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  2. Lots of readers have suggested surrogacy as an answer for the pack... the situation is dire... but shifters are traditional in their outlook. Maybe they could be convinced, but the fact is, many of the women have proved barren, and any pregnancies do end end well... “Six? That’s all there are in the entire pack?” His stomach soured at the unexpected revelation, and he felt terrible he hadn’t known such a hugely important fact. He should have asked. Tobyn nodded as he peered into Kellar’s face. “Now do you understand why I can’t just act on whatever I might feel? Why my choice is made for me? A lot of our members are older and that makes what you did for Adelin all the more important. She could have a big impact on the future of Morningstar; child-bearing years are a lot shorter than they used to be. It sucks, but the truth is a lot of us, men and women, have proved infertile, and we don’t exactly have access to clinics to help us. It’s why I have to try… I have to, because maybe I’m one of the few who can still produce pups. It’s hard, because we’re trying to hold onto our traditional values, and that means….” This part of the conversation says it all. As far as Kellar and Sybil, they both suspect K and T are mates... but there is no proof of that. As Kellar says, he could just be in plain old love. Sybil is a smart woman, though, and a wonderful character to write. I enjoyed that scene between them so much. Thanks again, Jasmine.
  3. Frank and Ben jogged through the underground parking to the elevator. They held hands as they ran to the bank of elevators. "Is the traffic getting worse?" Ben pushed the up button. "Yes, the drive is taking longer. I wish we could work from home sometimes. We’re nearly late this morning." Frank released Ben’s hand. "I hope Jessie picked up breakfast." Ben snickered. "The morning mystery meal." "Ooooh, aren’t we alliterative this morning!" Frank chuckled and Ben joined in. The elevator chimed softly as it arrived. The pair got in and smiled as the car filled up on the ground floor. Standing shoulder to shoulder, their hands found each other and their fingers entwined. When they got off on their floor, Jessie was standing at their office door. She held two paper bags. "Good morning, Mr. Frank and Mr. Ben." She waved. "I have your food." Ben leaned toward Frank as they walked. "Can you see what the bags say?" "No, but I’ve learned that while she may bring the wrong things, it is usually edible." Frank waved at their P.A. "Good morning, Jessie!" Frank pulled a keycard from his pocket and opened their office door. He held it open while Jessie stepped inside. She smiled and said, "Since it’s near Christmas I thought I’d bring some Christmas food." Ben blurted out, "Christmas isn’t for another month." He continued after Frank elbowed him, "But it’s really never too soon for Christmas." "Right? I just love Christmastime. I brought eggnog, stollen, camembert and butter! I’ll put a pot of coffee on for y’all." The young woman busied herself while the two men sat down to work. Frank sent Ben a message: Early, but it sounds great! The reply came: LOL, right? "I made your coffee with eggnog instead of sugar and cream. I sliced up everything and buttered stollen for you. I hope you enjoy it." Jessie opened the office door. "Oh, by the way did you hear that Weatherby," she made a face, "I mean, Jason. Did you hear that he and his girlfriend split up? They lived together and everything." She sighed. "Sad, huh?" Before they could reply, she waved, turned and walked out into the hall. The office door closed slowly behind her. Ben and Frank looked at each other and shrugged. "Let’s get to work on Gerry’s issues, Ben." "Yeah, let’s go." The pair drank their eggnog-laced coffee and worked on the script. About two hours in, Ben’s cell phone rang. "Ben Linton. Oh, John, how’s things?" After a moment his eyes widened. "What!?" Ben’s exclamation made Frank look up. "Are you serious? Wow, I’m floored! Yeah, thanks for letting me know." Ben put his phone on the desk and gazed into Frank’s expectant face. "That was John, my agent. They're doing a second run of Let The Wind. Seems suddenly people want it." Frank jumped up and hugged Ben. "That is amazing! Wow. Congratulations." Ben hugged Frank back. "Thanks. I can’t believe that it’s due to this crazy show! And so quickly!" "It’s terrific news! We need to celebrate, Ben." "Oh … well, we can talk about that." Ben looked at his watch. "Right now, we need to write this soap!" &&& The next couple of days the partners spent writing episode five. The process was going much faster now, thanks to familiarity with one another, and with the steps needed to produce a soap. Wednesday afternoon saw the men hand in their script to an eager director. "Jesus, I don't know what to do with myself!" Ben laughed as he dropped his bag on the couch in their office and flopped down beside it. "It's only two, and we're done with the episode." "I know." Frank stood beside the couch and smiled down at Ben. Ben had his head back and gazed at Frank. His Adam's apple moved as he swallowed, and the silence drew on. He reached and took Frank's hand in his own. "I've really liked, ah … just getting closer to you." "Yeah. Me too." Frank squeezed Ben's hand. "What do you think about …" Frank frowned. "Sorry. Hang on." He pulled out his phone. "Huh. Ike." He put the phone to his ear. "Hey, Ike." "Hey. So, can I talk to you? Are you still at your office?" "Yeah, we're here," Frank said. "Did you want to come over here?" "Ah, I'd rather come see you at the house. Does that work?" "Sure." Frank noticed Ben curiously watching him. "I think we can head out early today, if you wanted to meet sooner." "Yeah, that'd be great. I'll see you at the house in a little over an hour." "See you then." Frank hung up. "So," Ben began. "What's going on?" "I'm not sure." Frank picked up his coat. "We're