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Nowhereville

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2 years 9 months ago - 2 years 8 months ago #50087 by Anne
Anne created the topic: Nowhereville
Nowhereville
What IF
(c) 2017-18 Tori Jones

Everyone in nowhereville (the name Kelly applied to the small town where he’d grown up) knew the Bailey place was haunted. Though how they knew he wasn’t sure, because as near as he could determine no one had ever breached the wrought iron fence that surrounded the place. Kelly hadn’t made a determined effort against the fence. At least that was what he told himself. After all it was high and surmounted by wicked spikes that even the birds that would light on power lines seemed to avoid.

But being scrawny, (5’0” and 89lbs) if anyone asked, not that anyone asked left Kelly the butt of much cruelty. They (boys and girls both) laughed behind their hands, or in his face, after all being named Kelly (even if it was a traditional Irish name) was nearly as bad as being named Sue and being a boy.

Earlier today, that lesson had been driven home (not that Kelly was unaware of the fact) by a gang of boys from the town who’d dragged him into the state forest that surrounded nowhereville on three sides and done… No! He wouldn't think of that, he wasn’t lost either… The taste… No! Not going there either… He could see the back of the Bailey place or at least he thought that the close spaced spears that he saw at a distance as he made his painful… He didn’t want to think about that either, but his left arm hung at an unnatural angle, and an ache filled… No he wouldn't think about that!

Kelly limped awkwardly toward the fence that seemed aggravatingly to move further away from him with every painful step that jarred his arm and stirred a deep seated… concentrate on the pain in your arm Kelly, he told himself, otherwise you’ll think about…. No!

Another painful step down, around a tree. Then skirting a bush that entirely hid his goal, though whether the house and its reputed ghosts or his home was his goal he had difficulty determining, and whether or not he ought to just lie down and wait for the distantly howling coyotes to find him was a question that he hesitated to contemplate, for to do so would bring that possibility into focus, and that like the attack that left him injured in the wilderness that surrounded his small town was a place he couldn’t go if he wished to survive.

A small but abrupt step down jarred all of Kelly’s injuries, setting them to howling a cacophony of pain that caused blackness to throb at the edges of his vision, threatening to overwhelm him as his head throbbed almost as much as the hot lance of pain from his arm, and deeper… No!

A creek crossed his path, Kelly did not recall the stream, but then again it might wend away through the unkempt brush patches that were at each side of the Bailey place, exploration of the area had been discouraged, both by his parents and by the other children of the town…

Kelly had to concentrate on placing his feet as he chose whether or not to cross the rill that he’d happened upon. Pausing in his ever tedious grind forward and looking up, he could see that downstream from where he stood, the brook passed under the fence that defined the limit of the Bailey place.

With no better way to go, since the fence was reputed to encompass the whole place Kelly set off in his halting gait to reach at least that goal. Maybe he would find his way to the front of the place and the ragged road that ran along it toward the Town In the Middle of Nowhere.

Eventually, Kelly was given to understand following the fence should lead him back to where he could find his way back home; though he did wonder why he should return to home…? After all given the way that he had been attacked by a gang of his supposed peers today, only a little time remained until they succeeded in their apparent goal of his death.

The bone-chilling howl of the coyote pack somewhere in the woods where he struggled for another moment of life caused him to turn into the sunset and set his hand on the fence to pull himself out of the shallow bed of the slow-moving stream he’d followed to the fence…

The fall of shadows as he turned led Kelly to pause and kneel in the stream bed; the cold water flowing over his throbbing arm and other wounds was soothing for a moment, and he sat letting the coolness ease his pain. Howl! Was that coyote closer than it had been before? Kelly wasn't sure. But it did remind him that he did need to move if he wished to survive, and though he was more weary every moment, giving up seemed to not be part of his make up. HOWL!!! That had to be closer, Kelly thought. That spurred him to investigate to see if what he thought he’d seen when he shifted was so… he followed the upright iron spears of the fence to where they met the water. Yes! They ended just below where they touched the flowing surface.

HOWL!!!!

The coyote’s song made Kelly’s decision for him… He took a deep breath and flattened himself at the bottom of the stream bed in its lowest point and quickly eeled under the fence. He broke the surface of the stream inside the fence and shakily pulled himself erect. Looking around he tried to spot the house reputed to be at the center of the square defined by the fence. At first he wasn’t sure at all, and was almost convinced to continue to follow the stream down hill since most of the town and the road that lead to it was lower than the house and its fence… A glint of light to the left of the stream caught his eye, and Kelly saw the outline of the house barely visible through the brush and trees that stood between it and him. It wasn’t that far from the stream, he estimated, but as the stream bed led in the general direction he was certain he needed to go Kelly dragged one foot in front of another in an endless trek toward a meaningless goal.

Stumble, drag… cold… Howl! Where did the house go? Would he wander forever in the gloaming hunted but never caught, vowing meaningless revenge that he could never exact? Drag… So hard to go on… ROAR! Kelly rounded a slight bend in the stream and was glad that he hadn't been walking in the formerly lazy streamlet as it formed a cataract and disappeared into a cave that seemed to drop endlessly out of sight. With great struggle crawling on three limbs, Kelly dragged his utterly weary body up the stream bank forever, or nearly that long according to the shooting, throbbing pain in his arm. Finally, one protruding root at a time, and a tree later Kelly stood, shivering, trembling, whether from cold or exhaustion he didn't know, at the lower edge of the stream bank. Where to go? His mind couldn’t quite make sense of the question or why moving at all was important…

Down hill was easiest, so orienting himself that direction Kelly wobbled one hesitant step forward… then another… The sun barely shown over the tops of the trees as it lowered on its heavy way toward a night that some small part of Kelly's mind warned to be out in would be deadly.

One step… pause… drag… wobble… step, a tree blocked his way… he leaned against the tree with his head and chest against it supporting himself more by leaning than by purpose. Pause… how long? A moment, a century? The roar of the stream’s fall blocked all other sound except the roar of his blood in his ears. …

Turn… pause… Look… good shoulder against tree… Look… Where? Why? Look? Step, around, the ground is almost flat… an ancient lawn? Kelly’s mind made a judgment without him being actually aware of it. Bushes… a hedge? A flash of light? A straight line… A square corner… step away from his support… wobble… stagger… step, one more, another...

Splashing, plashing, water spraying, rising, falling… a fountain… did anyone know about this? Kelly wondered as he pushed through the ragged remains of what had to be a hedge. The house now stood, among a smattering of statuary with a fountain flashing in the waning light of the evening… did he want to approach the building? Did he dare not to, his exhausted body asked. Howl! Could those coyotes have a way through the fence? Kelly would have thought it would almost shut out cats, would have believed it did if at that moment a midnight black cat hadn’t wandered across the tussocks of ungroomed lawn. Kelly’s eyes followed the animal, he shivered… fear? Cold? Exhaustion? Did it matter? Shelter stood within his reach. Trying to reach home might mean that he didn’t survive… but the ghosts? Were there ghosts here...?

Drag… wobble… stagger… Was the sun moving to the horizon more quickly? Would it take the rest of his life, and eternity to cross the short clearing to the house that still raised his hackles even in his current state of exhaustion?

Step… wobble… stagger… throb… bump… Oh… That’s a wall… Where’s a door, open window? Kelly didn’t really reason… the cat was sitting at one corner of the house grooming itself… no other reason led him to make his painful, hesitant way toward that direction. Even though it did put his injured arm against the house, since he barely could manage to drag each of his one ton feet one step forward without the additional support.

An eternity later… a corner… a dark pool of shadow… step… Pain! It should have been more, some muzzy portion of Kelly's mind said. But he was barely more than alive enough to move one shuffling step forward, seeking now a way into the building, for a sharpish breeze seemed to have risen as he made the corner of the house…

Step… shuffle… drag… pain… Where’d the house go? Oh… That was the door? Or at least a place the wall wanted to move away from him again… There was a mountain… no… a step… up… Pain! Stagger… up… wobble… up… stumble… knees...PAIN! Crawl… scoot… bump… Wall? Back against it… moving? BUMP!

Hot! HOT! HOT!!!

Water? Kelly could smell water somewhere near. He had to get to the water, he thought. Or he would burn up… making his way to his feet disregarding his pain, he followed his nose back the way he had come, far more quickly than he had made the trip from where had seen the fountain.

Without a thought of why, Kelly dumped himself into the water. The cool water was a shock. More of a shock was seeing a misty apparition walking through the ever deepening twilight toward where he was lying in the water, only avoiding drowning by dint of the fact that the water in the base of the fountain didn’t cover his mostly prone body, and that he’d somewhat instinctively managed to lean his head and shoulders against the edge of the fountain giving him the ability to see the yard and the haunted house he had been approaching for shelter.

“What do you here?” the girl who he could see through asked as she sat at the side of the fountain near Kelly's head.

“I needed shelter.” Kelly answered, dredging up just enough energy to keep from sliding beneath the water.

“Ye need more than shelter,” the girl diagnosed in her anachronistic dialogue.

Kelly closed his eyes, either in denial of the possibility of talking to the phantasmal girl, or in exhaustion. When he opened them an ethereal dog was sitting next to the girl, and it didn’t seem odd when the girl addressed the dog, asking, “What can we do for him?”

“One to join?” the dog asked. Which didn't seem that odd to Kelly just then.

“You?” the girl looked at the dog.

“You could,” the dog seemed to raise an eyebrow at the girl.

“Time’s of essence,” the girl mentioned.

“True, he dies,” the dog told her.

Kelly wanted to deny that he was dying, yet the lassitude of his body, partly submerged in the water told him the awful truth that he probably wouldn't see another sunrise.

“You’re more powerful,” the girl told the dog.

“You’d fit better...”

“Could I save him?”

