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Aberrant: 2011 - Visitors, Part 1

z-Coyote-Mad Scientist

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"Hey, Daaaaad?"

Ramon Dineh looked up from his newspaper, already knowing what his step-daughter wanted. She only used that tone of voice for one thing. But he played along anyway, knowing that they both enjoyed the game. "Yes, Karen?"

"I was wondering... could I borrow it?" Karen asked, bouncing a little from excitement. She was also dressed in nicer clothes than normal; her coveralls were clean, and he could still see the creases from the packaging. She must be expecting company, and probably someone she wanted to impress. With that in mind, he let her off the hook much easier than he normally did.

"Sure, hon," he said, raising his paper again. "You know where the keys are, right?" He was a lucky, lucky man. A beautiful, talented wife with two step-children to spoil, one who was a nova, and two other children as well.

Ramon didn't look up from his reading when she squealed with joy; he'd been expecting that anyway. But she lept onto his lap, crushing his newspaper. He wasn't complaining, though; he'd trade a newspaper for a hug from his daughter any day.

* * *

Karrie clambered up on top of the Sherman tank, and opened the top. With long practice - she'd been playing in this thing since Dad had bought it - she wiggled inside, ignoring the fact that she instantly broke into a sweat. I should install some AC in this thing, she mused as she inserted the key in the ignition. The tank roared to life with a rumble and a shudder, the old engine turning over with a bit of complaint. Karrie frowned at that; she needed to check the tuning again, apparently.

Still, when she popped the clutch and stomped the gas pedal, the tank lurched forward with a stable roar. Karrie felt a grin spread over her face as she steered out of the shed it rest in and rolled up the dirt path toward the road. She couldn't wait to see Ravenshire's face when she greeted him. "Almost makes me which I had a shell," she muttered.

"Just for effect, of course."

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Nazlini was a hundred and fifty kilometers from Winslow, Arizona. He had to leave the jet at Winslow and rent a bush plane for travel the Navaho Nation, which was okay. The view of the countryside was gorgeous with its expansive landscapes and subtle hues. It had a peaceful emptiness to it that Daniel found quieting. All too soon he flew over Highway One-Ninety-One and approached Nazlini from the west. The town was tiny as he circled it and he followed the road out of town as directed. He spotted a group of building at the end of the road and dropped to a lower elevation.

‘Oh my God!’ he thought. ‘That really is a tank alright.’

Ravenshire circled around again and buzzed the compound. He judged the dirt road and figured out how much of it he would need as a runway. Once more around and he idled the prop plane back for the landing. Daniel touched down gently enough, bounced, and then settled down for the long run toward The Coyote’s compound … and tank. Dust billowed up and visibility lessened, but he could only smile. For a man who spent nearly his entire life in the big city, the rural life was a welcome change.

The plane ran down the length of the road, slowing down as it went. In front of what looked like a bone yard Daniel spun the plane a hundred and eighty degrees so that it pointed back up the road. The dust from his arrival was still heavy in the air as he throttled the plane down and then cut the engines. Ravenshire hopped out in a rough-weaved long sleeved white shirt, brown cover alls and aviator sunglasses. He even had a red handkerchief, a utility Swiss Army knife, and small flashlight with him. The rifle was left in the plane. Ravenshire put chalks under the wheels before turning and heading toward the house.

‘Well, I made it here,’ Daniel thought, ‘but why am I here? I hope she’s not expecting too much from this pretty boy, because all I’m looking for is an interesting day looking around this beautiful country and checking out how innovative Karrie’s been with her mechanic.’

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Before Daniel got too far toward the buildings, a loud roar was heard. Karrie gunned the tank for dramatic flair, then precisely judged* when to start the stop. At the last possible moment, she jerked the brake levers all the way back, feeling the tension from the machinery all the way up her arms. The treads stopped but there was too much momentium for them to stop right there; the loose dirt didn't let the tank get enough traction. The tank slid to a graceless stop, it's barrel yards away from the parked plane. Gears rumbled deep in the beast's belly as the choking dust began to settle; then the hatch popped open and Karrie popped out, tumbling out gracefully. "Hi!" she sang out, waving as she walked out onto the cannon's barrel. "Welcome to Nazlini!" She looked at everything, giggled and said, "All of it!"

She put her palms on the barrel and lowered herself to her knees so that she could straddle the metal cylinder. "Come on, hop up. We'll save you the walk to the house."

