn it on and wave it around his hands and arms and it should break the cycle pattern of those parts only." she pointed to the controls on the side, then subsided.

As the woman had spoken Al noticed her, and looked to Ari with a Who is this? expression. Ari looked back and flipped him an OK expression, mouthing the words MIB at him. Mollified, Al continued his run for his camera, knowing well how Emerauld would laugh when she saw Gytch's predicament.

Al, scuttling back, shouted "HANG ON A MOMENT!" Zooming his camera to get a shot of the dangling mad scientist he fired off several shots, then waved Smokey upward. Moments later the madboy stood on the deck of the scissor lift, and seconds after that Smokey had released his hands from the ice. The magnet still hung there, handle rather naked after being divested of its load of mad scientist. Laughing Glytch reached up and clicked it off, stowing it back in the pocket he'd pulled it from.

The crowd below exploded in laughter and applause as the scissor lift descended, Glytch bowing and waving grand gestures to the crowd below. Moments later he’d climbed from the deck, and Smokey trundled the lift back to its parking space.

Sterling looked at her phone, a familiar 'whooshing' sound indicating a text. Flipping open her phone and looking caused a giggle, then a devious chuckle.


As Glytch’s feet hit the floor again a thunderous amount of applause broke out – and Glytch enjoyed every minute of it. Bowing, saluting the crowd, he never noticed as a small portal opened above his head and a hand snaked out, waving slightly in an intricate pattern. When he straightened, a large mass of snow dropped on him with a soft, "fwump", covering him in a pile of fresh powder. The hand withdrew, and another small portal opened near Al, who without changing expression, lightly high-fived the hand, then waved it off.

Al turned to the older woman, standing next to him now. "Doctor, I am afraid that I do not know you. May I introduce myself? I am Al."

The woman regarded him steadily for a moment, then held out her hand." Em Lopez-Viktor. PhD Materials science. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Sergeant-Major. I was here working with the back-shop contingent and they came out to join in your celebration, and assured me that my presence would not be unwelcome. If you prefer, I will return to my tasks now that I’ve checked in with you per protocols."

"Oh, hardly Doctor Lopez-Viktor." Al realized that a first-name basis was going to take a while with this lady. "The party has an open guest list - whoever chooses to attend. The folks here" and he indicated the crowd at the buffet table "are the personnel of the AHI prototype shop and dear friends all. They're also quite aware of us though not all that goes on in the back shop, so one can be a trifle less careful in their presence."

"Very good."

Al looked back at the dignified woman. “Doctor Lopez-Viktor, did you write a series of critiques of the series of articles on Lanthohistorical metallurgy and analysis written about two years ago?”

The doctor answered promptly. “Oh, you mean those horrid articles? Half the proofs and source notations were missing and it was not…wait…Doctor Richer, PhD metallurgy Oxford?”

Al said frostily, “Yes, the same.”

“Oh, dear. I do apologize for intruding. I will be going.” Doctor Lopez-Viktor looked dismayed even as she patted her pockets for a good place to stow the VanDeGraff generator.

Al’s face broke out in a broad smile. “PLEASE, Doctor! Do stay. You were absolutely right in those critiques. I’d grown very sloppy in my documentation – all of the original work behind it was rigorous, but I’d rushed the publication of the article. You did me a favour in forcing me to confront my sloppiness. Thank you.

“Please do stay indeed. I need to circulate around, but if you’re going to be working with us in the back shop I would sincerely enjoy chatting with you further.”

Uncertain but somewhat mollified, Doctor Lopez-Viktor replied ”I would enjoy that, thank you. Also, if possible I’d like to see the original proofs on that work – I do not Doubt your conclusions after the exchange of letters in the MIB Journal, but it interests me.”
“Please, make yourself at home and enjoy the party – we can speak on the other later. Till then.” Al then left the doctor making a mental note to have Majel dig out the notes on his study – so he could check them first.

By this time Glytch had dug himself out of the ambush, with the assistance and combined mirth of the crowd. With the snow pile partitioned off to prevent slips and falls the party swung into gear.

However, another entrance was about to me made.

Sgt. Howard, resplendent in his old dress blues, sauntered in with the formidable Miss Annie in a modest Edwardian outfit. To the astonishment of all, he wore his full compliment... something that not one of the party had ever seen.

"Upon my word," blurted Al, "Is THAT the Christmas tree? I ordered green, not blue... Sgt. Howard, what on earth are you wearing THAT for?"

Greg chuckled- "Found it in a trunk- silly thing still fits and I decided to wear it- Annie's outfit is done by the Lady that cut Shelly's wedding gown... don't worry, we'll doff these for jeans and flannel in a bit... just wanted to throw some 'splash' here."