done with our work for the day, so I guess that means we can head out, unless you had a reason to stick around here." "Nope." Ben stood up. "Let's get you home so you can find out what's going on with Ike." Though it was beginning to snow, Frank was experienced at navigating wintery Canadian roads. The drive back was fine, and mostly quiet as both of the men decompressed from their day. When they pulled into the drive, Ike's Hummer was already there. A warm plume of exhaust told them that the vehicle was still running. As they got out, Ike turned off the machine and opened his door. "Hey, guys." He nodded at them. "Good to see you." "Yeah, good to see you too." Ben smiled. "Do you want some hot cider? I'm in the mood for it now that we're eating Christmas food at work." Ike frowned. "Christmas? It's still over a month away." "That's exactly what I said!" Ben laughed. "Yes, I want some cider." Frank chuckled. He knew an attempt to give them privacy when he saw one. "Thanks, Ben." "What the hell. Sure, I'll take one too." Ike smiled. "Coming up." They all entered the house, and Ben went to the kitchen. Ike and Frank settled on the couch in the living room, and Frank looked expectantly at him. "So, how are things going?" Ike let a big breath of air out in a "whoosh" and lay back. He stared up at the ceiling. "Things are good." Frank frowned. "Uh, you're not acting like things are good. What's going on?" Ike didn't move, but he did speak. "Things with Devin and me, they really are good, and that makes me feel like shit." "Wh …" Frank leaned away from him with a grimace. "What does that even mean, Ike? Why does that make you feel like shit?" "It's complicated." Ike struggled as he tried to find the words. "Well, just say what's in your head. I'm not going to judge you for it." "Cider's up!" Ben announced as he entered. Conversation stopped while he delivered two steaming mugs of cider with cinnamon sticks. Ben motioned toward the stairs. "I'm headed up to chill out a bit. Good to see you, Ike." "Yeah, same here. See you, Ben." Ike watched as Ben left to go upstairs. "So, how are you and Ben getting along?" Ike turned again to Frank. A strange stress response kicked in and Frank chuckled uncomfortably. "Fine! Yeah, we're ah, we're fine." Ike smirked. "It's cool you guys are messing around. I'm glad." "We … we're not." Frank felt ashamed about admitting that, though he wasn't certain why. "Really?" Ike sat back and looked at him. "You guys have never messed around?" Frank bit his lip and shook his head. "Wow. Well, all right. I mean, we just assumed. You guys seem so close." "We are. We're, uh … we're friends." What the fuck is wrong with me? Ike smiled. "Okay. That's fine too, you know." "Yeah, I know." Frank heard the defensiveness in his own voice. "Okay, this isn't about us. What's going on with you guys?" Ike eyed Frank with some bemusement, but he let it go and sighed. "It's just me. I mean, Devin seems willing to try for something more than just fun. He wants me to meet his brother and his wife." Frank realized that things between Ike and Devin could get serious quickly. "Well, that's good, right?" "In a way, I guess." Ike glanced at Frank. "I just feel like I'm sort of shitting on us. On you and me, you know? Like what we had doesn't mean anything if I let more happen with him." "Ike, that's sweet, but you and me weren't right. You know that." Frank took Ike's hand and squeezed it. "It's okay if you want to try dating Devin." Frank swallowed an unexpected knot in his throat. "If you wanted to ... to be with him." Ike looked down at their hands. "I think I love him, Frank." A cold weight settled in Frank's gut. "R-really?" He forced a smile and patted Ike's hand. "Well, I did kind of suspect already. That's great, right?" "Is it?" Ike looked into Frank's eyes. Frank clenched his jaw and nodded. "Yes, of course it is. I say go for it." As Ike stared at Frank, he began to smile. "Okay." Ike gripped Frank's hand. "I've not been this happy in a long time. But you're important to me, and I just wanted, I needed to talk to you, and make sure you're okay with things." Frank smiled. "Of course I'm okay with it. I want you to be happy." A few moments later, Ike had pulled out of the drive. Frank watched him go, and waved as he turned around the end of the street and out of sight. Once he was gone, Frank entered the garage. It was silent and chilled inside, with just enough light to see. He walked past metal rack shelving to an old armchair he had planned to reupholster someday. Frank sat heavily in the chair. There, alone in the dark and cold, he tried to understand why he felt like he was coming apart at the seams. &&& Friday, the intrepid writers purposefully started and finished work late, then got dinner at a local ramen shop. Once full of soup and noodles, they headed to Woody's for another viewing of their soap. "I wonder what they'll think of this one." Ben rubbed his hands together to warm them as they entered the bar. It was snowy and cold out with two more inches forecast over the weekend. Frank put his hands on Ben's and rubbed life back into them. The action was unconscious, and Ben smiled as Frank took care of him. "They'll love it." Frank snickered. "Well, until the end. I so want to see their reaction to that." Ben enjoyed the evil little laugh from his partner, but more than that, he loved the way Frank treated him. I don't know what this is with us, but it's nice to be touched. After they took off their coats and handed them to the coat-check, Frank slid an arm around Ben's shoulders. The bar already had something of a crowd even though it was still a bit before ten p.m. Smatters of conversation from the patrons came to their ears. Almost everyone in the place talked about the soap. The pair looked at one another and shared a grin as they stepped up to the glossy, wooden bar. A few minutes later, they had drinks and settled at a tall table in a