'Oh Danny,' Tara sighed, looking at her son. He had carefully covered the entire surface of his tray with a product from Gerber. Tara walked over and took the spoon from the bowl.
Sensing the danger, Daniel O'Toole snapped his head violently to his right.
'Now stop it Danny,' Tara said. She grabbed his cheeks with her left hand and turned his face back towards her. 'Eat your carrots.'
Daniel was appalled at the (attempted) force feeding. He successfully managed to expel most of what his mother had so rudely put into his mouth.
'Ahhhh!' Tara said and looked up at the ceiling. She put the spoon down on the tray and stood up. 'Fine Danny, be a bad little boy if you want. I'm not going to fight you.'
Tara walked toward the counter and used the remote control to turn on the television. Daniel stared at her, his fury growing. She had just served him the absolutely most disgusting thing he had ever tasted, and had literally shoved it into his mouth, and now she was criticizing him?
'Baad!' Danny wailed, hurling the bowl at Tara 's head. The bowl bounced on the floor, short of its target.
'What's all the commotion?' O'Toole said, coming into the room.
'Your son is being quite ornery,' Tara informed her husband. She ripped off some paper towels to begin cleaning the kitchen floor.
O'Toole walked over to Danny, who immediately smiled.
'Were'you bein a bad boy?' O'Toole asked, touching Danny's nose on the word 'you.' He repeated the question and the touching of Danny's nose twice.
Daniel emitted sounds of gratitude. He had seen his father act in this manner on previous occasions, and Daniel could not remember a single instance in which the outcome was not favorable to his interests.
Truth be told, Daniel was almost somewhat relieved. He had never thrown an object before, and he certainly had never thrown one at his mother. As he let it go, his crying had actually stopped; Daniel had been waiting to see what she would do.
O'Toole walked over to the sink to wet a rag. He walked back over to Danny and began cleaning his face.
Tara turned up the television.
'I'm sure everyone was relieved,' the anchorman said, 'when Reliant and the Mariners Association agreed today to talk things out.'
The picture shifted to the Mariners' hall. The building was surrounded by hundreds of Reliant officers, most seated at picnic tables. Press bulbs flashed as the door opened and out walked the leadership of the Mariners.
'After a tense three day standoff,' said the dubbed-over reporter, 'Tom Brady, head of the Mariners Association, has agreed to arbitration in his dispute with Prudence Incorporated. The insurance giant had insisted that the Association, itself a client of Prudence, grant third-party inspection of its premises. After two days of failed negotiation, Prudence decided to call on the women of Reliant to lend a helping hand.'
The picture shifted to show Reliant officers arriving on the scene.
Nets had been moved near the building by its exits, while the sidewalk and alleys around the building were covered in picnic tables. Crews of independent contractors had begun to set up portable toilets and a chain link fence around the building's perimeter.
Mary Winters looked warily at the top windows of the Mariners' hall with her binoculars. It had been decided that taking the rooftop would be too provocative. If, as was feared, Brady and others tried to escape in a helicopter, the Reliant officers would do nothing except track it in their own vehicles.
Winters thought the entire situation was ridiculous. Inasmuch as Reliant was the law, why not simply drape the building with fencing? This would be just as provocative as what they were doing now. The fact that Reliant's standard landlord agreements allowed for their present actions, while not for impeding air access, was a legal technicality. And legal technicalities were not worth losing good women over.
'How many now?' Johnson asked, his hand running absentmindedly over the grenade launcher.
'I'd say another fifty just showed up,' Brady responded.
'The longer we wait, the harder it will be,' Johnson warned Brady and the other Mariners. 'We should have kicked them off the moment they started setting up shop.'
'They're waiting with nets,' Brady said in a scolding tone. 'If we had gone out there, we would've had to shoot them.' Brady looked out the window at the hundreds of women. Better to lose than to start a country that way.
'No, we're not going to shoot unarmed mothers and daughters.'
Brady put the binoculars to his eyes and examined the officers closest to the building. They were quite tall, and though it was hard to tell through the armor, they looked solid. Most were wearing helmets with the visor flipped up. A wide assortment of nets, poles, and bolas littered the ground. A few of the officers leaned on giant foam spray guns.
I'm not even sure we would make it, Brady thought and chuckled.
'Commenting on tonight's peaceful resolution,' the reporter said, 'is Conrad Weimar, law professor at U of M.' The screen shifted to a sharply dressed man seated in an office.
'What this episode has shown us,' Weimar said eagerly, 'is that the system works. Even though the brave men of the Mariners were only trying to help, we see that no one is above the law. If the arbitrators rule as expected, then the Mariners will need to either give up their fancy weapons'or pay their insurance premiums like every other militia.'
'Some local residents, however,' the reporter said, 'were not so optimistic.' The screen shifted to an obviously blue collar man.
'This is nuts,' he said into the camera. 'We've got a sadistic tyrant about to invade us, and rather than getting armed and ready, Reliant's picking on the Mariners? Absolutely f***ing nuts.'
The scene shifted back to the anchorman.
'Today was not all good news for Prudence, however.' A graphic appeared to the right of the anchorman, depicting a certain area of uptown Minerva. 'Four people are dead and a fifth is in critical condition after a crazed gunman opened fire in the Washburn district.'
The screen shifted to a hectic scene of emergency crews and crying onlookers.
'The man, identified as Prudence client Jim Borone, is still on the loose, and is considered armed and extremely dangerous. In a press conference ending just moments ago, a spokesman for Prudence expressed the company's sincere regret and vowed to capture Borone within twenty-four hours. In light of the horrific crime, the spokesman also said Prudence would go beyond the legal penalties and would pay all funeral expenses for the grieving families.
'Some people, however,' the anchor said, raising his voice, 'feel that's not enough.' The screen shifted to a man in a blue suit. A graphic appeared at the bottom of the screen reading, 'David Kraft, Carecoe CEO.'
'Although we're very pleased to see Prudence admit its blame in this incident'unlike its previous foot-dragging in the Highland murders'they're still not addressing the fundamental deficiencies in their psychological profiling. A Jim Borone never would've been approved for a Carecoe policy.'
'Prudence shares were down eight points by the market close,' the anchor informed. He turned to face a different camera, and the screen shifted to accommodate.
'And finally, an invasion from the Lotosian mainland could be just one month away.' The screen showed soldiers in field exercises. 'This from an expert on the Lotosian civil war, who says that recent satellite photos paint an alarming picture. Militia officials continue to urge caution, asking residents to leave any possible fighting'up to them.'
'Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you-u,' Tara hummed as she turned off the television. At her urging, Peter had purchased guaranteed airliner seats that could be used at a moment's notice. Even if, as Peter and the Professor believed, there was no danger from the impending invasion, Tara wanted her family to find that out from a sofa in California.