Kiraling – Part 13 (Chapter 61-69)
Written by anonxyzus :: [Tuesday, 17 December 2019 21:51] Last updated by :: [Wednesday, 12 February 2020 17:18]
Most people would look at the timelines and think the Army was taking their time. But by Army timelines, things were being rushed. The ceremony for the Silver Star was scheduled two months out, and the briefing was a few days later. Nothing in my orders told me what the briefing was about, I concluded it must be the Pentagon meeting Kara had told me about. I was given a number to call to arrange my travel and hotel. I called the number and found out there was a lot more to it than that. Actually, that wasn’t a surprise. For the award ceremony I was allowed to invite friends and family, and soldiers I’d served with, and had to supply a list.
None of the surviving soldiers from that action were in my unit, or guys I was close to. But I did want to invite Johnson and Dixon’s families. I felt pretty comfortable about contacting the Johnson’s, but I hadn’t talked to Dixon’s family at all since I’d been back. So I called Mr. and Mrs. Johnson to invite them, and asked them about the Dixons. They said the Dixon’s would love to hear from me, and I should go ahead and contact them. So I did. I called them. I was really nervous about it, but they were just like the Johnson’s, and they told me they’d love to attend the ceremony.
I didn’t have any family left, but Kara, Xara, Sharon and Gloria had come to be my family. So I picked up the phone and called Kara.
“Joseph! When I told you to reach out to us more often, I wasn’t expecting you to call so soon! What can I do for you?’
I explained to her that I was to receive the Silver Star, and that I’d like her, Xara and Gloria to attend. She said of course they would.
“I want to invite Sharon too Kara, but I don’t have her number. Can you give it to me?”
“I don’t think she’d mind you having it, Joseph, but she doesn’t like people giving it out without her permission. I’ll call her, give her your number, and she can call you.”
I agreed to that. I had my list, I just needed to wait for confirmation from Sharon to submit it. I didn’t have to wait long. About two hours after I hung up with Kara, Sharon showed up on my doorstep.
“Joe! Please tell me you’re not on your meds!”
“Umm, sorry, I am.”
“How long until they wear off?”
“I took them early this morning, so in about four or five hours.”
“Great! I’ve cleared my schedule for you. Now, tell me all about the prom. Do you have pictures?”
“I do, but first, I’m being awarded …”
“Yes, I know, Kara told me. Of course, I’ll come.”
And she pulled out a card with her contact information on it, and then entered her private number into my cell phone, after admonishing me never to give it out without first talking to her. And then she wanted to hear about the prom. Apparently, my initial description was way too short on detail, so she spent the next hour “debriefing” me. She knew about Xara’s “Galen abilities,” as she called them, but never experienced them herself, so she also questioned me about that.
Then I told her about the conversation Xara and I had that last night, and my conversation with Kara about it.
“Sharon, she’s too young, and too naïve to be making a commitment like this to me. She should be seeing guys her own age, dating, figuring out what she really wants in a boyfriend.”
“She’s done plenty of dating Joe. From the way Kara tells it, it’s like Xara belonged to a ‘boy of the month’ club.”
“Well, I’m not a boy. And I don’t want to get involved in a relationship that I know can only end badly, with one or both of us getting our hearts broken.”
“Are you afraid of getting your heart broken Joe?”
The way she put the question to me, I had to think about it. She waited patiently while I tried to form my answer.
“Sharon, there is no way a guy like me, a guy who looks like me, a guy with my issues, ever ends up with a woman like her. Or any woman at all for that matter. The psychologists made it clear to me, a romantic relationship isn’t in my future. I’ve reconciled myself to that. I don’t want to get my hopes up only to have reality set in and send me down into a hole I’m not sure I can ever get out of.”
“I think you’ve just insulted me Joe. I’m going to fuck you to within an inch of your life tonight. Tell me in the morning if you don’t think you can have a relationship with a woman.”
“I said romantic relationship Sharon. Is what you and I do together romantic?”
“No, it isn’t. And you’re right about Xara being young and naïve. But when it comes to what we are capable of, you’re more than a little naïve yourself. Go ahead and take it slow with Xara. But don’t freeze her out, don’t shut the door on her. You may be surprised.”
“Would you have ever looked twice at me if I hadn’t found you in that cave?”
“But you did find me Joe. You’re really overthinking this.”
“Uh huh. What about this I’m-a-Goddess-you’re-a-Terran-know-your-place attitude she has? How are we supposed to have a relationship if she sees herself so far above me?”
“Joe, if someone dropped a nuclear bomb on this cabin, right now, you’d be vaporized, and I’d get a nice tan. We do occupy different places in the Universe. But we don’t see you as worshippers or slaves or serfs or mere animals. We don’t see you as equals either, but we do recognize that you have the same Skietra given rights to life and self-determination that we do. That’s why we have Protectors, like Kara, who are willing to give their lives to keep you from being crushed under the Arion heel.
“I don’t think Xara would ever do anything to make you feel unimportant, or worth less than she.”
“You didn’t feel her ‘domination’ projection.”
“Well, that happened on the way to something else. Her intent was not to make you feel inferior. Give her a chance Joe. Why can’t you just enjoy a beautiful young woman while you have the chance?”
“She’s too young Sharon. Aside from my own scruples over taking advantage of a minor, it’s illegal, and rightly so.”
“You humans. We’ve explained to you that your notions of sexual morality don’t apply to us. Girls her age on Velor are sexually involved with whoever they want, age doesn’t come into it.”
“And I’ve explained to you before that those ‘notions of sexual morality’ do apply to me.”
“Well, it sounds like she’s going to respect your boundaries, as silly as they are. And in a little over a year she’ll be 18, that age when your moral scruples suddenly and magically disappear.”
“She’s going to college Sharon. By the time she’s 18 she’ll have figured out that there are a lot of guys out there more interesting than me, and more suitable as boyfriends.”
“You think you can wait her out? Maybe, if she was as shallow as you seem to think she is. As shallow as she was the day before she met you. But she’s changed and matured a great deal. My money is on Xara. She’s playing a long game and she’s going to surprise you.”
“Everything about you guys is a total surprise.”
She laughed, then said, “Let’s go out. I’m hungry and I’m buying!”
“Uhh, I don’t think that’s a good idea, the way you’re dressed.”
“Oh, no problem, I brought a change of clothes.” And she reached into that magic pouch built into her cape and pulled out a dress.
On the way to dinner I asked, “Is Deb okay with you having multiple sexual partners?”
“She is definitely not okay with it. What Xara told you about us needing sex with other Supremis is true. Sex with Deb, sex with you, is as great, for all of us, as I can make it. But I do need something more, much more, and I do, how would you say it, ‘hook up’ with other Velorians whenever I get the chance.”
“Do you and Kara …”
“No. We don’t go there. Kara is strictly dickly.”
“How do you handle it with Deb?”
“There is only one way to handle it with Deb: Poorly. We avoid discussing it. I don’t talk about sex with Messengers, I don’t talk about sex with you. I don’t talk about sex with other Terrans. She knows about it, she isn’t stupid, but we find the best way to deal with it is to bury it. Xara did the right thing when she told you how it works. I wish I’d had that discussion up front with Deb when we first became involved. I didn’t and we both suffer for it.
“I had hoped that you and Deb would become friends. Or that she at least wouldn’t be hostile towards you. But that didn’t work. I definitely won’t be coming to your ceremony with a plus one.
“Xara’s plan, that you both confine yourselves to sex with Velorians, is a good one. If you can accept that she needs it, has to have it, and can overcome feelings of jealousy and insecurity, you two have a great chance of having something that will last for years.
“And I know it doesn’t look this way to you, what with your Terran morality and scruples, but confining herself to one single Terran, on a world with billions to choose from, really is a sacrifice on her part. It speaks to her love of and respect for you.
“And bonus for me, I get to keep fucking my favorite Kiraling!”