He was kinda cute, in a very baseline way. Karrie wondered what he expected out of this trip - she knew that he did some kind of consulting, and that he was dating Lina, lucky bastard. While Karrie wasn't interested in women, she would have been interested in Lina.

[[*6 successes on an Intelligence+Drive check]]

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Not one to be bashful, Ravenshire hopped up onto the great metal war machine.

"Nice baby you have here. Is this your idea of a cross country vehicle?" he joked.

The dust was still thick in the air and this thing was way to close to the plane he'd rented, but he liked Karrie's moxy. He liked it here and he told her as much.

"This is beautiful country. I can see why you like it here. I have to ask you though, why did you invite me out here?"

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"Why, to show off my toys, of course," Karrie laughed, tipping her head back. "This baby," she patted the tank affectionately, "was the first thing I fixed up. So you could say I'm starting the show early today."

She moved to the hatch and opened it, asking, "Do you want to spot or to drive?" Her impish smile implied that either way would be interesting for both parties.

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"We'll start out with me driving then. I hope you will let me do both," he grins. Ravenshire straddles the barrel past Karrie and starts wiggling down the driver's hatch. He certainly seems eager. Once inside, Daniel ask for a quick rundown of the controls and handles said controls with amazing ease. Once they are ready to roll, Karrie gets a thumbs off and the tank takes off.

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Karrie grinned as she took the turrent seat, which gave her a full view. She was the spotter for Daniel, and she wasted no time trying to confuse him. With his limited visibility, Karrie was able to make him drive around in a few circles before guiding him into the barn.

"You can sit in the dummy's seat on the way back to the plane," Karrie told him. "I'll show you the shop, but let's get some lemonade first. It's hot and dusty today. Not that it isn't all days, but I want some lemonade." She grinned happily.

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Driving this thing made you feel like you were riding around in circles he thought. It had to be that much worse from the gunner's seat ... unless she was running him around in circles on purpose. I can't be sure in all this dust we are kicking up.

After they came to a halt Daniel began crawling out of his seat.

"By all means, let's get the lady what she wants."

Lemonade sounded good after only a few moments in this steel coffin. He couldn't imagine what the guys who routinely fought in the desert must have felt like.

Climbing back into the sunlight, Ravenshire saw that he had driven into what passed for a yard for Karrie's compound, which was no mean feat ... and he was pretty sure he hadn't hit anything or killed anybody getting here. Before jumping down,

"Are there any dogs about that I should be aware of," he joked.

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"Just my mom's Labradoodle, and a semi-wild coydog we feed," Karrie said. "Spickle - that's Mom's dog - thinks she's human and Bandito - the coydog - is so shy you'll never see him. No, you need to watch out for the cats, here." She pointed to where a large gray tabby tom cat was lounging in the sun on the porch.

The cat gave them an unfriendly stare as they approached. Karrie started to wave her arms and shoo it long before they reached the building; for a long second, Ravenshire truly thought the tom would attack. Then with a silibant hiss, it dashed away to hide under a vehicle sitting in the side yard. "That's Killer," Karrie said as introduction. "He keeps the coyotes away from the house. The cats have to be mean out here - coyotes like to eat 'em." She laughed at the irony.

The inside of the house is cool; while not air conditioned, there were plenty of fans moving the air around, and Ravenshire guessed that the stone walls captured much of the heat. Karrie led him into a kitchen; while he looked around at the neat but cluttered kitchen, she fetched glasses and poured drinks for them. While he was looking around, a medium sized, shaggy dog colored a dark brown entered the room, sniffing at him.

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After the encounter with Killer, Ravenshire informed Karrie that he knew to give cats a wide berth.

"We are just passing through their world, after all."

As for the coyotes,

"They are one of the oldest surviving animals in North America. They've been doing what they've had to in order to survive for millions of years. I can't argue with that track record. Do they cause you much problems around here?"

He like the architecture of the house, but then homes were a hobby of his. He took a moment to take in the entry way and the stones that made up the main wall. The home was old, but well cared for.

When the dog came up, he offered it the front of his hand to sniff.

"Hey there Spickle," Daniel told the dog softly. "Kind of hot in that coat, I bet."

His tone was gentle and his mannerisms were non-threatening. After all, he wasn't sure how Karrie would react if the dog elected to take a bite out of him - she might be horribly embarrassed, or she might be angry with him for angering the dog. The dog was friendly enough and she gave his hand a lick. After that he scratched her across the top of her head, down her neck, and behind her ears.

