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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Human Nature is a Mother

Megan caught herself humming again while unloading three pallets of food at Mother Necessity's Kitchen. She grinned at herself and stopped humming -- music apparently irritated Captain Zip. He claimed it interfered with his power and gave him a headache.

When she walked around the side of the truck to let him know she was done, he wasn't sitting in the driver's seat. He was standing out on the sidewalk, talking with someone. Zip's voice was raised just enough to sound angry, but not enough to be audible. The other man, tall and slender, stood languidly, his face impassive below his dark glasses. Megan lingered uncertainly at the corner of the truck until Zip spotted her and dismissed the man with a sharp gesture. He turned and stalked toward her.

"Is everything all right?" she asked him in a low voice.

"Fine, fine," Zip muttered. "Are we done? Then get in. Let's get the hell out of here."

The man strolled down the sidewalk, but he turned to watch the truck go by.

"Is he --" she began.

Zip held up an admonitory hand. "Don't ask. The less you know, the better off you are."

She nodded and went back to looking out the window.

Zip didn't talk much the rest of the afternoon. He was restless and irritable with everyone and everything, and Megan started to catch his mood, much to her annoyance.

"Go home," he said when they got back to the garage. "We'll clean up in the morning."

She didn't argue, just grabbed her backpack and departed.

Since she was early for her evening appointment, she stopped in at the Stars n' Garters for supper. Flo gave her a big smile. "How're things, darlin'?"

"Oh, doing all right, I suppose," Megan said, accepting a cup of coffee. "The work's steady, at least."

"That's always important," Flo said. "What'll you have?"

"Two cheeseburgers and the sweet potato fries, please," Megan said. "And a chocolate shake. Is it all right if I use my laptop here?"

"Sure thing," Flo said.

Megan pulled out her laptop and let it boot up. She heard the low growl as it connected with the city TeslaNet, and was once more grateful for her mother's gift of a battery- and Tesla-compatible laptop before coming here.

"Shake," Flo said, setting it on the table. She hovered a moment, and Megan looked up inquiringly. "I... well, I was wondering if you were getting on with the captain all right."

"Sure," Megan said. "He's cranky, but at least he's consistent." She grinned.

"I just wanted to be sure..." Flo plucked at her apron. "I've been hearing things about him lately. Got me worried."

Megan frowned. "What sorts of things?"

Flo shrugged. "Oh, it's probably nothing. I just heard his business wasn't doing too well."

"We're busy from 5 am to whenever he sends me home," Megan said. "It seems to be going all right."

Flo nodded.

Megan said, "Well, let me know if you hear anything else, would you?"

"Sure thing," Flo said, flashing a quick smile, and turning to one of the regulars with a greeting as he came in the door. "Carolus, it's been ages!"

Megan found her mother online, so instead of the email she'd planned, she paged her for chat.

Her mother opened with, So you ARE alive.

Yes, Megan typed. I HAVE emailed you, you know.

I DID provide you with a cell phone before you left, you know.

And you know that I hate talking on phones in public. Which I'd have to do because there's no cell reception at the Y.

Oh, little fish goddesses, haven't you got out of the Y yet?

I have an appointment to talk to a friend's landlord in an hour and a half.

You didn't like any of my suggestions?

With all due respect, Mother mine, I've had just about enough of people shrieking, "Are you the Amazon's kid then?"

Hahahahahahaha.

It's funny to YOU.

Yes, it is. So what friend is this whose landlord you're talking to?

The son of your old pal, Prof. Canis.

Huh. One of the Puppy Patrol, eh?

... Please tell me you're kidding.

No, I'm not. They were very proud of the name. And the costumes. Which converted beautifully when they changed shape.

OH GOD. I'll never be able to look at him again.


Flo dealt her food in front of her. Megan looked up and gave her a smile.

I'm eating in the Stars n' Garters.

What's that?

Cafe run by Ebb and Flo?

Oh, those two. I liked Flo, but it's hard to like Ebb.

Flo got me my job.

The delivery job? Who's that with, anyway?

Captain Zip.

...

What?

When you get settled in your new apartment, do me a giant-sized favor and find a new job?

What's wrong with the captain?

He's always been in trouble. Always. And the people around him get sucked in like water down a toilet.

Oh, lovely.

So try, okay? It'd make me sleep better.

Okay.

Thank you.

I have to go, Mom. I have to finish dinner and get over to the apartment.

All right. Good luck.

Thanks.


Megan took a bite of her first cheeseburger thoughtfully. Sometimes, it wasn't too much of a pain to have a mother who knows people.

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