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Thoughts in Wind Farm Country

“Magic beans sold here.”
A world of white whirligigs.
Giants have children.

New Century Flicks--
Hovercars slalom through fields
racing at high speeds.

Lines of chorus girls
twirling out of step, frozen,
and dancing in time.

Distant rows look like...
a mad daisy spinning its
sharp petals like blades.

These windmills are not
iron sunflowers on stilts
sipping aquifers.

Linear trios,
up close, resemble Kali.
Powerful. Immense.
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I think I'll call it George[0]

Anyone who follows my twitter account will know I had some weather based excitement Monday on my way home from the Day Job. I saw a baby tornado form about a block away from where I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green.

How do I know it was a baby tornado? I saw it pick up dust, dead leaves and grass bits in a swirling updraft as it headed due east off campus and across the street. (The weather alert that came 30 minutes too late was also a clue.) It didn't do much to the cars waiting on the road, it being only an EF0 (max wind speed 85 mph). The storm had gusts up to 70 mph, so the storm front was doing as much damage as the actual tornado. What I saw lasted just long enough to qualify as a touch down (half of a red light) before I had to leave the scene. A straight line wind (topping out at 100 mph) does much more damage than an EF0, so I could be forgiven, mostly, for thinking George was just a dust devil.

Denial is more than a river in northern Africa.

Also, I'm a native Kansan. "It's just wind," applies.[1] I actually expected to be scared[2] upon seeing a tornado that close rather than just having a WTF moment. My bogglement was mostly due to the situational humor/local history. George touched down beside the university's recycling center - formerly called the "Wind Erosion Lab." The USDA (half owners of the building at the time of the 2009 tornado) took one look at the damage eight years ago and said. "All yours! We can't take the irony."[3] I think Monday was a case of lightening striking twice....

Anyway, the baby tornado bounced back up into the clouds. Supercell-George put down some more fingers of distruction along an east-southeast path hopscotching from Manhattan to Paxico (north of town, not south, where the winery is) to Silver Lake, where it played with fire. Literally. The local fire department had almost won against a grass fire they'd been fighting for over three hours when the storm front hit. George fanned the flames and forced the fire fighters into nearby homes for shelter. It also put out the fire before showing Kansas City a good time. On the whole my "baby" was pretty polite as storms go. He didn't get drunk and kept the damage to a minimum.

Yes, I am a weather nut.


[0] ... mostly because Ursula Vernon has cornered the market on naming things "Bob". Besides, NOAA and the Weather Channel are naming storms. Why can't I?

[1] I once boggled a couple from Japan I was tutoring years ago. They were in-country a few weeks when we had a big thunderstorm go through. They were thinking "Inland hurricane! With Feral Electricity!" When all I did was shrug, they gave me the you're-crazy-look common to all cultures. So I had to explain about all the different kinds of local storm weather, where to go for information about them, what sirens going off means and why NOAA.gov exists.

[2] There's a reason straight line winds scare the bejesus out of me. They do as much damage as an EF1, but over a much, much larger area. On top of that, there's no playing tag with them.

[3] I thought they were being paranoid or superstitous. They said "The facility is too old and outdated to repair." And they stuck to their story, too.
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Open letters to Jane and the Coffee Shop Guy

Dear Jane,
I hope you made it to Radina's in the Blue Earth Plaza on January 3, and that your first face-to-face meetup with your on-line guy went well. He mistook me for you and made a very good first impression. I've been wondering what happened ever since. Judging from the look in his eyes, and way he sprang out the chair when he discovered he'd engaged with the wrong woman – I'd say he's very much in love with you. Or the person you present yourself as on-line. His hope and joy, and his smile, when he sat down was riveting.

If you stood him up, or worse spied in him through the windows before leaving the meet-up, shame on you. I understand that blind dates are not the most enjoyable of things—having been on some myself. I get not wanting to waste your time. However, setting someone up only to leave him hanging is just rude. Not to mention mean. Yes, it's stressful to meet someone face to face for the first time, especially if you lied on-line. However, ditching him without some basic courtesy says a lot about you.

