Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

©2020 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 21: Baronette

"Once you've finished cleaning and putting everything away where you want it, you can return to the library and I'll do what I can to point you in the right direction to discover for yourselves how to responsibly dispose of hazardous waste." Ms. Mordigan said with a grin, obviously pleased with herself.

Despite how onerous the task seemed, none of the 'non-test takers' had the will to speak out against it.

"Hey guys! Looking good!" Andrew said as he suddenly appeared in their midst.

"Are you here to help us set up the workshop?" Beau asked hopefully.

"Yes. I wasn't looking forward to all the cleaning that needed to be done, but it looks like you've already taken care of most of that. It looks great!" Andrew said as he looked around.

"Yeah. Everything's been cleaned and we just have a few shelves left to bring back in. It should only take us a few minutes" Beau quickly explained.

"Don't worry. I've got it." Andrew said as he glanced out the window.

Without any fanfare, those few remaining pieces of furniture on the lawn simply vanished and reappeared inside the cottage, exactly where they would be needed.

"I guess we could have saved ourselves a lot of wasted effort if we just waited for you to get here." Lisa said in realization.

"Nah. I may be good at moving things around, but I don't have any ability that helps with the cleaning. What you did needed to be done, and thanks to you doing it, now we're ready to get this place set up." Andrew said enthusiastically.

"I was about to walk the test-takers back to the mansion for their next round of evaluations. Are you going to need us for anything before we go?" Ms. Mordigan asked cautiously.

"The only person I'd like to have close at hand is Beau. But if you need him to go with you, I can do the bulk of this on my own and wait until he's free to do the detail work." Andrew said frankly.

"No. That won't be necessary. All of Beauregard's academic testing has been done. He's free to stay with you for as long as you need him." Ms. Mordigan assured him.

"What about Seth?" Andrew asked curiously.

"He does have some testing to do." Ms. Mordigan said seriously.

"That's okay. If he didn't, it might be a good opportunity for me and him and Dad to spend some time working on our portals together. But we can do that some other time. There's no rush." Andrew said, more to Seth than to Ms. Mordigan.

"Dad?" Ms. Mordigan asked cautiously.

"Andrew is my son." Lee said simply.

There was a long moment of silence as Ms. Mordigan looked back and forth between the two young men who looked like brothers before finally saying to Lee, "I guess I can see what you were talking about when you said that you're 'old for your age'."

"I thought that with the way Quaid was talking about his grandfather that you had already figured it out." Slash said seriously.

"It's been a long day. There's been quite a bit to take in." Ms. Mordigan said in her defense.

"What still needs to be done before we head back to do our testing?" Brian asked curiously, in an effort to keep them on task.

"Have we met? What was your name again?" Ms. Mordigan asked him curiously.

"My name is Brian." He said firmly, and all those watching could tell that he was putting forth some type of mental effort as he concentrated on Ms. Mordigan.

"Oh... of course. Prognostication and all that. It must have slipped my mind." Ms. Mordigan said in a slightly flustered state.

"It's okay. I get that a lot." Brian said with a smile and seemed to be relieved at her reaction.

"I suppose that if no one has anything else, we can head back to the mansion now." Ms. Mordigan said pleasantly.

"If you like, I can create a portal for you. It'll save you a few steps." Andrew quietly offered as a doorway leading into the library appeared right before them.

"That ability of yours seems to come in handy." Ms. Mordigan said, somewhat dubiously.

"It has its ups and downs." Andrew said with a smile as he gestured toward the portal, inviting them to go through.

"Why, thank you." Ms. Mordigan said in proper response to his courtesy.

//Hold on. If no one minds, I'd like to stay here.// Jesus hurriedly announced.

"Yeah. I bet it's boring just hanging out with me while I'm taking tests." Louie said frankly.

//Actually, it hasn't been bad. It was very relaxing. But now there's work to be done and I'd like to be here to help out if I can.// Jesus said as he slipped out of Louie's backpack then fell in slow motion, down to the floor.

"We'll be glad to have your help." Beau assured him.

Once on the floor, Jesus moved to stand in line with his teammates, beside Slash's foot.

"We'll meet you back here when the testing is finished." Ms. Mordigan said to confirm.

"I won't be able to stay too long. I have classes..." Andrew trailed off as he looked at his father apologetically.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is me doing my liaison job. Don't worry if you have to go, I'll keep an eye on things here." Lee assured him.

"Thanks, Dad." Andrew said with relief.

