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A Whateley Academy Adventure

The Boys of Summer

by

E. E. Nalley

Out on the road today, I saw a DEADHEAD sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice inside my head said, "Don't look back. You can never look back"
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let them go but-

—Don Henley The Boys of Summer

May 14th, 2007
The Black Diamond Club, 1012 Norman Ave., Berlin, NH

To call the building that housed the Black Diamond Club nondescript would oversell it in terms of the most gross opulence. A simple brass plaque announced to the world the club's name, and hanging below that a smaller sign that declared "Members Only". There were no windows, only the single door and while it was tastefully ornate, it was also steel and would likely stand up to anyone trying to force the issue of whether they were a member or not. Not that any of that seemed to bother Ms. Hartford, who strolled authoritatively towards the door, heels clicking on the pavement, while Tansy followed her, wondering if her designer jeans, a sweater, and knee boots were a bit underdressed for the occasion.

As she arrived at the door it opened of its own volition revealing a blocky shaped man in a tasteful, if off the rack, suit that didn't announce bouncer so much as hired thug. He touched the brim of his fedora, that was pulled low over his eyes, with a thick index finger out of deference. "Hindmost," he greeted before he didn't so much step into but completely close off the way forward. Not taking his eyes off Ms. Hartford, he asked, "Who is this?"

Ms. Hartford looked over her shoulder, giving Tansy in an appraising glance before a sly smile curled one corner of her lips and she turned back to the guardian of the door. "This?" She asked innocently. "This is… Dague, my protégé, I'm seeing her enrolled today."

That seemed to satisfy the thug who touched the brim of his fedora again and stood to one side, holding the door for the two women. "Dague?" Asked Tansy archly as they made their way through a pleasant but nondescript foyer where Ms. Hartford left her jacket with the coat check girl.

Smiling her uncharacteristic and somewhat off-putting smile, the Assistant headmistress led the way deeper into the club towards the bar. "You like French codenames, Solange," Hartford said confidently. "Dague is old French for dagger. A dagger is an ambiguous weapon, used both in the symbolism of unconventional warfare units as well as connotations with espionage 'cloak and dagger' as it were, as well as some light overlapping as a tool of assassination. A dagger can be any of these things depending on how it's used."

Tansy crossed her arms over her magnificent bosom, a hint of a frown on her lips. "Unless I misremember one of Madame Prudhomme’s more interesting anecdotes, it also means an individual point on the rack of the deers' antlers."

"Does it?" Hartford asked with an false innocence that wouldn't have fooled a child. She shrugged expressively as they arrived at the bar. "Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. Two glasses of Auslesen, Tony," she ordered.

Walcutt arched an eyebrow. "Don't you even want to see my fake ID? After all I paid quite a bit of money for it." The bartender returned with a pair of wine goblets generously full of white wine which he sat down and left without waiting for payment. Amelia presented the teenager with her glass.

"This isn't that kind of bar," she informed her student.

Tansy took a sip of the German dessert wine, finding it of exceptional quality, sweet and fruity with a soft dry finish. Nodding her appreciation she turned back to her mentor and asked, "What kind of bar is it?"

"This is a Syndicate chapter house," Amelia replied around a sip of her own wine. "You'll find there are discrete recruiting stations, like this one, dotted all over the presidential mountains and the local little hamlets."

"To recruit from Whateley," Tansy guessed.

"To recruit from Whateley," Ms. Hartford assured her. "Within five miles of this building are safe houses of practically every espionage organization on the planet, law firms that are on permanent retainers with most known paranormal and 'hero' organizations, etc. etc. none of this should surprise you, Tansy."

The blonde took another sip of her wine and shook her head, amazed at the acoustics of the bar. There was a soft nondescript music that filled the room, but didn't overpower conversation. She felt she could easily converse with Ms. Hartford without so much as raising her voice, but the conversation of anyone more than a foot or so away was lost in the music. "I'm not surprised, it doesn't take a genius to realize something like this had been going on. Though I note you have yet to answer my original question; why do you want me to infiltrate Wyatt's Atlantean League?"

Hartford's eyebrow ascended her forehead as she looked at her pupil sideways. "You read the dossier, didn't you?" Tansy nodded in the affirmative, a slight expression of confusion on her face. "Excellent," Amelia continued. "So, let us employ the Socratic method, and find out what you learned. You have known Wyatt for three years, and slept with him for a handful of months, in that time how often did he feel that he was insufficient by himself to meet a challenge?"

Once again, unbidden, a pair of images reared up in Tansy's memory; the frustration filled night of wondering why her power wasn't working against the big, shaggy man, and the unfettered joy of the memory Loophole had shared with her of giving her virginity to the same lover. Tansy quickly took a sip of wine and blinked her eyes to keep them from filling with tears of regret. "Never," she answered.

"And how many organizations on campus does Wyatt belong to? Does he seem particularly social?"

Tansy shrugged, a frown pulling at the corners of her lips she thought through the logic Ms. Hartford was suggesting. "He joined the Alphas because Freya recruited him," she admitted finally. "And being in charge of Team Phoenix was a perk," she continued. "Wyatt has always been something of a loner."

Ms. Hartford ran her fingertip around the rim of her wine glass silently. "But now he feels the need to form a group, and is recruiting every heavy hitter on campus. Why do you think he's doing that? Why do you think I want to know?"

Tansy turned and shared a glance with the administrator. "Wyatt is going to war…" She breathed.

"With who, is the question, Miss Walcutt," Amelia told her softly. "Find out for me."

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June 11th, 2007
Whateley Academy Proving Grounds, 25 miles north of the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

A thrill ran up Tansy's spine as she passed through the large roll-up door out onto a hot, immensely-flat stretch of desolation. She turned and looked behind her seeing a room that was both inches and hundreds of miles away at the same time, through which Lanie was pushing her car. She caught sight of the expression on Tansy's face and smiled a crooked smile. "Messes with you doesn't it?" She asked as she let Kayda, who was sitting in the driver seat steering, stop the car while she turned and opened the lock box next to the door.

"They do say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Tansy replied philosophically. She gave herself a little shake as though to throw off the woolgathering and shook her head ruefully. "I don't think they meant it quite so literally."

Lanie pressed a button in the box she’d opened causing the roll-up door to close slowly. She closed and locked the box turning back to the other girls and dusting off her hands. "All right," she said, making a gesture to a ribbon of asphalt some ways to the south. "That's Interstate 80 which we will take through Salt Lake City and on through Wyoming. We will head north when we get to Cheyenne and then east through South Dakota to Sioux Falls."

Tansy looked at the desolation all around her and then back at the Mustang with its gleaming mirror shined chrome blower scoop peeking out of the car's hood. There didn't seem to be any living thing around for hundreds of miles. "I don't mean to be a worrywart," she said as she slid into the passenger seat and Kayda scrambled into the back so that Lanie could take the driver’s place. "But there doesn't seem to be very much around here and this is a sports car. Do we have enough fuel...?"

The big V-8 started with a throaty growl and the transmission settled into first gear with a satisfying clank of metal on metal. The oversize Dunlop's on the rear wheels threw a pair of rooster tails of salt and sand as the car shot towards the freeway like its namesake Mustang being smacked with a whip. "Tansy, Tansy," chided Lanie while shaking her head and shifting gears. “Don't you trust me?"

A glance at the dashboard instruments told the blonde the car was already speeding over 100 miles an hour and was just now being placed in the third gear. "Trust has nothing to do with practicality," she replied fighting the urge to grab a hold of something as the car continued to accelerate.

Loopholes fingers pulled up on a red mushroom shaped button that was attached to the shifter knob. On the hood the blower came screaming to life as the three girls were pressed firmly into their seats while the speedometer needle seemed to leap from 122 to over 200 miles an hour. "You don't have to do this to impress me," Tansy assured her.

"You're scaring her, cuwe," Kayda chided from the backseat.

"Just Tansy?" Lanie asked with a smirk.

"I am...concerned..." Kayda admitted. "Normally I'm in an airplane when I'm going this fast."

"But Ah haven't even started the nitrous yet!" Lanie complained. Despite that she pressed the button back in; the blower ceased its wine and the car began to slow. "If it were legal," she said with a smug grin. "Like say on the autobahn in Germany, Baby Girl here could hold 200 miles an hour and still get about 25 miles to the gallon. Freeway speed she will get about 34 or so and with her 18-gallon tank that gives us a range of over 600 miles. Don't worry we won't get stuck." Her face took on a wistful expression and she sighed. "Ah just wish Montana wasn't so far out of the way."

