Where We Belong -- DeVine
Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2004 2:43 am
Kurt swung easily from branch to branch, vine to vine, as the monkeys cried after him. He almost laughed as one took a wrong turn and fell into the trap he'd set before leaving.
The sun was hot, but down under the trees it was cool. He hung by his tail as he sized up the next crossing. There was some open ground, a small clearing, so he either had to teleport or leap down.
He leapt down easily, capering off limbs and sliding down vines, and crouched down for a moment, letting his keen ears pick up the birdcalls and rustling and insect buzzes while he remained focussed on the angry screams of the pursuing simians.
The monkeys hadn't been thrilled when he'd gamboled into their midst high in the canopy, and despite their small size, their sheer numbers had made it quite a chase so far. He felt confident he'd gained enough of a lead that he could leave them far behind now. They'd probably give up soon, anyhow.
At that moment, he heard something large barreling through the underbrush toward him. Twisting around, he saw several strange looking brown-furred animals. He leapt aside as they rushed frantically past him, and at that instant it occurred to him to look back and see what was chasing them. His danger-honed reflexes kicked in and he flipped away before he even consciously registered the jaguar's swiping claws for what they were. The beast's mate bounded to a halt behind it, and the two began to circle Kurt, trading him for their previous quarry.
Kurt knew he could teleport away at any moment, but the idea of testing himself against these deadly hunting cats held a definite appeal. The two moved fluidly, trying to flank him, and he knew as soon as he lost sight of one, it would attack and its mate would not be far behind. He held his arms out, crouched in a ready post, his tail lashing with anticipation.
Suddenly, the jaguar on the left stopped snarling and walked up to Kurt quite boldly, startling him. It cleared its throat and asked, "Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?"
The other jaguar continued circling and came up beside the first, chiming in, "It goes terrifically with capybara."
Kurt stammered, "Capy … capy…"
"Capybara, my dear Kurt. You know, the largest rodent in the world? Three of them just came by, attempting to avoid us?"
Kurt's fog lifted and he growled, "Kitty!"
The jaguars both said, "Yes?"
"NOT you!" Kurt stood and looked where he knew, or thought he knew, the control booth was; it was easy to lose track of that sort of thing in the Danger Room.
"Um…what?" Kitty's perky voice cut through the rainforest as if she were standing beside him.
"What did you do to my program?"
"I just made it better?" There was a definite giggle, and he thought he heard another voice in the background as well.
"If I wanted talking animals, I would have gone to Disney World!" he shouted.
"Okay! When are we going?"
The jaguars turned nose to nose as Kurt howled in frustration. "I say, quite an upsettable chap, isn't he?"
"Rather. Bad nerves."
"Oh … you … just keep out of this!" Kurt turned his outrage on the felines, who exchanged glances and started strutting away slowly, muttering things like, "I never" and "Poor upbringing" and "No manners at all, these young chaps."
"So?" Kitty chirped, even more annoyingly cheerful than before.
"So what?" Kurt held his head in his hands. She'd managed to confuse him again.
"When are we going?"
"I swear. Men. It was like ten seconds ago," Bobby Drake said in his best imitation of Kitty, and Kurt immediately knew who got Beast away from the controls.
"I will get you both for this! You just wait!"
"You're gonna take us BOTH?" Kitty squealed.
"Wow, man, that's great! I've never been to Disney World before. Disneyland, sure. Who hasn't?" Maybe Bobby was being more annoyingly cheerful now.
Kurt decided to give up and pivoted to leave the room…at least, he thought he was leaving the room…but instead of the door he expected, he saw a large castle. The doors opened, and a dizzying array of costumed characters came prancing out.
"KITTY!!!" Oh, he was going to get her. If it took the rest of the day, the week, his life, he was going to get her. With a soft *bamf* and a wisp of very real sulfur, he fled the Danger Room to make his plans.
"So, do you think he was impressed?" Kitty turned to find Bobby Drake lying on the floor, holding his sides and gasping for air, bright red.
"Bobby! I asked you a question." The computer whiz watched as Bobby slowly regained control and sat up, looking at her.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Oh, that was the best! What did you say, again?"
"Do you think he was impressed? I was good, wasn't I?"
"Oh, yeah. You were GREAT. … What do you mean, impressed?"