"I guess the sooner we start, the sooner we'll be back here to help you." Ms. Mordigan said before stepping through Andrew's portal, followed by Quaid, Louie, Seth, and Brian.

* * * * *

"What do you want to do first?" Beau asked cautiously as he looked around the cabin.

"As much as I'd like to unpack the things that we bought this morning, I think it would be better for us to get the basic supplies put into place first so that we can see how everything's going to lay out." Andrew suggested thoughtfully.

"Yeah. That sounds right." Beau said easily.

"Give me a second to see if the others are ready." Andrew said as his eyes suddenly flared with golden light.

"And here I was, thinking that everyone would be afraid of me and hate me if they found out that I was different." Beau said slowly as he stared at the eerie sight.

"It's the normal looking ones you have to watch out for." Lisa said conspiratorially to no one in particular.

Steve nodded his agreement.

//Andrew, would you mind if I piggy-back on your vision for a minute? I'm interested to know what it is that you see when you do that.// Jesus asked hopefully.

"No problem, but you'd better hurry up and hop on! It's only going to take me a few seconds to find out what I need to know." Andrew said cheerfully.

//Yeah. Wow, that's...// Jesus began to say, then abruptly stopped.

No one spoke as they waited for Jesus to reveal what he was seeing.

//Okay. That's just insane. It's like your eyes are flying around, looking inside, outside, and right through the middle of things.// Jesus said in wonder.

"It's something like an itty-bitty portal, just for my eyes. It doesn't phase all the way in though. It's just enough so that I can get a peek through it." Andrew tried to explain.

//Still, that's way too much for me. It's even more of a sensory overload than being Vile Kricket.// Jesus said in an overwhelmed mind-voice.

"It takes some getting used to." Andrew easily admitted.

"Is there anything we can do right now to help?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"Hang on." Andrew said quickly, then vanished.

"I really feel like we should be doing something." Lisa said hesitantly.

//I think he's gathering the other people who are going to be using the workshop.// Jesus said frankly.

"Is that what he was looking at with his golden eyes thing." Slash asked curiously.

//Yes. As far as I could tell. Piggy backing his vision was like watching a video in extreme fast forward. I didn't have time to notice every single thing.// Jesus said with gentle amusement under his words.

"It sounds kind of like when Quaid and I were 'hell surfing'." Lee said frankly.

"What's that?" Beau asked curiously.

"Riding inside Quaid's cube through the hell dimension at the speed of thought. It's kind of like riding a roller coaster at top speed... without tracks... on fire." Lee fought to explain.

//Would you mind if I look for myself?// Jesus asked curiously.

"Sure. Go ahead." Lee easily agreed.

There was a long silent moment until Jesus finally said, //Andrew's vision seems to be more frenetic but Lee's 'hell surfing' seems more adventurous. I think that being Vile Kricket falls somewhere in between.//

"I don't know, but 'hell surfing' actually sounds like it might be kinda fun." Beau reluctantly admitted.

"I'm glad you think so, because as far as I know, we don't have a faster or more dependable mode of transportation available to us. If the team needs to go somewhere fast, that's probably how we're getting there." Lee said frankly.

"Couldn't we use Quaid's cube to do the same thing in this dimension?" Slash slowly asked.

"We could try, but it would probably be too dangerous. In the hell dimension, I can use my ability to phase us in and out a little or a lot so that we can fly at a high rate of speed without having to worry about hitting things. The physics of this world are a little different. Truthfully, I'd be afraid to even try." Lee tried to explain.

"So if you're not traveling with us, we're stuck?" Slash asked anxiously.

"I don't know. I guess you could still try. You'd probably just have to go slower." Lee said seriously.

"Seth might be able to do it." Beau interjected.

After a moment to consider, Lee quietly conceded, "He might."

* * * * *

"Change of plans." Andrew said as he suddenly appeared with a beautiful, long-haired girl standing timidly at his side.

"Which plans?" Beau asked with concern.

"Originally, I was planning to port the items that we'd be needing in here from three different locations, but Dawn pointed out... by the way, everyone, this is Dawn." Andrew babbled.

A few of the Meerkats said 'hi' or waved.

"Anyway, Dawn was saying that it might be better for me to open portals to all the rooms at once so that we can pick and choose what we want to move. That will give all of us an opportunity to make suggestions and discuss what we'd like to do with certain items so we'll all be on the same page with planning. Doing it this way, hopefully we'll be able to meet everyone's minimum requirements and it might keep us from having too many duplicates of items that we don't need that much of." Andrew explained.