Tansy frowned, confused. "Why? What's in Montana?"

Kayda leaned forward from the backseat. "Freeways without speed limits," she declared ominously. "Be afraid. Be very, very afraid."

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May 30th, 2007
Fagin's Pub, 777 Main St., Berlin, NH

"Are you afraid?"

Fagin's Pub was one of those hole-in-the-wall eateries that made small-town, independent food interesting. While being unashamedly blue-collar, considerable pride was being taken in the kitchen that was turning what would be bar food into something that nearly resembled haute cuisine. Despite how perfectly prepared the steak she was enjoying was made, Tansy couldn't help but stare practically slack-jawed at the unexpected question that Ms. Hartford had asked her. Having just laid out what she had learned from being recruited into the Atlantean League and the enemy they faced, as far as Tansy was concerned fear wasn't just an appropriate response, it was probably undersold.

"Of… Of course I'm afraid!" She replied fighting her own shock at the administrator’s blasé attitude. "Are you saying you're not? Are you suicidal?"

Amelia Hartford dipped one of her fries in the puddle of ketchup on her plate and popped it in her mouth while shaking her head. "Only in the morning," she quipped with her unsettling smile. Becoming more serious she speared her protégé with a firm glance that seemed meant to inspire confidence. "Did you sleep through paranormal history?" Hartford asked archly. "Because if you didn't you would know how many times this planet has been invaded from extraterrestrial and extra dimensional sources. Is this Bastard a dangerous foe? Any being powerful enough to have caused The Sundering is not someone to be taken lightly. Which, based on your report, Wyatt is most certainly not doing."

Tansy contemplated the triangle of steak she was in the process of cutting for a moment, before she turned back to her mentor. "But, shouldn't we be calling out the National Guard or something?"

With her fork, Ms. Hartford pointed out a service member across the dining room in combat fatigues who was enjoying some kind of sandwich. "Just for a moment," she said philosophically. "Let's assume you can convince the Colonel over there of the dire threat looming over his unsuspecting head. Now, he's obviously in shape, but I'd say he's at least in his early to mid 40s. He can probably bench press, oh, let's say 225 pounds. Even if I believed your MID that lists you as an exemplar one, which I don't by the way, can you bench press more than he can? What can the normal do, that we can't do better?"

Walcutt sighed and chewed the steak piece she had cut. "I see your point. So what do I do now?"

"You continue doing what you are doing," Hartford ordered. "Keep up with your training, keep yourself integrated in Wyatt's inner circle, keep me abreast of his actions and if you or he need something let me know." She paused dramatically for a moment, and then added, "Make certain Mrs. Carson does not find out about this."

The final directive rattled Tansy and she looked up, a curious expression on her face. "Why not? If it is as dire as all that shouldn't…?"

Hartford shook her head. "No," she replied. "Wyatt is correct, if Liz were to find out about this her first instinct would be to shut down the students and keep them safe. We'll need every hand Wyatt can recruit against a foe of this magnitude. Better she doesn't know." Evidently finished with her meal, Ms. Hartford wiped her mouth on a napkin and took her wallet from her purse, casually dropping a hundred dollar bill on the table. "Anything else?"

"I'm guessing this is my highest priority?"

"Staying in Wyatt's inner circle?" Hartford repeated. "Absolutely! I'm not certain Wyatt Cody's Atlantean League is up to stopping the Bastard, but, if nothing else, we will need every soldier we can get. I'll see to it you get all the support you need from The Syndicate, and other sources I have access to. In the meantime, as far as you're concerned, Wyatt Cody and Elaine Nalley are your new best friends. Don't come between Kayda and Elaine, but otherwise do whatever you have to stay in their good graces."

Tansy snorted halfway between disgust and amusement as Hartford stood. Only half in jest, she asked, "Are you whoring me out?"

Hartford leaned in to a conspiratorial distance and lowered her voice substantially. Her eyes on fire, she held her protégés glance and said, "we're talking about saving the world, Tansy. I'm not your father, and I'm not using you, but you'll find there are times in this business when we put our personal desires aside and we do what is best for humanity. You've already slept with Wyatt so I'm not asking anything you haven't already done there. Yes, Loophole is bisexual, and while you're not exactly her type based on her preferences so far, I'm certain you're familiar enough with the game of seduction to be her type if that's what's needed."

A shudder passed through Tansy even as the memory she had stolen from Kayda being pressed up against the redheads scrumptious naked flesh and being passionately kissed by her replayed in the back of her mind. "You don't know what you're asking me," she whispered.

Hartford's finger hooked on Tansy's chin and brought her gaze back into the administrators eyes. Through the touch Tansy looked through her eyes and relived with her being with a man she absolutely despised, who was old enough to be her great-grandfather, but who had the location and access codes of Dr. Palms master server. And her body was the price he wanted for that information and it was taking every ounce of willpower Amelia Hartford had not to vomit as her victim had his way with her. "And now you know that I know exactly what I'm asking of you," she told the teen girl softly, shuddering herself as her mind made her relive feeling his cold bony hands on her. "And we both know that your sacrifice, if it is truly needed, won't be anything near as vile as what I've endured." She withdrew her hand and smiled a crooked smile. "Who knows? You may actually find you like it."

Tansy shuddered again, but remained silent and finally forced herself to nod. "Good girl," Hartford told her. "I trust your judgment, do what's needed and keep me in the loop.”

"Yes ma'am."

"And Tansy?" Walcutt looked up into Hartford's face again to find her with a smile that seemed almost motherly. "Remember, you're saving the world. That's something to be proud of."

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June 11th, 2007
Denny's restaurant, 1701 W North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah

"Is all of our food on this trip going to be so… Blue-collar?" Tansy asked with only a mild dollop of sarcasm as she watched her two friends tuck in to their meals; French toast for Elaine and something called a lumberjack slam for Kayda. As near as Tansy could tell it was just grease and batter in various forms. Tansy was "enjoying," if that was the right word, a salad that almost had too much meat and cheese to qualify.

Elaine rolled her eyes as she cut off a piece of sausage. "It's a road trip Tansy," she told her indulgently. "You're not supposed to worry about things like your diet."

"Yeah," Kayda affirmed around a mouthful of pancake. "Live a little."

Tansy allowed a small smile for the corner of her mouth. "Well if the lipid theory of heart disease is correct then a little may be all the living you get you eating like that," she replied drolly. She sighed, put the fork back in her salad and cast a glance around to be sure they could speak discreetly. Once she was certain of that in a much softer tone of voice she said, "I'm sorry, I'm trying to get past this and I just can't. I understand why you are," she said with a glance towards Kayda that actually held legitimate compassion in her eyes, then she turned to Elaine.

"It's you I don't understand, Lanie."

"Understand what?" Asked the redhead in surprise.

Tansy's face turned crimson as her gaze fell to her salad. Kayda snorted a suppressed laugh and leaned in to be discreet. "She doesn't understand why you like girls, cuwe," she informed her. Comprehension dawned on Elaine's face as she shook her head with a chuckle.

"Just the way God made me," Elaine said after a moment of thought.

Tansy's gaze shot up from the salad. "The Bible says that is a sin!" She declared flatly. "God didn't…"

"Give me chapter and verse of Jesus condemning homosexuality," Elaine challenged. "Ah'll save you some trouble... you can't, because He didn't."

"But Paul in the Corinthians and the Romans condemns…"

Elaine shook her head and counted off her points on her fingers. "One: Ah'm a Christian, not a disciple of Paul, Christ is the arbiter. Two: in both instances Paul was condemning temple prostitution, i.e. the worship of idols through sex, not homosexuality! More to the point, you cannot read the relationship between David and Jonathan as anything other than a pair of men who were deeply in love with each other!”

Tansy sighed held up her hands in surrender. "I wasn't trying to start an argument," she said softly. "I… I just don't understand."

Elaine blinked in confusion and took a deep breath to master her temper, but it was Kayda who spoke first. "What's to understand Tansy?" She asked softly. "Lanie is just bisexual it's just part of who she is."

Tansy shook her head again, the Halo of blonde hair around her head bobbling with movement in a very fetching manner. She opened her eyes and speared both girls with intense gazes from the icy blue depths. "You don't understand. Because you both know what love is, it’s simple for you. I… I don't know what love is. I've never been loved. My parents…" Her throat closed over her voice and a tear escaped tried to run down her cheek.

