They’d been expecting more snow all week, so when the blizzard hit it wasn’t precisely a surprise, but no-one had anticipated that the inclement weather would be bad enough it ended up closing the local travel hub altogether. It left countless travellers stranded in the city, no way out and no way home, squabbling over the last few hotel rooms available or sending hasty pleas to family for a place to stay.
Among the strandees was a small family of machines, visiting from off-world to take in some foreign culture, after offering to look after the Littlebits for a few days and give their exhausted parents some much-needed “alone time” to straighten out frazzled emotions, recharge flat batteries and just plain relax for a while. (Not like Whitesides needed any excuse to kidnap the sparklings – he’d been looking particularly broody, of late.)
And none of them really minded the extra holiday – it just meant they were in for a little more ‘adventure’ than they bargained for! The city centre would stay bedecked in its festive glory for a good twenty or thirty more days, perfect for keeping little ones from getting bored and fractious – provided they could actually get through the snow to take advantage of it.
While Longbeam and Vector stayed at the spaceport – the only place with buildings big enough to accommodate Vector’s colossal size – Pulsar took an unexpected call with the offer of somewhere more comfortable to stay. Rather than letting them try to hike to the next city over, through more blizzards and deep snow – doable, certainly, but not easy with grumpy infants in tow, and a poor decision if unsure that their hub would even be open – their hosts had offered to put them up for another night or two in their own home. The tired travellers were only too happy to take them up on the offer.
Which, as it turned out, was quite fortuitous. Snow fell heavily during the night, layering a thick perfect blanket of pure white over the area. The dawn twilight stained it a foreboding grey-purple, as though promising more to come.
Pulsar stirred some time before dawn, while most of the neighbourhood still lay deep in slumber. She emerged from her temporary home onto the covered porch, and settled on the bristly doormat to enjoy the cold morning air. Warm air steamed subtly from her flank venting, curling and twinkling away into the chill.
Back home, it never got so still, not even in the very quietest and uninhabited districts. The planet itself seemed to have a heartbeat that harmonised with one’s static envelope and could often be felt through the soles of the feet.
This big rocky world felt simultaneously soothingly peaceful, and smotheringly quiet. Funny how a femme could look forwards to a little peace and quiet, and ultimately have it go too far in that direction. The dying of the wind emphasised how utterly silent the place was – not even the wildlife dared to disturb it. The only sounds that broke through were the occasional distant thump as snow fell victim to gravity.
Of course, no matter how early one stirred, no-one could beat the master; snow or no snow, Whitesides always stirred long before anyone else. Insisting on helping out, grateful for the kind hospitality with no expectation of payment in return, the mech had headed out into the chill to help their host make deliveries from her home business. Even the city’s couriers were struggling against the sheer volume of the white stuff that had fallen.
One solitary set of footprints led off down the shallow slope, and out through the gate at the end. The lack of any more prints proved no-one else had ventured out in it, yet – smooth perfect white snow might be beautiful, but that was about as far as its appreciation went, in Pulsar’s household. Cold and wet, it soaked clothing, made the ground slippery and hid obstacles, packed into jointspaces and froze lubricants. Biological and synthetic alike easily fell prey to its treacherous beauty.
The femme directed a thought at her sibling – almost done? More snow on way, looks like – and got a ping of confirmation from him in return. He probably already knows. Not like you can miss those clouds.
Heavy grey snow-clouds brooded menacingly on the horizon, promising another coating before the day was out. A thready sun rose just enough to tint them a far more friendly yellow, but no-one could have mistaken the threat in the looming weather.
Pulsar pursed her lips at them, wryly; the local council might have promised to reopen the space-port “as soon as possible”, but it looked like they were going to be stuck here for the duration. Shovelling snow while it was still snowing sounded like an exercise in frustration. (Not actually that dissimilar to tidying up after the babies – pack all their toys away in a cupboard, and one or the other could be guaranteed to think that same cupboard would make an excellent den, and unpack it all again.)
From somewhere behind Pulsar came the exulting cry of “white dirt!” and she turned her head just in time to watch a small lilac body explode out of nowhere and disappear with a crump into the crisp white surface.
“Should have known you’d be the one to shatter the peace, Dipps,” she chuckled, watching as the snow shifted and mounded up apparently all of its own accord. “Now the whole neighbourhood is probably awake.”
Serendipity’s little head popped up from a distant drift, crowning her with a smooth lump of pure white, and she chirped, questioningly. “White dirt,” she explained, seriously, pointing at the drifts, just in case her aunt had missed the explanation the first time.
Pulsar smiled. “It’s called ‘snow’.”
“No?” The infant’s head perked over the other way, dislodging the diadem of snow caught on her antennae. “Yes! Make dig!”
“Sssnow,” the Policebot enunciated. “That’s what they call it.”
“Mole in snow!” Serendipity promptly disappeared again.
Pulsar shook her head, smiling. Someone would be getting a bath, later, and she had no doubt that the news wouldn’t go down too well.
Serendipity’s brother Flash plopped down on the mat beside her, bundled up in an outlandish (and not particularly necessary) selection of oversized cold-weather gear that he had no doubt helped himself to from the pegs inside the front door. “Why Dipty in white dirt?”
