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Thanksgiving 2015 

Freedom City 

 

Things were changing in the Cline household. Will was dating a nice girl out in California, a very pretty UCLA cheerleader and aspiring athletic trainer named Stormy Allen. The Clines had met the Allens, a lovely couple who worked in the back office of the Los Angeles Clippers, a few weeks earlier and it had been a very pleasant conversation. Stormy came from a big family, with three older brothers and two younger sisters, and so she'd invited Will to her traditional family Thanksgiving. He'd said yes - a big moment for Will and his relationship with this girl! 


This meant it was the first Thanksgiving for the Clines without the company of their oldest son. It was hard - but one thing about having a lot of hero friends was that they never had to be entirely without company. 

 

Richard was up first, as usual, especially thanks to all the work Paige had been doing the night before. His morning run took him around eastern New Jersey and almost to Baltimore before he came jogging back with coffee and doughnuts, about the time he saw the light coming on in Holly's room from outside. Holly had been getting up earlier too lately - just like her dad. 

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Daphne was excited! Whist she enjoyed her holiday sat watching television today she got to have a real Thanksgiving meal with real people. What drama could she expect to see, what family truths would be revealed!

 

Right now she was deciding something just as important, what to wear to her first, well family meal. She’d set up Babies holographic display to show a full size image of herself and was trying various clothing options.

 

I still don’t see why you going to all this trouble? Mother Unit was still skeptical about her day out

 

It’s a chance to meet real people, and see how they live. It’s like Reality TV with a personal POV. And Mrs Cline is a telepath so I’d though you could meet each other, I want you on you best behaviour.

 

Do you ever doubt you Mother Unit?

 

Constantly!


Now what about the 80’s inspired clothes? Though she wasn’t sure she could pull off the big hair...

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"Moooooom, I can't find the Fruity Pebbles! I think Daddy ate them all again!" Paige raised her bleary head from her pillow at the whining from her doorway. She'd been up until three in the morning, brining turkey and marinating vegetables and laying out bread to get stale for stuffing. A glance at the clock told her it was almost seven now, and not nearly time to start roasting yet. Holly was looking at her expectantly, her arms crossed over her chest in a very aggrieved manner. At least she was still in her pajamas, so she probably did not expect a store trip.

 

"He probably did," she told Holly, trying to blink the sleep from her eyes. "What do you want me to do about it?" 

 

"Those were miiiiine," she complained. "They're my favorite!" 

 

"They're bad for you," Paige pointed out automatically. 

 

"Mooooooooooom!" 

 

"We'll get you some more," she promised, dropping her head back to her pillow. "And your dad will probably bring back breakfast anyway. Now if you're going to watch cartoons, go do it now, because I'm going to need your help in the kitchen today." As if on cue, the front door banged open on the other side of the house. "Now go bug your father." 

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While Miss Grue made her Thanksgiving preparations across town, making absolutely sure that she was dressed appropriately for the Terran holiday, the Cline family got their Thanksgiving day started. Television and Fruity Pebbles (and a big hot chocolate donut with chocolate icing) got Holly occupied for a while, along with the phone she was using to text Gwen Jackson about the start of her day. Richard kept himself busy in the time that Paige was continuing to sleep, going through the checklist she had left behind to make sure that the food was coming along nicely. He'd tried to talk Paige into letting him 'speed things up' this year, but as she pointed out jet lag wasn't going to make the holiday very fun for her - though he was still pretty sure "time salmonella" was something that Dr. Tomorrow had made up to ruin Christmas of '12 for them. 

 

"Hey, Holly-girl, text Miss Grue and confirm that she should get here at ten." That was still about two hours away. "I'm gonna get breakfast ready for your Mom." Breakfast in bed was going to be a quick affair, given how much of the kitchen was already in use, but Richard had the time to brew the coffee his wife liked and lay out the bearclaws from the gas station in Atlantic City she preferred. Laying it out on a plastic tray, he zipped upstairs to find Paige still in bed. 

 

"Morning, beautiful," he told her with a smile. "The food is fine, our lovely girl is busy watching Girls Meets World, your son sent us a picture of himself in his suit and tie, and here's breakfast. I'll make sure you've got time to eat it," he promised. 

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It appears you have been summoned at 10 am. I am a highly advanced Artificial Intelligence with more processing power than most human on this planet, why then do I have act as a message service? I am programmed to analyze vast amounts of important data, not handle emoji's!

