Reverb

Future Imperfect

~ a gratuitous epilogue ~

- x -

One of these days, AnnaRose was going to hit another growth spurt, and get too big to ride on MacGyver's shoulders. Till then, he was going to make the most of every opportunity, even though it was awkward going under the trees up to the helicopter landing field near the cabin. She was good at ducking, but it often meant her grip slipped from his forehead. It had quickly turned into a game: when she grabbed his ears, he'd start singing off-key, and when her hands covered his eyes, he'd exclaim "Wow! When did it get so dark?" and start to wander off the path.

It made the walk a lot longer than usual. Petra would have run ahead, but she was laughing too hard. She always lightened up when the girls were up at the cabin; she didn't have to try so hard to be older when it was just the three of them.

With the slow pace, the chopper had already landed by the time they got here, and Sam and Lisa had emerged, hand in hand.

The rotor blades had stopped their gyrations, but Mac's grey hair still riffled in the breeze that flowed across the meadow. His hair was already getting too long again – he was going to have to get it cut soon. He tended to put it off for as long as he could, but really it got too hot once the days started warming up. The spring was well advanced for the time of year; the alders and the maples were already showing their first half-unfurled leaves. Petra had abandoned MySpace for BlogSpot, and her new home page featured blurry photos of the trillium and bleeding-heart that were blooming profusely near the cabin.

"So how have our little terrorists behaved?" Lisa asked. "Did they keep up on their homework?"

"Yashuryoubetcha," MacGyver declared with a grin. "So have I."

"We taught Grandpa to Tweet!" Petra announced.

"Aw, great." Sam rolled his eyes, scooped up AnnaRose and lifted her to his eye level to look at her seriously. "Dad's joined the Dark Side, and it's all your fault?"

"Luke, i m ur father," Mac intoned in a deep, breathy voice. Sam punched his arm.

Mac's cheerful mood evaporated when he saw who else was climbing out of the helicopter.

"Nikki? What the heck are you doin' here?" His face creased with alarm. "Aw, man, you are not gonna tell me you've got another nutjob serial killer runnin' loose – "

Nikki gave him a cheery, unperturbed smile. "Why, it's nice to see you too, MacGyver. I always appreciate the warm, friendly welcome I get whenever I come up here."

The worry faded into chagrin. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't expect you is all."

The smile became brighter. "I hitched a lift."

"Yeah, right." Chagrin was crowded out by wariness.

"It's true!" Lupe chimed in. "She just showed up and said she was coming along. But look at what she brought! It's a good thing Lisa and Sam are so skinny, with all this extra weight!"

Sam, Lisa and Lupe were already unloading the small mountain of supplies: hampers and boxes and bags, and three portable coolers. MacGyver's mouth watered when he saw how much fresh fruit they'd brought up. He'd run out again halfway through the girls' visit.

"You don't think I'd crash a party and not bring food, do you? We brought hot dogs and hamburgers and sausages . . . " The bright, bland expression on Nikki's face dissolved into whole-hearted laughter at the look on Mac's face. "Oh, lighten up, Euell Gibbons. I'm pulling your leg. Your buddy Nicholas from the S'Klallam tribe sent up a twenty-pound wild salmon from last season's catch. It's already defrosted and prepped for grilling."

"Um, is there some kinda occasion I didn't know about?" He eyed Sam suspiciously. The long solo trip for Sam and Lisa was supposed to have been private time, so they could talk in peace and see if they could work things out – he hoped they hadn't gone off half-cocked and actually eloped. The girls were counting on a real wedding.

"Silly Grampa!" AnnaRose punched his leg. "It's Mom's birthday!"

Mac frowned down at her. "You sure?" He turned to Lisa. "Didn't you have one of those just last year?"

She smacked him lightly in the chest with her small fist. Mac recognised the ring on her hand. Sam had bought it for her in Peru when they'd been there in 1996 – when Murdoc – anyway. It wasn't an antiquity or even a knock-off; it was an original piece by a mestizo jeweler whose work featured indigenous motifs. The ring was chased gold, with a design of a bird in flight and a lot of swirly lines; Sam had thought it looked like a phoenix, although Peruvian mythology didn't have an equivalent. Mac hadn't seen her wear it for years. But she had kept it, and now she was wearing it again . . . a good sign.