corner with a nice view of a wall-mounted screen. Sure enough, ten came and the television switched to the opening sequence of the soap. The guys silently toasted, then settled in to watch. As the Houseboat Floats, Episode 5 It's very early in the day. Weatherby sits at the table in the houseboat he now shares with Lupe. He sips from a cup of black coffee while he reads the newspaper. He adjusts the black rubber gloves that keep his sparks at bay. "Lupe, baby, look here." He holds out the paper, while waving it. Lupe is dressed only in some basketball shorts and turns to gaze at his boy. A voiceover reveals Lupe's thoughts. Damn lucky ... I surely is. Grinning, he walks to the table. "What’s got you so excited?" "Here, look. In the city … this headline; Doctors Flummoxed As People Turning Gray. Their desire for sex insatiable." "Huh? What devil be causing dis?" Lupe scanned the paper and handed it back. "Dem be sex zombies, like our neighbours done is. A couple is okay but we can’t have all turning to dem." The younger man stares at his lover. "What do you think it is?" "Well, them boys next door got hit with comet stuff. But not so many coulda done. So, maybe something they is eatin’ or drinkin’?" "Maybe so." "Hush, boy. I done heard a car. Let me have a little look." "Be careful. Could be Stella come back for me." Weatherby stands and puts a hand on Lupe's bare chest. "Don’t let her take me." "Dat bitch ain't never gettin’ you off Lupe. Don’t you worries ‘bout dat." Lupe picks up a large knife and leaves the kitchen. Outside it is dawn. Birds are chirping. It’s early and no one is around. Lupe hides himself behind a bush and watches as an Environmental Services car pulls up. From it, Officer Samuel Swoun emerges with some difficulty. He is not terribly tall and has a beer belly. He walks to the rear of the car and removes a black sample case. As the officer waddles down to the dock, Lupe walks around to meet him. "Help you, Officer?" The short man turns, surprised. "Ah … oh, good morning. I’m here just to get some water samples and a fish." Lupe picks dirt from under his nails with the large french knife. "Dat so? Dis be mine here. You got some proof of who you is?" Swoun eyes the knife. "Why yes. I can show you …" He opens his notebook and hands Lupe a sheet of 8x10 paper. "I see. Well dis look nice and legal." Lupe grins at the man and hands back the document. "Helps youself to a fish or two." "Thank you." Swoun moves to the end of the dock, kneels awkwardly and opens the case. He puts on gloves and removes some sample bottles and takes off the tops. Lying prone, he dips three bottles in to get samples. After struggling back to his knees, he labels them and packs them into plastic bags and puts them into the case. Lupe leans on a piling to watch. The Environmental Services Officer takes out a foldable fishing rod, adds a fly and casts into the water. Seconds later, he feels a tug on the line and reels in. The fish is slate gray, with white eyes, and it snaps wildly. Avoiding the flashing jaws and teeth, the Inspector puts an icepick through the fish's brain. Now fully aware, Lupe jumps to his feet. "What da fu …" His eyes fly to Swoun. As he wraps the zombie fish and stores it, the chubby man says, "Bastard ugly things." The Inspector packs up and walks past Lupe to his car. "Zombie fish, zombie people." Lupe stands there with his mouth agape for a moment. He watches the car drive off in a cloud of dust. "Two plus two." The dock owner starts back toward his home when he hears his neighbours. One of them is crying pitifully. Lupe knocks loudly. "Hey! You twos okay?" The door opens and Gerry stands there, no longer gray. "Something is wrong with Tom." "Dere been da same wrong with yous. How come … why you aint a zombie no more?" Lupe cranes his neck trying to see Tom. "Why’s he cryin’?" "He wants sex. Something happened, and now I can’t satisfy him." Gerry grimaces. "Will you try? I’m sorry to ask." Lupe, still shirtless, pushes past Gerry. "Course I will. It’s da proper thing. Lupe be a good neighbour." He walks into the bedroom and closes the door. "Tom, I is here to help." "Sssex?" "Yes, boy. Daddy Lupe gonna make it all right." Weatherby, tired of being alone, goes out to find healthy Gerry leaning on the railing. "Wow you look better, Gerry!" "Do I? I don’t feel better. My poor Tom, I can’t satisfy him. Lupe is in there trying now." "What? Lupe is doing what?" "Fucking Tom. He can’t live without sex, and I needed a rest." "Well, isn’t that nice of my boyfriend to be such a selfless bastard," Weatherby grumbles. "How long has he been in there?" "Oh, two, three hours now. He’s a machine!" Weatherby sighs. "So it seems." At that moment, Lupe drags himself out of the bedroom. He is cut, bitten and bleeding. "My god! Dat boy needs his partner back. Sweet boy … you go on in now. Maybe your sweet electric cock will help this poor zomboy." "You want me to fuck him?" Weatherby backs up a few steps. "Yeah. He needs us round the clock. Your turn. It be life or death." Lupe shakes his head. "Don't let him screw yous. Yous be a zombie in a hour if you does. Yous do the screwin'." "Um … okay." Weatherby goes inside and closes the door. From outside Gerry and Lupe hear Weatherby, "Okay … just a second. Wait!" The sound of tearing cloth was clear through the door. "Shit. Okay, I’ll need a new pair of shorts ..." Within a few minutes, rhythmic zapping sounds and moans filter through the window. Gerry stares at his hands. "We need to figure out … I need to … oh Lupe, what are we going to do?" Lupe rubs Gerry’s back. "Don’t worries. Lupe knows his math. Two plus two. Once my sweet electric boy is done, you goes back in. Den me and my boy gonna brings you what you needs to help your zomboy. Okay?" "Yes, okay." It wasn’t long before Lupe cocks his head. "Gerry, yous hear dat?" "No, I didn’t hear anything." He stopped and listened more carefully. "Wait … yes. It sounds like 