D'zoll takes a moment off, or rather more than a moment, since there isn't much of a schedule here at Hannard's Ford even if it is a fully accredited Tecton Sime Center. In fact, he's dispensed with the usual Tecton uniform in favor of something a bit more comfortable.
D'zoll reflects that it's not reasonable to expect anyone at all to show up on a cold and windy night like this, even if the full moon does make it theoretically possible to travel -- except for the changeovers, of course, who feel free to show up even at three in the morning in a blizzard.
D'zoll has all these reflections while looking out the window at the back yard, which glows faintly to his Sime senses and rather more brightly to his sight, thanks to the moon. He relieved Bibi to let her get some private time with her Donor, since he's more than willing to take on any cases that do arrive on this watch.
Ewatt approaches the back hedge of the Sime Center, crouching down to peer through a bare spot near the ground.
Ewatt doesn't add to the nageric view, because he's only eight. He feels quite grown up, however, because his Baby Sister is two years younger.
Volta trails behind her "big" brother. He may be a year and a half older, but she's an inch taller. She finds another gap in the hedge and peers through.
Volta: Looks clear.
Volta really can't see much through her gap.
Ewatt: Yeah. Let's keep going. She can't have gone far -- she's probably under these bushes.
Ewatt starts working his way down the hedge.
Ewatt: Ampear! Come back here.
Volta moves a few feet along and finds another gap. It gives her a good view of a large, winter-bare tree.
Ewatt steps injudiciously, and a simultaneous yowl and yelp ring out.
Ewatt: There she is! Grab her quick, before she runs away again!
Volta lunges for the flicker of white fur and misses, landing flat on her face.
Ewatt: You let her go!
Volta: I tried.
Volta gets up and dusts herself off.
Volta: I really did try. Where is she now?
Ewatt peers through the hedge, and notices a flash of white, halfway up a tree that branches out over a tool shed.
Ewatt: She's over there.
Volta is determined to make up for her mistake by doing better the next time.
Volta: Over where?
Volta finds a better gap in the hedge.
Volta: Oh. Up there. Now what do we do?
D'zoll can't hear any of this conversation, but his Farris senses can't possibly miss the child-sized nagers moving around the hedge.
Ewatt: You let her go. You have to go get her.
D'zoll recalls an amusing story Marvin once told about a night invasion of the Sime Center, and wonders if this is a replay of it.
Volta: But we're not allowed in there. You know we're not allowed around the demons.
Ewatt: They've all gone to bed. Besides, do you want to just leave Ampear up that tree?
Volta: No. No, I don't.
Volta loves the small white kitten.
Volta: Dad'll kill us if he finds out.
Ewatt: I dare you.
Volta has never been able to resist her brother's dares. Just because she's a girl doesn't mean she's scared.
Volta: Okay, then. But if Dad finds out, you hafta explain.
Ewatt is good at explaining how naughty his younger sister is.
Volta is terrified of Simes. But she's not going to let that fear make her look weak in front of her big brother. She moves down the hedge until she finds a large enough gap, and wriggles through. She stands up, brushes herself off, and approaches the tree.
Volta: Ampear! C'mon down, Ampear!
Volta finds it difficult to call out loudly enough that the kitten will hear, but not loudly enough to wake the demons inside the demon house.
Ewatt drops to his belly and squirms his top half through the hole, the better to watch from concealment.
Volta sees the kitten twitch in response to her voice, and shift an inch or two farther up the branch it's on.
D'zoll hears what sounds like a small child calling a word he doesn't understand. It's neither English nor Simelan, that's for sure. He watches with ~~ curiosity ~~.
Volta: Ampear! C'mon, Ampear. ~~ coaxing ~~
Volta sighs in ~~ frustration ~~ as the kitten stays put.
Volta: She's not gonna come down, Ewatt.
Ewatt: You'll have to climb after her.
Volta studies the tree dubiously. Its trunk is smooth for the first eight or ten feet. She turns her attention to the tool shed.
D'zoll can hear this now, and concludes that someone that for some reason he can't zlin is perched in the tree. It probably wouldn't occur to most Farris channels that there might be anyone they can't zlin, but D'zoll prides himself on his open mind.
Volta: You'll hafta give me a boost up.
Ewatt says a bad word that would get his mouth washed out with soap -- softly enough that Volta won't be able to tattle on him.
Ewatt surveys the quiet Sime Center carefully, then squirms through the hedge and sprints for the tree, crouched over to be less visible. He holds out his clasped hands.