"Okay, who wants tofu?" That got him mock punches from all sides. Nothing like bein' surrounded by family.

- x -

"Beautiful. Beautiful," Lupe was murmuring. "Magnifico." She was standing on a wide rocky outcrop above the rushing river, peering through binoculars at the gaunt outline of a skeletal tree on the far side of the canyon. The great shaggy mass of dead twigs and branches perched in the fork of the tree made her think of MacGyver's hair, but she thought it was better not to mention that to his granddaughters.

"Magnifica," Petra corrected. "That's the female eagle."

Lupe ruffled her hair. "Little pedant."

Petra pointed. "That's the male eagle, coming back to the nest now. You see he's got something green in his beak? That's a little branch from a pine tree. Nobody knows why he does that, but that's what he does."

Lupe walked back to where AnnaRose was standing, proffering the binoculars. She was hanging an additional fifteen feet back from the edge of the overlook. "Here. Your turn. You'll see better if you come a little more forward, you know. Would you like me to hold onto you?"

AnnaRose considered the offer, then nodded her head. Lupe held her hand tightly as she carefully walked a few feet closer to the edge.

"I wish I could fly too," the girl said as she watched the female eagle launch itself from the tree.

"Silly! You won't even look when the helicopter takes off!" Petra scolded. "You couldn't fly even if you had fairy wings!"

"I could too! If I had wings, I wouldn't mind. Grampa can fly, and he hates heights too."

"Grampa's special." Both girls nodded at that.

Lupe nodded too. "He does not fear flying. Only falling. He told me once that flying is different."

"Really?" AnnaRose looked thoughtful and hopeful.

Petra was studying the eagles again. "This is the third new nest we got to add to the list just this year! See, Lupe? It's way nicer when you aren't in the helicopter. You always land and then take off again right away. It's silly."

"I don't wish to overstay my welcome, little one," Lupe replied softly. She glanced over her shoulder, looking wistfully back up the trail. MacGyver and Sam were standing at a different overlook not far upstream, visible silhouettes against the sky, talking.

"You better make it work." MacGyver sounded grumpy and harsh, but Sam knew he didn't mean it. "No movin' back in with me this time. I mean it."

"Whatever happened to mi casa es su casa?"

"That's my casa, not my couch. My couch is my couch."

Sam grinned. "Deal." He glanced quickly down the path and saw that both his daughters were still intact. Lupe had even managed to coax AnnaRose a little closer to the edge, close enough to see the eagles more clearly. "So what're you going to do now? You sure you don't want the job back?"

"Are you ever gonna stop asking that?"

"Just checking."

"I like what I'm doin' now just fine." Mac looked across the canyon at the nest – three eggs in this one, the best yet – and down at the river, contemplating how soon the fishing would improve after the spring runoff was over. "It was kinda nice, going months without anyone shooting at me. Good thing. I'm not so quick at dodging these days."

- x -

It figured, Nikki thought. She'd put a lot of effort into coming up here, hoping to find an opportunity to talk to MacGyver. Instead, here she was, talking to his daughter-in-law. At least they did have more to talk about than just MacGyver. It wasn't as if the world revolved around him, after all.

"What's up with Petra's hair?"

"Sam cut it short, remember? When we first went off to hide."

"No, I mean the colour."

"Oh, that happens every year," Lisa said. "She starts spending time out in the sun, and it lightens up really fast. She got a head start this spring is all. And with her hair so short, it shows a lot more."

They were enjoying the afternoon sunlight and the sudden peace and quiet that had settled around the cabin when Mac and Sam and the girls had hauled Lupe off to see the most recent eagles' nest. Lisa was sitting at the picnic table Mac had built in the clearing in front of the cabin, picking crumbs off a leftover heel of bread and tossing them to the birds. Nikki was lounging in a canvas-backed chair, her face tilted up to the sun, her eyes closed, basking in the gentle warmth.

"So the kids are all right with it?" Nikki asked after a few minutes' silence.

Lisa laughed. "More than all right. They're almost smug. AnnaRose is halfway to convincing herself that she and Petra somehow engineered it – she's got a very lively imagination."