"My parents don't love me, the boys that I fucked at school don't love me, so you see, we don't even have a common frame of reference."

Elaine and Kayda shared a glance, then turned back to the blonde who was bravely holding her tears back. As one they reached out and each took one of Tansy's hands and squeezed it in sympathy. "Well, Ah had hoped to get us a little further along, but obviously this needs mending right now," Elaine declared with authority.

Tansy sniffed mightily to clear her sinuses. "What do you mean?" She asked somewhat fearfully.

"Finish your salad," Elaine ordered her. "Then we’re going to get a motel room, and Kayda and Ah are going to show you what love is."

Tansy's mouth moved but no sound came out and she desperately wondered what she had just gotten herself into.

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June 11th, 2007
Marriott City Center, 220 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT

Elaine's cryptic refusal to expand on her previous comment made the rest of the meal more than a little awkward. And not just for her, Tansy noted as it became increasingly apparent that Kayda wasn't exactly sanguine about what could be in the offering either. Things came to a head once the meal had been finished and the girls had returned to the car. Elaine drove a little further before getting back off of the freeway and following a set of signs to the parking lot of a Motel 6 at which point Tansy could take things no longer.

"No!" She protested.

"It's not what you think," Elaine started but Tansy already had her phone in her hand was typing furiously.

"I'm not sure that Tansy has the wrong idea all by herself," Kayda supplied causing Elaine to facepalm in frustration.

"Ah am engaged to be married!" Elaine protested, "what exactly do you think…?"

Tansy turned the screen to where Elaine could see driving directions. "I'll be the first to admit," Tansy said quickly. "I may not know exactly what you have in mind, but I can tell you this... whatever it is is not going to take place in a cheap motel room. So this is the only four-star hotel in this part of town and whatever is going to happen is going to happen there. Because I have standards, dammit!"

Lanie and Kayda shared a look before the girls burst out laughing and even Tansy after a moment joined in. Elaine put the car in reverse and skillfully worked the clutch in a bootleggers turn. "All right Tansy, four-stars it is."

So a few minutes of driving, a brief stint at the front desk, and Tansy's trust fund lightened by a few hundred dollars later, the girls found themselves in a very comfortable suite of rooms at the top floor of of the hotel. A bottle of champagne was already chilling in a bucket which Tansy expertly opened and poured out glasses. "Friendship," she toasted, which the other two echoed and drank.

Fortified by the liquid courage and feeling somewhat more in her own element, Tansy squared off her shoulders and declared, "I don't know what it is you intend to do, but let me say I'm not a voyeur, and I'm not exactly ready for… What?" She demanded seeing the grin spreading on Elaine's face.

"Well," the redhead began with a smile and another appreciative sip of her champagne. "The first thing you need to understand about love is that love and sex are two different things. Ah love Kayda as a friend, as a sister and those feelings have nothing to do with physical acts we may perform. Ah would lay down my life for her, just as Ah know she would for me."

Tansy's confidence began to fade so she took another sip of the wine to bolster it. "But you two have…"

Kayda eyes blinked a bit before she made her way to a chair as the champagne worked its magic on her and she felt a tad tipsy. "Yes, we have, but not by choice," she admitted as she sank into the chair.

"Are you alright?" Asked Lanie out of concern. Kayda made an angry gesture.

"Native American!" She declared exasperatedly. "Alcohol! Yes I guess I am that much of a cheap date!"

Lanie smiled a salacious grin as she and Tansy moved over to the conversational nook and sank on the sofa next to each other. "Mental note!" She purred which caused Kayda to stick her tongue out at her.

Tansy rolled her eyes. "Oh please!" She exclaimed with barely concealed disgust. "Methinks the ladies doth protest too much! You two go on and on about how you had no control over what happened in the Teepee…"

"Sweat lodge!" Protested Kayda.

"Wigwam, for all I care!" Tansy replied. "But the two of you flirt like… Like… Oh I don't know what!"

Elaine sighed and took another sip of her champagne obviously enjoying it. "It wasn't easy having to make up to the people that we love, Wyatt for me, Deb for Kayda, that we betrayed them Tansy. It hurt, a lot, and there were tears, and fear and panic that love forgives things that perhaps it shouldn't but does anyway. Ah tease Kayda both to show her that Ah love her, as well as to show that Ah'm not ashamed of what happened. Ah won't act on that teasing either while Ah'm engaged to Wyatt, or while she's with Debbie. And she knows that."

"Deep down," Kayda admitted as she sat down her flute and yawned.

"Then why are we here?" Tansy asked with a frown on her face. Elaine nodded as she finished off her champagne then relieved Tansy of her glass and set it down low table between them.

"For this," she said reaching out to touch the other girls forehead. "Just relax," was the last thing that Tansy heard before the world shimmered and went dark.

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June 11th, 2007
Dream Space of Tansy Penelope Walcutt

The darkness Tansy found herself in was infinite. It had an up-and-down, a solidness that held her up right, but no other feature she could determine. There was no light but she could see herself as she held up her hands to her face and shuddered in fear. Before her was not the slim, perfectly manicured hands of her not quite eighteen-year-old self, but the short, pudgy, pig like hand of the body she had not worn for ten years.

The body of Heather and Connie Goodkinds favorite bully target.

"No," she whispered, even her voice with the unattractive squeak of prepubescence that went with this horrific jail for her soul. Tansy squeezed her eyes shut and grabbed hold of her fear in a will of iron. "No," she denied more emphatically. "I refuse this, this is not real!"

"Reality," a soothing, deeply female voice remarked, "has always been a subject of some debate."

Walcutt's eyes snapped open and she spun in place, peering into the darkness. "Who's out there?" She shouted. "Elaine this isn't funny!"

Out of the darkness a pair of brown eyes even darker and more infinite coalesced then showed they were attached to the brown furred muzzle of a tremendous bear that appeared. "My host isn't playing pranks on you," the bear said without moving her muzzle. "Though she certainly has reason to, doesn't she?"

Tansy took in a deep, breath and set her fists on her hips. "My compliments on your entry," she said wincing at the petulant tone of her younger voice. "Very Lewis Carroll."

The black lips of the Bears muzzle peeled away in a menacing display of dagger like fangs. "With or without a grin, I'm still a bear," the spirit told her. "Though I warn you I have no bark and my bite can be quite painful."

"What is Loophole doing?" The little girl Tansy had become demanded.

"Helping you," the bear replied as she walked forward to a conversational distance, dwarfing the form Tansy wore. "Why, I can't say, other than to guess that her selfless, giving nature has gotten the best of her again."

Tansy couldn't help but frown. "Grizzly, I presume?" The bear dipped her head but was otherwise silent. "Well, I've certainly earned Elaine's animosity, but what offense have I given you?"

The bear sat on her haunches and leaned forward until she was almost nose to nose with the young girl. For a long moment, she merely stared into Tansy's eyes and finally exhaled a snort and looked away. "You are good," Grizzly admitted after a moment. "I trust you about as far as I can throw you, but because I'm a mother and you are someone's daughter, I will give you this warning; if whatever it is you are doing harms my host, whether she forgives you or not, know that I won't. And I will have a lot of time to make your life, this life, the afterlife, and the next life miserable beyond words of human comprehension."

The bear sighed and shook herself which caused an immediate change in her demeanor. "And that, Tansy Walcutt, is your first lesson from me about love."

"How much you'll enjoy harming me?"

"That someone external to yourself could matter so much to you that you would devote the very worst of yourself to do vengeance on their behalf," the bear corrected her. "If I didn't love Elaine, you would be completely beneath my notice. I could snuff out your life with a thought. But for her sake I would invest the time to cause you pain."

Tansy rolled her eyes. "Who knew love had such a dark side?"

Now was Grizzly's turn to be dismissive. "Why do you think people are afraid of the emotion?" She asked suggestively. "Some of the vilest acts of human history have been committed because of love. But it's not all darkness and vengeance, and you are wrong when you say that you've never experienced love. You just don't remember." She leaned back and opened her front paws in an invitation of a hug. "Come remember," the she bear ordered.

For whatever reason, the snarky rejoinder died unspoken on her lips. Inexorably she found herself drawn forward towards the spirit until the softness of her fur was against Tansy's skin. The paws closed around her and Grizzly rolled onto her back, effortlessly picking up the childlike Tansy and enveloping her in a warm and timeless place. Slowly the comfort pierced the iron will and Tansy remembered crying because of the merciless teasing of the Goodkind sisters while being held and comforted by her real mother before the booze and the pills took her away.