“Maybe I’d better...” the dog stood and seemed to sniff at Kelly's head.

There was a pulling sensation in his head and the dog was standing over him, its feet on the water, its nose against his… he closed his eyes to shut out the eerie vision.

Some time later he crawled out of the pool at the base of the fountain and shook the water from his body as best he could. He could smell town and he set off in that direction a bit awkwardly. Nothing looked right, or seemed quite right… his front leg didn't hurt as much as it should… Front leg!?!???! He shook his body again… and saw a tail flash in the corner of his eye and snapped his head around to catch sight of the dog to whom it belonged. It waved in the air, and he realized that he could feel it moving as an extension almost of his hips. …

I’m a dog! Kelly thought, That’s IMPOSSIBLE!

“More things under the sun, and all that...” a dry voice sounded in his mind.

Can I change back?

“Not yet, we’re very close to starvation, considering the amount of power and energy healing you and changing us took,” the voice told him.

What can I do about that?

“Smell anything to eat?”

Yeah…

“Let’s hunt!” Kelly was up and moving, catching and swallowing a mouse he realized he’d heard and smelled before he realized it had happened. Urk! He almost wanted to expel the minuscule morsel. But apparently the spirit had control of his body and he was off on the trail of another mouse. Then a rat, an unwary squirrel out too late, a fence, and food on the other side. Digging, digging… then running, a cat, a small dog, more cats… a bowl of cat food. A garbage can and overripe hamburger… so trailed a swath of death and destruction in Kelly's wake. Eventually after visiting most of the houses in town and eliminating several strays or unwary cats, Kelly's hunger was somewhat sated. Hide, he thought.

“Vengeance!” the voice in his head suggested.

Kelly realized he could smell the leader of the gang that had attacked him earlier that day, or was it the day before? He realized suddenly that he might have lost some time since he had been so fuzzled by the injuries that had been inflicted on him by the boy whom he could smell so plainly.

He was off and running, almost without a thought, and only stopped when he recalled that there was a large dog in the yard of the home where he was headed. “I can smell him, can’t you? the voice in his head.

Kelly realized that, yes he could smell the dog, and the older and bigger boy. The dog smelled interesting, but if he was here it wouldn't be for the dog which he rather thought was a bit too large for the grab and snap that had eliminated so many strays less than an hour earlier.

The dog was in a fenced run and raising a ruckus at their presence when the wind shifted. He thinks we’d accept him,” the voice snickered in Kelly's head.

Us? Kelly stopped and goggled if such was possible in his new form… he sniffed the air… male dog, female dog, boys, girls, cats, garbage cans… locations, ages and other information seemed to flow into his mind… then he leaned his head near his own rump and took a whiff. He was a lot closer than he’d ever been and a long wet, rough tongue did a rude thing to her!!!! Wait a minute! Kelly let out a yip! It would have been a shout, or even a scream and it was louder and more howl-like than he wanted to admit. Then again the scent, the feeling, said that as profound as waking up with four legs had been, that was far from the only thing that had changed this night.

Can I change back to a boy? He wondered.

“Do you want vengeance?” his invisible companion asked.

Yeah… he nodded his head.

“Eventually you can become human, though I think it is a boring existence, I'd rather hunt!” the taste of deer, or something else came to Kelly's mind. Though he rather thought that mostly rats, mice, rabbits and the like were his diet if he remained alone.

“We need a pack,” he was informed.

I guess, he thought as he sat and studied the house where his enemy rested. A couple of shouts at the dog which had not effected any change in the ruckus it was raising were all that was raised for the moment. He could smell death there too. No, his mind analyzed the scent, it was steel and gun oil. Then again, in his current form, he doubted if anyone realized he had been the cause of the mayhem to visit the town tonight then those scents did denote death… Well he couldn’t stay where he was he realized, and he was still hungry enough to consider the yappy dog that was inside a house a couple of doors away a possible snack… Vengeance would have to wait. The rider in his mind seemed to agree, though she had him do something rude near the edge of the run where the dog went nearly nuts at their nearness and the scent they left.

Quickly then, she sent them running away, to skulk through shadows, under houses where crawl-spaces hadn’t been properly closed, under a truck, and even into the bed of another. Then along the highway that barely grazed the opposite side of town from the Bailey place where a freshly road-killed deer became a heavy meal that he let his rider gulp down as fast as she could, while he tried to hide from the idea of raw meat, or the knowledge of all the pets, and he was suddenly glad his parents had never allowed him to have a dog or cat, he had eaten earlier in the evening. Eventually though his weariness crept to the fore, that and the easy… NO!! He didn’t want to think about that… part of the deer had made its way inside him and he and she, the invisible rider… knew he needed to find a sheltered place to rest.

He wanted to go home. But like this, no one would recognize him. No one would even know that he wasn’t a feral dog, fair game for anyone to shoot, so out of sight, until he could solve that bit of dilemma. The Bailey place loomed large in his mind, and before he had thought much of the idea, he was skirting the town on his way back there. If all his knowledge of his previous life was correct the place was avoided like the plague by most if not all of the town’s residents. It would provide a temporary refuge. And unless he shifted back to human form, Kelly doubted that he would notice the cool of the night. So sooner than he thought possible he was working his way back under the fence and filling his burrowing as well as he might. Then he headed for the house, though simply being out of sight of the town should be enough…

Soon he found a loose slat that allowed him under the place and he was curled up with his nose under his tail sleeping. In his dream which was more lucid than he ever remembered having before, he snuck through town, skulking from shadow to shadow, visiting each of his attacker’s houses and walking through the walls (hey dreams don’t have to make sense!) to Howl! next to each of their ears, only to snicker when he saw them awake but not be able to see him.

Just how long he slept under the ancient house, he could not have said, for as his time after being attacked, his sense of the passage of time seemed to be more than a bit askew. Still at some time, a day and a night or more later, when the sun was setting, hunger and the other necessities of life drove him from his makeshift den.

His first visit was the fountain, at least after he’d run a certain distance away to do other business… where he found the remains of the clothing he had been wearing the day he shifted. They, and a small pack he hadn't realized he had dragged with him all that fateful afternoon, were there at the edge of the fountain. If he could shift back, there were things that he would need in them, though staying in his current form was tempting, even if he was now a girl dog. Still (s)he dragged them into her temporary den. Then she realized that she was very hungry. A patrol to the fence where the creek breached the border scared up three rabbits that went down well with a drink of cold, fresh water, but in reality they did little to assuage the bottomless pit that Kelly felt resided somewhere in her middle. So into the water, and under the fence she went. More rabbits, and more than a few mice went down while she ranged along the fence headed, some how she knew, and had decided, for Nowhereville to raise more of a ruckus that night!

The homes of each of her attackers received a visit. If there was a garbage can there she could get at it was tipped and strewn as far as she could, even if there was nothing in it but paper. Another stupid dog made a snack… Why pass up food that came to you was her rider’s acerbic comment when she had almost not eaten the noisy nuisance.

Not letting her rider take control quite as much this time, because she was not nearly so hungry, Kelly proceeded through the small town not hesitating to damage houses where no dogs lived, her vengeance was well under way she felt when more than an hour later she’d strewn the last garbage can of the last of her attackers around three or four yards, then retreated to the haunted house.

Again she slept and dreamed of haunting those who had harmed her. And on awakening sometime later she thought hard at her rider, trying to get her to answer as to whether those dreams were real or no. But the dry wit was less in evidence than even before so she did her best to shove her clothes from her old life into the bag that she had carried, knowing how it worked was half the fight, as she felt an impatience from her other half as she sometimes thought of the voice.

Vengeance was a nice dream she’d decided as she awoke, but she was well aware that if she stayed around she would trash the houses again, and that would lead to a systematic hunt for her. And even though she had no idea of how she would survive, Kelly found that the wee hours of the morning found her desiring to live, so she dragged all that she had of her former life with her out under the fence, rather than using the easier in some ways stream, and headed East. She would travel until she sensed the dawn, then she would find a place to bed down for the day…

Fin
Last Edit: 2 years 8 months ago by Anne. Reason: formatting, typos, proofing, html tags etc, more proofing, copyright data, etc
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2 years 9 months ago #50236 by Anne
Anne replied the topic: Nowhereville
The Drawing

Two weeks had passed since Kelly had left her home town, two weeks of steady walking for several hours each night. Nights that she ended curled in abandoned mines (if they hadn't been occupied by something else) or the end of a bridge, or a dry culvert, wherever she could have shelter from the sun, and a place to sleep where she couldn't be spotted.

She still didn’t know exactly where she was going, and when she paused in the morning she admitted she had no plan either but without a destination she seemed to be wandering. Yet she knew that something was drawing her, for any time she headed West, even to avoid an obstacle, or for that matter too much to the South of what she thought might be a hair north off from a bearing of due East (though she hadn’t a compass or GPS to check such a supposition) it was as if there was a point in her head that pulled her back on the path. So now she was working past the north side of a city, mostly to keep from feeling that odd pulling when she deviated from her unknown course, and cursing in dog and her mind a certain determined dog that had chased her down into a river earlier that evening.

He had a dog’s idea of romance on her mind, and though she could feel inside her and under her still new tail a sort of emptiness that his idea would fill, she remained in enough control that she’d entered the river and kept out of his reach by swimming strongly with the current, several degrees by the feel of that pull away from the tack that would lead her to wherever her unknown destination was.