"I have about twelve incense burners, just of my own." Dawn said frankly.

"I probably have about ten and I barely even practice anymore." Andrew responded.

"Were you going to bring Tara over?" Dawn asked hopefully.

"Yes. She's busy right now, giving Cynthia instructions before leaving her with Marc and Gar." Andrew explained.

After a look at the others to see if they had any idea of what Andrew was talking about, Lisa finally asked, "Cynthia?"

"Yeah. She's one of Hank's new medical assistants. He's been needing to hire someone for a while now. He's been working poor Tara half to death." Andrew explained.

"I'd be a lot more upset with him about that if Tara wasn't loving every minute of it." Dawn said honestly.

Andrew nodded, then glanced in the direction of the mansion as his eyes glowed for just an instant.

"Now that I know what that is, it's kinda creepy to see you doing it." Lisa said hesitantly.

"She's ready." Andrew announced without giving any indication that he heard what Lisa was saying.

Suddenly, three doors appeared on the side wall, all at the same time, each obviously leading to a completely different room.

The first of the three doorways revealed the stark lighting and brushed steel of the MedLab, complete with Tara looking back at them curiously.

"Not only does this allow Tara to join us, but I also thought that this way Lisa would be able to visit with Marc when she has a free minute." Andrew explained, not only to the group, but also to Tara herself.

"Marc was asleep the last time I checked in on him, but if you'll leave the portal open, Cynthia can let us know when he's awake." Tara said pleasantly as she walked through the doorway to join them.

"Thank you." Lisa said sincerely as she fought the urge to run past Tara and verify for herself how Marc was doing.

"If you guys wouldn't mind helping me, I've got quite a bit of stuff to go through." Dawn said as she gestured toward the second doorway.

The room Dawn indicated was dark, menacing, and jam-packed, floor to ceiling, mostly with books.

"Holy crap! You've got more of a library than the library!" Beau exclaimed as he stepped into the room and saw row after row of tightly packed shelving.

"Unholy crap, actually." Dawn quietly corrected as she followed him in.

"Don't worry about Dawn. She isn't really a witchcraft memorabilia hoarder. She's just been kind enough to keep the magic books and supplies that belonged to a former witch." Andrew helpfully explained from the doorway as Steve slithered past him to see what they were talking about.

"Former witch?" Beau asked dubiously.

"Yeah. She went back to being human, so Dawn took custody of her magic books and things to keep her from falling back into it." Andrew said seriously.

"I don't mean to tell you your business, but there's no such thing as turning back from being a witch, not even after death. It's a one-way transformation." Beau said with certainty as Lisa stepped to his side.

"Usually that's true. However, this time, there was a vengeance demon involved." Dawn regretfully added.

"Okay, yeah. I guess a vengeance demon might be able to do it. From what I've heard, their magic is on a whole different level. They play by their own set of rules." Beau said thoughtfully.

"Why don't you guys start hauling? Just about all this stuff that's been packed is going to the workshop... well, except for what's under the tarp. You'd better just leave that be." Dawn said seriously.

"Yeah. Count on it." Steve said with a wary glance at the dark misshapen mass, wrapped in heavy chains and emanating evil.

"Did you want the books kept in order?" Lee asked cautiously as he approached the first bookcase, which was built into the wall.

"For that bookcase, I'd like for you to keep the books from each shelf together, since they're more or less grouped by subject matter but you don't have to worry about it beyond that." Dawn answered.

"I think the thing under the tarp just moved." Slash said in a warning tone.

"Ignore it." Dawn said impatiently.

"Where do you want these boxes?" Lisa asked as she easily lifted a wooden crate.

"How about stacking them on the shelving over there at the back? All those boxes contain things that we only need once in a blue moon." Dawn said frankly.

As Lisa was about to start hauling, Dawn continued, "Since we just had a blue moon, we probably won't have to go digging in them for quite a while."

Lisa wasn't sure if Dawn were being playful or serious, so she quietly carried her box through the doorway, into the 'Gingerbread House'.

"Did you want the bottles and jars moved too?" Slash asked cautiously.

"Yes. The baker's rack shelves in the work area look like they'd be a perfect place to keep them, but before you start, you'll need to move the shelves. Make sure that wherever you position them, that they're not going to get hit with any direct sunlight. Some of those jars contain demon derived components that are extremely light sensitive." Dawn said frankly.