'help'. Help! Weatherby? Oh God, something's wrong!" The pair run inside and find Tom curled up on the bed moaning and Weatherby sitting naked beside the bed. He looks up at the men, fatigue apparent on his face. "I can’t … I'm out of juice. Tom took it all. But he’s fading away." Weatherby puts a barely-sparking hand on Tom's now nearly-white leg. "Lupe … I think he's dying." &&& The end credits begin to roll. "Fuck! No, you can not end it that way! Bastards!" The wail of a half-drunken patron made Ben snort. "I have to watch the next one. I'm sucked in now." "Someone should have warned me how addictive this show is." "God, all of the actors are hot. I wish I could have seen Weatherby and Tom going at it, though!" Frank chuckled darkly. "Now I feel like we're really writing a soap." He thought a moment, smirked and raised his glass. "To cliffhangers." Ben laughed and his glass joined Frank's. "To cliffhangers!" &&& "Terrence, I am … troubled." It was early Monday morning. Gail sat at her desk, her hands on the surface with her fingers interlaced. Terrence knew that Gail had many connections, and there was a potential that she had caught wind of the board's scheme. Knowing he played for very high stakes, he cleared his throat. "Oh? What disturbs madam?" Gail watched him carefully. "A little birdie has told me that there is grumbling within the board." She stood, removed a cigarette, and lit it, eyeing Terrence while she took a drag. Gail tapped her foot. "I think it's time to pull their teeth. We're going to do a stock buy-back. Once I have a majority share in my company again, then it won't matter what they want." Terrence frowned. "Madam, the only stockholders are the board and a few select others. They'd never sell stock to you, they'd lose what power they do have should you secure the majority." Gail's smile was savage. "Yes, you're right." She cocked her head. "But, they don't know you from Adam. If a new investor came along, one with money enough to snap up some shares and line the pockets of some greedy board members …" Gail let the statement hang in the air. Terrence's mind spun. Halsten certainly knew who he was, as did the rest of the board. Is this her attempt to draw me out? To test me? He didn't see a way out without arousing suspicion. "Is madam proposing that I own these shares?" "Legally, yes. If you owned 1.8% of the available shares, then that would push our combined total to 50.1%." Gail put her palms flat on the desk and leaned forward, her eyes boring into Terrence's. "This means I would need your help should the board turn on me." "I … I am flattered by madam's trust." Terrence tried to think faster than he needed to speak. "I would be honored to assist in any way that is needed. Of course, I will help ensure SNET remains in your hands." Gail took another draw on the cigarette, still watching him. Terrence felt a bead of sweat begin to roll down the side of his face, and he turned slightly so it was out of her sight. Another agonizing twenty seconds passed. Finally, she smiled. "Good." She waved him away. "Go on. I have to make some calls. Oh, I am expecting a call from Vince, the fellow from Pornhub. If he calls, inform me immediately, no matter what." "Yes, of course, madam." Terrence left the office. He wiped his face and exhaled in relief. His scheme could still work. He quickly walked to his private restroom and pulled out his phone. Impatiently, he waited for the line to pick up. "Halsten here." "Sir." Terrence wet his cherry chapstick flavored lips. "Things will need to move faster than originally planned. I'll explain, but there will soon be a stock buy-back, and it will be in my name. You must allow it, or the plan is likely forfeit." Terrence spent the next ten minutes explaining what Gail had revealed to him. By the end of the conversation, Halsten had called for the board to meet that Friday with Gail's and all board members' attendance necessary. "You've done well, my boy." Halsten purred with satisfaction. "Her maneuvering has put a nail in her coffin. I'll expedite the share sale. Once you have them, her time is over. We'll force her out, and you'll have that executive position you've always deserved." "Thank you, sir. I look forward to it." Terrence hung up. With a determined gleam in his eye, he exited the restroom, ready to finish the best performance of his life.
  4. I feel for both men... they are young, and this has all come out of the blue for both of them. We have to remember these feelings are a first for both of them. Life has to happen... it will go on, and maybe things will become clearer. For now, the pack needs a mechanic, and Kellar knows one, so ROAD TRIP! I totally get the feelings this chapter caused. Thanks for another great comment, Jasmine.
  5. Merde. Now I have to go back again. Maybe I buy some ricotta.
  6. Oh Billy! https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/02/17/locke-key-connor-jessup-miles-heizer-dating-relationship-13-reasons-why/
  7. Aww shucks. Seriously, this was one of my favorite chapters to write. Adelin was a symbol to the pack... she showed them their sad reality, as the pack dwindles, and now she will become a symbol of hope. I'm glad Tobyn lending his help... his energy, and that the healing itself, caused such a positive reaction from readers. What can I say about the ending. These men are connected in such a profound way, and while it is heart-wrenching at times, it is also beautiful. Thank you, my friend... I'm loving taking this journey with you.
  8. Thanks so much! I have a bunch of notes about the museum's design which is an amalgamation of a few of my favorites (but primarily the Natural History Museum in London). There's an official photo of the mineralogy hall that's pretty much directly referenced here. But I didn't want to get lost in the details, so I did my best to just highlight essentials. It makes me happy that someone noticed. 😊
  9. drpaladin