She shivered and caught a fish. Her rider thought it was yummy but she still had to sort of shut off her mind from the fact that she’d eaten a whole raw fish. In her old life she’d heard of sushi, but she rather doubted that had included the head and guts of the fish, and due to her parents relative poverty, she’d never actually tried sushi, so she had no real frame of reference. Of course most every meal she’d had in the last two weeks had been raw, or nearly bad cooked stuff that had been dumped out of an unsecured garbage can. Most of her meals were small animals, rats, mice and rabbits (that were lots of fun to chase, but almost more work than they were worth!) supplemented by the occasional dog that was small enough for her to grab and give a sharp shake eliminating forever its misconception that without its master and his gun that it was the ruler of the universe. Cats were more wary, but still were an often caught bit of her diet. And now fish, once she’d figured out how to catch them.

But she knew if she continued the way she was headed currently she had several semi-desert areas to cross, and meals were going to be scant, as was water. Indeed, that consideration, and the fact that her unknown destination seemed to be a long way to the East of her current location had her keeping her ear tuned for a railway. If she could find an open box car on an Eastbound freight while it was on a siding, she intended to be aboard it. The stream she had swum in earlier had carried her almost an uncomfortable distant both south and more west than she though it should run… but retreat had been better than puppies!

Standing still, stalking a fish let her be quiet, where even a gentle walk might have distracted her from listening to what the wind could tell her. There was a freeway somewhere near, further south she judged than her current location, but that brought to mind another possibility for transportation. She could try to bum a ride by pretending to be an ordinary dog…

Perhaps a half hour later Kelly really couldn't judge time well in her current form, it all seemed to blend together, even days blended to some degree. She’d fairly well decided on where the freeway was. The chance of roadkill and a ride gave her confidence to leave the river and head Eastward, and a bit South… Ouch… to find the road. Hopefully her ears weren't deceiving her about it running generally East and West.

It was nearly dawn when Kelly found the road, maybe, she thought, because anytime she wasn’t keeping her entire attention on that goal she tended to drift to the North and East as if there were some giant lodestone in that direction and she were an iron filing. Anyway, whatever the reason she had been forced to evict (and eat [not bad except avoiding being bitten]) a rattle snake from a small crevice formed by some chunks of old concrete for her daily shelter.

Kelly lay in the shade of a prickly pear clump and watched the rest area. A truck stop might have been better, then again this area served only the Eastbound lane of the freeway, and that made it ideal for her purpose, which at the moment was to ease the pull in her head. Not that it was unendurable, but it did seem to intensify if she stopped moving, or deviated from a path that led to somewhere she couldn't imagine. After all what could have caused her to transform into a girl dog. She wasn't… don't think about the past!

Kelly dozed, she did have much to consider, and the rest area acted as a small oasis, drawing deer a small one went down well, and part of it was stashed under the jumble of broken concrete she’d used as a den. There were things she didn’t want to think about, like being small and powerless and having his head held, his nose closed off until his mouth opened… NO!

He never wanted, never desired, never thought… Pants around his knees, shirt and sweater off but around his elbows… Force, hitting… Pain, PAIN! Everywhere… Inside, outside… dast she, he trust someone enough to ‘pack’ with them?

Well she thought while trying not to process the memories that not moving, not running away brought to the fore, she had teeth now that were quite effective at taking a bite out of something. … As long as she maintained the option to run, she doubted she could be caught… Shot maybe, she cringed at that thought. As Kelly the boy she’d hunted a fair number of rabbits, so she knew at least to a degree how a gun could reach out and touch something or her now.

Her or his, Kelly was confused, should she think of herself as a girl? She certainly was a girl in all appearance. A dog too, she had to admit, though she was pretty sure that she could change back to a human girl. But she thought, if I was weak as Kelly the boy, how much more weak might I be as Kelly the girl?

So she stayed, and hid, and watched… what to do? What to do? She could smell out water, and catch her own dinner, the past two weeks had proven that, yet the desert that lay across her path daunted her… Crossing it on her own would be the largest step she’d ever attempted.

It was nearing dark when the large motor coach pulled in and spilled out three kids that were somewhere between six and Kelly's age. But what caught her attention more was the girl dog they were playing fetch with. Watching it bound after the Frisbee and listening to the kids laugh tugged at some part of her being. She’d been a lot like Rudolph of the sort of sad Christmas song, that is none of the boys and girls in her former school had ever let her join in any of their games, unless it was as the designated object of one of their chases…

She still had intended to stay hidden, just longing for something didn't make it so or make it happen. But the Frisbee had been tossed awry, perhaps, and had drifted challengingly over her hiding place, and while the other dog was giving chase something in her made her bound up and catch the floating thing long before it would have been in reach of the other dog.

“Wow,” a girl shouted, Kelly thought, “did you see that dog jump?”

She didn't have much time to contemplate sorting out which of the children had shouted about her leap though as the voice at the back of her head which she hadn't heard much from since she’d begun her trek said, “Uhg, you can’t eat this,” before dropping the Frisbee which the girl dog scooped up to run back to her family.

Another Frisbee was floating her way before the other dog got the one that Kelly had caught back to its owners. “Gotta catch that!” Kelly heard internally before her relaxed state let her rider take off in pursuit of the madly floating thing.

Another leap, and captured Frisbee that she dropped in part because her rider found it uninteresting but this time she asked, “What is that?”

A toy, Kelly thought at her rider.

“A toy?” the voice asked her puzzlement more than just the words that Kelly translated from the feeling in her mind.

Yes, something specifically made to play with. That is why I'm thinking of making a temporary alliance with someone here. Kelly thought, the people can help with things like that tick behind our ear.

“That’s not the only one!”

I know… “Gotta catch it!” the voice almost shouted as yet another Frisbee floated high over them, and they were off in mad pursuit of the thing.

This time as it had drifted a long way into the desert that surrounded the rest area Kelly carried it back to almost the verge of the grass before retreating to near her den of broken concrete.

Much time later, after a lot of running and jumping, the children were sitting casually around a picnic table talking, except for the oldest girl who was sitting in the shade on the grass near where Kelly was lying in the shade of her broken concrete resting.

The girl was trying to coax Kelly to come to her, while her parents were trying to convince the girl that Kelly was just a coyote that had made a habit of hanging around rest areas. There was a bowl of good smelling food between the two and part of Kelly wanted to go to the bowl at least. But for the nonce she was creeping up on it every time the girl turned her back to argue with her parents.

“I want to see that dog,” she was insisting, “if you insist on going I'll fly to catch up to you later.”

“We won’t let you do that!”

“Mom, it’s not like you could stop me!”

“You just leave that coyote alone and mind your mother,” the man told the girl.

The girl’s back was to Kelly and she crept a bit closer to the food. But was it closer to the girl? Food in a bowl couldn't move could it? Then people couldn't fly without airplanes could they?

The rider in the back of Kelly's mind wanted to dash out and bolt down the food in that bowl, but luckily for Kelly right now all the running and jumping (she had enjoyed that a lot!!) they had done had worn their body down enough that she had more control over what were usually instinctive actions.

So she stayed on her belly and crept forward a few inches while the girl said, “Dad, this is school stuff, Mom would know if she looked.”

“That’s just a coyote that hangs out here,” the woman insisted again.

“She isn't,” the girl said firmly, “come over here where you can look over my shoulder, mom, she’s got rub marks from a harness or something.”

Kelly froze as the woman who must be the girl’s mother started her way. Did that food bowl move again!? GRRR!

Kelly clamped down on an urge to growl even louder. She wanted a ride across the desert. And she didn’t want to chance having that ride be with someone she didn’t know she could trust.

The pure joy and love she had sensed from the girl dog while playing with the Frisbee was enough to convince her. That she was relaxing after eating but still being tended by one of the other children with a brush made Kelly yearn for the ability to go back to her home, if only it wasn’t in the midst of people who had resented him when he was a boy.

“Open your third eye, mom, and look at her, she isn’t a dog or a coyote,” the girl told the woman who had approached while Kelly was struggling to control the urges of her rider.

Kelly stayed as still as she was able, barely even breathing, between the skittishness of her rider, and her own experience of abuse at the hands of her peers, she had very little trust of people. Still, she could trust people who treated their dog well, couldn't she? None of the children smelled of hurts, or even fear, her rider informed her.

“I think you’re right,” the woman said, “though from this distance it’s hard to tell, is that just general scruffiness, or wear from an ill-fitting pack?”

“Look at her aura to mom!”

“If you can get her to eat while the bowl is near you, then I’ll examine her,” the woman said, “But no more than an hour! And yes you will leave with us, if you don’t I’ll just remind you of what Mrs Carson will say if you get caught flying without a license. Which I will make sure happens.”

“MOOOOM!”

“Keep your back to her, and stop teasing her with the dish… let her come to it, she looks like she’ll want more than what you have there...” the woman diagnosed as she turned away.

Kelly stayed frozen for a bit, then decided. She ran back to her hiding place and dragged out her pack. If she was going with these people she needed to show them what had happened to her.

She sat with the pack firmly clamped in her jaw, and trembled next to the bowl, as she let the girl approach. Her scent, Kelly realized was most strongly on the dog she’d played with today. When the girl sat down just outside of where she could easily reach Kelly, she dropped the pack and dived into the bowl. Only trembling a little when the girl reached over and touched her.

A strange buzz seemed to accompany that touch, but since the buzz and touch were fleeting, Kelly concentrated on getting the food inside her as fast as she might. She was pushing the bowl around to get the last of the food, when she realized that the woman was approaching again, but as she had another bowl, larger, filled with more food, Kelly only trembled a bit and sat waiting somewhat impatiently for the food to arrive.

“I see you cast a flea begone cantrip on that coyote,” the woman said.

“Not a coyote mom,” the girl insisted.

“That’s all I can get,” the woman replied.

“Why is she dragging that pack around, if she’s a coyote, mom?” the girl asked pointing to Kelly's pack.

“Who knows what wild animals will do?”

“Mom! I touched her! I suspected before, because I could see the aura flickering when she’d catch the Frisbee, but I'd swear by my magic that there is a strong animal spirit there that has overwhelmed a boy.”

