The Triple Bar Ranch

The Ranch lies some 60 miles outside of Billings Proper, on the old Crow Indian Reservation. On the sides of East Prior Mountain, the 30 acre ranch consists of a central, fairly large lake, with thick trees high foothills of the Sioux Wild Horse Free Range. A large pack of mustangs roams the property, protected by Sioux Law, while many head of cattle share the land.

The ranch house consists of a large hunting lodge and two story home fed by a hydroelectric/solar power generation system, an enclosed garage, a flat area where helicopters can land (Currently containing Mustang Alpha), a goodly sized corral is to one end containing several horses (not wild), a large barn to the other.

An old pick up truck, a pair of motorcycles and a battered four wheeled ATV sit outside.

The trip should be fairly uneventful, although somewhat interesting. The ladies, all three of them, board the chopper and input the commands given, letting the drone brain do the heavy lifting, both literally and figuratively. Their bags loaded up, there is little to do but sit back and watch the scenery and chat, showing Maya the wonder of flying, the way the Earth looks beneath them.

Ally points out some things to Maya along the way, but for the most part she just enjoys the trip too. "When you get a little bigger Maya I'll take you flying with Kassie and me. It'll be so much fun! And then before you know it I bet you'll be able to fly yourself, mmmm?"

"And then you both can teach me how to do it!" Kassie grins to the pair, shaking her head. "Everyone will be all flying around and I'll be earthbound. Miss Maya will just laugh and fly away when I tell her she has to stay home."

Probably the most notable thing, would be the wild mustang herds that prowl this North American outback; indeed, Sam's ranch is right in the middle of the Sioux National Wild Horse Preserve. There is something majestic about a thousand horses charging in the same direction across the landscape.

"Look at the horsies, Maya!" Kass points down at the herds of horses roaming beneath them, pressing her face to the window. "One day, we are going to go riding and take pictures of Maya on a pony." She nods emphatically.

Ally tsks at Kassie, "You better not be flying away from her, Maya, cause I'll teach her how to undo your spell and you'll fall on your butt!" Then she's looking down at the horses too and ooohs. "Oooh the horses are pretty. I should learn to ride. I want to work with animals sometime. I started to learn a little about the principals of animal training. Always thought it'd be amazing to swim with killer whales."

Maya looks back and forth at Ally and Kassie, getting their excitement over what they are doing although not seeing a lot of what is happening, probably. Kassie, for her part, raises an eyebrow. "Killer Whales, eh? Well, I suppose you could do that, that would be neat to see. And we have tons of time, you can always add *more* coursework on." She teases Ally, then adds, "And you owe me a kitty, Aladriel Cindel. Don't think for a moment I have forgotten."

The Triple Bar Ranch surrounds a small lake, probably 3-4 square acres of water itself, wooded around the water. The Helicopter lands next to Mustang Alpha, and Marcus meets the pair of you outside. "Welcome to the Triple Bar." Says the western-dudded gentleman, jeans, a denim jacket and a cowboy hat on.

"Ooooh you're right, I've forgotten our kitties. We'll get on that," Ally promises Kassandra, then ooohs as the helicopter descends into the ranch, touching down gently. "Come on Maya," Ally tells the lil one, scooching with her out of the helicopter.

Kassie slides out on the other side, moving to snag their relatively small amount of bags, likely the least Marcus has ever seen them carry anywhere. She smiles to the man, looking over his outfit. "Well hello there! It is good to see you again."

"Good to be seen. I trust your flight was picturesque at least?" Asks the man, tipping his wide brimmed stetson. "Some on inside, it's mighty cold up here this time of year." He says, moving back away from the snow-plowed launching pad.

Kassie makes a point to stay close to Maya and Ally, the one rolling suitcase trailing along with the, her satchel and their backpacks carried with relative ease. She follows Marcus, giving a smile of confidence and utmost faith in her.