"Splash indeed! You do make it look good. Had I known I would have dug out my Number Ones and we'd have made quite the pair." Al stopped, turned to Greg, and formally saluted despite his civilian attire, all traces of humour gone. "Sergeant, you and your lady please be welcome." With that, Greg returned the salute as gravely, then reached over and grabbed the pudgy Brit into a hug.

"Merry Christmas, you old pagan."

Al returned the hug in full measure, mumbling back "And Blessed Yule to you, you miserable redneck."

"You two gonna go off for a bit of private time, or can anybody get in on this?", Annie said, bright and brash as always.

"Why oh why do you continue to go about with this cradle robber, dear?" Al nudged, on his favorite subject. Annie matched him taunt for taunt, stating "Hey, he's lively enough to keep up any way you care to name. If you have to wait till they slow down that's your problem!"

"I will remind you of that when my dam gets here and you two can discuss who is slowing down!" With that Al reached over Annie's skirt and enveloped her in a gigantic hug.

"Now, if you'll excuse me I must mingle. Please make yourselves at home and I'll come and find you in a bit."

The lights were bright, the music cheery and varied and the crowd lively. Formally dressed researchers from the back shop mingled and chatted with casually dressed workers from the prototype shop on the AHI campus.

Through all of this the front-shop denizens of AHI mingled as the binding force between the two crowds. Ari, as hostess, worked the crowd chatting here, offering directions and guidance there, an introduction here and always a hug and a brilliant smile.

Al did the same, “keeping his good friends high” in the words of the immortal Lord Buckley. Smokey and John, joined by their wives, did the same, enjoying the time with co-workers.

Al’s heart stopped. Coming through the crowd, dressed in a festive skirt and jacket, was his dam. The noise of the party, the people all around faded out till he went to her and hugged her deeply and she did the same to him.

“How goes it?” she asked, eyes sparking. “Seems fantastic.”

“Everything I could ask for. Even the crazy was orchestrated!” as he went into a description of Glytch’s arrival and Sterling’s counterpoint.

“Speaking of Sterling – you invited her to this, right? She’s as much a member of RE as the rest after the Cindy Rover build.”

“I did – she said she’d be along. Look, I need to circulate – can you do the same?”

"Of course!" Daisy replied, well aware of the duties of the boss' wife at company functions.

Outside, more guests arrived, by means not strictly mundane.

With a splash of blue and silver four figures emerged from the portal, then walked toward the approved entrance.

Sterling, leading the way, turned and spoke sharply to her cousin, who was immediately behind. "Do behave yourself cuz. I would hate for you to get yourself in trouble again."

Flashburn was unrepentant. "I dinnae know of what trouble you speak, but since it is three against one, I cannae help but be on me very best. Ladies..." he said, tipping his hat as he headed in.

The two redheads shrugged as the silver-haired mage shook her head, and all headed inside, parcels in hand.

It was a day for entrances, it seemed. As the four walked in the door of the building the conversation slowed, then picked up dramatically.

Sterling, in the lead, wore a strapless dress in ice blue, with a white satin shawl covering her shoulders, snowflake clasp in silver holding it closed. Her curves were subtly covered by the fine material, lending an almost period look to the outfit. Her hair was done up with an extension braid to match its flawless silver, and this was covered with and held in place by snowflake pins.

The two women behind her could not have been dressed more differently, but bore a strong stamp of sisterhood.

The one to the left, a redhead with sapphire-blue eyes, wore an off-the-shoulder mermaid dress that left little to the imaginations of the folk there. In bright red, its collar, sleeves, and the bottom of the mid-calf length flare were decorated with white fur, a tiny touch of colour to contrast with the brilliant scarlet of the snug fabric. The click of her tall red stilettos echoed from the brick walls as she sinuously walked in.

The one to the right, also redheaded with emerald-green eyes, wore a cocktail dress in a deep forest green, with a tulle skirt flaring out from the fitted bodice and belt. The small tulle and flower fascinator she wore on her head was a red base, with its flower and ribbons done in a brilliant white, the colours matching the belt of red and white links she wore at her waist.

Flashburn, leading up the back, was dressed to the nines as well in a charcoal wool suit which bore the unmistakable stamp of a Bond Street tailor to Al’s experienced eye.

Al concentrated, and asked Safyr? Emerauld?

Who else would it be, friend Al? You invited your ‘security consultants’ Chris and Maggie to drop by, and they happened to meet your photographer and his cousin on the way in. Perfectly normal, and nothing to see here at all.

