The Bear in the Basement (Part 1)

Maddy sat staring out of the minivan window. Walled round on two sides by stacked boxes, it seemed like the trip had lasted forever. Father had taken a job in a town far away from the city, so the comfortable apartment–with the marks recording Maddy’s growth, and the odd little corner just the perfect size for drawing in while Mum typed, or edited, or sat growling at the characters who refused to do what she wanted–where Maddy had lived all her life had been torn apart. The movable parts had gone into boxes and a big truck, while Maddy had to say goodbye to all her friends, and squeeze into the little non-box filled corner of the van and move away to a house and a town that she had not even seen, yet.

Nothing but tall trees and the dark shadows underneath could be seen beyond the edge of the highway when the van turned off at an exit that did not even have a gas station to mark the junction with the small, two-lane country road. Maddy was not impressed.

From beyond the wall of boxes, Mum’s voice melded easily with the quick, energetic violin music playing through the van’s speakers. “Maddy, are you awake? We will soon be there.”

For a little more than an instant, Maddy considered pretending to be asleep and keeping quiet, but that would not change the view outside the window. “Yes, Mum. I’m awake.”

Maddy looked harder, trying to see past the trees. Maybe, just maybe, she caught a glimpse of a building or two back beyond the shadows, but Maddy could not be certain. They had driven for a very long time, and even a summer’s day comes to an end at some point. 

The minivan turned away from Maddy’s view, and the going grew rougher. I wonder if Father just turned off the road, or if there is really a driveway under us, Maddy wondered to herself. After only a few seconds, they stopped, and the sound of a window opening crept into the music, like an odd, sibilant percussion line, followed by a bigger, more metallic rattle. When they moved forward again, with a damp, organic breeze with an unfamiliar sharp note still exploring the van’s interior, the sight of an open gate set into a tall, stone wall shocked Maddy. 

Just what kind of place is this? She craned around, watching the gate start closing by itself until the boxes behind blocked the view. Maddy leaned into the boxes at her side, trying to see past the seat in front of her to catch her first glimpse of the house ahead of them. She could see very little, no matter how she pushed and leaned, but it took at least another minute or two before the minivan came to a stop, and the engine noise fell silent.

Moosepedia: Matilda

Name: Matilda, Momma (to one very special moose girl), Formerly Melio Muse of History

Biography: Matilda has always been fascinated by different cultures, and all the stories of how they got to be the way they are. She greatly enjoys teaching others the stories, as well. This pairing naturally led to a lifelong calling as a teacher.

It was through her study of those stories that Matilda, as Melio, found the evidence that led the Moosympians to abandon Moosympus.

It was through Matilda’s daughter, Miranda, the lost child of Moosympus, that Matilda met the first children of the Valley, and started what would become the Moosiversity, with branch campuses in Funtown and the Valley of the Frogs and other places.

Domicile:  When Matilda and Miranda first built their house in Moose Town, it ended up being quite a bit larger than they expected, with a whole floor and several common rooms more than they thought there should be. The extra space came in very handy when lessons for Miranda suddenly swelled into a full boarding school one morning.

It did not take long after that for the Moosiversity plans to blossom in minds and on drawing boards as a major part of the new town, Moose Harbor, that would tame the delta at the river’s mouth.

Matilda and Miranda’s house was moved to form part of the campus between the first of the dormitories, the first laboratories, and the orchard. Matilda still takes in boarders who are too young, or too shy, or have some other reason not to thrive in the dorms. And, no matter how many administrative duties running such a complex Moosiversity may generate, Matilda always has time to teach and spend time with her daughter.

Interests: Matilda always enjoys learning new things, She and Miranda often take one or two of the more… interesting classes together, things like ice cream making with Lady Moo, or Dirigible Flying and Maintenance with Mary, or Ballistics with Marmaduke. 

You never know what or who she will take an interest in next.