Dear Guy at Radina's who mistook me for Jane,
I hope Jane showed up and that you two hit it off in person, had many dates in the last three weeks and will continue to have more.

If Jane didn't show up, don't feel bad. It was all her. As the recipient of your hello… Well, you left me breathless and smiling. Not to mention wistful. I really wanted to be Jane for you.

(of the hat and book by the window)
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Hidden Figures Movie Review

What I Expected:
A biopic about three amazing women who worked for NASA and put a man in space.

What I Got:
A biopic about three amazing women who worked for NASA and put a man in space.

What I Want:
That each of those amazing women get their own biopic.

The movie was well cast, well acted, well filmed. If you stay for the credits, you'll see how well the sets and costumes matched historic photos. There are several very visually arresting scenes that clearly demonstrate the level of willful ignorance/dismissal of the Taraji P. Henson's character Katherine G. Johnson. The racism and sexism both subtle and in your face. While Katherine Gobli Johnson was the main character, every story has to have one, the supporting roles of Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson were no less important. Of the two, Mary Jackson's role was the most short shrifted in NASA time but her story is no less important. Ditto for the effort of Dorothy Vaughn not taking an every woman for herself attude when she saw the writing on the wall.

If anything, I am most critical of a bit of advertising bait and switch. The trailers stressed the comedy aspect of the story. It wasn't a funny take on getting a man into space with scrappy can-do "colored gals" pitching in where possible. It was very much a film about incredibly intelligent women fighting to get their very much needed work acknowledged and their voices heard.

I give this movie a 4.5 out of 5.
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Because Love – part 3 of 3

Three months to the day after their mutual declaration of intent, Winchestaz wasn’t sure what she felt or thought, but knew it was her expression that stopped Xian dead in his tracks just inside the portal to her quarters.  
He went into full protection mode. “What happened?”
“Dr. Hobarth.”
“What did she do?”
“She sent me a follow-up prescription," she said, waving at the medium sized container. "And gene locked it. I gave it my sample, but it won’t open. I can’t hack it either. It’s too weird. I’d have to break it into parts and reverse engineer them to figure it out.”
“Which is counterproductive.” He grunted and took the box from her. “TerraTech products self-destruct if you don’t use them as specified.” Xian said. “You must have hacked that file, too.”
"Well, yes. Otherwise that wouldn’t still be intact." She gestured to the small crate he was turning over in his hands.
Done with his inspection, he pressed a glyph, the only marking on the box." Ouch!” The box chimed after it processed the drop of blood and opened. Xian took one look, groaned, and passed her the container.
Winchestaz snickered and tossed the top object aside as well as the one underneath it. "I don't need reproductions as long as I have you," she said, knowing it would make him blush. “Mini Power cells—rechargeable even, data chip with … she slid it into a reader and scrolled through the listing. “Manuals, instructions, guides, illustrations, how-tos, and catalogs. She kept scrolling “Lots and lots of catalogs. Hey! A note.” She read it. “Oh!“
Xian cozied up behind her and read over her shoulder. "Dr. Hobarth is, among other things, a spy. She always knows things she’s not supposed to."
"I knew that.” she absently swatted him. “It’s the ‘Good luck on your long-term, mutually-monogamous co-dependency in your chosen form of expression,’ that got to me,” Winchestaz said.  
    "I think she’s an alien despite being a provable, fully genetic Human. I've heard others call her …"  
    Winchestaz made a rude sound. “She's just misunderstood. She can't be all that bad if she's wishing us '…many happy years full of mutual sexual satisfaction--and love, if that emotion applies' on our 'point three anniversary'.”
    Xian rested his forehead on the top of her head. "Did I ever thank you for prying me out of her claws?”
    "It was tentacles and yes. I think so. Once or twice."
    “Well let me thank you again."
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Rogue One movie review

What I Expected:
A Star Wars movie about how the rebel alliance got the plans for the death star as seen in Star Wars movie IV, A New Hope.

What I Got:
Star Wars Episode III.V, Rogue One -- a movie wherein we learn how the rebel alliance got the death star plans via decent fanfic cinema. It's like Episode IV in looks, feel, and pacing, but with much less teenage angst plot/delivery. Actually, it's so much like Episode IV, that instead of calling it Episode III.V we could very well call it Episode IV: Prologue With Retconning.

