Simple Machines

Xanadu Weyr - Kiddie Playground
A path of colorfully painted slabs of stone cheerfully invites the weyr's youngest residents and their caretakers to partake in the multitude of activities in this elaborate playground. The pathways here are comprised of a thick cushioning layer of dark brown mulch branching off towards distinct sections. Log roll edging with a pale green-brown finish provided an accent to divide wide stretches of well tended grass from long rounded abstract shapes filled with fragrant wild flowers. More edging boarders the back walls made of tall square shaped hedges with the occasional draping of a flowering bush.
Immediately to the left is a enormous teaching garden filled with most of the herbs and the edible plants that can be found on Pern. Each is clearly labeled with their name and use thanks to posts sliced at an angle at their top, the large blocked text easy to read behind square panels of glass screwed directly into the wood. To the right A twelve foot long, seven foot high 'rock' climbing wall with large protrusions and holes designed with young hands and feet in mind. Farther back from here is a section dedicated specifically to a impressive swing set, constructed of heavy pressure treated lumber and includes exactly six swings along each side forming a wide 'vee'. No more than six feet from the swing set is the record setting oak tree discovered when this place was created, and upon it a fixed robe ladder leads up to an amazing tree house. It has a wide porch, and roof build directly into the tree itself. Inside children will delight in the amount of play space, and the range of games to be found. Peg boards, wooden kitchen items, and even a place to sneak away to color or draw with a breathtaking few of the gardens and playground. Just past the tree house is a hedge maze that a small child may lose themselves in, but is short enough to enable an adult to easily guide the little one out again should they get lost.
The center of the playground is likely it's drawing attraction. A huge brightly colored play structure With seven different types of climbing components (including monkey bars), six platforms, two slides and several hand manipulated activities including cranks, large interlocking gears that actually work and a pop flip puzzle with amusing cartoon characters.

It's a lovely summer day on Xanadu. One of those warm, but not too warm mornings that are a prelude to hotter afternoons. It's an opportune sort of time to be out and about and get things done without a line of sweat dripping down one's back and brow. Crafters are busy at work. Riders too, getting dragons fed and watered and ready for a day's work. Ahala is usually one of these, tending to her lifemate in preparation for a day of flight and delivery from weyr to weyr and hold and everything inbetween. But, today, her rounds don't begin until afternoon, and although the flaxen haired youth would like nothing more but to spend the free morning snoring away in her weyr, her father had other ideas.

"Go do summen with your child! She's yours not mine!"

And thus, here she is, looking as if she'd rather be digging dung out from underneath her green's claws than meandering behind a bubbly looking two year old. Allie is ecstatic. She's never been here before! And an added plus is that her momma is with her! And the usually reserved child looks bright eyed and bushy tailed as the colorful park unfolds before her. Ooh what's that? And that big tree over there! And is there something up there? AND ALL THE COLORS OF THAT THING! She clutches onto the somewhat limp hand of her mother as the both of them come to a pause just outside of the main playgound in the center. "Well?" says Ahala, looking at her wide-eyed daughter expectantly. "Are you going to go?"

Even techcraft journeymen must, from time to time, leave their workshops behind and venture out into the wide world of Pern. There's this thing called 'days off' that they're supposed to take. A strange concept, but here Jethaniel is. He's kneeling on one knee next to the gears of the play structure, carefully dripping oil on them and checking the tightness. As it turns out, Jethaniel has never been particularly good at taking time off. He hmms, and turns the crank. Squeeeeeak.

Allie is … apprehensive. There's so much to do! What to do first? And is it safe? And all those other children, most of which are larger than her. She clutches a little tighter to her mother's hand, eliciting a sigh from the still teenaged girl. "It's fine, see? Look at them." Her free hand is gestured to the other kidlets already at play. Allie eyes them dutifully. Ahala's eyes, the same turquoise color of her daughter's, are given a quick roll, but before she can try to encourage her more, the static filled sound of her walkie intterupts.

*Kchhh!* 'Ahala. Rider Ahala, do you copy?'

