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Kiraling – Part 27 (Chapter 198-215)

Written by anonxyzus :: [Monday, 25 July 2022 00:13] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 31 July 2022 08:50]

Chapter 198

“I see her in the reflection.”

“Really? I don’t.”

“Look at the upper left corner, just below the cupcakes.”

“I only see glare.”

“Yes, but I’m able to resolve it better than you can. She’s moving to the right.”

“Okay, I see her now.”

Xara wasn’t crazy about using her new remote connection, that’s what we called it, remote connection, to enable me to do field counterintelligence work. But Kara had talked her into trying it.

Major Moore was pushing hard for it; she was seeing potential uses for it in Terran counterintelligence work against Terran targets. It hadn’t occurred to her that Xara also gets a vote, the deciding vote. Major Moore heard about the remote connection from Sharon, and when Kara found out, she and Sharon had words. I wasn’t there, but Xara was, and she told me Kara had won the argument. I’m hoping the discussions, arguments, fights, whatever, can be kept between Kara and Major Moore and leave me out of it.

I was walking an SDR, Surveillance Detection Route, in downtown Olympia. Gloria was following me, I knew that, but she was doing a great job of staying out of sight. I was looking for reflections in car mirrors and in store windows and didn’t see her. But Xara, using our remote connection, could see her. She was seeing the images I was seeing, but her brain could do a much better job parsing them than mine could. The data was there. The light that entered my pupils held all the information, but I couldn’t perceive it as well as she could. And she could see colors and small details I could not.

Hearing worked the same way. She could make out voices that to me were just part of the background noise. And it was more than that. She could hear, through the remote connection, sound frequencies that were above and below what Terrans can hear.

It is like … when we’re in a remote connection, she can see and hear just as well through my senses as she can through hers, which doesn’t make any sense, pardon the pun. Gloria put her brain scanner on me and confirmed that ultraviolet and infrared frequencies were not causing any of my neurons to fire, but Xara could see them. Same for sound. Sounds I couldn’t hear didn’t cause any of my neurons to fire, but Xara could still hear them. If the signal made it to my eyes or ears, she could process it, even if I couldn’t.

This, and her ability to communicate with me at faster than light speed was evidence that something was going on beyond what our science, or Velorian science, could explain.

At Kara and Gloria’s urging, we spent the better part of a weekend trying to find a way for me to initiate a connection with Xara, but I couldn’t do it. Only she could initiate it. And once we made the connection, we’d stay connected until she broke it.

I wasn’t at all uncomfortable with this, when we’re in a connection, via physical connection or remote, Xara can take me into her loving place, it’s a really nice place to be. Dixon and Johnson, on the other hand, didn’t like it at all. They didn’t want her eavesdropping on our conversations. So they kept quiet when we were in a connection. For the most part. Sometimes we’d forget we were in the connection and one of them would say something and Xara would nudge me in the ribs, or laugh, or tell me to tell them to shut up. From time to time, I would wonder how there was room for that many people in my head.

Anyway, I was walking past Wagner’s bakery on Capitol Way in Olympia when Xara spotted Gloria in the reflection of a window. I was only seeing glare from lamps over the display until Gloria moved enough that I could see her too.

Why Olympia? Because neither of us, me or Gloria, were all that familiar with it so neither of us could “cheat,” and as Xara was in Bellingham, 150 miles away, it was a good test of our ability to use the remote connection for actual intelligence work.

Xara and I put a lot of thought into this and discussed it at length. She had reservations about letting me go into dangerous situations. Or situations she thought were dangerous. Me, I didn’t think it was as dangerous as she did. I spent years in environments where people were actively trying to kill me. Being a passive observer, almost like a fly on the wall, didn’t bother me at all.

I had my own reservations, centered around the practicality of doing this. I’m only one guy, Xara is only one Galen/Velorian/Supremis/Goddess, or whatever she was becoming. Anyway, even a fly on the wall is eventually noticed. And given my appearance, I would be noticed soon, if not right away. If I was just tailing someone, staying out of sight, then the risk of being noticed would be quite small. But Xara could do that herself. If she’s just following someone, she could be high enough up that they couldn’t see her, and buildings and walls would make no difference to her.

If I was getting close enough to eavesdrop on a conversation, it was totally random whether someone would notice me or not. How can you rely on that?

So I didn’t see a lot of practical applications. Not for counterintelligence work anyway. Johnson, Dixon and I agreed we shouldn’t make much of that if we were going to convince Kara and Xara to let me check out the Central American drug gangs.

On the other hand, there were some great domestic applications for this new ability. I’m at the store and am supposed to get shampoo or something for Xara. She can project the image of what she is looking for to me, or I can scan the shelves and she can tell me when I’ve found what she wants.

Or she goes to the store and, while there, asks me if there is anything I need. No phone calls needed; no texting needed. And this is much better than the Dick Tracy watch I wear, at least where Xara is concerned. Kara wants me to continue to use it.

Privacy … it isn’t an issue. Xara always announces herself and understands if I don’t want to connect. And she can wait for me, at a very high level where she isn’t seeing my thoughts but will hear me when I am ready to let her in.

That’s the way it is now. It didn’t start out that way. Before the remote connection, when we were in physical contact, she could feel, if that’s the right word, what I was feeling when I had a full bladder or needed to take a crap. But in the remote connection she can experience what I feel when I relieve myself. Velorians don’t pee or poo, so that was a novelty for her, so I didn’t object when she wanted to maintain a remote connection with me and talk about what I was feeling and ask me questions about it. And it would have been completely fine if it was only Xara satisfying her curiosity. But she can be in a remote (or physical) connection with me and be in physical contact with someone else and add them to the connection. It took me totally by surprise one day when I was sitting on the toilet and suddenly heard Sharon and Kara in my head …

I let her know I wasn’t at all happy about that, and she agreed to keep that kind of thing private between us. That still didn’t stop Kara and Sharon from asking me questions.

Back to my SDR, I was walking south towards the state capitol campus where things were beginning to open up. There were large green space areas with some cover that I could take advantage of. I walked by a large office building, crossed 11th Ave and moved behind a large oak tree, and quickly glanced around it looking for Gloria. I didn’t see her, but Xara did and told me where she was. Using the oak tree as cover, keeping it between Gloria and myself, I quickly walked into the World War II memorial and hid behind one of the large panels. And it worked! Gloria walked right by me apparently thinking that I had turned west. She went around a corner, and I turned east and walked back to where she and I had parked earlier in the day.

After about half an hour my phone rang, it was Gloria, begrudgingly admitting defeat. Until she passed me at the WWII memorial, I never saw her, except when Xara directed me to her reflection. If I had been doing this on my own, I would never have seen her.

Janelle and Miguel were at the playroom. Assembled before them were eleven Betas. She had asked for and received twelve, but one of them made the mistake of first disrespecting and then threatening Miguel, and she couldn’t let that pass.

The offending Beta had been entering the playroom and upon seeing Miguel in his path had ordered him out of the way, in Arion, which, of course, Miguel did not understand.

“Out of my way, frail!” the Beta had demanded. Miguel didn’t understand, and the Beta grasped him by the throat, lifted him up to eye level and said, “I’ll crush you …” and that’s all he got out. Janelle’s eyes flashed and the Beta’s arm was sliced off at the elbow. Miguel fell to the floor and the Beta stood there for a moment, looking back and forth between his severed arm and its stump, then turned to face Janelle just in time to meet her fist. His head exploded from the force of the blow.

Janelle went to Miguel and gently helped him to his feet. He was badly shaken, but otherwise unhurt. She turned to the remaining Betas and ordered them to clean and dispose of the mess, then return to the playroom.

They were fast, efficient, and terrified. And they gave Janelle their complete and undivided attention as she explained their task to them.

The bishop had summoned Janelle and Miguel to a meeting to discuss the upcoming election. He explained to her that each candidate was allowed to appoint poll watchers to observe voting and the counting of the votes. This, the bishop said, would be the mechanism the gangs would use to steal the election. They would corrupt the process by bribing or intimidating the voters and the election workers during the voting and later while the votes were being tabulated. He had advised Janelle that she needed to find her own poll watchers, men, he said men, who would not be intimidated by the gangs and would stand up to them. He said he would offer his priests as poll watchers but feared for their safety. He suspected Janelle would be able to overcome this problem, as she had always managed to overcome any other problems she had with the gangs.

Janelle thanked the bishop and told him she would appoint her own poll watchers.

On the drive home, Miguel asked, “Senorita Janelle, where will you find men who will stand up to the gangs?”

“I’ll send for them,” she had replied. And Near Earth Command (NEC) had granted her request for Betas. Apparently whatever obsession they had with exposure, and the rumored marriage of a Protector to a frail had settled down.

Janelle addressed the Betas in Arion.

“This Terran is named Miguel. You will treat him with the same respect you treat me. Who has a problem with that?”

None of them had a problem with that.

Three of the Betas were women. She addressed them saying, “You will not use Miguel for sex. Nor will you tempt him. Do you understand?”

They understood.

“You will learn the local language and become proficient in it.”

They had brought with them Deep Teach machines to help with the language lessons.

“This is a pacification operation. We are not here to terrorize the population; we are here to win their hearts and minds. But there are multiple factions. One faction is for us, another is against us, and the remaining factions will follow whichever one wins. We will protect those who are with us and eliminate those who are against us.

“Now, who among you is senior?”

One of the Betas, a woman, spoke up, “The one you killed was, I am the Second, so now I am the First.”

“Very well, First. You and your team will be based here while you learn the language. Miguel will bring you Terran weapons, food and clothing and anything else you may need. We will use your GARs in some operations, but for your main task it will be better to have Terran weapons. In a week we will begin bringing you into the city so you can start learning your assignments. I also suspect I will need your assassination skills.”

On the drive back to the city, Janelle explained to Miguel what she had told them. Most of it; she didn’t mention the sex. He asked, “Senorita, where will we get the weapons you promised them?”

“From the gangs, Miguel.”

Chapter 199

It came! Our new house came! It was delivered and set up during Xara’s spring break. Coincidence? No. Kara was able to arrange it. As usual, when the Kelsorians were here, I had to be gone as they didn’t want any interactions with Terrans from Earth. That always bothered me, in a gee I wish I could see ET sort of way, but Xara promised me that she’d let me see them through the remote connection.

There was a lot of prep work to do. Anything from the cabin we wanted to save had to be moved into storage, except for the lair. The Kelsorians would be expanding it, but not demolishing or removing it. The ladies helped, and the van and the truck Kara appropriated from the feds came in very handy. There was a division of labor. Anything that required tools to take apart or assemble was my responsibility. Anything that required heavy lifting would be handled by the Rack Pack. We had bought all new appliances, so the old ones were loaded into the truck, and I took them to a local recycler, who handled the lifting part of getting them out of the truck.

With the help of the ladies, it only took two days to empty out the cabin. Xara and I booked a room at the Springhill Suites in Bellingham.

Two days before delivery of the house the Kelsorians arrived and began doing their work. They set up some kind of cloak projector. Xara stood outside the cloaked area and looked into it, and it looked like it should, the cabin, the trees, everything where it should be. Then she walked inside the cloak and there were four Kelsorians, wearing jumpsuits, doing whatever it is they do to remove and replace one house with another.

I finally got to see them, through Xara’s eyes, and it was a bit of a letdown. They just looked like ordinary workers on a construction site. They even wore hardhats that looked like anything you’d see at any construction site on earth. One of them, I think he was the foreman, took Xara aside and showed her some drawings, like blueprints, and explained an idea he had. She translated for me, so I was hearing him talk to her in Kelsorian, her replying to him in Kelsorian, and an English translation of what they were saying, all at the same time. I was at the hotel, and I had to lie down, it was too disorienting otherwise.

Anyway, he was suggesting a change to the plumbing that would simplify the construction and save money that could be spent on something else. Instead of two hot water tanks, one very hot for Supremis and one set at 140° for me, they could get by with one large water tank and adjust the showers so that they could only be turned past a safe temperature, for me, by someone possessing Supremis levels of strength. She asked me what I thought, and I said it sounds like a good idea. So she approved the change.

Then the foreman pulled out a tablet and showed her what we could get with the money saved. She said she’d like an upgrade to the cleaner thingy, and I said fine, so that’s what she did. I had no idea what I had agreed to, more on that later.

Anyway, they demolished and removed the old cabin, levitating the pieces up to a large container inside the cloak field, all without doing any damage to the lair, then expanded the lair, then set the new house down over it on a new foundation. Xara helped me watch some of the work, and it was like putting together a pre-fab. The Kelsorians finished and it was time to move back in. The first thing we did was install the new appliances. They fit perfectly. Literally, perfectly. The Kelsorian workmanship was nothing less than exceptional.

Next, we moved the furniture back in. And put all the pictures back up on the wall, put all the plates and glasses and silverware in their places, and looked around, and it was awful. Everything we owned looked out of place and wasn’t near large enough to fill the space. So we agreed that we would have to get all new furniture (except for the bed), a new China cabinet, and just more of everything.

Sharon had been managing my money, and she had made it grow, so expense wasn’t an issue. The issue was, according to Sharon, taste. She said all of mine was in my mouth. So she volunteered to go shopping with Xara to pick out the new furnishings.

“No,” said Xara, “this is Joe’s home too. We welcome your help, Sharon, but Joe will go with us, and he’ll have input, and he and I will make the decisions.”

Right.

I nodded my agreement. Good thing we weren’t in a connection, because when Sharon suggested she and Xara do all of it I was doing cartwheels in my mind. But Xara wanted me to do this with her, so I agreed.

Right.

Turns out interior decorating is a lot like wedding planning. I had to be there, but I didn’t really have any input and Sharon and Xara made all the decisions. I did get to pick out the recliners. Sharon didn’t really approve but Xara did.

A few days after all the old furniture was removed and the new was put in, UPS delivered several large crates. I had no idea who they were from or what was in them.

“Joe, those are the cleaning units from Kelsor,” said Xara.

“Kelsor ships with UPS?”

“No, silly, mom arranged delivery using one of her shell companies.”

“Kara has shell companies?”

Xara just rolled her eyes.

We brought the crates in and Xara opened them. The first one had a charging station. It was a low platform with a couple of columns, short columns, and the platform plugged into an AC outlet. Xara said the Kelsorians had to custom make that to fit our receptacles.

Then she opened the other crate, and there was the cleaning unit. I expected a glorified Roomba. What we got was something more like Rosey from The Jetsons. In fact, that’s what we named it.

It came in parts. First, we set its power unit up on the platform and it started charging. No cables, it just charged directly from the platform. Then we put the body of the thing over the power unit, it snapped into place. Then we put arms on it and a “head”. The head was like a computer display crammed into a helmet. And there were attachments. Like a big bin, and extensions for its arms, including six fingered hands; four regular fingers and two opposable thumbs. And a tablet. It came with a tablet.

“It doesn’t have legs, or wheels, Xara. How does it move around?”

“It has a small anti-gravity unit,” she said, “it floats.”

We let it charge for a couple of hours while Xara went through the manual and explained everything to me. Like my space suits, it could map English words to its command subroutines, so we could train it.

When it was charged Xara pressed a button on its remote and characters, Kelsorian characters, displayed on both the remote and the cleaning thingy’s head. Xara pressed the menu button on the remote and a menu came up on Rosey’s display. She clicked down to an entry and selected it and Rosey disengaged itself from the charging station and began moving around the house.

“It’s making a map of the house, Joe.”

It did more than that. It floated into each room and if there were drawers or cupboards or closets, it opened them all and inspected them. It even went down into the lair. It spent three hours inspecting every nook and cranny of the house and lair, even the garage. When it was done it returned to its charging station.

While all this was going on Xara was going through the menus on the remote and the stuff on the tablet and translating commands into English. So when it returned to its station, Xara told it to clean the floors. It went to its bin, attached it to its back, making it look like it had a big butt, then went around all the floors cleaning them. Only it didn’t make physical contact with the floors. Any dirt or dust or whatever floated off the floor into the bin, through the bottom.

For the next two days we had fun programming Rosey to clean the floors, load and run the dishwasher and put the dishes away, clean the windows, do the laundry, etc.

A week later I was working in the lair. Xara was down there with me going through some logs, looking for Arion communication intercepts, when Rosey came down to clean. We had talked about programming her, we referred to it as her, with a schedule so it wouldn’t clean the lair while I was working but hadn’t gotten round to it yet. So I said, “Rosey, return to your charging station.” And Rosey replied, in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice, “I’ll be back.”

I nearly fell out of my chair. Then Xara started laughing so hard she nearly fell out of her chair. She had programmed Rosey with a recording and was just waiting for me to give it an input that would deliver that output.

One difficulty we hadn’t planned for, and it was stupid that we didn’t, was explaining to guests, mostly Xara’s friends from school, how it was that we had a new house in such a short time. We explained that it was a pre-fab and waved our arms in the air and pretended we didn’t understand all the questions or know the answers. No one questioned where the money came from, we just said Lisa Banks, the well-known owner of Banks Pharmaceuticals, paid for it as a wedding gift. We did have to move Rosey’s charging station and paraphernalia down to the lair. No way we could have explained a robot maid.

The new master bath had mirrors on all the walls. Big mirrors. Xara wanted that. She demonstrated why after the first time we took a shower together. She stood in the middle of the room and bounced her heat vision off the mirrors to dry herself. No towels needed. She dried me that way too.

Something else changed about Xara after the new house was in place. She spent a lot less time wearing clothes. Which is another way of saying that she spent a lot more time naked.

Now the Supremis, especially the Velorians, have a very casual attitude about clothing and nudity. They always wear as little as they can get away with. They think underwear is a waste of cloth. So I was used to seeing the ladies naked, but not all the time. So I asked Xara about it.

