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Kiraling – Part 30 (Chapter 248-257)

Written by anonxyzus :: [Friday, 14 July 2023 22:35] Last updated by :: [Monday, 24 July 2023 15:03]

­Chapter 248

We had been gone a long time, and there were some changes. Senator Jackson had suffered a heart attack, and while he was fit to finish his term, he didn’t think he would run for another one. Kara was concerned, as she thought of him as a friend. She began visiting him and his wife on a regular basis.

Major Moore was no longer Major Moore. She was now Colonel Moore. I still reported to her, but the DoD had an expectation that she would work more closely with me, and with Kara. That, of course, would be up to Kara.

There was a new Secretary of State, but we had the same Secretary of Defense.

Xara had been out of school for a year, and while getting back in to finish her degree would be no problem, she was no longer in a hurry to do so, and was reassessing her decision to go to medical school. Seeing what the Arions did on Xanadu, and the attack on the Golden Cathunk, along with the camaraderie she felt with the Protectors she met was making her lean towards being a Protector.

Kara had mixed feelings about that. She thought that a Protector with Xara’s strength, speed and enhanced invulnerability would be a great asset, but as a mother, she liked the idea of having her daughter become a doctor. There is a streak of altruism in the blondes. While they have rules they follow regarding how they interact with Terrans on Terra, they really do want to help people.

With Sharon back on Earth, on Terra, Eva was being reassigned. A planet only needs one Scribe, or so I’m told.

Bri-An and Juliet wanted to stay on Terra, but they would go wherever Velor wanted them to go. Velor hadn’t given them new orders, but it could happen.

Mona seemed changed; she was more confident. It was hard to put my finger on it, but I think she has finally become comfortable with her situation.

Gloria is still Gloria. She gave Xara a hard time about the weight I lost, then when she was told that I came out of stasis without any of the normal support, IVs and that kind of thing, she became very concerned. Xara gave her a copy of the Kelsorian doctor’s notes on me. She read them over then decided to do her own examination.

I was down in the lair, naked, while she did all her own scans, collected blood and analyzed it, and checked all my vitals.

“I warned them about putting you in stasis twice so close together,” she said. “I expected to bring you out the second time myself and take care of you through your recovery. Joe, I’ll make sure you fully recover.”

“Thanks, Gloria, but you could have warned me ahead of time. No one told me it would be so much worse the second time.”

“We knew it would be bad but didn’t expect it to be this bad. Kara and Xara did not want you to be told, they didn’t want to worry you.”

“I’ve had words with them, I asked them not to withhold information from me in the future. They agreed. But Gloria, you are my physician, you should have told me.”

Note I didn’t refer to her as a veterinarian. I wasn’t going to, but Dixon and Johnson were warning me anyway.

I continued. “I want my doctor to be up front with me Gloria. You are my doctor. You should have warned me.”

“Sometimes,” she said, “it is difficult to judge the line that separates me, an Arion refugee working for a Velorian, with my status as a physician. From now on, Joe, I promise you, I will be your physician. You will get the benefit of my medical opinion.”

“Thank you, Gloria, I appreciate that.”

“My medical opinion is that you escaped the most serious side effects. Just to be on the safe side we will repeat this examination in three months. My concern now is to get your weight back to where it should be. You could easily backslide into old habits that resulted in you being underweight. I’m going to monitor your eating and exercise habits for the next few weeks, to make sure you are on the right track.”

Those were Gloria’s plans for me for the next few weeks. Eat to gain weight and exercise to regain my conditioning. Colonel Moore, SecDef and SecState had other ideas. They wanted a full debriefing of my trip off planet with special emphasis on any exotic weapons I came across (SecDef) and an overview of Velorian diplomacy (SecState). As I was to discover, they didn’t know I had gone to Xanadu. They thought I had gone to Velor.

And strangely, I was ordered, by the SecDef, not to brief Colonel Moore before my formal debrief. That didn’t seem right, but orders are orders.

Kara had ideas about that too, that specifically excluded me telling anyone anything about where I was, what I saw and what I learned.

Sharon also had ideas. She wanted to get between the sheets, first with Deb, then with Colonel Moore.

I wanted to suggest a trade. Let the powers that be in my chain of command debrief me and in exchange let the NSA, CIA and DIA teach the Velorians about intelligence gathering.

True, Kara had her own intelligence operation, and I was part of it. But I wanted Velor to learn about strategic intelligence gathering as well as tactical intelligence operations. Kara wasn’t going for it. She thought the Arions would see it as a provocation if Terra trained Velor and The Enlightenment in the art and science of intelligence gathering.

“Kara, you’ve got to be shitting me! Velor doesn’t want to provoke the Arions? What do you call the Arion invasion of Xanadu and the attack on the Golden Cathunk? That Arion force wasn’t there to attack us. It was on its way somewhere.”

“I Know, Joseph, but Velor doesn’t want to see the war escalate. We want peace.”

“It looks to me like the Arions are happy to escalate anywhere and everywhere. Kara, The Enlightenment has given the Arions the initiative. They are the ones who decide when and where to fight. Everything about The Enlightenment’s efforts, about Velor’s efforts, is reactive.”

“He isn’t wrong, Kara,” said Sharon. “Joe, if it will make you feel any better, you can write up your arguments and I’ll include them in my next dispatch to Velor.”

“Do you really think that will accomplish anything, Sharon?” asked Kara.

“I honestly don’t know,” she replied.

“Will anyone read it?” I asked.

“Yes, everything coming from Terra gets attention at the highest levels,” said Sharon.

“Fine. I’ll have something for you by this time next week.”

I spent a week writing up my arguments as to why The Enlightenment, especially Velor, should take a more proactive stance against the Arions. With the help of the blondes, even Kara, I listed known Arion actions against otherwise peaceful planets.

I was surprised Kara was willing to help. I think it was the Kiraling thing, or maybe she agreed with me a little bit. The blondes also helped me get the formal language right, something I hadn’t dealt with much. When it was ready, I gave it to Sharon, who encoded it on a crystal thing to give it to the next Messenger who showed up.

The more I talked to Kara about it, the more I understood that Velor just wanted peace, which she had told me, but I didn’t appreciate how deep this feeling went.

We were briefed by Bri-An, Juliet, Mona, Gloria and Eva on what transpired while we were away. A couple of weeks after the attack on the Golden Cathunk indications were picked up of Arion cloaked spacecraft going to and from Earth. The Arions were either bringing in additional personnel resources, rotating new personnel in and taking old personnel out, or taking resources away. After that, there were no indications of Arion activity anywhere on or around the planet.

Of course, the Supremis on earth didn’t know about the attack of the Golden Cathunk until much later, but we put together the timeline and it fit. The activity occurred after the attack, and the defeat of the Arion force. Coincidence? We had no way of knowing, but we didn’t think so.

I went back to looking at DEA reports from Central and South America. In the region I was concerned about there was an urban area that was almost totally free of gangs. There was a vacuum, in fact, that was being filled by gangs from outside the immediate region. But they were taking casualties from someone, but no one knew who. It certainly wasn’t the local or federal police organizations; the DEA had imbedded people who would know. It was a mystery.

The activity, the assassinations and supposed abductions, peaked just before and during a local election. The DEA said there was nothing odd about that, except that in the past it was the gangs eliminating potential threats, people who ran on platforms to go after the gangs. This was different in that the gangs seemed to be targeted.

There was no evidence that I could find that would implicate the Arions, so there wasn’t much of anything I could take to Kara.

Well, there was something. It had nothing to do with Arions on earth, but it did have something to do with our trip. I had a movie night with Kara, Sharon and Xara. Gloria and Mona were invited, of course. We popped popcorn and watched Xanadu. They’d never seen it.

“I recognize the Magic song,” said Xara, “but I never knew it came from a movie.”

“Probably because it’s a very forgettable movie,” said Sharon.

“Is there a point you wanted to make, Joseph?” asked Kara.

“If I tell people I went to Xanadu, the first thing that will come to mind is this movie. They’ll think I made it up!”

“Well, you have witnesses, Joseph,” said Kara.


Janelle couldn’t believe what she was hearing. A closed door meeting of the city council had been called by several councilmen, and they were berating her for diverting transportation department money from their pockets to potholes in her district.

It was making her angry, and she had to excuse herself from the room for a few minutes when she found herself thinking of them not as people, but as things to play with and kill. Mostly to kill. Slowly.

She was here to win hearts and minds, she reminded herself. She was here to show these Terrans that the Arion Empire could be their ally and improve their lives. But she was realizing that the gangs were not the only impediment to peace and prosperity here. The corruption of the political establishment was also to blame.

She composed herself and made up her mind. It was time to begin, slowly and gently, showing these politicians what real power was.

She returned to the room and stood at the table waiting for the men, all the others on the council were men, to turn their attention to her. While she waited, she scanned the room to make sure there were no listening devices and that no one was recording the meeting on their phone.

Finally, the men stopped talking and looked at her.

“Senores,” she began, “I ran for this seat to improve the lives of the people of my district. I told them I would free them from the gangs, and I have done so. Are you aware of the attempts that were made on my life? Of the abduction of my chief aide?

“Are you aware that the gangs who opposed me are no longer operating in my district or this city? Are you aware of how many gang members and leaders died, horribly, from all accounts?

“Do you think it was an accident that they began disappearing after I arrived here?”

She waited for that to sink in. And it did. It was like a veil had suddenly been lifted from their eyes. Could they have been that stupid, not to have connected her to the killings and disappearances?

One of the councilmen cleared his throat, and in a low voice, almost a whisper, asked, “Are you threatening us, senorita?”

“I am not threatening you, senor.” Yes, she was. “I am just reminding you of what has happened in our city. And senor, I will be meeting with the heads of all the city departments and telling them that every cent allocated for services in my district is to be spent on those services.”

A week later Janelle was walking down the street, in the early evening, after meeting with one of the department heads and informing him that she would expect the people of her district to get excellent service from his department. Suddenly, she felt a tap between her shoulder blades, followed less than a tenth of a second later by a tap against the back of her head. She turned quickly and saw two crushed large caliber bullets lying on the sidewalk behind her. As she turned, she heard the muted sound of two silenced gunshots. She quickly homed in on the source of the sound and saw two men on top of a building, several hundred yards away, leaving their positions, carrying long rifles.

The streets were deserted, everyone was at supper, and she ran, very fast, to the building the shots had come from. As she did, she watched the men taking stairs down to the bottom floor. She was at the back door of the building as they exited.

They were police. City police. The sniper weapons they used to shoot her were police issue weapons for the SWAT team. They were surprised to see her standing in front of them when they came out of the building. She didn’t give them time to recover from their surprise. She grabbed the first one by its face and shoved its head into the brick wall of the building, crushing the back of its skull and killing it.

She bent down and picked up the second one by its ankle and swung it around, dashing its head against the same wall, killing it. She left them there, to be found, and then cursed herself for her actions as she walked home. She should have killed the first one and then made the second one tell her who sent them before killing it. She let her anger get the best of her. She needed to do better. She would do better.

The next day the newspapers and radio and TV stations reported that two police officers had been killed in the line of duty attempting to apprehend violent criminals. No mention was made of the weapons they had been carrying, no other details were forthcoming other than background information on the men. They were both family men with wives and young children.

A few days later the men were buried with honors after a church ceremony. All the dignitaries of the city attended the joint funeral, and many of the citizens of the city turned out to pay their respects. A fund was set up to support the wives and children of the slain men, and Janelle made the largest contribution to it.

Afterwards, Janelle visited the police chief in his office. She told him how sorry she was that two of his officers had lost their lives, and how horrible she thought it was for their families. He thanked her for the generous donation she made to the family fund and said, in return, that if she ever needed anything from the police department to please ask and he would do everything in his power to help her.

Janelle left the meeting convinced that this police chief did not know that the dead men had attempted to assassinate her. Under her gentle questioning, he admitted that it was very strange that they had sniper weapons, which, he said, only a few people knew, and that the story of how they died was fabricated because he suspected they had been up to no good, and he wanted to protect their families.

She could hear his heartbeat. She could sense his blood pressure. He was not lying to her. He had no part in the attempt on her life. He would live.

She was troubled by this. Obviously, someone on the council had arranged for what these people called “a hit.” She would have to learn who it was and make sure it, or they, were punished. An hour or two of playing with it, or them, in the playroom should do nicely.

She left the police headquarters and made her way to Miguel’s home.  An hour or two playing with the girls, especially baby Janelle, always did wonders for her mood. And thinking about it made her wonder what was happening to her. She found herself researching schools and colleges for the girls, paid for out of a fund she hoped to set up. How strange that she could love and care for some of these humans on the one hand, and so cheerfully and gleefully kill them on the other.

It was puzzling and disturbing. But her mood shifted when she walked into Miguel’s home and was greeted with happy shouts of “Auntie Janelle” by his daughters.

Chapter 249

Between Xara and Gloria, I was gaining weight and getting back into the best physical condition of my life. Better than before the Xanadu trip. Gloria believed that Xara was having a very positive influence on my physical condition. She said my muscles were gaining better definition, and they already had good definition before our trip. And my endurance had improved.

Gaining weight is still hard for me. To get back to where Xara and Gloria wanted me to be I had to overeat. That was how it felt to me. I was very happy when I met the goal weight and could transition to a maintenance diet. I was now eating like I did prior to my first deployment, which still seemed like a lot to me but was really where I should be.

Colonel Moore said I should be advancing in my career, and that meant a promotion to E6, staff sergeant. For the promotion from E5 to E6 I was supposed to go before a board, and that meant hitting the books, memorizing regulations, etc. And I had to pass the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) and I had to qualify on the shooting range.

I wasn’t worried at all by the fitness test, but I told Xara I should spend some time working on my marksmanship. We had an M4 in the lair. Xara found a deserted area in the mountains and together we built a course complete with firing positions and targets. Kara got me a gas mask and night-vision goggles.

I don’t know if it is like this for everyone, but for me, firing an M4 is like riding a bicycle. I never forget how. I only needed to fire a few rounds to get back into the groove, and I was feeling very good about it. And I was using iron sites.

“Good job, Joe!” Said Xara. “Now, shoot me!”

“Xara, we’ve been over this before. I don’t shoot friendlies, and I’m sure as hell not going to shoot my wife!”

“Are you afraid you’ll hurt me, Joe?”

“No. I know I won’t hurt you. I know I can’t hurt you.”

“Then why not do it? What’s the harm?”

“The harm, Xara, is that shooting someone is a very hostile thing to do. It is a very dehumanizing thing to do. It leaves me feeling … it brings back very bad feelings. It’s someplace I don’t want to go.”

She smiled and kissed me and said, “Joe, I admire your humanity. I really do. But this could be fun. But I won’t push you.”

We went back to the house and while I was fixing dinner Xara was on the phone, unbeknownst to me, inviting Kara and Sharon for dinner.

“We’re having company for dinner, Joe. Mom and Sharon.”

“I’ll get more steaks out of the freezer. Will you defrost them for me?”

Xara has this thing she can do, I don’t know if all the blondes can, but she can heat things from the inside out, so the steaks defrost faster, and you don’t end up cooking the outside while the inside stays frozen.

Gloria and Mona were still with us and would be until I passed my tests. No reason for it, really, that’s just the way Gloria wanted to do things. And she and Mona were a team. Where one went the other followed. No, that’s not right. Where Gloria went, Mona followed.

We all sat down to dinner, we were all digging into our steak and mashed potatoes, and Xara said, “Joe still won’t shoot me, and it’s frustrating.”

