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“The age of Pixies, like that of Chivalry, is gone. There is, perhaps, at present hardly a house they are reputed to visit. Even the fields and lanes which they formerly frequented seem to be nearly forsaken. Their music is rarely heard.”


She spends three days in Medicine Bow; one more than she meant to, but on the third day a storm blows through, and she decides that Casper can wait. The winds are bad enough--almost enough to take her off the road on the way into town, despite the weight of the ST1300--and she has no interest in adding the driving rain that pelts the motel windows to it. It gives her time to finish The Virginian, anyway. A little ass-backwards, after she's already seen the town and the museum and the odd little pyramid built to the author, but at least she's done it. Copeland will be pleased.

@rlyrosie what news from the road, o hyperborean wanderer?

@mjcopeland when you call me that... SMILE lol

The winds keep the weather moving, and the next morning is bright and fair; she heads north. Her roads takes her through the Shirley Basin, and that is gorgeous. She stops repeatedly for photos. There are rock formations in the mountains, hazy but sharp-edged across the prairie. At this distance they look like ramparts. They remind her of the castles she saw in Spain when she was a little girl, almost more cultivated out of the stone than made.

She leaves the bike by the side of the road to get a better angle; she leaves her jacket draped across it with her helmet, although after a little while she wishes she hadn't. The wind. July or not, it slices through her tank top and starts to wear her down after a while. She slips the camera back in her pocket, reluctantly, and moves back along the roadside towards the bike.

Its candy-red finish isn't what it was when she left home. She's into the homestretch now, a handful of states and a handful of weeks left in this great adventure before the next one starts, and neither she nor the ST1300 are quite the same as when they left the East. Achingly empty, animated by the endless exhalation of the wind, the highway becomes (not for the first time) a kind of a holy place, and she wonders if she's really ready to stop wandering. The invisible tether of technology means she hasn't completely laid down her responsibilities, but--

Instinct has her on her face in the dust before she hears the bow twang; training has her rolling up with her gun drawn (a New Mexico concealed carry permit ports into Wyoming, conveniently) before the dust has had time to settle around her boots. It was shooting at her ankles before she threw herself forward.

The creature she has drawn on is less than three feet high, and almost invisible in the grey-green prairie dust; she hadn't seen it at all until it had moved to nock another tiny dart. It has drawn another of them, but not finished nocking. The head is split and wickedly sharp; both points are dark with poison. She supposes if it had hit her (and penetrated her boots) it would've been written up as a snakebite. Another fool from the east wandering into trouble.

"Come on a little closer," she says, her voice high and clear. "Let me see you." Holding still, as he is now, he's almost vanished again.

He grimaces at her--his teeth come to points, either filed or naturally--in what is either incomprehension or defiance. He doesn't move. She doesn't take the .45 off of him.

Closer to, he looks less like a child. He's old, and a little wizened, with exaggerated, heavy features. A sort of goblin. Long fingers and horny nails; wiry, tangled hair the color of grass, and bright Indian paintbrush woven into his clothes. His face and chest are tattooed, bold, simple marks that remind her of cattle brands or the her own tattoo. "Why did you try to kill me?" she asks, not knowing if there's any hope of communication.

He stares at her, then speaks. She's astonished to understand him; after a moment, with no less shock, she realizes he's using the High Speech.
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Rose hesitates.

"Hang on. Before I go in--"

X-23 hangs on, obediently; she looks at her curiously.

It is not going to go down as one of the world's greatest kisses; not when one of the parties has all the reaction and participation of a stunned cod. Rose gives it her best shot, though. After a few moments, she pulls back.


X-23 shakes her head.

"All right, fuck it." She hops out the car, gun held low by her side, and heads towards the dilapidated house.


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T. Oso

March 2016

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