Of Pageantry and Tiaras….
A Star Blazers-based short fanfic focusing upon Katrina Savela….
By Frederick P. “Freddo” Kopetz
Part Two: Prelimiaries
(Instigated thanks to a suggestion from Ami Meitsu….thanks, Ami-Chan!)
Thursday, July 25, 2211…
Nova Wildstar began “going over” things with Katrina a week later at her house.
Katrina usually came over once or twice a week, ostensibly to work on yoga moves with Nova.
Yoga work usually happened at these meetings, although what often happened is that Nova used part of this time for teaching Katrina, Derek and herself various things about the secrets of the Matrix and their shared abilities.
Katrina came over in a leotard, shorts, and thong sandals.
Nova sat on a mat on the floor barefoot, wearing shorts and a simple top as she flexed herself into a Yoga position.
“Now, you try it, Katrina,” Nova said gently. Nova always tried to be a calm, gentle, non-confrontational sensei when she taught Yoga and the related psi-arts. She had always remembered Aliscea’s harsh teaching with her, and she was determined never to put another person through that sort of cruelty and abuse.
“Try it?” said Katrina. “I cannot even twist ankle up the way you do! ARRRRGGHHHH!” said Katrina as tears came to her eyes while trying to get her left foot into the bizarre position that Nova had mastered with ease.
“Reach within yourself,” came Nova’s voice in her mind. “Ask the Matrix to aid you…ask it to help make the impossible, possible. Remember…we are beings of light…not just this crude matter…”
Katrina nodded, shut her eyes, and began to concentrate.
Finally, after reaching into herself, she used the Power to gently manipulate her left foot half way into the position that Nova was in.
Katrina reached out, and was relieved to see that Nova, despite her outward serenity, had to strain to get into that position. In fact, she could feel she was in agony, but she controlled that pain behind her serene, smiling, almost Buddhist-monk like face as she held the pose for about twenty seconds before finally saying, “O, Fudge! Enough!”
“Enough?” said Katrina.
“Yeah,” said Nova as she untangled herself into a more normal position. “That position killed me. What about you?”
“If it kills you, vhy you do it?” said Katrina.
“Training of the body and the mind,” said Nova as she huffed and puffed. “I picked up part of this from Sasha and part from Astrena. Astrena gets herself into these really weird positions I can’t even begin to approach.”
“Ahhh…so you admit you cannot do everything,” said Katrina.
“Hell no, I can’t,” Nova huffed. “But I can try. Derek wishes he could be here today, but he had one of those meetings with the work crews aboard the Argo. He sends to me his love, and he does the same for you.”
“Oh…” said Katrina as she reached out with her powers and levitated a cup of water across the room to her hand. “Have you heard from HIM lately?”
“No, luckily,” Nova said as she floated a cup of water to her hand, as well. “He seems to be hiding. I’m not sure what he’s been doing. We have not seen or heard much from him ever since 2209, when we had those battles with him, and…”
“Yes, when you almost died protecting Derek,” said Katrina seriously. “And…when he captured and tormented me…”
Nova just nodded sadly at that. Neither of them wanted to remember the chaos and pain of that final battle near New Pellias where Katrina had been stripped, humiliated, and tortured by Ekogaru in an effort to force her to join his bizarre schemes again.
“You said you had questions about the pageant,” Nova said, changing the subject. Katrina sighed and thanked the Cosmos she was changing the subject!
“Yes. Many,” said Katrina. “How do you keep that poise and balance when you walk around in a gown like that and in those heels?”
“Did you bring a pair of heels, like I asked?” Nova said.
“I did,” said Katrina, reaching into her bag to put on a pair of high-heeled sandals.
Nova reached over to a closet in the spare room they were exercising in, and she got herself a similar pair of shoes. Nova then stood and said, “Stand there relaxed, up slightly on the balls of your feet, toes pointed out straight like this. I always wear open-toed tango dance shoes like these for these pageant-related things. The closed back gives you some support, and the open toes enable you to feel where you are pointing them; they also keep your feet from squishing up too much. You spend hours on your feet on these pageants.”
“Okay,” said Katrina. “Now?”
“Back up, head high…think of yourself as a Princess…as royalty,” Nova said softly.
Katrina put up her head, trying to shake the notion she looked ridiculous; until she remembered how she had moved as Invidia on the Comet. She assumed that poised position, and then Nova told her, “Now, glide across the floor, like this. Measured steps,” she said.
Katrina began to walk, looking imperious. Nova smiled at the result.
“That’s very good,” Nova said.
A moment later, there was a stamping noise, followed by something that sounded like a growl.
