AN: And another update! Man, that took me longer than I had expected, I have to admit.

Here's the third chapter, in which stuff is agreed to. I'm not entirely happy with it, and I'm not too sure on the beginning, as I'm using a different POV there than Mal's. It switches back pretty early on, but let me know what you guys think (or should I say, what you think, Baeraad ;) Seeing as how you're the only one actually taking the time to review. laughs) of it soI can either rewrite it if I ever feel like it or something anyway.

The line, it irks me!

As does the end, to be honest.

Hrm. Anyway..

This bit conceived and written on February 12th and 13th, 2006. :) Gotta love early mornings ;)

Enjoy this chapter!

Geared - Chapter 3

The first thing that Mrs. Jan Bakers was aware of was the sound of voices, talking quietly to one another.

One of them sounded like Harold but..

She groaned. Ooh, bad move, bad move, bad, let's not move for a bit now..

"Jan? You okay, honey?" The conversation had stopped and her husband, at least, had moved close enough to put his hand on her shoulder.

"Hmmhmmm," she said, her eyes still closed, as she moved one hand - carefully - to her forehead. A sudden thought struck her, and she looked embarrassed. "God, don't tell me I fell down the step ladder again.."

Her husband chuckled, "No, Jan, you didn't."

She frowned, confused. Then why was she lying on the couch with a bit of a headache and..

"You fainted when I mentioned your late grandfather, Mrs. Millers. My apologies and," the other voice from the hushed conversation spoke, "my condolences."

"Oh." She said. ".. Yeah. Um. Thanks?" She squeaked, just a bit.

---

Well, Mal thought as the woman excused herself for a moment to get an aspirin only to be interrupted by her husband who then went and got her one and a glass of water besides, that went better than expected.

"Um," the woman said, looking a bit awkward, as if feeling exposed underneath his casual scrutiny. Training was hard to get rid of, he supposed. He cleared his throat a little, and frowned, awkward himself.

"I didn't mean to, ah, cause such a stir," he said, an apologetic look on his face, "If I had known.."

"No, no, that's.. that's quite alright. You didn't." She seemed strangely relieved as the words left her, looking a little better. "It came as quite a shock, I must admit."

She smiled, only a little more strained than she had back in the shop before her spectacular dive to the floor, as her husband returned, aspirin, water and all.

"Thank you, dear," she said, taking the glass of water and popping the aspirin back. Lifting her glass in a toast of some sort, she downed the medicine.

"I mean," she went on in an agreeable tone of voice, "I always sort of figured my Grandfather couldn't die. I suppose all of us did, really.." She trailed off, for a moment.

At Mal's questioning look, her husband added, "I guess we did. He just never got sick or nothing. Not even when the flu hit the entire town out back." He shook his head. "It's been what, two months? It's still pretty hard to just.. wrap your mind around it, you know?"

Mal's quiet 'ah' and reserved nod seemed to imply that he did.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Mrs. Millers suddenly exclaimed, her eyes wide as she looked at Mal. "Here we are, going on and on, and we haven't even been introduced yet!"

Harold chuckled again and Mal guessed his wife was of the absent-minded sort more often. "Allow me," the large man said.

"Jan, honey, this is Mr. Sands. He's an acquaintance of Granddad," because friends didn't help chase down friends to have them 'evaluated for the good of the cause', "Apparently, they share a common interest."

He waggled his eyebrows in a tell-tale manner, and his wife sent a confused look between her husband and the man who had been introduced as Mr. Sands.

"Interest?" She repeated, not all that enlightened apparently.

"Ah, yes," Mal spoke up at that point, the mild awkwardness in his face and voice not at all because of the words that passed as truth. "We met due to our interest in, ah, tinkering, I suppose you could call it.."

