Friday, November 30, 2018

#FridayFlash - Den Mother

I'm fleshing out a concept for a new novel/serial. Post-magical return society, and lots of people have gained psi or magic powers. But it's in the first part of the shift, when people are still adapting and recovering.

My main character ends up with lots of little powers, and that combines with her natural urge to protect a group and make sure things run smoothly. Not that she's altruistic and self-sacrificing...but does anyone expect that from one of my characters?

***

Lieutenant Reed finished his briefing and stood at ease. "Any questions?" The slab of a man normally made me feel small, even though I was big for a woman, but all I felt right now was scrutiny of his squad.

Private Tapping raised his hand, and I was reminded of Aliens. "Yeah, um, why the fuck do we need a babysitter?" He jutted his jaw at me, eyes hard. My empathic skills gave me a rough understanding of his feelings.

I was still getting used to the sudden insight into the people around me. The Convergence had brought out a lot of changes in all of us.

"Miss Ingeborg is coming along to provide us support, not tell us what to do." Reed was precise with his words, even a little gruff; you'd never know how big his belly laugh was, or how excited he could be over his Lab puppy. I only knew it because he'd been a regular at the liquor store I worked at before everything.

"Yeah, but she's called the Den Mother. Which sounds like someone thinks we need a mommy." Tapping was simply voicing the concern running through the squad. Not all of them cared about me being along; they were soldiers and would do what they were told.

But the Convergence was still fresh in everyone's minds. People were still sorting themselves out, still trying to establish an understanding of the new world, and the psis scared some of them. I understand why these men would feel threatened by me.

Lieutenant Reed's shoulders stiffened; he was torn between simply shutting the young man up and going into an in-depth explanation as to why I was going and not one of the new healers. He wasn't threatned by me, but we'd also fought our way through a zombie outbreak during the Convergence.

I stepped forward to answer, letting Reed off the hook. Better they were upset at me than their CO. "Yeah, I'm old enough to be your mommy, but that's not why I'm the Den Mother."

He started to retort, and I shut him down with a glare, pulling my shoulders back and puffing out my chest. Exert dominance now, don't show weakness. "If that name is too much for you, you're welcome to use one from before the Big C. Would you prefer Total Bitch or Fucking Cunt? All three are accurate and earned, but I don't think you understand them."

All eyes were on me. I sensed a variety of responses; shock, admiration, humor. This level of empathy was new to me, and I couldn't sort out the sources, couldn't fully interpret what I picked up. Would be nice to have some more time to learn, but time was a rare commodity anymore.

I planted my hands on my hips and continued my rant. Now that it had started, it was venting from deep inside. All the years I'd swallowed back what I really thought because strong women were not exactly popular, weren't praised for speaking their minds.

"Most people are a little intimidated by the fact that I'm smart, and skilled, and I generally know what I'm talking about. I know how to get shit done, and I expect people to just do what I say because it's probably the right thing to do. People who are too stupid to do what I say are pretty quick to know about it, and I won't let them forget. That's where the Fucking Cunt comes in.

"But those who call me that don't always see the full picture. They don't know the real me. They don't know how loyal I am, that I will defend and protect those that are mine unto death. I will take care of anyone under me, make sure they survive. There's at least a dozen people here alive because I made sure they were."

Tapping opened his mouth, angered by my apparent bossiness. Now was the time to shut him completely down and win him over. Hopefully.

"Here's the thing, though. You're a soldier. You're all soldiers and killers, and you know how to do your job. That job right now is to slog through three miles of broken city full of ghouls, zombies, raiders, looters, monsters, feral animals, and all sorts of other hazards, just to go pick up a few dozen civilians in various states of shock and fear.

"They're going to be a bunch of mewling babies, in need of someone to take care of them. Probably someone who can heal, and can pick up their emotions, and can fight, and can calm feral animals, and can sense monsters coming, and can keep them together and moving forward. Someone who can free up the soldiers to do soldier things.

"Do we know someone like that, who's in our base, who has all those powers since the Convergence, and who is willing to go back out into that shit? Oh, wait, we totally have someone like that. Funny enough, she's even been nicknamed the Den Mother. What a coinkydink." The air was thick with my sarcasm. "Now, unless you want to trade your M-16 for a diaper bag, how about you stow your bellyaching and let me do MY FUCKING JOB!"

The briefing room was quiet in the wake of my shout. I glared at the private, our eyes locked, quietly daring him to refute me now, to find something else to complain about. I felt enormous, strong, my presence larger than everyone else combined.


We remained that way for a long moment. Too many seconds to count passed as everyone watched, no one speaking or moving. Maybe they'd all had a little sample of what Shere Khan faced when trying to get past Raksha and were afraid I'd truly snap.

An enormous grin spread across Tapping's face. "Oohrah, ma'am. Oohrah."

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