I will give Disney this, they do franchise well. Which is good, because the Star Wars fan base badly wanted a good fanservice movie, only with less gratuitous nudity and a more inclusive casting call. (There was a bit of gratuitous nudity, too, which was also well done.) Disney listened and gave us Plot Hole Spackle for IV: A New Hope. Which is probably a spoiler if you haven't seen or heard of the Star Wars Phenomenon. Or read the crawls at the beginning of the movie IV.

If you read/watch science fiction/fantasy widely, Rogue One is Cinematic Comfort Food. (This is taking into consideration that the ending was realistic for the setting/plot and not smothered in Tinkerbell's Fairy Dust.) It's familiar, tasty, and satisfies a strong craving. It's also a little bland. However, it does have enough comedic dialog from one character to keep it from being totally boring or one note.

All of the characters were a bit two dimensional, but it was a large ensemble cast in an action-heavy movie. That means not a lot of time for back story or character development. However, it was possible to get emotionally invested in their actions -- mostly through a tasteful use of tropes and a general "in universe" knowledge about what is at stake. The action was well shot and very, very pretty if light on scientific reality. (So smothered in space dust if not fairy dust.) This movie did well as a bit of escapism.

I give it a 3 out of 5 for the "predictable, but didn't suck" nature of the film.
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Sing (Movie Review)

What I Expected:
A movie about a talent show with animals instead of people.

I'd only seen a couple of trailers, none of which impressed me. I'm also not a fan of reality TV shows in general, singing competitions in particular, with one notable exception - The Sing-Off. But that was 1) a cappella music only and 2) extra heavy on the music and extra light on drama-filled talking heads and backstage drama. I was pretty sure Sing was not The Sing-Off. However, I wanted to see a movie, but didn't want to wait an hour for the next show to start. (The internet lied to me about start times.) Therefore, I bought a ticket to Sing.

What I Got:
This is the only time getting impatient ended well for me.

I like movies about music talent contests as well as I like music reality TV, but Sing was good! Sure, it had a cheesy, sappy beginning, but that was because the character's POV, Buster Moon, is a shill and a huckster who lives and dies by cheese and sap...and chutzpa. He's a conman who belives his own con. Once the "camera" was off him, the cheese factor went way down. Ditto for the sappiness.

With a somewhat masterly pair of montages, we're introduced to the other five main characters. (The first montage is set to a piece of music that sounded a lot like an overture from a stage musical -- very on the nose. I'll have to go back and see if was an actual, if partial overture.) Yes, there are six total viewpoints, and each of them matter to the plot of the story. Yes, each of them are predictable and taken from the trope handbook -- except for one. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is actually a boy. (I'm all for equal opportunity objectivism.)

I can't say much about the plot without spoiling things. However, the overlapping tropes/cliches and wonderful vignette-like personal stories with their Hurdles To Overcome, Villians To Defeat, and Happily Ever Afters To Pursue play surprisingly well together. Yeah, the story beats of the ups and downs were predictable, but harmony is preditable, and we still like that. Sing is a well orchestrated movie in all senses of the word.

Also, the only Busby Berkly style musical performance was by [spoiler] in the credits. It was well played and well placed in an animated musical filled with Personal Battles. It also answered my question, "WHAT are the animators DOING? That's DISTRACTING ME!" It was just another story about hopes and dreams in a story filled with stories about hopes and dreams... and hustles. It was told fully and very well in four clips--with the fifth "act" of the [spoiler] being the end credit's musical number. I admire efficient story telling.