“Xara, you spend a lot more time naked around the house than you used to. Why?”

“Do I Joe?” she answered. Then she thought for a moment and said, “Yes, I suppose I do. Do you object?”

No man in his right mind would object. Dixon and Johnson agreed, though I think, in their case, “right mind” is a ship that sailed a long time ago.

“No, I don’t object, I just wondered why.”

“My body is perfect. Perfection shouldn’t be covered up; it should be out there for everyone to see and appreciate.”

“Whoa, does that mean you’re going to go everywhere naked?”

“No, not for now. But the day may come that I do.”

“Is this a Galen thing, Xara?”

She thought about it for a minute, then said, “Yes, I think it is.”

She thought about it for another minute and then said, “Joe, I need you to keep me grounded.”

“I think I understand why, but maybe you should tell me why you think so.”

“My expanding powers and abilities seem to be accompanied by an expanding ego. I might enjoy being a goddess, but I don’t want to be an egotistical narcissistic goddess.”

“I’ll help you with that,” I said, thinking the place to start was disabusing her of the belief that she is a goddess. Dixon asked me how I was going to do that. I had no idea.

Chapter 200

Third Saturday of June, our wedding day. It’s coming up fast. Dixon and Johnson’s families are coming, and Kara, bless her, is putting them up in a hotel.

Senator Jackson is coming with his wife. General Rosenthal and his wife are coming.

Xara added additional guests, friends from school and their plus ones.

Captain Moore will be coming, of course. And, surprisingly, Deb wants to come, which has Sharon in a panic. Two girl-friends, jealous of each other, one of them enhanced. What could go wrong? Kara and Xara have made it clear to Sharon that it is her responsibility to make sure nothing goes wrong.

I suggested to Xara that since Deb has not wanted to have anything to do with us, we could solve the problem by not inviting her. Xara said no, we aren’t going to be the bad guys. Sharon can be the bad guy.

The president isn’t coming, but he, and the state department, really wanted to send a representative, so Kara relented and agreed to let someone from the Office of Foreign Missions attend. I guess because my property is considered a Velorian consulate or mission or something.

Skar-El is bringing a Scribe friend, and he let Kara know that the Velorian Diplomatic Corp is expecting an invitation.

“Kara, I thought Velor didn’t know, or care, about this wedding?”

“Blame Sharon, Joseph. Her reports back to Velor are very detailed. Oh, and the diplomat will be accompanied by an aide and a translator; Jarrod and Katri.”

“Has Jarrod’s english gotten any better?”

“I doubt it, Joseph.”

Sharon made arrangements for our honeymoon, a Mediterranean cruise, with a week in a villa in Portugal prior to the cruise departure date and another week after the cruise.

I had other questions.

“Xara, how are we going to explain the number of tall god-like blondes at the wedding?”

“Easy Joe, we’ll tell them they are relatives from mom’s side of the family.”

“And their lack of English?”

“They’re from Scandinavia.”

“Don’t most Scandinavians speak English?”

“Most, maybe, but not all. It’ll be alright.”

“Are you sure?”

“Joe, all the Velorians are being briefed, told that they have to blend in and not let the other guests, the Terran guests, know they are extraterrestrials. And they all have experience dealing with Terrans.”

“Xara, how in the hell are women who look like goddesses and men who look like gods going to blend in?”

“Mom, help me out!”

“Joseph, we Velorians have done this sort of thing before. It will be alright. We’ll seat the Velorians together away from the Terrans.”

“It’s not that big a place, Kara. And after the wedding everyone will be free to mingle.”

“Joe,” said Xara, “the only Terrans who aren’t in the know about us are the friends I’m inviting, and the Dixons and Johnsons. We can manage it.”

“Joseph, I’ll meet with Major Moore, the Senator and the General and let them know that we’ll be counting on them to keep our secret from the other Terrans. Don’t worry about it,” said Kara.

I let it drop. I wasn’t convinced, but I let it drop.

Janelle had a very low opinion of the intelligence of the gangs and their leadership, so she was surprised to see the security upgrades that had been made to the warehouse she intended to raid for money and weapons. Perhaps they were learning, not that it would do them any good.

In the past, when Janelle wrecked one of their facilities, they just moved the operation to another existing facility, or rebuilt the old one. This time they built a new facility in a new location.

It was in a U shaped valley with steep slopes on three sides. The road leading to it was narrow and right up against the mountain on one side and a steep drop off on the other. They had the road covered with three heavy automatic weapons on the roof of the building. The roof provided excellent sight lines to the road and there was no cover on the road that an attacker could use. The surrounding mountains would interfere with radio communications, so they had several antennas on high towers on top of their building, and another on one of the mountain peaks above the building. Janelle only knew the building was there because the scout ship that delivered the Betas had, at her request, provided her with high resolution imaging of the area.

They obviously assumed that the only way into the facility was by the road, and that no one would be able to scale the peaks to get to them. And if they only had to worry about Terrans, they would be correct. But climbing the mountains was trivial for Janelle, and though the Betas had to expend more effort to keep up with her, it wasn’t, for them, any real difficulty.

One of the Betas scaled the tower on the mountain and determined that it housed a repeater, likely necessary to get a signal out of the valley and receive incoming transmissions.

From up on the mountain Janelle scanned the interior of the building and determined how many men were inside and what they had for weaponry. The gang or gangs that owned this building obviously thought the heavy weapons on the roof were sufficient. There were automatic weapons inside, but not high caliber. All the guards were on the roof, none on the ground around the building. And the roof positions were not oriented to give them a 360° view; they were all facing the road. The diesel generators and the vehicle parking were all in the back of the building. Probably to deny an attacker the cover parked vehicles would provide.

The Betas were tough, but not tough enough to shrug off rounds from a .50 caliber heavy machine gun. She would have to take the machine guns out herself.

After doing her recon, Janelle left two Betas on the mountain to observe the comings and goings of the gang members. She’d found a good place to hide a truck about two miles from where the road entered the valley and set up a schedule for Miguel to resupply the Betas during the two weeks she left them there.

Chapter 201

Memorial Day weekend, and Xara and I wanted to do something. Me, because I’d spent a lot of time by myself, in the cabin … uh, house, while Xara was in school, and she because she wanted to get away from school and Bellingham for a while, even if it was only a long weekend. And she wanted to be alone with me, just the two of us. So she chose the destination; a nearby one, Glacier Peak Wilderness area.

Glacier Peak is a volcano that many native Washingtonians have never seen. There are no roads to it. You can’t camp near a couple of lakes, and in some areas only carry in stoves are allowed, no campfires. We’d solve that problem by cooking with Xara’s heat vision. She was very good at it.

In her travels she’d often flown over a depression on the southwest side of the mountain that she thought would be perfect for us. There were no trails up to it and it gave us some shelter from the wind. And it would be easy to hide our pod there, out of view of any climbers on the ridges above us.

We packed our camping gear in one of the pods and I put on one of my space suits. It would be more comfortable than the motorcycle suit and give me an opportunity to try it out, I hadn’t had many of those. So Friday night we packed up, Xara put the pod on her back like a really big back pack, picked me up in her arms and off we went.

It was dark by the time we arrived at our spot, but my space suits had lights, Xara didn’t need any lights, and we opened the pod and set up the tent, put the sleeping bags in it and settled in for a long night of making love. And sleep. And sleep interrupted by making love.

In the morning, Xara told me to sleep in while she made breakfast.

“It’s cold, Joe. You stay in here and keep warm and I’ll bring breakfast in when it’s ready.”

She made bacon and eggs and coffee, and we ate together in the tent.

Right about the time we finished breakfast, Xara perked up and said, “Oh, cool!”

“What is it, Xara?” I asked.

“Let’s make a connection,” she said, “and I’ll show you.”

She made the connection and then projected what she was seeing. She was looking through the tent. To me, it was like the tent wasn’t there. She was looking through it at a bear that was approaching us.

“Xara,” I said, “you didn’t pack the food away.”

“Oh, right! Lay down, I’ll hold the connection so you can watch.”

I did, and closed my eyes, because when Xara is projecting her senses on top of mine, it can get confusing. So I watched her as she left the tent and approached the bear.

It was a black bear. Approaching a black bear is seldom a wise thing to do. Approaching a black bear who smells your food and wants it is a very unwise thing to do. Xara just nonchalantly started packing the food away in the pod. And the bear, just as nonchalantly, tried to take it away from her. So she pushed it away. And it got mad and decided to go after her. It was slashing at her and getting up on its hind legs and trying to bite her and she just swatted it away. The third time the bear came at her she pushed it away harder than she had before. It went summersaulting backwards, got up, shook itself off, and rambled off. We didn’t see it again the rest of the trip.

Xara stopped projecting what she was seeing, finished securing our food and came back into the tent.

“Um, Xara, do you intend to go topless?”

“What?” And she looked down and saw that, while there wasn’t a scratch on her, the front of her top was shredded.”

“Oh. I packed another one.”

And with that she released her pheromones, kicked off the rest of her clothing, and we made love again. And then I had to get out of the tent because my bladder was about to burst.

We spent three days, just the two of us, exploring the forest and glaciers in the way that can only be done when your fiancé can fly you anywhere. There were climbers and hikers, but due to the area’s isolation, not too many, so it was easy to avoid prying eyes.

During our hikes Xara brought a couple of tubes of red lipstick with her. I asked her why, she said wait and see. We came across a lot of rocks and boulders, large and small. Several times, when Xara judged the rock or boulder had been in place for some time and wasn’t likely to be dislodged, she’d get down on her knees, tilt one side of the boulder up using just one hand, and with a fingernail of her other hand, carve Xara ♥ Joe, coloring the heart in with her lipstick, then put it back down exactly where it had been.

At night, in the tent, we also spent a lot of time talking about the life we’d like to have as husband and wife. And for the first time, we talked about children. We can’t have children together, that is just a fact. Terran sperm cannot penetrate the egg of a Supremis, if, in fact, an egg is present. Current Velorian reproduction theory has no answer to the question of when does ovulation occur. And Velorians use some kind of ‘maternity engine’? Xara wasn’t clear on it. But apparently it allows for tweaking of DNA, and that is how Velorians came up with the Protector class. Anyway, we’d have to adopt.

We both agreed that two children would be good. Being only children ourselves, we thought we missed out by not having siblings. As for when, I could be ready anytime, but Xara was conflicted. She wanted to have time, real quality time with kids, and medical school, internship and residency wouldn’t allow for that. Given how slowly Velorians age, waiting would be fine for her, but we both wondered how age would affect my ability to be an active father.

“Joe, when I look at you, I see more than just the scars on the surface. I can see healed bone fractures and connective tissues that have damage. And worn joints. Prematurely worn joints. Things you don’t feel now but will in the future.”

She said this with tears in her eyes.

“Xara, maybe Gloria can work some more of her magic on me. And if not, medical science is constantly progressing. Doctors already replace hips and knees.”

She gave me a hug and then kissed me, then released her pheromones and said, “Enough of this talk.” And I didn’t think of anything but her until I fell asleep.

In the morning I brought up something that occurred to me sometime during the night.

“Xara, you’ll still be young when I’m an old man. You may have to put me in a nursing home, and if we have children, you may have to do the same for them when the time comes.”

She frowned and said, “I hadn’t thought of that Joe.” And then she smiled and said, “But I’ll be able to tell our great grandchildren how wonderful their great grandfather was!” And with that she kissed me and we made love again.

After this trip, children became a regular topic of conversation between the two of us.

Janelle was happy to see that the Betas warmed up to Miguel. Well, most of them did. She wasn’t too sure about a couple of them, and she was careful to make sure neither of them was ever left alone with him.

After two weeks, she collected the Betas who had been on recon duty above the gang facility and debriefed them.

Every day at the same time three of the men stationed at the facility drove out onto the road to, apparently, search for any interlopers. They never paid attention to the mountains around them, they didn’t even look up most of the time, instead checking the road, which was the only approach to the facility. They never went further than a mile away from the building, and then returned.

The three guards on the roof rotated every four hours, 24 hours a day.

Every three days the men at the facility were relieved by an identical number of men who took up the same routine. The movement of money and drugs to and from the facility took place at this time. There were always fifteen men stationed at the facility.

Miguel obtained portable radios and with help from the Betas was able to identify the frequencies the occupants in the facility used to communicate with the outside world. He and Janelle listened in. The communication was mundane. The facility reported its status every four hours at the same time the guards on the roof were rotated. There was communication prior to and immediately after the crew change that happened every three days. The men sent out to patrol the road checked in when they got to the end of their patrol route.

It was Janelle’s opinion, and the Betas agreed, that while the gang had the general design of good security, their execution was poor. It would be easy to raid the facility.

Chapter 202

I’m going to another planet!

Back when I was recovering from the injuries Josh and his cronies inflicted on me, we got word from Velor, through Skar-El, that I am to be given an award for my involvement in exposing a disloyal Velorian cabal. At the time I was told that I’d be traveling to a Terran world aligned with Velor to receive the award from a Velorian senator. I hadn’t heard anything about it since then, but apparently the arrangements have been made. I’d be leaving with Xara, Kara and Sharon shortly after our honeymoon.

“What about your mission here, Kara, to protect earth from the Arions?”

“Velor will temporarily assign two protectors and a Scribe to cover for me and Sharon. They will arrive soon to begin learning the environment and the language. One, or both of them, might even stay on to work with me.”

“I’m going to see the stars!” I was really excited. Then my excitement was tempered by reality.

“Well, a little, Joseph,” said Kara. “We’ll be traveling in a Velorian ship, built to handle the needs of Velorians.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

Xara answered. “It means, Joe, that during periods of high acceleration and deceleration, and travel through wormholes, you’ll be in a stasis field.”

I don’t know what a stasis field is.

“I don’t know what a stasis field is,” I said.

“A stasis field, Joseph, protects you from the forces of acceleration by putting an enhanced antigravity field around you. The theories are too complex to get into, but you will be isolated from all the relativistic forces and effects of near light speed travel.”

“And that isolation,” continued Xara, “requires that your senses and bodily functions be shut down. You’ll be in suspended animation.”

“I won’t see anything?”

“You won’t be in suspended animation for the entire trip,” continued Xara, “but you will for most of it, so yes, you’ll see something, but it won’t be much.”

“Oh.”

“But you will see another Terran world, Joseph, and be able to meet the people.”

That tempered my disappointment.

“So, I don’t know anything about space travel. Can you explain how it works? Do the Kelsorians, Fesussians and Scalantrans all go into suspended animation when they travel?”

“Well, no. It depends on the distances they have to travel, and how fast they need to get to their destination. It’s all based on the distribution of worm holes throughout the galaxy.

“Most of the time, wormhole entrance and exit points are close enough to where they are going that they can accelerate at rates their antigravity systems can dampen out completely. If the wormholes are very far apart, and the need is urgent, crew and passengers might go into stasis during periods of hard acceleration. But that isn’t common. In fact, most vessels don’t have a stasis device.”

“So, the wormholes we’re going to be using are far apart?”

“No, Joseph. Velorians can handle any rate of acceleration a ship can produce. The ships we use, which are supplied by Kelsor, are modified to have extra-large engines capable of sustaining high rates of acceleration and deceleration for long periods of time. That allows Velorians to get from point A to point B much faster.”

“Not as fast as mom and I can on our own, but faster than Kelsorians and Scalantrans can, without going into stasis,” Xara added.

“So why doesn’t everyone go into stasis all the time?” I asked.

“Xara and Kara looked at each other for a moment, then Kara said, “That’s the other bad news, Joseph. Coming out of stasis is … uncomfortable.”

“Yes, that’s a good way to describe it mom, it’s uncomfortable.”

“How uncomfortable?” I asked.

“Anything you eat before going into stasis will come up. Violently,” said Kara.

“And if you don’t eat anything before going into stasis, the dry heaves will be worse.”

“You’ve experienced this?” I asked.

“No,” said Kara, “but I’ve seen it.”

“Are there any long lasting side effects? Or any side effects?

“Yes, if a non-Supremis goes into and out of stasis often, organ damage may occur,” said Kara.

“But you won’t be going into stasis often enough to cause any long term problems,” said Xara. “Just some discomfort when you come out. And I’ll be there to help you,” she said.

“What kind of help?” I asked.

Kara and Xara looked at each other again, then Xara said, “I’ll make sure you don’t collapse into your own vomit.”

Johnson and Dixon pointed out that I went through a lot worse earning my bronze and silver stars. It wasn’t helpful. But I just nodded and figured I’d get through it. What I didn’t appreciate, and what Kara and Xara didn’t fully explain at the time, is that, “most vessels don’t have a stasis device,” would have been better expressed as, “outside of a few very specialized Velorian and Arion ships, almost no one else has more than one or two ships with a stasis device, because no one who has ever gone into stasis once would ever willingly do it again under anything less than the most dire circumstances.”

But I didn’t know that at the time. But I was curious about something.

“If Velorians can accelerate and decelerate faster than their spaceships, why do they use them at all?”

“Joseph,” said Kara, “you have to remember that not all Velorians are equally powerful. Messengers, Scribes and Protectors are all faster and stronger than the lower genetic castes.”

“And moving cargo is easier with a ship,” said Xara.

Janelle was very happy with the results of the operation and the performance of the Betas, and she let them know.

“My report to Near Earth Command will highlight your performance tonight. You went beyond my expectations and my report will reflect that.”

It was to be expected that the Betas would come out on top in any operation against Terrans. They always did. But to do it in such a way as to leave no Arion footprint, to make it look as if it had been other Terrans carrying out the attack, that was something new and different.

