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If I Had A Hammer

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2 years 6 months ago - 2 years 6 months ago #52422 by null0trooper
null0trooper replied the topic: If I Had A Hammer

Evening, Saturday, December 8, 2007, Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy

Kristian's father arrived at the Academy Saturday evening. Abelyn and Elve hadn't met him on Parents' Day, so this was the first chance they'd had to meet the man. Arvid Holm looked... like his son, but older, and a LOT less high-strung. A person would have to be less high strung than Rorsmand to balance his own practice, an internationally successful wife, and three children. She wondered if he and her Pa would have gotten along over a beer or two, and decided that they probably would have if they'd ever had that chance.

The man looked so much older after having gone in with the doctor to check on his son.

Was it surprising that Mads had jumped up (for certain wobbly values of 'jump' that his doctor and anyone else with much sense would have disapproved of) to greet him when he came out? Perhaps not, but after a short discussion that neither Whitman roommate could make out, he turned to introduce them to the man.

Abbie stumbled through her initial apology, "Mr. Holm, I'm so sorry about what happened!"

"I'd insist you call me Arvid, but that would scandalize Kristian, wouldn't it?"

All my own relations as well!, Abbie thought to herself.

"Yes, sir, I think it would. I just wish there was something I could have done to help instead of just standing and watching."

"Why don't we all sit down, and talk about that? Mads," Mr. Holm pronounced the name 'Mass'. Interesting. "Don't go running off. I would like to hear your side as well. If you feel more comfortable using countermeasures I'm sure your friends listening in would understand."

Countermeasures? Listening in?

Seeing shock on the girls' faces, Mr. Holm explained, "Kristian gave us quite the report on Mads' run-ins with the school's, er, 'Intelligence Corps'. I'm given to understand that it corroborates a later report on certain Parents' Day events."

"That was not my fault! I've heard quieter bison in the underbrush..."


"Don't worry too much about it. I've been told that one of your older cousins thought it hilarious. His mother is quietly pleased that the Danish side of your heritage is clearly the strongest - so long as the younger cousins aren't given any brash ideas."

Abbie was sure that she was now seeing a 'Rutro' blush from the boy.

Over the next hour or so, Arvid Holm patiently and tactfully plied his craft as a clinical psychologist. Teens of either, or any, gender tended to catastrophize, and these three were no exception. He'd also need to talk with his son at length as to why he saw this event chain as being the best he had open to him. Maybe some discussions would also be needed over the break regarding how he was responding to his own feelings and to the feelings of those around him.

Sunday, December 9, 2007, Berlin, New Hampshire

The roller-coaster of emotions over the previous couple of days had left Abbie in deep need of a mental and physical break, so after getting up and getting dressed appropriately she accompanied some of the other students on the weekend bus to Berlin for church services. She was surprised to see that Mr. Holm also boarded the bus.

"I should have rented an auto in Boston, but the school had made already made arrangements for my transportation. Who am I to refuse? So here I am. Care to join me, Miss Elliott?"

"Where to? I have to confess that my family wasn't very church-going, but my father was a member of the Christian Church."

"I was thinking of St. Paul Lutheran. It's only a kilometer north of the other churches, and it's a nice day for walking."

"Suits me. I understand that Kris is trying to teach Mads about the Church of Denmark and how it's a Lutheran denomination."

"It is. By the way, we Lutherans do consider ourselves Christians, in case you were wondering."

"Oh, no! That's not it at all! By calling it a Christian Church we mean that we don't put much store in separating everyone into denominations and such. 'We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.' is how my Sunday School teacher put it. I doubt that Reverend Englund - he's the school's minister - would approve. But then, he doesn't have to," Abbie laughed, remembering her one run-in with the dour man.

"Well then, maybe we can expand your cultural horizons while we both pray for Kris to pull through this morning's surgery and his first round of physical therapy."

"Beg pardon?"

"The prosthetic arrived early this morning. I'm given to understand that once Kristian wakes up, he'll be pushed straight into physical therapy to ensure all the nerve connections are working as intended. And, as much as he hates to be seen needing others instead of being needed, it may be best for us not to get into the middle of the brewing power struggle."

How bad could it be?