Moosepedia: Maximillian

Name: Maximillian (He usually goes by Max.), Formerly Maides


Biography: Though, as Maides, Max preferred to stay in his own subterranean realm, and rarely visited Moosympus, he is still considered to be one of the original Moosympians. He is Meus’s oldest (and largest sibling, and one of his closest advisors.

When Meus set out to establish Moose Valley, he invited all of his siblings to come along. Memeter had taken to wandering the worlds, employing her craft as she saw fit, and felt no need for a fixed abode among the other moosey ones. Moseidon had established his own society of meremoosen, deep under the salt waves, and could no more easily adapt once again to life on land than he could easily abandon or transplant the other meremoosen to Meus’s new settlement. Mestia left their mountain home well before the end, and while the others still communicate with her not infrequently, none of them really know to where Mestia moved, at least not yet.

Only Max, of all the siblings, went with Meus and the larger part of the other Moosympians when they moved to the Valley. He was more than ready to set aside his old job and his old name. There are some indications, however, that suggest that Max still has more to do with his old job than the sculptor, stone mason, and architect he appears to be might suggest.


Domicile: Max is naturally a very big moose, and he has trouble reducing his size down to something more of a kind with most of the other Moose Valley residents’ daily wear proportions. He, also, tends to be rather shy, and uncomfortable with large groups, so he built his home in a nice set of limestone caves right off the underground headwaters of the southern of the two tributaries that form the Moose River.

Max chose not to replicate the vast manor he left behind. Instead, he has a much smaller space, with a bedroom for himself; a sleeping room for Max’s best friend, Lee, with a pool in one end that connects to the tributary; and a third bedroom built to Max’s size, but with clusters of furniture on several levels built to the sizes more comfortable for his smaller friends and family. The kitchen, dining room, study, and parlor are furnished with the same courtesy in mind. With Miltin’s active help, Max even has elevators and monorails from the different levels and different rooms, so that overnight guests do not have to spend half the morning climbing out of bed and hiking to the dining room for breakfast. Some people do not appreciate cold eggs.


Interests: Max and Lee provide most of the quarried stone for construction and decoration in Moose Valley. They even export some to friends in other places. He formed the great slides that gave the Slide Mountains their name, and serve to keep their grumpy, fire-breathing, northern neighbors where their periodic wildfires keep to the grasslands and away from the homes and settlements.

Even more than great projects like that, Max enjoys sculpture. There is a broad stretch of cliff at a point where the Moose River grows narrow and swift, where Max has carved a vast mural into the cliff, including all his friends and kin engaged in activities that help define who they are. The mural is rarely finished for long. Max is usually the first person newcomers to the valley meet if they came by one of the to adjust to a new way of life can be a good way to  make new friends.


Moosepedia: Moosette

Just so you know, I noticed Minion forgot to list Meus’s interests in last week’s post, and it has been edited to include that section.

Name:    Moosette, Matriarch of Moose Valley, Manu Tahura, the Beast of the River


Long ago (Just how long, no one really knows, though it was well before the Moosympians decided to abandon Moosympus.), a moose was born who was not like her mother. She was smaller, more supple, and more curious than others her age, and when her mother moved on, leaving the young moose on her own, she was lonely.

The young moose wandered far, until she met a young human called Emma, who taught the young moose her first language, introduced her friend to many concepts beyond what an ordinary mother moose could impart, and gave the young moose her first name. Emma chose Moosette, after her grandmother Musette.

Girl and moose had many good times, out in the woods, when Emma could sneak away, but Emma eventually grew up and had to move away, leaving Moosette alone again. After Emma, Moosette met many humans, some nice, some very not, until she settled in a valley with no near neighbors closer than the islands well out of sight beyond the harbor.

Moosette had grown to mistrust many humans, though she never forgot Emma, so when humans tried to move into her valley, she would chase them away, but there were a few, if they approached her the right way, that she would help, for she had learned many things in her travels. They called her Manu Tahura, the Beast of the River, since the river that ran down her valley was more familiar than the wide spread of land, bigger than any of their islands.