Smiling up at Karrie,

"She's not so bad. What does she normally steal ... in order to earn the title of Bandito?"

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"Bandito is the other dog," Karrie said, leaning against the counter and scratching her leg with her shoe. "You won't see him. He's named that because he's got a mask across his eyes; we think that one of his parents was something spotted, maybe black and white. He's too shy to come out now, though, and if I try to drag him out of his hiding hole, he'd probably bite me. Spickle, on the other hand, is an attention whore. And now that she knows you, she won't leave you alone.

"The coyote problem is real bad out here; lots of people lose pets to them all the time," Karrie sighed. "Once you add in their rare livestock attack, you have a lot of angry people. Lots of people get a hunting license just so that they can legally shoot them." She shrugged. "It's the normal situation when mankind gets too thick in wild areas."

Karrie set the lemonade down and asked, "So, would you like to meet family or see stuff? My dad will want to see you at some point; you'd be the prettiest thing I've ever brought home." She grinned at the surprise on his face. "A couple of my brothers are around here, too, and my mom will be home for dinner. Oh, are you staying for dinner?"

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Ravenshire doesn't blush but he does smile.

"I don't know about that. I'm sure you've brought home things far more fascinating than I. If you and your family will have me, I would be happy to stay for dinner."

He takes a moment to pat Spickle again.

"Bring on the family, Karrie. I like meeting people. So, who is your Dad and what does he do?"

Of course meeting the family is a sticky situation. Daniel wasn't aware this was a date. It was, in his mind, a meeting of two fellow novas, but with an interest in the mechanical side of nova thought. Now, if Karrie was of the opinion this was a date ... well, he had some explaining to do, but when?

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"My dad is Ramon, and he's retired," Karrie laughed. "So all he does is hang out and do what he wants." She grabbed a dog treat out of a bin and tossed it to Spickle, who caught it with a dry crunch. Karrie left the kitchen, leaving the dog happily devouring her cookie.

She led Ravensire down a long hallway to a more comfortable room with a TV and several comfy chairs. An older, overwieght man with brown, leathered skin struggled upright and extended his hand. "You must be Karrie's guest," he said. "I'm Ramon, her father. Make yourself at home."

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Daniel shook Ramon's hand.

"Nice to meet you, Ramon. I'm Daniel Ravenshire."

It appeared he was looking at one of the inviting comfy chairs, but he was really subtly sizing up Ramon for the best approach*. Still talking to Ramon,

"I'm taking the tour with Karrie right now, but I would be happy to once she's done with me," he said with a grin.

Looking to Karrie,

"You mentioned a couple of brothers who will want to give me the once over."

[*First Impression]

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"Yeah, but they'll find us," Karrie said, grinning. "I'm sure that once we get into the shed, they'll be eager to join us. They like playing with my toys. We'll be back later, Dad."

Ramon waved and sank back into his chair, snapping his newspaper back in place, the picture of a content retiree. With a fond smile, Karrie led Ravenshire back out into the heat. "You'll meet my mom at dinner, but she's at the clinic right now. She 'does' nursing, because you seem to like to know people's occupations."

Karrie takes another look at him, but the pleasant expression is gone from her eyes. Instead, there is a calculating look, and not necessarily a benevolent one. "Why do you want to know that? It's the second thing you asked, after 'who.' Why?"

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Ravenshire looks into her eyes, lets his smile fade and nods.

"Fair enough, Karrie. I want to know what people want to do, given the chance to do so without financial constraints. Its got to be something more than getting rich, because money is nothing more than a tool. People want to do something," with a grin he adds, "most of them anyway."

"My father was miserable at his job and drank himself to death. Before my eruption I was well on the way to following him. I was obsessed with making money. Once my node popped I had a chance to do some soul searching. I figured that happiness was the best thing to be working toward and I've kind of gone from there."

"I think I can help people find what makes them happy and how they can get themselves there. I've yet to figure out what really makes me happy, but I think that by learning to help others I'll also be helping myself."

"Look at your Dad for instance. That's a man to envy. He's happy and content and that's worth a lot in my book."

"You seem kind of manic, but also like you've found some niche that makes you happy. A place were you feel like you can accomplish something. I would like to know that about you."

Ravenshire blushes lightly and looks down at the ground.

"Sorry I don't have anything more sinsiter for you. I guess you could consider it a selfish desire of mine, but that's all it is."

Looking up at her, he adds,

"I also like mechanical and electronic things. Compared to people, they makes sense and are far less complex even if they are just as challenging to the mind."

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