As if jolted by electriity, she pulls her hand free from Allie to unclasp the walkie talkie from her hip. 'This is Ahala. I copy, over.' *Kchhh!* 'We need you and Nialevith. J'an has left on an emergency run, and his time sensitive packages must make it to Ierne this morning!' Cue another eyeroll from Ahala, who continues the conversation in clipped tones. This was her morning off! Where's Ta'ro? Why can't he do it? Nia hasn't even been prepped. She has Allie so she couldn't possibly — ! Allie is left looking up at her mother with doeish eyes, the tone of her voice sounding none to happy. "Shard it all, FINE!" And the conversation ends as the walkie is thrust back onto her belt. "Emergency my arse, he's nothin' but hungover again and can't fly." She scowls, looking down to Allie. Now what to do? Such short notice! Her father's already gone. The nursery, perhaps. But ah … Her eyes zero in on a working fellow over there, and she tugs Allie along with her as she swoops in on him, spying his knot. Journeyman. Even better. "Sir. Excuse me, sir!" Ahem ahem!

Jethaniel looks mature! Responsible! Appearances are a poor guide to actual personality traits. He dribbles more oil into the workings, gives it another half-twist, and then his attention is summoned by an urgent message! Clearly urgent, just look at Ahala's face. Jethaniel looks up at her, still kneeling on the ground. "Ah. Yes? Can I help you?"

Totally urgent! "Yes, you can. You seriously can. Here," the hand that holds Alicendrea's is thrust towards him, offering him tiny fingers and an equally small palm. "I need you to watch her. You are a Journeyman, yes? Tech craft?" Brows raise expectantly, but Ahala doesn't wait for an answer before pressing on. "It will be only for a little while. I'll pay you for your services, of course. Seeing that you're a busy man," her eyes flit to the oil he works with before continuing on, "feel free to drop her off at the nursery. I haven't the time to do so myself, else I would. She's been fed. She knows to use the lavatory on her own. Her name is Alicendrea," she says her words hurriedly, as if she hasn't the time to spare them, yet … alas, some sort of explanation must be made.

A journeyman, Jethaniel is. He nods to that. Of the techcraft? Why, yes, he is. He nods again. Now then… as Ahala continues, he lowers his gaze to meet Allie's turquoise eyes. Fortuitously, fixing the gears has put him more or less on her level. He regards that small hand, and extends his own large, long-fingered hand toward her. "Ah. Hello, Alicendrea." His tone is grave, serious. This is an important meeting, worthy of dignity. It is also worthy of a smile; he provides one. "My name is Jethaniel."

Ah. Wonderful. Caretaker secured! Ahala will never win mother of the year, that's for sure, but she does spare Allie a quick hug and kiss. "You be good now for…" Er, what was his name? Luckily, he provides it! "Journeyman Jethaniel here, all right?" Poor Alicendrea! One minute, she was having a rare park outing with her mom, and now she's being abandoned with a stranger! Story of her life. With her hand placed within Jethaniel's, she regards him with that same deer in headlights stare as before as her little mind tries to make sense of things. And off goes mom, quickly deparing in the same direction in which she came, plucking that walkie talkie from her hip once more to bark into it. Allie watches her go until her form is blocked by tall bushes. Now it's back to Jethaniel, who is given The Stare. She hasn't pulled her hand away yet, and her statuesque stance is interrupted only by the sudden welling of tears in her eyes. Sniff … sniff!

Because really, what could possibly go wrong when it comes to leaving a small child with a random man in a park? Jethaniel keeps a hold of those fingers as he becomes the most official of caretakers for little Allie, continuing to look at her more or less level and provide a smile - yes, even as his young charge begins to sniffle. "Alicendrea is a long name, isn't it?" he says in an observational tone. "My name is long too, so some people call me Jeth."

This strange man isn't any of the people in the nursery. It isn't even that funny man who has a smell about him that tickles her nose. The fire smelling one. This isn't even granpop! This is Jeth, the strangest of strangers, but… he at least sounds very nice. His tone is enough to still Allie's tears before they spill, but they're left welled up in her eyes, threatening to flood over at any given second. Very gradually, after much consideration, do her finges begin to curl within his hand, holding onto his tentatively. And now is the test. Can Jethaniel read minds? For it doesn't seem as if any words are forthcoming! Momentarily does she looks past him, for despite having been left behind, that playground sure does look interesting!

Patience is a virtue when it comes to debugging electronic systems. It is also a virtue when dealing with small children. Jethaniel remains where he is, despite the fact that he's kneeling and the ground here is nicely coated in wood chips to cushion falls, until Allie's decided his hand is worthy of being held. The smile increases slightly, and his own head turns to observe their surroundings. "This playground," he observes, "-provides an early encounter with many of the simple machines. There's the lever, the wheel and axle, the pulley… ah, there's an inclined plane. Would you like to observe the inclined plane for yourself?" Jethaniel is assuredly the strangest of strangers.