Janelle’s primary goal was to obtain Terran weapons for her Betas and cash to finance their support and her campaign. Her secondary goal was to sow distrust between the gangs. They had been setting their rivalries aside and coming together since recognizing that they were under attack from outside forces, though they still didn’t know the nature of those forces, other than that they were ruthless and effective. Plus, they were united in their opposition to her candidacy. She wanted them to devote more attention to each other and less to her.

From the reports of the Betas, confirmed by her own observations looking through the walls of the target facility, Janelle was able to identify the gang that owned and operated it. Each gang had a set of distinctive tattoos. Everyone at this facility belonged to the same gang.

Two nights before the raid, Janelle sent her female Betas out in a truck driven by Miguel to hunt down and kidnap members of the rival gangs. To be more specific, two from each of two different gangs. Armed with a few Spanish phrases, and low cut tops and very short skirts, they successfully lured their targets from the bars they were patronizing into deserted streets where they were easily subdued, bound, and gagged and thrown into the back of the truck.

Janelle timed the raid perfectly. She had Miguel in a truck a few miles away from the facility in a camouflaged position. He had a view of the road where he could observe the approach of the facility relief crew. He was to wait thirty minutes after they passed him before leaving his position and driving the truck to the facility.

The arrival of the relief crew was, as the locals would say, something you could, ‘set your clock’ by. They were never early or late.

Janelle led the Betas down the mountain to the back of the building. They identified the cable that connected the building to the repeater on the mountain. Listening in on a handheld radio, they waited until the building crew traded messages with their incoming relief, then cut the cable.

Janelle leaped from the ground to the roof of the building and quickly and easily killed the men manning the machine guns. She went to the edge of the roof and signaled the Betas, and three of them leapt up and went to the machine guns. None of them had ever fired these specific weapons before, but using internet resources, they had studied them and, as it turned out, learned everything they needed to know to service them.

Simultaneously, the remaining Betas broke through the door in the back of the building while Janelle took the staircase that led from the roof down into the facility.

The gang members were surprised, but not flat-footed. They immediately began engaging Janelle and the Betas with small arms fire.

The weapons were completely ineffective against Janelle, more effective against the Betas, but while they were all peppered with bullets, none of them sustained serious wounds.

Janelle wanted this to look like a raid from a rival gang, so the Betas, at risk to themselves, disarmed the gang members and killed them with their own weapons.

It only took two minutes to secure the facility. While the Betas were gathering weapons and ammunition, they heard machine gun fire from the roof. The relief crew had arrived and were being engaged by the Betas manning the heavy weapons on the roof.

Janelle took a pistol, ran out of the building and down the road to get behind the vehicles of the relief crew. A few of them managed to escape their vehicles and begin running away, she easily shot them down.

The Betas then began positioning the weapons and cash to be loaded onto the truck when Miguel arrived. Janelle went back onto the roof with her pistol and put bullets into the dead bodies of the gang members she had killed up there.

Miguel arrived with the truck. The betas opened the back and took the gang members they had kidnapped two nights before into the building. Just inside the entrance they shot them in the head and chest, then untied them and removed their gags and positioned their bodies in various areas in the building.

Thirty minutes later all the cash and weapons had been loaded into the truck and they were all headed back to the playroom.

Chapter 203

My cabin … I guess I shouldn’t call it that anymore. It’s a house, and it isn’t my house, it’s our house, mine and Xara’s.

Our house is filling up with guests. The two protectors and the scribe that will be filling in for Kara and Sharon while they are off planet have arrived. They are using rooms in the lair and spending time with the teaching machine learning English.

At first, they were mildly curious about me, which was fine. They were polite about it. That changed. Kara, Xara and Sharon had been training them in the local (meaning this planet) Terran customs, and they turned the subject to me and began asking pointed questions about how I became Kiraling to four Velorians. So the ladies briefed them about the day I met them, about how I rescued them from Arions. And suddenly it was like I was their long lost friend and lover. Seriously.

“Joe,” began Xara, very excitedly, “the new protectors and scribe want to have sex with you!”

“What!? Why?”

“Because you’re a hero, Joe!”

Honest to God, Xara was more excited about this than anything else that had happened since I proposed to her.

“Me? How can a Velorian see me as a hero?”

Well, I knew Kara and Xara and Sharon saw me that way. That made sense, considering the circumstances of our meeting. But Velorians who had never met me?

“We told them the story of how you rescued us. And you should be a hero in anyone’s eyes!”

“Joseph,” said Kara, “they’ve never heard of a Terran confronting multiple Arions and living through it. Let alone killing them. They want to honor you, and having sex with you is their way, is our way, of doing so.”

“Xara, are you okay with this?”

“Of course I am Joe! I’m so proud of you, and you deserve to be recognized this way.”

“Joseph, you can say no, but my advice is that you accept their offer. It will be an honor for both you and them.”

“Xara …?”

“Say yes, Joe.”

All this time Dixon and Johnson were high fiving and carrying on like they were the ones who were going to have sex with these beautiful women. And they said only an idiot would say no.

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

“Great!” said Xara, “I’ll tell them they can have you tonight!”

“All three?”

“Of course, silly.”

Of course.

And she flew down to the lair to tell them and suddenly I was surrounded by beautiful blondes. And they weren’t interested in waiting until nighttime.

I woke up in my bed 14 hours later. Xara was sitting up smiling at me. Mentally I felt fine. I’d gotten plenty of sleep, or at least I felt like I did, but when I got out of bed my body felt physically tired, like I’d been working out for hours. And I was thirsty.

I remembered what happened. At first, they were all easy and gentle with me, only using enough pheromone to keep me hard. But after they each had a turn with me, they turned up the intensity, physically and chemically. Then it was a frenzy, me with two Protectors and a Scribe, women I hardly knew. I won’t go into all the details; you wouldn’t believe me. I don’t believe me, and I was there!

As I said, I felt physically tired and thirsty. Xara had a pitcher of orange juice and kept my glass full while she helped me get dressed. And she was just beaming.

“What are you so happy about, Xara?”

“Joe, they are so impressed with you! They’d never met a Terran with as much stamina as you, and the Terrans used for training Protectors and Scribes are selected for their strength and endurance!”

“They have sex training with Terrans?”

“Of course. How else would they learn how to have unprotected sex with a Terran without turning him into jelly?”

When a Velorian says “unprotected sex,” she means sex with a Terran without wearing gold.

“They told me I have done an excellent job training and developing you!”

“Really?”

“Well, I said mom and Sharon get a share of the credit, but Sharon said it was mostly me.”

“You’re really proud of yourself, aren’t you?”

“I’m proud of both of us Joe. Mom and Sharon are too.”

I came out of the bedroom and smelled breakfast; Sharon was making it. And since there would be five Velorians eating … ‘mass quantities’ best describes how much food there was.

And the topic at breakfast was my performance in bed. And out of bed, there was a fair amount of that too, though all the sex was confined to the bedroom.

Xara couldn’t stop smiling as the three new ladies poured on the compliments. And we were in a connection, she shared with me how it made her feel.

And of course, the new ladies were invited to the wedding. Sharon lent them something for them to wear (someday I’d like to get a peek into her closet) and then took them all shopping for appropriate wedding attire, and attire for just about anything else. Then they borrowed a couple of pods and flew everything down to Kara’s home in California. Because we’d need room in the house for Monica and Gloria, who came up to help with the wedding preparations, and for the arrival of “non-flying” Velorians.

“Wait, there are Velorians who can’t fly?”

“No, Joseph. All Velorians can fly once they get off Velor and away from the planetary gold field. But most Velorians never get off the planet, and some, in the government, who do get off planet don’t spend enough time on other worlds to master flight.”

“I thought it just came naturally to you.”

“I can show you mountain sides Xara ran into when she was young that prove it doesn’t.”

Velor was sending a representative from their government. A senior member of the Diplomatic Corps (seems everything on Velor is part of some corps or another, and they always capitalize it), who seldom left Velor, which sounds strange for a diplomat, but he was in management. I guess like a member of our State Department who spends all his time in Washington.

He was traveling with an aid, that would be Katri, and Jarrod who was his translator. They would all be wearing gold, and Sharon got their sizes and bought Terran clothing for them so they would fit in. They would all be staying at the cabin, er, the house. Along with Mona and Gloria. And Skar-El and his date. I wondered how the Arions and Velorians would get along. Kara said everyone had been briefed and she made it clear she would not tolerate misbehavior from any of them. Apparently, a Protector on an undisclosed planet is the supreme Velorian authority on that planet and even the most senior members of the Velorian government would defer to her. Kara says that is out of respect for the mission. Xara says it is because they all know the Protector could, and would, kick their asses if they crossed her. Xara also said Protectors on disclosed planets, planets with a formal Velorian presence, are also given wide latitude in their decision making.

Major Moore, General Rosenthal and his wife and Senator Jackson and his wife are all staying in a hotel in Bellingham. I think the guy from the State Department made his own arrangements. I have no idea where he is staying. Deb and Sharon will be staying in a different hotel. Sharon worked it out with Major Moore that she, Sarah, would stay away from Sharon and Deb. I didn’t think Major Moore would like that very much, but I wasn’t about to ask.

Kara put the Jacksons and Dixons up in suites at the Springhill Suites by Marriott and even provided them with drivers.

Kara flew in a caterer and his crew for the reception and rented a kitchen for them to use. Some guy I’d never heard of who was based out of Los Angeles. I looked him up on the internet and he was very well known and highly thought of, he’d catered for the stars. He also knew about Kara and Velorian appetites and promised he’d have enough food. I decided to withhold judgement on that.

Chapter 204

Two nights before the wedding a cloaked ship, or, more accurately, a cloaked shuttle from a ship, came down and hovered just above my dock. I was there, at the door to my deck, and wouldn’t have known there was a shuttle there if a door, or hatch, hadn’t open, and light flooded out of the interior and three tall shapes stepped out.

All the Velorians were there to greet the diplomat. Kara, Xara, and Sharon, of course, Skar-El and his Scribe friend, Lia, the two Protectors who were here to learn from Kara, sub for her while she was gone, and hopefully stay on to work with her when she returned, Bri-An and Juliet, and the Scribe who would sub for Sharon while she was off planet, Eva. Crystal was also there.

They all gathered in my back yard while Kara made introductions, then the Diplomat, whose name was Folke, introduced Katri and Jarrod.

Kara led them all up to the house, onto the deck, and there she introduced me to Folke. He gave me a big smile and held out his hand, I held out mine and he grasped it and pulled me into a bear hug. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Xara jump, but Folke was wearing gold, and while his hug was hard, he didn’t do any damage.

He released me and said, in Velorian, “Joe Ricci, it is an honor to meet you.”

I understood him, and answered in Velorian, “Thank you, sir, it is an honor to meet you.”

I got it out before Jarrod could say anything, and that took him by surprise.

“Joe Ricci!” he said, “Speak you Velorian!” This was in English.

“I do,” I answered in Velorian.

And then he grabbed me and gave me a bear hug, and then Katri was next.

“Katri know want,” Jarrod said, “you impotent still? Katri you sex not impotent with.”

Xara put her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh.

Sharon said, “No, he isn’t impotent anymore.”

Xara said, in Velorian, “You can have sex with him tonight, Katri, after that he will be quite busy with me.”

“Thank you,” Katri said to Xara. Then to me, in Velorian, “I am so glad. I’ve been thinking of you ever since we first met.”

I understood her perfectly. But I guess Jarrod wasn’t going to be upstaged, “You thank,” he said to Xara, then to me, “Katri glad be. Thinking you of long time.”

“Knock Knock.”

“Come in.”

“Jarrod’s going to be a hoot at the reception.”

“Yes.”

Dixon and Johnson thought so too.

I invited everyone into the house and Kara introduced Folke to Mona and Gloria and told him how valuable they had been. Folke thanked them, in Arion, for joining with Velor and for helping Kara.”

I haven’t learned very much conversational Arion. I could make my way through their transmissions; on the very rare occasion something came across in the clear. But every day language is not like what you’d hear listening to operational traffic. It is like Velorian, and unlike it, if that makes sense. But I could tell that he was speaking to them with respect.

Everybody came in the house and Gloria and I started serving dinner.

Dinner. Now that was interesting. I have to admit that Gloria has expanded her repertoire well past desserts since we first met. But it was MY HOUSE, not hers, and so I decided the menu. I let Sharon pick the wines, but I decided what to cook. And since I already knew that at least Jarrod and Katri liked my beef bourguignon, I assumed that all Velorians would like it, and so that’s what I made for dinner. And while Gloria, at first, dismissed it as ‘beef stew’, she came around after taking a taste. Or two. Or three. I let her be in charge of the salad and, of course, dessert, which was chocolate cake. You knew, right?

Jarrod’s eyes lit up. He turned to Folke and said in Velorian, “Joe Ricci made boof boof boof! It is very good, you will enjoy it!”

Katri chimed in. “Yes, Joe Ricci served us boof boof boof when we first met. It is very good Senior Diplomat Folke!”

Senior Diplomat, so that’s his title.

I looked around the table and the ladies, the Supremis ladies who had been on earth for more than a few weeks, were all trying to suppress their giggles as they listened to the Administrator, his translator and his aide discuss ‘boof boof boof.’

It was a hit. There was no leftover ‘boof boof boof’ by the time dinner was over. Velorians don’t get full. Ever. So they happily dug into the chocolate cake and complimented Gloria on it. She was glowing.

After dinner everyone gathered around Senior Diplomat Folke and Skar-El as they discussed the progress of the Enlightenment conflict with the Arion Empire. The Enlightenment is the Velorian term for themselves and the planets they have allied with and protect. The Arion Empire consists of the Arion home world, Aria, the planets they have conquered, and the planets that have aligned with them voluntarily.

Folke gets regular reports from the Scribe Corps and Skar-El was able to add his eyewitness accounts of what he sees in his travels.

Xara and I were in a connection, and I asked her if I could ask him why he wore gold. She said yes, she didn’t think he’d be offended. So I asked him, adding that it was surprising to me that a diplomat wouldn’t be off planet often enough to master flight.

He wasn’t offended at all. He told me the duty of a Senior Diplomat, he was one of several, was to ‘show the flag’, my words, not his, but sort of the same thing, to Velor’s allies. As he explained it, I thought it wasn’t unlike the way the U.S. sends the Secretary of State or the Vice President to other countries to show our support. He explained that he personally averaged about three off planet trips a year.

Then something happened that surprised me. Gloria gathered up the two new Protectors and the new Scribe­, and Mona, and put them in my van to take them shopping. Okay, a wedding is coming up, maybe not so surprising, but Katri, Jarrod and Folke stayed, along with Kara, Xara and Sharon.

Then Folke asked me to tell the story of the day I became Kiraling. He had read Sharon’s report but wanted to hear my side of it. So I told him, getting interrupted by Kara, Xara and Sharon several times when they thought I was being too modest. He listened, asked a few questions, and then asked me about my military career, specifically my combat experience.

I don’t like to talk about that, but Xara held my hand and moved me towards her loving place and told me it would be okay, she was with me, and she would make sure I didn’t go into my dark place. So I told him about my deployments, about my best friends, Dixon and Johnson, and about their families. And then I was interrupted by the ladies again, who thought I was being too modest, again, and Xara went into our room and brought out my decorations. And after talking about my combat experience, Xara pulled out her scrap book, which was surprising, because I didn’t know she kept a scrap book, and read the newspaper stories about the active shooter incident that I broke up.

When I finished, Katri said, “Senior Diplomat Folke, there is more.”

Everyone looked at her. I had no idea what she meant.

She turned to me and said, “Please, Joe Ricci, if it isn’t too personal, remove your shirt. I ask you this out of respect.” Jarrod didn’t try to translate.

I looked at Kara, Sharon and Xara, and they all nodded. So I stood up and took off my shirt.

I guess Velorians can’t see through things when they are wearing gold. Folke audibly gasped when he saw my body, and he stood up and walked around, looking at me. Katri was looking at me with tears in her eyes.

“Joe Ricci,” he said, “I knew from the appearance of your face and head that you had suffered severe injuries, but I had no idea …” And then he just stopped talking. He couldn’t go on.

I put my shirt on and said, “It’s okay, sir, all this happened a long time ago. I’ve learned to live with it.”

Dixon called me a liar. Johnson said I wouldn’t be seeing and hearing the two of them if I had learned to live with it. Xara gave my hand a gentle squeeze.

We talked for a while, then Gloria and the others returned with a crap load of clothing, for the ladies who went with her, and for Skar-El, Katri, Jarrod and Folke, and being Supremis, they just all started undressing and trying on the clothes right there.

While all this was going on Rosey, our cleaning robot, was taking care of the dinner dishes. I kept one eye on her, and one eye on all the naked Supremis who were trying clothing on. The women, all of them, are a wonder. The men too, they have incredible builds, and are hung. My God are they hung! It’s intimidating and made me wonder, again, why any Supremis woman would be interested in sleeping with me when they could have one of their own.

Rosey did a good job, there were no problems. Everyone finally finished trying on their clothes, complimented the shoppers, and then people began pairing up and heading to bed.

“Joe,” asked Xara, in the connection, “you still seem a little upset from earlier,” she was talking about describing my combat experience, “would you like me to stay with you in listening mode?”

By that she met keep the connection at a very high level, where she wouldn’t hear my thoughts, but would hear me if I called her.

“Yes,” I answered, “I think I’d like that.”

She kissed me then said to Katri, “He’s all yours!”

Chapter 205

Katri was wearing gold. I asked her and she said she wasn’t trained for unprotected sex, so wearing gold was necessary for my safety.