Despite that horrible future Tansy knew was coming, she was able for a short time to relive a memory suppressed for so long it had been forgotten. Despite the threats of bodily harm and endless torment, Grizzly put her feelings aside and let the warmth of maternal love for her daughter flow from the memory into the troubled teen.

The tears came in a flood, bitter, repressed and genuine. Grizzly comforted the girl as well as she was able, slowly peeling off the layers of protection, the self-recrimination and the self-loathing that somehow she was responsible for her mother's spiral into dependency and alcoholism. The ugly duckling blossomed once more as Tansy allowed her soul to assume it's origin and Grizzly found a Norman Princess laying against her fur dressed in a scrumptious green felt cotehardie dress blonde tresses loose and following her head.

The darkness gave way to an idolized castle room that had far too much furniture to be historically correct for the time. It was more Disney than Renaissance fair, but the room was comfortable and a Merry fire was dancing in the fireplace. At long last there were no more tears, and Tansy sat up, sniffing mightily to try and clear her sinus cavities. Looking around in confusion, she finally looked up into Grizzly's eyes. "What is this place?" She asked softly wiping her eyes on the sleeve the dress. "This is the most complete looking psychic space I have ever seen. Even Fubar's constructs aren't as real, how are you doing this?

The spirit's tone was smug. "I've been doing this a bit longer than he has. This is your dream space," the bear spirit told her. "This isn't in your mind, it's much deeper. Technically we're not connected your body right now at all. Think of it as a mansion for your soul. Currently, it shows the origin of your soul the point at which the most lasting imprint was made."

"Why am I dressed like a princess?"

Something about the bears tone to her mental voice suggests that she was smiling. "Because you think of yourself as one," Grizzly told her. "At some point, this," and the spirit made a vague gesture to encompass the room. "This is where you come from. My ex could probably be more accurate, but I would guess Norman invasion of England. Perhaps you are descended from some Knight or footman who fought in that conquest. In the same manner that my host is descended from the Picts to the north."

Tansy blinked in astonishment. "You mean that crazy memory of Kayda's about Lanie being some kind of warrior is true?"

The bear spirit looked away at the door the chamber. "Beloved," she called.

The door opened with an appropriately ancient squeak of a hinge needing oil which drew Tansy's attention. In the door stood a contradiction; a woman who was both obviously the shy, comely literary chick, but who also at the same time most definitely was not. It was Lanie's face, and Lanie's body, under the leather armor and the tattoos and the blue mud but the wild halo of red hair and the murderous grass green eyes hidden behind the stripe of woad that stretched from temple to temple had Tansy's breath catching her throat.

Before the Princess could scream, the girl smiled and the image of the murderous warrior was broken and it was just a strangely dressed Lanie once again. "Did Ah have to get dressed up in this outfit?" She demanded with just a touch of sarcasm.

"You know you appear however you like," chided Grizzly. "But yes, your friend wanted to see if it was true."

Lanie came over and laid down against Grizzly next to Tansy. "Well, here Ah am. Conana the banana barbarian in all mah glory."

Tansy tried desperately, but failed to suppress a laugh. The girls shared a giggle for a moment before Tansy shook her head. "I'm almost afraid to ask what your mansion looks like!"

No sooner had the words left her mouth than reality shimmered and Walcutt found herself on a small island beach in a lake, the Princess dress exchanged for her favorite bikini. A short swim offshore a little white sailboat, not much bigger than a dinghy to her eyes, stood at anchor. Walcutt turned to see Elaine behind her, dressed in a modest one piece, still leaning against the bear. "Not what you were expecting?" The redhead asked her.

The blonde smiled and shook her head. "No, but somehow it fits you." Tansy walked over to the bears head and kneeled down in the sand. "I don't know how to thank you, but I'll try to if you let me."

Grizzly let out a sigh and turned her head as if considering deep in thought. Finally she said, "Remember my warning, that will be thanks enough."

"I will," she promised.

Ponderously, the she bear rose to her paws and cast a final glance at the two girls. "Well, I think Miss Walcutt has a common frame of reference now, so I will leave you two to discuss."

"Where are you going?" Lanie asked the spirit.

Grizzlies form shifted until once again she wore the shape of some Amazon biker chick. She leaned over and kissed Elaine's forehead with a tenderness the form would not have belied. "Oh, were I my ex I would probably give some nihilistic, metaphysically true but useless answer about everywhere and nowhere all at once." The Amazon winked and touched her hosts nose with the tip of an index finger. "The real answer is I'm going to track the dirty old man down and see if he can scratch my itch."

Tansy was incredulous." Spirits get horny?" She demanded.

The Amazon shrugged. "I haven't ridden a human in more than forty years, and suddenly I've been bound into a nymphomaniac with the hormone levels of three girls! Horny doesn't begin to cover it!"

Grizzly sort of wandered deeper into the island and faded away at the same time while Tansy moved her glance over to Elaine. "Nymphomaniac?" She demanded. The redhead shrugged with a salacious grin.

"Ah just think Ah have healthy appetites," she replied. Slightly more thoughtfully, the grin died and she asked, "do you think we shouldn't enjoy it? Wasn't that what women's Lib is all about?"

Tansy laid out a spare beach towel and sank down onto it. Tucking her chin on her knees she shrugged and looked out on the water. "What's to enjoy?" She asked morosely. She heard the redhead drawn breath to debate, hotly, and waved her off. "Yes, yes, I know, and yes Wyatt did try and yes I ignored him. Water under the bridge."

"Do you even masturbate?" Lanie demanded. "Have you ever had an orgasm in your life?"

Tansy's blue eyes looked up from the lake. "You believe that BS that women orgasm?"

The look of astonishment on the redhead's face was comical. "Ah tend not to argue the reality of things Ah have firsthand knowledge of," she replied.

Tansy rolled her eyes. "Of course Wyatt the sex God… "

Elaine frowned and crossed her arms over her bosom. "Actually, the first orgasm I experienced with another person was riding Songbirds tongue, not to put too fine a point on it!" Tansy had the grace to blush redder than an apple. As she tried to stammer out an apology, Elaine dug into her beach bag and produced a small device with a strap. "Here," she declared holding it out. "Find out for yourself."

"What is it?" The blonde asked turning it over in her hands. There was a small circular device on top and a short strap that adjusted along with a small control knob.

Lanie was incredulous. "Ah am officially gobsmacked," she declared. Then deadpanned, "it's a vibrator. Strap it to the back of your hand, take care of business, and you tell me if a female orgasm is a myth or not."

"What?!" Tansy demanded. "Do something… Like that… While you watch?!"

Lanie smiled and shook her head. "Actually Ah'm gonna go to the other side of the island so you can have some privacy. If that's still too public for you just concentrate on that castle of yours and you will be back there."

Tansy looked at the device and then back up at the redhead. "Seriously?"

"Put it on your hand, turn it on, and touch your clitoris," the redhead directed. "You do know where that is, don't you?" Tansy's exasperated expression answered for her. "Ah'll come back when you’re done.”

"How will you know…?"

Elaine picked up the fishing rod that was suddenly against one of the trees as she walked by. "Ah'll know," she assured the blonde.

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Elaine wasn't sure why she had bothered to manifest the fishing rod. The cries from the other side of the island made certain that there were no fish within miles of her line.

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June 11th, 2007
Pegasus Aerospace Main Campus, Fort Bridger Wyoming

Fort Bridger had been a historical footnote for decades until the Cold War of the 50s and a invasion from outer space that had been successfully passed off to most people as an Oscar winning George Pal movie. Quietly reactivated as part of the Strategic Air Command and the newly minted Space Defense Command, the little base that got almost no press had quietly been on the forefront of aerospace design for decades. Just outside of its main gate were a clutch of space-based start ups and civil space initiative companies, some like Pegasus dating back to the days of Apollo, others were far more Johnny-come-lately.

"And well-heeled money always going to be the latest Johnny on the block." A shadow, well concealed in a copse of trees, told himself as he watched a pair of workmen through a set of custom-made binoculars. They were attaching the new piece to the sign at the front drive announcing that Pegasus Aerospace was now a Goodkind company. A buzz in the shadows ear announced a telephone call and a nearly subconscious flick of the appendage was interpreted by the gyroscope built into the Bluetooth headpiece is a command to answer the call. "Warhorse," the shadow greeted.