I put my fork down and looked at her and asked the obvious question: “Why is it frustrating?”

Sharon answered. “Because it’s a sex thing.”

“How can that be?” I asked.

“Joseph,” answered Kara, “most men find shooting us, especially our breasts and pubic areas, a turn on. And it is a big turn on for us too.”

“You’ve told me that. I’ve never understood it.”

“We enjoy demonstrating our power over Terrans,” said Sharon. “We enjoy dominating you and we enjoy showing you that you are helpless in our presence.”

“Xara, you want to dominate me, and you feel like you’ve been missing out?”

“I already dominate you, Joe, especially sexually. I dominate you in almost every way that counts. But you never fight back.”

“How can I fight back?”

“You can’t, but you don’t even make the effort.”

“It would be a pointless effort. And you guys are always careful not to hurt me. You may be the dominate ones, but you don’t make me feel like you’re dominating me.”

“Joseph,” said Kara, “it isn’t like BDSM. We aren’t looking for you to be submissive, or to hurt or humiliate you. We want Terrans, especially our lovers, to discover how powerful we are. And firing your weapons at us is a way to do that.”

“What’s to discover?” I countered. “I saw what happened when Gloria fired an automatic weapon at you and Sharon. I saw what happened during Xara’s test when five Heavy GARs were pointed at her.”

“You watching it isn’t the same as you doing it,” said Xara.

“What difference would it make to you?” I asked Xara.

“I’d feel like you had a deeper appreciation for me. I’d feel like we were closer. I’d feel like you’d understand that you are helpless in my presence, and that it would comfort you to know that all that power I have will be used for you and never against you.”

Helpless in our presence. Helpless in my presence. In my presence. There is some significance there, for them, but I’m not sure what it is.

“Xara, I’m not sure I could pull the trigger. And if I could, I’m afraid of the feelings it would bring up. I’ve only ever pointed a weapon at someone I was ready to kill.

“And you spend almost as much time in my head as I do. How could we be closer? And I do know that as powerful as you are, you would never intentionally hurt me. And because of you, of how powerful you are, I’m not afraid of anything, because I know you will always protect me.”

“Joseph, as long as we’ve known you, you have never been afraid of anyone or anything,” said Kara.

“Yeah, but now it’s justified,” I replied. That made the ladies laugh.

Gloria, up to this point, had been silent. She spoke up.

“All Supremis species trace their origins back to Terra, but Velorian and Arion kink are very different. Arions take sexual joy in destroying Terrans, especially Arion women, especially during sex.”

“Primes are that way,” said Mona. “And many Betas too.”

Gloria continued. “Velorians enjoy demonstrating that they are more powerful but want to do so without causing any harm. They want their demonstration to make their lovers feel safe. And it’s a big turn on for them. Let her use her trust pheromones. You will be able to pull the trigger if she does.”

“Yes!” Said Xara. “I thought of that too but didn’t want to bring it up because I didn’t want to upset Joe, make him thing I was coercing him.”

“See,” said Gloria, “she wants to dominate you by using her pheromones but hasn’t done it because she doesn’t want to upset you. It’s a different kind of kink.”

Then Gloria looked and Xara and said, “If you do this, if he consents to it, and after the pheromones wear off his PTSD is triggered you will be responsible for bringing that on. Do you want him to accede to your wishes badly enough to do that to him?”

“No,” said Xara, “I don’t.”

“None of us do,” said Kara.

“Give it some thought Joe,” said Sharon. “If you ever think you could do it, let us know. We’ll set you up with an arsenal you can shoot at us.”

I swear, I must be in a field hospital somewhere in the Middle East in a coma. Xara pinched me.

“You aren’t,” she said, “you’re right here with me.”

“What?” asked Sharon.

“He forgot we were in a connection. Sometimes he thinks his experiences with us are so fantastical that he must be fabricating them while in a comatose state either in a conflict zone or the military hospital in Germany.”

“You can believe your eyes Joseph,” said Kara. “You can believe all those orgasms you’ve had with us. It’s really happening.”

Sharon giggled. We all looked at her.

“Remember Robert Smith?” She asked, looking at Kara.

Kara laughed.

Xara asked, “Who is Robert Smith?”

“He’s a man I had a little tryst with before you were born,” answered Sharon. “I showed him a little of my power, we had fun. But I broke it off with him when he became possessive. He went to the authorities and told them I am a near omnipotent alien living on earth.”

She stopped talking.

“And?” I asked.

“He was very close to being committed to a psychiatric ward before he wised up and stopped talking about me.”

“Would you have let that happen? Would you have let him be committed?”

“No. No, I would have found a way to keep that from happening. But I didn’t need to, the threat was enough to quiet him.”

“Whatever happened to him?” asked Kara.

“He found a nice girl and got married,” Sharon answered. “He and his wife had three children and they are grandparents now.”

“You kept up with him?” I asked.

“He was a very nice young man, Joe. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him, so I check up on him from time to time.”

“He was a young man when he met you, and now he’s a grandparent?” I asked.

“Yes,” replied Sharon, “and that’s as much as you’re getting.”

She winked at Kara. Kara laughed. In the connection, Xara said, “Don’t do it, Joe.”

I was thinking of bringing up what I learned on Xanadu, that Kara is over a century old. I decided to take Xara’s advice.

I guess one advantage of the connection is that Xara can warn me when I’m about to do or say something stupid.

“That’s right, I can.”

The connection was becoming so normal now that I easily forgot when we were in it.

Chapter 250

The next morning Xara and I went for a run. She was really pushing me, running just a little ahead of me and challenging me to keep up. I ran my butt off. After the run she asked me to go down to the lake with her. I mean, it’s right there, it isn’t like we had to hike anywhere.

She bent over and picked up a pebble and flicked it at me, it hit me in the chest. It wasn’t a hard throw by any means, and it didn’t hurt.

“What the hell, Xara?”

She giggled and picked up another pebble and flicked it at me. So I bent over and picked up a pebble. She stood there ramrod straight, pushing her breasts out towards me, and I flicked the pebble at her. I hit her, on her left boob.

Then we were both scooping up pebbles and flicking them at each other and laughing our heads off. Finally, Xara gave me a big hug.

“Go take a shower, Joe. You stink. I’ll pick up the pebbles that landed in the grass.”

I was in the shower for about five minutes when she joined me. If you’re a guy and you ever have a chance to take a shower with a Velorian woman, do it. You won’t regret it. Unless the Velorian is my wife. Then you will regret it; I’ll make sure of it.

This went on for four days in a row. We’d end our run with a pebble fight, then shower together.

The afternoon of the fourth day Amazon delivered a package addressed to Xara. She opened it.  She had bought two NERF guns, one for each of us, and a pair of goggles for me. Why goggles? I don’t know. You’d have to be pretty slow and unlucky to take a NERF dart in the eye. But she wanted me to wear them, so I did. She loaded both guns up, tossed one to me, and we had a NERF gun fight in the living room. Gloria and Mona watched and laughed at us.

The next day instead of a pebble fight after our run, we had a NERF gun fight. And Xara stripped down for it. I was shooting a naked Velorian with NERF darts. And she was shooting back with her NERF gun. She could have easily dodged the darts, that’s what I did, but she didn’t, she let them hit her. All the while we were laughing. It was fun. It was a LOT of fun! Especially when she’d go airborne shooting down at me while I shot up at her.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. I didn’t know what she was doing, all I knew was that we were having fun and listening to her laugh brought joy to my heart. When a Velorian woman laughs for joy, it is magical. It lifts the heart, it makes the world appear brighter, it makes your problems seem smaller.

NERF darts were all over the place, and I couldn’t possibly find them all, but Xara did. We never lost any. And at night, when it would occur to ask me why she was so fascinated with NERF fights, she’d smile at me, kiss me, say, “I’m having fun! Aren’t you?” And I’d have to admit that yes, I was having fun. And then we’d make love and I’d forget all about the question.

This went on for two weeks. I don’t know why she liked the NERF fights. Every time I tried to find out why, I mean put real effort into getting to the bottom of it, we ended up making love and I either forgot about it or was too exhausted from non-stop sex to care.

After two weeks of NERF fights, Amazon delivered another package to Xara. The box contained two gel blaster guns. Like paintball guns but not as powerful, and not balls of paint but these gel balls. You soak these little pellets in water for two hours and they absorb the moisture and expand in size. Dehydrated they are about 1 or 2mm in diameter, hydrated they are maybe 7 or 8mm. She ordered extra gel balls, we had about 30,000 of them. And for this, I could see the reason to wear goggles.

They weren’t as powerful as paint ball or airsoft guns, their range was about 100 feet, and they were shot out of a rechargeable electric gun and could fire in automatic or semi-automatic modes.

These were really a lot more fun than the NERF guns. Longer range, you didn’t have to reload as often and there wasn’t much of anything to clean up.

Again, I wondered what the fascination was, and again, when I tried to find out we’d end up making love. But I didn’t worry too much about it, it was obvious Xara was enjoying herself and hearing her laugh was just so wonderful.

Three days later another package arrived from Amazon, addressed to Gloria. She bought blasters for herself and Mona. We had free-for-alls in the backyard. Or we’d split up into teams. Xara’s team always won, but nobody cared, because we were having fun.

Seeing that Gloria and Mona were enjoying themselves made me think there must be something in the Supremis psychological makeup that predisposed them to this kind of game. That thought was only reinforced when Kara and Sharon showed up one day and packages from Amazon addressed to them showed up the same day. The packages had gel blasters in them.

All the Supremis played these games in the nude. I didn’t. I wasn’t sure why they wanted to do it that way, but I wasn’t going to complain.

And another thing, they could all run, or in the case of the blondes, fly circles around me. Any one of them could pelt me with gel balls all day long from any direction they wanted to, and I wouldn’t be able to avoid them, and I wouldn’t be able to hit them when I fired back. But they didn’t do that. They made the game fun for me, too. So much for dominating me. But then, again, I didn’t know what they were up to.

Xara started doing other things too, that puzzled me, but seemed to be fun for her.

“Joe,” she said, “watch this.”

She took a pot of boiling water off the stove, took it to the sink, stuck her left hand into the sink and poured the water on to it.

“See, it doesn’t hurt me a bit.”

“No, it doesn’t. Why did you do that?”

“I want you to try.”

“You want me to pour boiling water over myself?”

“No, silly, over me.”

She filled the pot with water, brought it to boiling with her heat vision, handed me the pot and stuck her hands in the sink.

“Pour the water out onto my hands.”


“Joe! For Skietra’s sake, just do it!”

So I poured the water over her hands.

She held them up for me to see.

“Do you see any burns, or any other damage?”

“No, of course not. You’re invulnerable.”

“That’s right, I am.”

Then she put her arms around me and kissed me. Her hands had cooled down, they were warm, but not hot.

“Do you want to try that with one of the stove burners?” I asked her.

She smiled and said, “Yeah, let’s do it!”

So I turned the burner on. She put her hand on it. Nothing happened. Then I put my hand on it. Nothing happened.

Xara laughed and said, “I’d forgotten, you tricked me!”

We had an induction cooktop. The burners work by passing an electric current through a coiled copper wire underneath the cooking surface, which then induces a magnetic current throughout the cookware. The cookware gets hot, not the cooking surface. Xara forgot that. It isn’t often that I can get a drop on a Supremis. I felt very proud of myself. Xara rewarded me for my cleverness in the bedroom.

A week and a dozen gel ball fights later, I was driving down to JBLM to take my fitness test and qualify on the range. The tests were taking place over three days, so I booked a hotel room. Xara wasn’t joining me because she was busy having meetings at school to re-enroll and set up a class schedule.

The conditioning I’d been put through by the ladies paid off big time. I scored … I had a pretty high score. I’m not going to brag, but I was told I performed like a 19 year old. A seriously fit 19 year old.

I qualified on the rifle test easily. Marksman. I thought, if I worked on it, I could get to sharpshooter.

“I think you can too!”

“Xara! Are you here?”

“Look straight up.”

“I don’t see you. Oh, my face feels warm. Heat vision?”

“Yes. I’m staying up too high for anyone to see me, including anyone with binoculars.”

“I’m all done here, Xara. Do you want to meet for lunch?”

“I’ll meet you at Hooters!”


Hooters, in Tacoma. I didn’t know why she wanted to have lunch there. When I got there, she was dressed like a Hooters waitress. Not with the Hooters logo, but in a shirt that showed plenty of cleavage, and shorts.

We got a table, and she held my hand, then leaned over and kissed me. It was a nice kiss.

“That was nice,” I said.

“We have an audience,” she replied. “I want everyone here to know how special you are.”

I looked around. We were being noticed. Or I should say, Xara was being noticed. Though her kiss got a few looks for me too.

We ordered lunch, and while we were eating a manager came to our table.

“Excuse me, miss,” he said. “I don’t want to interrupt your lunch. But if you ever decide you need a job, here’s an application.”

Xara smiled at him and said, “I’ll keep this in case med school doesn’t work out.”

The manager didn’t know if she was serious or not.

“She’s serious,” I said.

“Well, just keep the application in case …” and he went back to wherever Hooters managers go. If he was disappointed that Xara wasn’t filling out an application, he wasn’t disappointed when he saw the size of our order.

A few years back Gloria and I ate here, and she ordered and ate a ton of food. I swear Xara was determined to outdo her.

During her third dessert I excused myself to go to the men’s room. A guy followed me in and started asking questions.

“That gorgeous blonde, is she your girlfriend?”

“She’s my wife.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“You’re rich, right?”

I was wearing fatigues. So was he.

“Dude, look at me! How many rich E5s do you know? She comes from a wealthy family.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“How the hell did a guy like you get a woman like that?”

“I ask myself that every day, soldier.”

“Does she have a sister?”

That made me laugh.

“Sorry, she’s an only child.”

Xara and I were in the connection. She heard every word.

“You could tell him your mother-in-law is single.”

That made me laugh, too. The soldier looked at me funny, then went about his business.

We finished eating and paid the bill, it was a pretty big bill for two people, and out in the parking lot I asked Xara, “Are you going to fly home or ride with me?”

“I’ll drive us home. I found something and I want to try it out with you.”

“Okay. What did you find?”

“I’ll explain it when we get on the freeway.”

That didn’t take long. You can see Hooters from the freeway, we just had to make our way to the 56th St. on ramp.

“You can find anything on the internet, Joe.”

“Okay, what did you find?”

“Flashcards, to help you study for your E6 board.”

I knew about that but didn’t tell her.

“Really? Who would have thought?”

“We’re in the connection, Joe. I know you knew.”

“Is there any way I can hide my thoughts from you?”

“Just ask, darling, and I’ll take it to a high level.”

Taking it to a high level meant she wasn’t listening in but would hear me if I called.

“Anyway, Mr. Smarty Pants, I memorized all the flashcards. So I can quiz you.”

“Oh. What does this have to do with you driving?”

“I can quiz you and concentrate on driving at the same time. That’s safer than you trying to answer questions while driving.”

“Okay, I think I could handle that, but I won’t argue the point with you.”

“Good. Because if you did, you’d lose.”

For the next 2 ½ hours Xara quizzed me. If I got the answer wrong, she would tell me the correct answer, have me go over it a few times, then get back to the quiz. In retrospect, it was very effective. Really boring. Life sucking boring. But I needed the work, so we did it.

For the next several days I hit the books and she’d hit me with random quizzes.