The meds were wearing off, and I caught that remark. “Billions to choose from Sharon? You make it sound like you’re at a smorgasbord.”
“That’s actually a pretty good analogy Joe. Someday I’ll let you tag along when I go hunting. You’ll see how easy it is for us, even without the pheromones.”
“No. I’ve been around you enough to know that when it comes to sex, what a Velorian wants, she gets.”
“Right now, I don’t think you could convince Xara of that. It’s amazing how much self-restraint you have Joe.”
“Well, the meds are an impediment to the pheromones. And being afraid of being thrown in jail, then labeled a sex offender for the rest of my life helps too.”
“Joe,” Sharon laughed, “You really know how to suck all the fun out of it.”
Sharon was in the mood for something quick and easy, so we went to the Olive Garden. The restaurant was full, as it usually is for dinner, and we had a short wait before we were seated. The meds were wearing off, and I was becoming more and more aware of our surroundings. It was loud, which I don’t like, but what really struck me was how many people were stealing glances at us. Or just staring. Sharon didn’t seem to notice it, or if she did, she didn’t mind. She just kept on making small talk. She must be used to being stared at by men wherever she goes, and the two of us must have looked like beauty and the beast, if the beast was under weight and shorter than the beauty.
She ordered a salad, an appetizer, the “Tour of Italy,” which consisted of large portions of lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo and chicken parmesan. She ate all that, all but the half of one breadstick I ate, and the spaghetti and meatballs that I couldn’t finish. Then she ordered desert. Oh, and she drank an Italian Margareta and a full bottle of wine. She wasn’t the slightest bit tipsy. Alcohol has no effect on them. Normally, if I’m eating out with a woman, I’ll pick up the check. My dad taught me that. But Sharon had said she was buying and I wasn’t going to argue with her.
“The men you date are usually well-to-do, aren’t they?”
“They are, why?”
“Because only wealthy men can afford to feed a Velorian,” I deadpanned.
She just looked at me, then broke out laughing. “I may have to make you pay for that remark Sgt. Ricci.”
“Should I be worried?”
“No. You’re going to enjoy it.”
(Spoiler alert: I did.)
During the ride home Johnson and Dixon showed up. They were assholes. Making remarks about Sharon, how her nipples tented her dress, and when she rubbed her hand up and down my thigh, and I reacted, well, they were assholes.
“I think your meds have worn off.”
“They have. I hate to ask this, I really do, but would you mind keeping your hands off me until we get home? Distracted driving, you know, it kills.”
She laughed. But she put her hands back in her lap. I started to smell just the faintest hint of wildflowers and honey. “Sharon, I’ll lose control if you keep doing that!”
“Oh, Joe, I’m so sorry. The anticipation is getting to me.” Then she rolled down her window and asked, “Is that better?”
“I should have worn looser pants.”
This was … so strange. I looked in the mirror, to see if I’d suddenly become good looking. Nope, same burnt up face. Here I was, sitting next to an absolutely beautiful woman who was getting excited by the thought of making love to me. And it occurred to me that goddess isn’t the right term for her. Angel. That’s better. Sharon is an angel.
My face must have betrayed my thoughts, because Sharon asked, “What is it Joe, what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking how lucky I am to be with such a beautiful woman, and to be taking her to my bed.”
“Bed? Yes, I suppose we’ll get there eventually. How far back do these seats recline?”
“It’s a Prius. Not far enough. You’re too tall.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised by how flexy and bendy I can be when I need to.”
“Will my seats come back up after you’re through with me?”
“Hmm, should we find out?”
“Uh, no. Let’s not.”
“You really think I’m beautiful?”
“Now you’re playing with me Sharon. You know you’re beautiful. Everywhere I’ve been with you, all the men stare.”
“But Kara and Xara are more beautiful.” She said this seriously.
“Joe, you’re very sweet.”
“I may be sweet, but you’re just as beautiful as Kara and Xara.”
She turned in her seat to face me and said, “Joe, Protector genes don’t just enhance speed and strength, they enhance beauty too. Everyone on Velor recognizes that.”
I couldn’t believe this. Was Sharon insecure about her looks? How could that be? “Sharon, I don’t believe this. How can you possibly look in a mirror and think Kara and Xara have something you don’t?”
“You don’t see the difference?”
“Well, of course I can tell you apart. You look different, but you’re all perfect. Sharon, on a scale of 1 to 10, all three of you are 25s!”
“That’s your honest opinion, isn’t it? I could tell if you were lying to me.”
“Why would I lie about something like that? If I was editing the dictionary, I’d put a picture of you three next to the definition of ‘drop dead gorgeous.’ It applies equally to all three of you.”
I was just pulling into the garage when I got that out of my mouth. The next thing I knew Sharon’s lips were on mine and I got a lung full of her pheromones. And she was wearing a gold necklace. I have no idea where it came from. It wasn’t there, then when she kissed me, it was. In the next half hour I learned two things: She really is bendy and flexy, and Prius seats can take more of a beating than I thought they could.
I’m not sure how we got out of the car and into the house. I don’t think my feet touched the floor. In the morning I found my pants and Sharon’s dress in the car. My shirt was on the living room floor. I have no idea what happened to my underwear.
After I brought our clothes in from the garage, I started making breakfast. I had put on a pair of shorts. Sharon didn’t bother to put on anything. I don’t know how many times we made love during the night. Wait, I do know. Zero. Zero times. Basically, Sharon took me, and took me, and took me again. Making love isn’t the right word for it. With Sharon, it seems to be more primal, more physical, more athletic. And she is in charge. Totally in charge. And I’m not objecting. When she is in control, well, she said the day before that she makes sex with her as great for her and her partner as she can. And it is great. But it is different. I decided to ask her about it.
“Sharon, the way we had sex last night, is that the way it always is for Velorians?”
“Not quite. It’s different if we have a Velorian partner. First, with a Velorian, there isn’t any gold. There are no constraints on our strength. If you were a Velorian, your car would be a pile of junk in the garage. Second, both partners are equal participants, and we don’t have to worry about making it last. With you, or any Terran, I have to manage your stamina and control the timing of your orgasms, otherwise I’ll exhaust you before I’m finished. Third, it can go on much, much longer than you are capable of. Why do you ask?”
“I was curious. For us, for Terrans, when we make love, at least when I did, it was less frenzied, more gentle. Even when it was frenzied, it was never like that.”
“Are you complaining? Did you want to do it more Terran style?”
“No, I’m not complaining.”
During breakfast I went back to the previous evenings discussion about beauty.
“Sharon, last night, when you asked me if I thought Kara and Xara are more beautiful than you, you came across as if you feel insecure. What’s that about?”
Dixon said, “Dude! Don’t go there!”
Johnson agreed, “You’re pulling the pin bro!”
“Oh Joe, you caught me being contemplative. I told you that Protectors are genetically created to be stronger, faster, more beautiful, and that is true. I have a fair amount of Protector genetics in my makeup, and one of the other genetic traits is competitiveness. You may have noticed that when we were playing yard darts. We compete over everything. And beauty is just one more competition for us.
“On this planet, most men will never meet any Velorians, let alone three. Wherever I am, I’m always the most beautiful woman in the room. And we take great pride in that.”
“Sounds like vanity to me.”
“Yes, I’ll concede that. We are vain. And competitive, and we don’t like to be second or third best. So when I come to see you, and I know you’ve just spent time with Kara and Xara, that competitive, vain part of me wonders if, when you are inside me, you’re thinking of them.”
“I don’t recall thinking of anything when I’m inside you.”
She laughed and asked, “Do you think I’m petty?”
“Petty? No. Sharon, when I’m with you, when we’re making love, I feel like your attention is totally focused on me. I want you to know that, to the extent that I can concentrate on anything, it is you I am thinking about. Not Kara or Xara.
“Can you guys really see a difference?”
“We can.” We were just finishing eating and she put her gold necklace on, no idea where it came from, but she put it on, took me by the hand and said, “Let’s make love like Terrans do.”