The suitcase is now a drag-along, the snow packed hard, but not enough to take small wheels. Quickly brought inside the house, there's hot chocolate waiting, with marshmellows. The house is warm; not the warm of a climate controlled apartment or a smart house, but the toasty of a fire-place warmed house with a slight draft; it's an earthy warm that Thistlewood lacks. "Sam's down stairs, but he wants you to take a few minutes to stretch and relax before you head down there."

Once inside, Aladriel looks around with Maya and Kass, oohing softly at what she sees. "This is pretty nice," she comments as, feeling the warmth, she unwraps Maya from the blanket that had sheltered and warmed her. Hot chocolate! Going right for the hot chocolate, Ally shifts her precious bundle so she can grab a mug and sip right away.

Pulling off her cap and moving their bags off to the side, Kassie will smile at the warmth of the house, moving to follow the ladies to the hot chocolate. She nods to Marcus' words, "A good idea, sitting for a long time cramps my legs." She tugs lightly on Maya's hair, giggling at the child.

The man nods, moving then to get his own cup. "He's resting comfortably, and he anticipates that he'll be out of the tank in about 3 more days. The dermis is regenerating at a decent clip; He's a strong man."

Carefully sipping her hot cocoa while balancing a curious baby, Ally nods her head a little bit to what Marcus just divulged. "That's good to hear," she murmurs, taking another sip before she looks to Marcus. "Thanks for coming to get us, Marcus," she tells him, one of the brief moments that she'll make eye contact with him.

"I didn't do anything. It was all Kassandra. I was just along for the ride, you know?" Says Marcus, not meeting her gaze but for a moment, then looking away.

Moving from the baby to Ally, Kassie will step a little closer .. she might even be called hovering. It will be very clear that she doesn't intend to stay further away than she can reach in any given moment, and when Ally speaks she will carefully place a hand at the small of her back, working hard to project confidence, comfort, closeness.

"Well it was a terrible, dangerous ride to be on, and it was very brave of you to be with her," Ally presses on quietly encouraged by the touch on her back from Kass, though she doesn't try to meet the man's eyes any more. "I'm very grateful to you. Just wanted you to know." Then she turns to look at Kass. "I think we should go see him now?"

"If you want." Says Marcus then, setting his cup down. "We just finished giving him a bit of dignity… You know, he's not wearing any clothes in that tank."

Kassie remarks, "You did far more than ride along, Marcus. You kept me .. here." She hms, letting that drop for the moment, and nods to Ally's words, setting down her cup carefully. "Yes ma'am." Hands clear, she will reach for Ally, keeping a hand on her arm or her back since she has Maya. She nods soberly, taking a deep breath and nodding again.

A quick nod of agreement to what Kass said: Ally just does her bit to let Marcus know that she appreciates what was done. "We're ready," she tells him, not so much just of the moment, but also mentally prepared to see what there is to see.

The basement is dimly lit, only enough light to actually move around by. A soft blue glow emits from the Nano-tech healing augumentation tank; it's SOTA, bleeding edge for burn victims and people undergoing gene therapy. The tank is upright, with Sam suspended in the solution. Over his crotch level, a black stripe is painted on the external of the tank. Someone has written in white sharpie: CENSORED.

His right arm has been stripped of the reallskin that makes it seem human; while his left has been stripped of the skin that is human, leaving exposed tendon and musculature. Nanomesh weave is slowly regrowing down his arm, currently at about the mid of the bicep.

His face is not lit, leaving his upper body in shadow.

"Hello ladies." Says Sam, his voice digitized across some speakers.

Kass takes a moment to look over the tank, a faint twitch of her lips at the 'censored' tag denoting she might have actually smiled were things not quite so sober. "Hello Samuel." Her voice is quiet, soft, her attention divided between the tank and Aladriel and Maya. She makes sure the baby is facing away (if she wasn't already), giving her fingers to play with and distract her.