"BOBBY!" Kitty turned away from him in a huff. Though she was nineteen, Kitty still sometimes let her enthusiasm get away with her. She could be serious as anyone in a crisis, as compassionate, as sophisticated, even. But there were times when she was still a kid.
"I mean it. What do you mean when you say impressed? I thought this was a great gag. Wasn't it?" Bobby began feeling uneasy. Kitty wasn't reacting the way he'd expected. When she'd asked him to help her set this up, he just thought that she wanted to pull a prank on Kurt, and he knew that for some reason she'd been banned from operating the Danger Room when Kurt was in there alone. Something about a Tunnel of Love and kewpie dolls, he'd heard. He never suspected anything more.
"I just…I really want him to like me." She still wasn't looking at him. That wasn't a good sign.
"I'm pretty sure he does like you … " Bobby said, trying to cover up the sinking feeling that she wanted Kurt to like her in a very different way than he'd thought. He was even more certain when she continued on as if she hadn't heard him.
"I thought if I did something really impressive, something that showed him how smart I was and how creative, too, he'd notice me. You know? I can't compare to Ororo or Jean or even Rogue right now."
Bobby picked himself up and placed his hands on Kitty's shoulders. "Now, just hold on there. So you aren't built like some of the others. Neither am I. Well, I mean, not like Storm and Jean. I mean, like Scott or Wolverine. But you know what? So what. You are not ugly by any means. I'm pretty certain I'm not either." She giggled despite herself, and he gave her shoulders a small squeeze. "Of course, maybe I am. I haven't had a lot of dates lately.
"Point is, though, you are pretty. Beautiful," he added hastily. "You are also smart, creative, clever, unique … I can't say I know of many others with your power or who found so many ways to use it as you have. Maybe he just … remembers Kitty the kid, not Katherine Pryde, the young woman. Maybe you have to introduce her to him. It's worth a shot, right?"
Quickly she turned around and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him. He blinked and smiled, hugging her back, as she said, "Thanks, Bobby. I don't think I saw it that way before. I'll think about it and I'll try it your way."
"You will?" Bobby blinked in surprise. Kitty just smiled and walked out of the control room.
Bobby heaved a great sigh of relief and slumped back into a chair. "Wow. That was a close one." He smiled, then, and nearly broke out laughing again. Reaching up, he punched a button and a small tray slid open. Holding up the disk that had been inside it, he grinned. What good was a joke if you couldn't share it with everybody?
Posted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 3:18 pm
Author's Note: From an idea by Mysterious Gentleman X comes this story of role playing, Kurt, funny stuff, and hamsters. It's probably much funnier if you've ever played a role-playing game. I combined it with another story a role-player told me about a game where he had giant space hamsters, and his players got out of hand with them. This is the result.
Disclaimer: I made up the game of Space Cowboys and the Fantastic Gaming House company. To my knowledge, there is no space game with Old West names for the skills, character classes, and so on. If it actually resembles anything other than a smart-ass gamer's imagination, that's not my doing. Void where prohibited. Shouldn't you be reading the story, instead?
There was a small, dark room on the mansion's third floor, usually empty. It had occasionally been used as extra storage space. Oddly enough, if someone were listening at the door today, they would hear a soft moan coming from the room. No, not a ghost, not a phantasm or demon or other unearthly apparition…well, if you were familiar with the man making the sounds.
Kurt Wagner was moaning, holding his head in the dark, tail flat and limp, feeling extraordinarily defeated. "Three times," he repeated, "three times."
Kurt had been very excited when Space Cowboys, 3rd Edition, had come out from Fantastic Gaming House. He had never gotten into Dungeons and Dragons or the other more traditional role-playing games, but Space Cowboys looked fun. And it had been, despite the numerous mistakes in statistics and misprints in the first and second editions. Now that the third had arrived, he was desperate to find a group to play it with. That was his first hurdle to clear.
At first, he had been uniformly rejected by everyone he approached…Betsy Braddock, Scott Summers (who had murmured something about not giving someone more ammunition? Whatever that meant…), Remy LeBeau, Sean Cassidy, Storm, Logan, Jean Gray, and Rogue all more or less politely turned him down. Then he had asked Kitty Pryde, and she accepted.