“I don't like it,” the woman almost growled.

“Mom, I thought you intended to teach at least part time at Whateley when we get there. That was why you and dad packed us all into the motor-home and insisted on this trip, rather than wait until closer to the start of the semester and just send me like you did last year. You wait until you see Razorback, that dog, or coyote, if you insist, will be about the most normal person you meet working with those who are avatars.”

The food was set down and Kelly tucked into it only pausing to growl a bit if the girl approached her or her pack. “Don’t let her get too close,” the voice at the back of her mind would say while uttering the growl. Kelly wanted to snicker, perhaps would have if a dog could snicker. The girl was definitely closer, and wonder of wonders, now that she had a fair sized meal inside her she noticed that every flea, and tick that had been bothering her had vacated!

Eventually the second bowl was empty, and Kelly was feeling full and sleepy… she laid down and felt a hand inspecting her ears… then she was floating, no being carried… on a board… “good food, good pack,” the voice of her rider mused.

No growling, Kelly agreed as she was settled next to the dog she’d played with earlier, and a brush began worrying at her fur.
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2 years 8 months ago - 2 years 8 months ago #51000 by Anne
Anne replied the topic: Nowhereville
#3 On the Road (Again)?

Sometime later Kelly became aware of movement. The low grumble of tires on the road, and the particular pitch of a diesel engine under load came to her ears. Small changes in motion almost reminded her of early road trips as a small child, then her awareness snapped back into her body. She surged to her feet and looked around. Oh! There was the door… she headed toward it and gave it a pawing scratch in the same location that she could see that the other dog had done.

“I told you she wasn’t just a coyote, mom. Dad, we’d better get off the road as soon as we’re able, our guest needs to get out,” the girl that Kelly smelled on herself almost shouted as she got up to sit near the door.

Kelly saw that she had her pack so she sat as patiently as she might and kept one ear cocked to the sounds that were evident as the large vehicle traveled along. No more than two minutes later there was a change in the tone of the engine, and a shift in speed, Kelly estimated. The girl spoke to her then, saying, “After you take care of necessities, we’re going to play twenty questions about this,” she indicated the pack she held.

A few more moments passed and Kelly felt the motor-home come to a halt. The door was opened and she shot out of it only pausing long enough to ascertain where the freeway was and where away from most everyone was. She might be in dog shape, but she’d just as soon not do her business with everyone watching.

When she got done, and headed back to the motor-home, Kelly had assessed her situation a bit more, the people who had taken her in must have driven through most of the night. For they were deep in the desert and the sun was just now peeping over some distant mountains.

She didn't know how to assess the drawing in her head, except she thought that she was closer to whatever was drawing her, and that the people she was with must be headed nearly to the same spot that was drawing her.

A Frisbee floated over her head and she was after it as fast as she could run. “This is fun!” her rider chortled as Kelly jumped to catch the flying disk.

Talk to me, don’t just chase things we can’t eat, Kelly thought hard. “Play!” The voice insisted.

Time passed as Kelly and the other dog ran off some of the energy that seemed to be stored like an over full battery in their bodies. But eventually bowls of food were placed, and Kelly along with the other dog were eating, though Kelly dragged her bowl to the far end of the coach, away from anyone (or thing) who might try to steal it.

Sooner than she’d have liked the bowl was empty and the adults were calling, “Load up everyone, we have a schedule to keep.”

Kelly went aboard the motor-home almost last, she hesitated to do so, but the pack with the remains of her previous life were there. She didn't know if she would ever be able to shift back to being a boy, but it seemed to her that it might be important to try to gather the threads of that life as much as possible. After all, when she paused to think about it now, she imagined that her family must think she was dead. That wasn’t good, nor was it something that she wanted to think on too much. Being a dog was easy… eat, sleep, travel, hunt, eat…. Round and round and none of it had been hard, though she was glad to be getting a ride across this desert!

The girl who had promised to ask her questions had her pack and had seated herself as near as Kelly would let her without tending to want to crouch down and growl. She knew that she shouldn't be so afraid, yet she hadn't even brought the Frisbees back today, rather dropping them several feet away from who ever was throwing them and backing away quickly when they were approached if the other dog didn’t decide to scoop them up for the last bit of tug-a-disk with the kids who she treated like Kelly's rider thought pups acted.

“I'm going to ask you some questions, I'll try to make them yes or no questions, I think you are much more than either a dog or a coyote,” the girl said while looking directly at Kelly, which made Kelly wish that there were better places to hide than under the table where the other two kids and their mom sat playing a card game with quite a bit of laughter.

“Sally, you’re not going to get much from that dog if it is a dog and not a coyote,” the mother addressed the girl, inadvertently giving Kelly the name of her caregiver.

“Mom, she’s either house trained or she’s not a dog at all, and no don’t keep saying she’s a coyote. Do you remember me telling you about taking a class with a girl who calls herself Pejuta? She was teaching some of us who were sensitive about how to detect an avatar. She and Diamondback had Razorback come in and we learned to see that he had a spirit even when he wasn’t relaxed with the music box he was given by Eldritch.”

“If you say so dear, I'm still not convinced that I see anything that unusual. Her aura looks more wild than your Sasha, so with her other aspects I still think she’s a coyote, maybe one that was raised from a pup by people, but a coyote is what I can see.”

“Watch and learn then,” the girl said. Looking at Kelly she continued, “Do you know who these belong to?” she asked indicating the pack.

Kelly bobbed her head. They were hers after all.

“Do you know what happened to the person these belong to?”

Kelly shook her head. She had no clue what had happened to her or why.

“Are these yours?” Sally asked. Kelly thought that asking the other questions had been a waste of time in a way, though she could tell that Sally’s mother had sharpened her focus a lot once her daughter had started getting what appeared to be coherent answers from the odd dog they had apparently adopted.

“I'd like to look through this bag,” Sally mused.

“Grr...” Kelly let out a little growl. She really wasn’t sure she should trust Sally with the knowledge that she had been a boy, even if she had said she thought that she was a boy.

“Okay I’ll wait a bit. But eventually you’re going to have to trust someone with what is in here, unless you want to stay as you are...” Sally told Kelly. Kelly laid her ears back and clamped down on the growl that wanted to come out. A bit of it still did as she lowered her whole body down from sitting to a sort of I wish I could find a place to hide posture.

“So there’s some bad problems connected to this?” the girl mused. Kelly bobbed her head as much as her belly down posture would let her.

“Mom, you’d better call Whateley and see if you can get a hold of someone who can give us guidance with regard to this problem. Whatever has happened, this pack has been dragged a long way, so we have no clue where our guest came from, nor what caused her to be like she is. I still think there’s a boy inside there, but I'm neither a shaman nor even an avatar to be able to tell, and as far as my ability to dream-walk? Not without someone a lot more experienced or powerful to hold my hand!”

The woman got out a cell phone and said, “Well that will have to wait until we get where there’s a tower.”

Kelly wasn't too interested in her though, as she was torn between lunging after her pack and her rider wanting to hide, and knowing that she needed the help that these people represented. It helped nothing in her state of mind that somehow Sally, who seemed to own the girl dog had snuck up on her and was rubbing her ears… . Oh man, that felt good! She knew if she’d been cat shaped she would be purring about now! As it was she was relaxing even though she’d gotten a bit of a strange buzzing feeling when the girl first touched her again.

Kelly relaxed more than maybe she intended to, as the rolling hum of the luxurious coach and the gentle stroking of her head and body lulled her into a trance like state. Conversation piped, rumbled and hummed around her, stopping places were debated, and at least a short stop at the next rest area was agreed on, in order to try to make some initial calls regarding Kelly's status.

As for herself, Kelly didn't know what to do, part of her wanted to bolt for the wilds the next instant the coach stopped. Another part of her was thoroughly enjoying the tender handling that she was receiving from Sally. Certainly having someone stroke the fur on her body was more enjoyable than she would have imagined, and Sally was carefully going over her legs while she seemed to be floating, about half asleep, or more. Sometimes Sally would find a tender spot, and somehow, she was doing something that eased old hurts that hadn’t healed well, like the two or three spots where Kelly had managed to scrub off the body of a tick that had well embedded itself but left the head to become a slowly infected wound. Her front leg that had been the broken arm had healed when she shifted, yet Sally seemed to have found the area of the break and the limb now felt better, though Kelly couldn't tell how or why exactly.

A couple of deeply embedded thorns were in one of her feet as well, which Kelly had just limped along on and tried to remove with her teeth to little avail. The gentle ministration of tended hurts and a gentle touch certainly was something that she would never have expected nor have imagined experiencing. “Good pack,” the voice that belonged to the one Kelly thought of as her ‘rider’ spoke just as she finally slipped into an uneasy sleep.

Kelly found herself floating in a dream, except, unusually she was a human girl and a dog seemed to lay at her feet. A bit of examination of her surroundings, showed Kelly that she was standing among clouds, that must be more substantial than they appeared. After all although she didn't feel like she was actually standing on anything neither did she sink among the slowly shifting mist that moved a bit around and under her feet.

With nothing else to do to explore the otherwise fairly featureless area around her, Kelly knelt and began to examine the dog at her feet. A sense of extreme dejavu began to pervade her mind as she got close to the animal. Its gray and brown coat looked like it ought to be coarse and maybe even rough. Yet when she touched it the fur was softer than she expected.

Her touch seemed to wake the dog and it woke up and sat up looking her in the eye. “Hello, Kelly,” it said.

Kelly sat on her butt. If wherever she found herself right now had had a normal floor she would have had a bruise. “Who are you?” She asked, then not pausing long enough to receive an answer continued, “What are you, and how can you talk?”