I’ve had, “unprotected” sex, and a lot of it, with Sharon, Kara and, of course, Xara. I’ve also had “protected” sex with them, where they wore gold.

They would wear gold with me when they felt the need to really let themselves go. By that I mean make the sex act much more physical, more athletic, more energetic than they could, with me, when they weren’t wearing gold. When would they feel this need? I tracked it in my head.

If they went too long without a visit from a Messenger, they would put on gold.

If they were angry, or upset, or frustrated by someone or something, mostly someone, they would put on gold. This was what I would term, ‘angry sex’, and while the anger was never directed at me, I had no doubt that if they weren’t wearing gold, I’d be nothing but a crushed husk before they were finished. Deb and Major Moore were frequently the reason Sharon put on gold to be with me.

And then there were times when they would put on gold just to be doing something different, to change things up. Sometimes this would mean letting me take charge. So going into the bedroom with Katri, I had an idea of what to expect.

My expectation was totally wrong. Sex with Katri was much more like what I remembered sex was like with human, Terran, women. Except it was obvious that she knew what she was doing.

She still had the vaginal muscle control the Velorians have, and she still had the pheromones, which she used sparingly. But she was more gentle, less energetic than I was accustomed to with a Velorian. She started out with me on top, and we would switch off. And rather than go all night, which Xara, Sharon and Kara would do whenever they thought I was up to it, after her sixth orgasm, and my third, she asked me if I was satisfied, told me she was, got off me and cuddled up to me.

In the morning when we woke, we made love again, and then got up and dressed and went out for breakfast.

“Xara, are you there?”

“I’m here, Joe, how was your night?”

“It was different Xara.” And then I went on to explain what I meant by that.

“Katri is in a lower genetic class than Protectors, Scribes and Messengers. The sex drive isn’t as strong or urgent in her caste as it is in the higher genetic castes.”

“How does Folke compare to Skar-El?”

“About the same as Katri compares to mom or me or Sharon,” she answered. “He spent the night with Eva.”

“Did she have to wear gold with him? I mean, do upper caste Velorians have to wear gold to have unprotected sex with the lower castes?”

“Unprotected sex is a term only used when a Terran in involved. Velorians don’t need to wear gold when having sex with a member of a lower caste. Yes, the lower caste Velorian is weaker, but still much stronger and more durable than a Terran.

“But yes, they did wear gold. Folke would have wrecked the bed otherwise, and Eva wore gold out of respect for him and his position.”

“She did? Folke is in a higher caste than she is?”

“No, Joe, he’s in a lower caste. Caste has to do with strength, power and purpose. There are some social aspects about it, but not like on this planet.”

I’m starting to think I am a real stud. At breakfast Katri told everyone that she had never had sex with a Terran who was as good at it as I was, or who had the staying power I did.

“I used my pheromones very sparingly,” she said. “I didn’t need to use more than just a little to keep him hard.”

Skar-El and Folke gave me what must be the universal male nod for, “way to go dude!”

After that it was all about last minute wedding preparations. Confirming the flowers, photographer, food, cake, and much more. It was like being in a whirlwind of activity, and thank God, I wasn’t the one responsible for making everything come out right. Because if anything went wrong the person responsible would have to answer to Gloria, and I would not want to be the target of her wrath. But everything was in order. Crystal had assumed the role of the wedding coordinator and she had all the details in a notebook. Gloria was satisfied with the preparations. There would be no bloodshed.

That afternoon, a car drove up to the house and a lone man got out and came to the door and rang the bell. Mona answered it and he gave her his card. Mona asked him to wait on the porch.

She went directly to Kara with the card, who looked at it, then went into another room to make a phone call. About five minutes later she came out and went to the front door and brought the guy into the house.

She gathered everyone around and introduced him; Reginald Dempsey, he told us to call him Reggie, from the State Department Office of Foreign Missions. She then switched to Velorian to explain to everyone that while he was briefed on the presence of Supremis on Terra, she did not know him and urged everyone to be discreet and not give away any more information than was necessary to be polite. Jarrod was translating the part she said in English for the Velorians who did not speak English. Johnson and Dixon noted that his English to Velorian translation was much better than his Velorian to English.

Kara then introduced him to everyone. He gave his card out to everyone and it was almost funny to see the Velorians who were new to earth look at it and wonder what the hell they were supposed to do with it.

Reggie’s eyes lit up when he was introduced to Senior Diplomat Folke. It was like we all suddenly disappeared and only he and Folke were left. He gave Folke all his attention. Dixon said if he crawled any further up Folke’s butt, we’d have to use a crowbar to get him out.

He was going on and on about how much the United States valued its relationship with Velor. And how, since Velor had established a Mission in the United States, the relationship could only improve if the Velorian government permitted the United States to establish and staff a Mission on Velor.

It was obvious to me that Folke didn’t know what Reggie was talking about, and neither did Jarrod, so he looked to Kara for an explanation. Kara explained, in Velorian, that to keep the Terrans away from the technology in my house, and to keep the U.S. government and military from trying to use me to pressure Kara, she entered into an agreement whereby my house and property were considered the property of Velor, similar to a consulate.

Folke listened to her explanation, then replied to Dempsey, via Jarrod.

“Diplomat Folke Senior you thank interest for. Diplomat Folke Senior understand not you Terrans live cannot Velor on. Too gravity high. Not breathe you, atmosphere you toxic. Heavy elements radioactive many. Good not you Velor for.”

I thought Sharon was going to bust a gut. Xara was not doing a very good job of hiding her reaction either. Fortunately, Dempsey was focused on Folke the entire time.

“Well, I’m sure,” said Dempsey, “that we can work out the minor details later.” And he went on and on about the benefits to be gained by both Velor and the U.S. through closer communication and cultural and economic exchange. And he, Dempsey, would personally take charge of setting up and staffing the American Mission on Velor.

“Xara, I don’t think Jarrod’s translation communicated Folke’s point.”

All I got back from her was laughter. In my head.

It was clear that Dempsey wasn’t going to leave Folke alone, and also clear to everyone but Dempsey, that Folke didn’t want to talk to him anymore. So Kara intervened and told Dempsey that Senior Diplomat Folke had an important conference call with the Velorian government in a few minutes that was quite confidential and she would have to ask him to leave, and everyone looked forward to seeing him at the wedding.

“I can come back later if that would be convenient,” said Dempsey.

“I’m afraid Senior Diplomat Folke will not have any free time on his schedule before the wedding.”

Dempsey accepted this, said his goodbyes to everyone, twice, before finally walking out the door.

“Did you notice,” Sharon said, “that the little twit didn’t congratulate Joe and Xara on their upcoming nuptials? He completely ignored them and the rest of us.”

“I noticed,” I said, “that in a room with the highest concentration of beautiful women in the solar system, he only had time for one of the men.”

“Well, he’s not gay,” said Kara, “I brushed my hand against his arm on the way out and he reacted the way any straight Terran man would.”

If you ever had Kara run her hand up and down your arm you’d know what she meant.

Chapter 206

Dempsey was soon put out of mind because we had to go to Lakewood for the wedding rehearsal. And then the rehearsal dinner, which would be at a restaurant in town.

The rehearsal was easy, it was, after all, a simple wedding, but easy and simple don’t mean short. My parents had a film of their wedding that Xara and I watched together. They used the traditional wedding vows, which Xara liked, so we decided to use those vows ourselves. The minister who was officiating our wedding made sure that Sharon and Gloria would remember the rings. Sharon, with a twinkle in her eye, assured him that if they did forget the rings, she would be able to fly back to the house and get them in no time.

The musicians for the wedding were there and had to get their cues. The crew that would set up for the wedding, then take down and set up for the reception was there, and so was the DJ who would provide music during the reception.

After the rehearsal, it was on to the rehearsal dinner. And then back to the house.

At the house, Senior Diplomat Folke said he had something for us. He went out to the shuttle, which was still cloaked and hovering just above my dock, and returned with a large box. He set it down on the floor and opened it. Inside was a new flight suit for Xara, a Protector’s flight suit, and two platinum plaques. Etched into one plaque was a Velorian Citizenship Certificate, with Xara’s name and Velorian birthdate on it, signifying that she was born a citizen of Velor.

The other plaque had my name on it, declaring me a Citizen of Velor, effective the next day, that is, the date of my marriage to Xara (to be more exact, the Velorian date).

“The Senate felt that this would be an appropriate wedding gift and sends along its best wishes for a long and prosperous marriage.”

Xara and Kara started to cry. They nearly crushed the air out of Folke’s lungs when they hugged him. After he recovered from the hugs, he said, “I must witness your wedding and have your signatures, along with mine, on a certificate for the Velorian Archives. If the wedding does not take place, and the certificate is not signed, I must repossess the plaques.”

He said this very formally, in Velorian. The account would not be complete if I didn’t include Jarrod’s translation:

“Wedding witness sign must Archive Velorian for. Wedding no, sign no certificate, plaques Senior Diplomat Folke back take.”

It didn’t occur to me until much later that he had made Xara’s Velorian citizenship contingent on our wedding.

The last thing, before we all retired for the night, was to have Sharon give us an update on Deb and Major Moore. Kara insisted on this.

“Deb will be seated with the Velorians during the wedding and afterwards and will be my plus one. Sarah will sit with the other Terrans. I will not dance with Sarah or spend any more time with her than is necessary to be polite. Crystal has agreed to watch Deb while I am otherwise occupied with the wedding ceremony.”

“If either of them gets out of line I will have words with them,” said Gloria.

“They’ve both been warned,” replied Sharon.

“Who Deb Sarah is?” asked Jarrod. He was the only one of the new Velorians who understood English.

Sharon switched to Velorian and explained the Deb and Sarah situation to them. This generated a great deal of discussion. They didn’t understand why two Terrans would be jealous of each other for Sharon’s affections.

Didn’t Sharon have sex with both of them? Yes, she did.

Was Sarah jealous because Deb was enhanced? She may be.

Can’t Sharon just enhance Sarah and end the squabbling? Enhancing Deb was a mistake. She didn’t want to risk enhancing Sarah and finding out it is a bigger mistake. Besides, they are both unhappy that Sharon has sex with Joe.

What? They don’t want Sharon to have sex with her Kiraling? No, they don’t. It’s a Terran thing.

Is Xara unhappy that Joe has sex with Kara and Sharon. No. Xara is not unhappy. This came out sounding like, “Give me a break! I’m Velorian, I don’t have Terran hangups!”

Skar-El jumped in to say that I don’t have Terran hangups either; he knew because I’ve never complained about him having sex with Xara.

Then Xara explained our arrangement. I was the only Terran she’d have sex with, but she was free to have sex with Supremis. I would not have sex with any Terrans but was free to have sex with other Supremis.

Folke said that sounded like a hangup to him. Why couldn’t we both have sex with whomever we wanted?

Xara said it was a compromise we agreed to, because I do, in fact, have Terran hangups.

All the new Velorians agreed that Terran relationships are inferior to Velorian relationships.

Then Katri pointed out that since Terrans aren’t any good at sex anyway, and that based on her experience with me, I was probably the most competent Terran sexual partner Xara could ever hope to have, she really wasn’t giving much up.

Johnson said, “Dude, I think she just insulted you.”

Dixon asked, “Are you sure it wasn’t a compliment?”

I honestly didn’t know

Anyway, all of them agreed with her, and then they went back to the Deb-Sharon-Sarah triangle. How would the two of them be kept apart?

Well, that was handled: In keeping with the idea of a small wedding, we didn’t have ushers seating people. Instead, all seating was assigned, and Crystal would make sure everyone was in the correct seat. She even had seating cards printed up.

“I’ll put them in the right seats,” she said, “and make sure they stay apart.”

Janelle couldn’t be happier. All her Betas were now getting along with Miguel, they even played with his girls.

She now had more than enough cash to run her campaign and the Betas had Terran weapons, they wouldn’t endanger the mission by using GARs.

And sweetest of all, the three major gangs were now fighting and arguing with each other. In some instances, they were even killing each other! And all the other gangs were now drawn into the conflict, depending on their allegiances.

The collateral damage was minimal. Only a few ‘civilians’ had been caught in the crossfire, but even that had a silver lining; the population was even more against the gangs than they were before, which was nothing but good for her campaign.

And then, Miguel and Juanita announced that they had another child on the way and had asked Janelle to stand as Godmother when the baby was baptized. She wasn’t sure what being baptized meant, but she did understand the concept of Godmother and told Miguel and Junita that she would be honored.

Chapter 207

Well, the big day finally arrived. All the ladies who were involved in the setup for the wedding left the house early to get their assignments finished. Kara and Sharon had spirited Xara off to a hotel suite Kara reserved to get Xara dressed and ready. Mona was going to drive the Supremis guests to Lakewood in the van and Gloria, who was my Best Man, was going to drive me to Lakewood in my car.

I put on my dress uniform, which had been cleaned and pressed, and Gloria fussed over me like a mother, making sure every crease was perfect, my ribbons were all parallel, and then she gave my shoes a good buffing before she let me put them on.

“Joe,” she said, “I think you look very handsome in your uniform.”

I looked in the mirror. She was right, if you put a bag over my head. I was fit and trim and the uniform fit well. There was nothing I could do about my face, so I didn’t worry about it.

“Are you nervous, Joe?”

“A little, Gloria. I keep thinking that this is so perfect, Xara is so perfect, that it can’t possibly be true, that any minute now I’m going to wake up and find myself in a hospital bed in Germany.”

She pinched me.

“Ow!”

“See, Joe, you’re awake.”

“I don’t deserve her, Gloria. I’m not worthy of her.”

“She thinks you are, and that is all that is important. And I think you are worthy of her. I think you do deserve her. And so do Sharon and Kara.

“You think too much, Joe. Don’t think, just love. Love her as she loves you and you will have a wonderful life together.”

“Gloria, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you be so sentimental!”

“If you tell anyone I will deny it. It’s time to go.”

We got to Lakewood and Gloria spirited me inside.

“The photographer is taking pictures of Xara. It is bad luck for you to see her in her wedding dress before the ceremony.”

“Oh? Do Arions have that custom too?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

So much for the sentimental Gloria.

Xara, Kara and Sharon were getting pictures taken by the lake. Crystal was supervising the last of the set up and making sure the catering crew would be ready to serve food shortly after the ceremony.

The minister was surrounded by Velorians, who were asking questions about the ceremony through Jarrod.

“I think the minister needs to be rescued, Gloria.”

Gloria got Crystal’s attention and pointed to the little crowd. Crystal got over there and suggested to the Velorians that they should take their seats.

The minister was noticeably relieved. He came over to me and asked, “Those are Danni’s relatives?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“They don’t seem to have ever attended a Christian wedding.”

“Really? I’ll ask them about that.”

Crystal came up to us and said, “The guests have all arrived and are seated. Danni is ready.”

The minister looked at his watch and asked, “Are you ready Joe?”

“Yes,” I said.

“No, you aren’t,” he replied, “but I’ve never met a groom who was.”

That didn’t inspire confidence.

The minister took his place at the head of the room. Gloria and I took our places, then the minister nodded at the musicians, and they began to play, and then Sharon began walking up the aisle, and then, behind her, Xara, on Kara’s arm, and my jaw just about hit the floor.

Velorian women are undoubtably the most beautiful women any man, any Terran man, will ever see. They certainly are the most beautiful women this Terran has ever seen. But today, Xara, with her hair done up, in that dress, was just breathtaking. Well, she’s always breathtaking. But today, more so.

I thought maybe it was just me with my wedding jitters reacting to her, but as I looked around the room, every eye was on her, and the Velorian men, Skar-El, Jarrod and Folke, all had the same look on their face as I imagine was on mine. Same with the Terran men, which I would expect, but not so much the Velorians. After all, they are around Velorian women all the time.

They got up to me, and Kara kissed Xara on the forehead and gave her hand to me. Then the minister began. And for the life of me, I can barely remember what he said, because I was gazing into the eyes of the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, and she was looking back at me with love in those eyes.

“Knock knock.”

“Come in.”

“The minister is talking to you.”

I must have had a startle reaction because the minister, and the guests, all laughed. Then I said my vows, Xara said hers and we exchanged rings.

The minister made the official pronouncement of marriage, told me I could kiss the bride, and then introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Ricci. Well, that is what he said. Xara had decided to keep her name, and that was fine by me.

Then we were walking down the aisle and people were throwing rice at us. We went into a small room and waited for the minister, Sharon, Kara and Gloria, and when they arrived, we signed and witnessed all the documents, and our marriage was official.

We went back into the main hall and while the tables were being set up we formed a reception line and the guests all came through to congratulate us, and we thanked them for coming.

There was no Deb and Sarah drama. True to her word, Crystal had made sure they were separated, and when they came through the reception line, Gloria leaned forward and whispered something in their ears, which made Xara giggle.

The food was good. We cut the cake, everyone had some, and then the DJ started music and Xara and I went onto the floor for the first dance. And then others started joining us. Every man in the room, Velorian and Terran, wanted to dance with Xara.

As we danced, and changed partners, I was surprised when Deb came to me. And asked me to dance. Totally unexpected.

She maneuvered me into a relatively empty corner of the dance floor, leaned in and asked, “Is Sharon going to leave me for that woman?” Meaning Sarah, of course.

“If she is, Deb, she hasn’t said anything to me.”

She leaned back and looked at me and said, “You’re telling the truth. I would have known if you were lying.”

“How?” I asked.

“I can feel your pulse, I can hear your breathing. Sharon taught me how to use those, and other signs, to spot a liar.

“Does she, Sarah, does she want to take Sharon away from me?”

Deb must have known that every Velorian in the room could hear her. Before I could open my mouth to answer her, Sharon was there, separating us, and saying, “That’s enough Deb. Let’s not put Joe on the spot on his wedding day.”