“What’s that?” said Katrina.
“Anya,” Nova said with a giggle. “Stephen’s having his nap right now, but Anastasia’s on the loose. Watch out! Today she thinks she’s a wolf!”
“Where are Alexander and Ariel?” said Katrina.
“With daddy on the big stupid ship! Daddy is king!” said Anya as she ran in. “Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, DADDY!”
Katrina smiled at Anastasia, whom she had liked ever since her early days of life in late 2209, when she’d been born. Anya had her father’s wild dark hair, glittering dark brownish eyes, and, even at only nineteen months old, quite a bit of independence. She had weaned herself from her mother very decisively earlier in the month, while Katrina noticed that, when he was up and about, Stephen still occasionally needed his mother’s breast and cuddling. Alex and Ariel, who were almost four now, pretty much tried to take over the household when they were home. Stephen agreed because they were the “big kids” (even though they were nearly only four), long grown out of diapers, training pants, bottles, Mommy’s breasts, and even the kids’ sippy cups…or they would be the leaders of the household if it was not for Anya, who was challenging Ariel already for dominance, even up to and including psi-ability. Ariel had developed a touch of it, but Anya had a definite and strong psi-ability that impressed her father and freaked out her mother a little.
“Who am I?” said Nova as she went nose-to-nose with the pugnacious little brown-haired imp.
“A punchy bag!” giggled Anya as she pretended to bop her mother in the face.
“We don’t hit Mommy!” said Nova firmly. Anya then grinned and raised her hand, and a large book flew off the shelf on its own and crashed into Nova’s portable keyboard. “And we don’t use special powers to hurt Mommy or her things, either!” Nova snapped, grabbing her wrists and giving her a sharp shake. Anya looked at Katrina and screamed.
“You have to be good,” said Katrina. “Don’t you want to grow up to be a Princess like me?”
Nova smiled at that bit, thinking that it was a game that Anya and Katrina played.
Anya smiled at Katrina and said, “When you were a BIG Princess, did you hit people with the mean stick?”
“Uh-huh,” said Katrina. “I later found out, though, not nice to hit your friends with pointy stick.”
“And you used to press all sorts of buttons and things and make people DO stuff?”
Katrina smiled and said, “Yes…in our pretend world, I did…”
“Had dreams about you, Princess ‘Trina,” said Anya. “You used to be bad, bad, bad, but now you’re only sorta-kinda bad and gloogie and murgleplex.”
“That’s googleplex,” Nova said.
“MURGLEPLEX!” screamed Anya. “Mommy, that’s my word! And go smoke a cigar with Auntie Fela and th’ other human kitty cats! She’s gots a tail! And where’s Big Jonny?”
“We know he’s at summer training,” said Nova. “When I was pregnant with you…”
“Whaaa’s pregnant mean? That when I was in your tummy and you were fat and stupid-looking and had big feet that hurt’cha all the time?”
“Yes…that’s pregnant,” said Nova. “I don’t want to be pregnant again for a while.”
“And why does Auntie Wendy fight with Homer all the time now?” said Anya.
“Because they are going through a bad spot in their marriage, that’s why. They….don’t love each other as much as they used to; like the way I love your Daddy,” said Nova.
“Do you want to go to the park with me and see the animals in the zoo?” said Katrina. “It’s raining out a little…”
“Mommy, can I get my wolf raincoat?”
“Sure,” said Nova. “And put your flip-flops on…I can’t have you running around barefoot again like the other day on the ship.”
“Okay,” said Anya.
Katrina took Anya for a while, and on the way to the park, she stopped at her place and changed into a purple skirt, blouse, and raincoat, and put on purple flip-flops.
“Raaaaaaaaarrrrrrr!” yelled Anya as she stood up on her toes. She had on a gold sleeveless dress, and a sleeveless raincoat with a hood with wolf ears that Fela the Ralkhen made for her with Nova’s help.
Anya imitated a wolf as she ran through the zoo, stopping to look at some real wolves in their enclosure over the rail. “Should I snarl at ‘em?” said Anya.
“It’s not nice to tease animals,” said Katrina.
“I tease Fluffy alla the time. She’s stupid,” said Anya. “She can’t even talk like the human kitties.”
“Do you talk to her?”
“I mind-meld wid her,” said Anya. “She thinks of food half the time and playing with Mommy, Daddy, and Ariel. She’s dopey in the head! Rest of the time, she sleeps. Fluffy has no life!”
“You scare your parents at times,” said Katrina.
“Why? “Cause I’m smart?” said Anya. “And I don’t like baby bullshit?”