Sunday afternoon, December 9, 2007, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy

It could be bad enough that Mrs. Carson, the school headmistress, was waiting for the bus to return from Berlin.

"Miss Elliott, if you will excuse us? You may want to talk to certain of your friends regarding their recent behavior. I doubt you need me to tell you which ones, but they can both be found at Doyle Medical Center. Mr. Holm, I believe we have some things to discuss regarding your son."

Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy

One of the funny things about talking is that sometimes it works better when more than one person is willing or able to actually talk. Kristian was awake and sulking when Abbie was allowed in to see him. The hospital gown didn't do much to hide the bruising from the other injuries stemming from the disastrous combat final.

"Abbie. I was told that you and Father went to church this morning. How was it?"

"The usual. Souls touched by God's message. Prayers for peace, healing, goodwill amongst men. That sort of stuff. How was your morning, slugger?"

"It sucked. Alright? The last thing I remember is a building falling on me and a certain obnoxious ASS harassing me over it..."

"That would have been Mads trying his hardest to keep you awake in spite of a serious concussion and focusing on anything other than your arm while Jericho worked on getting you stabilized enough for transport."

"Right. I'm sure he enjoyed himself immensely at my screwing everything up."

"That's not the impression I got from Fey, nor from Security."

"Whatever. Next thing I know, I'm waking up in pain all over..."

"Having a wall dropped on you will do that, Kris."

Rorsmand glared back at the girl. If looks could kill, there'd be one more stiff awaiting transport.

"... and that shithead is trying to get me to move my arm, which I shouldn't be able to do."

"It's called a prosthetic, and from what I hear you knew that this was coming."

"Says you. And of course it's not working quite to his satisfaction, so then he opens up my fucking arm like he's a repairman or something..."

"Did you know he used to work at a doctor's clinic that dealt with this kind of thing?"

"... No. But it was still disturbing as hell to have your best friend poking around inside of you."

"Is that what you guys call it?"

"Not you too?"

"Girls don't 'poke'. Not without help. You'll see that when you take me to the end of the term ball. But do go on."

"So I punched him."

"You punched your best friend. With what?"

"My, um, new hand, I guess. What's this about a ball?"

"You punched the person who bought your new arm, with it?"

"That sounds so wrong when you say it like that." Rorsmand frowned in confusion, "You said 'end of term ball'?"

"Pick me up at 7:30. You should know where Whitman Cottage is by now. So what happened after the fight?"

"He just stared at me in pain for a minute, hell, it almost felt like I'd punched myself! Then he spat out a few teeth, and passed out! Who the hell pulls an illusion like that on someone?"

"No one. But it explains why he's not hovering over you like he has been the past couple of days."


"Because he's in the room next door with his jaw wired shut."


"Exemplar. versus. Baseline. A handicapped baseline. What did you think would happen when you clocked him?"

"I didn't mean to..."

"Good thing you hadn't asked him to the end of term ball. That could get awkward."

"He doesn't even like me that much!"

"No. He just cares for you like family. There's an important difference there that you've been moping about for ages."

"I hit him - when he had his guard down?"

Finally it sinks in? Testosterone poisoning for the loss.

"He couldn't exactly keep his guard up, what with his own Combat Final going sideways, trying to get you a compatible prosthetic after hearing about the tumor you couldn't be bothered to mention to any of us, and everything else."

"I did hit him... Combat Final? He had a medical waiver for that!"

"Him, Thorn, Josie Gillman. I'm told the only way it could have turned out stranger was if a Great Old One walked in pretending to be a cat."

"He didn't get hurt, did he?"

"So now you wonder about his health? He did manage to stagger in under his own power. Dr. Tenent wasn't impressed."

"And I..."

"Had all of us worried about you the whole damn time. Can't either of you two idiots let people look out for you once in a while with out popping a gasket or getting yourself even hurt more trying to get out of it?"

"I should apologize, shouldn't I?"

"If you have to ask, you need to take a deeper look at who you are and who you're becoming."

Kris blinked at that advice. Rather wise coming from a girl his age. Of course, he'd been one once, too.

"Where did you come up with that?"

"Today's sermon, at St. Paul's, with your father, who, by the way, is getting a 'Report to Admin' level briefing on your recent behavior from Mrs. Carson."