And then to me, “Joe, you need to do something about Reggie.”

I looked over to where Sharon was looking, and there was Reggie Dempsey talking Folke’s ear off, and Folke didn’t look happy about it.

I went over there to try to intervene, and Reggie dismissed me.

“Not now SEARGEANT! Folke and I are involved in a very serious discussion.”

I was about to get serious with Reggie when Kara came over with Senator Jackson and General Rosenthal. Jackson put his arm around Dempsey’s shoulder and said, “Let’s go Reggie, let’s let Mr. Folke enjoy the wedding.”

Reggie didn’t want to leave, but Folke, being a quick thinker, stood up and asked Kara to dance. And off they went to the dance floor.

“Senator,” Dempsey said, “Senior Diplomat Folke and I were having a very serious discussion about opening full relations between Velor and the United States. I insist you leave us alone to continue our conversation.”

General Rosenthal said, “Son, I could name twenty national security laws and regulations you are breaking by having that discussion here. I suggest you back off, now.”

Dempsey turned red in the face and said, “Of course. I wouldn’t want to endanger national security.” And then he turned to Jarrod, handed him his card (again), and said, “Please ask Senior Diplomat Folke to contact me at this number at his earliest convenience.”

Jarrod didn’t really know what was going on but Katri, despite her lack of English, caught on and got up and took Dempsey by the hand and said, “You dance me?” And gave him a smile only a Velorian woman could.

Whatever Reggie was thinking, he forgot about it as he followed Katri to the dance floor.

I asked Jarrod, in Velorian, “Did she use her pheromones?”

He answered, in Velorian, “If she had we’d all be hard.”

I wasn’t, it didn’t look like Rosenthal or Jackson were, so I guess she just used her feminine charms.

Jarrod talked to the other Velorians as they came off the dance floor, and all the women made a point of dancing with Dempsey, much to Folke’s relief.

Among the Terran guests, there was a lot of curiosity about Danni’s “relatives.” Xara and I deflected as many questions as we could. Kara and Sharon helped with that.

When Major Moore asked me to dance, she maneuvered me into the same part of the floor Deb had and asked me what she had been talking to me about.

“She was just congratulating me on my marriage, Major. Nothing more.” Looking over her shoulder, I caught a wink from Sharon.

Xara and I were able to spend some time at the reception with Dixon and Johnson’s families. Xara commented later that they seemed just as happy for me as they would have if it had been their own sons getting married.

She was right. They were. And I don’t deserve it. Dixon and Johnson were silent on the subject.

There were no wedding gifts to deal with. Xara and I have a complete household, good incomes, at least I have a good income, between the Army and Kara, so in our invitations we asked people to make donations to Walter Reed Fischer House in lieu of gifts.

After dancing with every woman there, at least three times, it was time to leave.

The Velorians all met back at the house. Folke, Jarrod and Katri signed and witnessed the Velorian citizenship certificates and gave us crystals that they said were Velorian passports. Then they got onto their invisible shuttle and headed back to Velor. The two Protectors and the Scribe that would be filling in for Kara and Sharon while they were off planet left with Kara for her home in California.

Crystal, Mona and Gloria headed for SeaTac to fly back down to California.

When it was just me and Xara left, we went to bed and made love. After we were finished, I rolled over onto my back, and was looking up at the ceiling, wondering what I had just done.

“Do you regret it?”

I’d forgotten she was still in my head.

“No, I don’t. But everything we’ve been doing has been leading up to this. I don’t think we talked too much about what comes next.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

And we went to sleep.

We had two weeks before we left on our honeymoon. We’d be staying in a villa in Portugal for a week, then go on our Mediterranean cruise for a week, then back to the villa for another week, then back home. Given that we would be gone so long, summer quarter was out. And because of the length of our upcoming trip to another planet, Xara was taking and entire academic year off, delaying her graduation and her entrance into medical school. But she didn’t mind. She didn’t seem to be in as much of a hurry as she was when she first started college.

Gloria was going to stay at the house while we were gone. Kara didn’t want it empty, in case anyone tried to break in. Who would that anyone be? She wasn’t concerned about your run of the mill burglars; they wouldn’t be able to get past the house’s defenses before Kara could arrive. She was more concerned about the government. It wasn’t a serious concern, but she wasn’t going to leave anything to chance.

I was down in the lair when an alarm went off. I called Xara down and told her to contact Kara. There were incoming transmissions, on the frequencies Arions used. These weren’t the usual bursts of activity. These were long transmissions, from somewhere out in the solar system. Something was up, but what?

Near Earth Command was freaking out. That was the only way Janelle could describe it. They wanted every Arion on the planet to drop everything to investigate what could only be described as a major Velorian provocation in the battle for domination of Terra, the Home World of all Terran and Supremis species.

According to NEC, the rumors that a Protector was marrying a Terran were true. They had reports from a source who was in touch with a source who was in touch with … a senior Terran government official, who had attended the wedding.

According to the report, Velor was opening negotiations with the United States, a country in Terra’s Northern Hemisphere, to establish a Velorian embassy on Terra and an American embassy on Velor.

This government official reportedly had met with the Terran Protector’s superior, and they had agreed to formal diplomatic relations. In addition, there were now between six and ten Protectors on Terra.

Arion operatives in the United States would attempt to find the ‘senior government official’ and verify the report. While that was going on, all Arions on Terra were ordered to suspend their operations and wait for further orders, or assist the Arions in the United States, if they could. NEC was convinced that opening a Velorian embassy on Terra would get the attention of the Galen, and if that happened it was imperative that the Galen not see active Arion operations taking place. For the time being, all Arions on the planet were there for “scientific studies.” Covers and legends would be forthcoming.

NEC was demanding daily updates from all Arion operatives, whether they were active in confirming the rumors or not.

Janelle didn’t see how any of this could be true. A Terran embassy on Velor? The Terrans couldn’t survive there. If they weren’t crushed by the gravity, they’d be poisoned by the atmosphere or die from radiation exposure. No, on second thought, the gravity would kill them before the atmosphere and radiation could.

All the other Enlightenment worlds were under the control of single planetary governments. The governments of Terra were fractured beyond hope. Did the United Nations qualify?

And daily reports? What better way to give away positions than daily transmissions!

No, she would not go along with this. She would continue her campaign for election to the city council. She would give short, weekly updates.

What about the Betas? They had their own communication protocols. She’d have to talk to them before they started transmitting daily reports.

Chapter 208

The incoming transmissions stopped, but were followed by outgoing transmissions, long outgoing transmissions, from the area around Washington DC. The biggest concentrations came from Baltimore in Maryland.

We didn’t know what was in the transmissions, we couldn’t decode them. But they were long enough that triangulating them was easy. Kara called a meeting of her Protectors, the two Scribes, Xara and me. Major Moore joined via a secure channel. Velorian secure.

Kara had Xara demonstrate the remote connection to Bri-An, Juliet and Eva. They were quite impressed. Then she laid out her plan.

“I want to send Joseph into the area to scout around for us. He’ll be in a connection with Xara, and she’ll see and hear everything he does, and more.”

“What if he’s made?” asked Major Moore.

“We’ll be close enough to intervene if he’s in any danger,” replied Kara.

Xara asked me, “Joe, are you willing to do this? If you have any concerns at all you and I are out.”

“Kara,” I asked, “what do you think I can do that you can’t?”

“You’ll be able to hear conversations, Joseph. We’ll be close enough to get to you if you need us, but not close enough to hear what is being said.”

“I’m not nervous, Xara. They don’t know who I am.”

“Give me the location information, Kara, and I’ll see what I can find out,” said Major Moore.

Kara gave it to her. Half an hour later, Major Moore transmitted blueprints of the building the Arions were in along with a detailed map of the area. It was a four story building in a commercial district. Businesses surrounded by businesses.

“Too many innocents in the area for a direct attack,” said Bri-An. We’ll have to get them on the move.”

“Or lure them somewhere more isolated from bystanders,” said Sharon.

“Sharon,” said Eva, “we’re non-combatants.”

“The Arions didn’t treat me like one,” Sharon replied, “if you want to sit the operation out, go ahead. Kara, I’m in.”

“I’m with Eva on this one Sharon. But I don’t want to take any chances. We’ll keep you in reserve. Intervene if you think we’re in trouble.”

Sharon accepted that.

So I flew to Baltimore via Air Xara. We checked into a hotel, unpacked, made love, and the next morning I made my way to the building the Arions were operating out of. They were on the first floor, so the first thing I did was walk around the building to familiarize myself with all the entrance and exit points and routes.

As I rounded the back of the building, in an alley, Xara, who was in a connection with me, stopped me.

“Joe, I can hear very faint voices from inside the building. Put your ear against the wall.”

“Are the Arions on the other side?”

“I see three of them, and they look like Arions to me.”

I put my ear to the wall. I couldn’t hear anything, but Xara could. The people inside were speaking Arion. Xara translated it back to me as I listened. It was mundane stuff. One was giving his lunch order to another one.

And then Xara said, “Run Joe!”

She didn’t have to ask twice. I took off running down the alley.

“Why am I running?”

“At least one of them is a Prime. He saw you through the wall and he’s heading for the door to the alley. I’m coming Joe!”

I got maybe three more steps, and I was running as fast as I could, when Xara landed in front of me. I almost ran into her. She quickly put herself between me and the nearest door.

And then the Prime came out the door. He saw Xara and hesitated; I think he was deciding whether to run or fight, and his indecision cost him. Because Kara came down on him from above and hit him like a ton of bricks, followed closely by Bri-An and Juliet.

He didn’t stand a chance. They killed him before he could even react to their presence. Bri-An crushed his heart.

I saw a blur at the door, and a few seconds later Sharon came out dragging two Betas.

“There’s a lot of equipment in there,” she said.

Bri-An went into the building to check it out.

Sharon pushed the two Betas down on their knees at Kara’s feet, and said, “If you want to die painlessly and easily, answer her questions. If not, I’ll rip your limbs off one by one before I crush your skulls.”

“She’s still carrying a lot of anger from that day in the cave.” I said to Xara, in the connection.

“No shit,” replied Xara.

The Betas were literally trembling. They looked at each other, one nodded, and quickly, they both grabbed their belts and twisted, and their bodies were cut in half, and they fell to the ground, dead. They had GARs in their belts, small ones, configured as suicide devices.

“So much for questioning them,” said Juliet. “Still, three dead Arions in the space of a few minutes; not a bad day’s work.”

The Velorians looked around to see if anyone had seen them. “No bystanders,” said Kara, “let’s change.”

They quickly pulled street clothes out of their capes and put them on, folding their flight suits into their capes. I’m going to have to ask Xara about getting one of those for me. It’s a pretty handy way of carrying around a change of clothes.

Bri-An came out, saw what happened, and changed too.

“Did you get anything out of them?”

“Just the satisfaction of seeing them die,” said Juliet.

“Well, there’s quite a bit of equipment in there. And documents.”

She didn’t mean printed documents, she meant documents stored on crystals. The equivalent of USB drives, only much higher capacity.

Kara went in and looked.

“We’ll need a van for all this. Xara and Joe, go rent one. We need to get this stuff out of here before Sarah starts asking questions.”

Sharing intelligence with the US Government did not mean sharing alien technology.

So Xara and I got a van while the other ladies boxed up everything of interest, including the corpses, which they dragged back inside the building. Where’d they get the boxes? There was a UPS store across the street. Sharon walked in with her blouse unbuttoned low enough to show her considerable cleavage, released a little bit of pheromone and convinced the guy behind the counter to sell her some.

The ladies loaded the boxes into the van, then I started driving around Baltimore while Xara flew overhead, looking for a place where we could transfer the boxes in the van to the ladies who went back to the house to fetch the pods.

“Joe, I’ve found a place called Liberty Reservoir. I’m above you now, I’ll guide you there.”

While I drove, I contacted Kara on my Dick Tracy watch, that’s what I call it now, and let her know where we were going. She’d have to check a map, I had no idea where it was, I was just following Xara’s directions.

The road led into a forested area and ended in a secluded spot that had a boat ramp. Xara stayed up high waiting for the others. When they arrived, they all landed, and we loaded the boxes into the pods. Then Xara and I returned the van, went back to the hotel to check out and took Air Xara back to Bellingham.

When we got back everyone was in the lair. Kara was very excited, and a little pissed.

“Everything on the crystals was in the clear,” she said, “no encryption.

“We haven’t gotten through it all yet, but we have enough information to take down three more cells. But this is very interesting.”

She showed a document to me and Xara. It was written in Arion, which I usually use a translator for. Xara can read it much faster.

“Shit. Can you believe it?” she asked.

“Believe what, Xara?” I asked her.

“It says an American diplomat attended our wedding …”

“It mentions our wedding?” I asked.

“Not by name, the wedding of a Protector to a frail. It says the diplomat met with mom’s superior, and they agreed to establish a Velorian embassy in Washington and an American embassy on Velor.”

“Dempsey,” I said.

“Exactly,” said Kara.

“He’s been talking to the Arions? Is he spying for them?”

“It doesn’t look like it. They don’t mention him by name,” answered Kara.

We kept going through the crystals. Dempsey wasn’t mentioned by name, in fact the Arions were trying to identify him. All they knew was that an American from the State Department had been overheard at a party talking to another state department employee about it.

“We have to tell Major Moore,” I said.

“Get her on the line,” said Kara.

Major Moore asked for printouts of the documents. Kara agreed to give her redacted copies, though in the end, we didn’t find anything in the documents we gave her that was worth redacting.

The three other cells they found in the documents were in France, England and Canada. This was a rare find, because normally Arion cells aren’t in contact with each other. Gloria and Mona told us that it is very rare for cells to even know about each other. But Near Earth Command thought this information was important enough to have these cells coordinate with each other in case the other cells could get any information from their government sources.

“This is very interesting,” Kara said.

Well, duh, but I went ahead and asked, “How so?”

“Dempsey is an idiot. But he turns out to be a useful idiot. His own ego convinced him that Folke had agreed to something he clearly had not. And he couldn’t keep it to himself, he had to tell someone. And now we’ve taken down one cell and are in position to take down three more.”

Sharon said, “We should find more of these useful idiots.”

This prompted another call to Major Moore.

“Major,” began Kara, “Is Dempsey in any legal trouble for this?”

“Your presence here is classified,” replied Moore, “so yes, he is in legal trouble, why do you ask?”

“Can you hold off on arresting him for a while? He may lead us to other Arions.”

“From what you sent me, that doesn’t seem likely,” said Major Moore. “But I don’t think he’ll be arrested right away. The FBI will probably open an investigation on him and try to find out who he has been talking to.”

“If anyone else turns up, will you let us know? Someone who heard this information, either directly from Dempsey or indirectly, divulged it to the Arions. If the FBI can connect all the dots, they may be able to identify any Terrans that might be in their network of informants.”

“I understand, Kara. I’ll pass your request to them.”

Finally, Kara gathered me and all the Velorians together for what I would call an after action review. I don’t know if they have a name for it.

“We got lucky today,” she began. “Because we put Joe in harm’s way, we risked revealing ourselves to the Terran general public.”

“That was my fault,” said Xara. “I shouldn’t have asked him to put his ear against the wall.”

“We didn’t know a Prime was in the building,” I said, “and even if we did, who would have guessed he would have been looking through the wall?”

“We should have,” said Sharon. “Joe, you have no idea how sensitive our hearing is.”

“He could hear me?”

“Joseph,” Kara said, “there is a great variety of sounds that you hear every day, that don’t enter your consciousness. If they did, you’d be overwhelmed. Have you ever been in a room and noticed something different, when a sound went away, that you didn’t even know was there?”

I knew exactly what she was talking about. I’ve been in buildings that had sound masking systems, and when the sound masking is turned off, you notice it.

“So, my presence, in the alley, added a sound that was different from the background noise, and he noticed that?”

“Possibly,” said Xara.

“Possibly?”

“We can’t be certain that is what tipped him off to your presence, Joe,” said Sharon. “But with a Prime, we can’t take chances. Maybe it was just a coincidence that he decided to look through the wall when you got there. Maybe his routine was to scan his surroundings at regular intervals. The point is, going in, we intended you to be a passive observer, but we turned you into an active one.”

“I’ll never make that mistake again, Joe,” said Xara.

If NEC was freaking out before, they’d totally lost their shit now. Four cells had gone silent. That represented a loss of at least four Primes. Janelle knew that just from her knowledge of how cells were put together. NEC wasn’t saying how many operatives were lost, but she estimated there were at least two Betas in each cell. Replacing eight Betas was doable. But four Primes? NEC would have difficulty getting replacements.

And someone was being held accountable. A new commander was to be appointed to NEC. And they were back to using the short burst messaging equipment, with built in delays between broadcasts. And all operatives and cells were ordered to go to ground to avoid detection.

And to make matters worse, all the equipment assigned to the cells had been taken, presumably by the Protectors. It was plural now. No one doubted that there were two or more Protectors working on Terra. All operatives were ordered to tighten security. Encrypt everything and keep it encrypted.

Chapter 209

Kara, Xara, Juliet, Bri-An and Sharon eliminated the British, French, and Canadian cells. All without my participation. The haul from the Baltimore cell gave them enough information to easily locate, surveil and ambush the Arions. Three Primes were killed as well as ten Betas. And all their equipment and documents were found and confiscated. Some of it was in the lair, some of it at Kara’s home.

I asked Xara for the particulars of the take downs. Before she could open her mouth to answer, Juliet jumped in.

“We went at each Prime as a group, all four of us. Xara got the first kill; I got the second one and Kara got the third one.