Janelle didn’t know who was behind the latest attempt on her life, but all the councilmen were acting very… careful around her. Could they all have been in on it? Once again, she cursed herself for not interrogating one or both of the police officers before she killed them.

And now there was something new: Unions! There are unions here and she has to learn how to deal with them. She has to learn what they are!

Janelle was in her clinic and had just seen her last patient for the day when two men, workers, from the looks of them, came to her office to see her.

“Councilwoman Janelle, I am Pedro, this is Edgardo. We live in this district and work for the sanitation department.”

“Please, Senores, come in and sit down,” she said.

They did, and Janelle asked, “What can I do for you?”

“Councilwoman, our union, the Sanitation Workers Union, has a health plan. It is part of our contract with the city. But the health plan doesn’t pay the right amount of benefits. It pays part, a small part, and we must pay the rest.”

“I see,” said Janelle, even though she didn’t. “How can I be of service to you?”

“Councilwoman Janelle,” began Edgardo, “we think there is plenty of money in the health plan to pay our benefits, but the union bosses take much of it for themselves. We’ve tried to bring it up at our union meetings, but we are told to keep quiet if we want to keep our jobs.”

Janelle was listening but didn’t understand what it was they wanted from her. Pedro helped clarify it for her.

“Our contract with the city specifies how much money the city contributes to our health plan and how much the workers contribute. And the city is supposed to audit the health plan every year to make sure its contribution meets the contract requirements. But the union tells the city all the benefits are being paid. But senorita, it isn’t true. Edgardo’s children had doctor’s visits last week and the union made him pay for over half of it. The health plan should have paid much more.”

“You want me to help you with this, senores?” asked Janelle.

“We’ve been to the city council before and nothing has ever changed,” said Pedro. “But you have shown you are able to get things done, to make things right. Please councilwoman Janelle, please help us.”

“I can’t promise you the results you want,” said Janelle, “but I can promise I will look into it and if there is anything I can do to make things right, I will.”

“Thank you, councilwoman,” said Edgardo. “All of the sanitation workers who live in your district voted for you. We believe in you.”

The men left and Janelle called Miguel, who was waiting to drive her home, into her office and had him shut the door behind him.

“Miguel, I need you to explain to me what unions are and why the city has them.”

Miguel actually knew quite a bit about labor movements and the history of unionization in his country. He and Janelle talked about it for over an hour, then Miguel invited her to dine with his family, which she accepted (and which wasn’t unusual, Juanita joked that they should have a permanent place at their table for her). After dinner, Janelle asked questions about unions and the city for over an hour before Miguel drove her home.

This was so different from Aria. On Aria a Prime told a Beta what to do, and if the Beta didn’t do it to the Prime’s satisfaction the Prime killed them, then found another Beta to do the job. The constant threat of death kept the Betas in line and motivated them to excel at every assignment given them by a Prime. At least that’s what used to happen, before the losses of the war of conquest raised the value of the Beta’s lives. She understood that the Terran worlds did things differently, but she had no idea that they could make labor so complex. Collective bargaining … how did they come up with that?

The next morning, she made an appointment with the City office that handled all labor contracts. She wanted to see these contracts for herself.

In the afternoon she checked her secure communication device for messages. She found a message from Near Earth Command, NEC, that revealed new information.

An Arion ship had been transiting a wormhole when it found a Velorian trying to escape the gravity of the black hole and exit. He was circling the wormhole, accelerating as hard as he could, to build up the necessary escape velocity. He had been at this for some time and was near exhaustion when he was picked up.

There was a Prime on board the ship who tortured and interrogated the Velorian before killing him. According to the Prime, the Velorian claimed to be a Matra from a diplomatic post on Xanadu. He was being sent back to Velor when the ship he was on was attacked. The hull of his ship was breached near his quarters, and he fled the battle area.

Under torture he revealed a great deal of information, however, Arion High Command deemed it misinformation; some of what he said was unbelievable.

Here is where it got interesting for Janelle. The Velorian claimed he met a Protector, assigned to Terra, who was married to a Terran named Chouridgie. This Chouridgie was Kiraling to two Protectors, a Scribe and a Messenger. This was the piece of information that convinced High Command that this Velorian was sent on a suicide mission to deceive the Empire. A Terran Kiraling? To four P1 and higher Velorians? The Kiraling custom had very specific criteria, and the captured Velorian claimed that the Terran had saved the lives of four very powerful Velorians but had no details as to how such an unlikely event had occurred.

This convinced High Command that the rumored marriage of a Velorian to a Terran was a counterintelligence operation, designed to keep assets on Terra engaged in tracking down the rumor and possibly revealing themselves to the Protectors.

This made sense to Janelle. She never really believed that a Supremis, especially a Protector, would marry a Terran. And she agreed with High Command that the idea of a Kiraling, four times over to P1s, was ridiculous. But still, it was better to be safe than sorry. So she looked at that name, Chouridgie, and tried to decipher it. The name was obtained from a Velorian and likely phonetically translated into Arion. So she tried to reverse the process, translating the phonetic Arion back into Velorian, and then searching databases, the Terran internet made that fairly easy, to see if it matched any Terran names.

Terrans had given names and surnames. In some languages the surname came first, in others it came last. She made an assumption that Choridgie was a mashing together of a given name with a surname, or the other way around. But she couldn’t find any names in any languages that would fit. So she decided High Command was correct, there was no Terran-Velorian marriage, or a Terran Kiraling.

Chapter 251

I hit the books pretty hard, and Xara was quizzing me. Want to know what FM 6-22 covers? I could tell you in my sleep. Want to know the definitions of leadership and purpose? I had them down cold.

A few days after I passed the fitness and rifle range tests, another box from Amazon arrived. This one had two slingshots and over a thousand rounds of … round steel balls.

“Xara, we aren’t going to have fights with these, are we? These things can do real damage.”

“To you, yes, they can. So no, we won’t be having fights with them. I thought it would be fun to learn how to use them.”

So we went out back, into the woods and started launching ball bearings at trees. Xara got very good at it right away. It took me longer, initially I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. From the inside. Xara helped me and in a couple of weeks I was hitting targets from 50 feet away.

After I had some accuracy, Xara would go stand next to the target and put her hand over it, palm facing me.  I’d aim for her hand, the objective being that she would be able to catch the ball without moving her hand. She caught every ball, sometimes she had to move her arm to do so, but I was getting very good at hitting her palm.

Then she set up two targets, right next to each other. She would stand to either the left or the right of the targets, and I’d aim at the one next to her. Using just her index finger, she’d reach out and deflect the ball just enough to make it hit the other target, dead center. Then, to make it harder, she separated the two targets by about five feet. I’d aim for the one next to her and she’d deflect it, again, hitting the other target dead center. It happened faster than I could see, so she set up a camera to record it, then played it back in slow motion so I could see what was happening. It was amazing!

“I can do this with bullets too,” she said.


“Really. Do you want to go back to our range in the mountains and try?”


We had taken down the range we set up when I wanted to work on my marksmanship. So we made it simpler this time, with four targets, spaced five feet apart on a perpendicular line that ran from my left to my right, for a total separation from the first target to the last of 15 feet. I used our M4, from the lair. This time I put an ACOG on the rifle.

First, I sighted in on each target, making sure I could hit them from 50 yards. No problem.

Then Xara stood 10 yards to the left of the first target. I fired at it, Xara did her thing, and the bullet hit the 2nd target dead center. I fired again, aiming at the first target, and the bullet hit the third target dead center, and so on. Xara was moving faster than I could see. I’d fire at the first target, with Xara 10 yards to the left of it, and then I’d see her standing closer to the first target and my bullet would be hitting the next target.

It was utterly amazing. Then she mixed it up a bit.

She took off her flight suit and floated to me and kissed me, and her nipples became hard.

“Now I’m going to redirect the bullets with my nipples!”

“No way!” I said.

“Way!” She replied with a laugh.

So she took her place and I fired at the first target and son of a bitch, she deflected the bullet to the next target with a nipple. And then the third target, then the fourth. Or so she said.

“How do I know you did that with a nipple? You’re moving so fast I can’t see what you are doing.”

She floated back to me and said, “Take a look.”

There were smudges on her nipples. Lead smudges.

“See,” she said while she rubbed them off, “that’s where the bullets rubbed against my nipples. Let’s do it some more, it feels good.”

It feels good. I stood there dumbfounded while she flew back to the targets.

“I’m waiting,” she called out.

I fired, she deflected the bullet into the next target, with her nipple. I went through four 30 round magazines. Xara was having a blast.

When I was out of ammunition, she flew back to me.

“That was a good warm up. Let’s fly back home and shower together.”

And that’s what we did. She had three orgasms in the shower. I lost count of how many I had.

Xara told her mother what we had been up to and a few days later I was shooting at targets while five naked blondes were deflecting bullets with their nipples.

Bri-An and Juliet decided to do it upside down. They hung in mid-air, upside down, and chased down the bullets I fired and deflected them with their nipples. They thought it was fun. I have no idea why, but they were having a good time and when we got back to the house, they nearly exhausted me.

I say nearly, because Xara was keeping an eye on me, as was Gloria, to make sure I wasn’t pushed beyond my limits. That resulted in four of them heading out to find Terran men to enjoy, leaving me alone with Xara. Or almost alone. Gloria and Mona were still there.


This business with the unions was exhausting. First, Janelle had to fight the contracts office to get copies of the contracts, even though the City Council had oversight responsibilities.

Then the mayor and the rest of the City Council were being difficult and evasive when she asked questions, for no apparent reason that Janelle could understand.

Then there were the unions themselves, or rather the union leadership. The rank and file, that’s what Miguel called them, the rank and file, the union members, the men and women who did the actual work, supported her, at least the ones who lived in her district did. And many others too. But their leaders resisted her attempts to look at the financials, the expenditures on behalf of union members. And when she talked to “the rank and file,” she discovered that many of them were afraid of their leaders. They didn’t come out and tell her this, but she could tell, by the nervous looks they gave each other when she asked questions, that they were afraid.

Janelle and Miguel spent hours poring over the contracts and the financials, and then Miguel seemed to come to a conclusion.

“What is it, my friend, that you see that I don’t?”

He pointed at one of the documents, the union charter, and said, “Senorita Janelle, perhaps we should take a ride?”

“Miguel, how many times have I asked you to call me Janelle when we are alone?”

“I’m sorry, Janelle, it is hard to get used to.”

“Where are going on this ride?”

“You can see here what the union bosses are being paid. And we have their home addresses too,” he said pointing to some other documents.

“Yes, go on.”

“Senor … Janelle, they live in very nice neighborhoods. They are paid well, but are they paid that well? Let’s see where they live.”

So Miguel and Janelle started driving around, locating the homes of the union bosses. And what they saw confirmed Miguel’s suspicions and opened Janelle’s eyes.

“Miguel, their homes, the cars they own, are not in line with what they are paid. It is almost as if they were drug lords.”

“I think they are stealing from the unions they run,” said Miguel.

“I think you may be right. Take me home, then you go home and get a good night’s sleep. We’ll look at this again in the morning.”

Janelle didn’t need very much sleep, but she could see Miguel was getting tired, and she had learned from experience that she got the best of him when he was fresh and well rested. And she was beginning to worry that she may be keeping him away from his family too much. And that surprised her. She had to admit that she had formed a very strong attachment to this frail and his family. She would have to think about how he would be rewarded, and protected, when Aria took control of this planet.

Chapter 252

I wasn’t sure what was going on. Colonel Moore arranged for my E6 board to be held at the Pentagon. The Pentagon! And she also wanted to debrief me on my off planet trip, but she was ordered not to do so until my “formal” debrief.

Kara, Sharon and Xara were also invited to come to my debriefing, the SecDef would be there, and we were told that there would be people from the State Department too.

Kara called the SecDef and asked him what was going on. He told her, rather sheepishly (she had him on speaker so I could listen in) that the new SecState had been asking the President to allow his department to take a more active role in ‘dealing with extraterrestrials.’

Colonel Moore wasn’t sure what was going on either, she said she’d be finding out at the same time Kara was.

Kara was suspicious. She had been assured on multiple occasions that the State Department would be kept at a distance. She was worried about what would happen to me.

“Me? Why are you worried about me?”

“You may be asked to reveal information that is off limits according to the agreement I have with your government.”

“Well, if you’re there, you can just interject and cut the questioning off.”

“I’m not convinced I’ll be present,” she replied.

“Do you think they’re going to separate us?” I asked.

“I’m worried that they might pressure you to reveal information they are not entitled to. Joseph, I am worried that you may be put in a position where you are between two authorities. Myself and your government.”

“I can help with that, mom,” said Xara.

We both turned to her and asked, “How?” in unison at the same time.

“Joe and I can be in a connection. You and I can be in physical contact so you can hear the questions he’s getting. If they stray into an area they aren’t supposed to, according to the agreement, you can site chapter and verse, Joe will hear it, and he can site chapter and verse.”

“Or Kara can listen in on my watch.”

Kara said, “Yes, I think either way will work. Let’s test it.”

Gloria was called to be my interrogator. This was just practice. Shit o’ dear, if you are ever interrogated by Gloria, just tell her what she wants to know. She can be downright scary.

Xara and Kara flew off somewhere. Gloria started asking questions from a list Kara gave her. She really put herself into the part, in a scary way.

She’d ask the question and I’d hear Kara, in my head, tell me to answer, or provide me with an answer: This question violates section such and such paragraph such and such of the agreement between the government and Kara. That kind of thing.

Then Gloria decided to make things more interesting. She asked a question that wasn’t on Kara’s list: why I went off planet. As soon as she asked that, there was just silence over the connection. Then, in my head, I heard Xara say to Kara, “Mom, we should have thought of that.”

I couldn’t see them, of course, but the impression I got was that it was a real palm slap to the head moment. Then Xara said, “You went to Xanadu to witness your wife’s ascension to Protector.”

I said to Gloria, “My wife went to Xanadu to take her Protector’s test. I went along as her guest. It was a very important test for her, and a very significant accomplishment in the life of a Velorian.”

Gloria said, “Good answer. But you hesitated too long. That raises red flags.”

Xara said, in the connection, “We’ll be faster on our feet Joe, don’t worry about it.”

Then Xara decided to make it a little more interesting. I’m looking at Gloria, but I’m not seeing Gloria. I’m seeing a very naked Xara in front of me dancing in a most … seductive manner.

“Why are you becoming aroused?” Gloria asked.

“Xara’s … I’m seeing Xara in front of me. She’s doing things to … turn me on.”

“This is not helping!”

“Xara says no, it isn’t helping, but she’s getting bored, and this is more fun.”

Then I heard Kara laugh and say we were finished. When Xara got back we excused ourselves and went into the bedroom.

The next morning, I received orders to report to the Pentagon in four weeks for my promotion board followed by a series of debriefings. This was puzzling to me, as I thought the DoD and other agencies would want to debrief me on my off-planet trip ASAP. So I asked Colonel Moore about that. She said there were inter-agency negotiations, posturing and maneuvering happening and they couldn’t agree on a date, or who would be included. And that I should be prepared to see the date of the debrief pushed out, but she wouldn’t let the promotion board be rescheduled.

Xara helped me study for my board and when we weren’t doing that, we were going up to our firing range in the mountains. At Xara’s urging I took different firearms with me, including the rifle the Xanadusians gave me.

We had found a machinist in town who was also a gunsmith. I showed him the rifle and the ammunition, and he said he could manufacture ammunition, casings, primer, powder, bullets, everything. The guy knew firearms, including antiques, and he had questions about it. A lot of questions. Fortunately, Xara was with me, and with the use of her trust pheromones, she was able to convince the guy that this was an antique rifle he had never seen before, and there was nothing wrong with that.