It was only when Meus came to visit on his quest for a new home for his people, that Moosette found a people of her own, people like herself, who could accept and embrace all aspects of her abilities and history. With them, she built her valley into Moose Valley, and her proper home.


Moosette and Meus live together in Moose House, in the middle of the original town* in Moose Valley, with one side of the extensive garden against the river. Moose House is far larger than the two moose need for themselves, but they have a semi-permanent open house policy that fills up a lot more space.

Moosette’s kitchen always has fresh food and drink out for anyone who wants to stop by, whether there is anyone home or not. Moose House has extra parlors and living rooms for meetings, classes, and other gatherings that prefer a more homey atmosphere, or have some other reason to stay in Town rather than travel down the river to the harbor to use the more extensive facilities on the newer Moosiversity campus. Moose house also has space set aside for communal storage and a fair-sized, if rather specialized library, though most of those services are now handled by the Community Center and Marius’ Great Library.

In one, far corner of the garden is a shed where Meus keeps his old chariot. Meus is no longer the “King” of Moosympus, so the old contracts no longer apply. Moreover, the winds of that Valley are not the same as the winds of the Mountain, but the Valley winds like Meus, so every once in a while, when he has a good reason, Meus can still be seen riding his chariot through the sky, behind horses formed from the four winds as he did of old.

*(Residents generally refer to it as the town and the newer accumulation of buildings in the tamed delta where the fresh water met the salt, the harbor, but on the Valley map, it says, ‘Moose Town’ and ‘Moose Harbor’, as slightly more official names, if not very imaginative.)


Moosette rarely leaves the Valley these days, but she is always interested in meeting new people. She makes certain that every newcomer, visitor or immigrant, to the Valley is properly greeted and made welcome, often changing her shape to something they might find more familiar until they get used to their new surroundings.

Moosette is the premiere shapechanger among the Moose Valley community, and often teaches morphing classes part-time at the Moosiversity, but her primary focus is the bakery she runs in Town, a gift from many of her friends when her Moose House kitchen started running out of facilities for all the baking she did for them and others.

Moosepedia: Meus, Patriarch of Moose Valley

Name:    Meus, Patriarch of Moose Valley, former “King” of Moosympus

Biography:  Meus is a very old moose, though there a few older. Long ago, he founded the mountaintop city of Moosympus, where he led the other Moosympians (as much as they needed leading) for long ages of human history, until his people ran out of room and stopped having children, and they found that, in a very subtle way, their free interactions with and offers of help to their human neighbors was doing more harm than good, and the Moosympians settled on a plan to move.

Meus searched far and wide, over several worlds until he met Moosette, a moose of another kind, who invited Meus and his Moosympians to come live in her Valley.

Domicile: Meus and Moosette live together in Moose House, in the middle of the original town* in Moose Valley, with one side of the extensive garden against the river. Moose House is far larger than the two moose need for themselves, but they have a semi-permanent open house policy that fills up a lot more space.

Moosette’s kitchen always has fresh food and drink out for anyone who wants to stop by, whether there is anyone home or not. Moose House has extra parlors and living rooms for meetings, classes, and other gatherings that prefer a more homey atmosphere, or have some other reason to stay in Town rather than travel down the river to the harbor to use the more extensive facilities on the newer Moosiversity campus. Moose house also has space set aside for communal storage and a fair-sized, if rather specialized library, though most of those services are now handled by the Community Center and Marius’ Great Library.

In one, far corner of the garden is a shed where Meus keeps his old chariot. Meus is no longer the “King” of Moosympus, so the old contracts no longer apply. Moreover, the winds of that Valley are not the same as the winds of the Mountain, but the Valley winds like Meus, so every once in a while, when he has a good reason, Meus can still be seen riding his chariot through the sky, behind horses formed from the four winds as he did of old.


Beyond his responsibilities to the Valley, Meus also has an abiding interest in the weather. He maintains an observatory, high up in the Slide Mountains to the north of the Valley. There Meus studies the weather patterns of the area, and makes certain that picnics always have sunny weather, kite parties always have enough wind, the farms get enough rain, and Crismoose always has snow.