He sure says interesting words. Words and phrases and combinations of those that she's never heard before. That alone is enough to distract Allie from any thoughts of crying. She looks in the same general direction that he does, but whether she knows which of those fun looking contraptions is an wheel and axle or pulley is … rather unlikely. But, ah there's the inflection of a question there at the end. She's been asked soething. Unfortunately, she didn't hear the word 'play', which would be one that she'd recognize. Even the word 'go' would've sufficed. And so she looks at him as if he were a puzzle to be figured out. But even at two, she knows that a question deserves an answer. Are you hungry? Do you need to go potty? Do you want to go outside? Usually, nodding gets what she wants, so she does just that. One, very precise, nod.

"Very well then," says Jethaniel. He turns his gaze away from the child for a moment, though he keeps a hold of her fingers. One hand is sufficient to cap his oilcan and place it back in his bag of tools, which he picks up as he rises to his feet. With slow, slow, slow steps he starts off for the inclined plane: A slide! Not the metal one the seven and eight turn kids are racing around, though. This is the smaller one, made of brightly colored plastic and barely reaching to Jethaniel's mid-thigh.

Oooooh, that colorful slide over there? That's where they're going? Alicendrea's slow and calculated steps start to quicken when their destination becomes apparent. How did he know that's definitely exactly where she wanted to go? Granted, the swings also were the correct place. As was the teeter totter. But most definitely the slide! Still clutching her hand, she begins to zoom torwards the little slide. In her mind, she's running superfast! In actuality, Jeth would probably still have to keep his pace slower than usual. It's only upon reaching the steps that lead up to the slide that she releases his hand. She can do this all. By. Herself! "I go," she proclaims, speaking for the first time, already starting to clamber up.

The length of Jethaniel's strides is modulated to match Allie's. He's walking at half his normal speed now! Excellent. His smile widens as the tot demonstrates her enthusiasm for simple machines! Or… something like that, anyhow. Perhaps she's more interested in teeter totters than levers, but they're the same thing, that's the wonder of it. He nods to her declaration. "Go up the stairs, then down the slide!" he agrees. "Your potential energy increases with each step up, and then…"

Alicendrea may not know a lot at the tender age of two, but she knows how to work a slide! The designer of the tiny tots section of the playground sure has kept things user friendly, for Allie needs no help at all getting her little legs up each wide step that brings her up to the top of the not so very high but high to a two turn old slide. Look at her! Look look, strange man, look! Can you see her? Can you? She giggles and beams at him, bouncing on her sandaled feet before she looks down the slide. It's not so very … wait. Yes. Yes it is so very high! Meep. She freezes with widening eyes, clutching at whatever holding her little hands can get a grip on, frozen in place at the precipice!

As interfaces go, the slide is moderately intuitive. It demonstrates affordances clearly. Jethaniel smiles as he watches Allie ascend the slide, and wiggles his fingers to her as she reaches the summit. Why, yes. Yes he does see her up there! "-you can use that energy…" Hmm. This is not so much using energy as existing in a state of terror-fueled stasis. "…or conserve it, yes." Jethaniel takes a step closer. "Do you want to go down the slide, Allie?" he asks. Oh, look, he discovered the obvious nickname, no thanks to her mother. "Or are you done?" He extends his arms in the universal gesture of You Could Be Getting Picked Up Now.

Oh, she was so brave for a moment! Getting up there all by herself like she said she would. But oh, she forgot or perhaps never knew just how scary slides are! Up there all alone with all that potential energy just waiting to explode from her body and propel her down the steep and slippery slope. Somebody help! Her savior comes in the form of Jethaniel just as her bottom lip begins to quiver. "Down!" she squeals, though obviously not meaning that she's conquered her fears and wishes to go down the slide. Nope. She wants off this fearful thing! Seeing her opportunity with those outstretched arms, she reaches with hers and begins to cry at the same time. Tears of joy and relief? Uh, perhaps not. Tears because crying is a natural reaction to stress at this age? Most assuredly!

Down, in this case, means up. Though, Jethaniel does reach down to pick Allie up. After all, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This playground is highly educational, teaching the laws of physics in addition to demonstrating simple machines. He hefts her up easily; she's not nearly so heavy as a crate full of gears ready for assembly. Not only that, he appears to have some vague clue how to hold a child, because he doesn't fumble as he puts one arm underneath her and the other around her middle to hold her against him. "There now, all's well," he assures her cheerfully, and leaves the scene of terror behind with long-legged strides. "The coefficient of friction can be observed another time. Let's look at the garden." So he says, carrying her there. "See, there are flowers. That one is blue."