“Where did you learn that word from?” said Katrina.
“Overheard it from the Black Tigers,” said Anya. “What’s pre…pre…cocoa mean?”
“Precocious,” said Katrina. “It’s a word that means you are smarter than your real age.”
“I’m gonna be two soon,” said Anya. “Why do I scare peoples? HUH?”
“Most two-year olds are not as smart as you,” said Katrina.
“Most two year olds suck their thumbs, don’t know ‘nuff to go poo-poo inna potty yet like poo-poo head Alex, and some still play with Mommy boobies. Don’t need Mommy’s boobies no more. I’m amalgamated!”
“Do you mean independent?” said Katrina.
“Yeah! Like Hermy the Christmas Elf and Rudolph! I wanna go off and be independent! Can you buy me a house?”
“You’re too little to be a homeowner yet,” said Katrina.
“I want real estate under the Christmas Tree!” screamed Anya.
“You would,” said Katrina as she picked her up and kissed her.
Anya kissed her back.
Then, the two of them ran off, giggling.
Monday, July 29, 2211…
A few days later, things turned much darker for Katrina. She now had a problem that kept her from rehearsing for the pageant.
She was not feeling well.
She went to bed on Sunday night feeling very tired. And she began to have bad dreams as she got hot.
The servants were not home at Foxworth Manor; Foxy had given them vacation for the week.
And, it was HOT in the Manor. Japan was suffering under a heat wave; and the power in the Tokyo region had gone out the previous night.
Invidia’s fever dream was sheer torture as she rolled and gasped on the futon near Foxy.
“I’m…in…pain…such…terrible…terrible…pain,” she said as she rolled in her sweat.
“Too bad we gave the servants and staff vacation this week,” said Foxy as he felt Invidia’s forehead. Her thin nightgown was soaked with sweat. “Take this thermometer. Now.”
“Vat you mean, take zis now?” gasped Invidia.
“Trust me, just take it..” said Foxy.
Invidia did so, letting Foxy insert the electronic probe into her mouth after putting a plastic sleeve over it. The device beeped a moment later.
“One hundred and three point two,” said Foxy. “Invidia, can you Change into Katrina?”
“Vhy you ask that?” said Katrina.
“Because you either have to go to an emergency room or be seen by a doctor, internist, or nurse-practitioner I can get who will make a house call. I can’t have a Doctor seeing you like that, as Invidia…”
Invidia gasped, and she Changed a minute later. Then, Katrina cried as Foxy held her. It was so hot in Foxworth Manor; hotter than it had been for a while, he noticed. Finally, giving up, he gently took her nightgown off. Then, he opened the window.
Katrina felt the hot, humid air coming in in waves, along with a bit of a breeze. “Turn on the light!” she snapped. “And…and…put something on me!”
Foxy stood up, and stripped off his pajama bottoms, standing there in only a fundoshi. “I just tried to turn on a light switch….power still seems to be out.”
“NO!” yelled Katrina.
“That’s why we have no air conditioning; no electricity,” said Foxy.
A banging came at the door and Katrina screamed, “Please dress me!”
Foxy kissed her and said, “Katrina, with that temperature of yours, and this heat, until your temperature goes down, you are going to be very undressed for a while. Yes?” said Foxy.
“Michelle here, Dad,” said Michelle as she popped open the door. “My God, what’s wrong with you?” she said as she ran over in her undergarments to look at Invidia. For, Katrina had Changed back into Invidia again, involuntarily.
“Sick…can’t…can’t…Change….I’m going to be exposed at last…before pageant…to world…no!”
“You can’t Change back?” said Foxy.
“Trying, it is…..I can’t!” Invidia whined.
“She can’t Change into Katrina, and she needs a doctor,” said Foxy. “Or some kind of health professional…”
The phone rang a moment later.
Foxy answered, keeping it on audio-only. “Moshi-moshi?” he said.
Invidia recognized the voice at once. “This is Nova. Is your power out?”
“Yes, it is. Nova, can you come over? NOW?”
“NO! NOT HER!” cried Invidia, realizing a moment later that she had just screamed out to Nova in a hoarse version of her own voice for the first time since the Second Cometine War had ended in 2207.
“Was that Katrina?” said Nova. “Is she all right?”
“Nova, tell me….how much Medical School have you completed?”
“Just finished third year with excellent grades…beginning fourth year in September. I’ve already been doing some supervised practice as a Junior Preliminary Intern in Internal Medicine and have passed the first two parts of the Board Exams that everyone takes in Med School with very high grades…I…”
“Can you make a house call, like…right now? For Katrina?” pleaded Foxy as Katrina threw on a yukata in red and black to just soak up her sweat.