I was breathing the same pheromones he was, and I believed it too, and would have continued to believe it if Xara hadn’t explained it all to me after the pheromones cleared my system.

Two days later, Xara wanted to go up to the mountains, to the firing range. She said deflecting bullets with nothing but her nipples was fun. Don’t ask, I don’t know why either, but all the blondes thought that was great fun.

When we got to the mountains, with the Xanadusian rifle, Xara helped me set up all the targets, then undressed and said, “Joe, I know what I want for my birthday.”

I started to undress, and she said, “No, not that. We can do that any time. And we will when we get home.

“You’ve shot me with a Nerf gun, a sling shot, and gel balls. You’ve seen me deflect bullets with my fingers and my nipples. I’ve been trying to build up to … “

“Me shooting you,” I said.

“Yes,” she said, “you knew.”

“No, I didn’t, Xara, not until now.”

“Seriously? You didn’t pick up on any clues?”

“I guess I should have.”

We looked at each other for a few moments and she said, “Well, what do you think?”

“Let’s work up to it,” I said. “Stand by the targets and catch the bullets.”

“I’ll do better than that,” she said. “I’ll stand next to you and catch the bullets.”

“You’re that fast?”

“Faster than a speeding bullet,” she said with a laugh.

So she stood next to me, I took aim at one of the targets, pulled the trigger, and between the recoil and the turbulence she created when she went after the bullet I was spun around and landed on my ass.

She helped me up with one hand and showed me the bullet in the other.

She looked around and saw some large rocks, small boulders, really, and brought them over to my shooting position, and arranged them so I could stand between them and still shoot the target.

“Let’s see if this helps you stay on your feet,” she said.

I took aim, fired, and the rocks disrupted the air turbulence enough that all I had to deal with was the recoil, which, considering the technology of the rifle I was using, was pretty manageable. I stayed on my feet.

“Okay, Joe, this time we’ll do it a little differently. Aim at the target and fire.”

I did. Xara started off right next to me and the next thing I knew she was standing in front of the target. She bent over and picked up the bullet and brought it back to me to see.

“I maneuvered so it would hit my abs straight on.”

The bullet was flattened, like I had shot it against a solid steel wall. Xara had a lead smudge on her tummy that she rubbed off.

“Let’s do it a little differently,” she said.

She went downrange and stood next to the target. I took aim and fired, and there she was, in front of the target. She picked up the bullet and brought it back to me. It was flattened. The smudge was on her nipple.

“Let’s try again,” she said.

She flew back to the target and stood directly in front of it. I aimed. And aimed. And aimed. I tried to pull the trigger, but my hands started to tremble. I tried really, really hard and I broke out into a sweat. I felt my legs get rubbery and then Xara was at my side, taking the rifle out of my hands and pulling me into her embrace.

“It’s okay, Joe,” she said, “you tried, that’s all I can ask for.”

On the one hand, I was happy that she wasn’t angry with me. On the other hand, I wondered why it was so important to her that I shoot her.

Back at the house, she told Gloria and Mona what had happened. Gloria just shrugged her shoulders when I asked, again, why it was so important that I shoot my wife. Or any of the ladies. Mona spoke up.

“You don’t see it, Joe, but for them, demonstrating their superiority over someone they love is a sign of affection.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“No, it doesn’t,” she replied, “but the Supremis mind, especially the mind of the Prime and the P1, work differently.”

Well, I knew that. Spend any time at all with the ladies when they let their hair down and you’ll figure that out.


Janelle didn’t know if she should be flattered, angry, happy or sad. She just knew that she was befuddled.

The union bosses were unhappy with her meddling in their business. She was going to cost them money if she didn’t let this thing with the health plans go, and she had been told, and warned, that she should do so. But still she persisted. Janelle had several meetings with them and the last one devolved into angry shouting and threats to have an election to recall her.

And so the union bosses decided to take action. They would portray her as an enemy of the working men and women of the city and order the workers to demonstrate their displeasure. They had signs made, ‘Keep Your Hands Off Our Healthcare,’ ‘Recall Councilwoman Janelle Gann,’ ‘Janelle Gann Hates the Working Class,’ and distributed to all the shop stewards with instructions to pull the workers off the job and to picket her clinic. All the media organizations would be tipped off and the union bosses would be there to make speeches against her.

But on the day of the picketing, no one came to pick up signs and board the buses to Janelle’s clinic. In fact, when Janelle arrived at the clinic to open for the day, she was met with cheering workers, holding up handmade signs supporting her and describing her as the friend of the worker. There were even “Janelle Gann for Mayor” signs.

When her patients began arriving, instead of being blocked out of the clinic as the shop stewards had ordered, they were escorted to the front door.

And the media! The media showed up in force and interviewed the workers, who all said Janelle was standing up for their rights. So many reporters wanted to interview her that Janelle called Miguel and asked him to organize the interviews and remind the reporters that she had patients to see.

The union bosses were flabbergasted. The council members who had come to support the union bosses didn’t know what to do or say when the reporters started asking them questions.

Nothing in her experience had prepared Janelle for this. Nothing in her Arion training had prepared her for this.

The union bosses met and decided they had to deal with Janelle once and for all. However, nothing in their experience had prepared them to deal with the wrath of an Arion Prime, and when their allies on the council pointed out to them what had happened to the gangs who opposed her, they didn’t listen.

Chapter 253

Xara was enrolling in school and reestablishing herself with the faculty. And, of course, we were invited to a mixer. I say, ‘of course,’ in hindsight. I had no idea that would happen, but after we were invited, I realized it made sense.

Xara’s cover story for her absence was that she had been taking such a heavy courseload that it was affecting her mental health and she had to take a year off. She said she spent the year interning with her mother’s pharmaceutical company. No one questioned her story, everyone knew how heavy her courseload was, and it was no surprise that she might need some time off, though many people remarked that they hadn’t seen the signs.

At the mixer, no one asked or cared about what I was doing while my wife was in California, which was fine with me.

I’ve always known that men are attracted to Xara. Like all the Velorian women I’ve met, she exudes sexuality. Without trying to. So yeah, men are attracted to her, and it doesn’t bother me. And like all the Velorian women I’ve met, she enjoys the attention. And that doesn’t bother me either. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t fucking bother me! Okay? Let it go Johnson! Shut up about it Dickson!

What does bother me is the men who choose to ignore her always prominently displayed wedding ring. Something about watching a guy hitting on my wife, while I’m in the room, makes me think of all the ways I’ve learned to kill since I enlisted. Well, not really. But it does piss me off.

At this mixer there was a newly minted PhD who had been hired as an adjunct professor. He was young, younger than me, anyway, tall, taller than me, fit, maybe as fit as me, I don’t know, and very handsome.

He was standing with me and Xara, completely ignoring me and regaling her with stories of his mountain climbing exploits.

“I’m planning on climbing Mt. Baker in the near future,” said Professor Asshole. “It’s a very technical climb, all the routes to the summit cross glaciers. I’d be more than happy to show you how it’s done if you’re interested.”

“Oh, that’s a very enjoyable climb,” said Xara. And then she pulled out her phone and showed him selfies she took of the two of us at the summit of Mt. Baker.

“The summit is called Grant Peak,” I said, “and it is actually a 1,300 foot mound of ice over a large crater.”

That took the wind out of his sails, but he wasn’t ready to give up.

“Oh, you’ve been there. Well, I’m also planning to climb Glacier Peak …”

Before he could get anymore out, Xara was swiping through her phone and showed him pictures of us at the summit of Glacier Peak.

“You don’t have to cross glaciers in the late summer,” I said, “despite the name.”

He was done. But Xara wasn’t. She showed him pictures of us atop Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and a few others. Of course, we didn’t climb, we flew, but he didn’t need to know that. So he gave up on that and turned the subject to his research.

“I think we took his ego down a notch or two,” said Xara in the connection. “I’ve seen his research. It’s boring, you can go talk to other people if you’d like. You don’t have to worry about me going home with this guy.” She said that last part, in the connection, with a giggle. It’s a unique experience.

“No. I’ll stay here with you.”

“You won’t start any trouble?”

“No. I won’t. I never do.”

“Uh huh.”

I never start trouble. I’ve finished it a couple of times, but I’ve never started it.

Xara was right. Listening to him drone on about his research started making me long for those nights hiding in ambush up to my waist in an open air sewer in Iraq. My mind was wandering but was brought back to the conversation when I heard Professor Asshole invite Xara to see his lab.

“Danni, if you’re interested, I can give you a tour of my lab.”

Xara put her arm around me and said, “Let’s do that! Joe doesn’t get to campus all that often. Joe, want to tour his lab with me?”

“Earth to Joe, just go with it.”

“Sure, that sounds interesting,” I lied.

Professor Asshole didn’t look happy.

“Uh, okay,” he said, “I’ll let you know when I have time, Danni. Oh, there’s the department chair. I need to talk to him.” And he left.

As he walked away, Xara said, “He hasn’t even set his lab up yet. He was just looking for an opportunity to get into my pants.”

“I was drifting in and out of the conversation, Xara. Is he doing anything groundbreaking in his research?”

“No. He’s attempting to duplicate someone else’s results. He doesn’t think I know that though, he assumes I don’t read the journals.”

Xara does read the journals. A lot of them. I went to the Wilson Library on campus a couple of times with her when she made one of her monthly trips to read the latest journals and journal abstracts. She can read, and absorb, the information as fast as she can turn the pages. It’s amazing to see. People nearby who see her assume she is just skimming the abstracts.

She can see through the page too and read what is on the backside. She can do that for a whole book if she wants to. Once, she had me shuffle a deck of cards and put it down in front of her. She looked at it, for just a second, then wrote down the cards in the order they were stacked in the deck. I turned them over one by one and compared them to her list, she was spot on.

But usually, she prefers to go through a book or a magazine, or a journal, one page at a time.

Anyway, back to Professor Marriage Wrecker. He came around Xara a couple more times that evening, but each time she saw him coming and put an arm around me and gave me a kiss.

One of the graduate students, a woman, came up to us just before we were leaving.

“You really deflated his ego,” she laughed.

Xara laughed and said, “It was fun. I noticed him hitting on you tonight too.”

“Yes,” she said, “He’s great looking and sexy as hell. But I’m not interested in being the consolation prize.”

Consolation prize. That’s how a lot of women assess themselves in comparison to Xara. Whenever we go to a social function with people she knows, the women who introduce her to their husbands or boyfriends always quickly add, “And this is Joe Ricci, Danni’s husband.”

Like I said, the blondes enjoy the attention they get from men, but they draw a line when it comes to married men and boyfriends. Well, Kara and Xara do. Sharon talks the talk, but I’ve seen evidence that she does not walk the walk.

Of course, Xara made a promise, no Terran men except for me. And I trust her. It’s the men I don’t trust.

You’d think being married to the woman that every man wants would be a real boost to my ego. And it is, sort of. But I also know what men like Professor Fuck Face are thinking, and I don’t like it.

Xara has an interesting perspective on it.

“Yes, I like being desired by men. I love the attention I get. But I don’t like it when they think they can hit on me and get me to cheat on my husband. It is insulting to both of us.”

Did you get that? “… cheat on my husband …” Velorians don’t view cheating as … cheating. To them sexual infidelity is an oxymoron. Extramarital sex is almost a team sport for them. It’s common and it’s expected. Just ask Sharon.

So that’s a huge concession that Xara has made to me and to our relationship, and I respect her for it. But I had to ask.

“Of course Terran taboos around married couples are ridiculous, from a strictly Velorian point of view. But I’ve tried to see things your way, and being able to get into your head has helped with that.

“For Terrans, there is more to sex than just the pleasure involved. You have so little control over procreation, you are so vulnerable to STDs, you have concerns about inheritance and parental rights and responsibilities. It’s no wonder you’ve built morals and ethics around it.

“But mostly, it’s important to you, and I love you, so it’s going to be important to me. And since sex with Velorians does not come with the baggage sex with Terrans comes with, and since we have agreed that Velorian customs apply to both of us when it comes to sex with other Velorians, it is easy for me to live with.”

Xara decided she wanted to entertain at our home, have a party. It’s a great home for that, being huge and on the lake. We’d have to keep our cleaning robot out of sight and make sure our guests couldn’t find their way to the lair. Fortunately, the house was designed for that.

I think Velorians are genetically wired to love parties. At least the P1 female Velorians I know are. Xara told her mom she wanted to host a party for biology department professors and graduate students and Kara asked for an invitation, which Xara gave her. Then Sharon called and asked for an invite. Then Bri-An and Juliet said they wanted to come too, and Xara okayed all of them. Then Gloria insisted that she basically cater it, and if Gloria was going to be there, that meant Mona too.

“Xara, why do all these Supremis women want to come to your party?”

“Well, we’ve never had a party like this before at our house. And Gloria and Mona will be a big help. And there will be a lot of well-educated men here, some of them good looking, and some of them single, and we’ve got the bedrooms to accommodate it …”

“We have five bedrooms upstairs,” I said. “We aren’t letting anyone into the downstairs bedrooms. The lair is off limits to Terrans, remember?”

“Joe, if any of the Supremis ladies want to keep a man overnight they’ll have to negotiate among themselves. Otherwise, for quickies, five bedrooms will be plenty.”

“Four,” I said, “our bedroom will be off limits to guests.”

“Four then,” agreed Xara, “I’ll let the girls know they have to manage with four bedrooms. Maybe Mona can make a schedule.”

“Are you at all concerned that our home may acquire a reputation for being the Biology Department sex house?”

“What do you mean?”

“Imagine Sharon finds two men she likes. She takes one, then when she’s finished with him, she takes another. Meanwhile your mom, Juliet and Bri-An each take a man or two.

“And men talk and compare experiences and exaggerate. Do you want people you go to school with, and learn from, talking about the beautiful easy women they picked up at a party at your house? And one of them is your mother?”

“Picked up? They picked up? The men won’t be the ones choosing partners.”

“They won’t see it that way Xara, and even if they do, they won’t tell it that way.”

That made her stop and think. So she got all the ladies on a conference call and told them the problem and said the men who come to the party, and the women too (for Sharon) will be off limits. She didn’t want stories and rumors spreading about her house or family.

Kara got it. Right away. So did Sharon. Bri-An and Juliet put up a little bit of a fight but were not going to push it with Kara. Gloria and Mona said fine. They weren’t happy about it, but once Kara made her decision, they were going to follow it.

“And no pheromones,” I said. “Don’t get the men all hyped up and frustrated just because you are.”

“You’re a real kill-joy,” said Bri-An.

I thought they’d decide to not to come, but they all said they would, even if they couldn’t, “raid the pantry,” as Gloria put it.

Kara, who has held a lot of parties in her lifetime, however long that may be, helped Xara plan it. Gloria and Mona did all the food and alcohol prep for it and everything came off without a hitch. Almost.

The Supremis behaved themselves. Oh, they were flirty, no doubt about that, but they weren’t over the top. Actually, for them, they were quite subdued. And, of course, none of them dressed conservatively, but again, for them, they did not go over the top. Though it was obvious to all they neither wore, nor needed, bras.

Yes, they all behaved themselves. But being Supremis women, who are the most beautiful women anywhere, they were noticed. And that made girlfriends and wives unhappy. Xara shared with me, in the connection, some of the angry whispering she was hearing.