"There's been a delay," the voice of the Captain informed the mercenary. "Can you compensate?"

Warhorse reached down to a small control by his knee and threw a switch on a remote control and caused a light to go out. "Nothing started that can't be paused," he replied. "What's the problem on your end?"

"Our targets paused unexpectedly in Salt Lake City. We expect them to be moving in the morning. Is a two hour lead time sufficient?"

"That will be fine," he replied. "I see how your friend lost his item. This job I would almost do for free."

The Captain chuckled. "Almost. We'll keep you in the loop."

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June 12th, 2007
Marriott City Center, 220 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT

Tansy awoke confused, for several minutes unsure if she was still dreaming or was in fact awake. Her dreams, which she was even more embarrassed than usual to remember completely, had been particularly torrid, what made it confusing was waking up in the arms of one of the dreams prominent cast of characters. Walcutt awoke to find herself sharing the king-size bed with Elaine as well as feeling the somewhat bony hip of Kayda in the small of her back. She raised up her head not sure she was disappointed or relieved that Wyatt was not in the bed.

Waking up in the arms of Elaine Nalley was awkward enough.

For the first time it seemed, Tansy looked down on the sleeping redhead taking in her strong Irish features, the dusting of freckles across her nose and her full generous mouth that seem to be made to smile. There were a few errant locks of her Crimson mane hanging over her face making her seem soft and vulnerable. She wasn't the statuesque, classic beauty of Tansy's own, there was a warmth and invitation in her beauty, her face wouldn't launch ships to go to wars, but be on the mind of every soldier on them longing to be welcomed home by it.

For a moment, Tansy was so entranced it was all she could do to keep from kissing her.

Tansy's thoughts returned to her dreams, returned to the discovery that women do in fact achieve orgasm, returned to the subconscious fantasy of she and her redheaded friend mercilessly putting Elaine's fiancé to stud which caused the blonde to shake her head. Why should she share, Tansy asked herself. To the victor go the spoils and she won fair and square.

But, oh if she would!

Before that line of thought could complete itself, Tansy ruthlessly buried it as she contemplated the redhead before her. Pornographic dreams or not, Walcutt realized that Elaine had something that she did not and that she wanted very, very badly; Elaine Nalley was at peace in her own skin, perfectly comfortable with her sexuality and she didn't give a tinker's damn what anyone else thought of her. Envy was an old, familiar emotion for Tansy and she desperately wanted that peace of herself that Elaine had. Was it Songbird? Tansy wondered to herself. She wasn't that confident last year. Granted she's blossomed since and she does have a lovely figure, the blonde admitted. She turned her head slightly as a new thought popped in her head. Or was it the spirit that changed her?

She stood up to you without the bear in her mind, Old Tansy reminded herself.

Tansy bit lightly on the end of her finger as she considered, deeply in thought. She had all the engineers behind her then, she argued with herself. Tansy looked over her shoulder the sleeping form of Kayda on the other side of the bed. I'm an avatar and she bound the spirit into Lanie without her being an avatar. If I could pick the right spirit, and have Kayda assist me…

This bears thinking about.

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June 12th, 2007
Interstate 80, just west of Fort Bridger, Wyoming

"You want what?"

It had been an uneventful morning, even though none of the girls remembered getting to the bed together the night previous. An awkward silence had settled over the trio as they rotated through the shower and shared a room service breakfast. Back on the road now, Utah in the rearview mirror and the vast plains on the other side of the Wasatch Mountains, they were descending out of, before them had been enough time for Tansy to work up the courage to broach the subject that occurred to her on her waking.

"Why is this so shocking?" She asked, truly puzzled. "You're both avatars…"

"Ah wasn't," Elaine quickly clarified.

"And if you don't already have a spirit," Kayda began from the backseat. "How do you know you're an avatar?" Tansy shrugged expressively.

"It just came up in my powers testing that I had an abnormally large hallow, so that I probably was an avatar. I was just thinking that if I could meet the right spirit…"

Kayda quickly began shaking her head and wagging her finger. "Oh no!" She declared with a fierce finality. "Mrs. Carson specifically forbid me to cast that ritual and after what she's talked about…"

Elaine raised her hand from the steering wheel. "Point of order, that's not entirely true," she objected. "Mrs. Carson said that you couldn't cast the ritual to bind the spirit to someone who wasn't already an avatar. She didn't say anything about that you couldn't introduce people to spirits. And considering who y'all are the avatar of isn't that kind of your job description?"

Kayda said back in the seat and crossed her arms over her chest in a pout. "Now I get why that rules lawyer side of you ticks people off!" For her part, Lanie only smiled sweetly and winked at the girl through the rearview mirror. "You're both trying to get me in trouble!"

"Not at all," Tansy protested quickly. "My worthless, absentee father may not have much in the way of good advice, but one of the things he has given me is if you have an issue go to an expert. You, Kayda, are an expert and I'm seeking your expert opinion. I'll be happy to compensate…"

"I don't want your money, Tansy," Kayda replied sullenly. She looked at the window for a long moment, then sighed and turned back to the blue eyes that were waiting on her. "Look, Mrs. Carson said a lot about how spirits are sneaky, double-dealing and just plain dangerous! To be honest, I've been second-guessing a lot of what happened in my life because of the spirits entering me! I was raped, beaten twice, all this trouble at school, all because of spirits in one way or the other."

"Would you give them up?" Tansy asked innocently.

Kayda visibly shuddered. "No,” she said quickly. "No, I would not. When ... I was cut off from them, it ... it was ...," she fought the horrible memory of having her spirits sealed from her, "it was awful. Once you get used to a spirit, it's ... it's more than a friend. It's a very ... intimate ... bond, that hurts to break." She sighed and looked at Tansy, thinking that maybe, the right spirit would help the girl with her self-identity struggle. "I… Guess it wouldn't hurt just to introduce you. But that's all! If you can't host a spirit on your own I won't help you!"

After a moment of thought Tansy nodded her agreement. "That's fair. Do we need to stop?"

"No," Kayda replied as she reached out to touch the other girls forehead.

 

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June 12th, 2007
Dream Space of the Ptesanwi

There was no sense of motion, nor a sense of the existing motion stopping. One moment Tansy was in a car looking over her shoulder at Kayda in the back seat, the next she was standing on the endless prairie the car was descending into. Only this prairie didn't have an interstate, or a car to drive on it, and Tansy had not been wearing a princess outfit from the Iron Age. Rolling her eyes yet again she shook her head at the weirdness of the situation. "Tansy, not Buttercup!" She muttered to herself as she gathered up the skirt and turned to find Kayda next to her in a buckskin minidress festooned with beads.

"Where are we now? Your dream space?" Tansy asked, looking around the prairie. Her gaze fixed on the site down the hill - the idyllic Lakota camp of tepees and tanning frames and jerky drying racks made of willow branches.

"Yes," Kayda replied easily as she began to walk down the gentle slope toward camp.

"It fits," Tansy said, and then she smiled. "But do you think you're taking the whole Native American theme a bit far?"

"I'm proud of who and what I am," Kayda chuckled. "Why should my dream space be any different?"

"Well," Tansy replied, "I hate to upset whoever dug this out of wardrobe for central casting but this isn't me!" The blonde shimmered and the Princess cotehardie gown was replaced with a magnificent Versace number that fit the blonde so perfectly it was obviously made especially for her, capped off by a set of Prada heels that were probably more expensive than most people's cars. Tansy teased out her magnificent blonde curls and winked at the smaller girl. "This!" She declared striking a pose right off the cover of Vogue. "This is me!"

Kayda slowed her pace slightly and glanced at the exemplar girl who was already beginning to struggle across the uneven terrain in her heels and Versace designer dress. "You know you could be more comfortable," she observed.

Tansy frowned. "Are you ... taking me to a wigwam, and you're suggesting I get more comfortable?"

Kayda laughed aloud at the implication of Tansy's question. "Do you want me to seduce you?" she said with a waggle of her eyebrows and a naughty smile.

For the briefest of moments, the expression on Tansy's face seemed to reflect the curiosity of her subconscious, but that flitted away as a look of genuine shock replaced it. "Good God, no!"