Johnson said, “You got lucky dude. The grenade was a dud.”
She led me into the bedroom, onto the bed, and gave me just a small whiff of her pheromones, and then kissed me, and we made love. Slowly, gently, I was on top and set the pace. And then we held each other afterwards.
Johnson and Dixon shut up and I fell asleep in her arms. When I woke up she was still there, she was still wearing the gold, and she looked at me like a cat about to eat a mouse, flooded the room with her pheromones, or at least the part around my nose, and then took me again. And again. And again. I wasn’t on top. I didn’t set the pace. I’m not complaining.
My orders didn’t include a PCS. That’s the army abbreviation for Permanent Change of Station. But they did include instructions for out-processing. I had been under the care of the Warrior Transition Battalion, Madigan Army Medical Center. I was also given the option to have my dress uniform, my Class A, the same one I wore to the prom, tailored to make sure it fit properly for my medal ceremony.
I asked Sharon if she’d help me make that determination. I learned at a very young age that women, all women, are better at it than I am. I put the uniform on.
Sharon picked up a picture of me in my Class A, taken with my mom. “Is that how it looked when you first got it?”
“Yes. That was taken before my first deployment.”
She looked at the picture again, then at me.
“How much weight have you lost since this picture was taken?”
“About 20 lbs.”
“You need to have the uniform tailored. It hangs off you. I shouldn’t have finished your dinner for you last night.”
“You’re starting to sound like Gloria. She’s making it her mission to put weight on me.”
“You should buy into her mission Joe. When I first met you, I thought you were just a naturally very skinny guy. If I’d paid attention to this,” and she waved the picture at me, “I’d have started fattening you up right away.”
“I’m not going to put on 20 lbs. in six weeks. I’ll make an appointment to get it tailored.”
“How long will you be in the D.C. area?”
“It looks like five days.”
“Once you get your schedule let me know. Try to reserve an evening or two to spend with me.”
Oh my God. Johnson and Dixon just went nuts.
Sharon put on her flight suit, gave me a really good kiss goodbye, stepped out onto the porch and disappeared straight up into the sky.
“Will you two please just shut the fuck up!”
I called JBLM and made an appointment to get my uniform altered to fit better. I made my travel arrangements, then an appointment with the Madigan Battalion to get my out-processing paperwork in order. There wasn’t much to do there. I didn’t have any equipment to turn in, I wasn’t responsible for any odds or ends. Fortunately, I was able to schedule both activities, uniform alterations and out-processing, for the same day, Thursday. That gave me a little time to work on the property, mow and fertilize the lawn, that kind of thing, and then Thursday morning I got up early to make the drive from Bellingham to JBLM.
Traffic on I-5 between about Marysville and Boeing Field is usually pretty bad on weekdays, especially during the commute hours. Which seem to be all of them these days. I left very early, and just sailed through. It was like everyone decided to call in sick that day or take vacation. As a result, I arrived early for my appointments, and miracle of miracles, I was taken right away. By both of them. It only took me a few minutes to finish with Battalion, then it was on to the tailor who took a few measurements and told me to come back in a week or so. So I was back on I-5 heading north by the time of my originally scheduled appointments. And just like the southbound drive, traffic was very light. Even going through the collector distributor lanes in Seattle.
Something you have to understand, driving I-5 in Washington State between Everett and JBLM is usually, at best, frustrating. You move from one traffic jam to another. So having light traffic, and by light I mean being able to drive no slower than 10 mph below the speed limit, had me in a pretty good mood. I was thinking more about lunch than anything else as I came up the drive, so I didn’t notice the van until I was almost to it. My Prius had been driving off the battery, so it was pretty quiet. I parked next to the van and got out of my car to investigate.
It was a panel van, no windows to see into the back. There was no one inside it, so I looked around a little, then headed towards the front door of the cabin. Which was ajar. I hadn’t left it that way. Whoever drove the van was probably in the cabin. In my house. In my home. I started to get angry, I’m really good at that when I’m not taking my meds, and walked slowly and as quietly as I could to the door. Then I opened it, slowly, enough to get inside. Note to self: oil the hinges.
I was just a couple of steps inside the door when I was punched, really hard, in my back, my right kidney. That nearly put me on the floor, but I managed to stay up and started to turn when I was hit on the head with something hard, and I went down. I tried to get up but the room was spinning. I put my hand on the head, where I was clobbered, and it was wet. I pulled my hand away and saw blood on it. Dixon and Johnson tried to help me up, but every time I grabbed at one of their hands there was nothing there.
“Guys, what do I do?”
Johnson replied, “Call Kara.”
Dixon said, “Use that trick with the watch.”
“I don’t remember how Xara did that, do you?”
Neither one of them did. I tried to get to the landline, but the room was still spinning, and I couldn’t get up.
Johnson asked, “Where’s your cell phone?”
I found my cell phone. It was in my pocket. I pulled it out, but there were two of them. One in each of my right hands. Somehow, I fumbled around with it and found the call log and selected Kara’s number and poked and poked and finally it dialed.
“Joseph, to what do I owe the honor?”
“Help. Please Kara, I need help.”
“Joseph, what’s wrong?”
“There was a van. Someone hit me. I can’t get up. I’m bleeding.”
“Where are you?”
“In the living room. Or maybe the kitchen, I’m not sure.”
“In your cabin?”
“Yes. Help me Kara, please. I can’t get up.”
“I’m on my way Joseph.” And she hung up.
I don’t know how long I laid there, trying to get into a sitting position. I puked up my breakfast, then started having dry heaves when there wasn’t anything left to puke up. I was covered in blood and vomit when Xara arrived. I heard her yell, “Joe!” and then suddenly it was warm, no, it was hot, and I tried to shield myself with my hands.
I heard Xara say, “Shit! I’m too hot! I’ll be right back Joe.”
Dixon said, “Hell yeah she’s hot.” Johnson agreed.
Then Kara was there, and Xara came back. I didn’t feel any heat this time.
Kara put me in a sitting position and held on to me and asked, “What happened, who did this?”
“Someone attacked me. I don’t know who. Ask them.”
I pointed. “Them. Ask Dixon and Johnson.”
Johnson said, “Sorry bro, I didn’t see who did it.” Dixon said the same thing.
Someone, Kara or Xara, I’m not sure which, put a towel or something on my head and applied pressure.
Then Kara said, “Get Gloria. Tell her what Joe’s condition is.”
Then it was just me and Kara, Dixon and Johnson. I tried to introduce her to them, but she wouldn’t talk to them. She just kept holding me and telling me to stay awake. After a few minutes I just wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep. But Kara wouldn’t let me. She’d pinch me or shake me or yell at me and I couldn’t fall asleep. She told me to talk to her, so I did.
“I tried to use the watch, but I couldn’t remember how Xara opened it up.”
“We’ll get you a new watch Joseph, one that is easier to use.”
“I got my paperwork turned in. And Sharon told me my uniform didn’t fit right, so I took it to a tailor. Why didn’t you or Xara tell me it was too big?”
“It didn’t matter at the time Joseph. Where did you go to do these errands?”
“Did anyone know you were going to be gone?”
“Kara, you and Xara and Sharon are so beautiful. And you’re such nice people. So very sexy. Do you know that? Do you know how sexy you guys are? Dixon says you’re so beautiful and sexy that he’d climb to the top of Mt. Rainier to eat the peanuts out of your shit.”
“A little too much information Joseph. Now concentrate, who knew you were going to be gone today?”
“Well, Dixon and Johnson did, they were with me. And the Madigan Battalion and the tailor knew. Sharon knew I was going to have the uniform altered but she didn’t know when.”
“Was there anyone else you told?”
“Why are we in Kandahar? Kara, you have to leave, it’s too dangerous here!”
“I’m not leaving you Joseph. Just keep talking to me.”
“Kara! You’re bleeding! Where are you hit? Medic! MEDIIIC!!”