 

Well then plot a suitable travel times, allowing for delays and book us a cab to take use to the house. There was a note of amusement in Daphne’s thoughts.

 

Mother Units reply was a mental grumble, but she carried out the task almost before Daphne had finished asking.


Having finally settled on a sensible but colorful dress Daphne enjoyed the cab ride chatting with the driver, surprising to her in her home tongue, arriving at the Cline’s residence at almost ten on the dot.

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She wasn't alone at the front porch. Jogging up the short walk just as she arrived was a fit woman who looked to be in her mid-fifties, her short brown hair perfectly coiffed and just reaching her shoulders. She wore a tight men's dress shirt and vest, her red tie and leather spats making her look like a woman of the 1920s, the gold ring on the fourth finger of her left hand glittering cheerfully as she looked over the young teenager also heading for the Cline house. "Hey there, chicky-baby," she said with a toothy smile as she looked Daphne over. "Are you a friend of Will's?" As she spoke, she idly twirled an old-fashioned watch on a chain, looking relaxed and confident. 

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A little extra rest and a breakfast she didn't have to prepare helped put Paige in a more festive frame of mind by the time she made her way downstairs to start preparations for the evening feast. Daphne had said she wanted the full Thanksgiving Day experience, and Paige was ready to take her at her word, especially with her usual sous-chef all the way across the country with some young woman that Paige was still extremely skeptical about. Every young person, no matter where they came from or what species they technically were, ought to learn the basics of making a Thanksgiving dinner. Even Holly knew how to make stuffing and mashed potatoes, though her curret stuffy nose would be keeping her out of the kitchen for most of the day. 

 

Paige tied back her hair and was just tying on her apron when she heard noises and sensed sentient minds out on the front porch. She hurried to open the door, giving one of her guests a warm smile. "Daphne, it's so nice to see you! Happy Thanksgiving!" She opened the door wider so Daphne could come in, then turned a noticeably cooler smile on the other guest. "Mother Cline. What a surprise. How have you been?" 

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As a shapeshifter Daphne had a fine eye for faces and it was pretty obvious that this woman was related to the Cline’s in someway. With her classic Golden Age Hollywood looks Daphne was sure that she should recognise the woman, but she couldn’t recognise her face.

 

“Hi there I’m Daphne Celeste, pleased to meet you.” she gave the older woman a couple of air kisses “I meet WIlliam as part of a school exchange program, I’ve also been lucky to help Mr & Mrs Cline on a project, I happen to know quite a bit about television it seems.” she couldn’t help but be proud at last point.

 

When Mrs Cline answered the door Daphne had a rare moment of doubt, she bought along everything she had been asked to bring but what if she’d missed one of those strange customs that all humans knew but never had the decency to show on television. It was a sign of her growing mental control that she didn’t blanket the area with psychic panic.


“Happy Thanksgiving Mrs Cline! Thank you for inviting me along today.”

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"Oh, you know I just couldn't stay away from my family Thanksgiving!" said Anna brightly. This was a blatant lie - Anna's holiday visits generally came when she was bored rather than any interest in family bonding. But it was hard to correct her on that account with their guest right there, not to mention all her blood relatives in the house. 

 

"Gramma!" declared Holly, who had appeared in the doorway behind Paige to first give Anna a hug, then give a friendly sort of wave to Daphne. "I'm so glad you're here. I still have that cold," she added, waving her handkerchief for emphasis. Remembering her manners, she added to Daphne as she came in, "Hello! Welcome to our house!" 

 

Richard, who had been hovering in the kitchen like a hummingbird, appeared when their guests did. "Ma! Well, this is a surprise!" Richard loved his mother very much; but he also knew well what kind of person she was. He hugged her warmly, but nonetheless found himself wondering exactly why she was there. Maybe those plans of hers fell through. She'd described those plans, which involved a godling about Will's age, in really more detail than her son had needed to hear. "Hey, Daphne," he said, shaking her hand. "Glad you could make it. This is our daughter Holly, and this is my mother, Anna Cline. Welcome to our home-away-from-home."

 

"You probably know me as Clock Queen," said Anna, flashing a smile that was the result of some expensive dentistry. "And look what I've got for my little Hollygirl!" From her purse, Anna produced a brand-new Apple Watch, still in its packaging, which she handed over to a surprised Holly before turning to Paige, "I know you're down a man with Will off with that girl in LA, and I thought I could come over and help. I've been around for almost eighty Thanksgivings, I've learned a few tricks!" she added with a grin.