Pulsar gave his hat-covered head a little pat. “You should know by now that your little sister will always rather be under the ground than on it.”
“No like up,” he agreed. “Why not have white dirt at home?”
“We don’t have enough water, thank goodness. They call it snow.”
He perked his head. “Where snow dirt come from?”
“It falls from the sky, bitlet.” Pulsar indicated the clouds with a slender finger. “You’ll be able to watch it later.”
They sat together on the mat, for a little while, watching as Serendipity dug a complex pattern of channels and tunnels through the snow, covering the driveway in a geometric patchwork of lines and squiggles, talking to herself the whole while.
The sun had risen and the yellow fled from the clouds by the time a squeak! and a headbutt in the flank let Pulsar know that Serendipity had “done making dig”. Another fact that invariably took people by surprise - how could it be that a happy, healthy, affectionate little sparkling showed her happiness by a good solid headbutt? Any questions over her parentage were invariably quashed by a greeting wallop.
“Vrr,” the baby said, climbing into Pulsar’s lap and shedding clumps of snow in all directions across the porch. Her motors were running flat out in an effort to warm her up. “Is cold.”
“We did try and warn you,” Pulsar chuckled, trying to wipe the wriggly little body dry with an oversized towel. “Apparently only Flashie actually paid any attention.”
Flash giggled, and bonked head with her. “Have hat,” he explained. “Head not cold. Dipty have hat next time?”
Serendipity cackled, and tugged briefly on the hat’s bobble. “White dirt good. Dig white dirt much easy than dig brown dirt,” she explained, seriously.
Pulsar finally managed to wrap the little tearaway in the towel, mopping the drips away from her aerials. “Good. You better not go digging the brown dirt, either, you’ll upset our hosts if you go trailing mud indoors.”
Serendipity purred. “Brown dirt too hard,” she explained, helpfully.
Pulsar resisted the urge to cast her gaze heavenwards. “Oh, well that’s a relief…”
The winter sun didn’t last, its feeble rays swallowed up by the looming cloud. Soon after the last traces of brightness had fled, the snow started again, demure little flakes tumbling silently free of the heavy grey embrace. Flash joined his sister in Pulsar’s lap, and together all three sat and watched the flakes tumble down, waiting for their uncle to finally get home and safe.
At last, a slender green figure appeared at the gates, almost hidden behind the swirling of the silent blizzard. The demure blue light of his optics tinted the closest flakes and gave him an odd halo. Whitesides wiggled his fingers hello, struggling to get the gate closed against the accumulations in the garden.
Serendipity was already out of Pulsar’s lap and tunnelling her way down the hill towards him, not especially effectively since her earlier endeavours had not left a lot of snow to tunnel through.
“I see you down there, trouble!” Whitesides scooped her out of the snow as soon as she got within arm’s reach.
Serendipity shrieked and flailed her legs excitedly, and butted heads with him, purring. “Made dig, onnul. Roads in white snow dirt!”
“You dug all that?” He carried her up the hill, back to her brother and long-suffering aunt. “Well, you have been busy!”
“Busy, and cold, and wet,” Pulsar agreed, bundling the infant back into her towel. “Let’s all get back inside before we rust, shall we?”
“Sounds like an excellent plan.” Damp, and covered in road salt as well as a fresh dusting of snowflakes, Whitesides sagged onto a pile of blankets just inside the garage, and dripped. His automatic heating breakers had kicked in long enough ago to have lent his thorax a subtle buzz, just barely audible over the childrens’ excited squeaking.
“Who’d have thought frozen water could be so exciting,” Pulsar observed, amusedly, watching the children scamper around the cardboard box fortress they had built earlier. “Make your deliveries all right?”
Whitesides nodded. “I bumped into another courier, on my way round,” he said, rummaging in his satchel to produce a small brown package tied with string, with an envelope tucked into the bindings. “They gave me this. Said it was for us.”
Pulsar looked over his shoulder. “What is it?”
He carefully peeled the brown paper away from the parcel’s corner. “A gift, I think. Apparently it’s traditional, this time of year, for the city’s inhabitants to give each other little tokens of friendship.” The hole in the paper revealed a small parcel, brightly wrapped in layers of clear coloured cellophane and shiny ribbon, containing small granular lumps of blue and pink and green crystals - sharp, fulminating crystal candies, inedible to anyone other than their own species. “How could they possibly know you’re a sucker for these, Pulse?”
“Speak for yourself!” She plopped a towel down on his antennae. “Wherever did they manage to find them? I didn’t think you could get them, anywhere other than at home.” Pulsar delicately took the small envelope from his damp fingers, and carefully teased it open to reveal a brightly coloured piece of folded card with a snow-scene (and cute animals) printed on the cover.
“With love and best wishes for the festive season and new year. Thank you for all your help over the season,” she read out. “And don’t forget to share the confectionary!”
Edit: Hurr, I didn't realise how big the image file was. :(
Crossposted. This entry was originally posted at http://keaalu.dreamwidth.org/12161.html.