“There was very little fuss, the Primes never saw us coming and had no time to react. Fighting Primes one on one has always been messy, in my experience. There is a lot of collateral damage before they finally die. But four against one, there is no collateral damage. They can’t even get a blast of heat vision off before their hearts are crushed.

“And they were all men. If the Primes were women, it would have been different.”

“Why?” I asked.

Bri-An cupped and lifted her breasts and said, “Because of these. Supremis women are more powerful than the men because we can store more Orgone in our breasts than they can in their entire bodies. A female Prime wouldn’t have been able to take on four of us, but she would have put up a much better fight than these males did.”

“The Betas were a different story,” said Juliet. “They all had those new suicide belts, but because we knew about them, Sharon was able, in every instance, to disable at least one of them before it could be used.”

Sharon picked it up at this point.

“I wanted to capture all the Betas alive, but that wasn’t possible. While I was disabling the suicide belt of the first one the others had time to trigger theirs.”

“So,” I asked, “only one Beta was taken alive from each cell?”

“No,” replied Sharon, “one of the Betas in France, and another one in Canada, either were too afraid to commit suicide or were not committed enough to their mission and their emperor to do so. In England one of the suicide belts failed.”

“What happened to them?” I asked.

“The Betas who refused to commit suicide submitted to interrogation,” said Bri-An, “and received honorable deaths. Painless deaths.”

“And the others?” I asked.

“Joseph,” said Kara, “an honorable, painless death is only an incentive to cooperate if the alternative is worse.”

“I made sure the alternative was worse,” said Sharon. And that was as much as they were willing to say. None of them would give me any more details, not even Xara.

Xara did tell me that Sharon’s reports would not mention her, Sharon’s, participation. Nor would Eva’s reports.

That night it was just Xara and me in the house. At bedtime she put on her gold choker.

“Why are you wearing gold tonight?” I asked. She’d done it before, but she always had a reason, so I asked.

Instead of answering me, she said, “We’ll be in a connection, Joe. But if I get carried away and don’t realize it, tell me. If I start to hurt you, or you even think I’m going to hurt you, tell me. Don’t try to ride it out. Tell me right away.”

“Xara, why would we have to worry about that? You’re always careful.”

She sighed and said, “Joe, in the course of a few days, we’ve fought and killed four Primes.”

“And?”

“And when we mentally prepare to fight a Prime, a Prime male, we’re thinking that we will fuck them to death. We’ll drain all their Orgone and then crush their hearts. The anticipation is intense, made more so by the pheromones they release. Joe, the orgasms we get when we drain a Prime … it’s like a small nuke explodes in our vagina. The pleasure is more than you can ever imagine, and the sense of power too.”

“So you’re all revved up, from unrelieved anticipation, because you killed the Primes before you could fuck them?”

“Yes.”

“What are your mother and the others doing?”

“Sharon knows a district in Thailand run by some viscous gangs, child sex traffickers. They’re going to go bar hopping and show some tough guys how helpless they are between the legs of real women. And they won’t be warning them that they might get hurt and won’t care if they do.”

“Doesn’t that go against your code, your rules about not hurting Terrans?”

“Yes. But who’s going to know? Sharon and Eva certainly won’t be putting that into their reports.”

“Honey, do you hear yourself?”

She paused, then said, “Yes. I’m sorry, it’s the frustration. That’s why I want you to tell me if you think I’m getting carried away.”

“Kara and the others, will they be wearing gold?”

“Yes, Joe, they will. They don’t want to kill any Terrans.”

Dixon said he didn’t believe her. Johnson told him to shut up because the connection would be starting soon.

“Xara, these men in Thailand, they’re taking the place of the Primes, aren’t they?”

“Yes.”

“So tonight, what is my role? Am I a helpless man ‘between the legs of a real woman’? Am I standing in for a Prime?”

“Tonight, you are my friend and my husband, whom I love and cherish more than anyone else on this planet or beyond it, helping me work off my frustration.”

I had to think about that for a few seconds.

“Joe, are we good?”

“Yes, Xara, we’re good. I’m happy to help relieve your frustration.”

She smiled and kissed me, then released her pheromones, pushed me down on the bed and mounted me.

Five hours later, she rolled off me, broke the connection and took off her choker. There was a spark, I’d seen it many times before, that went between her nipples when she removed gold.

“Did I hurt you?” she asked.

“No, you didn’t, but there were a couple of times you had me worried, and a little bit scared. I think you’re stronger now than the last time you wore gold.”

She kissed me and said, “I am stronger. I’m still getting stronger. I’m sorry I frightened you.”

“It’s okay, Xara. I went through this with your mother once, and she did bruise me a bit. But you didn’t hurt me at all. Are you feeling better now?”

“Much better,” she said, “and I’m going to show you how much I appreciate you.”

And she released a little bit of her pheromones, which worked, which surprised me because I’d been breathing them all night and I would have thought my guy was too worn out, but nope, the pheromones got me hard.

And then she slid down my body and showed me what a Velorian goddess can do with her mouth, lips and tongue.

Chapter 210

At last, it was time for us to start our honeymoon. Xara and I decided to honeymoon the Terran way, as she called it. That meant taking commercial flights to and from Europe, and packing luggage the regular way, not in flight suits and pods, though Xara did bring her flight suit, “just in case.”

That decision just about ended our marriage. Well, not really. But the flights to and from didn’t go well.

We flew from Seattle to New York. It was a long flight, but we had first class seats so at least we had leg room and weren’t crowded like the folks in coach. We landed in New York and the weather was horrible, and flights were delayed.

Our flight to Portugal was supposed to leave from one gate. But it was delayed and moved to another gate, quite far from the original gate. So we dragged our carryon bags from one concourse to another, and when we got there found that our flight, while still delayed, would leave from the original gate after all. So we dragged ourselves and our bags back to that gate, only to discover that while we were on our way there, the gate changed again, back to the one we just left.

We decided to just stay put. And that turned out to be a good decision, because there were three more gate changes and we ended up leaving from the original gate.

Now, I’m in pretty good shape, so this wasn’t a physical hardship for me, though after a cross country flight, and then going back and forth between gates, I was getting tired.

Xara, on the other hand, doesn’t get tired. She gets bored. She kept asking me why I insisted we should fly “the Terran way,” when she could have stuffed me and our luggage into a couple of pods and gotten us there a lot faster. I had to remind her that flying commercial was her idea. Then she demanded to know why I didn’t talk her out of it.

“If you keep this up, I’m going to stop talking to you. I’ve got Johnson and Dixon to keep me company.”

That was a stupid thing to say to her.

“That’s a stupid thing to say to me, Joe. I could strand you, Dixon and Johnson on top of the tower in the rain until our flight is ready to board.”

Dixon and Johnson told me to apologize. I did.

It wasn’t all bad. There was an elderly couple who were on the same flight, and Xara helped them with their bags. That made her feel good, which lightened her mood.

Her mood soured again. Well, mine did anyway. We boarded our flight and had first class seats again. The flight attendants closed all the doors and did their spiel about emergency exits, where to find life vests, and where the bathrooms are. And then we waited. And waited. And waited.

I asked a flight attendant why we were still at the gate. I assumed that the flight delays left the runways and taxiways backed up. She said she didn’t know. And Xara looked around the airport using her magic see through vision and said there was plenty of room on the taxiway for us.

The guy across the aisle from me heard me talking to the flight attendant and leaned over and told me that the pilot’s union was in a dispute with the airline and were conducting work slowdowns, by doing everything exactly by the book, and doing it slowly.

So we sat at the gate for forty-five minutes before the plane finally pushed off. After that the flight was long, but uneventful. I had a book to read. Xara was reading the book with me, in the connection, viewing the book through my eyes. Every time I turned a page she’d sigh. Every time. Finally, I put the book down, looked at her, and asked, through the connection, “What’s wrong? Why all the deep sighs?”

“I’m sorry. I’ll try not to do that.”

“You didn’t answer my question. Why are you doing it?”

“You read very slowly.”

In timed reading tests I’ve always scored well above average in both comprehension and speed.

“No, I don’t.”

“You read at Terran speed.”

“How fast do you read?”

“Much faster. Looking through your eyes, I can read the entire page that comes into view. If you held the book far enough away to get an entire page into your field of view, I’d be able to read it in much less than a second. If you held it far enough away to see both pages, I would be able to read them just as fast.”

“How can you enjoy a story if you’re reading it that quickly?”

“I can enjoy it just as much as you do.”

“You don’t slow down to savor the story?”

“I can savor it. Faster. I get just as much out of reading a good story as you do, maybe more. I just get it much faster. Please, go back to reading. I want to see how the story ends.”

“It’s over 800 pages, Xara. I’m not going to finish it before we land.”

“Fine! Give it to me!”

I gave her the book, and five minutes later she finished it and gave it back.

I went back to the page that I was on, before I gave the book to her, and started reading. We were still in the connection. She was resting her head on my shoulder. I turned the page and she let out a sigh.

“Really?”

“It’s a good book, Joe. I don’t mind reading it again. Wait until you get to chapter 5. The plot takes a very interesting twist.”

“No spoilers!!!!”

“Sorry, I’ll keep quiet.”

She didn’t. She didn’t comment on the book, but every single time I turned a page, there was that sigh.

At some point I fell asleep. Xara woke me up when meal service started. I was hungry. I don’t know if Velorians feel hunger like we do, but I do know they are always ready to eat. I had the steak; she had the chicken. She finished what I didn’t, and I gave her my dessert just because of the way she was looking at it. If she had been looking at another guy like that, I would have been jealous.

She had the cash. She had the labor. Janelle decided to do some upgrades to the Playroom. Not to the Playroom itself, but an add on.

She wanted an office, a workspace that she could secure against Terran intrusion. So working with the Betas, she designed it, and working with Miguel, she found and priced the building materials.

She had Miguel and one of the Betas get the materials and put the Betas to work first staking out the site, then putting in a stone foundation, then putting in the flooring.

Next, she had Miguel rent a large flatbed truck and they drove to the biggest city in the country and bought a large safe. The business she bought it from put it on the truck. She and a Beta took it off the truck and placed it on the floor where she wanted it. Then they built a closet around it, then put up the walls, then the roof, of her new office.

She then made sarin, she had been trained in how to make it and several other nerve agents before being sent to Terra.

She set up booby traps that would release the gas if the building was broken into, or if the closet the safe was in was broken into, or if the safe itself was broken into. She very carefully taught Miguel how to disable the booby traps. She made him practice it over and over, ready to pick him up and move him away if he should make a mistake.

“Miguel, if someone forces you to bring you to this building, tell them you don’t have a key, and then stand back, as far as you can.”

She put most of her cash in the safe, along with the Beta’s GAR weapons.

She was feeling good about pulling off the attack on the gang facility and building the office. She decided to celebrate, and as a reward she let the Beta First, a female, celebrate with her.

She told the rest of the Betas to explore the town while she had Miguel drive her and her First into town to kidnap four gang members. They put them in the van and drove back to the playroom. After putting their prisoners in the playroom and making sure Miguel was far enough away that he wouldn’t hear the screams, she turned to First and asked, “Have you ever used a frail as a sex toy?”

“No, I haven’t. I’ve heard of it, but never done it.”

“It’s really quite fun. I’ll show you.”

They spent the next hour masturbating with, torturing, and killing their four toys. When the last one died, First said, “Thank you, that really was fun.”

“You’re welcome. Now, don’t think you can take any frail you want. The gangs are against us, they are fair game. Most of the citizenry is either on our side or will be. We protect them. Do you understand?”

“I do.”

Chapter 211

Our flight landed at Portugal Faro Airport about four hours later than originally scheduled. Then it took an hour to get our bags and get through immigration. Xara, in the connection, was going on and on about how big a waste of time this was.

I could see her point. Still, it had been her idea to travel like Terrans do but pointing that out didn’t get me anywhere.

“We’ll have to arrange our own transportation, Joe. I doubt the driver Sharon hired will still be here.”

She said that right after we started heading towards ground transportation, and then, I looked up and saw a man in a chauffeur’s uniform holding a sign that said, “Ricci”.

“There’s our driver!” I said.

We walked up to him, and he looked at his phone, he had a picture of us, smiled and said, in very good English with almost no accent, “Welcome to Portugal Mr. and Mrs. Ricci. Put your bags on this cart.”

On the drive to our villa, he told us that he kept close watch on the airline schedules and knew our flight had been delayed.

It was about a two hour drive to our villa. We arrived after dark. The driver brought our bags into the villa and then gave us a cell phone.

“Anytime you want a driver, day or night, call the number in the contacts. Someone will be here in half an hour and take you wherever you want to go. If you need anything, call the same number and someone will bring whatever it is you ask for.”

I thanked him and tried to give him a tip and he said, “No need, Mr. Ricci. Gratuities have been taken care of.”

He left. Xara told me to sit down while she made us something to eat. On the kitchen counter she found a note from Sharon that read, “Enjoy yourselves! Everything is taken care of.”

       Xara fixed us sandwiches.

“After we eat, do you want to explore the place?” I asked her.

“No, Joe. You’re too tired.”

“I’m not that tired,” I replied.

“Yes, you are. You need to get some sleep, and while you sleep, I’ll see what I can do to take care of your jet lag.”

“How will you do that?”

“Joe, I’ve had a lot of time to rummage around in your mind and brain and figure out how they work. I think I can make some adjustments. Trust me, okay?”

“Okay.”

I finished my sandwich, and we went to bed. We were in the connection and Xara kissed me on the lips and said, “goodnight,” and the next thing I knew it was morning and the sun was shining in the bedroom.

“Did you sleep well? How do you feel?”

“Yeah, I slept all through the night. And I feel pretty good. Did you do anything?”

“I helped you go to sleep, and then made some adjustments.”

“What kind of adjustments?”

“I tried to talk your brain into thinking this is your normal time zone. Do you feel any jet lag?”

“No.”

“Then maybe it worked.”

“Maybe?”

“Well, it’s not like I could run a controlled experiment. I think I made a difference, but there is no way to know for sure. Are you hungry? I made bacon and eggs.”

Sharon had the place stocked for a Velorian. Xara easily ate twice the bacon and eggs that I did and drank two liters of orange juice. It was very good orange juice.

After breakfast we explored the villa together. It had its own swimming pool and spa, what I call a hot tub, a tennis court and an outside dining area. The property ended on a cliff that overlooked the ocean. The rocks were red, very pretty.

“Undress.”

“What?”

“Undress, Joe, there isn’t anyone around who can see us.”

So I did.

“I want to try something.”

She levitated off the ground and wrapped her legs around my waist, then raised us up into the air.

“I’m going to make you hard now. I’ll hang onto you; you don’t need to hang on to me. Put yourself inside me.”

Her pheromones made me hard. I was trying to put myself inside her but was fumbling it.

“Okay, just hold yourself still.”

I did, I tried to stay as still as possible, and she raised herself up a little bit, still holding me up, then lowered herself down over my erection.

Staying vertical worked. I couldn’t thrust, not on my own, but she had her legs wrapped around me with her ankles crossed, right at my butt, and used them, plus one hand, to thrust me in and out of her. She kept her other arm wrapped around me to hold me close.

“Does that feel good, Joe?”

“Oh my God, it does.”

“Oh my Goddess, Joe”

I thought about telling her not to let her head get too big, but it felt so good, I just kept my mouth shut.

I was concentrating on Xara, kissing her, holding her to me as tight as I could, not that it made much difference to her, but I was totally focused on her. She had her orgasm first, then I had mine, then I looked around and saw that we were above the ocean. The beach, cliff and villa were way off in the distance.

“Are you up for a morning swim, darling,” she asked me.

“Yes, I think I am!”

“Okay. Don’t be afraid. We’re going to freefall for a bit then I’ll slow us down before we drop into the water. Look at me, okay?”

So I looked into her gorgeous eyes as I felt the wind rush by, then I felt her slowing us down.

“Okay, I’m going to let go of you and push off, just a little, and we’ll both drop into the water. Don’t be afraid.”

She let go and moved a few feet away from me as we both dropped about ten feet and splashed into the ocean. It was cold, but invigorating. We splashed around a little bit, then I held onto Xara’s ankles while she propelled us through the water, keeping her speed low enough so I could lift my head out of the water and breath.

“You’re getting cold. Time to head back,” she said as she lifted us both out of the water. She flew us back to the villa where we both got into the shower and made love again, then got into the hot tub.

“Joe, we did it! We made love while flying!”

“You did it Xara, all I did was hold on, and I didn’t really have to do that.”

“I can’t wait to tell mom and Sharon! They’re going to want to try it with you!”

“Sharing me with other women really doesn’t bother you.”

“Sharing you with other Supremis doesn’t bother me. It never has. You know that.”

“I thought, after we were married, you’d want to be more exclusive.”

“Whatever gave you that idea?”

“I don’t know. Nothing, really. I guess I’m thinking like a Terran. Would it bother you to share me with Terran women?”

“I think it would.”

“Why? What’s the difference?”

She stood up in the hot tub and stroked her arms up and down her body and over her breasts.

“This is the difference, Joe. We’re perfect. No Terran woman can compete with us for beauty, sexual attraction or sexual performance. And you have access to three of us. Probably more, Bri-An, Juliet and Eva were very impressed with your sexual performance. If you picked a Terran over one of us, that could only mean one thing; that you love her. Love her enough to give this up,” and she stroked her body again, “to pick her over me.”

“Xara, you are my one and only. And if you ask, I’ll be exclusive to you.”

“Joe, I love my mom and Sharon. And you are Kiraling to them. Why would I insult them that way?”

“I guess I’m thinking like a Terran.”

“Well, you are Terran, so I think I can overlook it.”