"Well, I wasn't going to anyway," Kayda answered. Seeing the look of surprise that bordered on disappointment on Tansy's features, she chuckled. "Not that you aren't attractive, but I've got someone. And no, it's not Lanie, although if the two of us weren't involved with others, I think we'd be quite happy together." She paused, sighing wistfully as she allowed herself to momentarily contemplate what might have been. Looking up at the blonde girl’s face Kayda was shocked to see an almost similar expression, to the one she was certain had just been on her face, on Tansy's. That cost her a moment of alarm as she wondered what the other girls intentions toward her best friend was. As she had become friendly with Tansy, Kayda had no shortage of advice from the residents of Poe to stay away from her "I'm going to introduce you to one of ... to my spirit. He'll help you find a spirit that's best for you," she declared quickly getting her mouth going again before Tansy caught her staring.

"Yes, Wihakayda," a deep voice said behind the two girls. Kayda, not surprised at all, rolled her eyes and turned toward the newcomer, but Tansy, taken completely by surprise, spun and jumped back from the sound. The Lakota girl was stunned at how far Tansy could leap and even in her heels, and landing off balance, she nearly stayed upright, but the Prada heels were stilettos and slipped off a rock causing her to tumble to the ground - right into a relatively fresh meadow muffin.

"Eeek!' Tansy shrieked, pulling herself to her feet and staring in utter horror at the dung-covered dress! She looked up at Kayda, her anger rising to volcanic levels.

"Tansy," Kayda said very quickly, hoping to defuse the girl's rage, "this isn't real, remember? It's just dream-space!"

"Look at me!" Tansy fairly screamed. "This dress ... is ruined! It was a designer original! And I'm covered in ... eeewww!"

Kayda took the girl's hand, pausing to glare at the chuckling white bison behind them. "Tansy, dream-space, remember? Think about what you think is appropriate."

The blonde exemplar gawked at her for a moment, not quite comprehending, so Kayda sighed. "Fine," she said, closing her eyes and thinking for a moment. When she opened them again, Tansy was dressed as she was - in a buckskin dress, albeit showing a lot more cleavage than Kayda was - and moccasins. All signs of the meadow muffin were gone from her. "Better?"

Tansy looked down at herself, astounded. After an obvious moment of mastering herself, she shook her head. "Yeah. But ... is this a designer dress?" she asked, shooting a questioning glare at Kayda. She couldn't keep up the pretense, though, and she started chuckling and her expression softened.

"Tatanka," Kayda shot at the bison, "that wasn't polite at all!"

"You want me to help find a spirit?" he demanded. "I have to see how she handles the unexpected." He gazed at the blonde. "She has a wild spirit, but it is chained within her, unable to run free," he said finally.

Trailed by the buffalo, the two girls walked into camp, and as Tansy sat on a log, Kayda poured steaming hot tea from a large gourd into smaller cups and gave one to Tansy.

"What do you mean, a wild spirit?" Tansy asked after taking a sip of tea.

"You have a wild nature, yearning to be free," Tatanka said to the girl, "but all your life it has been chained. By yourself and your fears. By the direction and desires of others. You have lived so long with it in chains that you are afraid to let that part of you go free."

"I don't ..." the blonde started to object.

"It is undeniably a part of you, girl!" the white buffalo said, staring determinedly at her from a foot away. "But you fear it!"

"I'm not afraid!" Tansy shot back defiantly, not backing down from the massive beast. "You!" She declared pointing at the albino Buffalo. "You don't know what fear is! I'm not afraid!"

The spirit said nothing, merely staring at the blonde until she lowered her hand over the awkward silence. “Wabli?" Kayda asked the bison, gazing at Tansy as if reading a book. "Or Ceda?"

Tansy turned toward her Lakota hostess. "What? Wabli? Ceda?"

"The eagle," Tatanka snorted. "And the hawk." After a long moment he merely shook his massive head. "No, Kayda. Those are not for her."

"Then ... what?" Tansy demanded, obviously becoming concerned she had given offense. "I thought you were going to introduce me to a spirit, not mock me with spirits you won't introduce me to!"

"Perhaps Maka?" Tatanka asked. The sight of a genuine grin on a large white bison was a little unnerving to Tansy as she'd never seen such a sight. It didn't help that Kayda, in the midst of a sip, spewed tea as she failed to control her laughter.

"Maka? What's Maka?" the blonde demanded, certain that the white beast was mocking her.

"The ... skunk spirit," Kayda replied sheepishly. Seeing the dawning horror on Tansy's face, she continued quickly, "And no, I wouldn't do that to you!" Kayda looked at Tatanka, a knowing expression on her face. "Sukawakan." When the buffalo nodded, she stood abruptly, extending her hands toward her guest. "Come."

Puzzled, Tansy took Kayda's hands and gracefully stood. "Where ...?" She cut off her question when the tepees and prairie landscape dissolved and in their place appeared a red-and-orange colored landscape of cliffs and broad, flat valleys, interrupted with spires and chimneys of the red hued rock. The breeze on Tansy's face wasn't just warm, it was hot, and the scorching sun overhead beat down on the girls. "Where ...?" she swiveled her head, taking in the surroundings. "Desert southwest, somewhere I think; Monument Valley?"

"You're better at geography than I am," Kayda chuckled.

"Why here?" Her words tailed off as the two girls simultaneously spotted a small dust cloud a few hundred yards away. "What's that?" Tansy asked. So far, dream space had been a novel and peaceful experience for her - barring one beach adventure; something approaching dramatically seemed a little foreboding. The cloud, headed by a shape blurred by the waves of heated air rising from the parched valley, drew nearer and nearer.

"A ... horse?" Tansy asked softly when she was able to recognize the shape through the dust and rippling air.

The horse slowed as it neared, first to a trot, and then to a walk, and despite her efforts at self-control, Tansy couldn't help but gasp. It wasn't just a horse; it was a thing of beauty. Tawny coat, brown mane and tail, it moved with power and grace and freedom. It was free, untamed, running wild as it chose, and the sight of the animal stirred something deep within Tansy, touching a yearning that she hadn't even realized she'd had.

"Sukawakan," Kayda said, nodding her head in greeting as the horse-spirit approached. It halted, looking over Kayda, and then nodded its head to her. Without hesitating, she gave it an apple which had suddenly appeared in her hand, and as the horse contentedly ate the fruit, Kayda stroked its mane. "You remind me of Summer, my own pony, and how free it feels to ride him."

"A ... horse spirit?" Tansy asked gingerly, suddenly fearing what she was being offered. "I mean ...."

"Sukawakan is free," the bison's voice boomed beside her, startling her once more.

"Don't DO that!"

The bison continued as if he had not been interrupted. "The wild mustang of the southwest. A spirit of freedom, untamed and unfettered, going where it wants. And yet," the scene wavered, and the horse was saddled in a lush pasture surrounded by fences and hedges. Tansy gawked at Kayda, and then looked down, finding the both of them attired in formal English riding wear, with red jackets, white pants, and riding boots. "The horse comes from the old world. It can be graceful and dutiful, with great stamina for sport." Again the scene wavered, and the two girls were wearing boots and simple peasant dresses in a field under grayish skies. Where the magnificent white stallion had stood, a huge Percheron pulled mightily, helping the farmer behind him to open his ground for a new crop of seed. "The horse can be mighty, quietly doing the work of many men, laboring without rest as long as the task requires."

"But ... I don't understand," Tansy finally sputtered. "I thought you said it was a spirit of freedom!"

The desert Southwest appeared again, and the horse was once more a wild mustang. "And so it is," Tatanka said.

Kayda nodded, understanding her spirit's intent. "Tansy, every person has multiple roles and multiple facets to their beings. One can be diligent at work, and yet have a free spirit when not at work. One can be loyal, like a good hound, but also be playful."

Tansy looked thoughtfully at the horse. "What ... will it do to me? If I accept the spirit? Will I become horse-like, the same way Aquerna has some squirrel traits? Or Peccary and his hog spirit?" She shuddered mightily as she asked the questions, terrified of GSD that a spirit might induce in her, tearing away her beauty and leaving her once more an ugly duckling or worse, a freak.

Carefully, Kayda did a minor chant, focused on Tansy. After a moment, she smiled. "No, Tansy. Your hallow is quite large. Very few spirits would cause you physical deformity. Sukawakan definitely would not."

"Will it change me? My personality, I mean?"

"Some," Kayda answered. "You will probably find it easier to exercise your free spirit, thanks to that nature of Sukawakan. You may find it easier to focus on difficult tasks without becoming bored or anxious." The Lakota girl bent slightly, looking at the horse, and then she blushed.

"What?" Tansy demanded, having noticed.