I'm giving it 4.5 out of 5 for it's cheesy goodness and co-operative effort. Plus the third, and gratuitious, montage that led to the big finish. The movie called its own bluff.
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Because Love – part 2 of 3

    The feeling that Winchestaz may had gotten in over her head only increased when she followed Dr. Hobarth into a bar after a rather lengthy parade through the space station. It was a large bar, and very well-lit as bars in the oldest, seediest section of the base went. It was also clean. Actually clean, not only-looks-clean-in-the-dark clean, but actually safe-to-eat-and-drink-here-in-daylight clean. The scents of the food were appealing as well.
    The customers were not.
       Winchestaz told herself to be honest with herself. The patrons were clean, orderly, quiet and very, very hard with a faint hint of utter competence. In a way, they were more frightening than the worst of the drunken brawlers and hardened thieves she'd grown up with. Those people had been easy to plot a path around. To identify, to quantify, to handle. To even go through on occasion. These people… there was no going through or around. She made a point of not evaluating them as a wake of silence spread behind them. To her surprise, Dr. Hobarth did not go for one of the open booths along the wall so she could keep her back to a wall. She selected a table near the largest concentration of people.
    “Do you have any strong food dislikes?” Dr. Hobarth asked. “At the earlier stop, I checked to see if you have any food allergies. This place is safe for you to eat and drink anything. No alien esters on the premise. All the food here is vat grown and lab rated.”
    “Oh.” Winchestaz said. “I thought you were parading me around to cause talk.”
    “I was. I also like to multi-task on certain things. Food prejudices?”
       Winchestaz shook her head and read the menu displayed on the table’s interface. “The Fried Bits and Blobs Basket. Water.” She swiped the tabletop to vanish the list.
    “You can drink alcohol if you want,” Dr. Hobarth said. “I plan to.”
    “I don’t like drinking in places where I don’t feel safe.”
    “Very intelligent of you,” the doctor commented. “I feel safe, and you are buying so…” she trailed off and, a series of taps later, placed their order.
    Winchestaz read the order, upside down, before it vanished. “The Pieces and Parts Platter I saw. What is the Sips and Swills you ordered?” she asked.
    “The entire drinks menu in a series of shots.”
       Winchestaz pulled up the menu again and read the drinks portion. “You won’t be able to walk out of here.”
    “I will not be drinking it alone.”
    “I don’t think more time will make me feel…” she trailed off, and watched the transparent bulkhead iris open. The room went silent as Xian Brannigan stalked his way to their table. ‘...more safe.” Her water and the first set of shot glasses were delivered to the table.
    Xian’s low, growled words were clearly heard in the zone of silence that had spread around them. “What are you doing?” he asked Winchestaz as he pinned her then the doctor with a hard glare. He left his glare on the doctor.
    Dr. Hobarth said nothing, just kept her face blank and her eyelids half-lowered as she drank her first shot. Winchestaz realized Rule One was still in effect. Fascinated, she counted off the seconds to see who would break the stare down. She bet herself it would be Xian. The doctor’s classified data file had been illuminating for someone who had been born and raised in a slum. Xian’s background was too nice, too clean. Too polite. Stubbornness wasn’t enough in this kind of engagement. He switched his glare to her after two and a half minutes. “Well?”
       “Drinking…” she paused to let the server drop the two vessels loaded with small, fried pieces of food. “And eating.” She dipped a blob in some sauce. She was suddenly glad she’d discarded her initial plans and went for absolute truth and honesty instead. “You?” Winchestaz popped the morsel in her mouth and chewed slowly. The doctor emptied the next three shots in no particular hurry.
    He narrowed his eyes. “Do you know who this is?”
    Mouth full, Winchestaz nodded. She noticed the doctor swallowed a possible smile along with the next shot before reaching for a handful of long, thin, pieces from her platter.
“And you still went with her?”
    Figuring that she was paying for it all anyway, Winchestaz grabbed the nearest shot and sniffed it before gunning the contents. She slammed the tiny glass mouth down on the table. “I approached her.” She looked at the doctor. “Do they always serve the swill first?”
    She nodded and stole some bits from Winchestaz’s basket. Winchestaz retaliated in turn, picking up some parts from the platter.
    Finished with his long, deep breath, Xian asked, “Why?”
       “Probably so the patrons drink themselves unconscious before they get to the really expensive stuff,” Winchestaz said.
    ”Why. Did. You. Approach. Doctor. Hobarth?”
“To tell her to get her grubby tentacles off you.”  She hid a smile with a bite of food when she saw the doctor examine her hands and wiggle her fingers a bit.
“You what?”
I told her that you’re mine, and she should stop screwing with you.” Unconcerned, she motioned for the next round of shots. The waitstaff was quick to arrive, but slow to leave. Winchestaz picked up a familiar looking liquid, sniffed it, then added a few drops of it to one pot of sauce and stirred it in with a strip of fried dough.
    Snack swallowed, Winchestaz replied. “Because I was tired of waiting for you to get tired of getting hot and sweaty with her.” She gunned another shot at random. “And now I’m upset at you because I’ve done something I swore to never do. Get into a catfight over a man.” She turned to the doctor. “Is that still used on Earth?”
    Dr.  Hobarth shook her head. “The metaphor mutated.”
       Winchestaz pouted. Realizing what she was doing, she got angry. Another Never-To-Do had just got done. She glared at Xian.  “Doesn’t matter anyway. Cat fighting, pussy punching, kitty whipping, I still lowered my standards.” She stole another shot. “Maybe I don’t want to have sex with you after all.”
Dr. Hobarth spoke up. “You did not start an actual fight. It was a clear statement of intent directed at me that opened a dialog between us. I will say I prefer the reasoned approach to sexual politics. It is both novel and effective.” She drank the last shot, and gestured for next round. “You can have him for as long as you want him. I have no problem limiting my contact with Brannigan to verbal-only exchanges in public settings.”