“I can, if you don’t mind my taking a shower first, and then running over there with very little on. We had some kind of blackout, and it’s as hot as hell over here. What’s wrong with Katrina? Katrina, I need to hear your voice, please?”
Invidia gasped and looked at Foxy and shook her head. “Zis vill expose me to her,” she whispered.
“Talk as best you can in that hoarseness,” said Foxy. “Hold off a minute, though…”
Invidia gritted her teeth, and then, she Changed back into Katrina again. She then looked at the phone and said, “Please…come…over…please…” Then, she rambled and said, “I…I am Katrina, but I am also…I also have Cometine heritage…the blood…”
“I already knew that,” Nova said as she yawned at her end. Her hair was in tangles, she was sweaty, and she was sitting there totally naked in the sticky heat, but her nudity didn’t help much, because it felt as if she was just melting. She had just gotten Derek to open a window and call for the Power Authority when she realized that maybe their neighbors were out, too. Since Foxworth Manor was about 1.5 kilometers away from their house, or just about a mile, old measure, Nova and Derek guessed that maybe they were out, too. They didn’t feel comfortable calling the weird hicks who had recently rented the estate next to them, next to Jonathan’s inherited house. The house was rented out to another family.
Even though Jonathan had won an actual battlefield commission (as Sasha once had) in his role in battle in the Battle of the Vilani Union in 2209 on New Pellias, as an Ensign Apprentice, he still had to go to the Academy, where he had started in the fall of 2209. Jonathan was now about to enter his Junior Year of college in summer training as an Ensign Apprentice in charge of a Communications Group as a Student Group Leader on the EDF destroyer Hamlin, and he was away on that ship for much of the summer as a result. A call across their property to the Tsukikages also confirmed their power was out; Yuri and Nova had finally both admitted they were both naked when they got on the phone, and they had a laugh about it.
“Nova, what’s going on?” said Derek as he got up, also bare in the heat.
“Derek, I’m on the phone with Foxy and Katrina…and this has to do with Katrina…she’s…”
“I…am…zick, Nova. Very, very zick,” said Katrina, who coughed and sat there in tears. “I am also…”
“Katrina, why are you imitating Invidia?” Nova said. “That’s silly…”
“Voice…can’t help it,” gasped Katrina. “Please see me.”
“I’ll get over if you don’t mind my making a house call in a yukata,” Nova said. “Derek, can you and Fela hold the fort with the kids?”
“I did it the other day when you were off on the destroyer Perkins for that training exercise in the Sickbay near Mars,” Derek said.
“Oh, yes…right,” mumbled Nova as she threw on a short kimono in yellow with a black obi with a white orchid decoration, and thongs on her feet. She ran to the garage, got an air-scooter she liked to use, put her Medical bag on it, and then she kissed Derek and little Steve (who had gotten up) a quick goodbye as she left.
Katrina called to Trelaina for help as she realized Nova was coming over while she was unstable and Changing like crazy.
Trelaina’s voice sounded in her mind, “Relax Katrina, as you have always done…”
“What if she sees me like zis?” said Katrina as she Changed into Invidia.
“I will aid you,” said Trelaina, who appeared briefly and placed a hand on Invidia’s shoulder and caused her to Change again. “This will hold you for two hours, but then, you must stop trying to hide, but you will be safe at home then,” Trelaina said. “Take care and rest…”
A moment later, (or it seemed that way to Katrina), Nova showed up, escorted in by Michelle, who had been out watching for her.
“Let me feel your forehead,” Nova said. “My God, you are burning up!”
“Yes, I thought so,” said Katrina.
“Sit on that futon, now…and relax. What was her fever, Michelle?” Nova said as Michelle ran in, clad in a bikini.
“Close to a hundred and three, I think.”
“Take this thermometer,” said Nova. “And relax, Katrina. None of us are going to bite you, arrest you, molest you in any way, or laugh at you. You’re very pretty, you know that?…” The unit beeped and Nova looked at it. “One hundred and four. Not good. Are you hurting all over?”
“Yes,” gasped Invidia.
Nova opened her medical bag and got out a syringe, “Michelle, could you and Foxy go run a cold bath, right away? Go put some of this in the bath water,” Nova said as she handed Foxy a bottle of alcohol and then gently but decisively undressed Katrina.
“Sure,” Foxy replied.
Katrina gasped and cried as Nova gave her a shot in her arm. “Vat that for?” she gasped.