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"We're very glad you could come today, Daphne," Paige said, her tone and her face both warming as she addressed the young woman. "And please, you can call us Paige and Richard. You can go ahead and hang your coat up on one of the pegs there on the wall, and I've got coffee going in the kitchen. I'm just about to make the cranberry sauce, and then it'll be time to stuff the turkey. Richard, why don't you get your mother a drink and show her the new speaker system in the living room?" she suggested pointedly to her husband. 

 

"So Daphne, what have you been up to lately?" Paige asked as she led the way to the kitchen. "I feel like I can hardly keep up now that Will's gone away to school." 

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“So it seems you actually have to go up in class each year, so new lessons and everything!” she didn’t seem the problem with this “And I’m thinking of getting myself a place to live, with furniture and everything.” this rather mundane thing seemed to be quite exciting to the young Grue

 

Daphne carefully removed a Stitch backpack from her shoulders and began to rummage inside as she spoke slightly nervously.

 

“I hope you don’t mind but I bought along a guest, I promise you she won’t be any trouble she doesn’t even need feeding!”

 

From the bag she drew out a matt black cube about the size of a Rubik's Cube that didn’t seem to reflect the light at all.

 

“This is Mother Unit she’s the one that raised me up from when I left the pod.”


It a pleasure to make your acquaintance, I must say that you have a lovely place here. For an advanced alien computer it was strange that the voice in Paige’s head sounded a little like Mary Poppins.

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With his mother's favorite martini mix in a glass and his daughter roaming off to learn more about this interesting friend of her parents (who was at least a little closer to her own age), Richard stood with Anna in the living room and studied the new sound system there. "I'm glad you're here, Ma," said Richard quietly, and it was true - though not his only emotion on the subject. "We don't spend enough holidays as a family anymore." 

 

"Yeah, well, if you and your kids would move down to Florida like I keep asking, I could run over every weekend. Willy's gonna be in college soon, you know, and it ain't that much further from the Panhandle to LA than it is from here," said Anna, already into her martini. "Your old ma misses you, Dicky." 

 

"Yeah, well, you can move back to Freedom City, Ma. You know why we need to stay here around superheroes." Like everyone else in their extended family, Anna knew what had happened with Paige's father - and its grim aftermath. 

 

-

 

"Woah! Can I touch it?" asked an excited Holly, staring at the Mother Unit, Daphne, and her mom in no particular order. "That is so cool - I can feel it in my head. Do the Grue have a lot of telepathic computers?" she asked Daphne, looking very interested. 

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"Getting your own apartment, that's exciting!" Paige told Daphne, totally sincere. "Are you looking at places around the city yet? Richard and I thought about renting when we were moving here, but we decided to go with school housing so we could be close to Holly. But there are a lot of nice apartments available." 

 

She blinked at the introduction of the matte-black computer block, but regained her equilibrium within a beat. "The pleasure's all mine, Mother Unit," she told the AI. "Daphne is a lovely young woman, it's nice to meet someone who had a hand in bringing her up. I don't believe I've met an AI like you before. Is there anything you need to be comfortable?" 

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“Please it’s she, not it, she’s chosen to identify as female. And well... she’s my mom.” she offered Mother Unit towards Holly to hold without any kind of reluctance.

 

“There was an accident and a lot of Mother Unit’s data one the Grue was lost, but as far as I understand it there are different caste of Grue, I’m from the caste who’s tasked with integration with aliens for example.” she sounded very proud of her purpose “But not all Grue are telepathic, Mother Unit can communicate vocally, but we prefer to communicate telepathically.”

 

Space is so dangerous, especially with what’s been going on recently, I’ve forbidden her from going back to into space!

 

“Luckily I’m not planning on going back any time soon, I’m quite happy to stay in earth. It partly why I’d like my own place, doing something normal. It’s all so new and scary, but also exciting!”

 

When Mother Unit replied to Paige there was a note of pride in her thoughts.


Thank you. I do worry about Daphne but she seems normally so well behaved, you planet transmissions on child care were of great help in the early days. And I require no special requirements, maybe just a spot to sit and enjoy the company.