    Chapter 5/6

    I finally found a photo of an MG with the hood opened from the right hand side.
  10. Three more pieces from Bennett Cerf’s book Good for a Laugh. These show how even in the deep-freeze of a Cold War, a person can always stay warm with a little humor.  

    ---

    Stalin called in his top “yes-men” one morning and boomed, “Boys, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s liberate the Pribilof Islands from the suffocating grip of those money-mad Wall Street bankers.” One yes-man was a little slow with his usual enthusiasm. “I feel I should point out,” he quavered, “that there isn’t a single person on the Pribilof Islands – nothing there but seals.” “They can clap, can’t they?” inquired Joe with a sideways smirk.” “Why, yes. All seals can clap.” “Good. Then after we get done liberating them, no one will be able to tell them apart from the Politburo!”

    ---

    Commissar Malipoofsky journeyed from Moscow to Budapest to see whether the Hungarian state was growing enough potatoes to meet the Russian-imposed quota. “Ah, Comrade,” gloated his Hungarian deputy, “under the inspiration of the glorious Slavic Motherland, our peasants are digging up a crop beyond our wildest dreams. Our spuds will be sufficient to pile up a mighty mountain reaching to the feet of God.” “Enough of your corny dramatics,” said Commissar Malipoofsky, “you know there isn’t any God.” “Yes, and you know there aren’t any potatoes either.”

    ---

    An Irishman was listening to the latest news spread by his mates at the local pub. Later that night, he remarked to his wife, “Seems they’re sayin’ it’s really Khrushchev who’s clapped down on the Korea.” “Well,” said the missus, “two for one! And may God bless the lassie who gave ‘em to him.”   

    ---

     

     

          

     

    1. MichaelS36

      MichaelS36

      These are great, AC!   Thank you. 

  11. Today
  12. MCVT

    Chapter 5/6

    Classy car: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peugeot_402 v
  13. AFBNOW

    Chapter 21

    I agree with Philippe! This was my favorite story Mark but I think it is time to delete my bookmark and say goodbye to George!
  14. Now that is a very bad sentence. It's true that a lot of 'had's can (and should) be eliminated by simply changing the sentence structure. In the case of the sentence above, I'd cut half of it and just write, 'John and Raven had met in the third grade and become instant besties,' for instance. It can also be a good idea to restructure or rephrase sentences with 'was' in it. A good way to make things more interesting. Either way, though, the key is variety. If every sentence in a paragraph is 'subject, verb, object', things get boring fast, for instance. While punctuation definitely counts, punctuation rules in English are actually extremely complex, convoluted, and inconsistent, especially where commas are concerned. There are vast varieties of styles that use commas differently (Oxford comma or not is only one of many points where people wildly disagree) and no hardcore rules for them. You can ask three different editors who are equally experienced, educated, and knowledgeable and get three completely different answers about comma placement.
  15. Will Hawkins

    Chapter 20

    Rory entering my live Rory entering my life you are biologically destine for; you are biologically destined for; Washington State University, which Rory attends, is on the Semester System. Just a point of information for the author.
  16. You left your cheese knife in the Fromagerie... again... The kitchen is just down the hall
  17. Oh the Hunters talk got shivering. I feel like they'll make an appearance somewhere in the future. And it was nice to read Tobyn POV once again. It looks like Keller isn't the only one struggling in this. The good part is that they both accepted this new feeling even though they're not– more like Tobyn is not ready to make more out of it.
  18. drpaladin