Abbie sighed at the mixture of befuddlement and concern on the other's face. Maybe it was just a bad combination of concussion and medications? How did she let a couple of knuckleheaded boys like these even get under her skin like this? Even advanced metalworking was more straightforward: just grab a hammer and pound the dents out! She'd ask Thomas how he managed if she thought she'd get a straight answer out of him.

"Let me go check on the other numbskull. Maybe they'll let you go in to apologize before he's back up to door smashing speed again."

"Door-smashing?" Kristian wondered what else happened while he was out.

"Kris, in case you're wondering, I got some great advice from Fey the other day. Do NOT get in the way of Jericho or Metro trying to aid a patient or protect someone they care for. It doesn't end well."

Next door

It looked like Mads, on the other hand, was going to be blessedly silent on all matters for the evening. He was wired up with an array of monitors lest post-surgical swelling impede his breathing. Once again, Thomas Jensen was reading one of his textbooks, no doubt preparing for regular end-of-term exams. Abbie prayed to a God she often questioned (even on His own day) that those exams would be less exciting. That gave the boy time to choose his words.

"He did it to himself this time," Thomas spat out.

"I was under the impression that Kris helped."

"There IS that."

There had to be something Abbie wasn't getting about all this. "Why?"

"Kris is an exemplar. What and how he sees as himself, he becomes. So if he thinks of his arm as a thing separate from himself, his body will begin to reject the foreign object in order to replace it."

"Would that replacement include the abnormal tissue the doctors found?"

"Maybe. End result: Kris loses his arm. Again. And, potentially, again. That is, if regen cancer doesn't kick in."

"That still doesn't explain why he provoked Kris."

"Emulating the same method he was tricked into mentally accepting his own prosthetic, even though that thing was much more obvious."

Say what?

"Mads lost an arm? When was this?"

"A couple of years ago. He had to live with a mechanical arm for five or six months until a cloned replacement became available."

"Okay..." Not okay. Abbie wondered, "What about recharging the batteries or power cells? Won't that cue Kris' subconscious mind that something's wrong?"

Thomas explained, "There are hidden solar cells which will feel very good when the skin is exposed to the sun, plus use of his body's bioelectric field, even some environmental EM scavenging. If it helps, think of it as devisor tech, with a working maintenance kit. Besides, denial isn't just another African river, now, is it?"


"Well, there you go. We're dealing with two true professionals in that field."

Thursday evening, December 13, 2007, Whitman Cottage, Whateley Academy

Finals week at Whateley seemed to have come and go in a rush. Rorsmand's father departed for Copenhagen on Monday with a backup copy of the physical therapy exercises his son was meant to keep up over the winter break. Metro's jaw was unwired in due time. Too soon, according to many, but he wasn't supposed to be talking during finals anyway. It was distracting.

Kristian was heartbreakingly prompt, arriving at the Whitman Cottage front entrance at 7:30 on the dot. Later, Abelyn would learn that 'fashionably late' was not a prized virtue to many Danes and Germans. As it was, the Emerson lad spent fifteen minutes under Mrs. Savage's (and others') watchful eyes. The fact that cute exemplars rarely got past Dickinson or Melville Cottages, let alone cute exemplars in their JROTC dress uniform, wasn't lost on her.

With solemn promises not to stay out past curfew under threat of dismemberment the traumatized young man was finally able to escort Abbie away. Judging by the glazed look in Rorsmand's eyes, he might have been exposed to a moderate dose of Pucelle's brand of crazy. "Is it always like this?" he asked.

She replied, "No. Sometimes the reception can even be hostile."

McFarlane Stadium, Whateley Academy

The intent of the few formal balls held at Whateley Academy was to make some effort to inculcate a measure of class and refinement into the student body even if it killed the angsty blighters. Those running the sound booth tended to take a middle path between the dual recipes for disaster in having the Staff disappointed and the students bored. Thus, mixed in with the usual mix of fast and slow songs there were also a selection of songs suited to the ballroom dancing that few kids learned these days except under pain of death, parental disapproval, being cut off from inheritances, etc. Given that the formal selections usually coincided with longer lines at the restrooms and punch bowls, they were also selected for length if the DJs were to have any chance at a restroom break themselves.