Ewatt: Here. Step in my hands, and I'll boost you.
Volta does so, wobbling only a little. Just because she's a girl doesn't mean she's not a good climber.
Ewatt boosts, vigorously.
Volta grabs the overhang of the roof and pulls herself up. She tests the footing on the sloping roof. There are patches of ice, but she should be able to manage. She takes a few steps towards the overhanging tree.
Volta takes another step, and her foot slips. She grabs the overhanging branch of the tree as she starts to fall.
Volta: Aaah! ~~ fear ~~
Volta realizes that she's still here, still okay. The branch saved her.
Volta: I'm okay.
Volta inspects her hands.
D'zoll is finding this hard to take, even with child nagers, but he realizes that children must be allowed to take reasonable risks from time to time.
Volta: Got splinters, I think.
Ewatt doesn't care so much about damage to his sibling's hide that can be plausibly explained without confessing this unauthorized expedition.
Ewatt: Can you reach Ampear?
Volta gets a better grip on the branch and climbs up onto it.
Volta: Yeah, I think so.
Volta begins inching her way along the branch.
Volta: C'mere, Ampear. C'mere, sweetie-purr.
Volta reaches for the kitten, which backs away from her on unsteady feet. It seems to be limping.
Ewatt keeps a close watch, alternating between his sister, the cat, and the door of the Sime Center.
Volta: I think she's hurt, Ewatt.
Ewatt: She can't be too badly hurt if she got that far up the tree.
Ewatt ~~ hopes ~~ so, anyway.
Volta edges forward again, and the kitten backs up.
Volta: She's limping. Back left paw.
D'zoll reacts to the reference to injury by walking from the window to the back door, and opening it. Thanks to regular maintenance, it doesn't squeak.
Volta inches towards the furball again.
Volta: It's okay, Ampear. It's okay. Just hold still, sweetie. ~~ soothing ~~
D'zoll zlins better without the window glass, and goes ahead and extends his laterals for greater precision. He now realizes that the injury is to an animal, probably a pet. D'zoll retracts his laterals but stays where he is.
Volta grabs at the kitten, and misses, as the feline leaps backward, scrabbles for footing, and falls.
D'zoll, being a Sime, doesn't reflect that the open door, though not he himself, is now visible in the moonlight the next time Ewatt looks this way.
Volta throws herself forward, grabbing for the falling kitten, and slips from the branch.
Ewatt makes a last scan of the surroundings.
Volta dangles for an infinite split second, clinging by one ankle, then falls.
Ewatt yells as Volta lands on him.
Volta: Ooooff! ~~ pain ~~
Volta has her brother's elbow in her solar plexus. For a moment, she can't breathe.
Ewatt levers his sister off of himself, and scrambles to his feet.
Volta curls up, moaning.
D'zoll shrugs off the child-pain easily.
Ewatt looks around to see if the noise has attracted unwanted attention, and makes a ~~ terrifying ~~ discovery.
Ewatt: Volta, get up! The door's open!
Ewatt grabs his sister's arm and tries to drag her to her feet.
Volta is still trying to breathe.
Volta: 'm okay. Just gimme minute.
Volta catches her breath, and realizes she's pretty much okay, except that her brother is trying to pull her arm out of its socket.
Volta: Lemme go!
Ewatt: Get up, then. Someone opened that door.
Volta stands, and dusts herself off with great dignity.
Volta: I don't see nobody. Maybe the wind blew it open. Where's Ampear?
Volta spots the kitten, limping towards the implicit warmth of the open door.
Volta: Ampear! C'mon, sweetie. C'mere.
Ewatt: Quickly! We've got to catch her before she goes inside.
Ewatt bolts after the kitten.
Volta follows her brother.
D'zoll shapes his showfield to ~~ warm ~~ safe ~~ in hopes that cats actually do respond to nagers, as some Sat'htine channels have theorized (though not in print).
Ewatt trips on a flagstone, skinning both palms, but scrambles to his feet and continues with the pursuit.
Volta outdistances her brother, following the kitten as it limps up the steps and towards the door. She runs flat-out into something soft and warm.
D'zoll can ignore a lot with comforting philosophical reflections, but he can't ignore an actual collision.
D'zoll: Excuse me for getting in your way, young lady.
Volta looks up into a lean, large-nosed face under windblown dark hair.
Volta: Um. Sorry, sir. I was following my cat.
Ewatt has halted on the porch steps, ~~ torn ~~ between wanting to run, and wanting to snatch his sister out of danger.