"Really? Have you ever seen a demon?" Steve asked in wonder.

Dawn laughed at the question as Tara demurely smiled.

"Dawn's seen things you probably can't imagine. Back where we're from, Dawn's older sister is called the queen slayer." Andrew explained.

"I've heard the legend of the slayer, but I don't know if that's anything like what you're talking about." Beau said cautiously.

"Actually, I'm sure it's exactly what I'm talking about. But for us, the legend ended up taking off in a whole different direction, next level stuff. Anyway, that's a really long story that we'll have to tell you some other time. For now we need to make good use of the opportunity that we've been given. Dawn, Tara, and I are going to have to get back to work as soon as we can. There are people depending on us." Andrew said seriously.

There was a rattle of bottles being knocked together, then Slash shakily said, "It moved again."

Dawn rolled her eyes, then muttered, "Sometimes I could just kick Willow for sticking me with her dirty work."

"Is there anything we can do?" Andrew asked cautiously.

"No. I've got this. Just give me a second." Dawn said wearily, then stood directly in front of the bound lump and pointed at it as she clearly enunciated, "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down."

There was a muffled snort or growl as the mound quivered, causing the chains to rattle briefly, then it went silent.

"That should keep it quiet for a couple weeks. Just ignore it. We have more important things to do if you're serious about wanting to cast your spell today." Dawn said as she indicated an area of the room that looked to be halfway between a kitchenette and a science lab.

"Um, yeah." Beau said in a disturbed voice as he stared at the chained lump.

"Does everything go or are there things you want left here?" Andrew asked curiously.

"Leave that bottom row of books on the built-in bookcase. They're too dangerous to let them out of my possession. Besides that, I think the rest of the books can all go. Like I said before, you can take any of the boxes. If I realize that I need something that was brought over, I can always come back here and get it." Dawn said to the group in general, then focused on Andrew and continued, "Just leave the work area for me to take care of myself."

"Beau, there are the things we bought from Na'balim." Andrew said as he indicated the third doorway that had appeared.

After a glance in that direction, Beau looked back at Andrew inquiringly.

"As we get the work area set up, you can incorporate these things where you need them for your spell. Once you've seen everything together, you can let me know if we're missing anything." Andrew explained.

"That sounds good. If you don't need me doing anything else, I can start sorting it out now." Beau said hesitantly.

"Sure. While you're doing that, Tara, Dawn, and I can set up the work station. Everyone else can haul the books and general supplies out of Dawn's room." Andrew said decisively.

"Just don't get mad at us if we end up moving something that you didn't want us to. I don't know what a lot of these things are. I mean... what's this?" Slash asked as he picked up a coiled implement with a crank handle from a wooden peg.

"Some things, like those books, I need to keep with me so I can be sure that they aren't going to fall into the wrong hands. Other things, like that, for example, I'd rather not have in my room at all." Dawn said firmly.

"Put that down and wash your hands." Tara said with a queasy look at him.

"Wait. What? Why? What is it?" Slash asked as he hurriedly put the tool back on the peg.

"You insert it..." Dawn began to explain, but was interrupted.

"It doesn't matter. But you can wash up right through there." Andrew said as he indicated the MedLab portal, then quickly added, "Be sure to use lots of soap."

"Excuse me." Slash said in an aggravated tone as he hurried out of the portal from Dawn's room and into the portal to the MedLab.

//Where did you want that thing, anyway? I can move it without touching it.// Jesus asked seriously.

"How about hanging it off the end of that back shelf? You should be able to hook it up there and it'll be out of everyone's way." Andrew suggested.

//I'll take care of it.// Jesus assured him.

* * * * *

After returning to the workshop, Slash went to the task of moving the baker's racks so that they could be used to house the various bottles and jars from Dawn's room. As soon as Tara saw what he was doing, she automatically stepped up to help him and to guide him in organizing things in an intuitive manner.

Beau went into the room that housed his supplies and realized once he was inside, that it was a bedroom in the boathouse. Although he hadn't been in this particular room the night before, the view out the bedroom window was unmistakable.

Andrew watched to see that Beau wasn't going to need his help for anything before going back to work, getting the spellcasting workstation set up for their use.

After Jesus had telekinetically moved the offensive implement, as he said that he would, he decided to continue on with moving other oddly-sized and shaped things while the others focused on the boxes, books, and jars.