The folks who did know the formal dances tended to stand out: a couple of the adult chaperones at any given time, several of the Golden Kids attempting to keep up appearances, some of the seniors (under pain of Hartford). The few who didn't fit the stood out even more. For example, 'Shine's date for the evening had obviously taken some pains to teach the Tennessee millionaire steps to the less-complicated dances. One of the Poe sophomores - a library aide who went by the codename Tennyo - not only had a lovely dress, but had snagged one of the few male Posies who knew the dance steps and could fly. That just wasn't fair, even if it was just Valravn dancing with The Destroyer.

Smithy managed to drag to Rorsmand out onto the dance floor a couple of times before Metro made an appearance. It was a good thing that it was one of the faster formal numbers that so chaotically cleared the floor and imposed distance between the two Danes, and also that he was accompanied by Heartbreaker. Where there was a model on a shoot there was sure to be... yes. Greasy was skillfully weaving through the dancers and the crowd at the edge of the dance floor to get the best photos possible for the Venus Inc. assignment. Solange was managing a graceful balance of stage managing the shoot, mingling with her own crowd, and subtly promising through her body language a painful and slow demise for anyone interfering with either of her priorities.

Abbie sent Kris off for some punch, so as not to start something that might get himself punched.

'I swear that boy is damn-near determined to start a fight, just to get Mads to pay him back for the cheap shot the other day!'

'He feels guilty for acting dishonorably. As he should.'

'But Mads and Thomas have both told him to let it go!'

'We ARE discussing the weaker-minded of the species, you know.'

'Maybe we should duct-tape the two to a tree until they get it out of their system?'

'Two trees, perhaps, facing each other.'

'I like the way you think!'

The third time the pair went out, it was to a jazzy latin number that allowed Heartbreaker to really show off her assets and footwork. It looked like so much fun that Abbie wished she could dance like that. However, once she accounted for how much the needed dance practice could cut into her Workshop time she tabled that potential hobby. Looking over at the boy who was supposed to be her date... so tense, and sad? the way he watched the couple... something else had to be behind whatever was going on with him. Abbie felt somewhat ashamed to have pushed Kris into this.

Maybe he envied the exemplar beauty's grace on the dance floor too? If that was be something that could help Kris unwind more, it might be worth the lost lab time after all. For now, she gently took hold of the boy's clenched fist and coaxed him in to opening his hand. That much she could do, before he excused himself again.

Returning with a couple of cups of punch, Rorsmand guiltily suggested that maybe they should ease their way to where the other JROTC couples had congregated? Abbie readily agreed. It did feel good to be shown off in front of the other cadets and their dates. One or two of the cadets didn't seem very impressed, as if she were stealing one of their own, but as far as Abbie was concerned that was their problem to live with. With any luck she hoped to still salvage the occasion by keeping an eye out for Elve, assuming the girl made it to the dance with the senior who'd asked her out. It later turned out that so many of the cadets who knew him, among others, were concerned for how it could turn out, that it might been one of the most heavily-chaperoned dates in recent history.

Friday morning, December 14, 2007, Whitman Cottage, Whateley Academy

And just like that, the Fall term for Abelyn and friends was over. Abbie said her goodbyes to the boys after breakfast, giving them each a little something to open on Christmas morning. Or Yule. Or Kwanzaa. She was reasonably certain that the latter suggestion was Thomas' idea of a joke.

Her own departure was scheduled for Saturday. Elve's parents would be coming to the States to visit her, because sitting in an airplane for hours on end would be too painful for the girl to go through twice in barely more than three weeks. That shouldn't have been a strong reminder of how much she still missed her parents, but it was. She hardly even knew the grandmother she'd be staying with for the Christmas break in North Carolina. Maybe this would turn out to be more an opportunity than a burden?

Either way, in three short weeks she'd be back to school, back to work at her forge, back to whatever mayhem a new term at Whateley Academy could throw at her. Unbidden, a song her father's father used to love came back to her and she hummed to herself as she went back down to her shop.

But I still belong to everyone
And if my sleep allows
Well then all those boys
Will dance tonight
With me and my old pals
--Richard Stekol, "My Old Pals"


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