“Okay. But I distinctly remember a room full of visiting Velorians saying that I should be able to have sex with anyone I wanted.”

“That’s true Joe. But believe me when I say that the idea of a Terran having sex with another Terran when a Supremis is available would shock them. There would be no reason at all to prefer the Terran over a Supremis because we are so much better at it, and more desirable, the things we just discussed. They don’t connect the sex act to love. I know that you do. If you ever pick a Terran over me, you will be … being unfaithful. Because that is the way you look at things.”

“You used to find fault with that.”

“Who said I still don’t?”

“You just did.”

She thought about that for a moment, and said, “Yes, I suppose I did.

“Joe, if you looked at sex the way we do, I wouldn’t care if you were screwing Terrans. But you don’t look at it that way. So you make it different. It’s complicated.”

“What changed?”

“I always knew, intellectually how you, Terrans, link sex and love. But I didn’t really understand it until I started getting to know you on a deeper level.”

By deeper level, do you mean the connection?”

“Yes.”

“Do you like what you see?”

“I love what I see. It’s complicated, Joe.”

“Yes, it is. Let’s drop this and try out that swimming pool.”

The swimming pool was great. For the rest of the week, we took full advantage of the villa. Xara never put on any clothing unless we were going out in public, so neither did I. She did, however, insist that I put on sunscreen. A lot of sunscreen.

“I’m not losing you to skin cancer,” she would say when I objected. And she was serious about it. The first time she picked up the phone was to order a higher SPF sunscreen.

Having a driver on call 24 hours a day was great. But what was really great was discovering two mopeds in the villa garage. So we jumped on them to explore the local area. And I guess this area is popular with tourists. The beaches alone explained that. But everywhere we went, when the local small business owners discovered we were American, and they figured that out seconds after we walked in the door, suddenly we were their best friends, and they were offering us alcoholic beverages while they showed us their goods. The old Joe Ricci would have accepted the hospitality and after a few drinks would have bought a lot of shirts and jewelry he didn’t need. The new Joe Ricci knew he had a problem with alcohol and politely refused the offer.

Still, I bought a couple of nice shirts and Xara bought a wide brimmed hat she liked. Not that she needs protection from the sun, but she looked really good in it.

Everywhere we went, we’d attract attention. First, people would see Xara and her beauty. Then they’d see me with her. In one store, while she was off trying something on, the owner asked me if we were really married, and when I said, yes, he asked how someone who looks like me could get a woman who looks like her.

“I ask myself that same question every day,” I replied.

“You must be rich,” he said.

“No, I’m in the Army. Her mom owns a huge company.”

“What does she see in you?” he asked.

Xara and I were in the connection.

“Tell him you have the biggest dick I’ve ever seen.”

“What if he asks to see it?”

“I’ll rescue you if he does.”

“She tells me I have the biggest dick she has ever seen.”

“And you satisfy me better than any other man I’ve ever slept with.”

“And she says I satisfy her better than any other man she’s ever been with.”

“Women too.”

“She told me I’m better than any woman she’s ever been with too.”

The guy didn’t believe me, and he had the chutzpa to ask Xara when she came out of the changing room.

“Your husband says he has a big cock and he satisfies you more than anyone else ever has.” He said this with a smirk on his face.

“Oh yes,” she answered back, “he’s huge. I’ve never had another lover, man or woman, who can do for me what he does. Just talking about it is making me wet! Darling, let’s go home now; I’ll make it worth your while!”

The guy’s jaw almost hit the floor. As we walked away, Xara put a little extra sway into her hips and put her hand on my ass.

She broke down laughing when we were out of the store.

“That was fun!” she said.

“It was, but I don’t think it was necessary,” I replied.

“He all but said that I’m wasted on you. I really don’t like that.”

For the rest of the day, she tried to set up situations where we could do it again. It didn’t happen though.

“Why do you get such a kick out of that?”

“Because I want other men to be jealous of you. You deserve it.”

“Xara, every man who sees me with you is jealous. You don’t have to do anything extra to provoke it.”

“You’re so sweet.”

“No, really.”

“I know. It’s fun to see reactions like that.

“Before I met you, I was a stuck up cock tease. I’d smile at a boy in school, or a teacher, or any man really, and release just a little bit of pheromone, just enough to encourage him to act on his feelings, and then when he approached me to ask me out, or even just talk to me, I’d make it clear he wasn’t good enough for me. Joe, I was awful.

“I’m a much better person now, but I still like the attention. And I love letting people know that you are good enough for me. And I wasn’t mean to that man, was I?”

“No, you weren’t.”

And if I’m being truthful, hearing her say that I am good enough for her was … Dixon and Johnson had to tell me not to let it go to my head.

I’m not a tennis player. But the villa had a court and Xara wanted to teach me. She’s actually a pretty good teacher. Once she taught me to serve, she could return the ball to me at any speed or position on the court she wanted, so I was able to get good practice in. But a week isn’t long enough to become proficient at a sport like tennis, so we weren’t really serious about it. But Xara did have one impressive trick: She could play tennis with herself.

She’d serve the ball, then disappear and reappear on the other side of the court and return it, then disappear and reappear to return it again. I moved around and if I got into the right position so her path was between me and the sun, I could sometimes see a blur. I’d feel the air move and see the dust swirling on the court, but otherwise it was like she was in two places at almost the same time.

She did this in the nude, of course. She didn’t want to ruin her clothes and didn’t see the need to put on her flight suit.

“Xara, that was incredible!”

“You liked it, Joe? I’m so glad! Until I met you, I could never loosen up with a Terran and just be myself. It feels so good to be able to show off for you like this.”

“Xara, you’re amazing. Everything about you is amazing!”

She picked me up and floated a few feet into the air and said, “Well, let’s do something together that’s amazing.”

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that her pheromones came next as she floated us into the villa and onto our bed.

Janelle read the latest communication from NEC with interest. Arion High Command took the rumor of a Velorian Embassy on Terra seriously enough to file a protest with Velor, using the Scalantrans as an intermediary. Included in the protest were objections to a Protector marrying a Terran and the stationing of two full combat wings of Protectors on Terra.

Velor responded with undisguised derision. Velor was not putting an embassy on Terra and had no talks with anyone from or on Terra about opening an embassy. The Velorians implied that if Aria believes otherwise, Velor knows of a very nice moon the Arions might want to purchase.

There was no mention of a Terran marrying a Protector, or the stationing of up to 10 Protectors on Terra in the Velorian response. Arion High Command interpreted this to mean that negotiations for an embassy had either fallen through, or had not yet been concluded, that a Terran did marry a Protector, and that there were at least 10 Protectors on Terra.

All Arion assets on Terra were to keep their heads down and not attract attention.

Janelle ignored those instructions. She had important work to get done.

She’d given Miguel the day off and was walking from her apartment to her clinic one morning when a car pulled up beside her, two men got out and grabbed her and forced her into the car. It was early, there were not too many people about, and Janelle could have killed the men at her leisure. But she decided to play along to see where this would lead.

Once she was in the backseat of the car, one of the men put a cloth bag over her head and told her to stay calm and not call attention to herself if she wanted to live. The car sped off. Janelle could easily see through the bag and see where they were going.

She noted that all the men in the car, three of them, had the same tattoos, so they were from the same gang. Once they were outside the city, Janelle asked them where they were taking her.

“To see a very important man, senorita,” they said.

“And what am I seeing this man about?” she asked.

“About your campaign,” they answered.

“What about my campaign?” she asked.

“About abandoning it. Senorita, if you agree to end your campaign and withdraw from the council race, we will return you to where we picked you up. But if you don’t agree, I’m afraid you will never be seen again.”

Unperturbed, she calmly asked, “Where is this place you are taking me?”

“We’re close, senorita. We’ll make a turn up ahead onto a road that will take us into the hills to the palace of our employer.”

“Palace” was the term these Terrans used for what would be called a mansion on Aria.

Looking through the bag, Janelle could see the turnoff the man talked about, and just as they made the turn, Janelle lifted her feet off the floor and then with a great deal of force pushed them through the floor, onto the roadbed below, and stood up, pushing her heels into the roadway as hard as she could. This had the effect of throwing the men in the car forward as the car decelerated, and then flipping the car into the air in such a way that it came down on its back and skidded to a stop. It also destroyed her shoes, which irritated her.

The men were belted in, the airbags deployed, and while they were injured, none of the injuries were life threatening. Janelle took the cell phone from the man next to her and called Miguel. She told him where she was and instructed him to go to the Beta First and bring her and one other to pick her up.

While she waited for Miguel and the Betas, she amused herself by torturing the three men trapped in the car. There didn’t seem to be any threat of fire, but there were all kinds of hot liquids leaking out of the engine compartment. Janelle got out of the car and turned it on its side, then collected some hot engine oil in the palm of her hand and poured it over the crotch of the driver. It screamed, she laughed.

She pushed the car off its side onto its tires, went to the backseat, and pulled out the man who had been riding beside her. She pulled it to the front of the car, tore off the hood and forced both of its hands onto the hot engine block. It screamed and begged for mercy. She forced its face onto the engine block.

She then reached down and grabbed it by the ankles, squeezed them until all the bones broke, and left it lying on the road while she retrieved the other man who had been in the front seat. This one she tossed about ten feet into the air and let it fall to the ground. She picked it up and did this several times before breaking its legs. She sat down to wait for Miguel. Listening to the frails moan, cry, and beg for mercy was quite entertaining.

When Miguel arrived, she invited the two Betas to kill the frails, instructing them to take their time. An hour later she opened her clinic and started her day.

**********************************

 

Kara, Bri-An, and Juliet went over the message once again while Sharon and Eva were enjoying Skar-El. They were in a deserted section of the Atacama Desert where they could have their fun without attracting the attention of any Terrans.

“The Arions know about Xara’s wedding,” Kara said, “that information undoubtedly came from Dempsey, but who gave them the idea that there are ten Protectors here?”

“Probably Dempsey.” Juliet replied. “Despite Jarrod’s best efforts, I couldn’t understand everything he was saying,” that made the others laugh, “but I bet Dempsey doesn’t know his colon from a hole in a wall. He probably thinks all the Velorians at the wedding are Protectors, as well as Gloria and Mona, and Crystal too.”

“It’s ass from a hole in the ground,” corrected Kara, “but I think you’re right. The question is, should we do anything about it?”

“I don’t think so,” said Bri-An. “If the Arions decide to act on this misinformation and tip their hand we’ll have targets. Worst case is they lay low, more or less the status quo.”

“And what if they decide to respond by upping their presence here?” asked Kara.

“More Arions to kill,” answered Juliet, “nothing wrong with that.” And she bounded off to get another turn with Skar-El.

“Juliet has killed her share of Arions,” Bri-An said to Kara, “but she’s never been on a world like this, where so many Terrans could be hurt or killed in the process. We’ll have work on that.”

“Agreed,” said Kara.

Chapter 212

After a week, it was time to pack our bags and catch our flight to Rome where we were met by representatives of the cruise line who shepherded us onto a bus and to the port where we boarded our ship. On the bus, it occurred to me that I hadn’t felt any jet lag all week. So whatever Xara did, it worked.

Mom and dad had gone on cruises, but they never took me along, so any idea that I had of what to expect was from the stories they told me. When you see one of these cruise ships up close, their size is very impressive. There was no where I could stand where I could get the entire ship into the frame of my camera.

“I’d take you up to where you could honey, but I think we’d attract too much attention,” said Xara.

“I can use this panorama setting on my phone,” I said. I did and I had a long skinny picture of a very large ship.

We boarded and got to our cabin, which was nice. We had a balcony and the panels that separated it from our neighbors guaranteed privacy. Or at least as much privacy as Xara thought she needed to sit out on the balcony in the nude. I checked it out myself. Velorians aren’t embarrassed by being seen in the nude. I wouldn’t either if I looked like them, but they did understand non-Supremis species had different rules and customs, and while they didn’t really care all that much about it, Xara was caring less and less as her Galen transformation progressed. So I checked the balcony myself and confirmed that it was, indeed, private.

Then I sat Xara down and made her listen to me while I read to her the cruise company’s rules about nudity, partial nudity, and the consequences of breaking those rules.

“I’ll be careful, silly,” she said. “Now, let’s both get naked and try out this bed!”

That sounded like a great idea to me, but just then an announcement came over the ship wide system instructing us to go to our lifeboat stations for a mandatory briefing before the ship could get underway.

After that we explored the ship and found the restaurant where we had dinner reservations for the cruise, all the bars, the theater, the shops and the pools. They had several pools, including an adult pool. It was a beautiful sunny day, and warm, and Xara decided she wanted to try out the adult pool.

We went back to our cabin, and she pulled out her flight suit.

“What are you doing with that?”

“I’m going to wear it to the pool.”

“Really? The cape and everything?”

“No, Joe, you don’t understand. This new flight suit Folke gave me is the latest technology. It’s stretchier and more flexible than my old one.”

I picked it up and tried to stretch it. It didn’t budge.

“You aren’t strong enough, Joe. Give it to me and I’ll show you.”

I handed it to her, and she easily stretched it out, without looking like she put any effort into it at all.

“Is that as easy for you as it looks?”

“Yes.”

Then she started stretching it and folding it and rolling it between her fingers and hands and in less than a minute she turned it into a one piece slingshot micro bikini. She put it on and it didn’t cover much. There was a narrow band of cloth over each nipple and a narrow strip, umm, down below. And the narrowest strip imaginable up the back.

“Xara, I think that’s a little too revealing.”

“Do you think so?”

“Xara, there are octogenarians on this cruise. You walk down to the pool in that and they’re going to have heart attacks.”

She laughed and said, “Okay, let’s see if I can fix it.”

She took it off and started working it again and soon the narrow strips over her nipples and crotch were triangles that still didn’t cover much up but would probably keep her out of trouble with the crew.

She did something else with it, I can’t really describe it, but when she was done, she said, “The suit has memorized this.”

“Memorized? What does that mean?”

“I’ll show you,” she said.

She held out the micro bikini, gave it a good shake and suddenly it was a flight suit again. Then she gave it another good shake and it was back to being a micro bikini.

“Put on your swim trunks and let’s go to the pool.”

So I put on my trunks, then we put on robes, the cabin came with two robes, and then navigated our way to the pool. Every eye turned to Xara as soon as she walked onto the pool deck. We found a couple of lounge chairs and took off our robes, and then every eye that had been on Xara before just about popped out of their sockets.

Cruise ships are big, but they also pack a lot of passengers onto them. So everywhere we went on the ship, there were a lot of other people around. I’ve been in a lot of crowded places with Xara, the Belfair Mall in Bellingham comes to mind, but never anywhere that was this crowded all the time. I became very aware of how much attention Xara attracted; it was constant. Men couldn’t take their eyes off her. A lot of women too. One of the results of this, that I didn’t anticipate, was the excellent service we got from the crew.

If you’ve been on cruises, you know that hospitality and service are very important to the cruise lines. Mom and Dad told me about this. But we, and by we, I really mean Xara, got very good service. In the restaurants there are always crew members checking on their guests, but we, and by we, I mean Xara, got a lot of extra attention. She loved it. And by extension, I got the benefits of all that attention too.

After we finished our main course at dinner in the formal dining room the first night, we were given a dessert menu. Xara ordered all of them. And ate all of them. After that, she didn’t have to order dessert anymore. They’d bring out a tray with everything and put it in front of her, then ask me if I’d like anything.

“I’ll share her chocolate mousse …”

“No you won’t. Bring him a chocolate mousse.”

They assigned us the same table for the entire cruise. We had reserved the second dinner time. We’d get there, stand in line and wait for our table to be ready. More correctly, everyone else did that. If the people from the first seating were still at our table, they would immediately seat us at the next available table, which meant we never waited. Everyone else waited for their table to be ready, but as soon as they saw Xara, they whisked us off to a table. It was like she was royalty.

The maître di was a man, as was the head waiter, the waiter, and the assistant waiter. Every night they asked if they could get a picture taken with us. And by us, I mean Xara. And she was always happy to accommodate.

One night during the week was formal night. Sort of formal. It meant dress up, in a suit. I wore my dress uniform. Xara brought one of the dresses she bought in Switzerland and was stunning. Absolutely stunning. That night, the captain came to our table and introduced himself and got a picture with Xara, and then invited us to tour the bridge after dinner.

I say us, but he directed all his attention towards Xara. It was obvious enough that she made a point, several times, of putting her arm through mine and pulling me close to her.

We had breakfast and lunch in a big cafeteria like setting with buffet stations spread about around a very large room. Xara loved it. I have to believe the cruise company lost money on her.

We booked excursions for each port stop. I won’t go into detail about them here, except to say the scenery and the ruins were amazing, especially in Athens. While in Athens we learned that the Greeks blame Turkey for all their problems, dating back centuries, and they hold a grudge. And they told us about it in detail.

We heard the same thing in Crete. They had a rocky history with both Greece and Turkey, are now part of Greece, and hold a grudge against the Turks. And they told us about it in detail.

No one in Turkey even mentioned Greece or Crete. I was going to ask our tour guide about it, but Xara told me not to, she didn’t think it would go over very well.

“I’m sure he won’t mind if I preface the question by telling him I really don’t mind the way he’s looking at my wife’s tits.”

She punched me in the arm. Then said, “You know you don’t have to worry about that.”

“It’s rude, Xara.”

“I know, but it also allows me to be in control, and they don’t even know it.”

“What?”

“If a man is engrossed in fantasies of playing with my body, I can play with his mind. It’s not a Velorian thing, it’s a woman thing. Terran women do it too, they just aren’t as good at it. They don’t have as much to work with.”