“An Ibuprofen-aspirin solution,” said Nova. “It will both drop the fever and help with the chills and body pains. I think you have a bug, Katrina. Luckily, these are pretty treatable.”
“Why don’t you use your relatively new powers on zis?” said Katrina.
Nova thought back to 2209, and to how Aliscea had awakened her hidden Iscandarian and Pellian heritage, and how she had given her the Pellian Matrix (or most of it) before she had gone rogue and gone over to Ekogaru’s side. She said, “I could do that, but I’m not skilled enough in that means of healing to wipe out all of a virus yet. I’m mostly good with traumatic injuries and burns, as you’ve learned in…the past,” Nova said as Katrina trembled at the memory of Ekogaru’s sick Sphere of Joy. Katrina also saw Nova sweating, and saw her loosening her obi quite a bit. Nova then felt the glands in her neck, and got out a tongue depressor from her small bag, along with a penlight.
Katrina began to cry, but Nova held her and said, “You’ll be fine. My job is to get you fixed up, regardless of how bad you look right now. Got that?”
“Why are you so kind to me?” said Katrina.
“Silly! Because you’re my friend, and you’re one of our allies against that damn Ekogaru,” Nova said. “Now, open your mouth.”
Nova then coaxed Katrina into opening her mouth, and she looked in at her throat. “It’s red, irritated, and angry, all right.” Nova then got out a pharngyscope, and the small plastic pieces that matched, and she looked inside Katrina’s ears and then carefully looked up her nose. “Hmmm. There’s a major irritation of the eardrums and nasal cavities. Just like the sort I had when I had a bug like this, which may well be the gift that keeps on giving for me, soon. Katrina, are you having a hard time hearing? I’m reading lots of congestion in your ears.”
Katrina nodded. Nova got a stethoscope, and put the cold instrument on Katrina’s back. “Cough,” Nova said. She did, and then Nova listened to Katrina’s chest.
“You have an upper respiratory infection with a touch of bronchitis that could have turned into pneumonia,” Nova said. “Luckily, I just caught it in time, so you should NOT require hospitalization. We’ll begin treatment with 20 cc’s of branchicyllin; one of the newer-spectrum antibiotics developed to fight those opportunistic bugs that hit people with the radiation sickness left over from the Gamilon War that’s now twelve years in the past,” Nova said.
“I feel like I vant to die,” said Katrina.
“Not on my shift you won’t,” Nova snorted.
“Why don’t you use powers to heal me again? Get rid of it?” said Katrina.
“I could, but you’d just get sick again as the bugs multiply in your body. Your immune system has to beat this, with a little help from drugs,” Nova said.
“I don’t know if I can do it,” said Invidia. “And…and…I’m going to miss work…”
“I’m a nurse-practitioner and a first-level internist, now,” Nova said. “I have some medical authority, and I can make a call upon your boss, and drop off a note. You should not be going out like this, and I’m afraid of your trying to use your abilities while you are this sick. You know that these psi-abilities drains our bodies of energy…and to use my powers, I have to be healthy…” Nova then sneezed. “Which, in a day or so, I don’t think I’m going to be myself!”
A SHORT TIME LATER….(1025 Hours)
Nova had also undressed and now, she gently helped Katrina into the bathtub, where she felt her neck again while she gently began to wash her bottom with her other hand.
“Yes, a definite Upper Respiratory infection,” said Nova. “Sit down on the edge of the tub while I get your legs wet. I’m also going to sponge off your bottom…I’d recommend that the area between your legs gets washed, too. Would you rather do that yourself?”
“Yes, please,” said Katrina. “Could you turn your head…while I do…that?”
“Sure. I’ll be washing myself there at the same time. I used to be a little more modest, although there were times I had to dress and undress in front of Derek even before we got married. He saw most of me, but never saw everything exposed all at once until the wedding night on the beach. The honeymoon made me a bit less modest, and having had two sets of twins took away a lot more modesty, both when I gave birth, and obviously when I fed and bathed them, often with people all over the place.”
“Vat did you have on when you gave birth?” said Invidia.
“Nothing at all,” said Nova. “And you already know I found it to be easier if I nursed the babies with little or nothing on much of the time. Done yet?”
Katrina nodded, and then, she smiled a little as she got into the tub, and Nova stood behind her, carefully washing her back. Nova then washed Katrina’s front from her hips, upwards, going up to her breasts.
“These are going to look nice in a gown for that pageant,” Nova said. “You’re actually cute.”
“Thank you,” said Katrina with a blush. She looked back at Nova, who looked cool, calm, and collected as she worked on Invidia, and also washed herself, not caring, it seemed, that she was in only her skin as she worked.