"What about you?"

"Me? I don't know where the imagination comes from, but she sure didn't get it from me."

Nikki made an exasperated noise. "I mean, how are you doing with the whole relationship reboot?"

A squirrel had chased off the birds from the scattered bread. Lisa laughed again as a Steller's jay dive-bombed the squirrel, a noisy blue-and-black feathered missile, and claimed the field. "I feel like I won the lottery or something."

"You're really going to give it another try?"

"Nikki – you do remember, right, that I landed that contract with the VA? Half the clients I've got right now are veterans of the last few wars. Men – and women – who left their families and went off to do something dangerous.

"A lot of them, their lives have fallen apart, and we're putting the pieces back together. My god, Nikki. They fight so hard to keep going, to keep things intact. It makes me feel ashamed. I didn't put up a fight – or when I did, my fighting only tore things apart."

She tilted her head up to watch a huge bird that was soaring effortlessly high above the clearing, its wings hardly seeming to move. "My patients – they had to be gone from home for months, or even years, for god's sake. Sam was never gone for more than a few weeks. Except that one time – "

Nikki broke in. "I'm still sorry about that. It took us almost a month just to find out where he was being held, and once we did find him – "

"You think I've forgotten? It took MacGyver eight days to get him and bring him home. By that time – oh, Nikki, I don't know. I'd gone through Hell and back, and I wouldn't take it out on the girls, so I took it out on Sam. I was ashamed of it even then. I'd feel worse about it now, except Sam keeps insisting that he understands."

"Psychiatrist, heal thyself?"

Lisa gave a brittle laugh. "Shouldn't that be 'Physician, bill thyself'? I wish I could. Just say a few magic words that are exactly the right ones, and everything will be all right."

"Yeah. I guess we'd all like to be able to do that."

Lisa's smile returned, although it was shaky around the edges. "I did say the magic words again, finally. Three words. Sam said them back. We aren't all healed, but we're trying. This time we'll keep trying. I'll keep trying. I'm not sure I really did before. Sam did. He tried like hell, when he was there."

They sat in companionable silence for several minutes before Lisa spoke again. "What about you?"

Nikki half opened one eye, raising her hand to screen out the sunlight. "What?"

"Well, I couldn't help noticing. You aren't fighting with MacGyver so much these days."

"What? You heard us earlier – "

"You're still arguing. There's a difference."

Nikki inspected her empty cup. There were no disposable dishes at this picnic; Mac had a few hardy plastic tumblers and a motley collection of coffee mugs. She pulled herself up out of her chair and walked over to the small cooler that held the entire supply of alcohol for the picnic: three bottles of beer from a local microbrewery owned by a friend of Sam's, and a single bottle of white wine for herself. Lupe wouldn't drink within six hours of flying, and Lisa had one more year to go for her 20-year sobriety medal.

Lisa started in again as Nikki refilled her coffee cup with wine. "The thing that I don't understand – that I've never understood – is why you were so hostile in the first place."

"I was not – " Nikki caught herself before she launched all the way into the budding tirade. "What do you know about it? You weren't even there."

"People talk." Lisa shrugged. "I've been hanging around Phoenix for more than half my whole life. You must be practically the only person who just plain didn't like MacGyver at all when you first met him – well, not counting all the people who've tried to kill him, of course. Nikki, it really is unusual." She drew a deep breath. "You know how much I admire you. But before I met you, I hated you, because you didn't like my hero."

"I wasn't that bad – " Nikki began.

"No, but I was."

Nikki met the younger woman's eyes: frankly curious, faintly embarrassed. She sighed, looked down at the coffee mug in her hand, took a drink, watched the sunlight sparkling in the pale liquid. "I hadn't planned on a therapy session," she said tartly.

She was surprised at the heat of Lisa's reply. The younger woman flushed. "I'm still on vacation, and I wouldn't have you as a patient anyway." Nikki blinked, and Lisa's hackles settled down again. "Oh, don't look like that! It would be a violation of professional ethics, for heaven's sake. I'd have to refer you to someone else." A loud squawk distracted them both; another bluejay, or maybe the same one, had landed on a nearby branch and was complaining that no food was in sight. "I can't recommend Dr. Jay here, though. He interrupts too much."