When Dawn saw the load that Jesus was levitating, she quietly said, "We hardly ever need that stuff. You can put it up on the top shelf, all the way to the back, if you like."

//Sounds good. But be sure to let me know if I'm putting something useful out of your reach.// Jesus responded.

Dawn nodded her agreement before turning her attention back to what she and Andrew were doing.

After a moment to look over the job before him, Steve cautiously asked, "Do you want for us to move the books off, then move the bookcases over, then put them back on?"

"No. Just focus on emptying the built-in bookcases and move those books over to the bookcases and shelves you just cleaned. Once everything else is settled into place, I can move the free-standing bookcases without disturbing the books." Andrew carefully explained.

"That makes sense. I'm on it." Steve assured him before lifting himself high on his tail to stand about seven feet tall. After gathering an armload of books, Steve lowered himself to find Lee looking at him strangely.

"What?" Steve asked self-consciously.

"I just never thought about you being able to make yourself taller like that. I bet that could come in handy." Lee said as he began gathering books from one of the lower shelves.

"Yeah. I guess so. But it's kind of a trade off. I don't need a step-stool to reach the top shelf, but if it were too much taller, I would have trouble since I have problems using a ladder." Steve said frankly.

//If you come across something that's too high for you to reach, just let me know. Between us, we'll get the job done.// Jesus assured him.

"Thanks. I'm kinda in the habit of being on my own. Do me a favor and let me know if you notice me doing things the hard way." Steve asked hopefully.

"Crap!" Slash said as he placed the bottles he had been carrying down on the countertop.

"Did you spill something on you?" Tara asked with concern as she rushed to his side.

"No. It's nothing like that. It's just that my power got away from me and I turned all the bottles black." Slash said as he backed away.

Tara picked up one of the bottles and looked at it carefully before saying, "I can still make out the writing on the label, so no harm done."

"Good. I'd hate it if I'd ruined some of your magic supplies." Slash said with relief.

"I'm just glad that you weren't carrying the books. That might have been a problem." Tara said frankly.

"I should have thought of that." Slash said regretfully, then quietly admitted, "Since I've been here with everyone I've felt so free, I haven't even thought about holding my ability back. I felt normal."

"I was there when Xander and Warren were talking about opening a school for mutants. I think what you're describing is an example of their combined dream being realized." Andrew said with a smile.

"I'm going to need to get back to class soon. I won't be able to stay until you're all done." Dawn said regretfully.

"As long as you're not worried about us having access to your room while you're gone, we don't have any problem finishing this ourselves." Lee said as he stopped at Andrew's side.

"I've been using the room that the professor assigned me for storage, kind of like an extra big walk-in closet. I've really been staying in Tara's room." Dawn said frankly.

"Well good. I was wondering how anyone could sleep in a room as creepy as that." Lee said seriously.

"I've stayed in worse." Dawn said honestly.

Andrew chuckled and nodded his agreement.

* * * * *

"Tara?" A lovely dark-skinned woman asked as she timidly entered through the MedLab doorway.

"Hi Cynthia. Is something wrong?" Tara asked with immediate concern.

"No... This door wasn't here before, was it?" Cynthia asked nervously as she looked around at the hustle and bustle of everyone working.

"No. It's a temporary thing. Did you need something?" Tara asked seriously, to keep Cynthia on task.

"What? Oh, yes. The older patient, Marc, he's awake. You asked that I notify you." Cynthia rushed to explain.

"Lisa? Are you at a good stopping point?" Tara asked more loudly, toward the second doorway.

"All I'm doing is carrying boxes. I can stop any time." Lisa said as she walked into the room carrying a large cardboard box.

"Cynthia just came to tell us that Marc is awake." Tara said with a gentle smile, obviously happy to be able to deliver welcome news.

"Let me put this away and I'll be ready to go." Lisa hurried to say.

//I've got it from here. You go on and see Marc. Tell him Louie and Jesus said 'hi'.// Jesus said as the box floated out of her hands.

"What? Oh, I will. Thank you, Jesus. I really appreciate it." Lisa said happily, then turned to Tara and asked, "Can we go now?"

Cynthia looked down at Jesus with nothing less than complete confusion.

"Yes. Andrew knows where to find us if he needs us for anything." Tara said with a gentle smile in Andrew's direction before walking away with Lisa.

It took Cynthia a moment to react, but she finally fell into line and followed them out of the room.

* * * * *

"How's it looking, Beau? Have you noticed anything missing that you're going to need?" Andrew asked curiously.