"Um," Kayda stammered, "the horse spirit is a stallion."

"So?"

"You know what they say about horses?"

Tansy blanched at that thought.

"It would mean that you will be more expressive of your sexuality," Tatanka said nonchalantly. "It will be easier for you to accept that you are a sexual person, and to enjoy that aspect of who you are."

The blonde beauty stared at the horse, lost in thought as she contemplated what the spirit represented, and what it might mean for her. On the one hand, it was almost overwhelmingly enticing - the spirit of freedom that the horse represented was something she hadn't known was in her, but now that she was aware of it, she yearned to experience it. On the other hand, the last bit, the sexual self-confidence, frightened her immensely. She hadn't been a truly sensuous girl; she'd only faked it so she could profit from the power it gave her. But if she accepted this spirit, it would mean that she was going to have to face her sexual being simply because it was the nature of the spirit.

Kayda sensed the girl's inner turmoil as she weighed her thoughts, pro and con, her longings and her fears. "Take your time thinking," she said softly, laying her hand gently on the blonde's shoulder. "In dream space, time is different than in the real world."

Tansy nodded in acknowledgment of Kayda's reassuring words, but already, she knew what the answer had to be. She needed to be free of the shackles her family, her teachers, her so-called friends, and all the others had put on her. Having seen the free spirit of the mustang, she knew she wanted that more than she'd wanted anything else in her life. "I ...." She hesitated, choking on her reply, overwhelmed at the gifts her ... friends? Dared she call Kayda and Lanie friends? ... at what they were giving her, and all without demanding or expecting anything in reply.

And yet there was always fear, despite reassurance, despite witnessing the relationships between Kayda and Lanie and their spirits how much could she trust? Licking her lips she managed to pull her eyes from the stallion that was staring at her so intently and look back over to Kayda. "Can… Can he speak?"

"Why not ask him?" The stallion demanded in a clear resonant tenor that was familiar in a way that Tansy could not put her finger on.

Kayda hid a smile with the sleeve of her dress. "I'll let you two get acquainted," she declared, beginning to fade away. Hanging in the air after she was gone her voice declared, "Concentrate on the village when you're done."

"I'm, I'm Tansy," she managed to say to the spirit. "Tansy Walcutt."

The stallion held its head erect so as to look at the girl with both eyes. "I know who you are," he declared with some authority. "Whether you call yourself Tansy, or Solange, or Dague makes little difference to me. However, I remember the old ways of the Old World; you may call me Mustang." The spirit dipped his head as if to bow. "What would you know of me before we seal our bargain?"

"How did you…?"

The horse spirit snorted and turned to look at the girl sidelong in profile. "Do not waste time with trivialities," he scolded her. "At some level you realize there is connection between the spirit," and he butted his head against her chest, before turning his gaze off in the distance. "And the body you inhabit away in the real world. And through that connection this is both dream and pipeline into your own mind and memory. Every spirit you encounter here can read you as a book. In time you may learn yourself to read the spirits you encounter, and it is a skill I can teach you. But what would you really know? Can I give you the comfort in your skin you envy the Pict Daughter so? I can, in time; if you accept my teachings."

"What is the price of those teachings?" She whispered.

The question brought the spirit up short he turned his head, obviously impressed. Nodding slowly he drawled, "good you understand all things have a price. To be an avatar is to pay a high price Tansy Walcutt. First you will never, ever, be truly alone again. Not when you eat, or sleep, attend to nature's call, or make love I will always be there. I will know, as the Shakespeare you think of now put it, the very bottom of your soul. You will have no secrets from me."

The blue eyes narrowed and a new steel entered Tansy's spine as she stood up taller to the larger spirit. "Can I trust you?" She demanded.

Again the stallion snorted his laughter. "Will I betray you is what you mean?" He managed around his mirth. "The answer to that question is no, because as intimate my sharing your body will be, my essence will be shared with your soul. That bonding will last until the end of time. And when you die I will suffer as well. The last human I was bonded with died decades before you were born, in the war your mind calls Vietnam. I am only just now coming to a place where I would consider bonding with a human again and over the pain of that loss. So you need not fear Tansy Walcutt. I will do everything in my power to keep you alive and whole and I am well motivated to do so."

"Let's talk about motivations," Tansy told the spirit over her shoulder as the horse and began to pace a slow circle around her as if either taking a measure from all sides or trying to catch her off guard. For herself, Tansy remained still and refused to be baited. "What do you get out of this arrangement?"

"Of what interest could the agencies of the spirits be to a human being?"

"Don't change the subject," Tansy scolded. "And that's not an answer. What do you get out of bonding with me?"

The Spirit stopped and lowered his head to be eye level with the blonde. "Food," he replied darkly, obviously trying to unsettle her. "Serving as my hallow will nourish meeee…!" The spirit's voice trailed off into a equine cry of pain. By bringing his head so low he had failed to notice the subtle shift of reality Tansy had inflicted on the dreamscape. Fast as lightning her hand darted out as she pushed her thumb in his mouth between the gap of his teeth pinching the nerve and tongue painfully.

The bridle he hadn't noticed her conjure soon after had its bit in his mouth and even one-handed Tansy expertly had it closed in a matter of moments. With the reins held in a grip of iron Tansy removed her thumb from the horse's mouth and wiped it dry in the side of his face caressing him. All the while she kept her eyes focused on his which were now wide with fright. "You," Tansy told the spirit softly, "are a terrible liar. If you could see as far into my mind as you claim you would know that I've been riding horses since I was seven and you would never have let me get within arms reach of you. Just so we understand each other Mustang, let me be clear; I have experts manipulating me, and I am a manipulative bitch of the first order myself so I don't have time for your amateur hour theatrics. Now, we can either play this as a partnership and play straight with each other or not. The choice is yours, and you are beautiful, and I would love to have us come to an understanding.”

She jerked the reins to give emphasis to her words and her voice became steely. "But if I have to, you won't be the first horse I've broken, or the last. Now, do you want to answer my question?”

The spirit tried to rear and was amazed at the strength of the human below him that kept him with his head low and on all fours. "Obviously," came the spirits voice, somewhat distorted around the bit in its mouth. "I've misjudged you."

"Obviously," Tansy replied drolly. "Fortunately for you I've been in something of a transition. Once upon a time this mistake would have cost you, but right now it's your lucky day. Or, as the hit man once said 'The truth is…you're the weak, and I am the tyranny of evil men. But I'm trying, Mustang. I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.'”

With that said and just as expertly, Tansy removed the bridle and stepped back from the spirit, releasing him. "Now, are we going to be partners?"

The spirit looked down on the blonde girl, his ears twitching back and forth in wry amusement. "Walk with me Tansy Walcutt," he said turning slowly to his left and setting off at a pace the human could easily match. "And let us discuss our future."

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June 12th, 2007
Pegasus Aerospace, Ft. Bridger, WY

From his perch overlooking the main gate, the Warhorse flipped the switch on the remote control and sighed a deep sigh. Drawing his pistol, he pulled the magazine to be certain it was still loaded with the rubber bullets, as he remembered, then returned it to its holster. Checking all the other magazines attached to his uniform and satisfied that there would be violence but not a bloodbath exactly as his employer had specified; he tsked between his teeth as he clicked on the Gizmatic 4K stealth field. While not a true invisibility, it would've worked better in the late dusk when the attack was originally scheduled to occur rather than midmorning as it was now, it would be sufficient camouflage, and every little bit helps.

Warhorse’s form shimmered in a hazy, vaguely human-shaped but monstrously-sized field of distortion as he picked up a massive ought five machine-gun and twisted his long neck until it popped in both directions. A cloud of smoke and a fireball erupted on the opposite side of the complex from the main gate with the sound of the massive explosion taking a full four seconds to reach the Animan's sensitive ears. Alarms began to be raised as personnel rushed to try to contain the fire. "Showtime!" He declared and charged the gate.

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June 12th, 2007
Dream Space of the Ptesanwi

Despite the idyllic and peaceful air that hung over the campsite, Kayda sat at the fire circle, drinking tea and brooding. For some reason, this visit to her dream space was not as emotionally recharging as she was used to. Instead of a feeling of peacefulness there was a sour undertone of stagnation as the villagers went about their Stone Age tasks. Out faraway to the eastern sky, storm clouds, dark and angry rolled as if in metaphor for the coming of the white man.