"I'm not sure I'd want to talk to him anyway. He seems pretty self-centred." She studied the mug, which sported a ridiculous cartoon image of a camel peering out of a backpack. "Lisa, can you even begin to understand just how hard it was to be a professional woman in those days? Especially in the kind of work I did? Don't get me wrong – I'm glad it's hard for young women to understand – it shows how far we've come. But still. I had to be a hard-ass just to be taken seriously. When I was working in Washington, doing legwork for congressional investigations, I had to be ten times as good as any of the men to be given half the credit. That kind of crap will give anyone an 'attitude problem'."

"But Phoenix was different! Wasn't it?"

"Good god, of course it was different! But it was a long time before I could believe that, and even longer before I could trust it."

Lisa had stopped watching the birds. The jay hopped down from the branch onto the picnic table, stole the remaining piece of bread and flew away, but she hardly glanced at it.

"When things got bad – when some jackass in a suit tried to take credit for my work or play down what I'd achieved, when my boss expected sex instead of competence or handed out lewd comments instead of commendations, when I'd been called a bitch just for standing up for myself – I'd remind myself that I'd never met a man who was smarter than I was." Nikki shrugged. "It was true, you see. They don't grow them very bright in Washington. I dealt with an endless stream of hotshots who got away with sloppy work, when I couldn't get away with anything less than delivering minor miracles." She sipped from her mug. "Have you ever seen MacGyver do his 'dumb blond' routine?"

"His what?"

"You know what I mean – when he plays the dumb hick to get someone to underestimate him. It's very effective, and he's good at it. Or he'll use his charm – and his looks – to get what he needs. He can do that, and nobody judges him for it. Do you understand?"

"Yes . . . um, no."

"When I did the same thing, the reaction was completely different. I could play the dumb bunny or the sex kitten, or distract someone by wiggling my way across a room; but afterwards, it wasn't treated as a charade. Afterwards, my colleagues would act as if I'd just proved that I really was a brainless bimbo."

"But MacGyver . . . he wasn't like that, was he? He must have been different . . . "

"I'd had such a rough ride by then, I expected trouble. I started every day braced for it, and when it didn't come – when it didn't pop up and hit me in the face – I couldn't relax and assume it wasn't going to happen. I just braced myself even harder. And the timing was even worse than that . . . you see, I had a little brother, Danny. And he had just been murdered by a charming, dashing, swaggering ladies' man who just happened to be a jewel thief. And barely a year before that, my first husband had been murdered by the Mob."

"Wow." Lisa's eyes were round. "What was he like? Your husband, I mean?"

Nikki's eyes had grown distant. "Oh, funny you should ask . . . Adam was a good friend of Danny's. And he was just like him. They were both charming, handsome, reckless men whose first impulse was to dash madly into whatever trouble turned up."

"Oh." Lisa looked across the clearing to where the trail led out up the river, where MacGyver and Sam had gone, family and guest in tow. "Oh."

"Yes. You get the idea. After I first met MacGyver, it took me a while to believe he wasn't just another irresponsible, charming, handsome, reckless bastard." Her voice picked through the words like a grocery list. "And by that time, I had him pegged as an immature, charming, handsome, feckless daredevil. I guess I thought that if I let myself care, he'd get killed too. I think I expected him to get killed anyway. And I couldn't bear that." She smiled ruefully. "As long as I stayed annoyed at MacGyver, I could keep him at a distance. It turned into a habit."

"Well, you were right about the handsome part . . . " Lisa murmured.

Nikki gave her a sardonic look. "Are you sure you married the right one?"

Lisa winced. "Please, don't go there. I go there often enough, when I'm in the wrong kind of mood." She looked at the wine in Nikki's mug for a moment, almost longingly, and then deliberately looked away. "What about the other guy you married? What did you see in him, anyway?"

"Joel?" Nikki's mouth twisted, and she took a deliberate long draft from her coffee cup. "He wasn't reckless."

"Oh."

"He planned everything ahead and was – very meticulous. It made me feel, well, secure. Of course, he still managed to surprise me." Nikki made a sour face.