    Chapter 5/6

    Pressing one shut seldom makes more than a a moderate click. Although an unfastened hood can be a dandy hazard all by itself if you are going at a good speed. I've never looked closely at MG's of this vintage, but many cars of the day have hoods which are hinged on the middle and butterfly up from the sides. I'm completely clueless about thePeugeot.
  19. Congrats on clearing the mod queue! And this is getting very exciting. Hellfire, huh? Interesting... Also, I loved your descriptions of the museum. Detailed enough to set the scene nicely, but not so much you lose focus on the story. Nicely done!
  20. Big Friends Part One Makarovia truly was doing some things no other country would do. Peter's and my wedding was just one example as the marriage was accepted. Now, we had another situation where a woman was to give birth to a king's child. That was not usual. Kings often had children outside of their marriage. In the past a king sometimes came by after the child was born and what he did spoke volumes. If he even picked up the baby, he was acknowledging that he was the father. I knew of one where a king wanted a son, but his queen kept failing to do so. His mistress did give him a son. That king not only picked the baby up, but said to everyone there, the baby was his son. The child Helga and Olek created would be welcome, too. With modern medicine the birth was not as dangerous like in the past. Helga's previous abortion would cause no problem if it was properly done. There was only a little concern about her being sick but morning sickness was just common with ladies. Very few didn't get sick in the first trimester. Dinner was going to happen in the Mess area again. The mystery of what Henri was serving went away gradually. It was Asian. You could tell that from the wonderful odors. It was also clear if you didn't like seafood or were allergic you would starve to death here. The thing about allergies, you really weren't born with them. Mom or Dad pass on the sensitivities, but the first time you experience anything, you're not allergic. That's a fact. Your body identifies something as abnormal flora or fauna (animal or plant) and causes the adverse reaction. You can love something for years and suddenly react. What Mom and Dad gives you, your body says, “Oh, I heard about that. We need to get rid of it.” That was a very simple explanation of a complex thing. It's still true. People that say they don't like it, in my opinion, are just mentally ill. My opinion! You can agree or disagree, that's your opinion. You have a prefect right to be wrong. Henri served Spring Rolls! Those smaller, tender eggrolls that had a little, light crunch when you ate one. They were time consuming things to make. He had help with Gretchen and Nita. I didn't have to ask if Boris helped. If it's noon, you don't have to go outside to know the sun is up. No. I don't want any long explanations or scenarios on how it could be noon and sun was not up. It will be. The Spring Rolls were...perfect. Steam rose up when you bit into one and while you fanned your mouth to take in more, the delicious taste just surrounded you. I suspected Boris and Henri were Southerners at heart. They knew the real, tasty experience was in the sauce or gravy. Shrimp were in the rolls and they were delicious. They were even better with the individual ramekins of sweet brown sauce or sweet red sauce. The yellow sauce will bring tears to your eyes. It did with me. It was phenomenal, but the tears were due to the sweet, hot and spicy mustard. Henri had made an Asian meal before and once again that little man came out, bowed and rang a gong. That made them Southern Asians? The main course was a lemon and ginger shrimp and scallops. With our agents and their appetites I just hoped there some left in the Mediterranean. The noise level increased and everyone was having a nice time. Then I noticed Rolph looking...a little unhappy. “What's wrong?” I asked him. “You don't seem to be very happy.” He looked startled and shook his head. “No, I'm happy...” I waited and I frowned. “There must be something in Makarovian upbringing that causes all of these pregnant pauses. Say it!” Rolph pointed at Yuri. “I'm sorry, but I heard you talk with King Olek. You said you were moving us as a team to the West.” Remember, the U.S., Canada, England, many countries were “West.”ou Yuri nodded. “That's right. I did.” He looked at me. “The chemistry of this group is exceptional. Don't you agree?” I nodded. “I do.” Rolph shook his head. “I'm gone from my family for weeks at a time,” He said sadly. “It's what I do but you're talking about being gone from the end of August until the end of November. I don't want to be gone that long.” Yuri nodded, “You don't think you can.” “No,” Rolph almost wailed. “Would you leave Boris for three or four months?” Yuri's face had a little humor, but you needed to know him to see it. I did. “That is a problem.” I looked at Yuri. “Yuri.” I said in a quiet mutter. He was like a cat toying with a mouse before killing it. That meant Yuri was secure enough to tease Rolph. He was trying. “The problem is, Eric,” Yuri said to me. “Hearing a conversation like that; you don't get the whole story.” I didn't raise my head, but I looked up at Yuri. “Yuri.” I said gruffly again. “And he didn't hear the whole the entire conversation,” Yuri said to me. “I thought this was a great team.” He looked at Rolph. “I was going to talk to you first, but...” He shrugged. I chuckled. Yuri was enjoying this. “Just tell him, Yuri. You're enjoying the torture too much.” Yuri looked at Rolph. “How would Andreea feel about staying in Boston a while?” Rolph's eyes widened. “Boston!?” Yuri waved at Peter and me. “They have another year at Northeastern.” He shrugged. “The comradery is a benefit. The way all of you get along so well; I suggested we keep you all together. King Olek agreed we should.” “Andreea can come, too?” Rolph asked. Yuri nodded. “Alina and Darla, too.” Rolph's mouth dropped open. “I understand Darla will be in school,” Yuri said. “She finished her Doshkilʹne,” Rolph said. “Alina starts in the Fall.” Yuri nodded again. “How's their English?” He went on quickly. “Our agents are provided housing paid by Makarovia. The same will be done for you.” He shrugged. “Darla can go to an English speaking school or we can provide a connection to Makarovia and attend school that way. You decide.” He looked at his plate and then looked up quickly. “Oh, you need to hold off on the divorce and remarriage a while.” Rolph's mouth was still open. “How does the saying go?” Peter asked me. “Something about things flying in an open mouth.” “Close