Season of Snow Pt 1

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Ascendant

Previous Story in the Arc: Intercession Part One by John Murdock (Thursday, November 24, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Season of Snow Pt 2 by John Murdock (Thursday, December 29, 2005)

(posted Thursday, December 29, 2005)

Seraphic Flame had only been on an airplane twice in her life, going to and coming from Hawaii. This would be the third time, but oh, what a difference! This was a LlewellCo corporate jet, ferrying them courtesy of Vickie's close association with Rhia Llewellyn, and the level of tasteful luxury here made her blink when she got aboard. Even the young ones were restrained and on good behavior, confronted by such surroundings.

John did not entirely approve, still, despite Vickie's warning. "It'll be posh," she told them both. "Rhia's people are movers and shakers and she treats them accordingly."

John had frowned. "Conspicuous consumption," he'd growled.

"You can think of it that way," Vickie had interrupted, "And you can also think of it as jobs that wouldn't be there if it wasn't for people like Rhia buying these things. Meanwhile, the plane has to go to Fargo anyway, and there's no reason why it can't drop you off in Minneapolis on the way. The return flight's the same, Sera; it'll be coming back from some place in Canada, stopping long enough to pick you up, and returning to Paragon. It might as well take you lot."

But the trip had been surprisingly pleasant, the three executives they had shared the plane with had engaged John in a lively, amicable debate which had ended when one of them had shook his head, and said, "My friend, I would love to see a utopia as much as you, but human nature being what it is, you will never have a truly communal society until you have a fully telepathic society in which no man can inflict pain on another without sharing in that pain." Since there was really no arguing that point, they had cheerfully moved on to other, less potentially explosive subjects.

Now they were offloading their rather bulky luggage into the rented Jeep, helping out the service staff who were most used to executives with suit-bags and laptops rather than bundles of snowshoes, down sleeping bags, and very heavy winter clothing. They were already bundled up in down parkas and fleece-lined boots. She had never worn so much clothing in her life, but since they didn't want to draw attention to themselves, she and John had deemed it prudent not to use powers, so there were no flames to warm her or Ratt up, and as the harsh wind cut across the tarmac she was wishing she had a bit more on.

They would be stopping on the way to pick up supplies. John had laughed when she had timidly asked about food--this cabin had no electricity, after all, and was lit by kerosene lamps and warmed by a wood stove and a fireplace. And she was not exactly a cook.

"There's already 'nough MREs up there for a month." he said. "Nothin' t' fix, an' they heat themselves. Not what I'd want for a steady diet, but a few days? They'll be all right. Even got turkey ones for Christmas Day."

The airport was right on the edge of town, and they would be going into what Vickie laughingly called "the howling wilderness." Another new experience for Flame and also for Ratt and Shuma; this was the first time any of them had ridden in a car. John, of course, had driven just about everything.

It was a fascinating experience for Sera, who almost literally had her nose pressed up against the window, watching the snowy landscape. She felt John's glee in her avidity, and a touch of amusement. She shared in both, even as she drank in the new experience. After all, it was one thing to have access to the memories of others for whom this was commonplace--it was quite another to experience it for one's own self.

They left the busy highway for side roads, stopped at a smallish store, what John called a "mom and pop place", for supplies, and proceeded onward. Finally they got to the point where the road was not plowed, nor even, John said, paved under the snow. The Jeep lumbered through it until Shuma, now granted permission to do so, used her powers to make it light enough that it could skim over the top of the drifts.

And then, finally, they had to stop. The road ended.

The car settled down into the deep snow at a word from John, and they all got out, immediately being buried to the knees in the snow as their own weight plunged them into it.

"John, should I--"

"Love, you'd just leave a skatin' rink around the Jeep. Bad idea,"

"Shuma move snow!" the teenager said immediately, and her singularity appeared next to her. She directed "Boing Jr" around them in ever-widening circles, pushing the snow in front of it like a plow, until they stood in a clear patch."

John had already transformed to the shape best suited for flying, and was off. "John is going to get the place opened and ready for us, and coming back," she told the two teenagers, who looked around in growing anxiety when the realized their adoptive father and the only one who knew anything about this strange place was gone. "We need to unload the things and begin strapping them together so that Shuma can lift them all for us."

One of the things that John had bought was a big plastic tarp. So it was a matter of spreading that out, piling the luggage and supplies onto the tarp with the heaviest things on the bottom, and creating a kind of giant bag. Still, it was a lot of work, and John was back again, just before they finished.

"Good job, family!" he enthused, grinning broadly. "Right, we ready?"

In answer, two of the three of them lifted off the ground slightly as they activated their flight powers. Shuma looked apprehensive and a little jealous--they had made her leave her jet-pack, temporary present from Freedom Corps, behind.