How can she be so comfortable like that? Invidia thought.
AN HOUR LATER…
Katrina was out of the bath now, and back in her kimono, which was open. She was shivering slightly with fever, and she had cried as Nova gave her another shot in the other arm that was the antibiotic Nova had spoken of…a shot that Invidia also watched Nova giving herself in her left arm as she trembled a bit and admitted she hated needles. Nova had asked Michelle for an apron, so after Michelle had gotten one, Nova worked in only the apron.
The phone had rang; it seemed Derek had volunteered to come over with a tool kit to help Foxy fix the estate’s generator so they would have some power and air conditioning again. Nova continued to work in only her apron, fanning herself every now and then with a magazine. Nova had heard Derek on the intercom; Foxy and Derek were downstairs, trying to start the generator. Nova got some miso broth and began to feed it to Katrina.
The door opened a moment later, and Derek and Foxy, in only fundoshis, came into the room, dirty, laughing and sweating.
“Please avert your eyes, Derek!” said Katrina as she knelt there in only her open robe being fed miso soup by Nova. “I am still sick and half-naked with cursed fever!”
“Sorry, Katrina. We got that son-of-a-bitch of a generator running, Nova. There should be enough wattage so we can turn on the air here in an hour or two, Foxy thinks,” Derek said.
“Good idea,” said Nova. “We need a generator for our place, too. Foxy, how much did you pay for the fusion unit you have?”
“A hundred and fifty thousand,” said Foxy.
“That’s half of what our house is worth!” said Nova. “That’s expensive!”
“I’m filthy rich. Want me to buy you one?” said Foxy.
“We’re not charity cases, Foxy,” said Derek.
“But Nova deserves a fee for coming over and making a damn house call like that,” said Foxy. “I can afford it. I’ll have one sent over to your place in the next few days.”
“Thank you,” Nova said as she sneezed. “Sorry guys….I think I’m getting her bug, too. Well, I gave myself a shot in the arm, as preventative medicine, so I shouldn’t get that sick from it. I hope. I can’t afford to slow down and be in bed right now, either.”
“I wish I did not have to slow down,” said Katrina. “I want to go back to work and work on pageant stuff!”
Derek spoke up. “Katrina, Nova already said you’d be risking your health by doing that. Listen to her orders; she’s your doctor. All right?”
“What if I have to go to the hospital?” she said.
“You should not need to, not if you take the medicine I give you and take care of yourself…” Nova said as she slipped behind a screen to change back into her own kimono.
“Nice,” said Katrina as she yawned. She began to fall asleep, and vaguely remembered Foxy and Nova picking her up, removing her robe, and lying her in bed as Derek closed the window and coolness began to grow around her. She kissed Foxy and fell asleep in his arms.
TWENTY-THREE HOURS LATER…
Foxy let the phone ring, over and over again, as he hoped he could get through.
Finally, someone picked up at Central Hospital…on the tenth ring.
“Hello?” said Foxy.
“Internal Medicine Office, Section Delta, Central Hospital, Internist One Wildstar here; what do you need?”
“Ah, Nova, thank heavens you were in the office. How are you?”
“I’m at work, but I feel like death warmed over. I’m taking some herbals and vitamins to manage my own sniffles. Her blood sample came back positive for Common Virus 121A, negative for everything else,” Nova said in the phone. “I did the lab work myself after I left.”
“Derek told me you’d be there, what are you up to?”
“Assisting Sane with rounds,” Nova said from her small office at Central Hospital as she swung her long legs around and adjusted her glasses while tapping one of her sandals against the floor for a moment. When Nova got her legs adjusted, she looked comfortable but almost elfin in the short black skirt she wore under her white lab coat with a lavender-colored blouse. Nova then sighed. “Or should we be blunt and say, between you and I, I’m pretty much doing his rounds?”
“What do you mean?”
Nova sighed and said, “Foxy, he came to work, not just hung-over, but plastered. His breath smelled like a sake factory. I caught him before he staggered out to see that family and patient in Room Two Twenty-Five. I put him to bed in his office to sleep it off and locked him in there with Mimi. The family was a little surprised to see a bright little perky internist, read, me, rather than a real doctor, until I gave them better answers about the patient’s condition than Sane did in three days. I had to be careful, because this family is like hyper-connected to some bigwig in Parliament. But, I seem to have pleased them, and I gave them the cell number of my teaching doctor on call, Doc Miyagi, in case they have any questions. Miyagi’s good.”
“What are you up to now?” said Foxy.