Xian stared at her, “What?”
"I like her better than I like you," Dr. Hobarth said to him. Then she looked at Winchestaz. “Do you have any lesbian tendencies?”  
Xian went purple and clenched his jaw.
After a processing delay, Winchestaz responded “No. Strictly hetero and strongly monogamous.”
“A sadness for me.” Dr. Hobarth gestured at Xian. “He will like it though. He was never fully at ease with … what we did together.”
Xian buried his face in his hands before he fisted them in his hair.
“Ah. I can see where that would cause some … um... friction.” Winchestaz agreed. “And not the pleasant kind.”
“If it is pleasant, you’re not doing it right,” Dr. Hobarth said as they both picked up shots from the latest delivery.
“I wouldn’t know,” Winchestaz said. “When I said ‘strongly monogamous’ what I really meant was ‘rabidly’.”
Dr. Hobarth considered that and turned to Xian. “You should be very flattered.” She focused her attention back on Winchestaz. “Do with him what you did with me, and it will all work out.” A brief frown crossed Dr. Hobarth’s face. She pulled out her comm unit. “It seems I have an unexpected appointment.” With that she downed one last shot and left.
Xian’s head came up at that.
Winchestaz caught his look and knew what he was thinking. “She said that dinner and drinks were the price of my treatment.” Winchestaz picked up the last full shot glass and used it to motion for the next round before sipping at it. She rooted through the basket, suddenly hungry. She ignored his deep, regular breaths.
“Do you have any idea what could have happened?” Suppressed rage affected his voice, making it low and growly. "Who she associates with on a regular basis?"
“Yes,” Winchestaz gave him a considering look and decided she could work with this sudden display of protective-based rage. “I did my research then hacked into her files.”  She crunched into a piece and wrinkled her nose, dipping it in one of the sauces before downing the rest. “After a thorough study, I realized she’s only difficult to deal with if you feel the need to press her boundaries and test the strength of her rules. I suspect the quickest way to get on her bad side is to try to force her.”
His gaze sharpened. “Force her into what?”
Winchestaz looked thoughtful. “Anything, really. I’m familiar with the type.”
“Type?” His expression and body language was morphing from Pissed-That-You-Scared-Me to What-Are-You-Up-To-Now. “What type is she? In your opinion.”
She nibbled on a vaguely familiar looking Part from the platter to see if it was what she thought it was. “The deadly type.” Satisfied that they were indeed what she thought, she transferred them to her plate.  
Before she could take the next bite he grabbed her hand. “Winchestaz…”
She used her free one to keep eating. “Xian, we may both be Fleet, but you were born into it. I escaped into it.” She sighed and twisted her captive hand to twine their fingers. “Let me put it this way. If a combat specialist is a bladed weapon, it’s one with a non-slip grip on the handle, a hilt guard, a single edge and a multi-use design. Safe to pick up. Safe to use.” She selected a likely looking shot for herself and nudged another one at him. “Dr. Hobarth is a doubled edged blade that has no handle or any other gripping material wrapped around the tang. No hilt guards -- really no safety features at all -- to keep the user from getting cut. You pick her up at your own risk. Although…” she trailed off.
“Although what?” Xian asked, exchanging an empty shot for dipping into the basket of bits and blobs.
She was pleased to note he hadn't tugged his hand free.
“If I did have any homosexual or bisexual tendencies and weren’t so mono-focused, she would be fun." She paused for effect. "And probably very educational to get to know and/or have sex with. If you were the teaching tool. She can be very… enlightening.”
Xian choked on his food. Once he got his breath back under control, he gasped through the tears. “And here I was worried she’d hurt you. I didn’t think to worry she’d give you ideas.” He paused, obviously processing something in his head.  He added more cautiously, “So what kind of education did she give you?”
Winchestaz looked around. Everyone was in deed not-watching-them-with-all-their-attention. “Everything that Rule One would allow but nothing that Rule Three wouldn’t." She leaned in but didn’t lower her voice. "You kinky, kinky boy.”
Xian dropped his head. “Fuck me."
Winchestaz leaned back and smiled a very toothy grin. "Well, that was the prescription."
He looked up. "Prescription?"
She nodded, smiled and reached for another nibble. "I've been under stress. It's the uncertainty, you realize. Are you attracted to me or just playing games? If you are attracted to me, why not do anything about it? Is there something wrong with me? If so, what? Who is this bitch and what hold does she have over you?" She shrugged. "Stresses like that." She smiled at him in a well-fed, slightly tipsy way. "I hate uncertainties and plan-less existences. Waffling and angsting over uncertainties just piss me off, and I did both for eight months. Eight. Months. Dr. Hobarth was very sympathetic."
"You… discussed me? With her? "
Winchestaz nodded. "It was very therapeutic. She applauded my dedication to self-care."
He cleared his throat as he looked around. "What exactly…" he broke off. "No, I don't want to know."
Well aware that the other patrons were watching and eavesdropping even harder, Winchestaz dropped her eyes and deliberately thought of something that would make her blush. "I am curious about the, what do you call it? Takedowns? Yes. The 'takedowns' sound fun."
Xian smoldered at her. He flicked his gaze around the room, studying, evaluating, planning. His voice was a little growly when he spoke. "We should go."
Wholly entertained and riding a non-booze high, Winchestaz finally understood the flash of evil amusement on the other woman's face. "We can't. I'm not done taking my medicine. Dr. Hobarth told me I should give, and demand in return, a clear statement of intent. That's not something you should do in a place where you can get… distracted." She watched him watch her settle into her chair.
               "I am so fucked."
"Eventually," she agreed.
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Because Love – part 1 of 3