While she tried to focus on more pleasant thoughts, to construct a more pleasant reality, but nothing she tried seem to change the image, which only intensified her own morose thoughts. Chief among them with a mental picture of an extremely irate Elizabeth Carson taking her to task for this particular adventure. But even that seem to pale before the greater of woes that her imagination could conjure up. Because in her mind's eye Kayda saw Tansy merged with highly sexualized spirit of the stallion, saw her confident and aggressive, and somehow even more beautiful and desirable than she already was.

In that nightmarish fantasy, she saw Tansy effortlessly seduce Lanie; saw the older, much more sexually experienced girl bring her friend to new heights of ecstasy, and then the two of them laughing that they ever found anything interesting in the rube hick from South Dakota. The more she thought on it, the more certain she became that she was losing her best friend and it was entirely her fault.

"Who is it you think less of?" Rumbled Tatanka as he strode into the fire circle and sat with great weight next to her. "The Pict Daughter, who you imagine so disloyal she would cast you aside on a whim? Or yourself? So certain are you that you're unworthy of friendship?"

"I don't want to talk about it," she muttered under her cup as she took another sip of the tea.

The white buffalo chuckled darkly. "Not facing the truth is a well-worn path for you," he observed. "There are times I wonder if anything can turn your feet from it. You have been singled out for greatness, among The People, among humanity itself, been blessed with awesome powers and abilities and yet you still see only the worst that could happen."

Her eyes snapped up from the tea and her face flushed with anger. "I didn't ask for any of this!" She shouted.

"No," the buffalo replied nonplussed, refusing to be intimidated and staring her down. "They were gifts, given freely, for which you might show a little gratitude. But it is neither these gifts, nor your situation which we are discussing."

Kayda shot to her feet, flinging down the clay cup that shattered in the fire. "Suppose Tansy does bond with Sukawakan! Do you know what kind of trouble I'm going to be in with Mrs. Carson over expressly disobeying her…?"

Deep within the buffalo out rumbled a growl of frustration. "Don't insult me by telling me the lies you tell yourself," he cautioned. "This has nothing to do with fear of punishment and everything to do with your fear and envy, yes I said envy, of the Princess! And if she does seduce the Pict Daughter, what business is it of yours? You so loudly proclaim your love of another what claim do you have on the Daughter's heart, or who she shares her bed with?"

Kayda's mouth moved for several seconds, but no sound came out. Finally she found her voice and began to stammer, "I don't… I'm not… Envy? I don't envy Tansy…!"

For the first time the buffalo turned its head and leaned forward to be eye to eye with its host. "Stop… Lying…!" He ordered firmly. The bull snorted through his nostrils and shook his head. "If you won't admit it to me, admit it to yourself; you do envy the Princess and it is coloring your judgment."

Kayda sank back on the log, a puzzled expression on her face. "Envy? I envy Tansy?" She asked softly, finally looking up into the buffalo's face. Before the spirit could answer, over his shoulder, Kayda saw Tansy slowly form from nothing as she returned to the village. It was an interesting entrance to say the least, as once more the blonde was in a formal English riding habit, complete with scarlet jacket and mirror shined riding boots. And though Sukawakan wore an English saddle which the girl was riding, there was neither bit nor bridle on the horse's head.

"We've come to an arrangement," Sukawakan declared, dipping his head towards Kayda. "We would ask you a blessing, Ptesanwi."

Kayda stood woodenly, some part of her noting how regally Tansy sat in the saddle and how flattering the riding habit was to her figure, but before she could pronounce anything her attention was drawn to the east. "Something's wrong…!" She declared.

The bison leapt to his feet and began to charge. "I sense it as well!" He shouted over his shoulder. "Quickly children, return to your bodies!"

hr1

Comments   

0 # DocSavage 2016-07-05 02:21
Very interesting. =) When I lived in Montana, '89 to '93, the federal government was talking about denying road repair grants because of Montana's lack of speed limits. Montana proposed a "resource abuse" ticket instead of speeding tickets. Basically if you were going to fast they would charge you five dollars (regardless of how fast you were going) and you could even pay it to the cops on the spot. I don't know if they ever put that into law or not.

Lanie's argument about what Christ said doesn't hold water though. I believe everyone has the right to make their own decision but her denying the rest of the new testament and concentrating only on the 4 Gospels? We only have the writings of the Apostles to tell us what Jesus said, Christ didn't write the gospels. If she accepts the gospels are the word of Christ, she must accept that Christ said the Holy Spirit would come to guide the Apostles in teaching the world, see John 14:26.
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0 # JR 2016-07-06 06:00
Re: Montana speed limits (have for most of the 2000's) - they have established a max speed of 85mph on the interstates. Local roads also have speed limits. But, even with them the little white crosses (placed at locations of fatal accidents) still crop up in the most unexpected places. :-)
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0 # sam105 2016-07-05 14:53
Thanks. I liked the girls of summer. Nice cliffhanger now we wait to see if it is a big high cliff or just a molehill.
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0 # Reninonn 2016-07-10 22:06
I found this progression immensely disappointing. I was hoping Tansy would make things right with Jinn. Jade needs her spirit to live in another as truly female. I feel like the authors have missed an opportunity here.

Interesting story nonetheless, always happy to see more gen1 storyline progression. I'm a tad confused as to the threat the bastard represents. Back in the days of the sundering, human and elf-kind did not have the means to truly combat him. Now however... they've got the destroyer. I don't see how The Bastard could stand up to a creature that was literally created to destroy his kind.
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0 # Kristin Darken 2016-07-11 12:34
Quoting Reninonn:
I don't see how The Bastard could stand up to a creature that was literally created to destroy his kind.

The problem with the development of 'ultimate weapons' is that they rarely take into consideration collateral damage. They are, after all, ultimate weapons... meant to destroy something when there is no other option. Trying to use an ultimate weapon to kill one epic big bad might seem like a common sense solution... until you remember that the world also has 8 billion sentient inhabitants, plus an ecosystem, etc.. if the world is consumed by contagion, chaos, and evil (or just beyond repair from twisted alien nature)... then use of an ultimate weapon would be a reasonable choice. Until then... letting her cut loose counts as Unacceptable losses.

Don't you think?
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0 # Reninonn 2016-07-11 20:04
The Bastard in theory should have some kind of soul. I'd imagine it's a soul stretching across multiple dimensions. A death blow or attack from the distroyer on a soul level should surely cause minimal collateral damage on the physical plane, if any at all.

I can only guess that Cody is going to heed Rev Englund's request to keep Tennyo out of things, and therefore she does not come into play at all.

Except didn't Chou Lee's visions indicate otherwise? I hope the story can be wrapped up adequately without resorting to the old "Tennyo trapped in a block of ice" for the duration of the conflict.
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0 # E. E. Nalley 2016-07-14 12:15
Quoting Reninonn:

Except didn't Chou Lee's visions indicate otherwise? I hope the story can be wrapped up adequately without resorting to the old "Tennyo trapped in a block of ice" for the duration of the conflict.


Well visions are subject to interpretation, aren't they? Or as Morpheus so eloquently put it, "You think that's air your breathing?"

As far as Tennyo goes I really don't know how much more plainly we can say this. But I'll try one more just to see if it sticks this time. I'm not the primary author of Tennyo, Nikki, Jade, or any of the other characters whose authors have been run off. So if you're expecting a deus ex machina of one of them to ride in and save the day over characters that I am a primary author of standby to be disappointed.

They're gone, on the bus, in the woods, at camp, these are ex-parrots! And it would be really fucking nice if people would stop making requests like this because it makes the authors who are still here feel really unappreciated and feel like we have better things to do with our time that cater to people who are never satisfied.

So, do the fandom a favor and shut the fuck up about it!!!
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0 # Rabiata 2016-12-04 13:18
I think there is no offense to the active authors intended when people ask why Tennyo isn't at the frontline vs. the Bastard.

Because this is not about who is the better storyteller, it is about which team member would be best suited to do the job (in story and from the perspective of the other characters).

Fey and Sara have good reasons to be unavailable. Tennyo does not, as far as the rest of Team Kimba knows.

At this point in the story, I'd expect Hank and Ayla as Team Kimba's team strategists to seriously consider going against Englund's wishes.
And that is without meta knowledge about the Star Stalker. With such meta knowledge, it would be even more tempting to let the anti-GOO superweapon do the job.
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0 # dbdatvic 2016-07-11 07:05
> the room was comfortable and a Merry fire was dancing in the fireplace.

i see wut u did thar :)

Dave, will tie threads together for food
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