To that there was no answer. Al simply started to clap, and a few joined in, then the rest. Greg and his bride, always sensitive to a scene and timing, moved to join them, applauding as well.

McAdams, standing nearby, side-talked to Al. “Al, those women are absolutely gorgeous. Who are they?”

With a tiny bit of proprietary smugness Al answered. “The one in the lead you know – that’s Sterling Damnhait – the woman who worked on the Pink Rover build with Ari. The other two are Maggie and Chris, and” and here Al smiled a feline smile of proprietary glee “ they’re security consultants I work with. They’ve provided security for me traveling to places where they kidnap businessmen, and I’ve provided them services and specialty hardware on occasion.”

“Damn. Only you, pal. Only you could hire gunsels that could be fashion models. What’s Mrs. Alexander think of ‘em?”

Al smiled again, the contented smile of a man firmly in love with his wife. “They’re all friends. Mrs. Alexander is wholeheartedly in favour of me having security when I need it – and the more effective the better. Those two are almost magical.”

McAdams stared at him for a long moment, then sighed amusedly. “And with THAT statement, I’m not gonna ask.” He wandered back to Juan and several of the other craftsmen and began to brief them on the arrivals.

Al wandered over, after the applause had died down. Eyeing the silver-haired mage flintily he said “You never could resist making an entrance, could you? Artists – bah! So, happy with the response, Elsa?”

“Elsa, really? A woman wears a dress just once and she is accused of being a poncy ice witch?”

In seeming response behind her ‘Maggie’ began to sing “Let It Go”, the Elvish words sounding strange against the Disney tune.

Eyeing her sister flintily, Sterling replied “There is no resemblance, and someone is going to collect a snowball in places he will not enjoy it if he continues on this line of questioning.”

Greatly amused Al held up his hands. “No more questioning, then.” Turning to the visions in red and green behind her, he said “Blessed Yule, you two! You are both absolutely gorgeous, as always.
“Maggie, you’re looking fantastic. A more festive yule decoration I’ve never seen. You look like you’ve come straight from the forest.” Mentally, he said Don’t let Ialin see you – she’ll try and tend you with the rest of her charges! and received a giggle in reply.

Turning to ‘Chris’ he took her hands, holding her at arm’s length. “Absolutely captivating. One might almost think you were dressing like –“ to receive a warning Say the words ‘Mrs. Claus’ and you will find out that I have left none of my knives at home! I have heard nothing but talk of ‘Mrs. Claus’ since I dressed and my sister saw me.

Be at peace, Safyr! The thought never entered my mind – till now!
a winter goddess. Santa will be thrilled.” He finished, lifting her right hand and bestowing a kiss on it as she glared.

Turning to the fourth arrival, Al was impressed. Charcoal wool suit, highly polished oxfords, spotless homburg hat, impeccably tailored linen shirt and-

Al stopped short. Flash had unbuttoned his jacket, and the flash of light Al had taken for a reflection from a tie-bar had turned out to be flashing lights.

A dozen or more. LEDs blinking in the pictures of small flash cameras.

Al simply started to laugh. “ I should have known better. Blessed Yule, Flash. Love the tie.”

Turning back to the ladies he said, “Please, come in. Help yourselves to food and drink and circulate around. Sterling, you know people, though they’ll hardly recognize you! You too, Flash – introduce Chris and Maggie around as my ‘foreign travel security consultants’. All four could hear the quotes in that statement and accepted the ruse.
"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: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by DinkyInky »

*continually sings 'Let it Go' until prompted to stop*
Yanno how some people have Angels/Devils for a conscience? I have a Dark Elf ShadowKnight and a Half Elf Ranger for mine. The really bad part is when they agree on something.

Aphyon chu kissa whol l'jaed.
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Re: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by Dave »

DinkyInky wrote:*continually sings 'Let it Go' until prompted to stop*
In some households, "prompted to stop" in such matters tends to involve a bucket of ice water. :twisted:
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Re: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by GlytchMeister »

I think that would actually encourage her...
He's mister GlytchMeister, he's mister code
He's mister exploiter, he's mister ones and zeros
They call me GlytchMeister, whatever I touch
Starts to glitch in my clutch!
I'm too much!
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Re: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by jwhouk »

Or Snowballs.
"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: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by Just Old Al »

And an additon to the party...

The party, now undisturbed by new arrivals, began to gather momentum. Groups settled at the tables, or lounging on or around various machinery as they talked and joked. Requests for music were funneled to Al and Ari, who dealt with them as they could. The RE crew mingled with the various groups, invariably starting anecdotes and reminiscences of work and times shared with RE.