Oh, she has been saved! When hoisted up, Allie hands clutch at Jethaniel for dear life. Although she's higher now than she was on the slide, somehow this seems far safer. Her cries continue as she's carried, tears rolling down pink cheeks, but again his tone saves the day. How can she be sad when he sounds so happy? And where is she being taken? It's a grand mystery. One that has her wailing gradually calming to hiccups as she's presented withthe color bursting garden. Sniffle. "Boo?" she echoes, looking at the flowers. Oh. Those are nice. Pretty and calming.

What is not calming is the sight of a tall, red-faced, beer bellied man in suspenders tromping his way down to the playground, blue-grey eyes darting frantically here and there til. AH-HA! "What in the dragon blazes is going on?!" A meaty finger is pointed to Jethaniel as he barrels his way towards him. "Git your hands off my granddaughter!"

The relative perception of safety is a matter for the social sciences, not the tech craft. Therefore, Jethaniel does not address it, merely applies it to the situation along with unyielding cheer. So many of the problems of small chilren can be solved by simply distracting them for long enough that they forget what the problem was in the first place. "That's right, blue… and that one is red," he explains, taking her along the line of flowers until something else red interrupts their tour of the gardens. Red-faced-man! "Hello," Jethaniel says with the voice of calm. He does not, however, release the small child… yet. Apparently, he's not willing to hand toddlers over to strangers at a moment's notice! Instead, he keeps holding her, looking to Allie to see if her reaction supports the 'granddaughter' hypothesis presented.

Alicendrea could likely have been shown every flower in the garden and she would have given each one the same amount of rapt attention. Blue. Red. Oo she's heard these words before. It's the same words used to describe the toy shapes in the nursery! Oh yes, synapses are firing. Connections are being made. Learning is happening….and an angry voice is heard. When Jethaniel's attnetion turns to the newest arrival to the playground, so does Allie's, and her reaction is instant. Familiar face! "Granpop!" She beams at him, her entire face lighting up. He's not mom, but his face is one that she sees far more often than even hers. And oh, how fickle children can be, for one moment she's stuck on Jeth, and the next she's reaching for her grandfather. Bo, which is his name, still fumes. But who wouldn't given the situation? "That thick headed, dim witted, good for nothin' mother of yours! Leavin' you with jus' anyone she finds in the middle of anywhere! Didn't believe it til now!" He reaches for her, eyes on Jethaniel. "Hand her over, boy."

Relatives, on the other hand… as soon as Allie addresses the angry man and begins reaching toward him, Jethaniel extends her quite willingly. He just wanted to make sure, you see. Unlike the girl's actual mother. "She claimed the matter was urgent," he notes, following it with a shrug. What does he know of the actual truth of the matter? Not much, which is why he leaves it at that, simply directing his gaze to the child. "It was nice to meet you, Alicendrea." Bo gets a polite nod, and Jethaniel hefts his bag, preparing to head off to wherever techies actually go on their days off.

"More urgent than her own daughter?!" explodes Bo, who has no real reason to be angry with Jethaniel. Allie is fine (which he ensures after a thorough once over) and it wasn't as if he was the one that left her behind. Alicendrea is hugged, squished against his chest with a giggle from the girl. With some semblance of calm restored, he watches Jethaniel with a set jaw and studious look. "Thank you for tendin' to her then," he offers after a bit, words still a bit rough around the edges. And that's it. No goodbye seems necessary before Bo turns around with Allie in tow, striding off towards the playground's exit. Allie peers back at her newfound friend that's now getting further and further away. A pudgy hand is lifted and waved back and forth. "Jet!" It's the loudest word she's said yet, and if he looks in time enough, he'll see a grin on her face before she's carted off out of sight.

Yes, that is rather the rub of it, and Jethaniel has no answer for Bo's outburst other than a slight raise of one eyebrow that's more shared skepticism than any sort of a challenge. When the thanks comes, he nods a simple acknowledgement, and then it's time to depart - ah, but what's this? He looks up to the sound, and smiles back to see that grin. "Goodbye, Allie!" he calls to her, waving bye-bye. Then they're gone, and so is he… but the smile will likely last the day.

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