“I’m the one you think of as your ‘rider’,” the dog answered, “I can talk because I'm a spirit being, at least that is what you would probably think of me as. That means at one time in the past perhaps, for one reason or another enough people believed in me that I gained some amount of existence in this reality.”

“Huh? Like the totem animals that some of the tribes near where I grew up venerated I suppose?” Kelly asked.

“Very like, indeed you could say that I'm the embodiment of certain principles they assigned to a particular animal.”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m here with you, in you really, because you entered the area near my normal hallow while you were dying.”

“I was dying? Then why am I not dead,” Kelly asked.

“Two reasons,” the dog answered, “First you were in a place where I had been and where I had much power.

“Second because of something I don't really understand. Your body seemed to be not just injured from the attack on you but as if it were burning from some internal fire. It was very wise of you to get into that pool of that fountain. That kept you from death, though your injuries were such that they in addition to that which was happening to you, you were very nearly across the boundary between life and death, headed for death.

“I haven’t much more time to speak to you now, but I can tell you this, I sensed a place where one who is host to a very powerful spirit reputed to be a spirit of much help to those who love life now resides for most of the year, enough time that her mark is on that place and I can keep on track to find that place, almost like a scent in the waking world.”

“So that is what I kept feeling pulling me somewhere?”

“Yes.”

“One more question; why am I a girl?”

“Because the last time I wore flesh, I was a girl and that was the easiest way for me to direct the power necessary to keep you from dying.”

“I really didn’t want to be a girl, and I think I'd be really freaking out more if when I'm awake I didn't have your shape. Is that part of the whole power to save me from death thing?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a name?”

“Coyote, is one of my names that you would be most familiar with.”

“But I thought coyote was always male?”

“Coyote is coyote!”

“The trickster?”

“Yes, now you have to go, don’t expect another visit with me for a while, you must find your own way in life to whatever you desire most.”

“I don't know what that is...”

“Try to think more and react less, that is all I can tell you.”

Kelly became aware of movement, and the fact that she was definitely in coyote shape now. Why didn't I realize that? she wondered. She also clamped down on her desire to flee. Concentrating like she never had before she sorted through the scents that filled the coach where she was riding. The first one she analyzed was the dog that had become her companion. She smelled of soap, all the kids, and contentment. There wasn’t a hint of fear in her scent.

The kids didn't smell of fear either. But Kelly wasn't sure how to classify that. Was it because they were with their family, or because they were just kids? Since she hadn't interacted much with people until now, Kelly had no current frame of reference.

All those thoughts went through her mind much more quickly than writing about them or even reading about them could happen. Then an urgency made itself known and she jumped for the door… Scratch! Scratch!
* * * *

Sometime later, after another hurried trip to the edge of a roadside rest area, Kelly had carefully approached Sally and tugged gently at her hand. The family had decided to eat breakfast on one of the picnic tables there even though it was very early in the morning.

The rest of the family hadn’t finished eating yet, but Kelly had made a decision during her conversation with Coyote. She needed help! If she didn’t get it she rather thought she’d end up drifting into wild spaces, and maybe even forget that she’d ever been anything other than a coyote. And while her life as a boy had been unhappy, she wasn't sure she wanted to give up her humanity. Part of the stubbornness that had driven Kelly under the fence at the Bailey place rose up in rebellion at that idea. Give up and die? After working so hard to survive? NEVER!

So she had screwed her courage to the sticking point and approached Sally. After all the girl hadn’t hurt her yet, and she had brushed MMM! her and done something that Kelly didn't quite understand that had driven off all the parasites that her trek Eastward had gained her. She’d done something that helped with external hurts, and internal hurts as well. Kelly was pretty sure she could count Sally as a friend.

It took a couple of tugs, and poking her nose somewhere a bit rude and walking off then coming back and tugging and poking again to get Sally to come with her. Eventually though, the point had gotten across, and Kelly was able to get into the coach and find her pack which she began to worry in order to open.

Sally who sat almost touching her said, “I know that is yours, but would you like me to help you with it?”

Kelly pushed the frustrating thing to Sally. If she worked much longer at it she’d tear it, and she really didn’t want to do that, it was the only way she had to keep track of her ID which was in the pocket of the trousers that she’d been wearing the day she became as she was now.

Sally worked the zipper on the bag and almost as soon as she saw the contents she called her mother. “Mom! You’d better come here! You need to see this.”

To Kelly she said, “These are yours I expect?” indicating the clothes.

Kelly bobbed her head.

At that moment the woman who was Sally’s mother came into the coach. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Look at these!” Sally indicated the clothing that had been in the bag. It was torn, and bloody in several places. “She,” Sally pointed to Kelly, “insists they are hers.”

“I think you’d best get a pair of gloves and see just what you have there.”

“Yeah, and I think we probably won’t want to move from here until we make some phone calls.”

“I’ll tell your dad, and get on the phone to your school.”

“Pejuta gave me her number, as soon as I get done inspecting these I think I have to call her.”

“We might have to call the police...”

“Only if there’s an ID in here somewhere. Otherwise we probably ought to pick up a collar or work pack that will fit this person,” Sally stroked Kelly's head.

“Even without an ID...”

“Only after we bring in someone like Pejuta’s SO, she’s a registered hero with a recognized hero team.”

“Are you sure?”

“Would you turn me over to the MCO?”

“That wouldn't happen!”

“Maybe not at home, but here? Mom, we have no clue what the MCO, police, or any other group might do. But there are places where H1! runs the whole town or even the county. They even have enough influence to paper over things like causing our whole family to disappear in some places,” Sally told her mother. Kelly could smell how much the girl’s fear had increased in the last few minutes. When the woman (even if she was Sally’s mother) started to approach them Kelly growled.

“Mom! Stop!” Sally ordered. You don’t know what you’re doing, and something has upset my friend. She thinks she’s protecting me from you.

The woman sat down, and Kelly restrained herself from growling any more since she wasn't moving. Sally had a pair of gloves on and was going over the clothing from the bag. “Not caused by a wolf or coyote, or dog,” she said, indicating several torn spots. Then she found the ID in one of the pockets, it was in a slim billfold with a few dollar bills. The scent of the money made Kelly wonder if she could use her nose to find such things.

Why? bubbled up from Coyote.

Trade for food, part of being a good pack member. Kelly temporized, not inside here… well if it is under a cushion or something maybe, but it might be deliberately hidden by the family.

Like what you caught but couldn't eat all of?

Very like, but it keeps better than a deer. It can still attract scavengers but they have to see you or have a dog or someone like us I guess, Kelly thought at Coyote.

Kelly's internal conversation was interrupted by Sally urgently asking, “Is, or maybe was this you?” while holding the ID.

Kelly bobbed her head emphatically.
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Last Edit: 2 years 8 months ago by Anne. Reason: Missing cr...
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2 years 8 months ago - 2 years 8 months ago #51073 by Anne
Anne replied the topic: Nowhereville
#4 The Fan

The man, Sally’s father as far as Kelly could tell, was sitting next to Sally explaining, “Honey, as my father told me when I was about your age, the feces is about to hit the rotating air circulation device.”

“The shit is about to hit the fan, you mean. Oh I understand and agree, it’s a bad habit to form to not avoid crude language. But dad,” yep I was right Kelly thought as Sally paused, “things are about to get really rough. I’m glad mom called the school and I didn't have to. It’s never pleasant talking to Ms Hartford and she does her best to imitate a bureaucratic ganglia to make sure we don't bother her with small stuff, but something like this?” she indicated the ID on the table, “we’re going to be lucky if we don’t have to take Kelly back to BFE California, whoever heard of a place called Ono anyway?

“It exists, and other places that are even further out, remember everyone hears California and thinks San Francisco or LA. But most of the state is fairly rural with some truly wild places. And no, we shouldn't have to take Kelly back to Ono.”

“Dad! She needs someone to protect her!”

“That’s the job of the police Honey.”

“The police? When H1! has people on every force. Dad it can be almost as bad for a mutant today as it was for a black man during reformation after the civil war in the south. There are places where they would kill us all! That is why I hope Ms Hartford really isn't just a bureaucratic paper pusher.”

“We have to obey the law.”

“Dad! I'm not going to debate that issue with you right now. Let me try a few more phone calls of my own.”

“Okay Honey, but you do need to get to school on time.”

“You think that getting the police involved will help that?” Sally asked while holding up her hand to stave off an answer. She retrieved her cell phone and started working on it using a headset that Kelly hadn’t seen her get. “Pejuta, when you get this call I need to talk to you, my code name is Tabitha, and my Whateley student ID is,” she read off a number, “if that isn’t enough this is my MID,” Sally read off some more numbers, “This has to do with the optional avatar seminar you held last winter. Do you remember showing us Razorback with the help of Diamondback? Well I just met a person, I’d rather not give any more information on over a cell phone from a rest stop where I can’t access the tower to cast a FUD spell on my out going or incoming messages. One final thing I think it would be helpful for you to get Cornflower involved if Mrs Carson can’t for whatever reason.”

Sally’s dad looked at her and raised his eyebrow before saying, “I think it is a good thing that your mother may teach at your school. Certainly my new writing contract can be done from anywhere, so I think we’re going to have to see if we can organize the Whateley PTA.”

“What do you mean dad?”

“The level of paranoia you’ve been displaying is worrisome.”

“Dad, there’s an old saying my art special seminar teacher told us all, she said, ‘It’s not paranoia when there is actually someone out to get you.”

“An art teacher said that? I think that we should have started looking into Whateley in greater depth the moment we decided it might be a good place for us to go to school.”

“Like I could go anywhere else with eyes like mine and hair like this Dad,” Sally said smelling for the first time both fearful and sad. The stress in her voice was even stronger than her scent though. “Look Dad, you know I’m a mutant, there was none of this passing for a kitchen witch like Mom does for me.