Moosepedia: Cody Elias Tower

It has been put to me, by my minions among others, that I have an awful lot of friends for someone else to keep track of. Moreover, as we continue to go out Walking and having adventures, the number of people my archives cover will only continue to grow. My minion is one of those poor humans who is so bad with names, that she has even forgotten her own on occasion, and she thinks those of you who will only get to know us through these archives (and she) might benefit from some sort of reference stating who is whom, a picture, and a few things about us.

I like to be helpful, so, of course I agreed. I asked my minions who they should like to read about first, and they have both chose me for some silly reason. They both know me quite well, after all. They pointed out that you might not, and you might rather want to do so, however embarrassing I might find writing about myself.

Name: Cody Elias Tower

Biography: With so many stories going through his head, Cody has trouble remembering about the time before he became the Moose Valley Archivist. There are some who should know who say that before the Moosympians moved to their Valley, Cody had another name and another job the great flying city of Moosgard, and he does not deny it. Mostly, he just finds talking about himself… less interesting than all the adventures his friends have.

Let us just say that soon after the Valley’s foundation, Cody was seen sitting in a shady garden nook, writing in a great leather-bound tome, and he always seems to know what has been going on, even when the action is worlds away.


One of the supporting pieces of evidence as to Cody’s Moosgardian origins is his chosen residence. Even on the sunniest, clearest day, that Meus can come up with, a fluffy cloud often drifts a lazy circuit around the Valley. Though its edges are a fluffy white, the sun does not touch the center. Sunshine does not pass through most stone, and Mjollnyr’s castle rests on that cloud. The top of the castle’s tallest widest tower, Cody keeps and creates the Valley Archive, with his living quarters on the level below, each level one big, airy room, broken into sections only by the placement of furniture.


Cody is almost always to be found in those two rooms, unless a friend has stopped by to invite him out for fresh air and exercise. His books can write themselves, but Cody likes to keep watch over all his friends, just in case they might need him to call in help.

A Wolf’s Wings (Part 6 of 6)

Once the sound of the engine had faded, and people could converse without shouting, Boom asked Marmaduke, “Do you think he will be okay? I know you rebuilt the whole motor after the crash on the last test flight.”

Marmaduke nodded. “He should be fine. I corrected the flaws from the last design. Wolf paid close attention when I instructed him on the new flight controls and trained him, so he should handle things quite well.”

“Besides, Malcolm and Mary are both up there, paralleling him. If something goes wrong, they will be nearby to lend assistance,” said Moozie as he floated over to comment in his role of flight safety person.

The wolf flew slowly at first, drifting up and down and side to side, getting the feel of the controls and all Marmaduke’s tweaks. Then, he picked up speed as he gained in confidence. The urge to push the new harness higher and faster tugged at the wolf’s tail, but Moozie’s caution about not going outside the flight test route stuck in his mind. There should be time enough for play and exploration when the tests were done.

The wolf could see Malcolm in his biplane bank in to fly parallel  to his own flight path on the wolf’s left, another reminder to keep things restrained. The wolf banked sedately to his right, following the river as the flight plan dictated, slowing down to be safe.

Up ahead, the wolf caught sight of Mary’s airship, pacing him on the right. The airship served two purposes. As well as a second pair of aerial eyes, Mary’s craft could serve as an emergency landing spot if he had trouble going down without dropping out of the sky. The airship had a special landing platform on top of the fuselage for him and other smaller fliers.

To serve as a landing spot, the flying craft would need to halt its forward motion while still having lift. Helicopters and balloons could hover like that, but airplanes could not.

Finding the airship’s presence reassuring, yet unneeded, the wolf waved at Mary where she stood on the bridge gondola of the and the moderate sized crowd in the common area beyond, taking the Valley Aerial Tour to watch his flight (at least partly).

