veronica_rich: (Default)
(Turner and Alan have showed up in prior LJ Idol entries, but I won't link since I'm not sure people really enjoy being sent to read multiple parts when they have to get through tons of different entries in a week; and while this ties in with a larger story, it's hopefully fine enough as a standalone.)


"You sure this is going to work?"

"You seem awfully certain it isn't," Turner sighed loudly, digging the piece of paper out of her purse and unfolding as she spoke. "Can you think of a better way to get Romacorp off our backs?"

Alan kept his eyes on the road, only glancing sideways at her every few seconds. "What I think," he said slowly, considering, "is this is so badly advised that the only worse thing would be shooting ourselves in the heads and saving them the bullets."

"Oh, they're not going to shoot us," she scoffed. Craning her neck toward the windshield, she scanned the dusty horizon for stop signs, a ribbon of road - any evidence the promised intersection was coming up in the foreseeable future. "We tell them a little of what we want to say, convince them we don't know anything else, and after a few hours of verbal pounding, we get to leave. Maybe we get monitored or followed for a while."

"Yeah, because that's so preferable."

"To being tracked down against our will and surprised into some confession about something we didn't even do? It sure is. This way, we control stuff; sweep a leg right under them." Turner finally saw evidence of another road about a mile or two ahead - with the shimmering heat, it wasn't easy to tell distance. They would be a few minutes early, if Dugger showed up on time, but it could be explained. Or was about to be. "Um. You had the chicken salad for lunch too, right?"

"I hate mayonnaise; I had roast beef. How do you not remember a piece of beef hanging out of my sandwich?"

"I'm not your babysitter."

"It doesn't look anything like chicken or salad, is my point, blind-as-a-bat," Alan countered, as she touched his arm to get his attention, then nodded silently while pointing at the road. "Left," she mouthed soundlessly. "Why?"

"It's just-" Turner cleared her throat and worked up some audible distress. "Uh boy. Um, I think you're going to have to stop."

"Why? What's wrong?" He did slow the car, then, but only enough for the stop sign.

"Park over there," she instructed. On cue, Alan sighed in deep annoyance as he turned left and eased the car to the dusty shoulder. "I think- I think the salad was bad, I'm about to see it again." She ran the words together approximating panic in her voice, forced out a big burp, then yanked the door open and bolted out before slamming it to muffle any more sound.

Or in their case, lack of. Alan waited a calculated moment, muttered something appropriately put out, then followed her, yelling, "Are you okay?"

They stood a few feet from the front of the car for nearly ten minutes, by which point Turner was nearing a different kind of pre-nausea that had nothing to do with lunch. She shook her head anytime Alan looked at her as if to ask something; they didn't need to take the chance they could be picked up by the bug they'd been playing to for the last fifteen miles.

Nearly two minutes later, she spotted a plume of dust following a vehicle, but held her optimism in check until the old pickup slowed and pulled off the other side of the road at the intersection, facing the opposite way. She resisted yelling as Dugger stepped out the driver's side, instead crossing the road in a little jog to furiously quiz him on his tardiness. Before she could, he put up a hand and began, "I couldn't get-" She silently motioned him to lower his voice with the flat of her hand pressing down in universal signage. "I couldn't get the Jeep, so I had to get my cousin's truck instead. Took a few more minutes," he said quietly.

"Is it going to run as well?"

"It'll get you to Pheasant Rock; you can rent a car or get a shuttle to the airfield if you need to," he pointed out.

She pulled the envelope of cash from her back pocket. "You know where to leave the car, right?" she whispered.

He took the money and put it inside his jacket, then pulled on gloves. "I'm not entirely an amateur," Dugger said dryly. He waved his fingers. "No prints on it."

Turner looked around and found Alan a few feet behind her. She snapped toward the truck and inclined her head, following Dugger to the car and opening the back door as he opened the driver's and got in. "Think I'm going to try to sleep the rest of this out," she half-moaned, bending and sticking her head into the back to be heard. "Try to keep it quiet, would you?"

"Mmhmm," was all Dugger replied. He sounded enough like any annoyed traveling male to pass for Alan.