“I finished with someone in Room Two-Thirty; a plain broken leg. I have some people to check in the ICU, and some preemies to check in the nursery. Since it’s summer and I don’t have actual classes other than protocol meeting with Miyagi and that other bright internist in my class, Anderson, I should be back home with the kids and Derek around fourteen hundred, which means I’ll swing by and check on Katrina at thirteen-thirty. How is she?”
“Sleeping a lot. She still has a bit of a temp, but it’s just a hundred now.”
“That’s really good,” Nova said. “We have pageant preliminaries on Friday, which is August Second. I want to bring my mother and I over to see Katrina on Thursday, so we can go over her steps and all that again, although I hope I am not pushing her too hard by encouraging her to be in this pageant…”
“I vant to be in pageant!” said Katrina. “If not…”
“Yes, you’d be worse, right?” Nova said. “Okay, then, good. Good luck, and take care.”
“Thanks,” said Katrina, who was looking forward to the next few days.
In the meantime, the Ventures were having…car trouble.
“Well, what’s the verdict?” snapped Holly Venture as they sat together in Mark Venture’s 2203 Buick Century aircar. Holly was tapping her sneaker-clad foot impatiently against the floorboard as Mark was trying, again and again, to get his aircar to just start.
All he was getting was the noise of the starter turning over the turbine over and over again, followed by the sound of the turbine spooling up, and then going dead. “I can’t get the damn thing to suck in enough air to pressurize the manifold,” said Venture. “The fusion cell is producing more than enough power…just can’t get that power to kick over the fan…”
“TRACTION MOTOR OVERHEAT?” muttered Holly as she looked at a red light on the dashboard. “What’s that mean?’
“I think it means we’re stuck by the wide of the damn road until someone can get this car running again,” said Mark as he banged his fist against the dashboard. “DAMNIT!”
Holly looked out the window, which she had just had to open because there was now no air conditioning in Mark’s aircar. And, their daughter Adrianna Nadine, who was about a year and a half old and just weaned, was fussing and yelling “HOT!”
“Yes, it’s hot out there, all right” she said as she looked at the side of the road near the shoulder, where there were trees and a few houses and buildings. On the other side of the road, traffic sped past Venture’s dead car, which sat on the shoulder with its hazard lights blinking. Holly swabbed at her bare midriff below her cropped top and above her cutoff shorts and said, “We’d better do something. I’m melting in here!”
Mark looked at Holly and sighed. “Get the comm phone out from the console. I’m calling some friends.”
Holly handed Mark the phone and said, “You’re not popping the hood yourself?”
“No, I know that the damn thing will need a reset code to get started,” said Mark, who was sweating himself in his T-shirt, gym shorts, and flip-flops. “Except that I don’t know the reset codes.”
“Great,” said Holly. “You had a hard time conceiving Adrianna, now, it seems you have no luck getting the car fixed, either!”
“Holly, I’m not useless, I just don’t have the information!” snapped Venture as he dialed a number. He grumbled as it rang and rang and rang.
“Who are you trying to call?” said Holly. “It’d better be the Road Service or the police…”
“No…I’m trying Sandor.”
“Sandor?” said Holly in a flat tone of voice.
“If anyone would know about cars, he would,” said Mark in an irritable tone of voice. Sandor’s voicemail came up, and Mark gave up. “No answer.”
“Call the road service!” said Holly as she got out of the car.
“Let me try someone else,” said Mark. He dialed another number as Holly got back into the car after messing around with her ponytail. After four rings, the other party answered. Holly heard a young woman’s voice coming out of the phone. “Mark? What do you want? I’d be more sociable, but I’m driving.”
“Yeah, call her,” snorted Holly. “Like Nova knows any crap about cars.”
”Where are you?” said Venture as Adrianna shook her dark hair and yelled, “Daddy! HOT!”
“Akihibara Road,” Nova said. “Derek and I had to run out to the market for some of the things Steve and Anya like; they’re still picky. The kids are with Fela…”
“Fela?’ said Mark.
“One of our live-in Ralkhens, you recall, What’s up?”
“How far are you away from Clearview Boulevard and Memorial Drive?”
“Ten minutes,” Nova sighed. “What’s the problem, Mark?”
“My car’s dead. Can you and Derek come and look at it? And do you know the reset codes for a Buick?”
“He’s hopeless, Nova!” yelled Holly into the phone. “He won’t call the Road Service!”
“You try calling Sandor?” Nova said.
“He’s not picking up.”
“I don’t know if I can help, but it’s near home, so we’ll see ya.” Nova then clicked off.