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"Wait a minute, wait a minute," said Anna Cline from the hallway entrance, giving Daphne a very suspicious look. "Did you say Grue? You let a Grue into your house on-" 
 

"Nana, no!" said Holly, turning bright red and clapping her hand to her mouth in obvious shame, shiny new Apple Watch or not. "Miss Grue is so cool!" 


"Ma and I are just gonna take a little walk around the neighborhood," said an embarrassed Richard firmly, taking his mother's arm politely as they headed out the front of the house. "We'll be back in a little while." The group inside the house caught just the tail end of Anna's "She's actually called-!?" before the front door closed behind them. 

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"I am so sorry," Paige told Daphne, her face flushing with embarrassed color. "Richard's mother is very outspoken, and we don't agree with a lot of what she says, but she's in her eighties now and not likely to change most of her views. You are absolutely welcome in our house, and if Anna doesn't like it, she doesn't have to stay." It seemed like Paige would not be at all displeased by that outcome, actually. "Let's find a place where Mother Unit can safely watch the action in the kitchen, shall we?" A few moments of work and a little moving stuff around saw the top shelf of Paige's baker's rack cleared off, offering a vantage point that would take in the whole kitchen while avoiding the danger of spills and bumps. "Now Daphne, have you ever cooked a turkey?"

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“It’s okay I understand, some of my people have done very bad things in the past. I just hope that one day I can prove to the world that not all Grue are bad, just like my Uncle Pseudo.”

 

Daphne gave a little sigh and looked a little sad for a moment, hanging her head in shame. Then in an instance she was back to her cheerful self help reorganize the kitchen. When done she carefully lifted up Holly with oversized hands to carefully place Mother Unit on the shelf.


“I’ve very actually done any cooking, most of my food at home is a perfectly balanced goo. Though I do like an Oreo now and again.” the last part was in a stage whisper.

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Paige caught flashes of an argument at super-speed outside, mostly Richard firmly telling his mother that bigotry was not acceptable in their household and that if she wanted to spend time with Richard and Holly, she needed to keep that to herself. Anna didn't have much to say to that (she tended to wait until she and Richard were really alone before unloading on him, Paige knew from long experience), but she could feel her mother-in-law seething as she stepped back into the house. Anna was smiling, though, as she came into the kitchen just long enough to say "I'm so sorry, Ms. Celeste, I'm just overtired. I'm sure you're a lovely-" was there a momentary pause there, the kind you'd only pick up on if you'd lived thirty years with a time controller? "-person. I'm just going to sit down for a while with my son and talk. You're welcome to join us later if you like." 

 

Holly went out to join her grandma, given her cold, and Paige caught a quick Jeeze, sorry! from her husband (who couldn't think too loudly with Holly around, who could always listen to her father better than her mother) before he went out in the living room too to turn on the football game. 

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"Oreos are excellent food," Paige agreed, "but being able to cook food is a valuable Terran skill. We use food as much as a social event as for actual nutrition, and the texture and taste of food is very important. What we're going to make today is a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, dressing, scalloped corn, and mashed potatoes. We'll also have pumpkin pie and apple pie for dessert, but I made those yesterday. Go ahead and wash your hands," she instructed, gesturing to the sink, "and I'll start you chopping up some celery while I peel the potatoes. What have you found that you like besides Oreo cookies?" she asked curiously. 

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Daphne listened with rapt attention as Paige described each of the items that they were going to make for today's meal, she’d never eaten anything more fancy than the school's canteen food.

 

“Oh I sometime eat the canteen food, though there’s a theory there that it’s only marginally food. though I’ve had it tested and it seems perfectly normal to me.” she seemed to be quite sincere in her statement

 

“I’ve seen all this food on the TV but I’ve never known what it all was, no one ever seems to actually eat the Thanksgiving feast on any of the shows.” at this was almost bubbling over with enthusiasm, though compared to earlier encounters her psychic emissions were kept quite low


“What would you like me to do to help?”

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After its rocky beginning, the Cline family Thanksgiving improved substantially. Daphne proved to be a quick study in the kitchen, quickly adapting herself to the way Paige ran a kitchen to great effect. Richard was in and out to plant a kiss on his wife's cheek and taste the stuffing as it was prepared, but for the most part he left the work in the kitchen to the young Grue and his wife. After all, he was busy running herd on his mother and daughter out in the living room. Richard knew that his mother had had prejudices that weren't appropriate, even for a man whose favorite era lay in the past, but he'd been left...surprised by the extent of her outburst. In the last few years, his mother's mood seemed to have been fraying more and more. 