“That isn’t my blood Joseph. I’m fine.”
“I’m so tired. I want to go to sleep.”
“You have to stay awake Joseph. Let’s talk. What would you like to talk about?”
We talked about the dogs, the ones who looked for IEDs. I tried to get Johnson and Dixon to chime in, but Kara just ignored them. And suddenly, we weren’t in Kandahar anymore. We were in Fallujah. I asked Kara why she took me there, but she wouldn’t tell me. Dixon and Johnson wouldn’t explain either.
I don’t know how long this went on, but Gloria arrived with Xara, and started to do an examination. And I noticed I was in my living room.
“His skull has a slight fracture. I think he has a concussion.”
Then she started asking me questions, what day it was, who I was with, and others I can’t remember. I was tired. I didn’t want to talk anymore. I told her to ask Dixon or Johnson those questions. But she wouldn’t, she kept talking to me.
Gloria said, “Yes, he has a concussion. And he’s hallucinating, probably because of the blow to his head.”
Xara said, “I think he has a bruised kidney too.”
Gloria asked Xara, “Can you see any other injuries? Any brain bleed or penetration by a skull bone fragment?”
“I want to suture his wound, then we should get him cleaned up and into bed. Hold him steady.”
And then my head started to hurt. I guess because Gloria was stitching my wound. I tried to fight it but Kara just held on tight and I couldn’t move. When she was done Gloria said, “The bleeding has stopped. Let’s get him out of his clothes and cleaned up.”
I remember they undressed me, then Xara picked me up and carried me into the bathroom, and into the shower and washed the puke and the blood off me. I told Xara I had to pee. She held me up and I just let loose. I don’t know if we were still in the shower or she stood me in front of the toilet, but I heard her yell, “Gloria! He’s peeing blood!”
I woke up Friday morning with an awful headache. And Xara was sitting on the edge of my bed asking me how I felt. I was really disoriented, and asked her why she was here, and why my head was bandaged. She explained to me what happened, and as she did my memory of the prior day started coming back. Dixon and Johnson were there too, but they were keeping quiet.
Kara, Gloria and Sharon came in and asked me how I felt. I told them I didn’t feel good at all. My head hurt. Gloria gave me some aspirin and said she’d get me something stronger.
Kara said, “We did a sweep of the house and found these.” And she showed me some little devices attached to wires.
“What are they?”
“Surveillance devices,” said Gloria, “Someone was planting bugs, and they were doing a very good job until you interrupted him. Without the blondes I wouldn’t have found them.” She actually said that, she referred to Sharon, Xara and Kara as, “the blondes.”
“Who was it? Who was bugging my house? Was it the Arions?”
“No,” said Gloria, “This is Terran technology.”
“We don’t know who it was,” said Kara, “But I’m going to do my damnedest to find out.”
“And when she does, I’m going to roast them,” said Xara.
Sharon said, “I’ll dismember them while you do that.”
“Joe,” said Xara, “We need to reopen the conversation about me moving in with you. Or Gloria if you’d feel better about her, and she and mom agree.”
I was too tired to argue, and my head hurt too much to fall asleep. Kara made a call to someone at her company and told Gloria a courier would arrive shortly with some pain meds. Xara had to get back to school. Sharon had a company to run and couldn’t stay. Kara stayed until the courier arrived and then left, leaving Gloria to look after me. I took a pill, Percocet I think, and when it kicked in I drifted off to sleep, but not before I smelled cookies baking.
I must have slept through the day. When I woke up it was dark and my head hurt. Gloria helped me to the bathroom, I was still a little woozy. Then she fed me a cookie, she was getting really good at baking and must have started modifying recipes, the cookie tasted really good, then she gave me another pain pill and I fell back to sleep.
I woke up Saturday morning to find Xara standing over me. I asked her for some privacy, I had to go to the bathroom, and I wasn’t wearing anything under the covers.
“Joe,” she said, “Don’t you think we’re beyond modesty now? Come on, I’ll help you.”
She pulled the covers off and helped me up. She was wearing short shorts and a top that bared her midriff. And of course, she nearly overflowed the top. I wasn’t on my regular meds, just the Percocet Gloria had been giving me, and I was worried that I would embarrass myself. But I didn’t. She guided me to and from the bathroom, I didn’t really need all that much help, and sat me down on the bed and went through my drawers and closet and picked out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and got my flip-flops out for me.
“Umm, underwear Xara?”
“I never wear, oh, for you. Of course.” And she grinned.
Just when I finished getting dressed Gloria walked in and said, “Good, you’re up. Come and eat breakfast. Pancakes with chocolate chips.”
As we ate, Gloria told me I needed very mild exercise and a lot of rest. This wasn’t my first concussion; I knew the drill.
After breakfast Gloria cleaned up and Xara walked me out to the back yard so I could sit in the sun by the lake. I was remembering more of what happened on Thursday. I asked her about the heat I felt when she first arrived.
“There are different ways to travel between points on the earth. The earth is a sphere, so the shortest distance between two points isn’t a straight line, it’s a great circle route. That’s what airplanes do.
“Another way is to take a sub-orbital ballistic path. That’s what I did Thursday, because it’s faster. I accelerate hard to a point above the atmosphere, then come down, like a ballistic missile would. I wanted to get here in a hurry, so I didn’t brake until I was quite low in the atmosphere. All that speed creates a lot of air friction and my skin gets very hot. Some of the heat gets absorbed and converted to orgone, the rest of it radiates away. That’s what you felt, the heat radiating away. I wasn’t thinking and came into your house too hot. I went back out and dove into the lake to cool off.”
Dixon and Johnson made more smart-ass remarks about Xara being “hot.” I considered taking my meds. They backed off.
I saw one of Xara’s pods, the one with the straps, leaning up against a tree. I asked Xara why she brought that.
“That’s how I got Gloria here. It worked very well. She’s quite a bit tougher than a Terran, so I didn’t have to be as careful with her as I would with you.”
Xara’s graduation ceremony was going to be Monday evening, and she had a ticket for me, but Gloria didn’t want me to travel yet. Xara changed into her flight suit, said she’d visit me every day, kissed me and took off. Gloria watched her go, then said, “I have a favor to ask of you.”
“You’ve certainly done enough for me Gloria. What can I do for you?”
“I want to learn how to drive. Terran cars. You can teach me this, yes?”
Proof I wasn’t recovered from my concussion yet: I said, “Sure Gloria, I’d be happy to. There’s a process. First you have to study a guide, then take a written test. If you pass the test you get a learner’s permit and start learning how to drive. Then you take another test to get your driver license.”
“I already have a license. I just need to learn how to drive.”
“How’d you get a driver license without knowing how to drive?”
“Kara got it for me. I’ll show you.”
And she went back into the cabin and came out with three different driver licenses. One each for California, Oregon and Washington. They all had her picture and were for Gloria Smith. With the same date of birth and other information, except for the addresses.
“How’d she get you driver licenses for three different states?”
“She got me a license for every state. And for many different countries. I just brought these three with me.”
“Is this your actual date of birth?”
“No. I’m much older than that.”
“How old are you?”
“A Terran gentleman does not ask a lady such a question.”
Johnson said, “She’s a lady? Could have fooled me.”
Dixon said, “Ricci’s a gentleman? Never heard him called that before.”
I wasn’t going to argue the point, with them or Gloria. Because sometimes they’re jerks, and because it just didn’t seem safe to argue with Gloria over such things.
“Well, okay then. I guess I’ll teach you how to drive. When do you want to start?”
“When you are well enough.”
“When will that be?”
“There is no way to know. You appear to be doing well. We just have to wait and see.”
I sat in the yard for quite a while, I even dozed off once or twice. Gloria brought me back inside for an early dinner followed by more chocolate chip cookies. She gave me a pain pill and I went to bed early.
I woke up Sunday morning and there was Xara, standing over my bed looking at me.
“How long have you been here?”