your mouth, you'll catch flies,” I replied. “Uhm,'' Peter looked at Rolph and jutted his head in my direction. “What he said.” Yuri smiled. “You've got four weeks to decide. Talk with Andreea. Four more weeks we leave for Boston.” You might think we spend too much. We, as in Makarovia. I was Makarovian now so I was part of the “we.” We sort of have to. If Makarovia had remained a nearly forgotten country we would have less security. There was just Yuri that escorted Peter to class and only four guards. Now that Makarovia had a valuable resource we just had to have more security. More guards meant the housing need increased. Carla Bowers, Ms. Nonoise, who rented me an apartment two years ago, was now renting some apartments to our guards in Boston. Makarovia was paying the bill for that. I knew Ms. Bowers didn't rent to people with children. In case you didn't know; children make noise! Even having gotten to know Rolph only a little while I couldn't imagine any child of his wouldn't make noise. The picture of them he showed us showed two very happy children. Expressions were a body language and they spoke of no trauma at all. That still photograph spoke of an effervescence brought on by the love of their parents. As wacky as Rolph's and Andreea's love was; they loved each other and their children. So what if Rolph and Andreea made marriage a game. It worked for them. If I guessed, Olek and our life manager Don Wilson were negotiating a deal. The United States Government wanted something we had. They were helping us get the uranium and defending our borders. They would help getting an apartment or condo. Okay, you just saw my say guards. There are agents and guards. Some guards became agents. I had to learn the difference and there is a big difference. A guard does what he's called. He stands guard. He protects property and fends off attacks from criminals. They were in Boston doing that now. Agents did the same thing, but did it for Peter, me, Olek, Helga, and Mom. The guards did include some female guards. The female agents were assigned to Mom and Helga. Someone had to be able to escort Mom into the Lady's Room. I never doubted Helga could kick ass. Mom probably could, too. Just as I insisted our agent dressed more casually to blend in except when the situation called for the agents needed to be seen. The agents assigned to Mom looked more like Ladies in Waiting, but could kick ass. And again I will tell you; gay. Remember? I have no problem with female guards or agents. Yes, I prefer the company of men even platonically. I loved Mom, Helga, Grandma and some women in Makarovia and Boston, but given a choice; I'll pick males. You never see a boat or ship speed. I take that back. There are boats that can move quickly over water. The fast, long and sleek ones were cigarette boats. First called that during Prohibition and used to get away from pursuit. Australia has one that could travel almost seventy miles an hour. That’s miles per hour, not kilometers. The problems with that were they guzzled fuel to do that. The other problem is the water on the ocean, seas or even lakes didn't always cooperate. Rough water happened. I've seen the boats race and flip over because of it. The water wasn't a smooth road. These boats were made with sleek bottoms. When the boats jumped because of the water, the air going by picked up the boat and it flipped. We parted ways with the Italian Navy Cruiser and entered the waters of Greece. Yuri had his laptop computer was ready. The wires needed were ready and Yuri clipped clamps from the computer to the exposed cables. “And the Pensiero Positivo is born,” Yuri said proudly. Peter smiled. “I got a part of that.” “Positive thinking,” Yuri translated smiling at his cleverness. “This will work?” Earl asked. Yuri gave a shrug. “It should. We'll see when we get to Athens without being stopped or followed.” We had another game night. This time the female crew members joined us. With all people playing we got one of the decks I had hidden to coax the guys out. They had the same backing so none know what anybody had in their hand. Like Spades; you had a partner and made bids. Peter and I weren't allowed to be partners. Boris and Yuri weren't either. They claimed we could read our husbands' minds and gave us an unfair advantage. I was partnered with Yuri and Peter with Boris. The female crew members insisted they be partners. In a bad decision; we let them. They beat all of us badly. Maybe women made better pirates. The Corinth Canal never closed. Modern ships were now bigger than the Canal was wide. I said that before, didn't I? The canal was becoming a tourist attraction now. However, the four mile distance was a lot shorter. I had been amazed, and yes a little nervous at what I considered a tight squeeze in the daytime. I would have been even worse at night. The canal had lights and so did the Duchess; or rather, the Positive Thinking. Maybe we should we say The Positive Thinker? Oh, who cares? The name is just temporary. I also have to say, what Yuri did was nothing short of brilliant. The Automatic Identification System sent the satellites the signal; about a different ship. It still had a registry number, the length and tonnage was just a little different so if we were seen, which we would be, no one suspected enough to investigate more intensely. Pano and Barry were going to be at Big. It wasn't a Monday. Open daily except Monday. Yes, I know you remember that. I'm just reminding everyone. Yuri removed his filament from the AIS. We didn't want to deceive anyone in Greece. We wanted them to keep liking and even loving us. We certainly did love them. I said it many times. “I love Greece!” We got to Pireas as the sun began to rise. I have to guess about that because we were asleep. We got a berth almost where we had been in the last time. It offered us an easier access to land and allowed us to load and unload if necessary. The only things unloaded were us and garbage. Yes, there was garbage. Any sewage got processed and discarded safely and properly. Byproducts had to be discarded too, but not that often. Every tube of toothpaste had to be thrown away from the container the tube came in to the tube itself when empty. Many things that took a few minutes more were recycled. This was a very green yacht. (You know I'm not talking about the color.) Appreciation for the Count and Countess von Bar just grew each day. The future step-uncle in-law Alexi and future step-aunt in-law Maria were environmentally conscience. That made big points with me and brought my respect of them higher. I had to meet them. I knew they'd come to the wedding for Mom and Mario, but