“You want to know about what I face?

“Here is a bare sketch of what happened on campus last year: six kids died, at least one of which was murdered by another student. I have no clue about the number of broken bones, but I personally cast a spell to help repair at least 250 incidents. Another six kids that I know of simply disappeared while they were off campus, that I know of. A couple of kids had burnout and ended up with uncontrollable powers, but worse were a couple that seem to have regressed to baseline. Then there were the magic accidents, combat finals, and general worry that someone who can lift a tank with one hand will decide you are a perfect victim. Oh and every sort of spying on anyone odd by a bunch of kids who probably ought to be told off to either the KGB or some other State security agency in a totalitarian regime. You tried to teach us to think dad, I guess it took for me, certainly I know that anyone outside of the family and maybe some like uncle Mack ought to be treated like you might a feral dog.”

“Combat finals?” Sally’s dad sounded incredulous, and smelled worried.

“I thought you’d pick up on that. Consider this: we are sure that some of those pay per view mutant death matches are filmed on our campus. Not all, maybe, because some people are working to find where the ones that may have been coming out of Vegas moved to. It’s pretty certain that they were disrupted by a group of kids who showed up on campus last year. You know the ones you were complaining had gone on a cross country crime spree? Well, someone out here learned to activate the MGC at least sometimes and somewhat successfully and actually those kids were the ones who they supposedly kidnapped. The MCO won’t admit it openly, but in their case at least some of their fingerprints were on record. One of them is an Air Force brat.”

“But combat finals?”

“Dad! Besides Dr Diobolic, who is very open about what he does and his goals, there is Dr Reaper, who apparently believes the opposite. But worse are the super-powered people who are quiet but who would make Dr Mengele look like a soul brother to Mother Theresa. I go to school with Jobe Wilkins, Dad! Her father is the Emperor of Karidonia.”
* * * *

More arguing took place but Kelly didn't pay it much heed as she had other things on her mind. Mainly an unpleasant feeling all through her insides. She dashed to the doggy area and voided. Uhg! She smelled sick. She kicked some loose sand over the mess and headed out to the fence that surrounded the place. She needed a minute to think and she still had uncomfortable knots that seemed to be working their way through her guts.

Magic, Coyote diagnosed as Kelly made her uncomfortable way through the tall brush that mostly hid her from the parking area.

What do you mean magic? Kelly demanded of Coyote.

That girl is some sort of magic user. She made all the itchies go away, and she did something to make the ones inside die as well. But now we have to get rid of them and it hurts.

Oh, so I'm not sick?

Not conventionally, you are not. Your body is just getting rid of foreign lifeforms that normally you’d just have to tolerate.

Well, people can be good to pack with. Kelly observed, using imagery that she thought Coyote would identify with. Just then she caught the hint of something rotten, an animal or the like buried. People, Coyote said.

What do you mean?

Smell is like dead people, Coyote explained.

Oh! Oh! I have to tell someone!

Kelly put her nose to the ground and cast about. Yes! There the stench was the strongest. Okay, time to go back… would anyone follow her out here she wondered?

It took some convincing and the fact that Sally knew that Kelly was more than just a dog or a coyote, to get her to send Sasha to investigate. Kelly didn't know how that could work if Sally didn’t go with them but she sat and watched the girl seem to almost go to sleep sitting up while Sasha put her nose to the ground and backtracked Kelly's wandering.

It wasn't too long until Sally sat up and began to work furiously on her laptop computer that she had brought out to a picnic table to work with. She looked up when she had finished whatever she had done and spotted her parents. She looked and smelled unhappy as the wind had shifted toward Kelly, so that she got a good whiff of the girl’s scent. Though even just seeing the way that she moved and the expression on her face was enough to have told Kelly that Sally was very upset.

Since she hadn't moved from where she was Kelly didn't overhear the urgent conversation that Sally had with her parents. It was obvious that she was upset though, and that whatever she told them upset them as well. Kelly thought that somehow the dog Sasha, had communicated what she had found to Sally, though she had no idea how such a thing was possible.

“The bitch is the witch’s familiar,” Coyote whispered somewhere in Kelly's mind.

There’s no such thing as a witch, Kelly thought.

“And you’re not running around looking like a mirror image of me?” Coyote snickered. “Obviously your education has been lacking!

How come I am a coyote? Kelly thought at Coyote, wondering why she hadn’t paused more often to think and wonder on that question.

“Magic, dear one, magic. The power has been slowly moving back into the world. Partly it requires people to believe in the possibility of magic for magic to work. But if enough people believe, even your unbelief won’t keep magic from happening to you.”

And you were guiding me somewhere so that I could find out about magic?

“Indeed,” Coyote seemed to snicker again.

Well shouldn't we be going then?

“You want to walk and catch your own food?”

When you put it that way, no.

“So stay with the witch and her familiar. They are headed in the right direction, and if later they aren’t going where you need to go, you can always leave them, because riding is always easier than walking, and while hunting is fun, eating regularly has many benefits,” Coyote almost lectured.

You sound like my mom! Kelly thought at Coyote. But that was the last comment she got from her inscrutable guest for a while. She did get up and hide under the coach that belonged to Sally’s family when lots of people showed up, most of whom were police in uniforms. Sally apparently was able to lead them to the shallow grave just outside of the actual rest area.

Several times during the time that the family spent at that place Kelly had to resist the urge to run off into the wilderness to get away from the people who were poking into the coach, and asking sharp questions of Sally. She insisted that her familiar Sasha had caught the scent and she had used her ability to access the dog’s senses for a bit to see what had her so worked up.

After much time when Kelly had barely slunk out of her makeshift hiding place to hit the doggy run area, and to drag a bowl of food back under the coach to eat, Sally called her out, “Kelly! Come here!” she demanded. Kelly laid her ears back and came out staying on her belly. Otherwise Coyote might have taken over and sent their body over the fence that surrounded the area and into the desert beyond. She could smell the men’s guns, and Sally didn’t smell entirely sure of herself either. To come out was almost harder than the trek she had made from where she was taken by her attackers to the Bailey place. Here she was going into danger that she somewhat understood, there she had simply been putting one foot in front of the other with nothing more than a slender hope of survival driving her forward.

Still, she knew she wanted to get where Coyote was leading her, and a ride as Coyote had so carefully pointed out was much easier and faster than a walk. And she had another fear, the fear that if she gave over to Coyote, and her desire to flee, that she would simply go feral, and forget that she’d ever been anything except a coyote.

Sally smelled nervous when Kelly got close enough to her to catch her scent. Kelly stopped even moving in her belly down mode. It wouldn't help in the picnic area where Sally was seated, but she couldn't help her reaction. And freezing was the only thing keeping her from either jumping up and making a dash for the fence or attacking the woman who was sitting next to Sally even if she wasn't sure that she rather than the police in their suits and uniforms weren't the ones who were causing Sally to worry.

“Worry?” Coyote asked from deep in Kelly’s mind, “your friend Sally is terrified about something!”

“Ms De La Santos,” Sally said to the woman, “you’re here because you represent the DPA, correct?”

“We’ve been over that before, but yes,” the woman answered. Kelly realized that she smelled a bit angry and bored.

“Well those,” Sally indicated the police of one stripe or another who were still going over the coach, “police don't seem to want to let us go.”

“We can't interfere with the police, unless you're in direct danger, or we have to bring in a power armor team to take you down. Needless to say that would probably mean that the MCO had gotten involved.”

“We don't want them involved at all if we can help it, which is why we haven't insisted on a lawyer, oh and that so far other than insisting that we can't move until they finish their investigation, they are being fairly reasonable. But even if we built in some time to get where we’re going we don't have enough slack to stop many more hours.

“And the reason I'm talking to you rather than my parents is that I'm on the magic track at my school and if you're going to not interfere with the police then I need you to explain to then why I will probably be late starting class this year.

“Yeah my parents should be here, but I think this is the first time it has come home to them just what I might have to deal with as an obvious mutant. So you get me, because I'm already deputized as an air martial. That doesn't give me much credit with the police here it gives me enough that they are letting me act like an adult while treating my parents like they are addled children.

“So I'm gonna put this on speaker, and report the situation,” Sally suited actions to her words and started working on her phone.

Kelly didn't understand why Sally had called her out to her if she was still arguing with the police. But now that she was out from under her friends’ coach she wasn't going to be able to get back under it, what with the police swarming around it with at least one k-9 unit looking like he wasn't sure if he ought to get friendly with Kelly or attack her.

Kelly heard the phone ring twice before it was answered by a woman who sounded like she was trying to intimidate anyone who had reached the number, “This is the Whateley emergency desk,” she growled, “If you are a student and this is not a bonefide emergency you will receive a minimum of five days of detention. For anyone else, this call has been auto traced and we know where you are and will invoke the maximum penalty available under the law for prank or crank calls.”

Though the reception at the far end of the line made Kelly want to dig a den so as to have a place to hide, it actually seemed to steady Sally. Certainly she sat up straight and announced in a business like tone, “This is Tabitha,” she then recited her MID number and continued, “I need to have confirmation of my credentials sent to either my phone or to agent De La Santos, badge number,” she read off the woman’s badge number, “of the DPA. Doing so will expedite me getting to school. Otherwise the Utah state police will not let me or my folks get under way.”

“Where are your parents?” the woman growled.

Sally smiled a rather grim smile at the DPA agent and said, “Agent De La Santos, would you care to explain?” The DPA agent explained that the UDI was trying to hold the family as material witnesses to a major crime. She explained that the family (Sally interrupted to say she had been the one to make the report) had reported finding a body at the roadside rest area.

“So what do you need from Whateley Agent De La Santos?” the woman at the other end of the call had moderated her tone somewhat, though she still sounded very harsh.