Because Love … and Determination

Winchestaz looked at the latest arrival and motioned to the open space to her left. "Please go ahead of me. I can wait," she said, bearing the latest up-and-down look with the same patience and refusal to be embarrassed that she had used with the other patients entering the ship. She also bore the considering side-eyes from the previous patients she'd motioned ahead of her with exasperated patience. The pity was clear despite their varying successes at keeping a blank face.  Whether their pity was due to her social cluelessness at overdressing for a doctor's visit or their assumption that she had fallen on hard times or some other supposition remained irrelevant to her. She was here on a personal mission and she would see it through.
    Two patients left without another entering before Winchestaz thought to look at her chrono. Office hours were officially over. She reviewed everything she had learned about Dr. Freja Hobarth, ran through possible outcomes and re-drew every decision tree in her head, looking for missed branches. While there were huge gaps in the data about the doctor, there was nothing she -- or anyone -- could do about it. All she could do was stick with the parameters she knew.
    It was her turn.
    Dr. Hobarth accepted payment from her penultimate appointment. He left. As with all her previous patients, she made eye contact with Winchestaz, and tilted her head toward the portal that lead to the infirmary. Once they were inside, Dr. Hobarth gestured to the tall, tricked out chair next to the exam table. It was not standard medical equipment. The closer she got to it, the more alien Winchestaz thought it looked. She knew the other woman was from Earth, but had not expected Earth-based technology to look so … odd.  Humans were Humans after all. What they brought with them from their old homeworld should look Human, too.  Winchestaz sat. She wiggled a bit thinking that it shouldn't feel so chair-like and so… comfy. The doctor took a spindly looking stool that put them more or less at eye level.
    Dr. Hobarth's expression was filled with a polite, focused and somewhat friendly interest. The flat, dead eyes made the friendly part of her presentation a lie. "Your name?"
"Winchestaz Adobabi."
Dr. Hobarth noted it in her records. "Your reason for the appointment?"
    "General checkup. I want to be sure I'm healthy enough and fertile enough to get pregnant."
    More note taking. "Anything else?" Dr. Hobarth asked.
    Winchestaz shrugged.
    After another long look, friendly doctor face intact and unmoving, Hobarth gestured with her note-taking device. "The diagnostic chair will take your baseline biometrics." Her somewhat friendly expression altered to include a very faint smile. "It is painless and will happen quickly. Then we can move onto the health questionnaire."
       "Why a questionnaire?"
    "To determine if you are likely to have certain genetic-based diseases."
       "You can get all that  from the central medical database." Winchestaz said. Then something occurred to her. "Unless you don't have access?" She failed to keep the alarm out of her voice.
    Dr. Hobarth's face went from friendly to earnest. "To access your genetic history, I would first have to inform it that you were my patient. One of the services I provide is confidentiality. Many people do not want their personal information in a semi-public forum. If you are willing to forgo your personal security, I can obtain the information for the questionnaire at a later date. My ship is not connected to MedBaseIV. It will never be. I believe that some things about a person should be only known by the person. Rule number one is always in effect."
       "Oh," Winchestaz said. "Just access my information from the MedBase."  She settled back in the diagnostic chair and tried to relax as Dr. Hobarth entered a brief note. There was a very quiet hum, a hint of warmth and few spots of intensely bright light that came and went. Not knowing what to expect she sat forward, ready to run if necessary.
    Dr. Hobarth looked at the result on her hand-held. "Is your high stress level short term or situational?" she asked, not looking up.
    The doctor resumed her faint smile. "You are showing symptoms of stress, but no evidence associated with a long-term or chronic state." She looked at Winchestaz, all earnest sympathy and blank eyes.  "What is causing your current stress."