Volta remembers, only now, exactly where it is that she is. She takes a step backwards and looks for the man's arms. They're hidden in folds of his dark, flapping cloak. ~~ fear ~~
Volta: Are you...? You're...?
D'zoll: Ah. Your cat. Did she run inside, then?
Volta: I... I... dunno.
Ewatt: Volta? I don't see Ampear out here.
D'zoll was about to ask the boy if he saw the cat, but it's pointless now.
D'zoll: Then perhaps you should both go home, and wait for the cat to come home in the morning, eh?
Volta: I... I think she went inside. She's hurt. She was running funny. Into the dem... er, into your house, sir.
Volta figures that even if this man is a demon, it isn't polite to say so to his face. She thinks she'd better be very polite if she wants to live through this.
Volta: Please, sir, don't hurt my kitten. She's only little. She doesn't mean any harm, sir.
Volta figures that since the demon hasn't killed her yet, maybe he won't.
Ewatt figures he'd better start helping, before Volta messes it up like a baby.
Ewatt: She got scared when a dog chased her.
Ewatt discounts the additional trauma of being pursued across town by two small children.
Volta: She's really a very good kitten, sir.
Volta then realizes that "good" may not be a commendation, to a demon.
D'zoll: No one will hurt your kitten, or you either. But unless she's inside the house -- and I don't think she could have got past me so easily -- I don't see that there's much any of us can do.
Ewatt thinks that Papa will give them both a whupping when they get home. He hates to give up, under the circumstances, without even getting the kitten back.
Volta: They say dem... er, Simes can see in the dark.
Ewatt: Please, sir, can you help us look for her? She's awful little.
Volta: ~~ hopeful ~~
D'zoll: Well, we can see grownups in the dark pretty well, kids not so well, and kittens hardly at all. But I'll try.
D'zoll steps out onto the porch, swirling his dark cloak behind him.
Volta: She's white, sir. She should show up, unless it's against snow.
D'zoll: That's true -- what are your names, then?
Volta backs up a step at the sight of the flapping cloak.
Ewatt: She doesn't like walking on snow, because it's cold.
Volta: Her name's Ampear. And I'm Volta. My brother's Ewatt.
D'zoll: That's true, Volta. She should show up -- unless she's hiding. We have a kitten at home who likes to hide under things. Does Ampear like to hide under things?
Volta: Yeah, she does.
Ewatt: Mostly, she likes to pounce on things.
D'zoll zlins for a large rock that he saw in the yard earlier.
Ewatt: But she's not very good at catching them yet.
D'zoll: Do you think the two of you could hide behind that rock over there? That would be very helpful.
Volta: Yes, sir.
Volta goes towards the rock, glad for a polite excuse to get out of arm's reach of the demon.
Ewatt isn't shy about following his sister's example.
Volta gets behind the rock, then leans out to watch the demon.
D'zoll: No, no, Volta, tuck your head in. If you can see me, I can see you -- and I want to find Ampear, not you.
Volta is ~~ puzzled ~~ , but does as she's told.
Ewatt is old enough to know what's going on, unlike the Baby.
Ewatt: It's demon magic, Volta.
Volta: (in a small voice) Oh.
Ewatt is weighing the danger of being around black magic against the way his friends will admire him when he tells them about it.
D'zoll turns his sensitivity up to maximum, then carefully filters out each of the well-known nageric sources, including the damped children, Hajene Bibi in her insulated (but not Farris-safe) bedroom, his own Companion, and all the other temporary and permanent inhabitants of the Sime Center.
D'zoll also closes his eyes, extends his laterals, puts his fingers in his ears, breathes through his mouth, and otherwise blocks each of the non-Sime senses as thoroughly as his physiology will permit.
D'zoll is zlinning for something small but intensely aware and alive, unlike the hibernating chipmunks and sleeping year-round birds. He clears his mind of all thinking, all reacting, in order to do nothing but observe as intensely as possible.... There it is! He zlins the kitten, which does indeed have an injured leg --
Ewatt can't resist peering over the rock, and squeals when he sees the snakey things on D'zoll's arms.
Volta looks too, and gasps.
D'zoll is distracted by Ewatt, despite having his fingers in his ears, and loses his nageric focus. He says a bad word too, but it's in Simelan, and he's not worried about the kids tattling on him.
D'zoll: Ewatt, I found her, but I can't see exactly where now. Do try to be quiet, won't you?