Descending down into the basement, Ally is prepared as she can be to see the sight before her. The first thing that she takes in is the whole tank, and then the black censoring stripe. "That's a nice touch," she says with a small little chuckle. Then she lets herself take in all the rest of what she's able to see. That means his human arm, of course, and her face loses some color.

"Hi, Sam," she greets in a low voice, low being all she can manage for the moment.
"It seemed prudent. I would not wish my masculinity and virility to convince you of the error of your tribidal ways." The tone of the digitized voice is one of amusement, trying to make a joke.

"Probably a good idea. I mean, I was teetering on the whole girl thing anyway." Kass murmurs, keeping her tone light. She touches Maya's nose, distracting her from looking to see where the funny voice is coming from.
With her coloring have faded, Sam's joke serves its purpose in coaxing some of it to return. Ally cracks a smile at that and shakes her head a bit. "Are you feeling okay? Geting the right dosages of medication? Keeping the pain down? she asks concernedly.

Sams answer comes smoothly; "Right now I am fully uploaded to the matrix. I return to my own senses to sleep, and then I am indeed drugged. I don't feel anything from my body right now. But enough about me. How are you doing? Are you sleeping okay?"

Kassie listens, considers how it all works. She shrugs a little, "We've done little besides sleep .. sometimes good, sometimes bad." She shrugs a little, playing with Maya absently, eyes on Ally as they speak.

Ally oohs softly, thinking about what the man's been doing for a moment before she nods approvingly. "That's pretty sensible," she murmurs as much for herself as anyone else. Attention returned to her, she gives a little shrug of her shoulders and starts swaying a little bit with Maya, anticipating the baby getting fussy with too much stillness. "What Kass said, pretty much. Slept a lot the last two nights and still really tired."

"I'm glad to hear that. I was concerned you might be unable to sleep; but I forgot the powerful attraction a beautiful woman in bed can be." A chuckle from the speakers. "I'm fine, as you can see Ally. I will be none the worse for ware soon, I am sure."

"True. Having Aladriel that close does make it easier, although her beauty can be distracting sometimes." Kass looks back to the tank and then away again, swallowing. She sighs quietly, unconsciously matching the swaying Ally is doing for Maya, quickly schooling her expression when Maya looks at her and reaches for her hand again.

Ally starts to frown at the joke from Sam and she takes a small step closer to the tank, shaking her head a little bit. "Fine?" Her movements and tone are mostly kept in check because of the babe in her arms, so rather than sounding angry or upset, there's just some sadness to be found there.
"Sam…" she starts, then shakes her head a bit. "I've got just a little scratch on me, and *I'm* not fine."

"Ally… please don't come to close." He says, his voice going monotone. "I… I know. I know your not fine, and neither am I. I'm just trying to keep a positive outlook. You've been through so very much and a good deal of it was my fault."

Sobering immediately, Kassie says quietly. "It was not your fault, Samuel, nor was it yours Ally." She frowns at the floor, having moved forward when Ally did. She takes a half-step back at Sam's admonishment, "It might not even be my fault. In the end, though, I am glad that we are all back. I .." She quiets a moment, shaking her head.

Ally doesn't step back at the cautioning, though so as not to completely ignore it, she doesn't progress any further. Kassandra speaks before she can, taking some of the words right from Ally's mouth. "Why would you say that?" she asks curiously.

"It's not important, Ally. I should have known better. I promised Kass I wouldn't let anything happen; and happen it did. Happen… it really did. Chicago. What the hell was I thinking? I wanted to make you happy, Ally, to give you closure. I didn't ever intend to open new wounds."

Keeping her mouth firmly closed, Kassie lets the pair talk. She doesn't drift away, however; instead, she takes that half-step closer, keeping up the cheerful smile for the baby. Her eyes tell a different story, her lips tugging downwards often.