“Tabitha says she has special certifications with regard to magic and law enforcement; if so it might be helpful for her to participate in the investigation of this crime.”

“The more pertinent question is whether or not it will get Tabitha’s family on the road any sooner,” the woman on the phone stated.

“I think so, but that will be up to the FBI or the UDI,” agent De La Santos said.

“Well, why don’t you look at what I sent you at your e-mail address and find someone who does have the authority to make a decision, then get back to me. I gave you a non-emergency number that will ring though to me, or the duty officer for our security section.”

It took a few moments for the agent to realize that the woman at the other end of the call had ended it, “Well, she’s a bit short,” she huffed.

“Ms Hartford doesn't suffer fools lightly,” Sally explained.

“You could be a bit more polite too, young miss,” agent De La Santos growled.

“I want to help, I think I can help, but no one here wants to do anything except make life hard for me. I expect that Ms Hartford will have some ugly work that I have to do when I get back to school. Our family has done nothing, yet Utah has their k-9 unit out here wasting time going over our motor home. So, since I will be late to school if I'm held here I had to report in. Yeah I used the emergency line, but that is better than having to talk to a phone tree for half an hour or more. So I'm not impressed with any of you all either.”

Sally and the agent sat and glared at one-another for a few moments before Sally asked for a note pad if she could get one.

“Why do you need something like that, doesn't your tablet work to take notes on?” agent De La Santos asked.

“Since I can’t get any charging equipment or go inside to plug it in, and I want to save it to use as a phone, the answer is not especially,” Sally snarked.

The little glaring, staring and snarking contest that Sally and the agent were involved in came to an end when a v-tol aircraft of an odd design put down in the most deserted part of the truck parking area. Kelly smelled the raw fear emanating from Sally and couldn't keep from growling.

“You be good.” Sally told Kelly “If this is who I think it is things should get better. But I didn't expect quite this much of a reaction...” Sally trailed off as two of the police ‘suits’ made their way toward the grounded ship looking very unhappy.
Last Edit: 2 years 8 months ago by Anne. Reason: missed proofreading... missed capitalization...
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2 years 7 months ago - 2 years 6 months ago #52048 by Anne
Anne replied the topic: Nowhereville
#5 A Long and Winding Path

Two women and a man, all wearing masks and what appeared to be skin tight clothes with capes and what Kelly thought might be utility belts exited the airship and met the police. They produced identification and seemed to argue, with the police seeming to want them to leave.

Up until this moment Kelly, like she suspected most people in his very small town, had mostly discounted tales of mutants and people with honest to goodness superpowers as Hollywood magic; that is not to be believed.

Eventually it seemed the people in the odd clothing seemed to win the argument with the police. At least they didn't leave and the police who looked very unhappy brought them over to what appeared to be a mobile command center (MCC).

After the group had spent several minutes there the ‘super group’ and one of the police suits (who had not identified himself) came over to the table where Sally was sitting. For a while Kelly had a hard time identifying exactly the aura and scent of the people.

Certainly she didn't at all understand what Sally was talking about with the rather tall woman with long dark hair, who was wearing a skintight outfit of white and some other colors that Kelly thought might be somewhere in the red spectrum. The two of them did something that seemed to satisfy Sally, and she set to work on her tablet.

Quite a while passed, and Kelly was forced to vacate to the doggy run area again, she really hoped that pretty soon she would stop feeling so icky. Interestingly enough, when she returned some sort of detante had been reached between Sally, the ‘super team’, and the police. They let Sally provide Kelly with water and food, even if they still seemed to be guarding the family’s motor-home. The rest of the family sat in a small huddle that had four very alert looking uniformed police people watching them and keeping everyone away from them.

It was not very entertaining to lay on the ground near Sally, but she seemed to want Kelly there, so that is what Kelly did, except for when she had to run off for a bit. It helped calm her immensely that Sasha, Sally’s dog didn't seem to be worried. Then again she didn't seem to know that everyone except Sally and her family was armed. Or maybe she accepted any people as part of her pack, was the feeling she got from Coyote.

To pass the time, since she didn't understand what was going on with the woman who was some sort of magic user and Sally, Kelly watched the rest of the people in the rest area. It was then that she realized that the place had slowly been emptying while the down ramp into it had been closed off. As the last truck grumbled out of the area a sigh of relief seemed to sweep over everyone there. The police relaxed their stance quite a bit and the kids who were Sally’s brother and sister came over and petted Sasha and Kelly. Something that Kelly decided she liked quite a bit.

A game of fetch the Frisbee ensued, including some of the uniformed police. Kelly was glad to be able to get up and run. It seemed like the movement helped with the sick feeling in her middle. She did end up making a couple more trips to the doggy run area and managed to surprise some sort of ground-dwelling squirrel. At least it was surprised until it was part of her lunch!

It wasn't long after that that Sally called her back to her table. “Card Trick,” she told the tall woman, “this is Kelly. What I haven't said yet is that it was actually Kelly who found that body. I didn't want to bring her into this but hoped someone, somewhere around this circular Onanism contest would have a working vest for Kelly that we could borrow or buy.”

“What difference does it make which one of the dogs found the body?” the woman who Sally introduced as Card Trick asked.

“To explain that I was hoping that you could possibly bring Pejuta in,” Sally said, “what I think I’m seeing is more her area of expertise. But you’ll do, since you’re a mage and can follow most of what I do. The fact that you’re a special deputy US Marshal doesn't hurt either, because one way or another I suspect what I'm about to say is going to eventually involve the FBI.”

“Pejuta? The FBI? Hold on, let me get Cornflower over here,” the woman seemed to speak to the air, saying, “Cornflower, Card Trick here, I need you at the table with Tabitha.”

Very shortly a blonde woman that Kelly thought would have made the boy Kelly stutter arrived at the table. “What can I do to help you?” she asked the table in general.

Apparently the woman could cause Sally to stutter too, as she seemed to stumble over answering that question. “I took a class that Pejuta taught on avatars and astral entities,” she managed to finally get out. “I’d hoped she could catch a ride here with you?”

“You trust her work?” the blonde looked at Card Trick.

“If the police here want a field mage who specializes in forensics then Tabitha quite literally wrote the book on using magic to determine certain things,” Card Trick stated firmly.

“Okay, so you could help the police?”

“If they will accept the certificate I got from Chief Delarose, Doyle medical center, and ARC then, yes, I can expedite their investigation,” Sally said emphatically.

“You haven’t done anything with a regular school?”

“I’ve done all the correspondence courses I can take in the field of medicine from John Hopkins,” Sally said proudly.

“She got excellent grades,” Card Trick observed, “I expect only her age is keeping her out of a regular lab.”

“So, none of that brings the FBI here.”

“Those people were not killed here. And the bodies are older than the grave, by quite a bit I’m pretty sure,” Sally said, she then pushed her tablet to the blonde, “This is what I got from Sasha. I didn’t go out there personally, because for certain things her senses are sharper than mine.”

“So you got all that though your link to your familiar?” Cornflower asked Sally.

“I did, I can’t use magic while I’m riding her, but I can experience everything she does, and use my knowledge to make sense of it.”

“Would you care to do a demonstration?” Cornflower asked.

“Sure, what do you want me to look at?” Sally asked.

“What can you tell me about this?” Cornflower asked as she pulled an object from around her neck.

“That’s Pejuta’s work, I’ve seen enough of it to recognize it. Are you sure you want me to examine that? It was made by someone for their lover, I can sense that without even doing more. Besides in certain circles it is well known that you’re Pejuta’s girlfriend,” Sally said.

“Tell me when it was made?” Cornflower said.

“I think she probably made it sometime in the fall of 2007, and I don't want to use magic on it because sometimes that can disrupt a protection charm like that.”

“Okay, so… hmmm… Agent De la Santos, may we borrow your badge for a moment or two?” Cornflower asked.

“I guess...” the DPA agent answered, while digging for the requested item. She carefully extracted it from its carrier and placed it on the table.

Sally didn't touch the badge, but she said, “I imagine that if I spent the time to learn such things that your badge number would tell me about when you earned it?” the agent nodded her head. “Okay take it as read that I haven't yet done that. So anything I tell you about this I’m not getting from previous knowledge, unlike with Cornflower’s protection charm that her lover made for her,” Sally looked at agent De La Santos and waited for her acknowledgment. When the woman nodded then Sally said, “I really need some tools and my grimoire,” Sally said as she stood up.

The women at the table nodded at Sally and she headed toward her family’s motor-home. Not too much later she returned with a fair sized plastic box. She set it on the table and extracted a book and a pair of white gloves that seemed to shine to Kelly. She opened the book and placed it in front of Card Trick. “That should help you follow along,” she said.

The older woman took a moment or two, before nodding that she could follow along. Sally extracted a stick from the box and then she took the badge in her gloved hand. “Some people who are certain types of psychics can get information from objects by touching them. I’m wearing gloves in part to demonstrate that I’m not using psychic powers that work by touch at least,” Sally lectured. She tapped the badge with the stick and said a few words in a language that Kelly had never heard, that echoed oddly even though there was nothing for them to echo from.

“Your father gave you this badge when you graduated from the academy in 2000,” Sally said, “you carry it whether or not you are working, and you graduated second in your class.

“I could tell you when this was made, which was a bit before you graduated, in a batch of badges made for your class, there was one that failed during manufacture, and another was destroyed due to some fault on the part of the person it was meant for. Oh, and one not issued because someone died in your class,” Sally stopped speaking and looked at agent De La Santos, “Do I need to go on?”

“No, let’s take a walk,” the agent said.