They worked on characters and shared the books, and she seemed as excited as he about the game, but they needed at least one more player. Kitty managed to recruit Warren Worthington after a little pleading, at least partly because he and Betsy were having another fight at the time. Then the day arrived, the day they would play the first game. Kurt arrived half an hour early, excited and ready. He had sound effects. He had his Game Master screen, to keep his dice rolls and plot devices secret from the players. He had the official Space Cowboys Dice Set™. He set up the table and chairs the way he wanted them.
Kitty arrived about fifteen minutes early, and he had her sit in a corner while he rolled dice and looked important behind his screen, which depicted a Space Cowboy flying his ship through uncharted galaxies. They talked quietly about her character, a few of the game statistics that had bothered Kitty, and waited for Warren.
It was time for the game, and they kept talking, waiting for Warren.
Finally, half an hour after the official game time, Kitty went to find him. Kurt re-read the starting adventure template, noting where he had changed the game plan to accommodate his players.
He didn't notice when Kitty returned to the room, but he finally looked up from the module and saw her standing close by, red-faced and twisting her hands behind her back nervously. "Um, Kurt? I think Warren's going to be busy."
"Why? We made sure any emergencies would be covered by someone else…"
Her blush deepened, her arms swung to her sides, and her left tennis shoe started tracing shapes on the carpet. She did not meet his eyes, but looked up from the floor and stared at a point over his right shoulder. "Um, well, I think he kinda made up with Betsy."
Oh? OH! Kurt nodded and was glad for his fur covering as he coughed and closed his book. "Well, I suppose we cannot blame him for choosing to…make up rather than come to the game. We shall have to put it off for a while."
Kitty looked up at him as he stood and started cleaning up his dice. "I thought maybe just the two of us could play," she began, the blush still tingeing her cheeks. "I mean, we've done all this work and all…"
Kurt sighed. "It is a good idea, Kitty, but with just two of us, what would be the point?" He closed his dice bag and the main SC book, then folded the screen into a precise square. "We need more players."
She did not move as Kurt packed up everything into its box. "Oh. Yeah. I guess." She was trying to sound offhand and uncaring, but her disappointment shone through.
Kurt smiled at her and raised her chin to gaze into her watery blue eyes. "Do not worry. There is only so much time Warren will be … busy. We will have our game."
She smiled and blinked her tears away. "Yeah. You're right." She stayed in the room as Kurt left with his box, staring at her character sheet.
The second time, the game was cancelled because Bobby, who had joined the game along with Hank, had gotten in an accident. Half his arm had been melted away and the acid that had been used meant he needed at least a week to heal it. Though he protested that the others should go and have a good time without him, the tension in his face and the forced quality of his laughter showed that he really didn't mean it, and they all gladly postponed the game.
The third time was the charm. Though Warren once again could not make it to the game, having proposed to Betsy the night before and deep in the chaos of wedding planning, Kitty, Bobby, and Hank were ready to play. They had all assembled and were ready to go. Kurt happily picked up the module again. He opened his mouth to set the stage for the game, and Jubilee tore into the room. "Anyone seen Storm?" She stopped and picked up Kitty's character sheet. "What's this? Seems pretty lame. Lariat skill?" She snorted and dropped into the seat to Kitty's left, putting herself in Bobby's lap. "Geeking out, are we?"
Kurt sighed. "Yes, and since you don't want to be a geek…" He waited for the teenager to make the connection on her own, but she looked at Bobby's character sheet and giggled. Holding it up, she choked out, "You named…yourself…'Howdy Potna'?" She dropped the page on the table and clapped both hands to her mouth, nearly rolling off Bobby's lap.
Hank calmly proclaimed, "I have named myself Walter Brennan, if you find such things amusing."
Kitty started laughing and made some sputtering reference to someone named Mr. Munson, or Dunson, as Jubilee stopped laughing and cocked her head at Hank. "What's funny about Walter Brennan?" she said, puzzled.
Kitty exploded, rolling to the floor, begging, "Kurt, make her stop, please, I can't take it!" Bobby shrugged and grinned apologetically as Hank sighed, "I suppose she did not see Red River with us, did she? No matter."
Kurt set down the game module and pushed a spare character sheet across the table. "If you want to stay, Jubilee, you have to make a character. You cannot stay if you are not playing."
"Awww." The girl took the page and scanned it quickly. "Okay."
Kurt nearly choked, Hank applauded, and Kitty got back into her seat.
"But I want to be an elf."