       "The fact that you're dating my boyfriend," Winchestaz told her. Having ignored all of her decision trees and blurted out the raw truth, she went for full disclosure. "I've been in a dedicated social relationship with Xian Brannigan for eight months, two weeks and five days. I've been trying to move our relationship from the casual social to the intimate social for two whole months! About the time I think I’m making way on the lets-have-sex front, he freezes up and mutters something about work before bolting.
       "I'm tired of the 'It's not a date' date shit. Xian and I actually work on a personal level," Winchestaz paused long enough to glare. "Or we would if you weren't in the way." She crossed her arms. "It's not as though you two have an actual relationship! It's just occasional bouts of sex when you happen to be in the same place at the same time. It's not as though you talk to each other in between."  Done with her mini-attack, she raised her chin and straightened her back.
    Dr. Hobarth's head tilted. Winchestaz bore her scrutiny and noticed the doctor’s face went blank by slow degrees but her eyes, in turn, looked a little less dead and a little more predatory. Winchestaz bore the silence stoically. Anything she said now would be repeating herself. She hated doing that.
    Dr. Hobarth sat back. "We don't have sex." she said. "We just get naked and sweaty."
       "And how is that not having sex?" She felt the exasperation spill out of her. "A euphemism doesn't make sex not happen."  She watched the friendly, interested expression return to the doctor's face without losing the scary little bit of life in her eyes.
       "Specifically, Special Inquisitor Xian Brannigan and I remove our clothes, perform sit-ups,  push-ups, and other calisthenics that improve our health, balance and physical stamina. We also practice hand-to-hand combat if time allows. At no point do we engage in sexual intercourse. If others misconstrue the words 'naked and sweaty' as 'having sex' it is not my duty to correct them. Rule Three, in fact, prevents me from correcting their mistake."
       Winchestaz paused to recall Rule Three, “no carrying of cargo or messages to or for others.” She asked, "So why are you letting others think you're having sex? In fact, going out of your way to make others think that?"
       "Rule One means I have to tell you the truth for your mental and emotional wellbeing. Rule Three means that I do not have to share the why." She paused and looked at her handheld. "I see your stress is both short term and situational in nature. Your cortisol levels are already dropping. I applaud your self-care. She made more notes. "Will you need anything else?"
       "What?" Winchestaz asked. Demanded, actually, in a snappy tone of voice. Again, she refused to back down.
    Dr. Hobarth crossed her legs, folded her hands around the device and rested them on her knee. "You were in distress. It was affecting your health. You took steps to correct the situation so your well-being would return to normal. Your reason for the appointment is finished. Do you need any further medical care?"
    "A promise to never see Xian again would be great!"
    Actual regret appeared on the doctor's face and in her eyes. "I cannot promise that," she said. "The probability of our trajectories crossing is rather large. When that happens, personal contact has become … unavoidable."  
    "How about a promise not to create mistaken impressions with him?"
    The regretful expression was replaced with a thoughtful one. A flash of amusement was replaced so quickly with concerned interest that Winchestaz wasn't certain she'd seen it.
       "Ye-es." Dr. Hobarth drew out the word slightly while she openly considered things. "I believe I can cure that particular affliction. The treatment is also the cost of the appointment. We will leave here, go to a public food vendor, and you will pay for my consumables."  She stood and gestured at the door. "Please stay in the waiting room until I have finished my end-of-shift work here. While I am working, create a list of food places you are willing to eat in."
       Winchestaz looked at the other woman. "I’m not really hungry." She tried to keep the worry out of her tone.
       "Excellent!" Dr. Hobarth said, then added after Winchestaz’s expression registered. "If you have no strong food preferences, I can focus on your final treatment's efficacy, rather than your immediate comfort."
    "I have never, ever been more uncomfortable in my life," Winchestaz said. "I'd prefer this to get done and get gone as soon as possible. No matter how bad things get." She saw a flash of what could only be described as evil amusement as Dr. Hobarth turned to walk away. She wondered what her stress cortisols were doing now.
felt hat