“One moment, and then I’ll give this back to you,” Sally tapped the badge again and said some more oddly echoing words, “You call those shields don’t you? Certainly the little spell I put on it seemed to attach to an almost religious idea backing that. I think now that it will work as a mild shield amulet, it may even recharge if what I felt when I was doing that is true,” she stated solemnly as she handed the badge back to agent De La Santos.

Card Trick’s eyes grew large as she observed what the girl had done. “Could I do that?” she asked urgently.

“I don’t know, it was something that seemed almost bound to that badge anyway, how effective it will be remains to be seen. It might be enough to reduce bruising if she’s wearing a bullet proof vest, but I wouldn't trust it to turn a knife. I think it will only serve to enhance any other armor she’s wearing,” Sally told the other mage who seemed to be getting up to join the DPA agent who was now heading toward the MCC.

The police there still weren’t happy to see Sally approach, Kelly noted from where she lay on the ground watching the happenings in the rest area. The Frisbee game had wound down and Sasha had joined her there, making her feel a bit more at ease. In a way she wanted to hear what was going on, but in another she simply wanted to find a place to hide. Indeed she was so torn by her conflicting desires that she stayed mostly frozen and trembling with fear.
I've been through the desert on a horse with no name,
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert you can remember your name,
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain.

“While no one may give you pain, the desert is not someplace you want to go with me unless you really want to give up being human again,” Coyote said in Kelly’s mind as the words to a classic rock song, at least the chorus spun through her mind. “Oh and you would forget your name, obviously, because you would take a new name with some pack if you could find one to accept you, and while your emotional pain might cease, your physical pain would multiply.”

The clear words or concepts that Kelly got from Coyote almost caused her to lose control of her body. I can deal with emotional pain! She reminded herself. Also she was convinced that running away didn't work. Your pursuers always caught you. And even though she sometimes didn't want to remember the various attacks she had weathered she did not want to forget being human. I don't want to forget my name!

“That’s why I mostly try to leave you alone, the body you inhabit now will react with learned fears and instinctive fears and instinctive drives like eating, and mating but you seem to be doing well my dear,” Coyote told her.

“Oh lovely,” Kelly thought hard at Coyote, “I get to figure this out on my own!”

A memory, Kelly suspected that Coyote must have helped it bubble up, came to her of her frustration with certain school work. Her mother, well actually, his mother Kelly recalled that he had been a boy then, had told her that she wouldn't learn if someone told her the answers.

But I don't know how to get back to being a human! Kelly cried inside. Outwardly she whined a little. Then she realized that somehow Sally had snuck up on her again! But that was okay, in one way, because the one answer that seemed to float out there was that Sally knew part of what was going on with her and could help her learn what she needed to know to solve her dilemma.

“Kelly here,” Sally said, while gently rubbing one of Kelly's ears (Oh that felt GOOD!) “is the one who found the little problem you have out there. Unfortunately I’m not able to connect to her like I can with Sasha who is my familiar. But without Kelly to lead the way I might never have found that. So, all credit for this has to go to her in a way,” Kelly really wished she could be invisible right then! Being the center of attention had never before been a good thing.

“Does it matter which of the dogs found the grave?” one of the police suits that had come over asked.

“In this case it does, like I said, if Kelly hadn’t noticed it and brought it to my attention it would not have been found for some time yet; maybe never, I'm guessing,” Sally was looking pointedly at the police suit when she said that.

“So?”

“How long does it usually take to train a cadaver dog?” Sally asked a bit of impatience in her voice.

“A while,” the police suit admitted.

“More than a while, I would think, and it takes a specialized trainer as well, doesn’t it?” Sally was glaring, and Kelly had a hard time not growling as she could smell her anger and irritation at the police in general, though she thought it was mostly focused on the suit.

“I still don’t understand what you’re getting at,” the police suit said.

“Captain?” Sally asked, and got a grudging nod, “Don’t police agencies usually chip their dogs?” The man nodded shortly. “Do you have the equipment to read such chips?” another nod. “This is like pulling teeth with you!” Sally grumbled. “Do you know of any agencies that remove the chips if they retire a dog for any reason?”

Another short nod from the man that Sally had identified as Captain, then he said, “I’m still not following you.”

“I’m guessing, not a lot since my familiar is a dog,” Kelly was watching the Captain as Sally spoke, and he had a sour look on his face, “That for a dog to spontaneously point out something like the grave back there is unusual. Dig it up? Maybe, and just maybe if it had some hunting training it might do so as well. But not usual. Anyway Kelly here attached herself to us two days ago, so I have no idea of what her history might be. To the unaided eye she appears to be either a coyote hybrid or a full on coyote. She acts as skittish as if she’d been abused, though other than a bit of growling she hasn't shown any aggressive behavior. I'm not sure how to quantify that, as training dogs isn't my specialty, I'm just adding it to let you know my observations. Anyway, I guess the first thing we ought to do is see if Kelly has a chip from some agency or home?”

The police Captain looked entirely unhappy and smelled both angry and afraid. Kelly stayed on her belly and really tried to keep from growling at him, there were far too many men with guns around for her to want to be seen as dangerous! Still he apparently either had a cell phone or a radio with an earpiece, because he touched something at his ear and said, “Would someone mind bringing over a chip reader for animals?”

Shortly after that one of the uniformed policemen who had gone to the MCC approached with a short piece of electronic gear that Kelly thought might be called a wand. “I thought no one believed in magic any more?” Coyote asked.

“I didn't,” Kelly thought at Coyote, “But the terminology has transferred to certain technological items, like that antenna that can detect a certain type of computer chip that can be implanted in a dog or cat or any other thing to track who it belongs to.”

“What are we looking for?” the uniformed policeman, who was wearing a badge that read Bingham asked as he approached the table.

“These,” the Captain sneered, Kelly couldn't think of a better way to describe his tone or expression, at Sally and the masked duo at the table, “have some great mystery that they think you can solve with that.”

“What do you need ma’am?” the policeman asked.

“Sasha come here,” Sally called Sasha to her, “Sasha is my dog, she has a chip that is registered with the registry of Familiars for Pittsburgh California, if you wouldn't mind finding it to prove that your equipment works?”

“No ma’am, no problem,” officer Bingham answered. As he was speaking he fiddled with the gadget in his hand for a second then approached Sasha’s right side. Somewhere about her neck the machine issued a high pitched squeal that hurt Kelly's ears. “Got it!” he said and did something that caused the machine in his hand to stop shrieking. “Yep, you’d be Tabitha?” he asked Sally.

“I am. Do you recognize these other women?”

“Sure, out here in the middle of no where like we are now any team from up to 500 miles away might respond to a problem depending on which one was available, so we have to recognize them all,” Officer Bingham answered.

“Okay, here’s my special Air Marshal’s ID, I’ve flown enough that I asked to be permanently sworn as an Air Marshal,” Sally said.

“Begging your pardon,” the officer stated, “But with that chip, you don’t need that.”

“Some people don’t accept my abilities,” Sally said, “Now that we’ve established that your equipment works, would you mind checking Kelly to see if she’s chipped anywhere?”

Kelly wanted to run, she really had to work hard to only tremble as Officer Bingham approached her. “Not much chance, I’d say, unless she’s a hybrid, or from some reserve,” he told Sally. As he passed the wand over Kelly and shook his head after a few moments, “Still, you’re the one asking questions, and I'd guess since the supers here showed up you’re asking uncomfortable questions.”

“Are you striking for detective?” the Captain growled.

“No sir! I like being a K-9 handler, and I like patrolling.”

“Then this is none of your business. And nothing you’ve said or done has forwarded our investigation.”

“But it is our business,” Cornflower put in harshly, “right now Captain you’re walking the ragged edge of obstructing an investigation. There’s no proof, other than what Tabitha says about what was found out there, but slow walking these people getting back on the road is not going to earn you brownie points with the Marshal’s service if this crosses state lines.

“After all she is a licensed sorcerer, who holds a special badge from the New Hampshire state police regarding investigation of either artifacts or found bodies or goods. By which I mean, such things as weapons caches, drugs, or money dead dropped. I’ve been running her credentials past our tech team and I’d say that she will get any and all help she believes she needs in the next hour or so.”

“This isn’t her, or your jurisdiction!”

“You’d be wrong about my jurisdiction if push comes to shove, as this is a federal highway, a case could be made that everything pertaining to it falls eventually under the auspices of the department of transportation at the federal level. Would you like me to start making calls? Or do you want to start cooperating before the people that Tabitha called start showing up? I think we’re about the tip of the spear, and only arrived here first because we were closest,” the woman who everyone called Cornflower was angry, coldly angry, if Kelly understood what she was smelling.

Sally also broke in and said, “Up until this point, I’ve been working to do two things. First: I’m establishing my credentials through having other authorities forward their confidence in me. Second: I’m trying to prove Kelly’s provenance. The first thing to do is to prove that she has no previous training that we can find. If she had a chip, it might reveal that to us,” Sally turned to the uniformed officer and said, “Officer Bingham, did you find any chips in Kelly?”

“No.”

“Okay that doesn’t eliminate the possibility that she might have been privately trained, but for the moment I’m going to vastly discount that possibility. I say that because I can say that she had been living wild for at least three or four weeks, just from the parasites I used my magic to drive off her body and the ticks I had to dig out. So the next place to look might be to see if someone like a SAR organization might be missing a dog with her description anywhere in central California, since we found her just outside of Tahoe, and I have reason to believe that she was in California, headed East before we found her.”

“Captain,” Cornflower broke into Sally’s lecture, “Unless you start cooperating, based on what Tabitha has reported here,” she tapped Sally’s tablet, “I’m going to be calling in a full team of investigators.”

“You can’t...” the Captain started to say as Kelly felt a twist of something that she had never felt before. A bright light that wasn’t a light, yet that hammered at her very being flashed near them and two women stepped out of the odd feeling brightness.
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