“Not too long. How do you feel?”
“I’m starting to feel better. What time is it?”
“10. You haven’t been taking your meds.”
“That late? Geez. No, I haven’t, how do you know?”
“You had a morning boner. You don’t get those when you’re on your meds.”
I groaned. “Xara, that’s the last thing I want to hear from you!”
“There aren’t any secrets when your girlfriend can see through walls Joe,” she teased.
“You’re my girlfriend now?”
“If I’m not, I will be.”
Gloria walked in. “Waffles with chocolate syrup for breakfast. Get dressed and come eat.”
Xara got excited, “Did you make enough for me?”
“Yes. You eat too.”
I asked Xara, “Didn’t you have breakfast before you came up here?”
“Yes. What’s that got to do with anything?”
During breakfast Xara asked Gloria about my recovery. Gloria said she’d do some cognitive tests in the afternoon and would know better then. Then, after we were finished eating, we all went outside to sit by the lake.
I told Xara, “When I’m well enough I’m going to teach Gloria how to drive.”
Xara and Gloria just looked at each other. Then Xara took out her phone, said she was going to call her mom, and stepped away to make the call. Twenty minutes later Kara arrived.
Kara practically stomped up to Gloria and the two of them started having an intense, and at times loud, conversation in either Velorian or Arion. At times one or the other would point at me.
“Xara, what’s that all about?”
“Mom’s talking to Gloria about being a calm and courteous driver.”
“What? Why is that such an angry discussion?”
“You don’t know what road rage is until you’ve seen a pissed off Arion behind the wheel of a car.”
“Should I be worried?”
“I don’t think so. So far mom’s extracted a promise from her that she won’t kill anybody over a fender bender. Now she’s telling her she can’t get physical at all over any kind of traffic incident. Gloria has agreed.”
Then they were both yelling at each other and pointing at me, I thought I heard a word that sounded something like ‘Terran’, but I’m not sure.
“Gloria just agreed to ‘take orders’ from you regarding driving. I think everything is going to be okay. Keep mom’s number on your speed dial.”
When Kara and Gloria finished their argument, Gloria stomped off into the woods and Kara came over to me and Xara.
“How are you feeling Joseph?”
“I’m feeling better Kara. Gloria says we’ll be doing some tests this afternoon to see how far I’ve progressed. Umm, is Gloria alright?”
“No, she isn’t. But she will be.”
Just then we heard a loud noise coming from the woods and I saw a Douglas Fir come down. Then more loud noises, like someone was hitting the trunk of the tree with a sledgehammer. The noise stopped and Gloria came out of the woods and went into the house.
“I think she’s good now,” said Kara. “Keep my number handy during your driving lessons and call me immediately if Gloria gets out of control.”
“Out of control? What the hell does that mean?”
“It’s hard to predict with an Arion,” she said, “You’ll know it when you see it.”
I said, “Maybe I should talk to her,” and started to get up. Both Kara and Xara reached out for me and said, simultaneously, “No!”
“She’ll come out when she’s ready Joseph.”
“She won’t wreck my house, will she?”
Xara turned around to look and said, “She’s baking. I think that’s a good sign. We’ll stay, just to be sure.”
Gloria baked a chocolate cake. While she was serving it, she said we needed groceries. Xara changed out of her flight suit, (someday I’ll have to ask her if her entire closet fits in that cape) took my car keys and took Gloria shopping.
While they were gone, I asked Kara if she made any progress finding out who was trying to bug my house and attacked me.
“I suspect it was your government, but the pieces don’t fit. Your clandestine and law enforcement services are very good, they wouldn’t have been caught flat footed like that. They would have been in and out without you ever knowing it. You caught someone by surprise, which means they were working alone without any backup or spotters to warn them when you returned.
“My best guess is that your phone is tapped and whoever tapped it knew you were going to JBLM but didn’t know your schedule. You came home earlier than they expected.”
“That makes sense. Thursday traffic was the lightest on I-5 that I’ve seen in years. And everything at Madigan and the tailor went very quickly. I didn’t have to wait at all.”
Kara said, “My working theory is that someone in your government, operating without authorization, hired a third party to bug you. I’ve already confronted several high level military and civilian leaders about this, and they all denied knowing anything about it. I would have known if they were lying to me, so it is someone in the know working at a lower level.
“And while the number of people who know about me, and by extension, you, are limited, it seems every day someone new is read in.”
“Do you think you’ll ever find out who is responsible?”
“I don’t know Joseph.”
Kara was quiet for a long while, she seemed deep in thought so I decided to just enjoy the lake and the sunshine and wait for her to decide to talk to me. Finally, she did.
“Joseph, do you ever regret meeting us?”
“No Kara, I don’t. Why are you asking?”
“When you met us, you were attacked and injured by the Arions. Since then you’ve been kidnapped and tortured by people from my own planet, a planet that has pledged to protect Terrans. And now this, which I believe is a direct result of making you my liaison. I wonder if you wouldn’t be better off if you never met me.”
I looked at her for a long moment before answering. “There are five reasons I don’t regret meeting you. First, you and yours have been great friends to me. Second, sex with Sharon, well, I don’t have to go into that. Third, you’ve spent time with me, taken me to some great parties, and treated me like one of your family. I don’t have a family of my own anymore Kara, that’s been very important to me. Fourth, Xara is turning into my best friend. I have a lot of concerns about her having a crush on me, but that aside, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend time with. She’s clever, funny, beautiful, and her heart is in the right place.”
After that, we were both quiet for a minute or two.
“You said there are five reasons. You only listed four.”
“The fifth reason. Well, at times, I think I must be lying in an aid station in Afghanistan in a morphine induced hallucination.”
She reached over and pinched me.
“Ow! What did you do that for?”
She laughed and said, “Just showing you that you aren’t hallucinating.”
“Oh, you’re funny Kara. That could have been a medic sticking me with another IV needle.”
Kara left me to nap in the sun. When I woke up, I discovered that she had gone into the garage and found the big sunshade umbrella and positioned it over me. To keep me from getting a sunburn, I guess. Xara and Gloria were back from the store and Sharon was there too.
Xara said, “He’s awake.” And Gloria came over and sat down. She asked me about my headaches, if I had dizziness, difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more than usual. She checked my balance, coordination, reflexes and other things. At the end she said I was improving but should still rest and she would retest me in a couple of days.
After Gloria was finished testing me, she left and Kara came over and sat down with me.
“Joseph, we’re going to make dinner. When we’re done eating and cleaning up, we’re all going to discuss your security. We’ve been kicking around some ideas and would like your input.”
“You’re going to ask me before the decision is made?”
“Yes Joseph. I should have included you in my decision process from the very beginning, and I’m sorry I didn’t. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to tell you everything, some things must wait for the proper time. And the decisions I make may not always go the way you’d like them to, but I will solicit and consider your input.”
They left me alone until dinner was ready. Xara came out and got me and we sat down to what I had come to understand was a normal Supremis meal: Huge quantities of everything, consumed as if it was the last meal they would ever eat. With one difference. Instead of just Gloria piling food on my plate, now Sharon was doing it too, albeit with more tact.
“Joe, you have to put on the weight you lost. It isn’t healthy for you to be so skinny. And since Gloria won’t let me spend the night, you won’t burn up all the calories in bed.” Johnson and Dixon were visibly disappointed.
“Sex with Velorians is too intense,” Gloria said. “Your recovery demands rest.”
“I can be gentle with him,” said Sharon. “Tell her Joe.”
“What Sharon said,” I replied. “She showed me.”
“No. Maybe Sharon can control herself for a few minutes, but not all night. No sex pheromones until you are fully recovered.”
And that was that. Though Kara and Xara did find the entire exchange amusing, especially when Sharon stuck out her lower lip like a toddler pouting.
After the dishes were dried and put away, we all sat down at the table for a security discussion. Kara kicked it off.