"Jesus, sorry to ruin your Sunday drive," she muttered, then shut the door and stepped back from the car once Alan flashed her a thumbs-up from the truck. The Impala pulled forward onto the road, and continued in the direction of Romacorp's offices. Where it wouldn't get.

Alan watched as she buckled herself in. "Think we can get gone before they figure where we went?"

"You mean ... can we leg it out of their sweep?"

"That- that's so bad I don't even know where to criticize it." Turner smirked; Alan shook his head and pushed the gas harder.

(This is for the LJ Idol prompt 'Sweep the Leg'.)
veronica_rich: (Default)
Michael had started the conversation reminding him he'd missed his council-mandated Anchor training, but Alan had bigger fish to net - and given the way his Seer usually frowned over him, Alan knew he'd better put some effort into his argument.

Making use of his greeting card-writing training, he tried to quickly wrap up a necessarily vague explanation of what he and his travel companion had run into with Markland (he changed both Turner's and the doctor's names out of paranoia). "So she's figured out the Shifting thing - how it works - you're saying?" Michael asked after a pregnant pause.

"Essentially."

"What does 'essentially' mean?" was the rapid response.

Alan didn't mean to let the sigh be loud. "I'm not going to explain it over the phone. I don't care what you say," he rushed to cut off what he pretty well figured the pilot was going to tell him, "I still don't trust cell phones any more than I did land lines. Not with what the frigging NSA can do these days."

"Their press is better than their ability, I assure you," Michael said dryly.

"Generalities," Alan reminded him quietly, looking along the sidewalk outside his motel room even though he'd just checked five seconds prior and seen nobody. "I only called so you could maybe get a fire going under someone before we get back and I can tell you in more detail. It's going to be about a day and a half, with a nap." He waited for Michael to chide him on the wonders of air travel, even realizing he should expect more; the pilot had never bothered him about his phobia past a couple of initial questions and pokes of fun early in their acquaintance.

"Okay, what fire am I supposed to light, here?" For the first time, Michael sounded really annoyed.

"They should probably do something. Be proactive; I don't know. I'm not them," Alan said of the Council. "The best defense is a good offense, and all that?"

"Think you might have that reversed," the other man mumbled.

"Point is, even if a ... battle, comes to them from Markland and her minions, they-"

"What is this, Bad Horse?" Michael put in. "'Minions?'"

"WOULD YOU BE QUIET." Alan cleared his throat. "Take me seriously. It might be a fight. A ... battle, even. Wouldn't they want to be ready?"

Michael was quiet a moment, then serious again. "Their general position is that they don't engage in battles, or fights. They're not overt. You know this."

"Yes, but if they have to - being able to engage generally puts countries into a good position in wars," Alan pointed out.

"Not always, no."

Seriously? "So it's better to get run over, then?" He tried to keep his voice down, wondering at times like this why he had a thing for Michael.

"If you want a war analogy, fine. Jumping in and fighting doesn't always work. Look at Vietnam, Korea ... the Gulf. Afghanistan, lots of times by different countries over a long time. But especially for us."

"Yes, and in all those-"

"In all those," Michael continued, "the government, people, were sure they could win, and pretty fast, because they still had World War Two in the back of their brains and figured every one of those others was going to turn out good for us in the end too. Nobody looks at our whole history, for example, to see just how bad wars go for us overall; they cling to one where we were actually justified in getting into it, without taking into account what all else happened to give us a victory. And the economy after. I mean, if I hear that argument one more time how we'll have so much more money after we invade ..." He trailed off.

Alan opened his mouth to answer, then thought a bit longer. It was hard for a civilian to make a case off the top of his head against a former Navy pilot, about military strategy. "This isn't quite on that scale."

"I'd damn well hope not. But I'm just making a comparison anyway." Michael coughed. "Call or text me when you're back and I'll tell you where we can go over it. I'm not saying anything to anyone until I know what all you found out."

He wasn't dismissing what they'd found in Arizona. Well, all right - maybe that's what Alan saw in him. "Fine, but if I'm right and you hesitated on this ..." he joked, realizing as usual only after it was said that it didn't sound humorous at all. Social awkwardness and espionage didn't cooperate for him. "I mean, I will call."