Her question brushed aside, Ally takes a quick intake of breath and starts counting, trying to keep herself calm. And it's not working that well, and it's not as hidden as she would like it to be. "It *is* important. Did you know we would find her in tha place before we got there? The…whole things, I've got so many things I want to ask you, and I can't take it if you're deciding whats important or not."

"No. I did not." Says Sam. "I didn't know until she was already in my head. Until I saw 'the Marquis'. He seems to have picked up a higher title. When I knew him, he was the Baron."

She knows her well, and knows the warning signs, the stubborn tone of voice, the way she holds herself. Kassie steps forward decisively, telling Ally, "Give." She opens her arms for Maya, to take the girl, to free Ally to talk and question and get things out.

Ally turns to Kass and unquestioningly hands over Maya. Kass does know best after all. "Thanks," she murmurs to Kass before the turns back to face Samuel. It's all in conflict, questions competing with anger and frustration…all jumbled with the memories of a terrible time that they're not so far removed from.
"Just saying that…gives a host of questions for me to ask you," Ally starts, beginning to breathe faster, hands clenching into fists for a moment. It seems like she's going to let loose with a barrage of questions. Seems poised to. And then her shoulders slump a little bit and all of that held within seems to seep out with her slow exhale. "I don't think I can even start when you're like that. It's not fair."

"We have what we have, Ally. And what you have is a captive audience. Use it. If you have questions, I will answer them as best I am able. Take it for what it is worth."

Taking Maya, Kassie quietly bounces the girl, murmuring softly to Ally, "Of course," in response to her thanks. She listens, watching Ally instead of Samuel, half-turned to as not see the damage, not try to look at what he has already mentioned was harmed. She watches Ally's fists clench, her heart hurting to see the anger, the frustration. She paces back a little, stepping behind Ally and simply laying her head against her back, softly cooing at Maya. She murmurs something very very softly to Aladriel

"I don't know what I saw, what was real, what was not. What was manipulated and what was the truth. That….creature," Ally shudders at the very mention, "I don't even want to start with, now, and it's going to bother me until we do. You…she," Ally stops for a moment to stop and reorder her thoughts.
"You knew my mother? My father? Under different names and all those years ago and you never told me that?"
Ally's just asked something very important, so she doesn't look back to Kass. But her fists do unclench from the woman's touch, her subconscious getting good at putting together that when she gets touched like that by Kass, she's probably getting too worked up.

"It was never topical." Says Samuel without a trace of irony in his voice. "I knew your father, yes. I knew your mother, yes, some 25 years ago. Before and after you were born. I was running an operation in Saint Petersburg, rooting out Vory who were selling milspec weapons on the market and were willing to get nuclear materials for those who had the money. Your father worked with me in the CIA. Your mother was a talented amateur."

Frowning, Kassie's face is hidden by Aladriel's body from the tank but not from the cameras he may be watching through. She doesn't change positions, though, keeping Maya occupied while the big people talk. She listens and files things away, keeping the lion's share of her attention on her mate.

It was never topical. Ally looks like she's going to go through the glass for a moment. "After all… everything, I can't even say anything about that," she sighs, running a gloved hand through her hair. "I don't know what else to ask you right now, Sam," she goes on after a moment.
"We went to a terrible place to find out how my mother died…and I found out that she didn't die, she's alive and turned into something I couldn't have ever imagined. And then I find out that you knew my parents and never told me. And we met a terrible spirit that saw the last age of magic and is one of the scariest things that I've ever seen, and you've known him before too. I don't even know…." just like that tears start to well up in her eyes and she pulls at the ends of her hair almost violently. "I don't know what to do with all of it!"

Two hands, one silver, one raw and red, come to touch at the inside of the glass, palms pressed to the inner surface. "I'm sorry Ally. What was I supposed to say to you, what was I supposed to do? How would YOU have broached that conversation with yourself, and not seemed like you were trying to replace your parents, without stopping you from living your life and living in the NOW…"

No, that won't do. Kass's hand rises to try and keep Ally from hurting herself, murmuring "No baby, don't do that, Ally." She doesn't pull at her, but keeps her physical presense there, her hand on one of hers, constantly talking softly to her. Her eyes have welled with tears, her voice breaking a bit. "Please stop, baby, don't do that."