An elf?! A space cowboy…elf? Kurt groaned, Kitty rolled her eyes, Bobby pulled Jubilee closer to his chest and got his pencil ready, and Hank guffawed. "A novel idea! I shall be happy to modify the game statistics to fit your chosen race."
Over his protests and Kitty's attempts to back him up, Hank and Bobby started helping Jubilee make her character.
Finally, Princess Annabella was ready to join Howdy Potna, Walter Brennan, and Handy Nanny on the old space trail, though Kitty was still miffed by Jubilee's choice of a higher Attractiveness score than hers.
"Okay, Cattle Baron … Princess," Kurt began, "you have hired this group of space cowboys to get your supplies from the planet Holstein to the planet Heifer, where you live."
Kitty grinned and looked at Jubilee, who was snuggled against Bobby's chest and looked very comfortably oblivious. Hank covered his mouth with one big, furry hand and made some gurgling noises. Kurt frowned at them and continued. "Because you don't entirely trust them, you are travelling along in Howdy's spaceship with his crew, Handy the Rodeo Clown and …"
"A very attractive rodeo clown," Kitty muttered as Jubilee snickered.
"Yeah, I'm sure your red nose is much prettier than everyone else's," Jubilee rejoined, giving her first eye roll of the evening.
Kurt cleared his throat loudly. "Please, I may continue?" Kitty ducked her head and Jubilee waved absently at him, turning to listen to a whisper from Bobby. He nodded and went on. "And Walter Brennan, the Range Boss. All seems well for much of your journey, any simple problems with the ship are easily corrected by Howdy and no major problems require Handy's attention. However, as you approach Holstein, your engine starts making sputtering noises."
Bobby cleared his throat and spoke in a hackneyed parody of a Western accent. "Come on, old girl, don't fail on me now…we gotta get to Dodge!"
Hank's voice was high-pitched and quavery, like an old man's. "Mr. Podna, I reckon that there Handy gal can git us there!"
"Oh, please." Jubilee's disdain rang through the room. "What can a clown do?"
Kitty froze in place and forced a smile, her words coming out one at a time like bullets. "We already told you. Rodeo Clowns are jacks-of-all-trades, able to do something about anything that comes up, and do it without worrying anyone."
"Oh. Right." Jubilee waved dismissively at Kitty. "Carry on."
Kitty closed her eyes and Kurt sent up a brief prayer to St. Anthony while he waited for her response. It came in her quiet, oddly grown-up voice. "I'll get right on it, Mr. Podna. Mr. Brennan."
Kurt made a discreet roll behind his screen. The die he had decided was the "weird" result came up with the highest number. He nodded to Kitty. "Roll your Audacity."
Kitty took one of her dice and threw it. "Six."
"Well." Kurt tapped the page and looked at the players. "You think you can bring the ship in safely, but you will not land in Dodge. You will be about fifty miles away, in a grassland called the Valley of Fear."
"Close to some place where we can go shopping for a new ship or something, right?" Jubilee tossed her head. "I am so not walking fifty miles."
Kurt grimaced. "Not exactly. The nearest town is ten miles away, and in the opposite direction of what you want."
"Yeah. Right." Jubilee tossed her paper on the table and got out of Bobby's lap with some difficulty. "Geez, Bobby, let go already! I'm not going to walk anywhere. I'm a princess and an elf. Later."
Bobby watched her leave, an odd look on his face, then turned back to his staring teammates. "What? She was warm." He pulled over his character sheet and became very interested in writing something on it.
Kurt sent another burst of thought poor St. Anthony's way and then looked back at the module. "So, Handy. Are you going to go down in the Valley?"
Hank's mellow tenor broke in as Kitty was about to speak. "Valley so low, hang your head over…."
Bobby's uncertain baritone joined Hank, "Hear the wind blow…."
Startled by this sudden burst of song, Kurt let them complete it, through the final "Hang your head over, hear the wind blow." Kitty clapped for them and poked him in the side. "They're good, aren't they? And you kind of asked for it…"
"I did?" He scratched his head, then shook it, letting the issue go. "Now. You have landed safely. Princess Annabella has decided to remain on the ship until you come back for her. What are you going to do?"
Hank raised a finger. "I believe we all should head on out and find a trail."