Because Love – part 0 of 3

I've been working on a Sci-Fi Murder Mystery novel. It's 95% done – in my head -- and between ¼ to 1/3 typed out in first draft form. At one point, I had a discussion with my beta readers. Dopple said, "I can see Xian (Brannigan) and Freja (Hobarth) developing a relationship."

I could only respond with an, "Um. I don't think every story has to have a romantic sup-plot. Besides, they really don't work as a couple." Dopple accepted this and moved on to her next comment. What my friend didn't know is that in my head I went "Eeeeewwww! No! Not possible! *gag* The Cooooootiiiieeeees!" All this took place during the time it took to say "Um." However, Dopple talked a couple of times at later dates about Xian and Freja hooking up. Telling her, "No, not gonna happen," wasn't enough. I had to show her why.

Which sent me off on a tangent. I'm not adverse to romance for the sake of romance. I just hate bad romance with a burning passion. Freja and Xian would kill each other in short order if they had a Capital-R Romance. What kind of romantic, long term partner would be best for these characters? While "The romantic love upon which tragedies are born(e)" is excessive, a "sexual attraction index in the negative numbers" applies to this potential couple.

However, the thought of them being mistaken for a couple in-story also left the door open for my rather twisted sense of humor to come out and play.

So I wrote a vignette for Dopple showing why a Freja/Xian romance was doomed to die an unrequited death. I know I should wait until I sell book four or five before posting this, but to hell with that. This has been such a sucky year for me and for a bunch of people I know that I'm sending this little bit of love and joy out into the world.

Starting next Friday, I'll post the story in three parts, serial style. That way the year will end on a high note. As the days get shorter and darker, it's a good thing to bring light and laughter to others.

Happy Holidays.