The airborne trio drifted eastward over the forested banks of the river towards the looming tor of bare rock and Moosekateer Castle. Malcolm had fallen into a chase position, behind the wolf, while Mary and her airship drifted along to one side.

In the water below, the wolf caught sight of Lee, the giant alligator, with a load of dressed stone on his back, for all the world as if swimming along making an ordinary delivery. The wolf smiled to himself. He knew very well that unless the stone was meant for the castle (and there was no new construction going on at the castle), Lee was swimming the wrong way. The wolf waved a paw down at the great alligator, and in spite of the show of just happening to be in the area, Lee grinned a very toothy grin and waved back with the tip of his long tail.

As the castle grew to dominate more and more of the horizon, the wolf grinned his own toothy grin as he saw all the pennants flying from the outer curtain walls and the great wolf decorated flags and banners hung from the towers. Someone had even rigged three great search lights shining up from the inner keep. That they were clearly visible even in the bright afternoon light meant those had to be some extremely powerful lights.

Just to the west, on a broad piece of flat ground good for picnics and kite flying below the castle lay the wolf’s goal, and a great white X marked the spot, lined on three sides by a surprising crowd of people. As he flew closer, the wolf could pick out Boom’s bright blue fur, and he thought the grey hippopatamoose hugging a splash of red had to be Helena, still carrying her fire extinguisher.

Malcolm pulled up to the wolf’s left, as he had at the beginning of the flight. The moose waved first a poof, and then dipped the near wing of the biplane before banking away to return to the Moose Valley Airfield atop the great Port complex. Airplanes needed a lot more to land and take off than the personal flying harness.

“It is too bad that Malcolm can not stay for my landing and announcement,” the wolf thought with real regret. Then he brightened. “I will have to come up with a present, a special thank  you. Then again, there were a number of people had helped with the wolf’s quest to gain the air. He would have to find ways to thank everyone.

With a deep breath, the wolf began his descent. He managed the landing with hardly a stumble. The crowd held back and held its peace until the wolf had the harness shut down. The sudden silence fell like the indrawn  breath before the crowd’s great cheer, but the wolf gave them such a look, that the breath caught and held.

The wolf sought out Marmaduke in the crowd. Like the rest of the group from the ranch, the inventor had taken a slide to the castle, so as to be there for the landing. “The harness works?” the wolf asked coolly.

“It certainly seems to,” Marmaduke said after swallowing several ideas for possible improvements.

The wolf gave a regal nod, and turned to address the crowd. “Now that I have my ‘wings’ I should like to announce that I have chosen for myself a name,” he called in a carrying tone. The held breath turned into a gasp. The wolf allowed a moment for surprise to settle before making his announcement. “From now on, my name is Pterolycus.” He paused a beat then grinned at his friends, “But if you like, you may all call me Peter.”


A Wolf’s Wings (Part 5)

Boom slid out of the group and walked over to join the wolf. “You do not have to keep serving as Marmaduke’s test pilot, you know. The project may be for you, but I am quite accustomed and ready to serve. I know from experience that even when the safety measures keep you entirely unharmed, crashing out of the sky can still make one nervous for a while afterwards.” Boop patted the wolf on the shoulder, bending down a bit to reach. (Patting the wolf on the head would have been easier, but it might have come across as more condescending than comforting under the circumstances.)

“Thank you for the offer,” the wolf said after a deep breath. “But I might as well get used to falling out of the sky now as later. Even when the harness is pronounced complete, I imagine that circumstances will crop up that bring me plunging down from time to time. Devices can fail from other things besides design flaws, after all.”

Marmaduke stood up, pulling his wrench out of the motor and buttoning up the flight harness. “Ready to go, we just need to get fuel and test pilot into the harness.”

The wolf moved forward to strap himself into the harness, while Marmaduke fetched the fuel from the cart.

Everyone seemed to want to check, and double check that everything was fastened correctly before, the flight test was ready to begin.

“Are you ready to fly, Mr. Wolf?” asked Marmaduke.

The wolf nodded, not quite trusting his voice.