“Do you do that to me?”

“You have complete and total access to my body, and you don’t have to ask. No, I don’t do that to you. Before we became serious, before you became serious, I tried, but you are an unusually decent man. And I promised you I wouldn’t resort to pheromones.”

What she said made sense. Men fawn over her. They fawn over all the Velorian and Arion ladies I know. I knew that, but I never considered it from their side, the ladies’ side, of the equation. Their raw beauty gives them power over men, and the men don’t even know it.

The ”… complete and total access to my body, and you don’t have to ask,” didn’t quite ring true. If she said no, I wouldn’t push it. If she said no, I couldn’t push it, even if I wanted to. But I understood what she meant; she doesn’t withhold herself from me.

Dixon asked me if, understanding all that, I still objected to other men ogling her body. And the answer is yes, I do object to it. Johnson said, with a smirk, that’s because I think like a Terran. If he had actually been there, I would have punched him.

That night, after making love, she propped herself up on an elbow and said, “I see it too, Joe.”

I rolled over onto my side and propped myself up and asked, “What do you see?”

“On this cruise, on this ship, some of the men act like this,” she held up her ring finger with her wedding ring, “means nothing. I always expect to get that kind of attention, but it makes me a little angry that they would disrespect my commitment to you, that they would disrespect you. On the bridge tour, the captain completely ignored you.”

“I noticed.”

“Are you upset with me?”

“No, not at all. You didn’t do anything to encourage him. And it wasn’t lost on me that you kept me close during the tour. But I do feel like they are disrespecting me.”

“Do you want me to behave differently? Dress differently?”

“No, Xara, I don’t want you to change your behavior. I love the Xara you are, not the Xara you’d try to change into. And as far as the clothes you wear … when you first visited me at the cabin, the thought went through my mind that you’d look hot wearing a burka riding a donkey in Fallujah. Don’t change anything. I’ll let you know if I think it's too much, like I did with the flight-suit-bikini.”

She smiled and said, “I love you, Joe Ricci!” and kissed me, and then we made love again.

I thought about it some more after she fell asleep. She enjoys male attention; she’s told me so.

“I’m not asleep Joe.”

“Oh. I thought you were.”

“Joe, is this going to be a problem for us? Do I need to change?”

“No, Xara, it’s like I said, I want you to be you. What’s different is this is the first time we’ve been together in a small, crowded space like this”

“Do you know what else is different, Joe? This is the longest stretch of time we’ve had together since we’ve met.”

“Xara, we’ve been living together …”

“Yes, but I’ve been busy with school. We haven’t been together 7x24 like we have since we started our honeymoon.”

“Do you think we’re seeing too much of each other?”

“No, darling, I don’t. But I think we’re in a learning experience now. This much closeness, this much togetherness is new for us, and we’re learning how to navigate it.”

“We didn’t have any trouble ‘navigating’ at the villa in Portugal.”

“We weren’t surrounded by thousands of men wanting to get into my pants in Portugal.”

“Men everywhere are going to lust after you, Xara. And you love it.”

“I do. I can’t deny that. But I don’t want my vanity to be a wedge that comes between us.”

“I don’t think it will, Xara. My problem isn’t with you, it’s with them. It’s one thing to see and appreciate a beautiful woman. It’s another thing to try to win her away from her husband; when he’s standing right there.”

“No one is going to win me away from you. I know you know that.”

“I do. Like I said, it isn’t you, it’s them.”

“Enough of this. Take me Joe Ricci!”

And we made love again.

“None of those men are getting this!” That’s the last thing I remember hearing from her before I woke up in the morning.

Turkey was our last stop. That night, and all the next day and following night, we were at sea, heading back to Rome. I don’t know if Xara was feeling self-conscious or … I don’t know what Xara was feeling. But she turned her flight-suit into a regular bikini. With a bottom that covered her butt and a top that … I was going to say covered her breasts, but it didn’t. But it covered a lot more than the micro bikini version did. We went down to the pool that evening, the adult pool, and there was a party going on.

As the night went on the other couples left and soon it was me, Xara, and six single men. Single young men. They’d been drinking and decided to play grab ass with Xara.  And they were getting in my face. That pissed me off and I was about to do something about it, something violent, when Xara made a connection. She didn’t ask. She just made it.

“Joe, go up the stairs, I’m going to get rid of these jerks.”

I didn’t ask what she had in mind. I left the pool and climbed the stairs to an observation deck overlooking the pool. As soon as I left they started hooting and hollering at me, saying very unkind things and questioning my manhood, and making lewd disparaging remarks about Xara.

I got up to the observation deck and looked down over the railing and suddenly the guys were trying to get away from Xara as fast as they could. One of them sounded like he was crying.

“Fear pheromones?”

“Yes.”

“Is it safe for me to come back down?”

“Give it another minute.”

About a minute later she told me I could come down.

“They went running out of here really fast, Xara. How much did you give them?”

“Not as much as you’d think from watching them,” she replied, “I think the alcohol may have enhanced the effects. Maybe it sped up the uptake to their brains.”

“Well, we’ve got the pool to ourselves now. What do you want to do?”

“The same thing you want to do,” she answered.

It was late, there was no crew around, Xara looked around and made sure no one was watching.

The next day it was back to the micro bikini that was almost more revealing than if she’d been naked. Whatever inhibition she felt that made her tone things down the night before was gone.

We were in a connection, and she caught the drift of my thoughts.

“Those guys from last night are at the pool. I want them to see what they’ll never get to have.”

“They’re at the pool now?”

“Yes. I can see them,” she said as she looked at, or rather through, the wall.

When we got to the pool, she made sure she had their attention before she took off her robe and then made a show of it, then pulled me into her and gave me a kiss. A very good kiss. Then we jumped into the pool.

“Eat your hearts out motherfuckers,” she said, in the connection.

There were live shows on the ship that were pretty good and we enjoyed very much. Music, standup comedy, that kind of thing. We could go dancing and there was a store and art displays. But what Xara really liked, after the food, was the casino. Specifically, the blackjack table.

The casino was only open when we were at sea, they couldn’t operate in a port, only in international waters.

I’d seen what the ladies could do at a blackjack table when we went camping in Chelan. But with the connection, I could do it too. Xara and I would sit down at a table next to each other. She’d user her see through vision to see the deck, and she could memorize it with just one look. One time, after shuffling, I closed my eyes, and she showed me what she was seeing as she looked through the deck, one card at a time. First slowly so I could keep up, then at her usual speed, which looked to me like a blur. It was amazing, she’d see one card, then go below it to the next, and so on.

The dealer would deal the cards and she would tell me, through the connection, how much to bet, when to hit and when to stay. And she’d be playing her own cards at the same time. Xara did the calculations and could predict our winning percentage, which varied based on the number of players at the table. Except when the dealer had a bad hand. Then, depending on the cards, she might have me or both of us double. Doubling when the dealer had a bad hand increased our winnings by quite a bit.

We won six hundred Euros. And it was noticed. As we were leaving the casino one night with our winnings a security officer intercepted us and asked us to follow him.

“Don’t worry Joe. I’ll take care of everything.”

We were brought into an area reserved for crew and put in separate rooms. Offices, really. There were computer stations. In my room another security officer started asking me questions, name, date of birth, why we were on the cruise.

“Mr. Ricci, you and your wife were very successful at the blackjack tables. Can you explain that?”

“Just lucky I guess, why?”

“We take cheating at the tables very seriously, Mr. Ricci. If you have anything to say, you should say it now.”

“How was I cheating?”

I hadn’t been in there more than ten minutes when another security officer walked in and said, “Mr. Ricci, you are free to go. I apologize for putting you through this.”

Xara was right behind him in the hallway.

The guy at the desk in front of me looked at his colleague quizzically but didn’t say anything.

“How’d you pull that off, Xara?”

“Trust pheromones I told him we didn’t do anything wrong; our winning was just good luck.”

“Okay. What do you want to do now?”

“We’re going back to the blackjack tables. Challenging a Goddess and her consort comes with consequences. We’re going to clean that place out!”

My jaw must have dropped to the floor, which Xara thought was hilarious.

“I’m just kidding Joe. Let’s see tonight’s show.”

During down time, when we’d be in the cabin relaxing, we’d get drinks and sit on the balcony. Xara would be naked, and beautiful. And did I mention naked? And she’d make sure I wore sunscreen. Always with the sunscreen. I have a dark complexion, from my Italian heritage. I don’t burn easily. Didn’t matter, she was always checking the time and telling me when to put on more sunscreen.

We docked in Rome and disembarked and headed to the airport where we took a flight to Portugal, were met by our driver and went back to the villa. We spent the week exploring the small towns and villages and trying out the local cuisine. Then, all too soon, it was time to head home.

Chapter 213

That pilot slowdown was still going on, so our flight left late and arrived late. In New York we were met by a representative of the airline who rushed us through customs, then rushed us to our connecting flight to Seattle, which we barely made.

And they had an equipment change, we were on a smaller airplane, a 737. And we lost our first class seats because of that. And the only seats available for us were in the last row. And the forward toilets were out of order. So all through the flight we were sitting in cramped seats, with seatbacks that didn’t recline, and since I was on the aisle, I was next to a never ending line of people waiting to get into the bathrooms.

Xara wasn’t happy about it, but she wasn’t physically uncomfortable. I was. I had by that time spent hours and hours on airplanes, and I was getting muscle cramps. I couldn’t get into a comfortable position. Xara was in the middle seat, next to a little old lady in the window seat who tried to sleep but wasn’t having much success because she couldn’t lean her seat back.

Whenever possible, I got out of my seat and stood in the aisle. To say I was irritable is an understatement. And Xara, God bless her, realized how uncomfortable I was and tried to help in her own way, which was offering me her dessert. Which I accepted. It didn’t help me much, but it seemed to make Xara happy.

We landed at SeaTac and were met by Gloria and Mona, who drove us back to Bellingham. Xara told me to sit in the backseat and try to sleep, which I did. Try, that is. I may have drifted off now and then, but not for long.

When we got back to the cabin … house, it’s a house, the entire Rack Pack was there, which Johnson, Dixon and I had expanded to include the two new protectors and scribe. They all wanted to hear how our honeymoon went and Xara started off telling them about the unlimited desserts on the cruise. They all thought that was great.

Athens? Crete? Turkey? Sicily? Kara and Sharon had already seen them, the other three blondes knew they could in a matter of minutes. But desserts, prepared by world class chefs, or at least cruiser class chefs, now that was something worth hearing about.

And then she told them she had solved the making-love-while-flying problem. Oh my God, that really got their attention. The wanted us to demonstrate it, then they all wanted to try it with me. I tried to say no, but Xara shut that down right away:

“Don’t you dare refuse!”

So we went out onto the deck and got out from under the roof. They each had a turn, while the rest used their heat vision to keep me warm and zapped mosquitoes, and whatever other flying insects came near. Mona and Gloria watched.

They have very precise control of their heat vision. I was in the air, with Kara, when I felt something warm against my back and asked what it was.

“I vaporized a mosquito that was about to bite you,” answered Juliet.

After they were all finished, they agreed, including Xara, that it was an interesting novelty but not as satisfactory as doing it with a Messenger, or even with a Terran in a bed, for that matter. But they all congratulated Xara on figuring it out.

Then Gloria pointed at me and said, “I think you’re pushing him too hard.”

Xara looked at me, hard, and I could feel her burrowing further into me with the connection. Usually I can’t, but this time I did, she was going deeper and faster and harder than usual. She came to me, picked me up, and carried me to our bedroom, put me in bed and came back with a glass of orange juice.

“Drink this, Joe, then go to sleep. I’m sorry.”

While Joe slept, Xara talked to the other Velorians, Gloria and Mona, about something that was bothering her.

“Mom, I’m angry and frustrated with the way people treated Joe in Europe. When we were together, they ignored him and acted like we weren’t married, or even a couple.”

Sharon spoke up. “Xara, you’ve been experiencing this since before you even met him. Terrans, especially the men, see us and nothing else.”

“Yes,” said Xara, “but I didn’t think that would still happen after we were married. I didn’t think men would hit on me when Joe was right there!

“And people were so disrespectful to him. He couldn’t hear what people were saying, but I could.

“There go beauty and the beast.

“I wonder what she sees in that freak.

“Until now, Joe just shrugged it off. But it was happening so often on our honeymoon that it started to bother him. And I don’t blame him. There was one night, in the pool, when a bunch of drunks were bothering us, and Joe was ready to go after them. Mom, I could feel his blood pressure going up, he was going to hurt someone badly.”

“What did you do?” asked Kara.

“I had him get out of the area and I used fear pheromones. They all ran away.

“And mom, I wasn’t encouraging anyone, or leading them on. When I saw it happening, I’d be all over Joe, making it clear, I thought, that I was his and his alone. It didn’t seem to make any difference. The captain gave us a tour of the bridge, and he completely ignored Joe, no matter what I did.”

“Xara, honey,” began Kara, “that’s the right way to handle it. When I was with Eric, I made sure everyone knew that he was my one and only. Just keep doing that, you’ll get better at it.”

“I’ll teach you some tricks,” said Sharon. “You can turn their lust for you around on them and make them jealous of Joe. Believe it or not, that really hurts them.”

Chapter 214

I’m sure most men would say that between the blondes, I get all the sex I want. It would be more accurate to say I get all the sex they want, and they want a lot. I’m with Xara every night, and she doesn’t stop until she is satisfied, which means multiple orgasms. The same is true for all the blondes.

And they are the most unselfish lovers you could imagine; it’s who they are. So they are going to make sure I also have multiple orgasms. And when I start to flag, they use their pheromones to keep me going.

I’m not complaining. I never would. I would prefer to be exclusive to Xara. She is a living fantasy come true and I don’t see how I could ever get tired of her. But that is not how it works with Velorians, and as has been made clear to me many times, turning one of them down, especially my Kiraling mates, would be seen as rude, even insulting.

But I’d just gotten home after two long flights, one of them very uncomfortable, and I hadn’t gotten any sleep, and I was exhausted, even before the flying sex.

I slept until nearly 11 the next morning. I got up and went out to the dining room following the wonderful smells of coffee and bacon and eggs. I sat down at the table and Gloria put a plate of food in front of me and all the Velorians gathered round and started apologizing to me.

I held up my hand for quiet, and they stopped, and I said, “It’s okay ladies. I should have told you how tired I was.”

“No,” said Xara, “you wanted to say no, and I didn’t let you.”

“You couldn’t have known how tired I was …”

“But we did, Joseph,” said Kara, “we could all see it.”

“We weren’t thinking,” said Briana. “Most Vel-Terran relationships only involve one Velorian. We know you have physical limits, but we seldom push past them when it’s one on one. We know now. We’ll be more respectful in the future.”

“Ladies!” I said, “I’m okay. I was just tired, that’s all.”

“Tired is a good reason to say no,” said Sharon. “You don’t see it, but your stamina has increased quite a bit from when you first met us. Your physical and sexual strength have been growing, due to your exposure to us. But you’re still a Terran, and we need to remember that.”

“I think you’re making more of this than you need to,” I said.

“Maybe we are, Joseph,” said Kara, “but sometimes we treat you like you are a Vel. You aren’t. We don’t need to rest and recharge, but you do.”

“And I’ll make sure you get that rest,” said Xara.

Chapter 215

We were three weeks out from our trip to another planet when Gloria arrived with a shipment, courtesy of the Scalantrans, of vaccines, antivirals and antibiotics I needed to take before I could go to another planet.

“These medications serve two purposes, Joe. They will protect you from diseases endemic to the planet you are traveling to, and protect them from any bugs from here, Terra.”

“I don’t quite understand, Gloria. Wouldn’t they need to be inoculated against what I could carry?”

“That’s the way it works here,” she replied. “But space medicine is more advanced.”

She gave me shot after shot after shot, all in one day. Some in my arms, a lot in my butt. Then she had me take pills and swallow liquid medications until I thought I was going to be sick. And then I got sick. I had muscle aches, fever, chills, cramps and diarrhea.

“This will all pass in a week, Joe,” she told me. “And when you return, you’ll need more to put the good bugs back.”

“What?”

Xara explained. “Joe, some of the bacteria you carry in your gut are beneficial to you but would be dangerous to the people we are going to meet.”

“Don’t I need those bacteria?”

“I have medication,” said Gloria, “that you will take until you return to Terra. This medication will perform the function of your gut bacteria.”

As I said, I was sick. And it did last a week. Xara bundled me up in bed and kept me fed and hydrated until I was feeling better.

What do you pack when you’re going to another planet? I was told that the place we were going to has a temperate climate. And that there would be a ceremony at the Velorian embassy where a Velorian Senator would present my award. So I packed my class A’s for that. And then I packed just regular clothes. Casual clothes, a suit, jeans, shorts, dress shoes, sneakers, casual shoes, underwear, etc.

Xara had decided to bring two pods and wanted me to bring one of my space suits. We packed that in one of the pods.

When all was said and done, I was pretty happy. I had two suit bags, one for my class A’s and one for my civilian suit. Everything else fit into two large suitcases.

The ladies however … See, I didn’t know that much about space travel. In my mind I thought of the international space station and the space shuttle, where every ounce had to be accounted for. Apparently, that isn’t the case for other civilizations. The blondes packed enough clothing to fill a U-Haul. And Sharon said the people we would meet were “more primitive” than 21st century America, so she brought along cases of wine. Three dozen cases of wine.

“Terran wine, from Terra, is the best I’ve ever had,” she said. “We’ll give a some of it away as gifts. It’ will score us a lot of points. You’ll see.”

“Some of it? What about the rest of it?”

“We’ll drink it.”

At last, the day came when it was time to go.

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