Lisa dug into the cooler and found the container of apple cider to refill her own mug. "Nikki, aren't you MacGyver's boss now?"

"Well, yes. And Sam's. And Petra was dropping some broad hints about how soon baby spies are allowed to start training – no, she didn't actually put it that way, but it's what she meant."

"Is that harder to deal with, or easier?"

"I wouldn't know. I never had a baby spy to train."

"Nikki!"

Nikki laughed. Her coffee cup was empty. She ignored the half-empty bottle of wine, snagged the apple cider from Lisa's hand and refilled with that instead. "I'm still working it out. But Pete told me years ago that I had to learn to deal with Mac, and that I'd need to look after him, and I'm not about to let him down . . . oh, hell, why did I just tell you that?"

"I won't tell him. I promise."

"Thanks."

- x -

MacGyver waved cheerfully at the chopper as it rose from the field and headed back to civilisation. He could imagine the scene inside, with Petra trying to wave as best as she could and get closer to the windows in spite of being firmly strapped down. AnnaRose would have her face buried in her mother's lap until they were high enough that she couldn't see the ground clearly. After that, she'd be all right until it was time to come down again.

Mac drew a deep breath, testing his lungs and chest to see if his family's absence would bring a return of crushing pain and emptiness. The stack of firewood was still there, and the axe and the chopping block, if he needed it . . . it hadn't been just for Sam and Lisa's benefit, keeping the girls out of school for an extra week and a half, keeping 'Grampa' busy and distracted and harrassed and entertained.

The westering sun was bright on the treetops – the hemlocks were showing bright green ends of new growth on every branch, and the air was fresh and still warm. Mac's chest didn't tighten up or crush inwards. He could feel his heart beating, strong and secure. He headed back down the short trail to the cabin.

The sense of warmth and security lasted until he put his hand on the handle of the cabin door. The conviction hit him like a wash of ice water: he wasn't alone up here, he'd missed something, someone was in the cabin . . . he flung the door open and saw Nikki standing by his fireplace.

The impulse to yell at her died when he saw what she was holding.

She looked up at him, and her eyes and cheeks sparkled damply. She made a wordless gesture at the framed photo she held, and finally blurted out, "This wasn't here before, was it?"

"No." Mac heard how curt the word sounded, and made himself add, "Sam brought it up with him. He said he thought it was time."

"So he has the others?"

"Yup."

"Was he right?" Her voice was very soft.

"I guess so."

She studied the picture again, making no effort to wipe away the tears that were sliding unashamedly down her face. The photo was actually a montage; MacGyver remembered the photo session, and how Sam had grumbled about how the candid shots had been so easy and the posed shot had been so hard.

The central image was the posed photograph: Pete holding his infant namesake, Petra's round dark eyes agog at the camera, her mouth open in apparent astonishment. Something in the shape of the jaw and the fascinated expression of the eyes was uncannily reminiscent of MacGyver's own face, more so than any baby girl should have looked. Pete was beaming, his eyes bright, no hint of how little those eyes could actually catch of the world around them, the shiny new world that so fascinated the child in his lap.

Around the central image were selected candid shots from the same session: Pete making faces at a crowing Petra, Petra grabbing Pete's nose, both of them pulling serious faces when Lisa attempted to intervene. Mac's favourite shot showed Petra grasping Pete's necktie in both hands and gumming it enthusiastically – as he recalled, the tie had been ruined; not even dry cleaning could remove the stains from the baby slobber. Attagirl, Petra.

Nikki swallowed visibly. "I still think of it as 'our' office, you know."

"Yeah?" Mac's voice was gentle now.

"Even though I had to have the second desk taken away. I had that done first thing. A lot of people didn't like it . . . I know there was some real bitching on the employee forums."

"I never gave you a hard time over it."

"No, you didn't." She replaced the photo on the mantelpiece. "What about the others?"

"The other pictures? Maybe, eventually . . . I'm still not too sure about this one . . . Nikki, what the heck are you doin' still here?"

She glanced over at the table, and Mac's gaze followed the look. He saw the plain white envelope sitting there on the nearly bare surface – his guests had cleaned up after themselves – and he scowled. "Nikki – "

"Calm down, MacGyver." Her voice clicked back into the clear, cool, unimpressed tone that he was familiar with. Good. "Read it before you start making a fuss."