And the single men … They can be divided into two groups. The nerdy shy ones … wait, these are scientists. So they are all nerdy. Umm, that may be unfair, I’ll go with my first description. The nerdy shy ones, and the not-at-all shy ones.

The not-at-all shy ones hit on the Supremis ladies non-stop. And they were all shut down. Politely, but shut down none the less. The ladies were keeping to the agreement.

The shy ones, the ones who didn’t have the nerve to approach a beautiful woman, for fear of being humiliated … I swear, the Supremis ladies can smell their fear. And they found that somehow attractive.

I’ve had plenty of experience watching Supremis women. They like their men fit, tall, handsome (yours truly an exception), confident and secure. But they also have a soft spot in their hearts for the shy type who is intimidated by their beauty. And so they sought these guys out and talked to them, asked them questions about their fields of study, and went out of their way to make them feel comfortable without leading them on. Which is a trick in itself, because if a woman like Juliet or Mona takes and interest in you, you’re going to want to feel like you are being led on, and for the most part, they are happy to do it. But not this time, they just made them feel comfortable talking to beautiful women.

And I think the ladies also enjoyed being able to make a man almost pee himself just by walking up to him and saying hello, and then build up his confidence.

They succeeded in bringing these guys out of their shells. The conversation would start with the nerd being unable to make eye contact, they’d look at the floor or ceiling. Then gradually, over a few minutes, their confidence would begin to build, and soon they were looking the ladies in the eye, many had to look up to do so, and were making jokes with them. Mona, I learned, is very good at this and took a liking to one young man and they exchanged phone numbers.

But the wives and girlfriends, they weren’t so happy. All of the women in the department knew Xara, or Danni, to them. They all knew she was a beauty and were used to catching their significant others stealing glances at her at department functions. But they weren’t prepared to walk into a house full of Supremis women.

I found out after the fact that the ladies did team up on Professor Fuckface. Xara had told them how he tried to make a move on her, right in front of me. So they hatched a little plan. Every single time Professor I-respect-no-boundaries tried to start up a conversation with one of the beauties, she’d come over and start talking to me, touching my arm or kissing me on the cheek, laughing like something I said was just the most hilarious thing they’d ever heard, basically flirting with me. At first, when Gloria did it, I was confused, but then I heard Xara in my head, saying, “Just go with it, Joe.”

Professor Shithead was watching the ladies talking up the nerds and it must have been driving him nuts to see these gorgeous women talking to them while completely ignoring him. At least I hope it did. The bastard.

Yeah, it bothered him. He ended up getting hammered. At the end of the night Sharon volunteered to drive him home, in his car. She loaded him into the backseat and drove him to the apartment complex he lived in and then left him there, in the car, to sleep it off because, she said, “He and the backseat were covered in puke. It was gross.”


After everyone left, I brought Rosey up from the lair and let it start cleaning up. I sat down with Xara and Kara to do our after action report.

“The wives and girlfriends weren’t very happy,” I said.

“We behaved ourselves!” Replied Kara.

“Their problem is with their men, not us,” said Xara.

“You don’t think some of that will spill over to you?” I asked.

“I hope not,” she replied.

Gloria and Mona sat down with us.

“Boss,” said Gloria to Kara, “we have something to ask you about.”

Kara arched her eyebrows and Gloria continued.

“Mona and I have not formed any relationships of significant length with Terran men.”

“Yes,” said Kara.

“I met a man tonight,” said Mona, “and I’d like to get to know him better.”

“That shy young man I saw you talking to?”


“Do you think he’ll call you?” I asked.

“No, he’s much too shy. If Kara approves, I’ll call him.”

Kara took a deep breath, let it out, and said, “Alright, but be careful. Don’t let him know you are a Supremis.”

“No, I won’t,” said Mona.

“And consider that you spend most of your time in California.”

“Mom, if it works out for her, she can stay here,” Xara volunteered.

“Mission first, Xara.” Replied Kara. And then she closed that conversation by changing the subject.

“We have to discuss Joe’s debrief. How much do we want to tell them. In my opinion, less is better.”

“I’ve been thinking about it, Kara, and I disagree,” I said.

“Go on.”

“Kara, nothing has brought home to me the threat the Arions pose more than the devastation I saw on Xanadu. I think we should describe that to the government. And tell them about the attack on The Golden Cathunk too. They need to understand how serious the Arion threat is, and how powerful Velor is as an ally.

“I have pictures I took from my suit, both overhead and on the ground.”

“Ally isn’t the right word to describe our position on Terra, Joseph.”

“Alright, then just make them understand how powerful the Protectors assigned here are.”

“We’ve demonstrated our power, Joseph.”

“You’ve taken hits from heavy artillery and destroyed tanks. That barely scratches the surface.”

“What do you propose?”

“A demonstration.”

“What kind of demonstration?”

“I have an idea, mom,” said Xara.


“Suppose we maneuver a small asteroid near earth orbit. Something big enough to pose a significant danger. Then turn it into space gravel and direct that gravel this way, to create a spectacular meteor shower.”

“Ooo, I like that idea,” I said.

“I’ll think about it,” said Kara. “Joseph, show me those pictures.”

I retrieved the tablet the pictures I had taken were on and showed them to Kara and Xara.

“Well, these certainly depict the destruction,” said Kara.

I swiped by a couple to a picture, from above, showing the scores of Xanadusian bodies surrounding a single dead Beta.

“This should get the DoD’s attention,” I said.

“Xara,” said Kara, “you find an appropriate asteroid to smash. Joseph, pick out fifteen or twenty pictures that make the point that the Arion threat is real and … terrifying.”

“Kara, something is bothering me. Every time we talk about the debrief, it is my debrief. But you’ve made it clear that you think you’ll be part of it. What is the format we’re looking at?”

“I’ve made inquiries, Joseph, and I don’t have an answer for you. It appears to me that there is some tension between the DoD and the State Department.”

“Is either one of them on our side?”

“Neither are on our side, Joseph. But I know and trust DoD more.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“They’re whom I’ve been working with.”

“So better the devil you know than the one you don’t?”

“I wouldn’t call them devils, Joseph, but yes, you are correct.”


The streets around Janelle’s apartment and clinic were constantly being swept. City crews were picking up trash in the area three times a week. Bus drivers dropped off their schedules at her clinic and asked if they could help getting patients to and from their appointments. City inspectors found problems with the building that housed the clinic and made the owner address them. Immediately. Graffiti in the neighborhood was cleaned up by city crews, almost before the paint dried.

When the city workers found out where Miguel lived, he started getting the same treatment.

When the rank and file of the police department started supporting Janelle, all hell broke loose among the union bosses. They were losing control. Suddenly union members, who had been obedient sheep for years, were announcing that they were running for leadership positions.

Janelle welcomed the support but couldn’t figure out what she had done to deserve it. She had chaired a hearing on city employee medical benefits and funding. The witnesses she called stone walled her and she got no support from the rest of the city council.

“Miguel, I have done nothing for these people. Why are they supporting me the way they are?”

“Janelle, you are making an effort on their behalf. They have never seen that before. They see you as an ally.”

“Well, Miguel, not everyone is happy with me. I found another bomb under my car yesterday morning. Do not drive it anywhere unless I have inspected it.”

Janelle could see that this news frightened Miguel. He tried not to show it, but she could see it. She was determined to keep him and his family safe, so she called on the Chief of Police.

“Councilwoman Gann, how may I help you?”

“Chief,” she used his preferred title, “you said I could come to you if I needed your help.”

“Yes, I remember. So again, how may I help you?”

The chief was smiling at her. His smile disappeared when Janelle pulled a bomb out of her bag. He pushed away from his desk and stood up, ready to run.

“This was under my car,” Janelle said, “do not be afraid, I disarmed it.” And she pulled the bomb’s detonator out of her bag and set it on the desk.

“Councilwoman Gann, do you know who put it under your car? And how is it you know how to disarm a bomb.”

Janelle smiled and said, “Chief, I haven’t always been a doctor. I was trained, in a previous life. A life I would like to forget.” A lie, but one the chief believed.

“I also know a little about wiring a car, so I was able to repair the wires that attached the bomb to my car’s electrical system.”

“How did you find this bomb,” the chief asked.

“There have been attempts on my life before,” she replied. “I check my car before I get in it, or my driver gets in it.” She didn’t tell him she could see through solid objects to find the bomb or detect the scent of the explosives.

“And to answer your question, I don’t know who planted it, but I suspect the heads of the city’s unions are responsible.”

The chief nodded, then said, “I will increase patrols around your clinic, and your apartment.”

“And around my assistant’s home, please. He is my driver.”

“Miguel, of course councilwoman Gann. I will get on that right away.”

Near Earth Command (NEC) had questions, and so did High Command. The same questions Janelle had. What are unions? What are labor agreements? How does this tie into the political system?

To be sure, both NEC and High Command were pleased with the progress Janelle was making. Though some expressed concern that her Terran support was coming at the expense of the ruling elites. It occurred to one or two of the sharper minds at High Command that the situation Janelle was in was analogous to a Prime accumulating power on Aria through the support of the Betan population.

Chapter 254

Well, the asteroid idea had to be modified. After finding several candidates and then working out the physics, Xara came to the conclusion that breaking it up and letting the remains fall to earth was a bad idea. The blondes didn’t want to cause any damage, so the asteroid would have to be broken up into pieces that would burn up before they hit the ground, and that would mean a very large debris cloud, and that would put all kinds of satellites, not to mention the International Space Station, at risk. So any demonstration would have to be something that could be observed from earth, without anything coming too close to earth.

Xara and Kara came up with an alternative, bust up an asteroid that could be seen from space, like maybe putting a camera out there that could see what Xara did and transmit images back to earth. This would require a whole new level of cooperation between the blondes and, oh, I don’t know, NASA and the Dod. They were going to have to think about it.

We flew to Washington D.C. and got a hotel room the night before my board.

I passed it. Easily. Xara wanted to help, but I told her to just listen in. I told her not to feed me answers and she didn’t.

Since all my work was classified, the board couldn’t get into details of how I did my job, they had to keep it at a very high, general level. They congratulated me and said I would be on the promotion list.

After that I met with Colonel Moore.

“Sergeant, tomorrow you will start your debrief. Is there anything I should know before hand?”

I thought about that for half a second and said, “Yes, look at these,” and I opened my iPad. I’d transferred the pictures from my suit tablet to the iPad, and showed them to her, explaining what she was seeing.

“My God,” she said.

“There is a lot more to talk about,” I said, “but as you know, I’ve been instructed to save it all for the debrief. Colonel, is there any reason someone would want information withheld from you until then? I thought I’d be writing a report for you as soon as I got back.”

“I think it has something to do with the State Department, but I’m not certain,” she said. “And I don’t care for it either, I should be included in discussions and decisions about you and your work.”

“I’ll pass that on to mom,” said Xara in the connection, “maybe she can help Sarah with this.”

“Xara says she’ll pass that on to Kara,” I said.

“She’s listening?” asked Colonel Moore.

“Yes. Honestly, I’m so used to having her in my head I often forget she’s there.”

“You know, sergeant, I’ve kept my knowledge of this ability of hers to myself.”

“Oh? I didn’t know that.”

“Mom asked her to,” said Xara.

“Kara asked me to,” said Colonel Moore.

“Then I suppose I should also be discrete about it.”

I heard Colonel Moore say, “Yes, you should,” at the same time I heard Xara say, in my head, “Yes, you should.” It was a unique experience.

“Mom wishes we’d never clued Sarah in on it. She thinks it is too powerful a tool to let the government know about.”

“You mean she wants you to be able to spy on the government, through me, without anyone knowing.”

“She didn’t say that, but I agree with you.”

“The government isn’t stupid, Xara. They know I’m married to you and probably know that I don’t keep secrets from you or Kara. In fact, I think that’s spelled out in the agreement between the government and your mom.”

“I know, Joe. But there is probably some utility to keeping our connection a secret. For one, no one can pull any crap on you without me knowing about it.”

“There is that,” I replied.

“Sergeant, are you still with me?” Colonel Moore asked.

“Oh, sorry Colonel. Yes, I’m here.”

“She invited us to have dinner with her. Accept.”

“Yes, Colonel, thank you.”

“I’ll make a reservation for 7,” she said.

“We’ll be there, Colonel.”

“Very good. I have work to do here Sergeant.”

I took that as my dismissal.

“Did she say where we’re having dinner?”

“Yes. I’m sorry, Joe, I should have let you know she was talking to you. Sometimes I forget that you can’t multi-task in the connection like I can.”

I left the Pentagon and was picked up by Xara in our rental car and we went back to our hotel room. The Army had reserved a room at a local motel for me, but Kara had reserved rooms for us at a very nice hotel, so that’s where we were staying. I’d gotten a little bit of push back from the guy who’d made the motel reservation for me, but I didn’t think anything of it. Until we got to our hotel room.

We had just walked through the door when Xara reached out and took me by the elbow and stopped me.

“Someone’s been in here,” she said, in the connection.

“Well, yeah,” I replied, “housekeeping.”

“Someone else, Joe.”

“How do you know?”

“I can hear something.”

She scanned the room, then pulled me close and kissed me and said, out loud, “Let’s go down to the bar.”

“Okay,” I said.

When we got out into the hallway, she pulled out her phone and called Kara.

“Mom, someone’s bugged our room.”

She listened for a few moments and then hung up.

“Mom and Sharon are out doing some shopping. They’ll come back here and check our rooms. Let’s go down to the lobby.”

We didn’t wait long. Kara and Sharon arrived. Our rooms were all on the same floor. We took the elevator up and Xara and I waited in the hallway while Sharon and Kara checked their rooms.

“Mine is bugged too,” said Sharon.

“As is mine,” said Kara.

“What should we do, mom?”

“Check out and go to another hotel,” replied Kara.

“No.” I said.

All three blondes turned to me and waited for me to continue speaking.

“I don’t think this is the time for you to be passive, Kara. Doesn’t your agreement forbid surveillance on us?”

“It does,” said Kara.

“Can you guys remove the bugs and render them useless?”

“Easily,” said Sharon.

“Then do that,” I said, “and bring them with you to the meetings. Don’t let the government think they can violate your agreement and get away with it.”

“He’s right,” said Sharon.

“I think so too,” said Xara.

“Alright,” said Kara, “let’s exterminate some bugs.”

Five minutes later we were all in Kara’s room looking at several very small listening devices. Some had been hidden in vents, others were under furniture.

“Did you get them all?” I asked.

“We did, Joseph,” replied Kara.

Chapter 255

We got to the restaurant and parked the car, and Colonel Moore met us at the door. She approached Sharon to give her a hug and Sharon quickly stepped back and very slightly shook her head.

“There may be surveillance,” she said to the Colonel. Colonel Moore nodded and reached out her hand to each of us and we all shook hands like a group of professionals. While we waited for our table the blonde’s heads were on swivels. When we got to our table and sat down, Sharon said, “no bugs.”

“You can tell that just by looking around?” asked Colonel Moore.

“And by listening,” replied Sharon.

Then Kara pulled the bugs we’d found out of her purse and put them on the table and said, “We found these in our rooms.”

“I didn’t authorize this,” said Colonel Moore, “nor was I told of it.”

Kara put the bugs back into her purse and said, “Someone is going to explain this to me.”

“Your mom sounds serious,” I said to Xara in the connection.

“She’s pissed. She made it clear when the agreement was put in place that she wouldn’t tolerate any of us being surveilled,” Xara replied.

“Is anyone watching?” asked Colonel Moore.