“How does she know reset codes for aircar?” said Holly.
“Easy…she wants to restore an old 2175 model someday with Derek,” Mark said.
“Nice, another project for the lovebirds,” sneered Holly. “I think we need a new car, Mark!”
“What kind?” said Mark.
“A…Pink…Cadillac…” said Holly.
Mark just began to snort and chuckle. “You want me to drive around a pink car?”
“Crushed velvet seats, riding in the back,” said Holly.
“You’re nuts,” said Mark. “Cute…but nuts…”
Then, he reached over the console and kissed Holly. She immediately kissed back, smiling a little as they held hands.
“Wow…you can be affectionate when you aren’t yelling at me,” said Mark.
“And you can be affectionate even though this stupid car is dead, dead, dead,” said Holly.
They heard a loud “BEEP” behind them a moment later. Mark looked in the rearview and saw a yellow and black 2205 Mustang pulling up; he could make out the front license plate, which read “NOVASTOY”
Mark and Holly got out as Nova got out of her car, clad in a summer top, bike shorts, and exercise sandals. Derek had on a striped Rugby shirt, very old torn jeans, and a pair of sneakers that looked almost ready for the garbage.
“Look what the cat drug in,” teased Mark. “The Cowboy of Outer Space and Peppermint!”
“Mark, shut up!” joked Derek. “Or do you want her to leave you here by the side of the road?”
“Maybe…” said Mark as he looked at Nova. “You know the reset code for an ’03 Buick?”
“No, but I can wing it with the codes from a ’99,” Nova said. “Open your hood. Derek…get me our tool kit.”
“Right,” said Derek. “Hi, Holly,” he said as he noticed her. “How are you?”
“Melting!” yelled Holly as she flipped her ponytail. Mark got inside the car and popped the hood release. Nova ran over, put up the hood prop, and looked inside. “Something smells in here,” she said as a little smoke came up from the hood. “Mark, you have a burnout!”
“On what?” said Mark.
“Right by the intercooler…your main board is fried, I think,” said Nova as she bent over all of the machinery under the Buick’s hood. “My dad just replaced one in his car, and I know what Fried Circuit Board smells like. I know. I was out with him and Mom when it happened the other day. I’m still barely talking with Mom after the other day, and Mom was screaming again.”
“So what did you do?” asked Holly.
“We needed a tow,” said Nova. “As I think you do.”
Derek came back with the tool kit. “You need a ten millimeter socket?”
“Nine point five,” Nova said as Derek opened up their small tool kit and Nova stood setting up a small socket on a small ratchet handle. Nova crawled under the hood, found a black box, and undid four bolts and lifted it to reveal a box filled with circuit boards and a small keypad and Matsumoto Dial. Nova punched a key and looked at the dial as it lit up. “Red. Not good. Well, let me try the code…”
Nova bit her finger and punched in about twenty numbers and then hit “ENTER”. A small red LED blinked rapidly near the Matsumoto Dial as three needles on the dial swung off of zero…and then swung back down again as the dial flashed red three times. Nova breathed a heavy sigh and said, “This thing is as dead as Jacob Marley, Mark.”
“What’s that mean?” Holly asked.
“It means he needs a tow, Holly,” Nova said. “Mark, should I call the Road Service?”
“Damnit!” said Mark as he slammed down the hood on his car. Holly looked too mad to give him a hug, so Nova sighed and gave him a quick sympathy hug before flouncing back to Derek, who stuck his arm around her waist.
“Well?” said Holly.
“Nova, call the Road Service,” he said as he tossed her his phone.
FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER….
A mechanic had just gotten through looking over the Buick as Mark and Holly stood around it, looking worried.
“Well?” said Venture.
“This is the verdict, mac,” said the mechanic as he puffed at his smelly cigar. “Main computer’s dead. Circuit link got fried by the voltage off the fusion cell because the Nishigawa Circuit didn’t click in fast enough, and your main traction motor that powers the turbo fan is also dead. To fix everything, seven thousand, including labor.”
“Seven thousand?” said Mark. “That’s more than half of what we paid for this car when it was new!” he snapped. “That’s a major rip-off!” he yelled, his New York accent becoming very prominent at that point.
“Take it or leave it, Mac,” said the mechanic. “Storage is fifty a day until ya decide what to do with it…”
“Yeah, we’ll decide, sooner or later,” said Mark. “Holly, guess we’ll have to share your Honda for a few days. I now own a Dead Car.”
Holly, who was holding Adrianna, just shrugged, and the little girl made a face.
Mark felt useless.
…TO BE CONTINUED