“Whoever attacked you obviously didn’t have orders to kill you. You walked in on them while they were trying to bug the cabin. The fact that they knew you would be gone indicates that either you are under direct observation, or your phone has been tapped. We’ve checked the area and don’t believe anyone is watching you, so there must be a phone tap.
“There are several areas of concern we need to address. In order to work for me in an intelligence capacity we must secure your cabin against electronic surveillance. We have that capability. We’ll provide you with communication equipment that will spoof your landline and cell phone. Anyone receiving a call will think it is coming from one of those. Anyone tapping either line will hear nothing. Use your cell or landline for routine calls, ordering pizza, calling a plumber, that sort of thing. Use the equipment we will give you for making travel plans or talking to us. The idea is we don’t want to let anyone listening know when you will be out of the cabin.”
“But Kara, there will be times when I’m gone, and a lot of people will know. I’ve already booked my travel to D.C.”
“Yes. We’ll install a home security system. Ostensibly, it will look like a commercial residential system. We’ll even put up warning stickers on the windows. But it will be a much more robust system. If anyone tries to disable it with a sophisticated attack, they will think they have succeeded. But we’ll be alerted and will be able to respond with either a call to the police or a personal visit from one of us.”
“Okay. All this sounds like common sense. I don’t have any objections. But you’re leaving out one possibility. My appointments at JBLM, my travel reservations, those are all entered into army computer systems. Someone could be monitoring those.”
“Yes Joseph, that occurred to me too. But there isn’t anything we can do about that. We can only protect what is under our control. So I’ll ask you again, are the measures we just talked about acceptable to you?”
“Yes Kara, they are.”
“Good. Because now we are going to discuss your physical security. We have several options.
“We can give you a new wristwatch. One that will be easier to initiate a call for help than your current watch. It can also monitor your blood pressure, pulse rate, and several other biometrics. It can send an alert if any of the relevant measures change drastically or unexpectedly.”
“I’m in the army Kara. Soldiers do a lot of things that change biological measurements, drastically and unexpectedly.”
“This technology is sophisticated enough to know the difference. It will also pick up and broadcast sound if it alerts. And we will be able to remotely activate it.”
“My watch will be spying on me?”
“Not really. You’ll know if it is broadcasting. Nothing will happen without your knowledge. It will also alert if you remove it. When you remove it you will have a minute to activate an all clear signal. How does this sound to you?”
“I’m good with it Kara. As long as I know when it alerts or broadcasts, I have no objection.”
“Okay. Now we get into an area where there is bound to be some disagreement. Sharon?”
“I think you should move out of the cabin entirely, to some place more secure. I’m willing to let you come live with me. I have plenty of room and this is a battle I’m willing to have with Deb.”
Before I could say anything, Kara turned to Xara.
“I think you should either move in with me and mom or let me move in with you. You didn’t see our defenses, but mom built the place to hold off a squad of Arion Betas long enough for one of us to get there if they attacked while Eric was home alone.
“If I moved in here with you, I could protect you from anything Terrans could throw at you. You’d be safe and I’d sleep better.”
Again, before I could say anything, Kara turned to Gloria.
“I could move in with you Joe. I’m not as strong as Xara. I can’t fly. But I am just as good against Terrans as the blondes.”
Again, before I could say anything, Kara jumped in.
“I’m concerned about your safety Joseph, but I don’t think we’re dealing with a physical threat. I think we’re dealing with an intelligence, or counterintelligence situation. And I think the steps you have already agreed to are sufficient.”
Then it was quiet, and everyone was looking at me.
“Sharon, Xara, Gloria, thank you for your concern for my safety. But I agree with Kara. Whoever broke in here to bug the place had me down and out and could have easily killed me if that had been their objective.
“Let’s go ahead with the electronic security you have suggested.”
Sharon, Xara and Gloria all wanted to argue with me, but Kara held up her hand and said, “It’s settled then. I know there are disagreements, but Joe and I are in agreement. If conditions change, we can circle back and reopen the discussion.”
That didn’t completely end the discussion. Xara and Sharon started comparing calendars to set up a visitation schedule. Dixon and Johnson got excited because regular visits from Sharon, to them, meant regular booty calls. I have to admit, I was thinking that way too.
Over the course of the next few days I had daily visits from one or more of, ‘the blondes’, as Gloria called them. Xara, as she promised, came every day. They were all there when Gloria gave me her last set of tests and pronounced me well. When the three flyers left, I got into the car with Gloria and we drove to the local DOL office and picked up a copy of the “Washington Driver Guide.”
When we got back to the cabin I changed into shorts and a t-shirt and went for a long run. It felt good to get the blood flowing and the muscles working. When I got back Gloria had finished reading the guide. I sat down to quiz her and discovered that she had pretty much memorized it. So I went to my car to get the Prius Owner’s Manual and gave her that to read.
I went to my room to undress and take a shower. When I finished my shower and got dressed, I came out to the living room, no Gloria. I heard sound doming from the garage, so I went out there to see what she was doing.
The hood was up, the back hatch was open, the jack and tools were on the floor, the owner’s manual was open on the driver’s seat and Gloria was on her back on the floor of the car looking up under the dash.
“Gloria, what are you doing?”
“Examining the fuses. Then I am going to trace the wiring and assess the status of all the fluids. I’ve rotated the tires and checked the tread depth. All the tires are good.”
“Gloria, I don’t think you need to do all that. I just wanted you to get familiar with the vehicle.”
“By the time I am finished I will be very familiar with it. One does not pilot an unfamiliar craft without first learning everything about it.”
I told her, “Okay, knock yourself out. I’ll call you in when dinner is ready.”
“I don’t need to be knocked out. I just need to learn about this vehicle.”
I called her in for dinner, was told I should be making larger meals, then was left alone to clean up while she went back out to the garage. About two hours later she came in, satisfied that she understood the basic design and construction of the Prius and all its systems. I went out to the garage, half expecting to see a newly installed flux capacitor, but it was just the car. She’d put away all the tools. Johnson suggested I tell her part of becoming a driver is learning how to detail a car. I decided that would be a mean thing to do. Funny, but mean. So I didn’t mention it.
Xara showed up the next morning and had breakfast with us. When she left, I told Gloria it was time for her first driving lesson. I had Gloria sit in the driver’s seat and went through the basics of adjusting the seat (like every other Supremis I have ever met, she is taller than me), adjust the mirrors, and check her surroundings.
“Okay Gloria, are you ready to start driving?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Is there anything you need to do before we take the car out for a spin?”
“No. I am ready.”
“Tell me what you are going to do.”
“I am going to put my foot on the brake. Start the car. Then put the transmission lever in reverse then take my foot off the brake and gently push down on the gas pedal and back out of the garage.”
“Okay Gloria, what do you think will happen when the car starts moving backwards?”
She thought about that for a few seconds, looked around, then grinned and said, “First I will open the garage door!”
“Good idea. Let’s do it.”
She opened the garage door and backed out to the end of the driveway. I thought about teasing her by telling her to pull back into the garage, close the door and we’d have the second lesson tomorrow, but I wasn’t sure she’d think that was funny. So I had her back out of the driveway, turn the car and start heading down the road towards the main road.
When we got to the stop sign, I talked her through a U turn and headed back down the road towards the cabin. I had her speed up and slow down, pull over, pull out, back up, turn around in driveways, then head back out to the main road.
At the stop sign I told her we were going to turn right and just drive along the road, getting used to oncoming traffic and staying in our lane. She was doing pretty well. She did have a tendency to want to drive down the middle of the road and when cars were coming towards us and she had to move over, she was nervous about driving into the ditch.
She was doing about 25 mph when someone came up behind us and was following very closely. She looked in the mirror a couple of times. I turned around to look.
“He is not keeping a proper following distance. He should not be following me so closely.”
“Okay Gloria, you’re doing 25, the speed limit here is 45. You can either speed up or you can find a place to pull over to let him pass. What are you going to do?”