“No,” said Sharon. And she reached out her hand and the Colonel took it in hers.

Colonel Moore picked a restaurant and a table that afforded us some privacy, and she and Sharon were using it. I could hear Xara giggling in my head. It’s a unique experience.

“So, what is the format of my debriefing?” I asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” replied Colonel Moore, “they’ve been keeping me in the dark.”

“Who is they?” I asked.

“My chain of command,” she replied. “I’m told the State Department may have influenced decisions. They want to hear what you have to say at the same time Defense does.”

“Sarah,” said Kara, “it is not clear to me how Reggie Dempsey found out about our trip off planet. Do you have any insight on that?”

“Yes,” said Sarah. “If you recall, we talked about this before you left. Dempsey was ‘invited’ to the Pentagon to share with us his sources of information. We asked him how he knew Joe was going to another planet. He heard about it from us.”

“Us?” asked Kara.

“This is embarrassing, Kara. Our national security infrastructure is tied together by many disparate computer systems and databases. A junior officer on a temporary assignment was given access to several systems and databases. He ran across a page of a report I wrote for SecDef about Joe’s activities, including his trip to an alien world.”

She paused.

“Tell me,” said Kara.

“He was a one of Dempsey’s frat brothers in college. The two had drinks, too many drinks … and it just went south from there.”

“Were there any repercussions?” I asked.

“Yes. You can be certain that this junior officer will never have access to any classified information again, and he is convinced that if he ever talks about anything he heard, saw or read, that he will be occupying a solitary cell in H unit at ADX for the rest of his life.

“Unfortunately, Dempsey has friends in the state department who were able to protect him from either dismissal or prosecution, but enough highly placed people in State heard about it that in order to keep them quiet, and happy, the State department would have to be read in on your … activities.”

“I thought State had been taken care of,” said Kara.

“Yes,” said Sarah, “they had, but once they heard U.S. citizens were traveling to other planets, they decided they couldn’t stay at arm’s length anymore.”

After that we made small talk. Me and Xara and Kara did. Sharon and Sarah (Colonel Moore) made goo goo eyes at each other. When we left, I rode with Kara and Xara, Sharon rode with Sarah.

Kara and Xara examined our rooms when we got to the hotel and were satisfied that there were no more bugs. They both scanned the surrounding area and determined that there was no one out there trying to spy on us.

Xara and I said good night to Kara.

“It’s still early, Xara, do you want to go down to the bar?”

“No, Joe, I don’t. Mom thinks you may be separated from us during the debrief, and we don’t know how long it will take, so I think we’ll stay in tonight and put some pleasure in the bank?”

“Some what in the what?”

“I’m going to fuck your brains out.”

Well, in the morning I still had my brains. Xara let me get six hours of sleep, which was enough for me to go on. We had breakfast with Kara and Sharon in the hotel and then, at 0900, our car arrived. It was a black Suburban. Our driver was a lieutenant, who treated the ladies with a great deal of respect and looked a little side-eyed at me.

“The ladies can sit in the back,” he said, “where they will be more comfortable. Sergeant, you sit up front with me.”

“My son-in-law will sit in the back with his wife,” said Kara. “I’ll sit with you.”

“Yes mam,” was the reply.

I hoped the lieutenant could keep his eyes on the road. The ladies were dressed in skirts, blouses, jackets and heels. The skirts were short. The blouses had low necklines. And when Kara sat down in the front seat and crossed her legs … I’ve spent so much time with these ladies, seen them in all kinds of attire, and totally naked, and I still caught my breath when they would cross one of those very long legs over the other. The lieutenant noticed. Kara smiled. But he was a professional and did his best not to stare.

The lieutenant pulled up to a door and we got out of the Suburban and were met by Colonel Moore. She, like I, was dressed in her ACUs. She shook all our hands and neither she nor Sharon gave any indication that there was anything going on between them.

Colonel Moore led us down several long corridors and into a conference room.

I’m going to take a brief detour here. I’ve been living my life largely out of uniform in a community comprised of civilians who have very little contact with active duty military people. I get a lot of stares, because of my disfigurement. Kids look at me and their parents tell them to stop, its rude. People see me and turn away.

But here, in the Pentagon, it was different. The people here were all military, or civilians closely involved with the military, and my appearance didn’t elicit fear or revulsion. People looked at me with respect. Officers would make eye contact with me and nod. After they saw the ladies, of course. The ladies caught everyone’s eye first, but then they would see me, and they didn’t react the way civilians do in Bellingham. Xara picked up on it and reached out and gave my hand a little squeeze. I think Sharon and Kara noticed it too.

Where was I? Oh, right, Colonel Moore led us into a conference room. There we were met by SecDef, General Rosenthal, several officers I didn’t know of various ranks and several civilians. We were all introduced. The Velorians were all addressed by their Terran names. The officers I didn’t know were interrogators. The civilians were from the State Department. We all sat down and SecDef began speaking.

“At the wedding of Sergeant Ricci to Ms. Banks there were several Velorians present, Velorians not stationed on Earth, including a high ranking diplomat and his staff. And after the wedding, we learned that Sergeant Ricci was traveling to Velor.

“Since we do not have formal relations with Velor but do have a Velorian mission (he was referring to my house) the State Department felt that they should be included in discussions with representatives of Velor and begin negotiating the establishment of formal relations. With that in mind, we have State Department personnel here who would like to speak to the Velorians while we debrief Sergeant Ricci.”

He paused for a moment to let that sink in.

“Mr. Secretary,” began Kara, “while I have no objection to allowing you to ‘debrief’ Joseph, there is an agreement in place that limits the information you are allowed to ask for, and that he is allowed to give you.”

“Everyone is aware of the agreement,” said Secdef, “and will abide by it.”

“While I do trust you,” said Kara, “I will be most comfortable if one of us, a Velorian, is with Joseph during his debrief.”

That … caused some consternation. No one said anything, they just looked at each other. Finally, Colonel Moore broke the silence and said, “Ms. Banks, I will be with Sergeant Ricci during the debrief. I assure you that I will make sure the terms of the agreement are adhered to.”

“Yes,” said Kara, “let’s talk about the agreement.”

She opened her purse and pulled out the bugs we had found in our hotel rooms and put them on the table in front of her.

“We found these listening devices in our hotel rooms. This is a violation of our agreement.”

Rosenthal and SecDef turned red in the face. Rosenthal turned to the State Department people and said, “Jesus fucking Christ! Are you responsible for this?”

That brought about a round of denials. The ladies were watching everyone closely during this and I heard Xara, in the connection, say, “As far as we can tell everyone here is telling the truth. They don’t know who planted the bugs.”

SecDef finally said, “Ms. Banks, we will get to the bottom of this.”

“I want to know who is responsible,” replied Kara. SecDef nodded.

There were more discussions back and forth about the process of my debrief, and how the ‘negotiations’ with Kara would be conducted. It appeared that part, discussions with Kara, would be very informal. I would be debriefed by officers steeped in the art of interrogation. Not because they were trying to wring information out of me in an adversarial setting, but more along the lines of after action reports where they would listen to me and then ask follow up questions. Kara was okay with it, so I was okay with it.

We left the conference room and Kara, Xara and Sharon went one way with SecDef and General Rosenthal and two of the State Department people while Colonel Moore and I went another way with the interrogators and the other two State Department people, both women. My interrogators, or debriefers were men.

Chapter 256

We entered another room, a meeting room, from the looks of it. It had a long table with chairs set around it and two pitchers of water and glasses. My debriefers, who were captains, and the State Department people sat on one side of the table, Colonel Moore and I sat on the other side. I don’t remember their names, so I’ll call the State Department people Alice and Betty and the interrogators Charlie and Dave.

They all opened laptops. I had my iPad with me, no one asked me why.

One of the officers, Charlie, started. It looked like he was working from a list of questions on his laptop.

“Sergeant Ricci let’s start with the reason for your trip. Why did you travel to Velor?”

“I didn’t go to Velor, sir,” I answered.

That came as a surprise.

“We were told you went to Velor,” said Alice.

“Who told you that? I certainly never told anyone I was going to Velor. In fact, I didn’t know my destination until we arrived.”

“We heard it from a very reliable source,” said Betty.

“Did you hear it from one of the Velorians?” I asked.

“No, from one of our people,” she replied.

“Well, your person isn’t a reliable source. I didn’t go to Velor. I couldn’t go to Velor. The gravity on Velor is much higher than here on Earth and the atmosphere is toxic to humans.”

“Well, then, where did you go?” asked Charlie.

Xanadu, sir,” I replied.

Silence. People just looked at each other. Then Alice spoke up, “Like, in the movie?”

I could hear Xara laughing in my head. It’s a unique experience.

“That was my first question too,” I replied. “The name of the planet I visited is Xanadu. The name is the only thing it has in common with the movie.”

“Sergeant Ricci,” said Charlie, “you know this is a little hard to believe.”

“You believe I went to another planet but have trouble with the name of the place, sir?” I asked.

“Point taken,” said Charlie. “Why did you go to Xanadu? And we can be less formal here, sergeant.”

“To be with my wife as she took her Protector’s test and be formally promoted to the rank of Protector.”

At this point Alice pulled out a phone and stepped out of the room.

“What’s a protector?” asked Dave.

“Someone just called, they don’t know I can hear both sides of the conversation. They’re asking mom if we went to Xanadu and she’s saying yes.”

“Protectors are Velorians who have been genetically enhanced to protect planets from Arions.”

Alice came back into the room and nodded at the others.

“Genetically enhanced? How?” asked David.

Alice interrupted before I could answer and said to Charlie and David, “Gentlemen, let’s not go off script.”

The two captains looked at her and nodded.

“Did you meet with Senior Diplomat Folke at any time during your trip?” asked Charlie.

“No.” I replied.

“Was he present at any time during your trip?”

“Not while I was awake,” I said.

“What does that mean, not awake?” asked Alice.

“For most of the trip to Xanadu I was in stasis,” I said.

The two captains looked at each other, then Charlie asked, “Sergeant, were you acting as a representative of the United States government during any part of your trip?”

He called me sergeant, so I was going back to being formal.

“No, sir, I did not. I was not representing anyone other than myself and my traveling companions.”

“Were you there as a representative of the United States Army?” asked Dave.

“No sir, I was not.”

“You were just there because your wife was going through some kind of test and promotion?” asked Charlie.

Kara had given me strict orders that I was not to divulge that I had been given an award by Velor, or that I had dual United States/Velorian citizenship, nor anything about how I met the Velorians.

“Yes sir, that is correct.”

“Did you meet with any Velorian diplomats on your trip?”

“Yes sir, I did. On Xanadu, we were guests of the Velorian Embassy.”

“Velor has an embassy on Xanadu?” asked Alice.

I thought that was implied in my answer, but I was polite anyway.

“Yes mam, Velor has an embassy on Xanadu.”

“Did you meet with any of the diplomatic staff?” asked Betty.

I thought that was implied when I answered the previous questions. “Yes mam, I met with the Velorian Ambassador and several members of her staff.”

“And did you discuss opening formal diplomatic relations with the United States?” asked Alice.

“No mam,” I replied. “The subject never came up.”

“Sergeant Ricci, isn’t it true that while Senior Diplomat Folke was a guest at your house, he discussed opening diplomatic relations with a member of the State Department, Reginald Dempsey, and in fact was enthusiastic about doing so?” asked Alice.

“Not exactly, mam.”

“Not exactly? What does that mean, Sergeant?” asked Betty.

“Mr. Dempsey did talk to Folke about such things, but Folke was not enthusiastic about it and, when he left, had no intention of pursuing diplomatic relations with the United States or any other country on Earth.”

“Sergeant, are you sure of that?” asked Alice.

“Yes mam, I am very sure. If you have doubts, ask Ms. Banks, I’m sure she can clear this up for you.”

“Which Ms. Banks, Sergeant, your wife or her mother?” asked Betty.

“Either one, mam,” I replied.

Alice and Betty left the room with their phones. Colonel Moore looked at the two captains as if expecting an explanation from them. They just shrugged their shoulders. After a short time, Alice and Betty reentered the room.

“The three Velorians confirmed it,” said Alice. “Velor has no interest in opening diplomatic relations with us. We’re done here.”

And the two of them gathered up their laptops and left.

“Colonel Moore looked at the two captains and asked, “Are there any more questions for the Sergeant?”

Charlie looked at his laptop and said, “Not that were on the list we were provided, but I have a lot of questions.”

“So do I,” said Dave.

“So do I,” said Colonel Moore.

“You’re wanted back here with the general and Secretary of Defense,” said Xara, through the connection.

Colonel Moore’s phone rang. It was General Rosenthal instructing us to come to another room. All of us. So we got up and followed Colonel Moore through several corridors and into another ring and to another room, where we found SecDef, General Rosenthal, Kara, Xara, Sharon and two other State Department officers, who I will call Evan and Fred.

We all sat at the table. Evan said, “We at State have been operating off of invalid assumptions, and I apologize for that. May I ask, then, if Senior Diplomat Folke was not here on a diplomatic mission, why did he come?”

“He was sent by the Velorian Senate to witness my daughter’s marriage to Joseph,” said Kara.

“Is that common,” asked Evan, “to send a government witness to all Velorian marriages?”

“No,” answered Kara, “but the marriage of a Terran to the daughter of a Planetary Protector is a significant event. A Planetary Protector would have been insulted, I would have been insulted, if the government had not sent a representative, and the government does not insult its Planetary Protectors.”

She was throwing that word, planetary, in there quite a bit. Usually, she doesn’t refer to herself as a Planetary Protector.

“So, Planetary Protector is a high status position?” asked Fred.

“On an undisclosed world, such as this one, with no Velorian Embassy, the Planetary Protector is the highest Velorian authority on the planet.” She replied.

“So … you represent Velor on Earth?” asked Evan.

“I do,” said Kara.

“And if we want to communicate with or consult with the Velorian government, we go through you?” asked Evan.

“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear,” said Kara. “On this planet, I am the Velorian government. All decisions regarding this planet are made by me, and only me, until the Velorian Senate decides otherwise.”

“And if we object to a decision you make and wish to contact the Velorian Senate about it, how do we do that?”

“You make a request to me. If I believe your request is important enough to have the attention of the Senate, I will pass it on. If I do not believe it is important, I will not.”

“So,” began Fred, “you are the sole decision maker. And you report to no one.”

“That isn’t completely true,” said Sharon. “I am the Velorian Scribe assigned to Terra. I document the activities of all Velorians on this planet and send regular reports back to Velor. While I am under Kara’s authority, I also operate independently from her.”

“So, if we want to communicate with Velor, we go through you?” asked Evan.

“No,” replied Sharon, “but if you request to communicate with Velor through Kara, I will document that request and include it in my reports, along with her answer.”

“This all seems … very uncentralized,” said Fred, “no one from the Velorian government exercises control over your activities.”

“It has to be that way,” said Kara. “The distances between inhabited planets in the galaxy are vast. Decisions have to be made on the spot, there is no time to wait for a request to get to Velor and the answer to come back.”

“How do you communicate with Velor?” asked Evan.

“It’s like the Pony Express,” said Xara.

“We have Messengers, Velorians, whose sole purpose is to relay communications between Planetary Protectors and Velor. They have overlapping routes and irregular schedules,” said Kara.

“How do they travel between worlds?” asked Fred.

“Like this,” said Xara, as she levitated herself several feet above her chair, “except much faster.”

And then she started giggling, because Charlie, Dave, Evan and Fred just stared at her, mouths open.