"It's a new contract, isn't it? I told you – "

"Read it and find out."

Mac folded his arms and glowered down at her. "Nikki, don't you get it? I'm too darned – too damned old to run around the planet playing hero."

Nikki looked pointedly around the cabin – at the hockey stick and well-worn skates on their nail, the binoculars on another nail beside the backpacking frame, the computer with its panel of lights, the unstable stacks of books and periodicals, the fishing tackle and rods, the tools and gadgets and half-built widgets. The cabin was nearly bursting with the paraphernalia of an active mind and equally active physical lifestyle.

"Sure. Says the man whose name is a verb."

MacGyver winced. "Did you have to bring that up? You know how I hate that – "

"Fine! Never mind that part. MacGyver, you are never going to stop doing things. You can't. You can't stay uninvolved, and you can't keep from caring, and you wouldn't if you could. And if you run halfway around the world to stay away from trouble, it'll just run the other way around and meet you on the far side." She picked up the envelope and thrust it at him. "So you might as well make the best of it. Will you just read it already?"

Mac opened the envelope, unfolded the sheets of paper and started to skim through the writing. She watched him read, tapping his fingers against the paper with that impatient, restless energy. It was his biggest weakness as an operative: he could be patient, but it was hard for him to be still. He was better at stalking than at stakeouts.

And his face could be so transparent. She watched the changing expressions flow across it as he read, watched him shift from skimming to close reading, watched the astonishment open up into glee – the glee quickly masked with caginess, but not quickly enough. She guessed he'd reached the section guaranteeing tenancy of the cabin as a perk of the part-time research position, and now he was hunting for the catch. He seemed faintly deflated when he didn't find one.

Mac finished reading and looked up to meet her eyes. "'Consulting work'? Is that what we're gonna call it now?" His own eyes glinted. "How hard did you have to fight the Board to get them to sign off on all this?"

Nikki's smile became faintly wicked. "Oh, I made them fight. I kept telling them that you wouldn't agree to it, and every time I said that, they sweated harder and sweetened the offer some more. By the end, they were practically begging me to keep you from leaving."

"This is exactly . . . Nikki, you're terrific."

"I'm selfish. You're the best operative Phoenix has ever had. Sam is good, but you're better, and if I can't have you full-time I want you on call." She cocked her head at his confounded look. "No, I have not been replaced with my evil twin."

"You sure?" Mac smiled, but the easy humour didn't reach his eyes. Nikki winced.

"Hell. I'm sorry. I forgot that evil twins aren't all that funny any more."

Mac shrugged, and the shadow left his eyes after a moment.

"I know you need right of refusal, and there's plenty you can do from right here, if you don't want to travel. Besides, if you actually try to leave, Willis will hunt you down and pick your brain unless you go all the way off the grid permanently." She grinned at him, pulled a pen out of her pocket and held it out to him.

"Yeah, I bet you're right . . . " He met her eyes, studied her, not reaching for the pen. She swallowed, hard.

"I'm the one who has Pete's legacy to carry out – and carry on. You know what he wanted, what he worked for and dreamed of . . . Mac, I don't want to have to do that without your help."

MacGyver glanced out the window of the cabin, towards the woodpile and the chopping block. He bit his lip, nodded, set the sheaf of papers down on the table and flipped to the final page. Nikki handed him the pen, and he scrawled his name, and watched as she signed underneath.

"Nikki, you wrote the wrong date."

"No, I didn't." She tossed the pen onto the table and ignored the small clatter as it rolled away and dropped onto the floor.

"That's the day after tomorrow."

"Yes, it is." She had been standing close to him, but now she was a lot closer. A lot.

"What . . . ? Um, Nikki . . . ?" Somehow, he'd backed away from the table, and now the back of the couch was bumping against his legs, and she was even closer, and he couldn't retreat any farther. Stupid place to put the danged couch . . . And he could smell sunlight and fresh air on Nikki's hair, and he wasn't sure why he wanted to retreat. A few minutes ago, there had been a good reason, he was sure of that, if he could just remember it.