I totally expected her to speed up, but she didn’t. She found a driveway and pulled in to let the other driver pass.
“Great Gloria, you let him pass. Now back up onto the road and let’s continue our drive.”
I should have spent more time working with her on this. She backed us into the ditch. She couldn’t get out. We got out to look, there was no damage, but I’d have to call the auto club to have a truck pull us out. Or so I thought. Gloria just picked up the back end of the car and moved it back onto the pavement.
We got back into the car, drove around for a bit more, then headed back to the cabin. On the way I coaxed her up to the speed limit. She seemed nervous, which I thought was a good sign, it would mean she would be careful.
And that’s how it went. Every day after Xara left, we’d get in the car and go for a drive. She was fine on the roads around the lake and started driving the speed limit. When we started driving around Bellingham, in traffic, she became nervous again and slowed down. She especially became nervous when there was oncoming traffic and cars parked on the street to her right. But she got over that after a few days, so then I thought it was time to take her out on the freeway.
We had several discussions about getting on the freeway and merging into traffic. I demonstrated a number of times, in all kinds of traffic conditions so she could see the process. Interstate Five through the Bellingham area was built in the late 1950’s, when there was much less traffic. The freeway entrances are short, there isn’t a lot of room to merge into traffic.
My process to teach her was to have her merge onto the freeway, drive to the next exit, get off, get back on, etc. So she could practice it over and over. She was doing pretty well until the fifth or sixth time she merged. Traffic was heavy, she negotiated it okay, but then a driver came up on our left and moved over, cutting her off and forcing her to hit the brakes. You know that thing that mom’s do when something like this happens, they reach out with their right arm to make sure their kids don’t come flying out of the seat, even though they are belted in? Gloria did that. Then she got mad and floored the accelerator and started what I assumed was swearing in Arion.
If you haven’t driven a hybrid gas-electric car you may not know that the electric motor puts out more torque than a gasoline engine does. So we started accelerating very rapidly.
“Gloria, slow down. Slow down. SLOW DOWN GODDAMNIT!” I pulled my phone out. “SLOW DOWN RIGHT NOW OR I’M CALLING KARA!”
She slowed down. And started sulking.
“That driver was very rude. He almost caused an accident. If we can’t catch him and punish him then we must report him. Call the police.
“Gloria, this kind of thing happens all the time. I’m not going to call the police. You have to get used to it. Drive defensively. People are going to make you angry on the road. You have to deal with it.”
“I was dealing with it. I was going to catch him and punish him.”
“How would you have punished him?”
She thought for a few seconds and then said, “He needs both hands to drive but only one foot. I would have broken his left leg.”
I had her stay on the freeway into Skagit County. She didn’t seem to be cooling off so I thought a scenic drive might help, so I guided her off the freeway and over to Chukanut Drive. It was a beautiful day, so I had her pull into Larrabee State Park. The park was pretty popular that day, but we did find a place to park in the lot. We got out of the car and crossed the railroad tracks and took the trail down to the beach. She started to cheer up as we walked and pretty soon she had a smile on her face.
I don’t know where Sharon would place Arion beauty in her Supremis hierarchy, but by anyone’s definition Gloria is a beautiful woman. The only real difference you’d see between her and the Velorians I know would be the hair color. Theirs is blonde, Gloria’s is black. Otherwise, same beautiful blue eyes, same perfect figure.
“Gloria, have you done any site-seeing or exploration since you’ve been here?”
“No. I go where Kara sends me.”
“Maybe we can go hiking one day this week. Would you like that?”
“Yes,” she said, “This is a what you call a park? It is very beautiful. Very green. Do you come here often?”
“I used to come here a lot when I was a kid. Not so much since I joined the army.”
We walked along the beach for a while. I found some flat rocks that I skipped across the water. Gloria tried it too, she’s much better at it than I am. She seemed relaxed, so we started back up the trail to the car.
As we neared the top of the trail, before the railroad tracks, we came across three young men who were obviously drunk. From the looks of it I guessed they had been drinking on the beach as I didn’t see any containers. They made some obnoxious observations about Gloria being with such an ugly guy, and then they invited her to stay with them. She declined, politely, which surprised me, and we kept on going, until one of them called her a “stuck-up cunt.”
Surprisingly, Gloria didn’t let it bother her. Surprisingly, to her anyway, not Johnson or Dixon, it bothered me a lot. This woman had nursed me back to health on more than one occasion and had always treated me with kindness and respect. And there was no Kiraling relationship here either, she was just a decent, kind, if somewhat scary, woman.
I told the assholes to shut up. They invited me to make them. I accepted their invitation and was heading towards them when Gloria grabbed my arm, which stopped me dead in my tracks, and told me to let it go.
“Let go of me Gloria. I’m going to teach these jerks a lesson.”
“Joe, if you don’t turn around and come with me right now, I’m going to call Kara!”
And that struck me as so funny that I just started laughing. I was laughing and turning back around to go with her when I saw her fist flash out and come back, almost instantaneously, and turned to see one of the drunks lying on the ground, bleeding from his nose.
“He was going to hit you from behind Joe.”
His buddies started screaming something about assault and calling the cops. I figured they could take care of their friend and I rushed Gloria out of there.
“Why are we in such a hurry Joe? They are no threat to us.”
“Because they might call the cops and we don’t want to stick around for that.”
“Why not? They are in the wrong. We should turn them in to the police.”
I said, “Gloria, cops ask a lot of questions. They check people out. I don’t think we want them looking too closely at your driver license.”
“Why not? It’s perfectly acceptable. Kara told me.”
“Maybe it is Gloria. Let’s not find out.”
We got back to the car and drove off. Just as we were getting back onto Chukanut Drive we saw a sheriff’s car pull into the parking lot. Coincidence? Don’t know. We weren’t going to stay and find out.
Gloria was coming along very well with her driving and I thought she should be introduced to some heavy city traffic. So I called the tailor to make sure my uniform was ready, and told him I’d be there the next day to pick it up. In our discussions, Gloria told me she had a United States passport, and passports for other countries, so I had her call Xara to bring it up.
“Why do I need my passport?”
“To get on base. Sometimes they get picky with the ID they’ll accept. Best to have a backup, especially since you’ll be driving. Practice smiling.”
“Why do I have to smile?”
“Gloria, with your great looks, a nice smile will go a long way to making a sentry forget his duty.” I was joking, but she took it seriously.
The next morning Xara flew up, had breakfast with us, and made herself comfortable. Her job was to watch the cabin in case anyone monitoring either my phone or movements decided to take another crack at bugging the cabin. I gave Gloria the keys, we drove to a gas station to fill up, and we got onto the interstate heading south. This time the traffic was heavy starting in Marysville all the way through Tacoma. Gloria got a lot of practice navigating stop and go traffic, and I learned some Arion cuss words.
At the JBLM main gate Gloria gave the guard her passport, her license and my license, and smiled at him. He leaned in the window to get a look at me, but Gloria was wearing a tight top with a low cut, I’m not sure he ever made eye contact with me. He waved us through and we onto the base and picked up my uniform. I tried it on, and Gloria approved, so I changed, and we left the base. I was getting hungry, so I asked Gloria if she’d like to get something to eat. She did, so I directed her to the Hooters in Tacoma. Just to see how she’d react.
Usually, in Hooters, all the guys are looking at the waitresses. From the moment I walked in the door with Gloria, all the guys were looking at her. She didn’t seem to notice it, or if she did, she wasn’t bothered by it. A couple of the waitresses were though. I saw a couple of them give her that look. When I excused myself to use the restroom the manager came up to me and asked me if I thought my girlfriend would be interested in a job. I told him she was visiting from out of state. He was disappointed.
He wasn’t, however, disappointed by the size of our lunch bill. Gloria ordered a lot of food, ate it all down while encouraging me to eat more, then ordered two slices of Chocolate Mousse cake for herself and one for me. I was okay with it. Kara had given her a credit card, so lunch didn’t cost me a thing.