“Please excuse my daughter,” said Kara, “your reaction isn’t unusual, but it isn’t polite to laugh at you.”

“I think I speak for all of us when I say we took no offense,” said Charlie. “How do you do that?”

“We have an organ devoted to flight,” said Sharon, “and access to a form of energy unknown to your science.”

“What else can you do?” asked Evan.

Kara turned to SecDef and asked, “Have they seen the video?”

“No,” he said, “we didn’t anticipate that they would see any of your … abilities.”

I rolled my eyes, pointed at Xara and said, “They love to show off. Especially that one.”

“Well,” said Kara, “I think showing them the video would be more efficient than ‘showing off,’ as my son-in-law calls it, in here.”

“General, with your permission, I’ll get the video,” said Colonel Moore. General Rosenthal nodded and she went off to get it.

There was a long, extended awkward silence, punctuated by Xara giggling, which elicited stern looks from Kara, which caused more giggling, which elicited … you get the idea.

Colonel Moore returned with the video on a memory stick and activated the projection system in the room and soon Charlie, David, Evan and Fred were seeing how little machine gun fire bothered Kara and saw what she could do to an Abrams tank.

When the video was over there were questions, lots of questions, which Kara politely deflected, or gave non-answers to, or sometimes answered truthfully. When David asked about the capabilities of the Arions, I saw my opening.

“Sir,” I began, I served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I saw a lot of combat.”

Charlie and Dave nodded.

“On Xanadu, I saw firsthand what the Arions can do to a society that doesn’t have the benefit of Velorian Protectors. With Ms. Banks permission, I’d like to tell you about that.”

I was putting Kara on the spot, but she wasn’t at all bothered by it.

“Go ahead, Joseph.”

First, I described what I had seen the Arions do, then I opened my iPad to show pictures. Colonel Moore hooked it up to the projection system so everyone could see it.

They saw pictures of the school the Arions gassed. They saw burnt bodies in the streets. They saw pictures of the Xanadusian rifles, which I described in detail. Then they saw pictures of Xanadusian bodies heaped up around a single dead Arion.

“I fired a Xanadusian rifle,” I didn’t say they gave me one, “and while it can’t put as much fire down range as an M4, it is still a very powerful and accurate weapon.”

I then zoomed in on the body of the dead Arion.

“As you can see, the Arion suffered many wounds, none of which would have been fatal by themselves. It took many hits to bring him down and kill him, and he took many Xanadusians down with him.”

“Did the Xanadusians defeat the Arions?” asked General Rosenthal.

“No,” replied Kara. “A ship from another space fairing civilization alerted Velor, and Protectors were dispatched to the planet. They defeated the Arions, but only after the Arions had destroyed roughly 80% of the population of the planet.”

General Rosenthal was white in the face. The SecDef looked like he was about to be sick. Charlie and Dave looked very concerned, and the State Department people had to excuse themselves from the room for a few minutes.

“This is a good time for a break,” said SecDef. “We will meet back here in one hour. Colonel Moore, will you see to our guests?”

“Yes Sir,” she replied.

Colonel Moore said, “We can get lunch in the cafeteria, my …”

“Don’t do it Colonel!” I said, a little loudly.


“Mam, a Colonel’s salary is insufficient to feed three Velorians.”

That got a laugh out of all the blondes (Colonel Moore is a blonde).

“I’ll treat,” said Kara.

We made our way to the food court. The ladies attracted a lot of attention. More than a few officers, male officers, gave me looks that indicated they were wondering what a lowly NCO was doing with these gorgeous women, especially the one holding my hand.

“A lot of men here are jealous of you, Joe,” said Sharon.

Xara giggled and said, “They should be.”

I was feeling very good about that, and in my head I heard, “You should, darling, you deserve to.”

There are a lot of young, fit military personnel in the Pentagon, which meant, for Sharon, it was a target rich environment, and I would have expected her to be checking out the “available selections,” but with Colonel Moore there, she didn’t. Or if she did, she was very circumspect about it.

We ordered our food and sat down to eat. Colonel Moore described the Pentagon, how it works, what the amenities are and so on. The ladies asked questions, which the Colonel answered. When she excused herself to use the facilities, I brought up the subjects of the space battle and Velor’s approach to the Arion conflict and asked Kara if we could talk about it.

“Joseph,” she said, “it is apparent that Colonel Moore isn’t being given the amount of … respect, I expected her to get when I picked her to be the official representative that I communicate with, through you.”

“I agree,” I answered. “It seems very strange to me that I was ordered not to give her a briefing prior to today’s meeting.”

“Then let’s do this,” said Kara, “you can brief Colonel Moore on these subjects, and she forward the information up the chain.”

“Oh, I like it,” said Sharon.

Colonel Moore came back and listened to our proposal.

“We should run it up the flag,” she said, “I don’t want to risk surprising anyone until I know where I stand with my superiors. When we meet with our superiors, we can bring it up.”

We all agreed and made small talk during the rest of our lunch.

When we returned to the conference room, SecDef began by saying, “You’ve given us information and cleared up a number of our misconceptions, Ms. Banks. I’m not sure where we go from here.”

That gave Colonel Moore her opening. “Mr. Secretary, Sgt. Ricci, Ms. Banks, Mrs. Ricci and Ms. Best have more information to share with us, including an account of a battle they participated in against the Arions in space, and the sergeant’s impression and opinion of the approach taken by both sides of this conflict. This information hasn’t been shared with me of yet and I’d like to debrief the ladies and the sergeant and then reconvene at your convenience to present the information.”

“We would like to be present when the Colonel briefs you,” said Kara.

SecDef looked at his watch, then consulted his phone and said, “I can be available the day after tomorrow at 10am. General, will that work for you and your people?”

“It will,” said General Rosenthal. He didn’t consult with his calendar, nor did he ask Charlie and Dave if they were available. SecDef makes a decision and everyone else salutes.

Evan said, “I’ll check with the Secretary, but I believe he will want State to hear this.”

Then it’s settled. Colonel Moore, you have the rest of the day to prepare your briefing. Then he stood up, we all stood up, and we left.

The ladies and I followed Colonel Moore back to her office.

“A space battle? I’d like to hear about that. Sergeant, I’m all ears.”

“I’d be happy to tell you about it Colonel, but I was in stasis.”

“The three of us,” said Kara nodding towards Sharon and Xara, “participated in the battle. We will tell you about it.”

And so they did. They related the battle to the Colonel in much the same way they told me about it. With questions, it took about forty-five minutes.

“It’s getting late,” said the Colonel. “Why don’t we call it a day and pick up tomorrow. I’ll have a driver pick you up at the hotel at 0800.”

We agreed to that, and the Colonel made a call, then walked us out to where a driver was waiting to take us back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel the blondes checked the rooms and confirmed that there were no new bugs.

“Meet downstairs in 15 minutes for dinner?” suggested Kara.

“I have other plans,” said Sharon, “with Sarah.”

“I’d like to go for a run before dinner,” I said.

Xara said, “Mom, while Joe’s out running, why don’t we hit the shops in the lobby?”

There were several women’s clothing and gift shops in the lobby. Kara agreed, more enthusiastically than I would have thought. So I went into my room and changed into running shorts and headed back down to the first floor, out the building, checked my watch and began my run.

Washington D.C. is … different. There is a huge commute leaving the city at the end of the business day, which means the end of the day for government workers. But there are also parks. So I made my way out onto the busy sidewalk, running by people, being polite about it, until I came to a park, and traffic and people thinned out. It was like I had the place to myself.

While I was running, I was carrying on a conversation with Dixon and Johnson about what we wanted to say to Colonel Moore the next day. I was lost in the conversation and didn’t notice the van until it was right beside me. Two guys jumped out and tried to put a black hood over my head and zip tie my hands.

I wasn’t having it. Gloria’s training kicked in and I was kicking their asses. I had headbutted one and swept the leg of the other one and put my heal in his face when a big guy, a really big guy, came out of the driver’s door and walloped me with the back of his fist to my head.  It was really hard, and really fast, and my head bounced off the side of the van and it was all I could do to keep my feet. Wait, did I keep my feet? I’m not sure. I was stunned.

I remember the driver yelling at the other two guys to get me into the van. I remember there was blood, but it wasn’t my blood.

They put the hood over my head, picked me up and threw me into the van and zip tied my hands and feet. I know I felt the van start to move. Dixon and Johnson were yelling at each other, asking each other what happened. I told them to shut up. Then I was hit in the head again and was told to keep quiet.

Then I heard a voice coming from the front of the van.

“Choridgie, High Command will give me a big promotion for catching you. A big bonus too.”

I heard Xara in my head.

“Joe! I’m coming!”

“Where, Xara?” I replied.

“Who is Xara, Choridgie, is that your bitch wife?”

“Who is Choridgie?” I asked.

“Don’t play games with me, Choridgie. You are going to answer my questions and then I’m going to pull your limbs off, just to hear you scream.”

“What the fuck?” I asked.

“Joe, just stay quiet. I’m above you and the van is moving towards the country. Don’t worry, I won’t let them hurt you.”

“Too late,” I said. “Xara, what is going on?”

I heard another voice say, “Who is this Xara he’s talking about?”

And another voice said, “He must have a concussion.”

“Joe, please, stop talking!”

Dixon said, “Maybe we should listen to her.”

Johnson said, “Yeah, Ricci, just keep your mouth shut.”

“Fuck you Dixon! Fuck you Johnson!”

“Who’s he telling to fuck off?” 

I decided I’d better keep quiet. We drove on in the van, one guy, the one who called me Choridgie, or something, anyway, that’s what it sounded like, was telling the others to put me in the cabin when we got there.

Then I heard the driver shout out an expletive, it sounded like something I’ve heard come out of Gloria’s mouth more than once, and he hit the brakes, really hard. We were skidding.

Then I heard ripping metal and someone or something grabbed my arm, and I was pulled straight up. The hood came off my head and I was with Xara about 10 feet above the van, which had come to a stop. She held me with one arm and took off the zip ties with another. Then we started down and there was a really bright flash.

“That’s something I haven’t seen before,” said Kara.

I looked down and Kara was holding two guys by their arms, one in each hand, and they were trying to get away from her, but she was just ignoring them, like they weren’t even there. They were both bleeding from their nose. I didn’t remember at the time, but later it came back to me, I busted up their noses when I headbutted one and stomped on the other one. I looked over at the torso of what had been the big guy. There was a GAR next to his headless body.

Kara said, “He committed suicide.”

Xara sat me on the ground leaning my back up against the van. Kara let go of the two guys she’d been holding and reached inside the van to get the zip ties. The two guys started running. She flew after the first, tied his hands and legs, then went after the second and did the same thing. They were totally helpless. She took them back to the van and threw them inside. Then she pulled out her phone and called someone.

Twenty minutes later Sharon arrived with Colonel Moore in her arms. During the wait I kept asking Xara what was going on and she told me I had been kidnapped by an Arion Beta, but it was hard to understand because my head started hurting and Dixon and Johnson wouldn’t shut the fuck up.

I heard Kara say, “We’re going to interrogate these two men, then you can have them.”

What two men? The two who grabbed me when I was out for my run?

Then Xara said, “If it was up to me, you two would never be seen or heard from again.”

“Who are you talking to?” I asked.

“The men, the Terrans who kidnapped you. They were working with a Beta.”

“I was kidnapped?”

Colonel Moore squatted down and looked at me, held up three fingers and said, “Sergeant, follow my finger.”

“Which one?” I asked. 

“How many do you see?”


“Follow the middle one.”

Well, they all moved together. I think.

“He’s got a concussion,” she said.

“It’s more than that,” said Xara. “There’s blood coming out of his right ear. Yes, he has a skull fracture.”

“We need to get him to a hospital,” said Colonel Moore, “if his brain swells, he could be in real danger.”

“It isn’t swelling,” said Xara.

“It isn’t, you can see that?” asked Colonel Moore.

“Yes. I can,” she answered.

Xara told Colonel Moore, Sharon and Kara to take me upwind from the van. Then she got in the van and shortly after that the two guys were screaming and crying. Then the screaming and crying stopped and a minute later Xara got out of the van. And came over to us.

“They know they were working for an Arion and they told me the location they operated out of. They’ve had quite a dose of my trust pheromones. Sarah, if you want to question them, now would be a good time. I told them they could trust you. Colonel Moore went to the van, got in, and came out five minutes later.

“I was getting good information from them until the pheromones wore off. I don’t suppose I could talk you into assisting further questioning.”

Xara answered, “I’d be happy to. But first I need to take care of my husband.”

Colonel Moore got on her phone to call someone, and soon there were federal agents there and an ambulance. A medic, an EMT I think, was looking at me. The blondes, the super ones, were in their flight suits, but the feds weren’t looking at them … well, they were looking at them, but they didn’t ask questions.

Sharon left and came back with clothes for Xara. She got into the ambulance with me and shut the door and changed, then opened the door and let the EMT in. She, the EMT, strapped me to a gurney and stayed in the back with me and Xara while the driver took us to a hospital emergency room.

It was a busy emergency room, but apparently fractured skulls with bleeding out the ear move to the head of the line. They sent me to get scanned and when I came out of the scanner the doctor sat down with me and Xara and told us I had a closed fracture and a concussion, and I should stay in the hospital for observation and avoid mental stimulation, TV, reading, using my smart phone, that kind of thing. They also gave me a shot for the pain and after that kicked in … I don’t remember what happened after the shot kicked in.

When I woke up the blondes were there, as well as Gloria and Mona. Xara came to me and held my hand and asked how I was feeling.

“Lightheaded,” I said. “And it looks like the room is moving.”

Gloria asked, “Are you in pain, Joe?”

“No, not really.”

“Good. If you start to feel pain, and you will, let me know and I’ll give you something for it.”

“Okay. Xara, what happened?”

“An Arion team kidnapped you, Joe.”

“What? Why?”

“From what we’ve learned, someone in the government pointed you out as the husband of one of us,” said Kara.

“So the Arions know about us, me and Xara?”

“We’re not sure how much they know,” said Kara. “The two men who were with the Arion didn’t know your name.”

“They called me Choridgie,” I said.

“Yes,” said Kara. “That’s what they told us. It sounds like an Arion mispronunciation of Joe Ricci. We hope to find out more when Xara helps Sarah interrogate them.”

“Did I break someone’s nose?” I asked.

“You broke two noses, darling,” answered Xara.

“Good,” I said.

“Yes, good,” said Gloria. “I believe if the Beta hadn’t been there, you would have triumphed over the two Terrans.”

“Joseph, we have business to attend to. Gloria and Mona will make sure you are not left alone when a Velorian isn’t here,” said Kara.

“I’m going to help Sarah with the interrogation,” said Xara. “When I’m not doing that, I’ll be here with you.”

Half an hour later, “knock, knock.”

“Come in.”

“I’m with Sarah. The two Terrans, who were with the Arion, were in a room waiting for us, handcuffed to a table. I walked into the room with Sarah, and they nearly crapped their pants. I really shook them up with my fear pheromones when I got into the van with them. They are spilling their guts. They don’t know how I frightened them, but they don’t want it to happen again. If I wasn’t so pissed off at them, I’d be laughing.”

“So, what have they told you?”

“The Arion heard about us from someone in the State Department. It was only a rumor, but the rumor confirmed something the Arion had heard before about a Velorian marrying a Terran.”

“Who did they hear it from?”

“They don’t know, it was a source the Beta had and he didn’t share that information with them.”