"Technically, this confirms me as your boss – once it's officially in place. I like to plan ahead, MacGyver." She was murmuring now, and Mac was having trouble following what she was saying. Too much else was starting to happen, and it was very distracting. "Suppose something was going on at, say, midnight, something that I really might not want to have to stop . . . "

" . . . stop?" MacGyver swallowed hard; he was getting light-headed. "Nikki . . . what the heck are you doing . . . ?"

"Breaking the anti-fraternisation rules."

"Phoenix doesn't have anti-fraternisation rules – "

"Technically, Phoenix doesn't. I do."

On second thought, the couch was in just the right place, and so were they.

Somewhat later, it was Nikki's turn to ask, but not in alarm. "Mac, what are you doing – "

"Two marriages, and you still need it explained? C'mon."

"Oh. Ohhh . . . right . . . "

Oh, yeah . . . it's all right.

~ fin ~


- x -

Subjective Complement

- x -

The inevitable notes, acknowledgements, and list of Interesting Reading Material.

I would never have been able to write this without the help of:

Melissa – small children and animals, and how to tell the difference
Jess – medical reseach, and details on horse behaviour
Robin – chemical research, and more details on horsemanship
Naomi – still more details on horses!
Liz – dynamite and firearms
Pepper and Kirsty – London geography and local colour
Theo and Glenn – airplanes and helicopters

And, as always, Lothithil, for indispensable support, encouragement, and canon checks.

Any errors in Spanish must rest entirely upon my own head.

- x -

A note on surnames: Peru follows the classical Spanish surnaming practice of using both a matronym and a patronym. A woman's surnames do not change when she marries – she does not take a surname from her husband, but does pass her own patronym on to her children, along with her husband's patronym.

Thus, Esperanza Rojas Carrera, known as Esperanza Rojas, is the wife of Carlos Sandoval Fuentes, known as Carlos Sandoval; their son is Félix Sandoval Rojas, generally referred to as Félix Sandoval.

- x -

A few terms that might not be familiar:

IncaKola – a bright gold soft drink, more popular in its native Peru than the foreign upstarts Coke and Pepsi.

monita – 'little monkey'. (Concepción's nickname)

Sendero Luminoso, aka Shining Path, from the 'Shining Path of Communism', also known as Partido Comunista Peruano (PCP), or simply Sendero.

senderista – a member of Shining Path.

emmertista – member of the MRTA, a less prominent and far less murderous rival party during the Peruvian civil strife. By later estimates, of the 70,000 civilians who died or disappeared during the years of crisis, some 65% were killed by Shining Path, 5% by the MRTA (possibly far less), and 30% by the Peruvian Army and other governmental forces.

pishtaco – a demonic monster in Peruvian myth, analagous to a vampire. A pishtaco does not suck blood; it boils people alive for their grease. This mythological being is strongly identified with the Spanish conquerers, and with the ruling class.

pozo – the pit in which coca leaf is processed into coca paste, the first of the three main steps in turning coca into cocaine.

traquatero – a coca smuggler. Base cocaine paste is flown from Peru to other countries for final processing, with the traquateros as the middlemen.

Asháninka – one of the indigenous groups in Peru, predating the Spanish conquest. The Asháninka were regarded as fierce warriors, consummate in woodcraft. They were enslaved by Shining Path more often than they were recruited, and were more successful than most in fighting back.

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There was the usual Massive Amount of Research involved. A few books were particularly valuable in immersion into Peru and its struggles:

Simon Strong, Shining Path: Terror and Revolution in Peru, 1992.

John Simpson, In the Forests of the Night: Encounters in Peru With Terrorism, Drug-Running and Military Oppression, 1993.

Steve J. Stern, editor, Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995, 1998.

C. A. Schmidt, Useful Fools, 2007.

Santiago Roncagliolo, Red April, 2009.

For details of Mount Pilchuck, I climbed the danged thing myself, and you should too. It's rugged but breathtaking.

I have no sources to cite for the Chemical Wizardry and Havoc, other than my indispensable expert Robin, and various websites on cocaine processing that you can Google for yourself. I could say "Do not try this at home", but you shouldn't try it anywhere, especially not in Peru.

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