"All right. You head out into a grass sea. The grass is at least three feet above your heads." Kurt went back to the module. If you get a chance, introduce the characters to the giant hamsters on the planet. They are utterly unremarkable brown hamsters, other than the fact that they stand nine feet tall. They will not attack the party on purpose, but if scared, they might run their way… He grinned. "Everyone, roll your Nosiness score. You want to roll under the number listed on your sheet. If you roll over or equal to it, let me know."
The three players picked up their dice and rolled. Kitty relaxed in her chair, Bobby picked up his die and dramatically cried out, "Why have you betrayed me?", and Hank nodded at the result of his roll.
"Did anyone other than Bobby not make the roll?"
Bobby looked offended. "Hey, I never said I didn't make it."
Kurt looked down his nose at Bobby. "Did you?"
Bobby grinned. "Well, no, but I never said it."
Kurt nodded and closed his eyes. "Anyone else?"
Kitty chirped, "Made it, boss." Hank chimed in, "I have a success as well, as my octahedron reads three and my score is five."
"Very well." He rubbed his hands together. "Howdy, you are too worried about your ship to notice, but Handy and Walter hear something large rustling in the grass to your left."
"I ready my piece for action, yes siree, I do," "Walter" said in Hank's voice.
"Handy will ready her Entertainment as a distraction for whatever is coming," Kitty announced.
"All right. Ignoring Howdy, you two prepare to face the thing."
"What?" Bobby turned on the others, his Western accent gone. "It's my freaking ship, I'm the pilot, and you two don't think to tell me some vicious monster's coming?"
Kitty shrugged. "You're too busy with your ship to notice anyway."
"Maybe. Maybe not. It'd be nice to have a warning."
Kurt broke in. "While you are arguing, a large brown shape comes into view. Its sharp teeth reach for the tips of the grass above you. What do you do?"
"Well, I fire my piece and let that old beastie have a taste of lead." Hank adjusted the huge hat he was wearing and pretended to aim a gun.
"Can I notice it NOW?" Bobby asked.
"Sure. You notice that Walter has just fired his gun, and you hear a loud piercing squeal from the creature he just hit. It's large, brown, furry, and stands about three feet taller than you." Kurt decided the wound wasn't serious, but the hamster was startled by the noise and pain and would try to run away.
"Great! I lasso it."
"What?" Kurt blinked and tried to clear out his right ear with his thick index finger. "You want to lasso a huge wounded animal."
"You don't even know what it is."
"It could attack you at any minute."
"It Must Be Mine!" Bobby and Hank chorused, then high-fived each other as Kitty gulped, "Oh, my…" and stared helplessly at Kurt, who was trying to remember the Salve Regina.
"Fine!" he snapped. "Make your Lariat roll."
Bobby rolled and smirked at the results. Kurt didn't wait for him to say he had succeeded. "The giant hamster, which was trying to run away, has decided you are a threat because you captured it, and is going to attack you. Roll your Giddy-Up to get away from it, and Bobby, you can only get away if you drop the rope."
"Nah. I'm keeping him. I use my Varmint skill to calm him down." Bobby leaned back in his chair, still smirking, and Kurt lost the last of his self-control. Jubilee had worn him down to his last nerve, the players had been annoying anyway, and now Bobby was being completely obnoxious.
"Great. The hamster bites off your arms and runs off, crushing your space ship and killing you. The game is over. Leave."
The players sat in stunned silence for a second, and then Hank cleared his throat. "Robert, you were going to help me cleanse the beakers in my laboratory, yes?"
Bobby's chair tipped over and he thumped to the floor. "Yeah, what you said, Hank. Cleaning. Sounds fun," came from under the table in Bobby's vicinity.
The men left together as Kurt closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. He opened them at the light touch of Kitty's hand on his. "They didn't mean anything bad, Kurt. We were all just trying to have some fun."
He smiled into her earnest blue eyes. "Katzchen, I just…I should have stopped after Jubilee left. Now I…need to be alone." His fingers wrapped around hers and squeezed. Her hand felt good in his.
"Oh. Okay. Um, do you want me to clean up?" She gave his hand a last pat and then picked up her dice, pencil, and character sheet.
"No. Not now. I need to be alone. Just turn out the lights as you go."
She walked to the door and flipped the switch. In the doorway, she gave a sudden snicker and said, "A cowboy elf." She closed the door on him, and he gave a smile before giving in again to his despair. Would his game ever get off the ground?