She said more, but I was having trouble following her, and she picked up on that.

“You’re getting tired, darling, and you really need to let your brain rest. I’ll be back to you soon.”

And then, I fell asleep. Did she make that happen? I don’t know. Later that night, or day, I’m not sure which; I had a dream. I was in Iraq in a firefight, and I was hunkered down behind a wall and my head hurt. It hurt like hell. And then I heard Xara, in my head.

“Wake up darling. You’re having a nightmare and have a very bad headache.”

I opened my eyes and there, next to my bed, was a beautiful woman. A breathtakingly beautiful woman. A breathtaking beautiful nude woman. A breathtakingly beautiful nude woman with drugs.

I opened my mouth and stuck out my tongue and she put two tablets on it, then helped me sit up and gave me a glass of water. I used the water to swallow the pills, then she gently lowered me back down, pulled the covers off me, released her pheromones, and climbed onto the bed and mounted me.

I was in heaven. I was in hell. My head was throbbing. Both of my heads were throbbing. The one on my neck hurt. The one inside Xara felt wonderful. She used her inner muscles, the ones that could crush rock, to gently massage me while she hummed a melody, a pretty melody, that I had never heard before, and told me, in my head, to, “close your eyes. I’ll keep this up until you go back to sleep.”

I felt the drugs start to kick in, and I fell asleep.

I was in the hospital for three more days. Mona and Gloria were with me the entire time, and the three blondes were with me a lot. When I was discharged, I had doctors’ orders, Gloria’s orders, to maintain the concussion protocol for at least another two weeks. Kara decided that I’d have round the clock protection until she decided I didn’t need it. Xara concurred. In fact, it may have been Xara’s idea. I think it was her idea because everywhere we went, her head was on a swivel.  They were all like that, really. An Arion had kidnapped and injured their Kiraling and to the blondes, that was completely unacceptable. Kara told SecDef in no uncertain terms to find out how the Arion identified me, and if he didn’t, she would, and he probably would not like her methods.

I think she was bluffing. SecDef did not.

We finished the debrief over the course of a week, in Colonel Moore’s office. At Gloria’s insistence, the briefing sessions were held to two hours at a time, one time a day, and she insisted she be present to monitor me. She didn’t want me to get tired or stress my brain.

Getting Gloria clearance to be in the Pentagon should have been complicated, but SecDef made sure it wasn’t.

The blondes briefed Colonel Moore on the space battle, then, with Kara’s permission, I gave Colonel Moore my observations and opinions.

“The Arion Empire is fighting an aggressive, offensive war. That is born out by their attack on Xanadu, and again by the force that attacked The Golden Cathunk outside a wormhole. That force wasn’t waiting for the Cathunk, they, in my opinion, were surprised by it.

“With the arrival of additional Protectors, the Velorians made short work of the Arion fleet, with regrettable, but minimal losses.

“The Enlightenment, on the other hand, is fighting a reactive, defensive war. They don’t seek out Arion targets. They fight in small tactical groups rather than large strategic forces.

“They don’t gather intelligence about their enemy. I questioned a Velorian Senator about this. They don’t know what the Arion population is. They know most Arions are Betas, but they don’t know what the Beta to Prime ratio is. They don’t know how many fighting ships the Arions have. They do know that the Arion objective is to bring all Terran worlds under their control, then go after non-Terran worlds.

“They are faced with a brutal, aggressive enemy, but believe it is unethical to take the fight to that enemy, even though they have demonstrated that they can beat the Arions.

“They also don’t know anything about gathering intelligence. On this planet, Terra, Kara will interrogate any Betas she captures. But she won’t interrogate, no Protector will interrogate, Primes. Every encounter between a Prime and a Velorian is a fight to the death.

“There are Enlightenment worlds that are technologically advanced. Far beyond us. The Velorians are not, in and of themselves, technical. They rely on others for technology. The Golden Cathunk, and other Velorian vessels, were built by other species.

“For the most part, they don’t collect intelligence. All the Arion vessels involved in the space battle the ladies told you about were destroyed. They were either pushed into the wormhole or into the star the planet we were marooned on (I was marooned on) orbited. They did not board the ships and look for intelligence or remove any technology that could prove useful.

“Colonel, it is my opinion the Velorians could use our help in developing intelligence gathering skills. And they could use our help devising a strong military doctrine for going after the Arions and destroying their ability to make war.”

“Sergeant,” said Colonel Moore, “do you think if we trained them in interrogation techniques, they could get useful information from captured Primes?”

Kara didn’t let me answer. “We don’t capture Primes, Sarah, ever. A Prime in captivity would be too dangerous. They would not likely give up any actionable intelligence and they would be totally focused on escaping and killing as many Terrans as they could.”

“I agree with mom,” said Xara. “Any Primes I come across are going to die as fast as I can kill them.”

Colonel Moore opened her mouth to respond, but Sharon jumped in. “Sarah, this isn’t an argument you can win.”

“Kara,” Colonel Moore asked, “would Velor be open to exploring ways to go on the offensive against the Arions?”

“That would be a very hard sell,” replied Kara. “Velor wants peace. We do not want war with the Arions or anyone else. We are happy, no, we believe we have a duty to protect other species from the Arions, but that is as far as we have ever been willing to go. If your government wants to request such a conversation, Sharon can forward it on, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a positive reply, or any reply for that matter.”

“I see,” said Colonel Moore. “Thank you, Kara, Sharon and Xara. Sergeant, thank you for your insights. I will prepare this information and pass it on. If we want a follow up conversation?”

“Request it through Joseph,” said Kara.

With that, our time in D.C. was over.

We left the D.C. area via Air Velor. Xara carried me in a pod, Kara carried Gloria in one and Mona Road in a pod carried by Sharon. We arrived back at the house in Bellingham and as soon as I was out of the pod Xara took me to our bed. Gloria examined me, she examined me at least once a day, and told me to get some rest, in the morning she’d give me a cognitive test to determine how far I had recovered from my concussion.


Janelle was becoming more and more popular by the day, it seemed. The city unions were all supportive of her, much to the chagrin of the union bosses. The church, the Bishop and his priests, all loved her and so did their congregations.

Janelle studied the local religion but didn’t really understand it. The Terrans worshiped a god who had been killed in a most grisly fashion, something Janelle appreciated. And they had feasts named after demigods they called saints. This town had a patron saint, and on his feast day there was to be a parade, and the Bishop proposed that Janelle be something called the ‘Grand Marshall’ of the parade, a position that was evidently considered a great honor. She would ride in a vehicle towards the front of the parade and would be expected to smile and wave at the crowds who, she was told, would be lining the street.

Janelle accepted. There were more and more demands on her time, and it was exhausting. Not that a Prime ever became physically exhausted, but the mental part did take a toll. And so she decided that she needed to get away for a day, to just have some ‘me time’, for herself.

While the drug gangs had been drastically reduced in her town, they were still active in nearby towns, and Janelle learned, through the many contacts she was making among the citizenry, that the gangs operated a landing strip, nearly a small airport, for shipping drugs out of the area, and for moving people around. She scouted the landing strip and discovered that planes taking off and coming in for a landing had to navigate several mountain tops that would, for a short period of time, block the view from the landing strip.

So one day she closed the clinic, packed a picnic lunch, and drove to one of the mountains the planes had to fly over. She climbed to a clearing that was under the flight path, where the planes would be out of site of the runway, spread a blanket and began enjoying the day.

When a plane would take off and fly over her position, she’d use her heat vision to slice off a wing or heat the engine to the point where it would freeze up or explode, or just focus on burning the passenger compartment up, and then watch as the plane would crash into a nearby valley.

Three or four times one or more of the occupants of a doomed aircraft would manage to get out of the plane and a parachute would open. The first time this happened, Janelle focused her heat vision on the parachute itself and burned it, then giggled as she watched the hapless Terran fall, screaming, to its death. But then she remembered what her parents stressed: practice, practice, practice. So after that first time, she focused on the lines that connected the parachute to the harness its user wore, and burned them, one at a time, until the silk was completely disconnected from the harness. She found this very enjoyable, and by the time the sun began going down, she found that she felt very refreshed and was ready to go back and face the challenge of being the most popular and sought out politician in the town.

But first she wanted to check the airstrip, to see if there were any signs that someone had realized planes were disappearing. So she climbed to the top of a mountain to have a look, and saw a small jet preparing to take off. All the other aircraft she had seen were propeller driven. She saw several men were boarding, and when she looked closely, she recognized the head of the sanitation workers union and a particularly troublesome member of the city council.

Well, this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up! The jet taxied to the end of the runway, then took off heading straight towards her. It was going to fly directly over her position. So she laid down on the ground looking up, and when the jet flew over her she shot a focused beam of energy out of her eyes that sliced through the jet all along its length. The two pieces fell away from each other and their momentum, and the power of the engines which were, somehow, still running, took the jet over her and into the forest beyond.

This happened in view of the people at the airstrip, and almost immediately armed men were running to a helicopter. The helicopter took off and began flying towards her. As it went over her, she used her heat vision to slice off the tail rotor. At first the helicopter began spinning, but then came under control and began descending, at about the same time the engine noise stopped. She later learned that this was due to an effect known as ‘autorotation.’

The helicopter came down in a heavily forested area, and as the canopy was quite high, the rotor blades came apart in the branches and the cockpit came to rest among a tangle of branches. Janelle thought about killing the men but decided it would be more fun to leave them up there, alive, to try to get down safely.

She watched them try, and when one lost its hold on a branch and fell, she smiled and decided she had seen enough and went back to her car and drove home to her apartment, happy and refreshed.

When she got home the IR light on her safe was blinking, indicating she had a dispatch from NEC. She opened the safe, took out her communication device and decrypted the message. It seems an Arion cell located on the North American continent had learned that Chouridgie was in the capital city of the United States and had been surveilling him. The cell was ordered to capture him and interrogate him. Since then, the cell had gone silent. It was believed that the Beta who was the sole Arion member of the cell had been captured or killed.

Janelle was surprised by this news. She wasn’t aware that there were any other Arions still on the planet other than her, and she had thought NEC and High Command had determined that Chouridgie was a myth created by the Velorians to mislead Aria.

Chapter 257

In three weeks, Gloria pronounced me healthy and ready to resume all my normal activities. The next morning, I went running with Xara, and when we finished I broached a subject I had been thinking about.

“Xara, I think I’m ready to shoot you.”

“With a gun?”

“Yes, and with a GAR pistol if that’s alright with you.”

“Do you mean really shoot me? Aim at me and pull the trigger and hit me with a bullet or energy beam?”


“You think you can do that now?”

“I think I want to try.”

She threw her arms around me and said, “Yes! Let’s get mom and Sharon in on this too.”

So she called Kara and Sharon and two days later we were up in our firing range in the mountains. The blondes were all naked, and they took lipstick and drew target circles around their nipples and, umm, lower down.

“How do you want to do this, Joe?” Xara asked.

“The three of you line up shoulder to shoulder about 20 yards away.”

They did. They were all smiles. Xara pointed at the target she had drawn around her crotch. Kara pointed at the target she had drawn around her right nipple. Sharon pointed at the one around her left nipple.

I picked up my M4, which had a red dot sight, selected single shot mode, took careful aim, and shot each of them between the eyes. Bam, bam bam, very little time between shots. I was pretty happy with myself.

The ladies looked confused, but then smiled when I picked up the GAR pistol. The neat thing about a GAR is that it doesn’t have any recoil. Pew, pew, pew, three shots, right between their eyes.

I heard Xara in my head. “Joe, what’s going on … oh!”

Then she turned to Kara and Sharon and said, “He isn’t doing this for fun. He’s preparing for a fight.”

In an instant I was surrounded by three naked blondes.

“Joseph, explain yourself,” said Kara.

“The Arions are looking for me,” I said. “I’m not going to passively sit back and wait for them to kill me.”

“Joe, are you thinking about hunting them?” asked Xara.

“Why not?”

“Because you can’t win against them,” said Sharon.

“Then what do I do?”

“Carry your GAR blade with you, Joseph,” said Kara. “You can do serious damage to a Beta with it.”

“We’ll keep the connection open indefinitely,” said Xara. “If an Arion makes a move on you, I’ll know immediately.”

“I’d rather not let them get close enough to me to use the GAR knife, Kara. And Xara, you might be minutes away when seconds count.”

“Joseph, we can protect you.”

“If that Beta had hit me much harder, he would have killed me, Kara.”

“Joseph, we are all alive today because an Arion underestimated you. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating them.”

“I’m not underestimating them, Kara. I want to kill them before they have a chance to kill me.”

We argued for some time before we agreed to table the discussion, before they decided to table the discussion, for another time.

Kara told Gloria about the conversation when we got back to the house. The next morning, she started working with me on GAR knife techniques.

“I understand your position, Joe,” she said, “and I sympathize with it. But you are wrong to think you can hunt Arions. You must maintain a defensive posture.”

She was right. I knew she was right. So did Johnson and Dixon. But the three of us chafed at the idea of waiting for our enemy to find us. We’d much rather be out looking for them.

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Comments (10)
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
I’m french, so please forgive my writing.
I love the story.
I literally fell off my ass off sometimes.
The “bubble goddess” in chapter 238 is hilarious and so well written.
The story is incredibly.
Your work is excellent.
Thank you for entertaining...
I’m french, so please forgive my writing.
I love the story.
I literally fell off my ass off sometimes.
The “bubble goddess” in chapter 238 is hilarious and so well written.
The story is incredibly.
Your work is excellent.
Thank you for entertaining us.
I wish I could speak more than these poor worlds.
Not anyone have that as you do.
Great job.
And thank you for your hard work.
Et surtout merci de le partager.
C’est vraiment très bien fait.
Merci vraiment pour tout ce travail.
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Thank you for reading my story and for your kind words. I'm very glad you are enjoying it.

Merci d'avoir lu mon histoire et pour vos gentils mots. Je suis très content que vous l'appréciiez.
(Avec l'aimable autorisation de Google Traduction)
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site
Enjoying this series a lot. Typo on Colonel Moore becoming a Major again? The reformed Arions and different sides of Janelle are fun. Can imagine this building up to a confrontation. Look forward to the next chapter.
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Thank you for reading and commenting. And thank you for pointing out the typos. I've submitted a revision with the fixes.
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Excellent continuation! Fallout from the Xanadu trip compounded by the fluidity of the American political system. Love the realism in a trained soldier observing the tactical and strategic limitations of superhuman "dilettantes" who are seeming...
Excellent continuation! Fallout from the Xanadu trip compounded by the fluidity of the American political system. Love the realism in a trained soldier observing the tactical and strategic limitations of superhuman "dilettantes" who are seeming to play at war.

Who worries about intel when you shrug off nukes and rip space battleships apart with your bare hands?

As always, worth the wait. You have a superb hand, your writing is a treat. I look forward to your next chapters.
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Thank you for your kind words! And thank you for reading.
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Glad to see you continuning this story!
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Thank you for reading. And for making a comment.
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What a treat!! We haven't had a kiraling story in ages. It was aweaome as always. Hope we can read another one very soon. 👍👍👍👍
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I started Part 30 immediately after posting Part 29. I started Part 31 last night. I don't know how the more prolific writers manage to churn out stories as fast as some of them do. It definitely takes me a long time.

Thank you for reading, and...
I started Part 30 immediately after posting Part 29. I started Part 31 last night. I don't know how the more prolific writers manage to churn out stories as fast as some of them do. It definitely takes me a long time.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for making a comment.
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