He clicked off, shaking his head as he turned and slipped back into the motel room - too flustered to notice the old Ford that had pulled slowly past the end of the building, its back window rolled down.

(This is for the LJ Idol Week 11 prompt Recency Bias)
veronica_rich: (Default)
The first knock was in his imagination; the second actually happened. Well, the first probably had, too, Haverty barely reasoned, as he pushed himself back from under the covers and executed a shockingly limber dismount in which his feet hit the bedroom floor aiming mostly toward the doorway while half-asleep. He skidded toward it across the hardwood floor, nearly tripping over the second dog and stepping on the third with a yelp, apologizing gruffly before hitting the top of the stairs-

Turner furrowed her brow and interrupted with, "Wait, wait - dogs? How do you do dogs onstage?"

"It can be done," Alan assured her, marking the spot he was reading from in his half-written script with his thumb. "Is it my turn?"

"Sorry."

... before hitting the top of the stairs. He grabbed the rail twice on his way down, nearly stumbling in his adrenalized fatigue. It wasn't until he got to the door to yank it open and stop the knocking from the outside that he wondered why he was so panicked; his mom had already died, after all, and who else was there for him to worry about at 2 a.m.? She wouldn't have been out of the house at this hour anyway. "Yeah?" he nearly shouted as he pulled at-

Alan stopped reading, catching his temporary roommate's expression. "What now?" he asked, an edge in his voice.

Hidden for length - rest of the story under cut )


Written for LJ Idol's Week 7 topic 'No True Scotsman'
veronica_rich: (Default)
With his right hand, Alan Rhodes tipped the tablet back to stare at the two lines on the screen, stirring sugar into his coffee with the other. He repeated them silently, lips moving, wondering why he couldn’t think of a way to finish the little poem:

We know your lives together
Will be joyous long after the wedding kiss …


Bliss? Miss? Hiss? Alan paused, then withdrew the spoon, tapping it against the rim of the cup. “Hiss?” he repeated softly, scrunching his face. “Too early to start thinking of him as a snake in the grass?” He shook his head and put the spoon aside. If he stared at the screen long enough, the letters might leap up and rearrange themselves. The second line was too long; too many syllables. He needed to figure out a way to drop some. “We know your lives together … hold joy long … hold joy after …” He trailed off, willing blood vessels not to explode with the pain of completing the stanza.

Instead, his brain conjured:

This card writer moved to Nantucket
Where he told his publisher “Just fuck it
“I’ve got more things to do
“Than satisfy you
“You can take your pap and go suck it.”


Momentarily pleased with himself, Alan took a quick drink of coffee and chuckled as he set the cup down, keeping his eyes on the tablet. He felt marginally better about the crap on the screen, and himself – it was low-grade second-grade poetry, but that mental limerick hadn’t exactly been a Drama Desk candidate, either. “This can’t be this difficult,” he mumbled, picking up the small metal stylus and hitting the Back button, blowing air out between his teeth until the screen was a blank gray-white again.

A gust of chilly air blew past his table, and he looked up to see the reason for leaving his little writing desk at home today. He didn’t say anything as Michael Connor shrugged off his coat and dropped it haphazardly folded over the other chair, nodding at Alan. He crossed to the counter, and Alan overheard him ordering a latte, something with chocolate and whip. He tried not to think about the upcoming conversation, by focusing instead on the wedding card he was supposed to be authoring.

The artwork (not his!) was two cutely goofy dogs dressed like people, in a tuxedo and wedding gown, noses together in a chaste doggy smooch on the cover. Inside were to be two gem-studded dog collars linked to look like wedding rings. Alan had tossed off a couple of canine-themed poems to his publisher, just off the top of his head, but they were turned down. “No goofiness,” Carter told him. “Just regular, old-fashioned straight sentiment, Rhodes.”

That’s the dumbest thing ever, he’d thought two hours ago when Carter handed it to him, but he’d said nothing. “That’s the dumbest thing ever,” he echoed now, out loud.

Hidden for length - more story under here )


(Written for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol's Week 6 prompt "step on a crack" as referenced here - not the voting link, I'll post that later.)

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