Al settled at an unoccupied table with his dam, both nursing drinks and sharing a plate of sandwiches. Joining them were Chris and Maggie, looking a bit bemused at the holiday celebration.

“Al, humans have so many winter solstice traditions. Walking among your friends here we heard talk of Christ-Mass, Kwanzaa, Hanukah and your own Yule. Why are there so many?”

“Unlike your peoples, Maggie, humans are not all of a piece. Christmas is sacred to Christians, Greg among them. Hanukah is sacred to those who practice Judaism, and Kwanzaa is a celebration of culture for those of West African descent. All are right and proper for those who practice them, and they all coexist. Even Yule as you know it is practiced by those who follow the Lord and Lady. It was not always this peaceful, but it is now – and I for one prefer it that way.”

“It is so confusing.” This from Chris, her blue eyes troubled by the inconsistencies.

“Not confusing at all. People do as they wish, and honour the solstice in whatever way they choose. It’s free, and people do as they wish. I spent a good part of my life protecting people so they COULD do what they want, and I like it.” Al grinned, enjoying the confusion his friends showed.

“Like fersure Al, keeping people from being dominated by The Man – that’s just cool.” Maggie grinned wickedly, reprising her role as a hippie, taken on for the benefit of their sister Sterling, long ago.

“Friend Al, can we use the range?” Chris asked suddenly. “Maggie and I are up for a little target practice, and the range seems the best for it."

Rosalynd’s eyes went wide. “Ladies, do you think this is a good idea? Guns and alcohol never go together.”

Chris responded, the picture of doe-eyed innocence with a gleeful twinkle in her eye. “Mistress Daisy, I said nothing of guns. I was just interested in a bit of knife throwing, and that seemed the simplest place for it. Al has seen what I can do with a brace of throwing knives.” She smiled a roguish, almost feral grin, the tips of her incisors showing a trifle over her red-painted lower lip.

“Mistress Daisy, think of it as ‘entertainment’ for the party. Al spoke of us as ‘security consultants’ and this will show them what a security consultant can do, even…dressed as we are.”

Rosalynd was still concerned. “I can see your point, but I doubt the range is configured for bladed weapons. In any case, neither of you seem to have any throwing knives with you, and I doubt Al has any here in the armory.”

Both of the women grinned, and Al uneasily remembered Boston. “I assure you we would not have asked had we not been carrying our blades. Both Maggie and myself are adequately equipped for such.” Both looked to Al for a decision.

Al sighed – his was not going to be a quiet evening. “Very well. Arania is range mistress – you do WHAT she says WHEN she says and no argument from either of you, do you understand me?”

Both nodded. “We will obey fully and immediately – we are aware of the potential dangers and would do nothing to harm anyone.”

Al pulled the phone from his pocket and touched a key on the screen. Ari picked up immediately.

“Need you to put on your range mistress hat. Got two ‘security consultants’ who want to do a little knife throwing on the range as a demonstration”

Really? And you’re going to let them?”

“With you, me and Sterling there, nothing can happen – they are VERY good, as you know – and you know who they are.”

"I do know who they are, and I still think you’re nuts…but you’re the boss. We letting people watch?”

“Yes. No one tipsy, no more than a quiet bunch at a time. I think my friends here are bored and I’d rather have them livening things up with a demonstration than a brawl…you know ‘security consultants’.”

”Okay. I get it. On my way.”
"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: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by Just Old Al »

Al turned back to the pair. “Let us be off, then. Coming along dear?”

Daisy demurred. “I’ll hold down the fort out here and keep things going Can you give me a remote for the audio server?” Al wiggled his fingers and a small remote appeared on the table, and Daisy nodded. “Thank you, dear.” To the elves she said “You two be CAREFUL. Some of these people work for my son, and I am as protective of them as I am of my spouse, understand?”

Chris nodded. “We understand, Mistress. These are your people as well, and we would let nothing happen to them. They will be safe, and we would not do this if we thought they would be in danger.”

Daisy nodded. “Remember that. Dear, do be careful. With the power of the people around you, let THEM exercise their strengths if need be. If I have to take you to AHMC with a knife slash and get blood all over the interior of my Bentley…we will have words.”

“Yes, dear. “ Like all good husbands Al had the last words – and knew exactly what they needed to be.

With that the ‘security consultants’ and Al headed for the range. Opening the door with his key he walked down into the firing area.