Marmaduke led the llama cart out of the practice ring while Boom herded the rest of the observers out of the test site practice ring, closing the gate carefully before signaling to Moozie that they were ready to go.

As the safety officer for the day’s test flight, Moozie had the ultimate authority on when things could be started, and under what circumstances it must stop immediately. Moozie looked around to make sure everyone was at a safe distance and prepared.

Helena hugged her first aid kit in case someone got hurt. Aurora had taken charge of the fire extinguisher, just in case.

“Just take things slow and steady. The changes I have made might have changed the way it handles,” said Marmaduke.

Marmaduke looked to Moozie, so did the wolf. Moozie said, “Mr. Wolf, you may start your rotary engine. Please keep watch for my signal before attempting a take off. That will give me time to verify everyone is at a safe distance.”

“I copy that,” said the wolf. The wolf used his snout to bump the engine toggle on the control panel mounted beside his head.

The engine on the helicopter harness roared to life. As the small, efficient engine built up its rotations per minute, the blades spun faster and faster.

The wolf could feel vibrations course through the harness frame and vibrate his body as noise increased. The wolf kept his eyes on Moozie, concentrating on the job as hard as he could, so that even the wolf could not tell if some of the shaking might be nervousness instead.

Moozie watched the startup sequence, making certain everything functioned as it ought. Then he looked to make sure everyone was clear of the take off zone. When he was sure all was well, Moozie gestured with his left poof in a clear signal to take off when ready.
The wolf nudged the throttle and the rotor picked up speed, generating enough lift to raise the whole wolf and contraption off the ground.

The wolf hovered briefly a dozen body lengths (his body length) off the ground. Then after adjusting the controls and gaining courage, the wolf set off toward the river which served as his designated flight path.

A Wolf’s Wings (Part 4)

You almost got this last week, as Minion has been so distracted that she did not realize part 3 had never gotten posted back when she first got sick. Two weeks in a row may be coincidence. Let us see if we can get three and make it a trend.

“I really do think that everything should work out this time, and not just because I think I have worked out all the bugs. Have you noticed how many of our friends have gotten themselves involved in this test flight? Moozie, with the way he watches the interconnections between places, events, people, things, and even ideas, often knows quite a bit about the future, and he has come out to act as one of our spotters. Helena is here with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and an expectant grin. I heard that Boom, Myra, and Aurora all intend to be on hand as well. Those are just the people who will be here at the ranch for the take off.”

The wolf did not have anything to say in response, so he just nodded. For anyone else, the gesture might have come across as a nervous one but the wolf was always a laconic individual. He could have been nervous, or excited, or merely have nothing he felt needed saying. He could even have felt some combination of two, or even all three, and few would ever be able to tell.

Marmaduke did not expect an answer and finished up his work on his new invention. The adjustments had to be triple checked. Clever pooves insured that the rotor bearings were greased, and the drive belt was taut.

With surprising ease, Marmaduke picked up the whole assembly and transferred it to the llama drawn cart waiting just outside the workshop, strapping it down, carefully to keep it from shifting around or falling off. Marmaduke touched the llama lightly on the back, right flank, setting it moving.

As Marmaduke, the wolf, and the llama (who Marmaduke called Devon, even though the llama had yet to answer to it) made their way from the workshop, they gathered a small tail of followers. Myra and Aurora joined them from the bench outside the house, walking side by side. Myra carried a small, open sack of popcorn, while Aurora brought dried apples slices, and they both munched neatly from either sack as they walked. Helena trailed behind with her first aid kit in one arm and the fire extinguisher in the other, though she looked at the two snackers reaching for tidbits in the other’s sack and quietly crunching in a way that said she wished she had brought a snack of her own, even if that would mean she had to hop along on one leg to have a third poof free to carry everything.

Boom dovetailed into place at the end of the procession, coming up from the river bridge with his rolling, sailor’s stride in a maneuver so well timed that it looked practiced, but probably came from a slight tug on the strings of connection under Moozie’s clever old pooves, instead.