Ewatt nods, gulping, as he realizes that the demon wasn't facing him when he peeked. He's only used to mothers having eyes in the backs of their heads.
Volta pulls back behind the rock and holds very very VERY still.
D'zoll tries to resume the ultrasensitive state, but he can't quite manage it. He moves off in the direction he thinks it came from, which amounts to walking down the porch steps and off to the left.
D'zoll stands still and tries again. Yes, there's the silly kitten. He uses his predator skills to sneak up as silently as possible on the kitten. He approaches silently until he sees the kitten hiding in the hollowed-out trunk of one of the larger and more unsound trees on the Sime Center grounds.
D'zoll bends down as quick as greased lightning and makes a grab for the kitten.
D'zoll picks up the kitten and strokes it until it starts purring.
Volta sticks her head out.
Ewatt peeks again at the feline squeak, then breaks cover entirely and runs over to D'zoll.
Ewatt: You found her!
D'zoll breaks out into a big smile, clearly visible under the full moon.
Volta runs after her brother. She pauses at the sight of the demon baring his teeth.
Volta: Don't hurt her, sir. Please don't hurt her.
Volta bites her lip, then steps closer.
Volta: If you hafta hurt someone, hurt me instead.
D'zoll holds still, letting Volta manage the interaction between the two of them. He looks at Volta very seriously.
D'zoll: I have a little boy your age, Volta. I don't hurt people. Or kittens.
Volta: But you're a demon. A... a Sime.
Volta is ~~ trembling ~~.
D'zoll: That's true. But where I live, Simes never hurt anybody.
D'zoll very carefully extends the hand that holds the kitten.
Volta slowly reaches for Ampear. A large splinter of wood is sticking from the palm of her hand.
D'zoll: How about the other hand, so we don't hurt Ampear with the splinter?
Volta offers the other hand. It has several splinters, but smaller ones.
D'zoll: Ooh. Lots of owies. How about if we let your brother hold the kitten while we fix the splinters? Is that a good idea?
Volta: Yeah. Ewatt, come hold Ampear.
Ewatt comes closer, and streeeetches his hands to accept the kitten.
Volta has decided this demon acts more like a daddy than a demon.
Volta: It's okay, Ewatt. He's a good demon.
Ewatt: There can't be a good demon.
D'zoll takes the right hand, the one with the big splinter, and deftly plucks it out between his index finger and his outer ventral.
D'zoll: Oh yes there can, Ewatt.
Volta: You see, Ewatt? He's fixing me up.
D'zoll heals the trivial injury without even a lateral contact. Sometimes being a Farris of Sat'htine is just sooo cool.
D'zoll: There, all fixed.
D'zoll decides not to kiss it to make it better, as that might turn out to be overdoing it.
Ewatt: He's doing it because you were naughty. Momma would say you deserved the splinters 'cause we went where we weren't 'suposta go.
Ewatt has a definite future as a theologian.
Volta: I wasn't naughty. How was I naughty, Ewatt? ~~ indignant ~~ I just did what you told me.
D'zoll takes Volta's other hand and heals it, leaving the splinters in place but effectively sealed off and biologically inactive. They'll work their way out in time.
Volta: If anybody was naughty it was you for tellin' me!
Volta is paying little attention to what the channel is doing to her hands.
Ewatt: I didn't go until you said you needed help getting up on the roof.
D'zoll decides he's had enough of this conversation.
Volta: Yeah, but you told me to go. 'Cause you were too chicken to.
D'zoll: Now. Kitten found, owies fixed, time to go home. Off you go.
Volta: Yes, sir. Um, thank you, sir.
Volta finds it very odd to be thanking a demon, but this one earned it.
Ewatt: Sorry for bothering you.
Ewatt hopes the apology will prevent any complaints to their parents.
D'zoll: Any time. No job too large or too small. We also walk dogs.
D'zoll chuckles internally.
Volta: We don't have any dogs, sir. We used to have one, but he died.
Ewatt: That's why Momma said we could have a kitten.
D'zoll zlins that this was a fairly recent event.
D'zoll: I'm sorry you lost your dog, but I'm glad you love Ampear so much. Good night!
D'zoll turns and walks up the steps and into the Sime Center, closing the door firmly behind him.
Volta: Good night, Mr. Demon, sir.
Volta has a feeling she's never going to think about demons quite the same way again.
Ewatt: Come on, Volta. Maybe we can get home before Momma notices we snuck out.
Volta obediently turns and follows her brother towards the largest gap in the hedge.