Ally's hand pulls away from her hair and it shakes, a wonder if she even felt what she was doing. "I don't know, I don't know, but just at some point you could've told me that you knew them! I…you didn't… you didn't know what happened to her or anything so could have just told me anytime. Told me stories, told me anything about their lives. I never even knew him and her, she didn't tell me practically anything because I was too young. She worked a life, I thought, like you did. I can't just open a book and learn about her. You could've told me," she finishes, taking a deep shuddering breath, calming down. Seeing the tears in Kassandra's eyes do that to her.
"You still can. I just….my life and my family was a short story, Sam. And now it's not, and never once could I have even begun to think anything like this could've happened."

"Ally." Says Sam then, his fingertips now touching the inside of the glass… "You have me at a disadvantage. I never meant to mislead you. Only protect you. Only keep you safe. I didn't know your mother was alive, nor did I know you were not at peace with it. The only thing I know is 9 years ago I woke up and Anya was gone… and I came to Denver. Because you were here. You had already found security. You were safe. Taken care of. Why would I rock that boat, Ally? I care for you, and sometimes.. its best to not know things."

Letting her head fall, Kassie keeps her eyes downcast, trying to not influence Aladriel, not to interfere in something this important to her. She murmurs into Maya's neck, getting the baby to laugh. The words, her mommies are both upset and that makes Maya sad. Kassie turns her attention to the other woman in her life, keeping the baby active, happy, distracted, removing the faint look of petulance and irritation from the child. She'll look to Ally, touching her arm for just a second, a butterfly touch and then back to Maya.

Lowering her eyes, Ally takes as much time as she needs to compose herself, to get as much mastery over herself as she can. Just like that the anger gets pushed back down, going to wherever it goes within her, just disappearing. Maya's laughter gets a look from Ally and even a ghost of a smile.

"I can't stand not knowing things, Sam. I was twelve when she was gone. I'm not stupid, I didn't think there was a chance she was alive. But she disappeared into a place I couldn't possibly have gone before now, not and survived. I thought we were going to find someone who showed us a grave or told us a story, and that would answer it for me. But it was an answer.

Just like I couldn't not come here and see you. You said you were fine, but hurt. Kass said you were the same. But I had to see. Even terrible, it's so much to just know."

"Did you bring a change of clothes?" It seems an incongruent question, but for Sam it makes a perfect amount of sense.

"I brought several." Kassie speaks, looking to Aladriel, clearly wanting to embrace her and just as clearly trying to give her a little space. She holds up Maya, mentioning, "We always have to bring extras with little Miss here. She will either get herself dirty or us."

Ally nods her head and Kass fills in the rest of the details for him. Stepping back from the tank, Ally reaches out to take one of the elf's hands in her own, squeezing it gently.

"Then… how about this. In the morning… I will be out of this tank for a few hours. We can talk then. You and I. Nothing strenuous… but you and I will talk… and anything you put to me I will answer to the fullest extent I am capable."

"Deal," Ally tells Sam, accepting it without need for much thought. It's what's needed and called for. Her eyes tell Kass that it's what she thinks is best, what she needs. "We'll go settle in, then," she tells Sam, looking after him in that tank, sad for a moment. But she doesn't want him focusing on that so she banishes it from her eyes. "Try to have a good night. We'll see you tomorrow."

"Someone should come read me a tank-time story." The speakers echo with a wry tone.

Nodding, Kassie hefts Maya, accepting what Aladriel wants to do without argument, without dissent. She seems to agree that it is for the best, her mind already going to how to best secure their room for safety, to make them feel as safe as being at home. She offers a little laugh at Sam's comment, staying hand in hand with Ally.

March 21, 2009

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