That strange, old one perched in place at the testing site already, his hollow end stretched around the top of a fence post, like a hand puppet left out for display.

In the day to day routine of the ranch, the ‘test site’ they aimed for served as one of the practice rings for the wide variety of riding and draft animals that Marmaduke raised and trained in between experiments. The walls rose higher and stood sturdier than most, but an auroch, elephant, or triceratops takes a bit more containing than a horse or llama might.

The llama trotted through the gate and into the middle of the ring with no guidance from anyone. Devon knew quite well what the cart meant when it came from that workshop. If Marmaduke had been working on something more explosive, he would have used the underground bunker on the other side of the ranch, instead of the workshop near the house. Still, once the mechanism sat on the ground in the ring’s center, Devon set off out the gate again without prompting. Marmaduke’s inventions often made too much noise to be wholly comfortable, and could be very unpredictable in their movements.

The antlered contingent of the column, however, followed the cart into the ring and stood around talking quietly among themselves while Marmaduke plunged once again into the heart of the motor with a wrench, and the wolf stood a little off to one side absently digging in the dirt with one paw, until he noticed the nervous gesture and made himself stop.

A Wolf’s Wings (Part 3)

We are sorry to have been so long getting back to this. Minion got put down hard for a few weeks way back in February with what we strongly suspect was that nasty corona virus that is on everyone’s these days. For a few weeks after that, she was mildly ambulatory but would have a relapse every time she went out of the house…and in that period the lockdown happened.

Since then she has been poking at a couple other projects, and it has been very difficult getting her back to paying attention to ME. Hopefully, I have her attention now, but she has been shopping for microphones and learning about making podcasts with the stories she wrote for that purpose over a year ago. Focus and attention may still be an issue. Oh well. (Husband Minion never did find all the bits he wanted for his picture, but then he is the one who brought the crud into the house from his coworkers who returned from South Korea and Japan, so we forgive him.)

Several weeks of trial and error later, Marmaduke tilted his head to examine one side of his creation. It had already failed an integrity structure test (and several others) once already. He made this second iteration was made of tougher materials and while he was at it, he made some improvements to the control mechanisms, and he added a larger rotor as well. He polished the aluminum and titanium rotor until it gleamed in his workshop lights humming to himself, until the wolf scratched stone in lieu of a cough to announce himself as had become his habit.

“Almost ready to go! This version has more speed and lift among other things,” commented Marmaduke to his young lupine friend.

“So…I will not be falling from the sky again? I am glad that we got a second opinion, so the parachute worked the first time,” exclaimed the wolf.

Marmaduke did not even look up from the bolt he was adjusting with his torque wrench when he responded. He was used to that sort of reaction to his designs, even though no one had ever come to significant harm from a malfunction of one of his designs. A few might have had the pants frightened off of them (if they were the sort to wear pants), but that could hardly be called his fault. “You worry too much. My safety precautions always work, and the escape rocket would have worked just as well as the parachute you insisted upon. Even Miltin will tell you that my safety mechanisms always work just the way that they should, no matter how much we diverge in our approaches to engineering.”

“I am very glad to hear that,” the wolf said with a wry note in his customary growl.

Marmaduke fiddled with the helicopter pack where it lay in the one clear spot on his cluttered workbench, making a faint squeaky noise. “Machines are much easier to redesign and fix than friends. I am always careful and cautious with things that are important.”

“And the occasional, unexpected plunge out of the sky certainly does make the whole process more…interesting,” said the wolf. “And I fully acknowledge that usually take the role of test pilot for yourself, and I am the one who insisted on the change. I am very grateful that you have put forth so much effort on my behalf, but we can tease our friends without giving offence.”

Something in the way the wolf said the last, not so much in the words, but in the way his head and tail sank slightly, made it clear to Marmaduke that the wolf was not as sure about that as he sounded. “You are welcome,” Marmaduke grumped. He let the silence stretch out for a moment or two before he glanced over at the wolf and winked, proving that he could give as good as he got on the teasing front.