 

As he watched his mother listen patiently to stories about Holly's friends at school (before offering sage advice about making sure to stay friends with the girl with no powers, who was probably going to grow up tough and resourceful), it occurred to Richard uncomfortably that his mother was over eighty years old. Anna looked like a fit woman in her early fifties, thanks to her superpowers and her intensive aerobic exercise, but who knew how long physical youth would last given the irregular nature of superhuman abilities? No one really knew anything about what longevity meant for the brain, either. And if his mother was starting to go - what did that mean for he and Paige, sustained in their own way by the same inherited powers. 

 

After a few hours, when dishes were in the oven or otherwise simmering, the Clines took a break for a Facetime call from Los Angeles, where it looked like Will was having a fine old time with his girlfriend and her big, bustling family. They hooked up Paige's phone to the bigscreen TV, giving them a good view of Will, his girlfriend, and her many cousins and aunts and uncles in the living room of their big house in the Hollywood Hils. While the Clines talked with their wayward son and grandson (with Anna and Paige putting aside their mutual coolness to put on a smiling, happy front for their favorite little boy, almost eighteen or not), Daphne was left mostly to herself. 

 

As that happened, Daphne heard a distinct knocking sound at the door, a soft, almost frail noise that it sounded like all the Clines were too busy to hear. 

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Daphne was in a little whirl of excitement she’d got to help cook, without any major disasters on her part, and eaten a really meal with real people. And apart from mild distrust from Granny Cline everyone seemed happy to have her around, it was just like you standard television families the type that didn’t end up arguing all the time.


Now she was at a bit of a loss and was considering quietly slipping away, with a thank you note of cause, when she heard the knocking at the door. Happy to be helpful to the family she wandered over to the door to peek through the little spy thing to see who was there.

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Outside, Daphne was confronted by the face of a very elderly-looking human, a white-haired old male with rosy cheeks. His brown sweater-vest and brown slacks hung loosely on his shrunken frame, perhaps clothes he had owned when he was younger. When she opened the door to greet him, he looked at her in confusion, his hand on top of his thick shock of completely white hair. "Holly, is that you? You're so tall!" He reached over and suddenly poked her face, then shook his head. "No, that can't be you. Are you Will from the girl dimension?" 

 

Behind her, with the phone call finished, Richard had gotten up to see who was at the door. At the sight of the old man at the door, Paige felt his sudden alarm a moment before his voice rang out in shock, suspicion, and not a little worry. "Dad?!" 

 

Holly looked nervous, glancing from her parents to her grandmother, who was on her feet too in a flash - she'd only visited Bryant Haliday a few times on Grandparents Day and her birthday, usually in the company of her big brother. Seeing him outside the Asylum was a first - and she knew enough about her grandfather's condition to know it might not be a good thing. 

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Paige hurried out the door, putting herself between her young guest and her highly volatile father-in-law. "Grandpa Halliday, what a surprise!" she said with considerable false cheer, a bright smile looking strained on her face. "I suppose Thanksgiving really is a time for family, and look at this one, all gathered together. Why don't we pull you up a seat at the table and I'll get you a nice plate of turkey and stuffing, and some pumpkin pie?" Behind her back, she motioned for Daphne to get back, out of the immediate range of danger. ~Call Providence~ she sent to Holly on a tight mental band. ~Do it from your bedroom. Tell them Doc Holiday has escaped and is at our address.~

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Since arriving on Earth Daphne’s psychic powers had been growing, including an emphatic sense. Not that she needed it to now there was a lot of tension with the arrival of this new family member, she supposed she’d react much the same if her “father” had turned up on the doorstep. So she followed instructions and ducked out of sight, but she wasn’t going to sit idly by, she flashed the man’s image to Mother Unit.

 

Mother Unit could you run this face through the files, I like to know who he is and what he’s done.

 

Is he dangerous? I don’t think you should stay if he’s dangerous. Mother Unit sounded concerned about her daughter.

 

I’m not sure but I’d like to be ready, if trouble starts feel free to contact the authorities.


For now she’d have to just allow the family to work things out among themselves, this as far as she could tell was how families normally behaved during Thanksgiving. Hopefully like on the show she watched they’d come to happy consolidation.

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