“Ah – here they are.” He hefted straw targets, quilted together with wire and covered like an archery target, though they bore a man’s profile instead of a bull. Al hung these from the target suspension, providing a convenient frangible target for the knife play. “I kept these here for use with crossbows and similar weapons, but they will serve admirably for what we wish to do.” He then turned, and all traces of humour were gone from his face.

“Now, be careful. I know I am becoming boring, but I cannot stress his highly enough. I am more than willing to let you do this, but please do be careful of the audience.”

Chris spoke, all humour gone from her visage as well. “Friend Al, we would no more risk the lives of your friends and workers than we would yours. As a matter of fact as a warrior we would more likely risk you than them, as you could react. Be at peace – we have no intent to harm.”

“Very well. I have your word on this. Where do you want the targets?”

“Please place one two rods out, and the other three. If you have a third, place the third at three and the middle one at four rods.”

Doing the mental math (30, 60 and 45 feet) Al manipulated the winches on the target lines and set them as asked.

By that time Arania and a selection of spectators had arrived. Al raised his voice and spoke to them.

“Ladies and gentlemen, my friends Chris and Maggie have gotten bored and wish to do a demonstration of some of their skills. Please, PLEASE do stay to the back, and do NOT interrupt as this can be hazardous. If you have questions, I am sure that they will answer them at the end.

Chris, Maggie – please proceed.”

“Friends, when one is a security consultant as we are many times active weapons are simply not permissible. Because of that, my sister and I have become proficient at working with passive weapons – knives.

As you can see, neither my sister nor I are at all armed – poor helpless fledglings we are – or are we?” As they pirouetted in place Chris counted “three, two, one” and they reached to their backs. A second later the nearest target sprouted two knives at the crosshairs of its middle.

“While this is a useful skill and can ‘take down’ an enemy, many times their use can divert or even prevent a fight.

“For example,” and here Chris whirled, leaving two throwing knives sticking out of the 30-foot target astride the head “distracting an assailant can be quite effective. No harm done to the perpetrator, but he or she will definitely not be concentrating on the fight.”

Maggie now spoke. “This is very true, but there are times an enemy will simply not yield to pointed threats. Then, it is time for a bit more direct action, without killing them.” A flash of steel, and the 45-foot target sprouted two knives, one in the right hand and one in the right shoulder.

She continued smoothly. “As you can see I did not strike to kill, but to disable. Were the enemy right handed he would no longer be effective, but would be out of the fight and still living when the next sun rose, and able to contemplate the evils of his ways while he healed.

“Sadly, though, some enemies must simply be vanquished – especially if the person or persons you are protecting are in immediate danger.” This time both whirled, and the most distant target sprouted four knives – one in the head, two in the heart, and one in the crotch.

“In case anyone thinks we missed, the lowest knife was deliberately placed.” Maggie said, to the cringes of the male half of the audience and the snickers of the female half.

“Any questions?”

With that, the crowd broke, coming forward to chat with the two disguised elves. Basics of throwing were demonstrated and taught, with a few of the questioners allowed to attempt a throw with the nearest target.

Al turned to Arania. “That went QUITE well. I am going to return to the party – should you require me call.”
"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: Winter Vignettes 2017

Post by jwhouk »

And for those of you who didn't see my post over in "Coyote Ugly"...

Sarah and I sat back on the porch swing next to our mobile home, enjoying the warm afternoon. There was a brief deedle-deedle-deedle from my phone.

I reached over to the small table next to the swing, and picked up my iPhone. It was a text message from Monica:

Feliz Navidad from Minnesota! Having fun here with Kath and the gang at Casa Alexander.

I smiled, showed Sarah the text, and typed back:

Merry Christmas to you too. Enjoying the sunny skies and 70 degrees here after visiting with the folks. Tell Buck thanks for the help with the UVW again.

I hit send and set back on the swing.

"I told her about the seventy-degree temps and thanks for the help with the cart."

"She's over at Casa Alexander?" Sarah asked, her head up from her tablet.

"Yep. Al and Daisy are having their usual soiree at Maple Plain."

"Hm. What's the temperature up there, again?"

I swiped around on my phone, then brought up the Weather app. A couple of touches and I had the answer:

"One degree above zero, and snow flurries in the forecast."

"I think I prefer to just stay here, then," Sarah replied, sitting back and looking out at the mountains.

"Yeah. Besides, there's that buffet over at the clubhouse Mindy told us about this evening."

"Uh huh. Long as there's no doggie biscuits."

"I think it won't be like that." I turned to look at her. "You're still embarrassed about that one incident last month at Thanksgiving?"

"They looked like cookies!"

"They also didn't taste that bad," I replied. "It was good for a laugh, that's all."

We both sat back and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun in Arizona.
"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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