But John laughed, and spread his hands. White light lanced from them, his eyes and theirs all lit up with Kheldian energy, and all of them lifted off the ground. "Save your energies, folks," he said with a smile. "Well, all but you Shuma. People, I can lift, but parcels are a problem."

"Shuma carry stuff!" Shuma said with glee, and propelled by her singularity, the bulky object shot upwards.

The flight to the cabin was a long one; when using his essence to help others to fly, it detracted a good deal from the speed. Hovering over the snow-capped trees, the foursome passed the time catching up on things. With four different patrol schedules, along with Ratt and Shuma's schooling, it was hard for all of them to put aside any time to just sit down together as a family.

After a couple of hours, John motioned for everyone to land in a small clearing. Shuma sighed a bit of relief, able to drop their bundled belongings and rest.

Ratt looked around. "So--where's this place we're stayin'? We gonna pitch tents or somethin'?"

Shuma's face took on a pinched look, with a shadow of anxiety. Sera carefully put an arm around the girl's shoulders. She sensed there was something troubling Shuma, but, could not tell what it was without actually doing something--invasive. Which, without Shuma's permission, simply was not right. "John?" she said, turning toward him. He was, with some repressed glee, hiding his own thoughts from her. :Beloved, this is making Shuma anxious for some reason.: John sent her his mental assent, and then turned to speak.

"Naw, Ratt. Wouldn't make a trio of tenderfoots such as yourselves rough it in the middle've winter." Bowing with a flourish, he pointed straight ahead. "If y'all will please follow me, I'll show ya where we're stayin'." John smiled, trotting off towards a thicket of trees and shrubs. He rounded the edge of the clump of forest, family in tow. And there it was; a true-blue log cabin, straight out of the pioneering past.

"Took me awhile to find this spot. But, it's perfect. Comin' from the way we did, which is where any sort of civilization is, all you'd see lookin' at this place would be more trees. Just the way they're lined up, combined with the fact that the cabin was made out've trees from this spot, and voila; natural camo. Whaddya think?"

Sera blinked. This did not look like a comfortable venue, despite the curl of smoke coming from the chimney, which itself was artfully broken up by the overhanging branches so that not a wisp betrayed the cabin's location. Ratt looked and seemed interested and eager. Shuma shivered. What was it about this place that was making her so anxious?

"It is certainly well-hidden, my love," she said quietly. "And this is a beautiful spot." It was, too. So quiet, so pristine. Magical. But--perhaps--a little too isolated and primitive? The three of them, at least, were accustomed now to the comforts of city dwelling. Sera began to wonder if she would be using her powers to keep them all warm....

John sensed that it was time to end the suspense. He strode forward, swinging the door open suddenly. Light and a wave of warmth spilled from the open passage, illuminating the family in its glow. "Welcome to your Premier Winter Wonderland Home, folks."

The three huddled together moved forward, drawn by the warmth and light just like moths. They crowded into the door, and John shut it behind him, grinning with glee.

The outside of the cabin looked as if it had been abandoned a century ago. The inside--certainly gave the lie to that. Although there must not have been any electricity of any sort here, Sera did not think, at first glance, she would miss it. Lanterns with tall, slender chimneys burned brightly around the walls, hanging from brackets. This was essentially one large room that combined all of functions of living, sleeping, cooking and eating. A wood stove held pride-of-place in the center, and a very small fireplace was built into one wall, also with a fire burning. It looked rather as if John himself had crafted the furniture from branches from the surrounding forest, yet it looked very comfortable, with fat, soft cushions and brightly colored blankets draped over the backs. There was a sink and a pump against one wall, the stove had some sort of tank on the back of it...

...she got the glimpse from John's mind; yes, that would be for hot water.

Downstairs was one large bed, but there was a half-loft above the fireplace, and two more beds rested up there. Like the furniture downstairs, the bed-frames seemed to have been made of branches, still with the bark on. It looked oddly attractive. Even more attractive was the large stack of blankets on each.

John was knelt down in front of the fireplace, pulling his gloves off to warm his hands near the coals. "Cozy, ain't it? Behind that door there," he gestured to a set of wooden planks nailed together and attached to some hinges. "Is the privy. Bedrooms, kitchen, all of it is pretty easy to find; y'never have to look that far. First impressions?"

Ratt grinned. "Coo-cool, Pop! I like it!"

Shuma had relaxed completely. Whatever she had been expecting, it wasn't this. "Is hunky-dory!" she said, her usual exuberance back.

Sera radiated contentment in all directions. "It is a haven, John. A true sanctuary. I cannot think of a better place to be than here with all of you."

John stood up, hands on his hips. He grinned toothily at all of them. "Great. Well, we can get unpacked and then start on fixin' dinner. Sound good? Nothin' special to eat, but it's no so bad either."

"Hunger makes the best sauce, it is said," Sera replied, with a laugh. "And even I can heat an MRE! I shall make some tea."