who knew when that would be? It was inevitable as Peter and my wedding had been. Was there going to be a Proposal? I didn't think so. He was marrying a citizen of Makarovia but wasn't working for Makarovia, but I know he did. Not really for Makarovia, but for Queen Alla. Offering help in a situation with Peter and I had helped her son. That was to make points with Mom. Not Peter or me and not for Makarovia. He does get a title if he wants. Dad! You know I do this. I made his sister an aunt because she was Mario's sister. He was the connection in all this. We had promised our agents we weren't leaving the Duchess until we went to Big. They had time to do what they wanted to in Athens. Of course, Henri went to see what was left at the open fish market. Boris had gone with him. Henri was talking about going to be late arriving. He hoped enough vendors had enough left when they got there. “When does Henri sleep!?” Peter balked after hearing about the early hour he was going. I shrugged, “He seems well rested when we see him. He must get what he needs.” Again we got up late morning, cleaned up and went to retrieve our coffees. It wasn't surprising to see Boris instead of Henri. It wasn't surprising to see Yuri with Boris. It wasn't surprising to see Boris and Yuri kissing. Comparing how Yuri kissed in front of Peter and me, mostly in front of me. After I found out he and Boris were married; there had been a real turn around for the duty and protocol bound man. Yuri was relaxed and not worried now. They had witnessed Peter and me kiss often. Boris smiled still holding on to Yuri. “Henri's checking on things we got at the market in storage.” He pointed at the galley around him. “He told me what he planned and premade if you got up. It'll be ready in forty-five minutes.” Peter grinned. “Why so long? Henri does it very quickly.” Boris nodded, “This isn't my kitchen.” He said on the border of being testy. “I have to look for things. I don't just know where they are.” I rolled my eyes and turned to Peter. “Remember what grandpa said. That isn't keeping a key group close. Boris will be cooking again for us.” Boris chuckled. “After all this time I know what he's doing.” He let Yuri go. “And I know what you want first.” He turned to begin making the coffees. “Henri never showed us how, or I would do it.” I said. Boris shook his head. “Well, you would be tinkering in his about domain. It's what he's paid to do.” Peter nodded. “He said that.” Yuri grinned. “Job security,” He looked us. “So, what's so special about this Big Bar?” “Pano and Barry,” Peter said simply. “Don't forget Edger,” I reminded. “No one could forget Edger,” Peter assured with a laugh. I added. “Pano is Greek born man that lived quite a few years in Canada and speaks English like a native. Barry is his partner who is Canadian born Greek…” Explaining would time consuming. “You'll see.” We were concerned about the security again and asked Mikell a few days before if arrangements for what we had last time could done again. He made arrangements. The paparazzi had seen the ship we left on. Now that is was back, did that mean we were back? We didn't show ourselves during the day, but people did get on and off, but not us. That didn't mean anything really. Yuri and Boris had gone out on the deck and could be seen. If the paparazzi were smart, which I've never heard them being accused of being smart, they knew we did things to fool them. Such as our vanishing at the restaurant or our coming to Big's. This was Mikell's job and he was trusted. Lunch or whatever was again following the theme. This time it was barbeque shrimp on French bread. It was an open face sandwich with quite a few shrimp and the juices soaking into the bread. Next to Henri and Boris I just heated things up to eat. I did know about styles of cooking. When Henri came to check on us; and he should know we were always in love with what he cooked, I asked him. “Out with it.” I pointed at the plate. “This is not French.” Henri didn't look offended, but a little surprised. “I am French. I made it. What makes you say it isn't French?” “It a bit spicy, which I love,” I pointed at him. “The barbeque had heat and not from the stove or oven. French food isn't spicy at all. There is lots of flavor, but mostly wine, cheese and breads.” Henri nodded. “You're right, but it is French…sort of.” He smiled as I fixed a glare on him. “It was created by a French chef in New Orleans. It's not Cajun...exactly...” “Henri,” Peter growled lowly at him. “Just tell us.” I looked at Peter. “He doesn't need to.” I chuckled. “There is no rule about keeping recipes the same all the time.” Henri nodded. “And they shouldn't be. I hate chefs that insist on the same thing every time.” He waved to outside. “Cultures are blending like people.” I nodded. “There are fusion recipes being created all the time.” Peter nodded. “So, this is...?” “A fusion of Americana and Cajun by way of France.” Henri said simply and shrugged. The threat of the Consortium still overshadowed everything. Again, the Consortium wasn't stupid or foolish. Hopefully the pirate trying to prove valuable to the Consortium wasn't either. Even if she had managed to track us to Athens. Her people could strike, but that would be chaotic. Our agents would fight and she could lose. If we just hid; they win. The military of Greece would hopefully respond. Our allied forces hopefully help us if they weren't already. They were actively trying to find them. As a result, they could be laying low and not drawing attention to themselves in any way. “We can just skip this tonight.” Peter suggested. I looked at Peter. “Do you think we should?” “They'd see they can force us to do...whatever.” “They already did that causing us to change our plans for the honeymoon.” I said. Peter nodded, “But we did go on one.” “We did promise to come back.” I gave a shrug and nod. “I don't want to endanger Pano, Barry or Edger.” “No,” Peter agreed. “We'll make every effort to keep everyone safe. I just think we can't back down.” “Show no weakness,” I smiled and looked at Peter. “Be careful. Someone will put you in a position of leadership.” Peter chuckled. “If we do it together, I'm not as unsure with you with me.” “We'll be together,” I said. “I love you, husband,” Peter said. “I know,” I grinned. “I love you, husband.” Peter kissed me. “I know you do.”
  21. quokka

    DSA Chapter 9

    Serine is a Royal title
  22. quokka

    DSA Chapter 9

    Zzzzzzz
  23. Wayne Gray

    The Kiss of Wine

    Thank you. We did have a nice time. And ... our kisses were a highlight, not a trial for the other patrons. 🙂
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