After lunch we were back on the road, in even heavier traffic, and I got to practice my new Arion cuss words with Gloria. When we got back to the cabin Sharon, Kara and Xara, or “the blondes” as Gloria described them, were waiting for us. Xara had a favor to ask.
“You guys all know my birthday is coming up. I’d like us to do a group activity.”
Everyone waited for her to continue.
“I’d like us to all go camping together.”
Sounded good to me. Gloria was willing. But Sharon and Kara, not so much.
“You mean sleep in tents, in the woods?” Sharon asked.
“Yes,” said Xara, “And cook over a camp stove or a campfire, hike, swim, it’ll be a lot of fun!”
“With all the bugs crawling around?” Asked Kara.
“Mom, it’ll be fun.”
“Wait a minute,” I said, “You guys are invulnerable, right? Nothing can hurt you. Are you afraid of roughing it for a few days?”
“Certainly not!” Said Sharon. “So long as we all understand that ‘roughing it’ means a four-star hotel.”
“Xara, maybe we could go to Hawaii for a few days and stay at a resort,” suggested Kara.
Sharon agreed, “Great idea! Some place with a spa and hunky masseuses.”
Gloria snorted that unpronounceable Arion word for ‘pussies.’
Xara went into a full court press, playing the fatherless, only child card. Surprisingly, it worked on Kara. And once she had Kara, well, the two of them overwhelmed Sharon.
I asked Xara, “Where would you like to go?”
She said, “Well, after our trip to Baker Lake, I flew around and checked out a bunch of parks. Most of the nice ones take reservations and were filled, but I got lucky and booked five days at Lake Chelan State Park. It’s on a beautiful lake and there’s a water slide park nearby. And lots of little stores and shops to explore, and we can take a boat ride to a little town at the end of the lake. It’ll be fun.”
I said, “I’ve been there. It’s a very popular park and a very popular place to vacation. You won’t be able to fly in and out without being seen, and my Prius won’t hold all of us, and there is usually only room for two cars per campsite. So how are we all getting there?”
Xara replied, “I’ve got that covered! We’ll rent a big van. Sharon, mom and I can fly up here with our gear and we’ll drive from here.”
“Oh Skietra,” said Sharon, “We all travel together in a van. This just keeps getting better and better. And what’s this about gear? What kind of gear do we need?”
Xara, who was getting more enthusiastic about the trip the more we talked about it fielded that question and didn’t seem to notice Sharon getting less enthusiastic with every detail. I thought about playing the Kiraling card but had a better idea.
“Sharon, do you like to gamble?”
“I do. Is there gambling at this park?”
“Not at the park, but there are several casinos nearby.”
“Oh!” said Xara, “I’ve never been to a casino. This is trip is going to be great!”
“Are these casinos attached to five-star resorts?” Asked Sharon.
“No,” I said, “they’re owned by local tribes. But they are nice.”
“I’ll judge how nice they are,” said Sharon, “but I’m willing to try them out.”
“Okay,” I said, “How about Deb. Will she be coming?”
Sharon just looked at me like I was crazy and huffed. So no, Deb wasn’t coming.
So it was settled. But before we left Kara wanted to get the security upgrades in place.
Sharon stayed the night. Oh my God, I will never get tired of that woman! The next morning an unmarked van showed up at the cabin just after Kara and Xara arrived. Two men got out of the van and Kara introduced me to them as part of her “team”, I assumed the team that I would be joining, but she didn’t elaborate. They set about installing a security system in the cabin. They even put ADT stickers on the windows. When they were finished, they gave me a tour.
There were functional cameras in plain site that covered all the entrances to the cabin. They worked, but were for show. Each of them was backed up by two or more small “pin hole” cameras placed in small holes drilled into the siding. They were amazing. Clear, wide angle images in both the visible and infrared spectrums.
On the roof they mounted cameras, disguised as roof vents, that covered the road leading up to the cabin in front and the lake in back. There were also cameras placed around the cabin, hidden in the soffits or siding, so that I had 360° coverage. No one could approach the property or be on it without being in view of a hidden camera.
I think I’ve mentioned before that the cabin has a backup generator powered by propane stored in a large oversized tank. Kara’s security team, as I called them, installed backup power for the security system that was separate from my system. The backup power packs were small, about the size of a deck of cards, with several sets of wires soldered into them that connected to other small devices that connected to the wires that powered the cameras. Gloria explained that these were power packs taken from Arion ships Kara had salvaged. Her words. I would have said looted. The wiring from them went to adapters that would allow them to work with “Terran power distributors.” Gloria’s words.
The also put decoy cameras and pinhole cameras inside to cover all the rooms of the cabin. Including the bathroom. I didn’t want that, but Kara made it clear it wasn’t open to discussion.
Kara gave me a new watch that I could use to summon help, and could transmit sound to … I don’t know what. Gloria tried to explain it to me. Apparently, there were facilities in place in orbit and in various locations above the planet that the Arions used for communications. Kara, with covert help from Velor, had been able to piggy back off those signals, without the Arions knowing about it, so that she could use the same system. Anyway, I could activate the watch, or Kara could remotely, so that she would be able to monitor my location and pickup any sound, ambient sound, conversations, whatever, going on around me. It could also monitor my heart rate, blood pressure, oxygenation, and other biometrics. Oh, as an added bonus, it also kept time ???? It looked for all the world like a sport watch you could buy in any department store.
Then she took my cell phone, pulled the sim card out of it, and placed it into a new cell phone. In normal use it would work exactly like any other cell phone. But by entering in a special code, it could be used for secret, undetectable, encrypted communication. And I could monitor the security system from it.
They also replaced my landline phone with a new unit. I didn’t understand all the details, they went over them too quickly. But if I pushed a certain button combination it would encrypt my phone calls. Anyone listening in would here elevator music. Not sure how that worked, but I tried it by calling my cell, and it worked.
Major Aldrich was in a foul mood. He just couldn’t see what was so special about Sgt. Joe Ricci. As far as he could tell, he was just another grunt. And a used-up grunt at that. He was getting a Silver Star? What the hell for? Aldrich had glanced at the citation. Something about leading his squad in multiple counter attacks that broke the point of the enemy attack and allowed it to be rolled back and defeated. And he recovered a bunch of dead bodies. So what? That’s what grunts are paid to do.
And what did that super-bitch see in him? No one had any idea why or how she chose Ricci to be her liaison. And while many agreed that position should be filled by an officer, such as himself, the brass above him wouldn’t push back on her about it.
He had a plan to find out what the deal was, and then turn it to his advantage. He was going to get to the bottom of it. But the contractor he hired to bug Sgt. Joe Fucktard’s cabin screwed up royally. He was supposed to be the best covert operator the private sector had to offer. Or at least the best he could afford. He was supposed to be in and out of that idiot’s cabin before he got back from JBLM. The guy offered to refund his fee. But the top brass was pissing in their pants, claiming that flying cunt could tell if they were lying just by looking at them. None of them knew if that was true, but they were all too afraid of her, or too afraid of the Joint Chiefs, to risk finding out. So he told the guy to keep the fee, then paid him another $15k, out of his ‘mistress’ account, the account he kept hidden from his wife and her asshole father, and sent him to Paris for an extended vacation, to keep him hidden away until the uproar died down.
He was relieved that Kara wasn’t going to ask him about it and insulted that she didn’t think he was important enough to question. His only consolation was that the contractor managed to fuck Ricci up and get away without anyone seeing his face.
Well, he’d just have to work a little harder at coming up with something that would compromise Ricci. The extra work and the delay it entailed would only make it that much sweeter when he finally managed to get Ricci out of the way and get between the bitch’s legs. And those legs were the best he’d ever seen. And it only got better the higher up you went. That costume she wore didn’t leave much of anything to the imagination. He was getting worked up just thinking about it. He’d have to stop by to see Mona before he headed home to Arlene and the kids.