"Oh!" Jan's eyes went wide at that. "You mean you're an inventor too? Ooh!" Sudden excitement appeared on her face. "Are you part of that Extraordinary League of Inventors as well, then? He always said someday someone might show up and reclaim his goods when he was gone, but as Harold said, we never really did believe he could die.. Or that there was such a thing as an Extraordinary League of.."

At Mal's slightly confused and surprised look, Jan narrowed her eyes a little and seemed a bit upset. "There isn't one, is there? He was just having me on, and oooh, I swear, if that man were still alive, I would, ooh! Sometimes!"

"Now, now, dear," Harold took a step closer to his wife, putting his hands on her shoulders, and calming her down a bit. "You can't blame Granddad for the things he said or did, he's dead and gone now, and.." As Jan started sniffling rather loudly, the large man had the decency to look sheepish. ".. I just put my foot in, didn't I?"

Mal had been trained to do many things. From flying space-shuttles, to working with any given number of weapons that didn't 'exist' yet back here on Earth, to fight Deviants both planet-bound as well as Out There, to defusing bombs of most types and had a number of degrees in fanciful names to do with engineering and physics.

But nowhere in his entire time with the Technocracy had there ever been a course on 'how to deal with grieving (adult) grandchildren'. That meant he had to improvise.

Normally, this wasn't all that bad an idea.

"No, that's not it," he said hastily, "It's just that, I wasn't aware he had told anyone about us. The League, I mean. We're kind of a.. oh, a closed community." He nodded, then, more to himself than to either grieving adult in the room. "Yes, that's it."

.. He just hoped they didn't ask how it came to be that an esteemed member of their club had perished without him knowing.

"Really?" Jan sniffled from within her husband's arms, swiping a tear or two away.

Mal felt really rather ridiculous as he nodded again and said, "Yes. Really."

This was definitely not part of the conversation that he had planned. For a moment, he wished Louisa were here so they could get on with getting the needed information, but Louisa would probably be too busy apprehending him and apologising for the intrusion as they carted him off back to..

Well, he'd just have to make do then, Mal told himself, attempting to derail that particular train of thought.

But even as his mind whispered 'Room 101' at him, he knew he hadn't quite managed.

"As a matter of fact," Mal sighed, though not because of his words, "I am here to reclaim the.. inventions your grandfather made. As you know, " or didn't, the former Technocracy agent supposed as he went on, "we're a rather closed community, and we communicate mostly in an anonymous matter with one another, and as such, we're not always aware of where exactly our members are at one time or another."

"As I had met the man face-to-face before, I was asked to 'do the honours', I suppose one could say, and see if there was anything to, ah, take back to the League."

At the slight frown that appeared on Jan's face - despite his rather intimidating size, Harold had been catalogued as not involved in the decision making because he obviously wasn't - Mal hurried to add the "Under the supervision and with the permission of the surviving family members, of course."

.. Of course, perhaps that wasn't the best thing to say either, because then Jan started to sniffle again.

"Tell you what, Mr. Sands," Harold spoke, stroking his wife's hair. "How about I talk it over with the missus, and we'll get back to you on that. You're staying somewhere in town?"

No, he wasn't.

But this was too good to pass on. "Yes, that'd be splendid, actually. I'm currently staying at.. " Mal paused a moment, before nodding, "the Sleeping Hound Hotel. I'm afraid I don't have the number on me, but.."

"It's in the yellow pages, we'll find it." Harold reassured him.

And with that, apparently, they were done for now.

Never mind that it took Mal another moment to notice. Days like these..

"Right! I'll be at the hotel, then. Excuse me." And with that, he let himself out, not even noticing the jangle of bells this time as he walked towards his little beat up Volvo.

Unlocking the door, Mal slid inside the little car, and, after closing the door, pulled a small handheld device from his inner pocket.

Or so it seemed, anyway.

A quick check and a look at the map later, Mal turned the key in the ignition and headed towards the Sleeping Hound Hotel in Gronick, South Dakota.

Time to check in.

And then?

Time to wait.

tbc