"I'm kind of used to having a sink where I work. I didn't notice any water anywhere around here." Beau said seriously as he looked around.

"I didn't even think of that. Of all the silly things to forget. How much do you think you'll need to do your spell?" Andrew asked curiously.

"I never thought about it. Two or three cups, I guess." Beau said uncertainly.

"I'll get you a gallon jug for now and later we can work on something a little more practical for the longer term." Andrew said seriously.

"I think I have everything else that I'm going to need here. I'm going to have some prep work to do, but the only thing I need that I don't have is some of the nygo-husk webbing." Beau said thoughtfully.

"I can access the in-between realm for you if you need to gather some." Andrew cautiously offered.

"I've got some things that I need to prepare before I can do that. Besides, I'm also going to need for Seth to stabilize it for me before I can cast my spell on it." Beau explained.

"What about... Peter? Have you kept him up-to-date on what you're doing?" Andrew asked anxiously.

"No. We discussed the possibility, but I haven't gotten back with him about it. I suppose that I should probably summon Emily and get her to bring Fallen here so that he can ask whatever questions he has and be completely sure that he wants to go through with it." Beau said seriously.

"Why would you summon this Emily person and not summon Peter?" Andrew asked curiously.

"I'm sure that you already know that the different magical disciplines each have their own set of restrictions. Something that's perfectly acceptable in Sorcery will completely spoil the spell in Wizardry." Beau carefully explained.

"I've never really thought of it in those terms, but I suppose that I knew that." Andrew said cautiously.

"Emily and I have a contract. I can call on her and ask her to help me and in exchange, using my necromancy, I can allow her to continue to exist in the world of the living, even though her time has technically passed." Beau said slowly.

"And you have no such contract with Peter." Andrew guessed.

"Right. And if I tried to summon him, it might... muddy the water, so to speak, potentially causing problems when I try to enact another spelling on him at a later time." Beau said seriously.

"So you're doing your best to have a clean slate to work with from the very beginning." Andrew said slowly, to verify his understanding.

"As much as possible, yes. The embodiment ritual is kind of tricky and it takes a lot of power." Beau said cautiously.

"How dangerous is it going to be?" Andrew slowly asked.

"Listen. I know the ritual and I'm well practiced. With everything we've got here, I don't think I could be any better prepared than I am right now. But even with all that, we're still talking about a dangerous level of magic. I can't promise that nothing will go wrong and no one will get hurt." Beau said frankly.

"I had intended for Dawn and Tara and I to be here to help you, but you know better than I do what risk is involved, you'll have to make the decision." Andrew said slowly.

Beau looked around and noticed that Jesus, Slash, Steve, and Lee had all stopped working and were listening in on their conversation.

"If you or Dawn or Tara wants to be here, I have no problem with that. If you have some kind of defensive spells, they might end up being of use to you." Beau said seriously, then turned to his Meerkat teammates and continued, "But as much as I'd like to have you guys here to stand with me and support me..."

"We're going to be here." Slash said firmly.

//Save your breath. It's happening.// Jesus said simply.

"If you're worried that something might happen to us, we can watch from inside one of Quaid's cubes or Seth could be ready to do his phase out thing to us." Steve explained.

"I can phase you out too." Lee interjected.

"You can?" Steve asked with obvious interest.

"Yeah. Let me show you." Lee said as his eyes glowed red for an instant before he and Steve both vanished in sulfuric puffs of smoke.

"Do you think they should be allowed to stay and witness the ritual?" Beau asked Andrew cautiously.

"I guess it depends on whether them being here will be more of a help or a hindrance for you." Andrew said frankly.

"I don't know if I can really answer that. I mean, I'm worried about what might happen to them if they're allowed to be here." Beau said frankly, but continued more gently, "But they came up with some good, very workable ideas about how to protect themselves. Add to that, this is a really big thing we can do as a team to bring in our newest member. They'll be supporting him... and me... and each other, I suppose. Despite the danger, I can't see myself refusing."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: I think if he were to refuse them, the consequences would be much more serious than his allowing them to remain there, including, but not limited to the hurt feelings and breaking down any trust that has been created within the group. Each member or combination of members, can use his or her talents to increase the possibility of success of the project.

One of the wonderful things about this set of tales is that so many different elements of various back (and front) stories are combined together to make up what seems to be more than the sum of its parts.

Each of the meerkats has, individually or combined, talents that can add to the success of any of the projects that any or all of them come up with.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher