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Kiraling – Part 16 (Chapter 94-105)

Written by anonxyzus :: [Saturday, 28 March 2020 21:02] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 28 March 2020 21:43]

Chapter 94

“C’mon Sharon, you’re the one who said it!”

“Well, I wouldn’t have if I thought you’d want a demonstration!”

“What, were those just big words? When push comes to shove, you can’t back them up?”

“Alright wise guy. Let’s get this over with.”

She was lying naked on my bed. She rolled over onto her stomach and tensed her muscles. I held my hand about three feet above her ass and dropped the quarter.

“Holy shit Sharon! It bounced!”

“Told you so.”

“Let’s try it again, this time don’t tense up.”

“Joe!”

“C’mon Sharon, be a good sport.”

“Fine.”

“It bounced again!”

I’d spent the last couple of weeks in Bellingham in the company of the ladies. Gloria had moved in. Xara had all but moved in. Kara and Sharon were making regular “conjugal visits” because… Xara had all but moved in.

Before the trip to D.C., when I expressed my concerns that the army would bring me up on charges if it ever suspected I was having sexual relations with Xara, the ladies would basically just roll their eyes and make disparaging remarks about my “Terran morals and taboos.” But after they heard Major Aldrich threaten me, they took my concerns more seriously. Even Xara.

I didn’t have a lot of time before I had to leave for Fort Huachuca in Arizona for eighteen weeks of Counterintelligence training. That meant there was no time for Gloria to run experiments on me, to map out the STE on my PTSD. So, between her and Kara, they decided to just throw me in the pool, so to speak. The idea was to keep me ‘exposed’ to them for a couple of weeks to see if the effect would be long lasting, if not permanent.

Honestly, they were just throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what would stick. But, well, why not?

We, and by we, I mean they, still didn’t know if the effect could be induced by any one of them, but we knew for certain that Xara could induce it. So Xara spent as much time with me as possible, with Gloria there to provide ‘adult supervision.’ Anyone looking in, or spying on us, would see that I wasn’t alone with an under-age goddess.

Gloria had me on a PT schedule, including hand-to-hand combat training with her, and, after having studied texts on human (or Terran as she would say) nutrition, had introduced more protein and less chocolate into my diet. I had a good appetite, I was feeling good, I was putting on weight, and if you could ignore the scars, burns, nubs for ears, and other misshapen features, you’d even say I was starting to look good.

My drinking was down to a glass of wine or two a couple of times a week. The nightmares had stopped, and I hadn’t seen Johnson or Dixon since that day in Major Aldrich’s office. And even then, they were just popping in and out.

And I was falling more in love with Xara every day. Well, I knew that wasn’t a good idea. But CI training started the first week of August and ran through the first week of December. In that time she’d move into a dorm, start school, and begin meeting young men closer to her age. I was sure that once she saw how many guys there were out there who had less baggage than me and had brighter futures in front of them, she’d figure out that she could do a lot better than me. And she wouldn’t even have to look for them. With her beauty and personality, they’d be beating a path to her door. The cream of the crop would be hers for the taking.

I didn’t even have to argue with her about it anymore. Thanks to asshole Aldrich’s threat, she didn’t push the idea of us becoming lovers. Well, that isn’t exactly true. She didn’t push the idea of us becoming lovers now. That would have to wait. Until she was 18. Or so she reasoned. My reasoning was, pretty much what I said before. By the time I got back from CI training she would have figured out that it is time to move on from Joe Ricci. But I didn’t tell her that. There was no reason to cause friction between us, especially when all I had to do was let nature take its course.

Sharon and Kara told me they would come to Arizona on weekends for visits. They each booked hotel rooms in Sierra Vista for that purpose. The plan was to pick me up at my condo Friday evening or Saturday afternoon and spend one or two nights with me, then deliver me back to the condo Sunday afternoon or evening. They didn’t want to stay at my condo. Kara had security concerns and didn’t want the neighbors to see them staying at my place. Her concerns seemed awfully vague to me, but given that Fort Huachuca was the home of the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade, she didn’t want to take any chances.

I was going to bring my meds with me. If the weekly visits were enough to keep me in a good place, I wouldn’t need them. If that turned out not to be true, if I felt myself backsliding, I could go back on the meds. If I didn’t recognize it, but the ladies did during their visits, they’d tell me and I’d either start taking the meds voluntarily, or they’d force me. I really hoped they didn’t have to force me.

So with this plan, we thought we might be able to learn something. If I was okay without the meds the entire 18 weeks, that would mean that either the STE had become permanent, or something close to it, or that weekly visits by Kara or Sharon were enough to keep the effects. If I did backslide and had to take the meds, that would mean the effect wasn’t permanent, and either I required Xara for it, or the time with Kara and Sharon was not long enough to maintain the STE. Either way, there would still be questions to answer.

My MOS was changing from Eleven Bravo, or 11B, Army Infantryman, to 35L, Counterintelligence Agent. The job duties include:

Detect, exploit and neutralize intelligence threats

Investigate national security crimes

Serve as an Army CI Liaison

Collect and process forensic and physical evidence

Conduct CI to support force protection

I’m not exactly sure that protecting the planet from extraterrestrial threats was anticipated when the MOS was created, but this is what the brass at the Pentagon thought was the closest to what I was going to be doing.

The job requirements are not too severe. My rank was in line with the job. I had the right test scores. No felony convictions. There was only one hitch, one of the job requirements is that there be no history of mental or emotional disorders. In the normal course of events, that would have disqualified me right there. But Kara had insisted and the powers that be waived that requirement.

I also had to have a top secret clearance. Unbeknownst to me, that had been in the works before the Pentagon briefing, and I passed all the … whatever it is they do to clear you.

Despite Sharon and Kara having busy schedules, there were a couple of days when they were both at the cabin at the same time. While having three beautiful women hanging around me for the sole purpose of ‘exposing’ me to them was great for me, it wasn’t all that exciting for them. So it was no surprise when Xara went rifling through closets and found my board games. Monopoly, Parcheesi, Backgammon, Chinese Checkers, Checkers, Chess, that sort of thing, and several decks of cards. What was surprising was how excited the blondes were to play them. As Gloria explained to me, this was because their P1 genetics made them very competitive. At everything.

I knew that, I’d seen it before. What I didn’t realize, though I should have figured it out that night at the casino, is that they don’t consider using their natural abilities cheating. I only had to play Hearts and Crazy Eights with them once to know never to do that again. We were half an hour into a game of Monopoly when I compared the blondes’ piles of properties and cash to mine and Gloria’s.

“Okay ladies, new rule: When it’s a Velorian’s turn, either Gloria or I will roll the dice for them.” They pouted a little, but Gloria backed me up. For the dice games, that evened things out.

We also played physical games, which were helping me to get into the best condition of my life. Well, maybe not the best, my deployments were pretty strenuous. But the best condition I could be in without being shot at.

We swam a lot, the ladies would have races and I’d join in. I’d always come in last, Gloria would come in second to last but way ahead of me. The blondes would have different rules for different races. Swim only using flight power. Swim not using flight power. Swim backwards, no flight power, I couldn’t even figure out how to do that one. Swim with the Terran (me) on your back, the winner being the one who posted the best time without getting the Terran (me) wet.

They made up new games to play with the frisbee. They’d stand in a line next to me and I’d throw the frisbee. As soon as it left my hand, they’d race each other to the other side of the yard to catch it. Xara pretty regularly won that one. Or keep away from the Terran (me). The Terran (me) always lost that one because a) they were just too fast and strong and b) because I’d collapse into laughter, which would get them laughing too.

Football was my favorite. The rule was when throwing to the Terran (me), they couldn’t go for the ball until it touched me (the Terran). So one of them would throw the ball and I’d jump up to catch it, and it would just touch my fingertips and all of a sudden a body or bodies would hit me, that were both hard and soft at the same time, and come down under me or next to me, or on me (they’d use their flight power so as to soften the blow), and suddenly I’d be lying on the ground surrounded by the most wonderful boobs on the planet. That NEVER got old!

Besides being physically stronger and faster than, well, anyone, they are also wicked smart and quick thinkers. I could barely hold my own with them at checkers and never once won a game of chess against any of them. One day I was having trouble balancing my checking account against the statement. Xara picked up my checkbook and perused the register, then glanced quickly at my statement, and immediately showed me where I had made a mistake.

On one of the days when all the ladies were there I came into the cabin after mowing the lawn. They were all sitting at the table eating Gloria’s latest batch of brownies and speaking in low voices. They’d keep glancing over at me, and finally I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Okay ladies, I know you’re talking about me. What’s up?”

Xara started. “Joe, have you noticed that you never win any of the games we play?”

“That’s not true Xara.”

“Okay. You never win any of the games we play except the ones where you or Gloria roll the dice.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed.”

“Have you noticed that in every physical contest we beat you, every single time?”

“Well, yeah. It’s pretty hard not to notice. What’s this about?”

“Do you understand how much stronger, faster and quicker we are than you?”

“I don’t think I do, because you guys are always surprising me with your abilities.”

“Okay, Joe, but you understand that we are, physically, orders of magnitude superior to you, right?”

“Geez Xara, is this going to be another ‘You Terran, me Goddess’ lecture?”

“Joseph,” said Kara, “Have you noticed that we can also think more quickly than you can, calculate faster than you, and read faster than you?”

“Well Kara, let’s see. The last time we played chess, you won, you always win, and the time on my clock was 45 minutes and the time on yours was about two minutes. And it was that long because you got up to get a soda during one of your moves. And Sharon paints her nails while she waits for me to make my move. So yes, I’ve noticed. What’s the point?”

“The point is,” Sharon said, “that you never get angry, you never get intimidated, or at least you don’t act like you’re intimidated, and no matter how badly we beat you, and we beat you very badly, you keep coming back for more, cheerfully.”

“Okay. Is there something wrong with that?”

Sharon looked at Kara and said, “I want to take him. On this table. Right now.”

Xara laughed and said, “Joe, guys who we don’t hold back with never stick around. I learned in grade school that if I liked a boy, I shouldn’t show him up at anything physical. I’d either have to let him win, or make it very close and let him win the next time.”

“Really?”

“Even Eric would get frustrated at times and walk away, Joseph.”

“So Joe,” said Xara, “what’s with you?”

“Well. There is some intimidation. Umm, with umm, Kara, when she isn’t, umm, wearing gold …”

Xara rolled her eyes so hard I could almost hear them. “Just spit it out Joe!” she said.

“I can feel the power and the strength. And that is a little intimidating and scary. But none of you have ever hurt me. I trust you. And all my life, there has always been someone stronger or faster or smarter than me.

“And none of you have ever bullied me. Or made fun of me because I’m not as capable as you or belittled me in anyway. And did I mention the sex?”

Kara looked at Sharon and said, “Rock, paper, scissors?”

I slept with Kara that night. She didn’t wear gold. It was awesome, and a little bit scary, but I knew she’d never hurt me.

The next day I was pretty sure a Messenger must have been in town, because they all flew off at once with no explanation. And the next time I saw Xara, she was glowing.

“Messenger Xara?”

“How do you know? Did Gloria tell you? We told her not to tell you!”

“Gloria didn’t tell me.”

“Then how do you know?”

“Look in the mirror.” She looked.

“So?”

“Xara, you can’t see the difference? I don’t know how this this is possible, but your already perfect complexion looks even more perfect now.”

“Joe, I told you, I’ll always be discrete and never rub your nose in it.”

“Well, maybe you’re discrete in your head, but your body says, ‘this girl got some!’”

She actually blushed. “Joe, I …”

“It’s okay Xara. It really is.”

Truth be told, I was guessing. But it wasn’t a hard guess to make. If you had seen her, you would have understood.

 

Aldrich came home from the hospital and took a couple of days leave. His wife could tell that he was badly shaken. Even his daughters noticed that something was wrong with daddy.

He’d made up a story that he was out driving in the country to decompress from a busy day at work when a deer darted out in front of him and he ran off the road to avoid hitting it. Everyone assumed that his mental state was due to having come very close to burning to death in his car, which wasn’t too far from the truth.

Back at work he damn near jumped every time Moore walked into his office. Be careful how I treat her, she said. They’d be watching, she said. Maybe he should transfer into another job. He’d have to think about that.

Perkins. What should he do about Perkins? He’d given the bitch his name. What if they found him and he told them Aldrich had also paid him to bug the Zor-el residence, and the headquarters of Zortech Pharmaceuticals, Lisa Bank’s company. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

He called Perkins. Told him to stay out of the country for another month. He canceled the other two contracts and told him to keep the down payments. He didn’t know that his conversation had been recorded along with the location of the phone he’d called.

Chapter 95

On my day of departure, the ladies gathered and kissed me goodbye and Gloria drove me to SeaTac for my flight to Sierra Vista. Gloria would be staying at the cabin, I’m not sure exactly why, but knowing someone would be there to keep an eye on the place gave me peace of mind.

It was about a three hour flight to Sierra Vista. Now that I was working for Kara, she simply bypassed the Army’s travel system and booked a first class ticket on a direct flight for me. I boarded the plane with no anticipation and buckled myself in. I had a window seat. The plane taxied, took off, and I was just fine with it. It was great! At one point, I tried a mental experiment. I tried to bring myself back, in my head, to the helicopter crash. Nothing. It didn’t do anything to me. It was like I had never been afraid to fly, ever.

I arrived in Sierra Vista and was pleasantly surprised that the temperature was below 100. I picked up the rental car, Kara was paying for it, and I made my way to Fort Huachuca, and went through the sign in process. Then I drove back to Sierra Vista and found my condo. Housing on base is only provided for permanent duty soldiers. Those on TDY, like myself, rented an apartment or condo or house, or stayed at a hotel in Sierra Vista. The housing allowance was adequate, but Kara paid for a really nice condo for me to stay in.

Training started the next day. Holy crap! There was a lot to learn. How to conduct an investigation, how to conduct an interview (or interrogation), how to write reports, a lot of report writing. And, later in the course, how to create and run a surveillance detection route, or SDR.

The SDR is a pre-planned route to and from a destination, designed to detect or verify whether an individual is under surveillance. It involves a lot of situational awareness. Now, my sense of situational awareness is very finely honed. It had to be, because bad guys and IEDs were everywhere in Iraq and Afghanistan. But for the purposes of an SDR, you had to be subtle. That was something I had to learn.

When going down a street in Fallujah, you kept your head on a swivel, looking for bad guys, and looking for obvious places to put an IED, or looking for wires coming out of the ground that came from or went to an IED. I became very good at it. But for an SDR, you have to be more subtle. If you are being followed, you don’t want to tip off the bad guy that you know. So you learn how to watch people out of the corner of your eye, or use your mirrors to see if anyone followed you through a U-turn.

Training was held Monday through Friday, eight to ten hours a day. Then there was studying at night, writing reports, learning all the terminology and procedures. And, of course, I had to keep up with PT. I was able to join a unit’s workout in the morning for that.

It was a lot of work, and I was handling it okay, but man, did I ever look forward to the weekends when Kara or Sharon would visit. It wasn’t all play. I had work to do and I had to convince them that I needed to get my homework and studying done. Actually, I just had to tell Kara, she understood and would refrain from running her pheromones 24x7. Sharon took convincing. Sitting in a hotel room watching me study was quite boring for her. The first weekend she was there I suggested she go out and get to know Sierra Vista. Unfortunately, it isn’t that big a place. There were some nightspots we’d go to after my homework was completed. But what she really wanted to do was exercise the bed and enjoy room service.

After the second weekend, that’s when things started to get complicated for me. Monday was fine, but I woke up Tuesday morning with Dixon and Johnson in my room. Crap. I didn’t even say anything to them. I just opened up my pill bottles and took the morning meds.

Training on my meds was different. I could handle the PT okay, nothing wrong there. But I had to work really hard to keep my concentration in class. And my appetite fell off too. But the meds kept me from going to that really dark place, and I stayed away from alcohol.

Tuesday evening, after dinner, I called Kara on my phone and told her about going back on the meds. We agreed, it was really her idea, we agreed that I’d take the meds Sunday evening through Thursday evening, and be off them for her and Sharon’s visits. About ten minutes after I hung up with her, I got a call from Xara. She was feeling very bad for me. We talked about it for a while, but there wasn’t anything to be done. Either I needed her to keep me in my good place, or it took more than weekends with Sharon or Kara to maintain it.

The third weekend Xara came down with her mother. I was really glad to see her, even though she almost cracked my ribs with her enthusiastic hug. She had a room next door to Kara’s, and we had dinner together. She was intrigued by my homework, and offered to help by proofreading my reports, that kind of thing.

The fourth weekend Sharon showed up at my condo with a motorcycle suit and helmet in the back seat of her rental car.

“What’s that for Sharon?”

“I thought we’d do some flying.”

Okay, that sounded cool. I’d never been flying with Sharon before, it would be an adventure.

We got to the hotel room and I sat down to get my work done. It only took a couple of hours, and then we exercised the bed for a while, then went out for dinner. After dinner we drove out into the desert and she found a secluded place to park the car. It was August, so we still had some twilight left. She changed into her flight suit and put her clothes in her cape, which I thought was a little odd, she could have just left them with the car, but I didn’t say anything. I put on the motorcycle suit and helmet. She picked me up and we went up in the air high enough that I was glad I had my suit on for warmth, and then she turned south.

“I’m going to speed up Joe, let me know if it gets uncomfortable for you.”

I said okay. It was already uncomfortable for me; I was off my meds. But that wasn’t what she meant. I just kept my mouth shut.

She took us across the Mexican border to Agua Prieta. We landed on the top of a building where she changed into her clothes and I took off the motorcycle suit. Then she put her arms around me, and we floated down into an alley, then walked to the street and started exploring by foot.

It wasn’t long before Sharon found a bar with live music and dancing. She has a nose for it. We walked in the door and I stopped and looked around. The clientele looked pretty rough to me and I tried to warn Sharon.

“Sharon, I don’t think we’re in the good part of town. Maybe we should find someplace else.”

“Don’t forget who you’re with,” she said. “It’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t fine. We made our way to the dance floor, and every head in the place turned to watch Sharon. We danced for three songs then got a table and ordered drinks. Tequila for Sharon and a soda for me.

When we finished our drinks, we got up and danced for three or four more songs, then sat down again, and ordered more drinks. While we were waiting for our order a big ugly guy with tattoos everywhere, some of them gang symbols, came to our table and asked Sharon to dance with him. She politely turned him down.

Did I mention that Sharon speaks Spanish? I didn’t know that before this evening, but she does. And she can even match the local accent.

Anyway, she said no, and he became upset. I don’t know what he was saying to her, but it was loud and didn’t sound friendly, and I was off my meds, and suddenly Dixon and Johnson were there telling me not to let this guy talk to her like that.

I had just gotten out of my chair when three of the guys pals surrounded me. One of them pulled a gun on me. Meanwhile, the guy Sharon had turned down had reached out and grabbed her arm and tried to pull her out of her chair. Sharon put her hand over his and squeezed, I heard the bones crunch, and the guy yelled in pain and let go. Then, in a flash, she had her hand around the wrist of the guy who pulled the gun on me, and she twisted it, I heard the bones break, and he dropped his gun and screamed in pain.

All I did was stand up. Sharon was the one who went on the offence, not me. She broke bones, not me. And yet the other two guys came at me! I was just starting to react when Sharon shoved me out of the way, I went flying six or seven feet and landed on my ass. And then she went at them. She picked them up by their vests, one in each hand, and threw them across the floor where they crashed into tables that were occupied by, I think, a rival gang. Maybe not. I don’t know. What I do know is that drinks went flying, one of the tables broke, and the guys sitting at those tables started to brawl with the guys Sharon had thrown at them.

Sharon came over to me and helped me up, took me by the hand and said, “You were right Joe. Let’s find someplace else to dance. Did I hurt you?” Before I could answer, she looked me over and said, “Oh dear, I think you’re going to have a bruise where your wallet is.” I checked later. She was right. And it hurt.

We walked out the door just as the whole place erupted into a big fight. As we went around a corner, we heard gunshots, then police sirens.

Sharon said, “We should probably hurry along.” And she picked me up and floated up above the streetlights and headed off towards a different section of town. She must have been looking through walls to find a nice place, because she landed us on the sidewalk a block away from a very nice place we went into.

“Sharon, you’re the one who did all the fighting. Why did those two guys come after me instead of you?”

Sharon laughed and said, “That was a gang bar. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how we looked to them.”

And then I figured it out. My wounds and burns made me look like I was a gangster. With eye candy. Really, really hot eye candy.

“I get your point,” I said, “I looked the part, but still, I wasn’t the threat.”

“If they thought you belonged to a gang, then in their minds you were the threat. If they’d had just a little more time to process what was happening, they would have turned their attention to me. Not that it would have made any difference. The moment that idiot pointed a gun at you they were toast, and there was nothing they could do about it.”

Well, there weren’t any gangs in the place we were in now, and we enjoyed ourselves. After a couple of hours of dancing, Sharon could tell that I was getting pretty tired. So we left out the front door, walked around back to the alley, and she picked me up and we flew back to where we stashed our flight suits. An hour later we were back at the hotel, in Sharon’s bed.

“You’re tired Joe. I’ll just help you get to sleep.”

And then she was on top of me, emitting just enough pheromone to get me hard, and she rode me softly and gently. When we were done, I fell asleep.

 

Ralph Perkins was running out of Aldrich’s money to spend. Paris was a lot of fun, but pricey, and while he had other financial resources, he wanted to get back to work. Coming home wasn’t an option right now, Aldrich had been clear about that, but vague on the reasons. Not being one to throw caution to the wind, you didn’t last long in this business if you did, he decided to stay in Paris. He’d done work in Europe before, he had contacts, so he put out feelers, letting the right people know he was available.

Within a couple of days one of his contacts got back to him. There was a client with an interest in Import-Export businesses who would like a tap placed on the phone line of a small French government regulatory agency located in Paris. Perkins cased the building the office was in and determined he could do the job. So he called back his contact and quoted a price. Two days later he was informed he had the contract and noted that a down payment had been deposited in one of his Cayman Island bank accounts.

He went back to the building the office was in and did a detailed reconnaissance. He double checked all the entrances and exits. He went to the city building department and examined the blueprints of the building. He visited the office to pick up some brochures and noted the location of the telephone wiring closet. He was ready. What he didn’t know was that Kara Zor-el was his client, and she had tipped off the DGSI, the French internal security agency. They had been following and photographing his every move.

On the night he snuck into the office, they were waiting for him and took him into custody as soon as he placed his first tap. High above, Kara was watching. She had briefly considered recruiting Perkins into her organization. Her current covert tech was a retired gentleman who was slowing down, due to his age. But she decided her Kiraling obligation took precedence, she’d find another covert operator somewhere else. Her interest in Ralph Perkins was over. She had avenged her Kiraling.

It wasn’t quite over for Perkins though. Besides his legal problems, he’d later find out that all his bank accounts, every single one of them, had been emptied.

Chapter 96

The meds schedule, Sunday thru Thursday, then off them for the weekend, seemed to be working to keep me from going to that dark place when I was off the meds. The speculation was that being with Sharon or Kara either stopped or moderated the descent. The evidence wasn’t enough to convince Gloria, but it was working so we just went with it.

The class work was harder when I was on the meds, but I just kept telling myself that as hard as it was, it was never as hard as spending a night up to my chest in an Iraqi open sewer. I just had to work harder.

One evening, in the middle of September, it was a Wednesday, I was working on my coursework when I heard a tap at the balcony door. My condo was on the top floor of the building I was in, so I thought that was a little odd. I looked out the window and there was Xara. I opened the door and she floated in and turned and gave me a kiss and a great big hug.

“Xara, we aren’t supposed to meet this way.”

“I checked Joe. No one is watching.”

“What if the place is bugged.”

She walked around the entire apartment, several times, then said, “No bugs here, no listening devices in any of the surrounding apartments.”

“Why are you here Xara?”

“You’re on your meds, right?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I’ve been missing you. And I thought, if you’re on your meds, it would be okay to visit you and spend the night. That increases your Supremis exposure.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Is that okay Joe?”

I smiled big and said, “Hell yeah it’s okay! I’ve missed you too!”

She just lit up and hugged me again.

We could have sat up all night talking, but I had my schoolwork to finish. And between PT and classwork, I really needed to get a solid eight hours of sleep at night. So she watched TV while I finished my work. Then I kissed her goodnight and went to bed.

She told me she’d wait until I was asleep, then get into bed with me. I guess that is what she did, I don’t know. When I woke up in the morning she was gone. I started to wonder if my PTSD was playing tricks on me, that I had dreamt the whole thing, then I walked into the kitchen to fix breakfast and found her dirty dishes in the dishwasher. So no, I didn’t dream it.

And that’s the way it went. On the meds part of the week, off them at the end of the week, and, at least until school started, Xara staying with me one night a week, when I was on the meds.

I was managing my course work well. All it required was hard work, and I was used to that. I’d like to say it was a bed of roses, but, unfortunately, life isn’t a bed of roses.

Chapter 97

As we got further into the course, we started getting guest lecturers one or two days a week for special topics. These were always officers, either a major or colonel. You may have seen this on the news or read about it in the paper. I’m talking about the first mass shooting incident on a military base.

It was a Wednesday. The classroom we were in was on the third floor of a general-purpose building. There were classrooms and offices, storage, a cafeteria, pretty a much multi-purpose building. We had a colonel as a guest lecturer. He was going on about abduction. Not the kidnapping kind, abductive reasoning. Anyway, he was lecturing away when we heard gun shots. Now, in that context, I think some of the men and women in the class, who didn’t have infantry backgrounds, were initially confused. But I wasn’t. I knew right away. Bang! Bang! Bang! In rapid succession, and then there was screaming. I immediately thought, not an automatic weapon, a semi-auto. It sounded a lot like an M-4 in semi-auto mode.

There was confusion. The colonel was telling everyone to stay calm. The class instructor was on his phone calling the MPs.

I looked around. We were on the third floor. Too high to break a window and jump out. The shooter was on our floor, quite a way down the hallway from us. The colonel said everyone down, move the furniture to barricade the door. Bang! Bang! More screams. People were getting shot, maybe dying. Yeah, maybe we could hide here and be safe. We could barricade the door and nobody would get in. But Christ Almighty, people out there were dying!

I pulled out my phone and called Kara. It went to voice mail. I just said, “Kara, shooter, I need your help,” and hung up, then pushed the alert buttons on my watch. Then I stood up and yelled, “Listen up!” That quieted everybody.

“Who came from eleven bravo?” Two hands went up.

“You’re with me.”

I pointed to an old wooden chair in the back of the room. “Break the legs off that thing.”

They did. They each took a leg and brought one to me.

“Sergeant, what are you doing?” The colonel asked.

Bang! Bang! Bang! More screaming.

“I’m going to go get that mother fucker sir.”

“Sergeant, you will do no such thing! That’s an order! The MPs are on their way.”

Bang! More screaming. Bang! Bang!

“Sir, people are dying out there!”

It was getting closer, and the colonel had a change of heart.

“Okay sarge. Give me one of those legs, I’m coming with you.”

Jesus Christ. Everyone wants to be a hero.

“Begging your pardon sir, but if I let a colonel get himself killed, I’ll never be able to step foot into an NCO club again. I’d be too embarrassed.”

One of the other 11B guys said, “Ricci is right sir. We’re trained for this.”

Well, that wasn’t exactly true. None of the training scenarios I ever went through covered three guys with sticks charging a bad guy with a semi-auto rifle. Anyway, I don’t know if the colonel agreed because he understood that this was our job, or because he was afraid. Doesn’t matter. He agreed to stay with everyone else.

I opened the door and peaked around it. The shots were coming from my right, around a corner. All this time, we kept hearing shots and screams. Then silence, then shots and screams. The guy was working his way down the hall stopping at each office or room.

The three of us moved out into the hallway. I went first and went down two doorways. The other two came after me, each of us ducking into the alcove of one doorway at a time as we worked our way down to the corner. I looked around the corner and saw the guy trying to kick in an office door about twenty feet down. I turned to the other two guys to tell them what I had in mind for our next move when I heard the door he was kicking crash open and then screams. Crap.

He was pointing his rifle into the room, lining up his targets, I guess. I just took off around the corner running and screaming like a banshee thinking that I could distract him and maybe get to him. It was stupid. What can I say? I was stupid. But as I was running towards him, screaming, with just my stick, suddenly Johnson and Dixon were with me, encouraging me, telling me to get the SOB. And I knew, he couldn’t shoot all three of us. I mean me, Johnson and Dixon. Stupid, I know. What can I say? I was stupid.

I startled him. And he had to get his rifle around the alcove of the doorway, and he must have been rattled because he tried to shoot from the hip just as I threw my chair leg at him and hit him. He got off one round and then I was on him. I took him down and got on top of him and low and behold, I remembered everything Gloria had taught me about fighting from the ground and I started wailing on him. Suddenly the other two guys who had left the classroom with me were there. One of them kicked the shooters rifle away and then they were joined by other guys who pulled me off the shooter and then held him down.

At first, I didn’t understand why they did that, I was already on top of him, they didn’t have to pull me off, just join me in holding the guy down. But then I did understand:

“Ricci’s hit! Get a medic!”

“What? Where am I hit?”

One of the guys pointed at my thigh. I was bleeding. Pretty good too. Someone wrapped a belt around my upper thigh and tightened it, that slowed the bleeding but didn’t stop it. I didn’t feel any pain, but I did recognize when I was going into shock. For the next period of time I was in and out of consciousness. I don’t know how long it was. The MPs showed up and that just ratcheted up the confusion. They didn’t know who the shooter was or how many there were. But I saw the colonel talking to them and pointing at me. Then I remember waking up in an ambulance. And the medic said, “I’ve given you some morphine soldier. Don’t fight it, just go with it.”

The next time I woke up I was in a hospital bed and Gloria and the blondes were there. There was some kind of argument going on between Gloria and Kara on one side and a doctor on the other. Sharon and Xara were next to me, one on each side of the bed.

“He’s awake,” said Xara.

That stopped the argument as Kara and Gloria came over to me. Kara started talking to me, I have no idea what she said because I drifted off again. They told me later that it was about two hours before the anesthetic had worn off enough for me to stay awake and follow a conversation.

The next time I woke up, all four of them were surrounding a doctor, who was telling Gloria the army had arranged for her to have privileges at the hospital. The colonel from my class was there too. I said, “What’s going on?”

All six of them stopped talking and came over to me. Xara held my hand, the one on the arm that didn’t have all the IV stuff going into it. The doctor told me that I’d been shot and lost a lot of blood, and I had surgery to remove the bullet and sew up an artery that had been nicked. He said I’d be in the hospital for three days, max, then I could go on restricted duty. The colonel told me that I should be able to catch up on the course work and not to worry about graduating.

I asked him what happened to the shooter, and how many people had been hurt. He told me the shooter was in custody, and that eight people had died and ten had been wounded. He said I saved a lot of lives with my actions.

I’m sure only five minutes passed from the first shots I heard and when I took the shooter down. The colonel and the doctor left the room, said they were giving my family some time with me. I was still a little bit out of it and I was going to ask him, “What family?” But he left the room before I could get it out.

Kara leaned over and said, “What the hell were you doing Joseph? You should have waited for me. You could have been killed! You went up against a man armed with an assault rifle with nothing but a chair leg? What were you thinking?!” There was steel in her voice, and anger in her eyes. She was pissed, at me, like I’ve never seen her.

I glared back at her. “How long did it take you to get here Kara?”

“About 15 minutes. I had to excuse myself from a meeting and find a place to change into my flight suit.”

“You’re smart Kara. Do the math.”

“What do you mean Joe?” asked Xara.

“18 casualties in five minutes. What do you think would have happened if I’d waited for you?”

Kara nodded her head, her features softened, and the anger left her eyes. Just like that. She’s pissed off at me one second, okay the next. I was going to ask her about that, but Sharon, umm, distracted me.

She said, “I’m going to take him. Right here. Right now.”

I laughed. “I’m on my meds Sharon.”

Kara said one of them would stay in the room with me until I was discharged. I questioned that. I was in a hospital room. My surgery was successful. Why did I need a bodyguard?

“Don’t think of us as bodyguards Joseph, think of us as your family, and we’re concerned.”

I didn’t argue. If the most beautiful women on the planet wanted to stay with me, I could live with it.

Gloria checked my chart, checked the medications they were pumping into me, noted the amount of fluid in my IV bag and the amount that came through my catheter and into the collection bottle. She seemed happy with it.

The nurses came in to give me a small drink, then said to let them know if I couldn’t hold it down. I could, so they brought me a light meal including all the Jell-O I could eat. I ate a little, then fell asleep again.

Chapter 98

I woke up the next morning to find Gloria sitting on the couch in my room. Johnson and Dixon were sitting next to her, which was strange, because there wasn’t a couch in the room before. I looked around and realized I was in a different room. And I’d missed my evening and morning meds. That explained Dixon and Johnson.

Gloria saw me looking around and got up and came over to me and started checking my vitals and asking me how I felt.

“My leg hurts. Why am I in a different room?”

“I’ll get you something for your pain,” she said. “Kara got you a room upgrade.”

“Really? They do that in hospitals?”

“Evidently,” she said.

“Evidently? Gloria, you’re expanding your vocabulary,” I teased.

“You have visitors,” she said. “Are you feeling well enough to see them before breakfast?”

“Yeah. Sure. Who are they?”

“Army,” she said. Then she picked up the phone and punched a button and said, “Sgt. Ricci will see his visitors now.”

A couple of minutes later in walked General Rosenthal. Now, you have to understand, three star generals don’t travel by themselves. They bring a retinue. Enough brass walked into my room to make me afraid the floor would give way under the weight.

And behind the retinue Captain Moore walked in with Sharon.

“Son,” said the general, “do you think you’re in some kind of competition to collect the most medals?”

I laughed. “No sir, the opportunities just seem to find me.”

He laughed at that. “We’re all very proud of you sergeant. And grateful. You saved a lot of lives yesterday. Are you up for getting your picture taken with an old general?”

“Yes sir!” Well, not really. But it was obvious he wanted the picture. I’m not about to say no to three stars. So I got my picture taken with the general. Not just one picture, but many. I caught Sharon’s eye, she tapped on Gloria’s shoulder and pointed to me, and Gloria said, “Enough! That is enough. He needs to rest.”

The general shook my hand and told me he’d be following my progress and said to reach out to him if I needed anything. Then he and his retinue and the photographers left, leaving just me, Gloria, Sharon, Capt. Moore, Dixon and Johnson in the room. Dixon and Johnson were ogling Capt. Moore. She really is a beautiful woman, but the way these guys were carrying on, it was just embarrassing.

“Dude,” said Johnson, “give us a break! This chick is gorgeous!”

“Yeah,” said Dixon, “and we did help you take down that asshole. The least you can do is let us have some time with the ladies.”

“Gloria,” I said, “I think I need my meds.”

That shut them up.

Gloria picked up the phone and ordered my breakfast, then went to a bag in the room, took out my meds and brought them to me with a glass of water. I took them, and then Sharon and Capt. Moore approached.

Sharon came over and held my hand, then reached out with her other hand and grasped one of Capt. Moore’s. The captain looked shocked and tried to pull her hand away, but Sharon wouldn’t let go. I don’t think Sharon understood, but I did.

“Captain, it’s okay. I’m not going to say anything. Sharon, you’re putting the captain on the spot here.”

“Oh,” said Sharon, letting go of Capt. Moore’s hand, “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Sarah, we’re safe with Joe.”

“Sharon,” I said, “there are all kinds of complications here. Army regulations, the difference in our respective ranks, our working relationship, and all those officers that were just in here. You need to work these things out with the captain.”

“Thank you, sergeant,” said Captain Moore. “Sharon, we should talk about this later.”

Sharon looked at me and rolled her eyes.

“Captain,” I said, “good luck with that. These ladies can be stubbornly indifferent to what looks to us like common sense.”

“Joe,” Sharon laughed, “We’re not indifferent, we’re right!”

That got a laugh out of the captain.

The captain told me that the evening of the briefing Major Aldrich had run his car off a road and into a tree. He had minor injuries, but it seemed to change him, he was less bossy with her. There was even a rumor that he was seeking another assignment, but after a week it became clear that if he did ask for a transfer, it was either turned down or he withdrew the request.

While she was talking, Sharon had been snaking her hand under my covers and was lightly moving it over the bandages on my wound. Then she said, “It doesn’t look too bad. Gloria, how long will it take him to recover?”

Gloria said, “As the surgeon said. Just a few days in the hospital, then some limited physical activity. In three weeks, he should be fully recovered.”

Sharon and the Captain left when my breakfast arrived. Gloria stood over me and all but threatened to force feed me when I put my fork down. So I picked it up and ate the entire meal.

About an hour after I finished my breakfast a lieutenant from the Media Relations section of the Ft. Huachuca Public Affairs Office came to my room to talk to me. He said the local and national media wanted to talk to me and he wanted to set up an interview schedule.

“Sir, I’d rather not talk to the media.”

“Sergeant, the entire country heard about what you did. You’re a big story. Haven’t you been watching that thing?” He pointed up to the TV in my room, which I hadn’t been watching.

“No sir, I haven’t. Can’t you make a statement for me?”

“Sergeant, no one will accept that. You’re getting a lot of attention and the Army would like the good publicity.”

“Sir, it’s not something I’m comfortable with.”

“Don’t give me that sergeant. You’ve got a Bronze Medal, a Silver Star, Purple Hearts, are you telling me you can’t face a couple of reporters?”

At this point Gloria intervened. She pulled herself up to her full height and glowered down at the lieutenant. “I am Sergeant Ricci’s physician. He is not well enough to see reporters and you are upsetting him. You must leave. Now!”

She said that with steel in her voice. Shit, she even scared me. The lieutenant left, saying he would be back.

“Thanks Gloria. I really appreciate that.”

“I don’t think you can avoid talking to these media people. But I will do what I can to control it. Would you like to watch the TV to see what is being said about you?”

“No. I know what I did. I don’t need to listen to other people talking about it.”

After lunch Xara came to see me. She was just glowing, not, ‘I just fucked a Messenger’ glowing, but really happy.

“What’s got you so happy Xara?”

“School started Joe! I’ve moved into my dorm and made new friends. And I got into all the classes I wanted.” And she went on and on telling me about it. After a while she said, “I have to go now. I’m meeting some girls for a shopping trip.”

“Okay Xara. I’m glad it’s going so well for you. Have fun!” And she kissed me, turned and left.

And then Gloria said, “Just as well she is leaving. We need to take your catheter out and get you up to walk around.”

Xara heard it. She was walking down the hall and heard what Gloria said and was back in the room. “I’m going to help! I’ll remove the catheter!”

Oh geez. I tried to argue with her.

“Xara, how about my privacy?”

“What privacy? I can see through walls. Clothing and blankets are no problem. I see your junk more often than you do. And I’ve seen you naked plenty of times before.”

“Can’t you let me have a little bit of dignity?”

“There is nothing undignified about this. Would you worry about your dignity if Gloria did it?”

“That’s different. She’s a doctor.”

“I’m going to be a doctor someday!”

The whole time Gloria was trying, unsuccessfully, to stifle her laughter. So I just gave in.

Xara took the catheter out. Then she helped me swing my legs over the edge of the bed and put slippers on my feet, then helped me up and steadied me as we walked, first, around the room, and then down the hallway and back. I was shaky and sweating when we got back into my room. She picked me up and put me in bed, but kept the covers down, got a cloth and a container of water, and gave me a sponge bath, then covered me up, leaned over and kissed me. Then she was gone.

For the rest of the day, Gloria got me up and walking every hour. In the late afternoon Kara came into my room. She walked with me down the hall and back while Gloria told her about the media guy.

“Joseph, I don’t think you’re going to be able to avoid them. I’ll talk to General Rosenthal, but I’m not hopeful.”

“Okay Kara, thanks.”

“Joseph, why don’t you want to talk to the media?”

“They should spend their time on the people who lost family members, or the ones who were wounded by the gunman.”

“You were wounded by the gunman.”

“I put myself in that situation. The others didn’t.”

“Joseph,” she said, “you never disappoint. Your courage and modesty are admirable. Not so admirable is your choice of weapons. First you go after an Arion with a revolver, and now a gunman with a chair leg. Gloria, haven’t you taught him that you don’t bring a stick to a gun fight?”

Gloria had never heard that joke before. She laughed so hard I was surprised she didn’t fall over onto the floor.

In the end, I had to let journalists interview me. Thank God I didn’t have to let them interview me while I was in bed. Gloria helped me dress and I met the press in a hospital conference room. Fuck. I don’t want to say anything more about that.

Chapter 99

After three days in the hospital I was released in the late afternoon. Gloria drove me back to the base so I could get my car. Fortunately for me, I was shot in the left leg, so I was able to drive unfettered.

I got home and there was a news crew waiting for me outside my building.

“How does it feel to get home?”

“What were you thinking when you charged the gunman?”

“What do you think about gun laws in this country?”

And my favorite: “Sergeant Ricci, you’re being called a hero by the other people who were in that building. Do you think you’re a hero?”

Fucking media. I don’t want to say anything more about that.

I opened the door to the condo and stepped in and there was Xara, sitting on the coach. She got up, floated over to me, picked me up and kissed me, then floated us back over to the couch. I was so surprised by the passion and tenderness of her kiss, that I was momentarily speechless.

“Joe, I got a job!”

“Good for you Xara! What’s the job?” I was thinking a campus job, like in the library or something.

“I’m taking a load of supplies up to a space station!”

“What? Really? You’re taking supplies to the International Space Station?”

“No, not that one. There’s another one, a top-secret military space station. The rocket that was supposed to resupply it blew up. So I’m going to resupply it.”

“How’d this come about Xara?”

“General Rosenthal met with mom after he visited with you. He told her about the problem and asked her help. Mom invoked some kind of Protector Prime Directive and turned him down. I was in the next room and heard, so I came in and told him I’d do it, for a price.

“Mom objected, but I reminded her that I’m an American, and it was my patriotic duty.”

“And she accepted that?”

“Nope. We had to ask the General to leave the room while we had an argument. “

“But you convinced her, right?”

“Nope. We agreed to disagree and I’m going to do it.”

“You said there was a price.”

“Oh, right. That’s the exciting part! The engineers are going to help me modify a pod so I can take you into space! And under water too!”

Space? Me, in one of those pods? It sounded like a great idea, when Xara hadn’t figured out how to do it. But now …

“Take me into space Xara? Won’t that be dangerous?”

She just looked at me for a few seconds, then said, “Not as dangerous as a man with a chair leg charging a gunman with an assault rifle.

“Don’t be scared Joe, I’ll test this with mom or Sharon, and then Gloria before I take you up.”

Now it was my turn to just look at her.

“We have plenty of time,” she said. “Don’t worry about it. When I have a finished product, we can talk about it again.”

“Okay.” That was all I could say.

“In two weeks,” she said, “they’ll have a resupply payload ready for me. I’m going to meet with the engineers next weekend to show them how I can carry a large package and they’ll build one for the payload that I can carry up into orbit.

“I’m thinking of doing it naked, to give the astronauts up there a little thrill.”

“You might give them a heart attack Xara!” I laughed.

“But seriously, how big a payload will you be carrying?”

“Not very big at all, about four thousand pounds. The packaging is the important thing. It has to be strong enough to handle the forces I’ll be subjecting it to.”

“Four thousand pounds Xara? How much can you lift? How much can you fly with?”

“I’ve never fully tested myself. But I can fly with a lot more than two tons.”

“Do the astronauts up there know about you?”

“No, and they’re not supposed to either. I’m supposed to position the payload in such a way that they can capture it in orbit and bring it into their cargo bay. But I’m still thinking of making a naked flyby,” she laughed.

“Wow Xara, that really is something, resupplying a space station. You guys always amaze me.”

She smiled at that.

“Have you had dinner Joe?”

“No. And I don’t think I have anything. I was going to go grocery shopping last Wednesday, but I went to the hospital instead.”

“Do you want to go out for dinner?”

“I would Xara, but … are those reporters still out there?”

She looked over my shoulder, through the walls, and said, “Yes, they are. Why don’t we order something?”

“There’s a nearby Chinese restaurant that delivers. Are you good with Chinese?”

“Yes!”

“Okay, I’ve got their takeout menu on the refrigerator door.”

So we ordered Chinese.

Xara had brought her schoolbooks with her, and I’d gotten some class materials when I picked up my car, so after dinner we sat down at the dining room table and each did our homework.

“Are you still on your meds Joe?”

“Yes. I am. I’ll be on them until next Thursday.”

“Then are you okay with me staying the night?”

“Umm, did anyone see you come in?”

“No, I got here before the reporters. And there aren’t any in back, so I can leave by your balcony door.”

“Then sure, I guess so.”

I went to bed. I slept very well, and I assume Xara got into bed with me after I was asleep. When I woke up in the morning she was gone.

Chapter 100

I got a standing ovation when I returned to class Monday morning. Everyone wanted to shake my hand and thank me or tell me how proud they were of me. I didn’t feel really good about that, but not bad either. These were guys and gals who understood.

The class was broken up so we could attend funeral and memorial services for the soldiers and civilian staff who had been killed. The death toll rose to ten, as two people who had been wounded passed away in the hospital. I’d missed several of the funerals while I was in the hospital, and I felt bad about that, but I did get to the others. They were sad, to see the families who had their loved ones taken away, so senselessly.

The gunman, as it turned out, was a civilian employee on the base who worked in the building he attacked that day. He brought his weapon in the trunk of his car. The investigators found some kind of manifesto on his computer. I never saw it, but those who did said it was nonsensical, and the last I heard the authorities were leaning strongly in the direction of believing the shooter was highly unstable. And I wondered, could that have been me if I hadn’t met the blondes?

Friday rolled around and I was off my meds. Kara came by to pick me up and we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant. I found out that I had become something of a celebrity. The manager of the restaurant recognized me, from the newspapers or TV, I don’t know which, and he said our dinner was on him. People came up to me all through dinner to shake my hand and thank me for what I did. For the first time that I can remember, people were focusing on me instead of the Velorian I was with. They all but ignored her.

I was really starting to get tired of it, it was embarrassing, when a woman came up with her little girl. She said, “This is the man who saved momma. Sgt. Ricci, I’m Diane Sanders, this is my little girl, Wendy. That man was pointing his rifle at me when we heard you yell, and he turned towards you. If it hadn’t been for you …” and her voice cracked as she looked at her daughter.

And then the little girl climbed up into my lap and gave me a kiss, and then, looking in my eyes, she started stroking my face where it was burned, and my nubs where my ears had been, and said, “I’m sorry you got hurt surgint Ricky.”

All I could do was hug her. And then her mother took her off my lap and gave me a hug, and then left.

Kara sat through all this without saying a thing. In fact, she was uncharacteristically quiet all through dinner. After dinner I asked her if she’d like to go dancing, but she said no, she would like to go to her room. She seemed so quiet, I thought maybe she didn’t want to be there this weekend, so I asked her if she’d rather drop me off at my condo.

“Oh no, Joseph, not at all. I’ve been looking forward to spending this time with you.”

“You’ve been very quiet Kara. What’s on your mind.”

“You are Joseph.”

“Did I do something to upset you?”

She smiled and said we’d talk about it when we got to her room.

We got to the hotel and took the elevator up to her room. As soon as we walked in the door she turned around and kissed me, then started undressing me. But slowly, and not with the enthusiasm I’ve seen before.

After I was undressed, she picked me up and placed me on my back on the bed, then undressed herself and straddled me. I thought something was wrong, and that’s what I was thinking about, not her body, not her nudity, just that I’d done something to upset her, and so she had to release just a little bit of her pheromones to get me hard. Then she slid me into her and sat very still, gently massaging me with her internal muscles.

I was confused, and a little worried. I was inside a Velorian Protector who wasn’t wearing gold, a woman who could crush granite with her vaginal muscles, and she seemed to be upset with me. I started to go soft.

“Joseph! What’s wrong?”

“Kara, you’re scaring me a little bit. Something’s bothering you and I think it’s me.”

“Joseph, never, ever, be afraid of me. Let’s see what we can do about that.” And she smiled at me and released more of her pheromones, then said, “I’ve had men inside of me who were afraid for their lives, for good reason, and never softened. Oh, that’s better. That’s much better. Let’s keep you this way.” And she released her pheromones at a very low but steady rate as she continued to gently massage me.

“I was upset with you Joseph. No, I was angry with you for going after that shooter, and then I became more angry when I learned that you attacked him with nothing but a broken off chair leg.

“After all the time I’ve spent on you, after all the emotion I’ve invested in you, after all the work I’ve done to help you have a better life, after I made you part of my family, to see you practically throw your life away … Joseph, I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was.”

“Kara, I didn’t mean…” and she touched her finger to my lips and shushed me.

“And then, you made all the anger and all the hurt go away with one sentence. ‘Do the math’.

“You have the heart and soul of a Protector Joseph, and I’m ashamed I didn’t see that. Looking back at it now, it’s obvious, but at the time I didn’t see it. To her credit, Xara did. When she and I talked about it, she said, ‘Of course he’d do that mom. That’s what Joe does’.”

“Kara, when I saw you in the hospital last week, you were obviously upset during our first conversation. But then you calmed down. What happened between then and now?”

“I had a chance to think, that’s all. Joseph, I want you to know that I am so sorry for underestimating you, for accusing you of throwing the great gift of Kiraling away. You weren’t throwing anything away. You were proving again why you deserve it.”

And then she sped up, and when I was about to orgasm, she just let it happen, and kept me hard, and let it happen two more times before she let herself go to completion.

Afterwards she rolled off me, then put her arms around me and pulled my head onto her shoulder as she lay on her back. She held me close until I fell asleep.

In the morning we went out for breakfast, which we didn’t have to pay for. I shook more hands and met more strangers. Finally, we were left alone to finish our meal. I told Kara I really needed to do some grocery shopping, so she drove me to a store. Again, in the store, people recognized me. And again, I didn’t have to pay. Someone, I don’t know who because they wanted to be anonymous, paid for my groceries.

On the way to my condo, Kara said, “Joseph, do you remember when we would go out and everyone looked at me?”

I laughed and said, “Oh how I long for those days!”

“Do you want to stay in for the rest of the weekend?” she asked.

“No, why don’t we go out into the desert and do some exploring?”

“Flying or driving?”

“Let’s do it the old fashion way Kara.”

So after we put my groceries away, we drove out to the Murray Springs Clovis Site and spent an hour there, then drove over an hour to the Slaughter Ranch Museum.

Afterwards we drove back into Sierra Vista, drove through a McDonalds to pick up lunch, and went back to Kara’s hotel where I spent some time doing schoolwork.

We ordered room service for dinner, then showered together. If you ever have the opportunity to shower with a Velorian, do it! It is totally worth it. I learned Kara can have unprotected sex standing up. We didn’t leave the room until it was time for Kara to take me back to my condo.

Chapter 101

The next few weeks went by pretty quickly. What they say about 15 minutes of fame is true, it didn’t take long for my celebrity status to wane, and it felt like life was back to normal. My leg healed, that was good, and I could get back to PT. I did manage to catch up with the class, so that was good too. And Kara and Sharon continued their weekend visits. That was more than good. That was spectacular!

Sharon still wanted to go south of the border for clubbing, but she was more careful about the places she picked for us. We had fun and the sex was nothing short of great. And as hard as it might be to believe, the sex got better. Because Kara was teaching Sharon how to have unprotected sex with a Terran.

The details of how she was honing this new skill were quite intimidating. As she described in Chelan, she started out with dildos carved from rock, and worked her way to steel, then to softer metals, and finally to stuff she could buy in a sex shop.

The first time she wanted to try it with me, I was very nervous about it. Sharon, God bless her, was sensitive to my feelings, she could have used her pheromones to overcome my resistance, but instead she called Kara, who talked to me about it for half an hour and convinced me it was safe. So we tried it.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. Once she straddled me and inserted me inside her, it was obvious that she was worried about hurting me. She kept it very gentle at first, in fact way too gentle, for her. When I approached orgasm, instead of tightening her muscles to prevent my ejaculation, she just let it happen. She even offered to quit. But by that time, I had faith in her. God knows why. But I believed that if Kara thought it was safe, then it must be. So I encouraged her to keep on going. She smiled at me and released a flood of pheromones. I mean, she really over did it. But she got me hard again, and started moving and massaging, and let herself get into it. When I got close to another orgasm, she tightened her muscles to stop it, and watched my face carefully for any sign of pain.

“Sharon, I think we’re fine. You aren’t hurting me.”

“Are you sure Joe?”

“Well, yeah, of course I’m sure. I know what pain feels like.” That got a laugh out of her. I don’t know about human women, but apparently, when a Velorian laughs, more muscles than you would think are involved. Note to self: Don’t make a Velorian practicing unprotected sex with a Terran for the first time laugh. You won’t like the way it feels.

I yelled “Ouch!”

She was mortified and literally flew off me.

“Oh Joe, I’m so sorry! Did I damage anything?”

And then she was down at my crotch, examining my penis for any signs of bruising or other injury. Of course, I was still erect, because of the flood of pheromones she released earlier.

“I’m fine Sharon. It only hurt a little, and I was startled. I guess no one tried to tickle you while you were practicing with granite.”

She was so apologetic. “Joe, I could have hurt you badly! This was a bad idea. If you can forgive me, I’ll get my gold and take care of you.”

“Sharon, of course I can forgive you. You didn’t do it on purpose. And we both learned something. Don’t put on the gold, let’s see if we can make this work.”

You may think I was nuts for wanting to continue our unprotected sex experiment, and maybe I was, the room was full of her pheromones, after all, so maybe my judgement was a bit impaired.

She didn’t want to try again, she was rattled. So this time I called Kara, and we both talked to her for twenty minutes. She admitted that she’d never considered what would happen if the Terran she was with was cracking jokes. That usually didn’t happen during sex with a Velorian. So she recommended that we try again, I refrain from making Sharon laugh, and set up a time when she could work with Sharon on maintaining discipline and control when she was fucking a comedian. That wasn’t a shot, she actually saw the humor in the situation, as did I. Sharon, not so much.

So we tried again. She concentrated more, and this time I could tell she was concentrating on herself as much as me. She tightened her muscles again to keep me from ejaculating, and I felt her body become hard, but controlled, like with Kara, and when she had her orgasm, it was just as scary as it was with Kara, but I trusted her and she didn’t hurt me.

“Joe, that was so intense! It’s so much better with a real live penis attached to a real living man than a piece of rock!”

She wasn’t through with me, but she didn’t want to push our luck the first time out, so she put on her gold. Afterwards, we talked. She wanted to talk to me about Xara.

I wasn’t seeing a lot of Xara, she was very busy with school, and that’s understandable. Sharon told me she and Kara went to dinner with her and a couple of her new friends in Bellingham, and all she could talk about was me. And I guess I was all over the news all over the country, because her friends thought it was awesome that she “knows Joe Ricci.” That’s okay, I guess, but …

Sharon said, “Xara was dating a guy she really liked, but broke it off over you.”

“What? Why?”

“They caught a TV news story about your heroics, that still comes up on the news from time to time, and when the reporter described how you attacked the shooter, her boyfriend laughed and said, ‘What an idiot’, which didn’t go down well at all with Xara. She broke it off with him right there. Joe, I know you thought college men would change her mind about you, but she compares every single guy she meets to you, and so far, they are all coming up short.”

“Oh geez.”

“And that’s not all Joe.”

“I’m listening.”

“She has all the sexual drive of an experienced Velorian, but none of the discretion. Some of the girls in her dorm have been catty with her, she has been subjected to a bit of slut-shaming, and one or two of her lovers, now ex-lovers, have been telling stories around campus about the hot easy blonde in Ridgeway Delta.”

“Ridgeway what?”

“Delta. It’s the name of her dorm.”

“How is she handling it?”

“Not well. She’d been talking to me and her mom about leaving the dorm and moving into your cabin.”

“What have you been telling her?”

“We’ve been advising her to be more discrete about her sexual liaisons and pickier about the men she chooses to bed.”

“How do you and Kara manage that sort of thing?”

“We’ve never had to. Neither one of us have ever lived in the fishbowl environment of a college dormitory. Joe, I know how this looks to Terrans. If she tells you about it, please don’t be judgmental. Be a sympathetic shoulder she can cry on.”

“Of course.”

Sharon came down again the next week. She called me from the car rental business and told me she was on her way. The weather was nice, so I waited outside for her. She pulled up and I got in the car, and immediately noticed the faint scent of honey and wildflowers, and my body reacted the way it always does.

“Sharon, are we starting early?”

She smiled at me and said, “Yes, we are.” She steered the car with her left hand and ran her right hand over my left thigh, over the scar from my wound. She’d take her hand off me when she needed two hands to drive, but then she’d have it back on my thigh when she could. And she started stroking my thing higher and higher, and more to the inside.

She was heading out of town, not towards the hotels.

“Sharon, where are we going?”

She smiled at me and said, “I thought we’d try something different tonight Joe.”

A few miles into the desert she pulled off the highway onto a dirt track. We headed up it for about ten minutes and she pulled off into a little patch of pretty much nothing. We got out of the car and went around a rock outcropping and there, in the middle of nowhere, were some tarps covering up …

She pulled one tarp up and there was a circle of rocks with wood in the center and wood piled next to it. She used her heat vision to ignite the wood and in no time had a warm fire going. She pulled another tarp away and there was a table with place settings and two chairs, and next to it a cooler.

“What’s under the other tarp Sharon?”

“Our bed. Now you sit down, relax and enjoy the view while I fix dinner.

Then she disrobed, completely, went to the cooler and pulled out a bottle of wine and poured us each a glass. Then back to the cooler where she pulled out a couple of steaks. She went back to her car and got out a frying pan, put the steaks in it, and held the pan over the fire. Right over the center of the fire. The flames were licking at her hand and arm, to no effect.

When the steaks were finished, she put them on our plates, lit two candles with her heat vision, and sat down to eat with me. All this time, she was emitting her pheromones, and there was no wind, so they lingered. She was keeping me ready.

“How is your steak?”

“Oh my God Sharon, you cooked it to perfection.”

“I’m glad you like it.”

“This wine is very good too. I don’t recognize the label, where did you find it?”

“I picked it up this morning in a little town outside of Paris. I tasted it first and thought you would like it.”

“Really? You were in Paris this morning?”

“Yes. Joe, you know as much or more about us as any Terran ever has. Why do these things still surprise you?”

“Sharon, sometimes I don’t think you realize how amazing you are to us. Your beauty, your strength, it never stops surprising me.”

“Well then Joe, you’re in for a treat after dinner.”

It was dark and getting cold by the time we finished dinner. Sharon threw more wood on the fire, then uncovered the bed and moved it closer to the fire.

“Can I help you clean up?” I asked.

“No need to clean up Joe. The chairs and table are wood, we’ll burn them tonight. As for the rest …”

She picked up the plates, the utensils, the glasses, and carried them a short distance away from the fire and set them down. Then she stepped back and turned on her heat vision. Everything got hot, hotter, some of it burst into flame, but she kept pouring on the energy, until at the end, there was only molten glass cooling on the desert floor.

She walked over to me and kissed me, then undressed me, and reached down and stroked my scrotum and erection, and said, “Now sit down on the bed, close to the fire to stay warm, and watch.”

She went to the cooler and pulled out a cylinder of metal. She handed it to me, it was heavy.

“That’s steel Joe. A high grade of steel. Its melting point is about 1,450 degrees Fahrenheit.”

She took it from my hands and said, “Watch.”

She floated into the air, into a sitting position, then spread her legs wide giving me an awesome view of her vagina. She reached down and pealed her lips open with one hand and inserted the steel cylinder, up to about half its length, inside her with the other. She smiled at me, and then I heard a squealing sound, coming from her vagina. The sound stopped, and she pulled he cylinder out. The half that had been inside her was flattened. She handed it to me to examine.

“Feel it Joe, explore it’s length. Do you feel how warm the flattened end is? Can you feel how misshapen it is? Close your eyes now,” she waited for me to do that, “and imagine that had been you inside of me. If I can do that to steel, what do you think I can do to you?”

“Sharon, you’re scaring me.”

She laughed and said, “I haven’t even started Joe.”

I was scared. She was emitting pheromones, so I was staying hard, but not so much that I was addled. I thought of getting dressed and leaving in the car but discarded that idea. She would be able to catch me easily.

“Now watch this Joe,” she said. She took the steel back from me and inserted it back into herself, and started working it in and out, faster and faster, so fast that her arm and hand were just a blur. She was getting excited, way excited, and she suddenly shouted out in pleasure as an orgasm rocked her body, and as she came down her movements became slower, so I could see her hand and arm moving again, and then she took the piece of steel out of her vagina, and I had to shield my eyes, because it was white hot.

After about a minute she said, “It’s cooled off some Joe, you can look now.”

And I did. It was cherry red now. She positioned the tip of it over her clitoris and was gently moving it back and forth. When it was no longer glowing, she put it down on the ground. Then she picked up two stones, one in each hand, and crushed them to powder. Then she picked up a larger rock, put it between her breasts and pushed them together with her hands, and the rock cracked and broke. All this time she had been floating above the ground. She brushed her hands and breasts off and floated over to me and pushed me down onto the bed and straddled me.

“Do you see how strong I am Joe, not just my hands, legs and arms, but even my most intimate muscles?”

“Sharon, what are you going to do to me?”

She reached behind her and grasped my erection. Yeah, I was still hard. Pheromones.

“I’m going make love to you of course, silly. As only a Velorian can.

“This hand on your manhood, which can easily crush stone, will only give you pleasure.” And she began gently stroking me.

She leaned forward and put a nipple at my lips and said, “These breasts, which are harder than the hardest rock, will only give you comfort.” And she leaned a little further forward and I opened my mouth and began sucking and licking her nipple.

Then she lowered herself down onto my erection and inserted me inside her and said, “This vagina, which can crush and melt steel, will take you to the height of pleasure, and your hardness will take me there with you.” And it felt so good!

All this time I had been looking into her eyes. I let them wander lower, over her body, and somewhere in my brain I recognized that she was not wearing gold. But I didn’t care. As she moved up and down, I matched her movements with my thrusts. As I got close to orgasm she grasped me tight with her inner muscles, and continued to ride me, until suddenly I felt her body grow hard, harder than I’d ever felt it, and her inner muscles tightened on me more, and then she was screaming out her orgasm while her vaginal muscles began fluttering, and I had my orgasm, and when she was done she collapsed on top of me.

I put my arms around her and held her, and said, “Sharon, that was terrifying!”

“Good Joe. That’s how it should have been the first time.”

“Really? You wanted to scare me?”

“No, not per se. But when you have unprotected sex with a Velorian, you should be aware of the power you are dealing with, and the control I need to have to protect you from harm. You were never in any danger Joe, and you never will be with me.”

Then she leaned back and straightened up and looked at me and asked, “Are you okay Joe, was that too much?”

“That was fucking AWESOME Sharon! Like being on a big, scary rollercoaster!”

She laughed and said, “Good. I’m glad you liked it, because the ride isn’t over yet.”

And then she got off me, threw more wood on the fire and laid down next to me, on her back, hit me with those wonderful pheromones again, and said, in a low, sultry and very sexy voice, “Get on.”

I mounted her and she wrapped her arms and legs around me. As I began thrusting from above, she matched my movements from below. I don’t know how long this went on, but when she finally came, it seemed more intense than the first time, and her muscles, in her arms, legs, everywhere, felt like steel surrounding me. I could hardly move, but somehow she allowed my hips to keep doing their work, and if she had squeezed much tighter I wouldn’t have ben able to breathe. And then she came again, and again, and, I lost count. I’m not sure how many orgasms I had either. But finally, I collapsed on top of her and said, “I’m exhausted.”

She laughed and said, “Good. You should be tiger.”

I fell asleep in her arms. At some point, I remember, she rolled me off her and put a blanket over me, then threw more wood on the fire, the table and chairs I think, and got under the covers with me.

In the morning when I woke up we made love again, and then she threw the last of the wood on the fire while I dressed. She dressed, then had me sit in the car while she gathered everything that was left over from the night, including the bed and blanket, put them in the fire pit and burned them to ashes with her heat vision.

On the drive to McDonalds for breakfast I asked her, “Sharon, have you been practicing with someone else?”

“No Joe, why do you ask?”

“You really have this down now, I think as well as Kara. That wasn’t the way we left things last week. How did you improve so much in a week?”

“Oh Joe, that’s the way we are with any physical skill. Once we learn it, and we learn very quickly, we can execute it to perfection. I dated a baseball player, a pitcher, a couple of times. He showed me how to throw a curve ball, and by my third pitch I could do it better than him.”

“Wow. That’s impressive.”

“To you it is, yes. But for us, that’s just par for the course. The difference between last week and this week was my confidence.”

From that time onward, whenever we had sex, Sharon would use gold, or not, depending on her mood and what she wanted to get out of it. Kara was the same way. I’m not sure what the difference was for them, exactly, but I think if they were in a hurry, and wanted to be more physical without restraint, like stand me up against a wall and take me forcefully, then they would wear gold.

I think, for them, sex is fundamentally different from the way it is for us. We may classify sex into angry sex, or makeup sex, or something else, and it will be better or worse depending on our moods. For the Velorians, it was either good, better or best, or even beyond that. And though we hadn’t talked about it, I think for them morning sex was different from afternoon sex was different from after lunch sex was different from before a movie sex was different from … you get my drift. Sex for them is more expressive than it is for us, and is affected more by the situation or environment than for us.

Chapter 102

We had a six-day break for Thanksgiving. Kara invited me to her home. Gloria was going to lock up the cabin and come down, and Sharon was bringing Captain Moore, which surprised me, and the weekend before, when Sharon was in town I asked her about it.

“Sharon, for Americans, Thanksgiving is a major family celebration. Why aren’t you bringing Deb?”

“Joe, things have been a little rough between us. Deb will be spending Thanksgiving with her family and asked me not to attend.”

“Sharon, I’m so sorry to hear that. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine Joe. This has happened before. My relationship with Deb is very rocky at times. I wouldn’t put up with it, except that the makeup sex is so good.”

I wasn’t sure if she was being serious or joking, and I decided not to find out.

“It sounds like things are getting serious between you and Capt. Moore.”

“They are Joe, and that’s part of the problem with Deb.”

“Part of the problem?”

“You’re the other part.”

“Oh Sharon, I’m so sorry! I don’t want to come between you and Deb. If you think we should cool it for a while, or stop seeing each other altogether, I’ll understand.”

“Yes Joe, I believe you would, and I love you for it. But I will never let anyone make me choose between two people I love. It’s not our way, and it shouldn’t be the Terran way either.”

She was starting to get just a little bit down, so I changed the subject.

“How is Xara doing? It’s been a while since I’ve seen or talked to her.”

“She is doing better now Joe. I think she’s figured out how to navigate the college sex scene. And you haven’t heard from her because she has a little surprise for you.”

“Really? What’s the surprise?”

“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you Joe,” she laughed. “Xara said I can tell you there is a surprise, but not what it is. She wants the anticipation to build.”

And that’s all she would tell me about it.

Tuesday rolled around, the last day of class before Thanksgiving leave, and I packed my bags and put them in the car so I could leave for the airport immediately after we wrapped up. Since I was going to spend several days with the blondes, I didn’t take my meds Tuesday morning. By the time I boarded my flight, I was seeing Dixon and Johnson momentarily, and I worried about how I’d handle the flight.

I was just fine. I thought that was good news. Usually, if I’m starting to see Dixon and Johnson as my meds wear off, they don’t pop in and out a lot. Once or twice, and then they are there. But this time they continued to pop in and out. So it wasn’t my meds, the behavior was different. I hoped it was the STE.

When I landed at the airport Crystal was there to pick me up and after we picked up my bag at baggage claim we jumped into her car and headed out.

“Joe, Xara has a surprise for you.”

“So I’ve heard. Are you going to tell me what it is?”

“No, I’m not.”

We made small talk for the rest of the trip. She wanted to hear how my CI training was going, and she wanted to tell me how proud everyone was for my actions on that terrible day of the base shooting.

“Crystal, I appreciate how everyone feels about what I did. But it isn’t something I like to dwell on. Every time someone brings it up, and tells me what a hero I was, I think back to the funerals I went to afterwards, and then that word ‘hero’ sounds like a taunt.”

“But Joe, don’t you feel good about what you did?”

“Oh hell yes, Crystal. I feel very good about it. And if I hadn’t done it, I’d feel awful. But there was so much death and suffering …” and I couldn’t go on.

When we got to the house Xara met us in the garage and all but tackled me. I say all but tackled, because at the last moment, before I was about to hit my head on the concrete floor, she put her hand behind it to steady it and then stopped us just barely above the floor, and gave me a big kiss.

“Joe, I’ve missed you so much!” And she floated us upright and continued to float me through the garage, into the house, and up a tube to my room, which, as before, was right next to hers.

“Xara, we left my bags in the garage.”

“Wait right here!” And she zipped out of the room in a blur and was back in seconds with my bags.

“I’d have been back sooner, but I wasn’t sure how much force your bags could take.”

And then she dropped the bags on the floor and was on me again, this time she floated us onto my bed, put me down on my back then rolled over so we were side by side.

“Did Crystal tell you I have a surprise for you?”

“Everyone’s told me you have a surprise. What is it?”

“Not yet. First, tell me how your class has been.”

“I will, but first you tell me how your trip into space went. I haven’t heard anything about it.”

“I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, including you. But I’m going to anyway.

“I met with the engineers to explain how I can carry things in flight. They asked me a lot of questions about my maximum acceleration, my ability to navigate, lots of stuff. I told them not to worry about that, that if they tell me how much force their package can handle, I’d do the rest. They were a little skeptical, so I took them out to the parking lot, had six of them get into one of their SUVs, picked it up and flew it to the top of their building. Then I had them get out. I looked up, and pointed to their space station. They were amazed that I could see it.

“They built a mock-up of their package, and I tried it out and found a couple of weak points that they reinforced. When the time came to launch, it was the middle of the night, I took it straight up, then accelerated parallel to the surface of the earth to get it into the right orbit, and let it go about 10 miles from the space station. I stayed and watched, and the astronauts on the station used this big arm to capture the package and bring it into their cargo bay.

“Then I returned to the launch location and the engineers threw a party for me!”

Then, from down the hall, I heard Kara shout out, “That’s not all she did Joseph!”

“There’s more Xara?” I asked.

“Well, this is the first part of the surprise. Did you notice the framed photo on the dresser?”

I hadn’t, so I got up and looked at it. It was Xara, nude, with her hair floating all around her, smiling and waving.

“Umm, who took this Xara?”

“The astronauts on the space station! It’s for you. When I go back to school, I’ll put it on your dresser in your bedroom in the cabin.”

The first thing I thought of was getting arrested for possessing child porn. Oh, no, that wasn’t the first thing I thought of. Maybe it was the third of fourth, because that really was a great picture of her, and she looked so beautiful. But I thought maybe I should talk to Kara about it later.

“Xara, that’s a beautiful picture of you. But what did the guys in charge say about it? You weren’t supposed to be seen by the astronauts.”

“They were just grateful that the supplies made it there.”

“Okay, wow. What’s the rest of the surprise?”

“You’ll have to wait until everyone is here. Now, tell me about your training.”

So I told her about it. Not too exciting really, except for the SDR training. Gloria had been training me to detect surveillance, and now I knew why, and her training came in really handy. It wasn’t all that much different from the Army’s training, but it gave me a head start. We’d get our final tests prior to graduation.

All the while I was talking, she kept glancing down at my thigh. Finally, I said, “Xara, I’m okay. It aches a little from time to time, but not badly.”

“But you’ve got another scar Joe. On a body that already has so many. I don’t think that one’s going to go away.”

“What’s one more scar Xara. It isn’t worth worrying about.”

And then she hugged me, and held me close, and told me she loved me and didn’t want me ever doing anything like that again.

“Xara, believe me, I don’t ever want to do that again either. I didn’t want to do it when I did it.”

That made her laugh. She helped me unpack my bags. She noticed I had my meds with me and said she hoped I wouldn’t need them. I told her I hope so too. About the time we finished putting my clothes away and setting out my pill bottles, Xara looked up and said, “Sharon and Sarah are here.”

We were about to go downstairs to greet them when I saw something else on the dresser. It was a piece of rock. “Xara, what’s that?”

“Oh, that’s another souvenir for you. It’s what’s left of little Joe.” And she picked me up and flew me down the tubes.

Chapter 103

This was the second time I’d seen Captain Moore in civilian clothes, she was wearing tight jeans. Christ Almighty, her uniform really doesn’t do her justice. It would be easy to mistake her for a Velorian, if she wasn’t standing next to two of them. I thought Dixon and Johnson would start sounding off, but I looked around and realized I hadn’t seen either of them since Xara took me up to my room. The STE effect. I was wondering if it was all caused by Xara after all. The XJE, Xara-Joe Effect. I’d have to talk to Gloria about that.

Xara greeted Sharon and Captain Moore warmly. Sharon came up to me and gave me a big kiss, then I held out my hand and said, “Good to see you again Captain.”

“Oh please, it’s Thanksgiving, none of this military formality,” said Sharon.

“Sharon’s right,” said Xara. “If we’re all friends here, then we’re on a first name basis.”

“I’m okay with it of you are,” said the Captain.

“Well then, it’s good to see you Sarah,” I said as we shook hands.

“A handshake? How about kissing and hugging her Joe?” asked Xara, with a mischievous glint in her eye.

“Yeah, let’s not push it Xara,” I replied.

And then Kara arrived. She must have flown in, because she was wearing her flight suit. I think this was the first time Sarah had ever seen her dressed this way, because her eyes just about popped out of her head.

Kara gave me a kiss and a hug, hugged Xara, then Sharon, then warmly embraced Sarah.

“Sarah and Joe won’t kiss and hug each other mom,” said Xara, grinning at me.

“Well, I think we can forgive them Xara,” Kara replied.

And then, almost like it was planned, Gloria walked into the room. Gloria is, how do I say this, a bit more standoffish. I don’t know if that’s just Gloria or if it is an Arion thing. But she shook hands with me and Sarah and nodded to the others. I decided to ask her about that, if I can ever work up the courage. Maybe alcohol would help.

“Okay, everyone’s here,” said Xara, “let’s go down to the cavern!”

“You’re in a hurry honey?” asked her mother.

“Yes, I want to show Joe the surprise!” answered Xara.

“Well, I don’t want to prolong the anticipation too much, but why don’t we show them their equipment first.”

“Mom!”

“Let’s just build the anticipation a little more, okay?”

“Alright mom. But make it quick.”

Xara wrapped her arms around me, Sharon picked up Sarah, and Kara took Gloria, and we all floated down the tubes to the cavern. Sarah was surprised and a little shocked, I think. I don’t think she’d ever been flying with a Velorian before. So as we descended I suggested to Xara that she and Sharon take me and Sarah out to the rocks to see the sea lions.

We got to the cavern and Kara turned on the lights, then led us into a corner where she had some kind of equipment for us. I didn’t recognize it. Kara explained that this was communication equipment, to be used for me and Sarah to communicate back and forth.

“This equipment will be paired with you, so you and only you can operate it. I’ll need a small sample of your DNA.” And she took a small metal spatula and scraped my skin, I barely felt it, and opened up a little door in one of the machines and inserted it, then pulled it out and pressed some buttons. It didn’t make any sounds, there was a display that briefly lit up, but that was it. Then she did the same thing with Sarah and the other machine.

She pointed to little pads on the machines and told us to put a finger on them. Little blue lights came on. She had Gloria touch the pads, and nothing happened.

“Okay, these machines are keyed to you. Sarah, I’ll deliver yours to the Pentagon. I’ve been assured that there is a secure room for it.

“Joseph, I’ll put your machine in your basement.”

“I don’t have a basement Kara.”

“You do now,” said Xara.

“How can that be,” I said, “the cabin is on Lake Whatcom. The water table is too high for a basement. Nobody has basements.”

“As Xara said, Joseph, you do now.”

“How?”

Kara said, “Earth is an undisclosed planet, but there are others out there, besides Velor, who don’t want to see it fall into the hands of the Arions. I’ve had help from several planets populated by Terrans and two populated by other species.

“The water table presented a challenge that was easily surmountable with the proper engineering.”

“What about the neighbors Kara? How did you explain this to them?”

“You don’t have neighbors anymore Joseph.”

“What? What happened to them?”

“They sold their properties to a non-profit nature conservatory.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me! Some of those folks’ homes have been in their families for generations. They’d never sell!”

“Some were reluctant to sell, that is true. But in the end, with the right incentives, they all sold, willingly.”

I was getting alarmed and started to see Johnson and Dixon.

“Kara, did you threaten them?”

“Oh no Joseph! Never! Some sold for the money. Some sold for the money plus an education fund for their grandchildren. For one couple, we arranged a swap, so they could have a very nice home in a warmer climate. No one was threatened Joseph, or treated unfairly, I can assure you.”

Kara doesn’t lie. I trust her, and I started calming down, and Dixon and Johnson disappeared.

“I almost forgot,” said Kara, “your roof was found to have some problems, related to its age. You have a new one now, that should last several hundred years with minimal maintenance. Just an occasional cleaning. And you now have a Leaf Guard gutter system. The engineer from Kelsor was quite impressed with it and took a sample home with him.

“Gloria will be at the cabin when you return from training. She’ll show you the layout and the equipment, and how to use it.”

“Equipment different from this?” Sarah asked.

“Yes. For communicating with you, this equipment will suffice. But I will have other duties for Joseph, which will require additional equipment.”

“May I ask what his other duties will entail?” asked Sarah.

“You may ask, but I will not answer.

“I also have this for you,” and she handed Sarah a cell phone.

“What’s this for?” she asked.

“I highly doubt you’ll be left alone to operate the communication equipment. There likely will always be someone else watching, either directly or covertly, do you agree?”

“Yes Kara. I suppose Major Aldrich will want to be there.” Xara snorted at the mention of Aldrich’s name.

“This phone will allow you and Joseph to communicate securely.”

“Why would we need to do that?”

“Who can say,” Kara answered. “It’s better to have the option and not need it, than to need the option and not have it. Gloria?”

Gloria then had me take out my phone and she demonstrated how to use our phones to set up and conduct covert communications.

I could tell by looking at her that Xara was getting impatient. About this time Crystal made her way into the cavern. Not having hitched a ride with Air Velor, she had to use ladders.

“Mom!”

“Alright honey. Joseph, Xara has something to show you.”

Xara led me by the hand to the corner of the cavern that was her workshop, the others followed. She turned on the lights in the area and there, in front of me, were four large Arion pods. Larger than the pods Xara had shown me before. There were ports, I mean view ports built into their shells. And what looked like small exhaust ports. She opened one up, and there, on the inside, was a padded compartment suspended above cylindrical tanks, with electronics and displays.

“Xara?”

“Remember Joe, I told you I offered to take supplies up to the space station for a price? This is what I got in return.”

“Wait a minute,” said Sarah. “You took supplies up to the International Space Station?”

“No,” said Xara, “One of the other ones.”

“Other ones?” Sarah asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “Other ones, Xara, plural?”

“I thought someone in Sarah’s position would know.” Said Xara. “The military has several space stations orbiting earth. I resupplied one of them because there was a booster rocket failure.

“Anyway, I told the military I’d do it in return for help modifying these pods so I could take Joe into space.”

“You told them about Joe?” asked Sarah.

“Not by name,” she answered. “They helped me with these four pods. I had to do the welding, their equipment wasn’t up to the job, but now I can take Joe into space, in these two, and under the oceans in those two.”

“Do they work Xara?” I asked her.

“They do Joe. I tested them with Gloria, Sharon and then Crystal. You and I need to do some experimenting with them. You should be able to handle two gs fairly easily. But I need to know what your maximum tolerance is, and for how long. Crystal has been enhanced, so she’s tougher than you. I need to make measurements with you in the pod.”

“Enhanced? What does that mean?” asked Sarah.

“I’ll explain everything to you later,” answered Sharon.

“Right,” I said. “Sarah, to them, explaining everything later means they won’t explain anything to you, ever.”

“Joseph,” Kara laughed, “we aren’t that bad. Sarah, we’ll have you up to speed before your stay here is over.”

“Umm, Xara, these experiments, are they safe?”

“Of course they are Joe. I’ll take it as slow or fast as you are comfortable with.”

And then Xara proceeded to give us a tour of the pods. The bottom of the pod had air tanks and a carbon dioxide filtration system. Above those was a bed or couch for me to lie on when the pod was in a horizontal position. There were straps and braces to hold me in place. There were view ports with sunshades that I could open and close. There was a pressure maintenance system that would vent atmosphere to the outside to maintain a comfortable internal pressure. For the underwater pods, this pressure system was quite robust because it would have to fight the ocean trying to push in as it vented air out.

The communication system was very interesting. Xara had an earpiece, not earth technology, that would fit up against her ear drum. I had a transmitter inside. My voice would be transmitted to the earpiece, which would vibrate directly onto her eardrum, removing the requirement to have air to carry sound waves. She had a … clicker? That she could safely store in her cape when she wasn’t communicating with me. When she needed to talk to me, she could take the clicker out of her cape and start working it like a telegraph key. That would be received by a receiver inside the pod which would translate the clicks, same idea as Morse code, but some other code, into text that would scroll across a display.

“We can experiment with it tomorrow,” said Xara. “Sarah, would you like to try it out?”

“Let me think about that,” she answered. “This is all very new to me, and a bit overwhelming.”

“We understand Sarah,” said Kara, “we want you to be comfortable.”

“Sarah,” said Xara, “There are sea lions that congregate on the rocks just offshore. Joe and I are going out to see them. Would you and Sharon like to come along?”

“Sure,” said Sarah, “Sharon?”

“I’d love to,” said Sharon.

“It’s a little nippy out there, and the wind is blowing. We have motorcycle suits for you to wear to keep you warm.”

“Really?” said Sarah. “Okay, I guess I could put one on.”

“Sharon,” said Xara, “Let’s take them up to their rooms. I’ll get a suit for Sarah.”

So Sharon and Xara picked us up, it was funny to see Sarah’s reaction to that again, and then floated us up the tubes and brought us to our respective rooms.

I changed into my suit and went to the common room to wait. Xara was already there in her flight suit. Sarah and Sharon joined us, and Sarah looked like she had seen a ghost.

“Joe, would you please tell Sarah that flying with us is perfectly safe?” asked Sharon.

“I screamed like a little girl the first few dozen times I went flying with them, but I never got hurt. It’s perfectly safe. Sharon, maybe you can avoid unnecessary aerobatics with her until she is used to it.”

“Joe was in a helicopter crash,” said Xara, “and between that and his PTSD he has a real fear of flying, so we had to take our time and bring him along slowly, if you have problems I’m sure Sharon can help you through them.”

“Wait, you brought me along slowly Xara? What would quickly have looked like?”

“Oh Joe,” said Xara, “you’re so funny!”

I didn’t think I was funny.

“You do this a lot with them?” asked Sarah.

“I do, with all three of them. Sharon has always been very gentle with me.”

“I’ll take it slow and easy,” said Sharon. “If you tell me to stop or bring you back, I will.” And then she kissed Sarah, on the lips very sweetly.

“Okay,” said Sarah, “I’m game.”

We went up the tubes, to the platform, which was a little crowded with all four of us up there. Xara put her arms around me, then looked over my shoulder at Sarah, and said, “Sharon won’t do this with you.”

And then she dove off the platform backwards, let us fall for quite a way, then leveled off so we were traveling horizontal to the ocean below, with me on top of her, hanging on for dear life. She wrapped her legs around mine, then turned us 180 degrees so she was on top, and started weaving through the rock formations, then landed near her observation point, above the sea lions. About 30 seconds later Sharon and Sarah joined us.

“Oh my God Joe, I saw what you and Xara did. I would have been screaming my head off if Sharon did that with me,” said Sarah.

“Did I scream Xara?”

“Only a couple of times. When we were diving through the rocks. You’re getting better!”

“Sarah, it’s like getting on a roller coaster.” I said. “Your rational mind knows that thousands of people a year ride them with no ill effect, but you scream when you’re on the ride. But none of them, Kara, Xara or Sharon, has ever done anything to make me believe I’m not safe with them, even when Xara is diving around the rocks. I’ve never been hurt, never even gotten windburn. We’re safe with them. Even if it feels crazy.”

Sarah asked Sharon, “Will we be doing a lot of this?”

Sharon answered, “Only if you’re comfortable with it. No pressure.”

“What!?” I demanded. “Why does she get that deal? You guys told me flying was mandatory!”

“It is for you Joe,” said Xara. “You work for mom. Sarah works for the Army.”

I was going to go on, but Sarah interrupted me. “I want to see the sea lions.”

“Right this way,” said Xara.

We walked along the path she had made to the other side of the rock, and there, below us, were the sea lions. The wind was blowing towards us. I didn’t know that sea lions stink. They do.

After a few minutes Xara and Sharon both turned their heads towards the house, and Xara said, “Mom is calling us to dinner.” Sharon picked up Sarah, Xara picked me up, and we flew back to the ledge, much more gently this time.

Back at the house we sat down to a dinner prepared by Crystal. Roast beef and mashed potatoes. I knew the STE was working for me, because I had a good appetite. I was eating so much, even Gloria smiled at me.

“Kara, you have a beautiful home,” said Sarah.

“Thank you, Sarah,” she replied. “After dinner I’d be happy to give you a tour.”

“Show her the weapons vault,” I said. “Sarah, they’ve got a BAR down there!”

“Really?” she said, “I’d love to see that!”

“You can shoot it too. They have ammunition and a firing range.”

“Cool!”

At this, Gloria broached a subject I was getting curious about.

“Kara, how much do we tell Sarah? She isn’t part of your organization. She works for people you don’t trust.”

Sarah looked concerned, Sharon reached out and held her hand. Everyone looked at Kara.

“Sharon,” Kara said, “how far do we trust her?”

“I believe her to be honorable Kara,” Sharon replied, “and I think she would be open to joining us.”

“I won’t betray my country,” said Sarah, rather forcefully.

Kara opened her mouth to respond but I jumped in. “Sarah, do you think I’m betraying my country, or the uniform I wear? I may be reporting to her now, but I’m still a member of the United States Army, and I still stand by my oath.”

Then Kara said, “I would not ask you to betray your oath, Sarah. But if we let you in, you must agree to keep our secrets. Can you do that?”

Sarah took a deep breath, looked around and said, “Yes. I can do that. But understand that I will never betray my country or the uniform I wear.”

Gloria said, “If Kara says you won’t be asked to betray your country, then you won’t. In that case, never mind the BAR. You have to try the GAR.”

“The what?” Sarah asked.

“A really cool ray gun.” I said. That got a laugh around the table, except for Sarah who didn’t really understand.

“Very well then,” said Kara, “we won’t tell you everything, we don’t tell Joseph everything, but we will tell you more than we have.”

“Thank you, Kara.” said Sarah. “Can we start with why Joe is so special?”

“He saved our lives,” said Xara.

“Your lives?” asked Sarah. “How? You’re invulnerable, your strong, you can fly! I watched Kara take the best our military could throw at her, short of nuclear weapons, without even breaking a fingernail! What could a human possibly do to save your lives?”

“We can’t tell you the details Sarah,” said Kara, “we can’t afford to let our enemies learn them. But Joseph …”

“Did what he did in that shooter situation,” said Crystal.

Sarah looked at me and I said, “Not exactly the same, but close.”

Sharon said, “In our culture, when someone saves a life, a special lifelong bond and obligation is created. The word we use for it is ‘Kiraling’.”

“And in this case, because of the differences you mentioned between Velorians and humans, the bond is more significant than it would be between two Velorians,” said Crystal.

“I’d die for Joe,” said Xara.

“We all would,” said Sharon.

“And all three of them believe it gives them the right to run my life,” I said with a smile.

“That’s right Joe,” laughed Xara, “and someday you and I are going to be married, whether you like it or not.”

Sarah had a little bit of a shocked look on her face and turned to me, “So, what Aldrich was accusing you of…?”

“No,” said Kara. “He hasn’t had sex with my daughter.”

“He’s shown almost superhuman restraint,” said Sharon, “It isn’t natural.”

“And I promised him I wouldn’t force him,” said Xara.

“Force him?” asked Sarah.

“They are able to emit specialized pheromones,” said Crystal.

“A Velorian can control a Terran’s sex drive,” said Gloria. “They can take them anywhere from mild arousal to helpless sex toy. If Xara decided to take Joe, there would be nothing he could do about it.”

“Sharon,” asked Sarah, “have you been doing that with me?”

“No,” said Sharon. “My pheromones work on men. They can cause mild arousal in women, nothing more. A male Velorian, however, could have you begging to be used by him. And if he wasn’t wearing gold, it would be fatal to you.”

Sarah started to question Sharon about this, “Is that why you always wear a gold choker when we ….”

I was surprised by this, because I thought that if Sharon didn’t have to wear gold with me, she wouldn’t have to wear it with Sarah. Or maybe that was such a recent development, that Sarah and Sharon hadn’t been together since Sharon completed her training. I opened my mouth to say something. Sharon was sitting across the table from me and she reached forward with those long legs and kicked me in the shin, so all that came out was …

“Ow! Sharon! What the hell?”

“Oh, did I kick you Joe? I’m sorry. I was just stretching my legs.”

Sarah wasn’t looking at Sharon, she was looking at me, and Sharon gave me the ‘shut up’ gesture. So I did.

“Yes, Sarah, that’s why. It dampens my strength, so I don’t injure you.”

Then Sarah turned to Xara. “Are you sexually attracted to Joe?”

“Skietra, you have no idea,” said Xara.

“Skietra?”

“A Velorian deity,” Crystal answered.

“Joe, said Sarah, “I hope you don’t take offense at this. I don’t mean to embarrass you or put you down, but Xara, surely you can find more attractive men than him.”

“No offense taken Sarah,” I said, “I’ve said the same thing to her. To all of them.”

Crystal said, “If I can jump in here, I’ll try to explain. Sarah, there is more than one kind of attraction. Certainly, Velorians are attracted to attractive men. But what they see in Joe isn’t on the surface. They see his courage, his selflessness, his willingness to sacrifice himself for others. They can’t help but be attracted to those characteristics, because they are genetically designed to have those same characteristics themselves.”

“Men who run towards danger when others are running away are very attractive to us,” said Kara.

“Women too,” said Sharon.

“And he’s so attractive to you that you’d marry him?” Sarah asked Xara.

“I haven’t met anyone else I like as much as Joe,” Xara said. “In high school, the boys all wanted me for my body. Most of them were too intimidated by my beauty to even have the courage to talk to me. The others just wanted to be able to say they bagged the hottest chick in the school.

“In college, there are a lot more guys with the balls to approach me. But the ones I’ve met so far just want to get between my legs. And that’s fine, I’ve been able to have a lot of fun, but they bring so much emotional bullshit with them, possessiveness, jealousy, they are okay for a fuck or two, but none of them are suitable for a long term relationship. And they can be so insecure.

“There was one guy I was starting to like. We did things together. We’d study together, go to campus events together, eat together. He had a nice body, a good personality, and what he lacked in love making skills, I was able to make up for.

“One day he invited me to the gym to work out with him. We were the only ones in the weight room. We were using one of the machines and I wasn’t paying attention like I should have. At the bench press station, I did ten easy reps with whatever weight it was already set at. I got up and he laid down on the bench, and he couldn’t make the bars budge. The station was set for 400 pounds.

“He stopped seeing me. He wouldn’t explain why. And I heard from other people that he was calling me a freak.

“Joe has never made a pass at me, and I’ve given him opportunity after opportunity. He’s never talked to me like I’m a dumb blonde, and I’ve given him plenty of opportunities to do that too. He isn’t intimidated by me and I have yet to meet a man who is as secure in his masculinity as he is.

“He’s good to people, he treats everyone with respect.

“And we can’t give you the details, but the day he saved us he showed unbelievable courage.

“I love him, and I want to share everything about myself with him. And I want him to share everything about himself with me.”

“Well said Xara,” said Gloria. “Joe, you should give her what she wants.”

“I’m not having this conversation again Gloria. Xara, thank you for the kind words. I love you too, and I consider you and your mother, Sharon and Gloria the best friends I have in this world. But I’ve told you how I feel, and that hasn’t changed, and it isn’t going to change.”

“It will Joe,” said Xara, “and when it does, you won’t have to look for me. I’ll be there.”

“Dare I ask what your objections are Joe?” Sarah asked.

“Her age.” Xara rolled her eyes. “She’s too young to be making a life decision like that, I’ve got too much baggage, and let’s not even get into the laws about this. She’s 17 for God’s sake. And Aldrich is just itching for a reason to bring me up on charges.”

“Aldrich isn’t ever going to bother you,” said Xara, and Sharon and Kara nodded their agreement. “And as far as your baggage is concerned, I’m healing you and you know it.”

“What’s that mean?” Sarah asked.

“She is getting ahead of herself,” said Gloria. “We don’t have enough evidence to say that.”

“Ask him,” said Xara.

I was shocked. How did she know?

“I was starting to have … signs of my PTSD. They ended when Xara met me in the garage earlier today, and they haven’t been back since. Xara, how did you know?”

“Your demeanor changes Joe, it’s very subtle, but I can see it happening. I saw it happening while we were talking in your room.”

“He’s in a home permeated by Velorian pheromones,” said Gloria. We don’t know if it is you, or your mother, or all of you and we can’t know until I run some tests.”

“Would someone tell me what you’re talking about?” asked Sarah.

Everyone looked at me.

“My PTSD symptoms disappear when I spend time around them, the Velorians. We first noticed it on a camping trip we took before I had to go to DC.”

“It’s very pronounced,” said Kara. “He becomes easier to live with. He drinks less, he’s more cheerful.”

“His appetite returns, and he gains weight,” said Gloria. “We know that Xara’s presence can bring the changes on. We don’t know if it is exclusively her, or if all three of them can cause it.”

“How does this work?” Sarah asked.

And then, through the rest of dinner, Sarah was educated on the STE.

“You are curing him?” she asked.

“No, I said. We can’t call it a cure. My symptoms come back when I’m separated from them. We’ve been experimenting. One of them,” and I pointed to Sharon and Kara, “have been coming to Sierra Vista every weekend. And it’s been helping, but I go on my meds as soon as they leave. Otherwise, things would be bad.”

“And that,” said Xara, “is why I should move in with him as soon as he gets back to Bellingham. I’ll be able to keep him in what he calls his ‘good place’, and he won’t need his medication, and maybe he will be cured. But he won’t let me, because of his Terran morals, and I can’t let him be celibate while living with me, it would be cruel.”

“Cruel?” asked Sarah, “To ask him to just exercise a little self-restraint?”

At that Sharon rolled her eyes. “You have no idea how hard it is for a Terran male to be constantly exposed to us and remain celibate. We consider THAT to be immoral.”

Oh geez, that started another discussion. I just stayed out of it and had a second and then a third helping of roast beef.

When dinner was finished, Gloria and Crystal cleaned up and Sharon and Xara took me and Sarah back down to the cave. Xara opened he weapons vault and took out the BAR and handed it to Sarah, then took out the Gar and set it up on its tripod.

Sharon undressed and flew to the back of the firing range and told Sarah to shoot her. Sarah was game and emptied three magazines into her. I wasn’t having an easy time of it, it bothered me, but I didn’t say anything. When Sarah handed the BAR to me, I asked Sharon to put up some targets and then come out of the range. She didn’t argue with me, though Sarah looked at me a little funny.

The BAR was still as fun to fire as I remembered. Then Xara positioned the GAR and did her trick where she pulled big chunks of rock out of the cave wall and let Sarah blow them to bits.

“That’s amazing!” she said. “The Arions have these?”

“Yes,” I answered, “and they also have a pistol sized version that’s pretty potent.”

We spent another hour or so firing various weapons, I swear, they had just about one or two of everything, and then Xara said we were being called back for dessert.

“What’s for dessert?” Sarah asked.

“If Gloria had anything to do with it,” I replied, “there will be copious amounts of chocolate.”

Gloria made dessert. Lots of chocolate. Sarah loved it.

After desert Kara and Sharon gave Sarah a tour of the house. I sat with Gloria, Crystal and Xara, and we talked about the STE.

“We cannot know if Xara is the sole source of the STE, or if all three of them can contribute to it. All we know for a fact is that Xara’s presence is enough to cause it. We must do more tests to find out.”

Gloria is a scientist, I have no doubt about that. And anecdotal evidence just doesn’t cut it with her.

“Gloria,” asked Crystal, “what tests do you have in mind?”

“When Joe returns from training, we should have Kara spend two weeks with him in his cabin. Then two weeks with no Velorians, then two weeks with Sharon. Then we will know if one or both can produce the STE. If neither one of them do, we isolate Joe from the Velorians for two more weeks, then we have both Kara and Sharon stay with him for another two weeks. Then we will know, definitively.”

“So we can know in ten weeks,” I said. Do Kara and Sharon have the time to spend with me?”

“I know Kara doesn’t,” said Crystal. “At least not in the first few months of the new year. We’d have to ask Sharon.”

“It doesn’t seem right,” said Xara, “to experiment on Joe like this when we know I can provide him with what he needs.”

I started to object, but Xara cut me off, “I know what you think about it Joe. I don’t want to get into an argument with you.” And she reached out and took my hand in hers, raised it to her lips and kissed it.

We talked about it for a few minutes more, and then Kara and Sarah joined us. At Xara’s insistence, Gloria described her experimental protocol to them.

“Crystal’s right,” said Kara, “I won’t have the time for this. I’m sorry Joseph, but I have a lot on my plate.”

“I’m in the same boat as Kara, Joe,” said Sharon. “Maybe in the spring I can find two weeks to get away from my company. But not before then.”

“I don’t want to leave Joe in the lurch,” said Xara, “Joe, I won’t move in with you, but I’d like to have dinner with you three or four times a week, and maybe do some of my studying at the cabin.”

“That’s going to be hard on him,” said Kara.

“But not as hard as living with him full time would be,” said Sharon.

“Joe, we could try it, and if it is too much for you, we can cut back. Maybe Gloria could design a protocol we could follow that would reduce your exposure to me until we found the tipping point.”

“What do you think?” I asked Gloria.

“I could do that,” she answered.

“Seriously guys,” said Sarah, “it would be that hard for a guy who charges into battle with nothing but a stick to find the discipline to keep his hands off a teenager? He could just go someplace private and beat off!”

I thought the Supremis were going to go into shock.

“Masturbate!” said Sharon, “When there’s a Velorian there? First, Sarah, not only would that not be adequate to meet his needs, it would be an insult to Xara, or me, or Kara!”

“Sarah,” said Kara, “a Velorian in a Kiraling relationship with a male could never allow that. Especially not with a Terran male. As Xara said earlier, it would be cruel. You don’t understand how powerful our sexuality is, and how it affects members of the opposite sex.”

“I guess I don’t,” said Sarah, “it seems so simple to me. Xara spends time with Joe, he behaves himself.”

“Alright,” said Sharon, “a lesson is in order here. Sarah, the next time a Messenger is in town, I’m going to introduce you. After five minutes you’ll understand exactly why we wouldn’t put Joe through what you are suggesting.”

“Excuse me Sharon,” Sarah shot back, “I don’t swing both ways. I am not sexually attracted to any man, ever.”

“Oh, be careful what you say,” said Kara, “our pheromones work at a very low and ancient part of your brain. They will completely overwhelm your sexual preferences.”

“Nonsense,” said Sarah.

“Sarah,” said Sharon, “I’ve bedded my share of gay guys.”

“Are you saying you can ‘turn’ a gay or lesbian into a heterosexual?” asked Sarah, scornfully.

“No, not at all,” said Sharon. “It’s chemistry. When we release our pheromones, certain brain centers are stimulated. When the pheromones are gone, so is the stimulation. No one is ‘turned’, as you so aptly put it. They go back to being who they were before.”

I didn’t know where this was going, but it looked like it could get very ugly. So I excused myself and went to the game room to shoot some pool. About two minutes later Xara joined me.

“Don’t worry about Sarah and Sharon Joe,” she said. “Sharon and mom, mostly Sharon, will bring her around.”

“I’m not worried Xara. I just don’t want to be involved in the fight, if there is a fight.”

She laughed and said, “Joe Ricci, you’re the last man I would ever expect to run away from a fight. You always seem to run to them.”

I laughed at that. It helped reduce the tension I was feeling.

I took a cue stick down from the rack and handed it to her saying, “You don’t get another shot after you sink one.”

She took a shot, sank one, then sat back while I took a shot. I sank one, then took another shot, and missed. Then she took a shot and … even with that handicap, she won. While we played, she talked about college.

“It started out a lot of fun. I was making friends with the other girls in the dorm and met a lot of cute guys. But after a while some of the girls started being cold towards me. I was getting the all the attention from the men and they resented me for it.

“Then I heard them whispering about all the different guys who would come to my room. Some of them started a rumor that I was selling myself. There weren’t that many guys, Joe, they were just being mean.

“Then some of the guys started rumors about me. Saying I was easy. That I’d fuck anything with a dick. And then that guy I liked dumped me because I could bench more than he could.”

“Are you going to be okay, Xara?”

“Yes. Some of it is karma, I used to be the mean girl. And I’m moving to a dorm on the other side of campus next quarter. I’m being pickier about the men I date. Some of them are very nice, and real gentlemen. But I can’t share myself with them the way I can with you Joe. I’d just scare them away. Why are you so much more secure than the men I date?”

“We’re not dating Xara. How do you know I wouldn’t be just as insecure as they are?”

“Would you?”

“No,” I admitted, “I wouldn’t. Those guys who start rumors about you, that guy who was scared away by your strength, they are fools and don’t deserve you.”

“Do you deserve me Joe?” she asked.

She put her cue stick down and took mine away and put it down. She picked me up and cradled me, “Does it intimidate you Joe, knowing that I can pick you up and hold you like you weigh nothing?” And she squeezed just a little, very gently, and said, “Are you afraid of me because I could so easily crush your body against mine?”

Before I could answer she floated up and asked, “Does it intimidate you, knowing I can fly into the air with you, and if I dropped you, you’d fall to your death?”

Again, before I could answer, she took me over to wall, leaned me up against it and held me there with the fingers of her right hand, and then I felt my face getting warm, not hot, warm, and she asked, “Are you intimidated Joe, because I could hold you here all night, and you wouldn’t be able to free yourself until I decided you could go free, or that I could slowly burn you to death with my heat vision?”

“Xara,” I said, “let me go.”

She immediately dropped her hand and stood back, and my face felt cool again, and I said, “No, none of that intimidates me, because I asked you to stop and you did. You’re a good person Xara. I’m not intimidated by you, or afraid of you, because you’ve never given me reason to be. You aren’t a bully. You are my friend. My best friend.

“And to answer your first question, Xara, I don’t know if anyone deserves you, but I know I don’t”

“You’re wrong. You do deserve me, and you need me. And I need you too.”

“Why do you need me, Xara?”

“For the same reason mom needed Eric. You’re good, and your kind, and you accept me for who I am, and when I’m out of line, you aren’t afraid to tell me so. And as much as I tell you your excuses are lame, I know that you won’t give in to me because you love and respect me. Who else could give me that?”

All I could think to do was hug her.

We broke our embrace and I stepped back. There were tears in her eyes, and she was smiling at me.

“You’re so good Joe. I wonder if I deserve you.” And she turned and left the room.

I racked the balls, picked up my cue stick, and went back to shooting pool. That’s all I could think to do. About twenty minutes later Kara came into the game room.

“My daughter is in her room crying, Joseph.”

“Kara, I didn’t do anything.”

“I know. She told me. College is not turning out to be the experience for her that you thought it would.”

“No. It isn’t. But she isn’t even through her first term yet. I’m sure it will get better.”

“Oh, I agree with you Joseph. As she learns and grows, it will become easier for her, she’ll find her way and discover how to live as a Supremis hiding in plain sight among Terrans. But everything she has experienced so far has convinced her that you are the man for her.”

“So far, Kara. She has plenty of time to find out differently.

“Kara, why wouldn’t she want someone who is more her equal?”

“Her equal Joseph? What does that mean? Her equal in strength? There is no one. Her equal in beauty? Not among Terrans. Her intellectual equal? I’m not sure she could find that on Velor.

“Her equal here, where it counts,” and she pointed to her heart, “she has here.” And she pointed to my heart.

“You are who she aspires to be, in her heart. She admires your honesty, your courage, and your selflessness.”

“And what about my PTSD? It comes back when I’m away from you.”

“Let’s let Gloria figure that one out Joseph. There is so much about that we don’t understand.”

Just then Sharon, Sarah and Gloria walked in. Sarah challenged Sharon to a game of 8 ball.

“Sarah, you need to modify the rules.”

“Why?”

“Because once it is there turn to shoot, they don’t stop until they’ve won.”

“I see. How should I change the rules?”

“She only gets one shot at a time, whether she sinks a ball or not. And ‘or not’ won’t happen.”

Sarah looked at Sharon, who just shrugged her shoulders and said, “fine.”

Sharon won. Then they played again. Sharon won.

“Is it this way with everything?” Sarah asked.

“Pretty much. Don’t play poker with them.”

“Oh Joe,” said Sharon, “you are such a spoil sport.”

I excused myself and went to my room. I had just finished brushing my teeth when I heard a knock at my door. I opened it, and there was Sarah.

“I’m not imposing on you, am I? I’d like to talk to you.”

“I stood back and let her in. She closed the door behind her.”

“Joe, I want to apologize for coming across like a bitch. This business about the pheromones, it sounds to outlandish to me, I can’t help but question in.”

“Have you ever noticed the odor of honey and wildflowers when you’re with Sharon?”

“Yes, I have. Are you saying I’m smelling pheromones? I thought that was her perfume.”

“No, it’s her pheromones. Think back, what was your mood when you noticed them?”

She thought for a few seconds, and then her eyes got big.

“She can send me into a frenzy with those pheromones, they all can. Sharon told me a female Velorian’s pheromones can get a female Terran in the mood, but the Velorian males can get a Terran woman into the same frenzy her pheromones get me into.”

“It’s so hard to believe they can control someone like that.”

I was about to respond when Xara walked in and said, “I can give you a demonstration.”

“There is no such thing as a private conversation in this house,” I said.

“What sort of demonstration?” asked Sarah.

“Follow me,” said Xara, “and you’ll see.”

So we both followed Xara into the common area. When we got there, Xara pointed back to my room and said, “That’s a safe place. When you can’t stay here any longer, go back to Joe’s room. You’ll be safe there.”

Sarah just looked at her quizzically. I positioned myself for the quickest possible get away.

Xara said, “I’m not doing this to be mean, I’m just trying to help you understand. Joe, I promise, I’ll find a way to make this up to you.”

And then, suddenly, I was filled with fear. I was terrified. I needed to get away, and fast. I looked at Sarah, her eyes were open wide, she was trying to speak but couldn’t get anything out, and she was trembling. I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away from Xara, into my room, and slammed the door shut.

From outside the room I heard Xara say, “Take deep breaths. Let me know when you’re calm.”

I started taking deep breaths. Sarah, I’m not sure she was breathing, I grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her and shouted, “Breathe! Breathe!”

She started breathing. I told her to take deep breaths. After a little bit, she was calming down. When I thought we were both okay, I opened the door for Xara. She walked in, closed the door, and said, “Stay in here for at least five more minutes, we need to let the pheromones dissipate before you go out there again.

“Holy shit!” said Sarah, “I’ve never experienced anything like that. I was paralyzed, if Joe hadn’t grabbed me, I don’t know what would have happened.”

“I overdid it, on purpose,” said Xara, “so I could make my point. If you hadn’t left when you did, the next thing you would have experienced is a loss of bladder and bowel control.”

“Believe it now Sarah?” I asked.

“I do,” she replied. “Sharon has never done anything like that.”

“Sharon can’t,” said Xara, “my genetic makeup is different from other Velorians. They only have the sex pheromones. I also have fear and trust pheromones. That was fear. With trust, I can have you eating out of my hand.”

“And you use these on people?” Sarah asked.

“This is the first time I’ve ever experienced the fear pheromone,” I said. “She’s used the trust version to help me overcome my fear of flying.”

“I use them very sparingly,” Xara said, “I don’t enjoy terrifying people. One time, I was at a movie, and I started smelling gas. No one else appeared to notice it. I stood up and shouted, ‘I smell gas,’ but no one took me seriously. So I dispersed my fear pheromone and people got scared and left the theater. The gas company was called and found a leak.”

“And the sex pheromone is just as potent?” asked Sarah.

“Yes. I could have Joe trying to tear off my clothes in seconds. You’d just feel warm and cozy and romantic.”

“And a male could do that to me, a confirmed lesbian?”

“As mom said, they act on a very old and ancient part of your brain. Sharon can arrange a demonstration of that, the next time a Messenger comes to earth.”

“I think I’ll tell her I’m convinced. Joe, I apologize.”

“It’s okay Sarah,” I said, “it’s a lot to take in.”

We made small talk for a few more minutes and Xara stuck her head out the door and said it’s safe to come out. Sarah left and headed back to her room.

“You’re pretty cool under pressure Joe, she was paralyzed with fear.”

“I’ve had a lot of practice overcoming fear Xara. But that, I’ve never been that terrified of anything in my life, and the strange thing about it is, I didn’t know what I was terrified of. I just knew I had to run.”

“That’s right,” she said. “There doesn’t have to be an object of the fear, though I could have conditioned you to make me that object.”

“How do you mean?” I asked her.

“Well, if I was threatening you, and then released the pheromone, or released it and then threatened you, your fear would center on me. But without an object to be afraid of, you just want to run.”

We talked for a few minutes, then she kissed me goodnight and left. I showered and crawled into bed. Sometime during the night Kara joined me. She put an arm and a leg around me, but didn’t release an pheromones or initiate sex, and I was so tired I just wanted to go back to sleep.

Chapter 104

I woke up the next morning to find Xara standing over me with a big smile on her face. She was in her flight suit and had laid mine out for me.

“Wake up sleepy head! It’s time to try out the pods!” she said.

I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes. She pulled he covers off me and said, “Come on, let’s get with it!”

I was naked. “Xara!”

She rolled her eyes. She’s really good at that, she can make it look very dramatic when she wants to.

“Get dressed Joe!”

“Is it okay if I pee first?”

“If you must,” she laughed.

I got up and put on some underwear and went into the bathroom. When I came out I dressed and put on the motorcycle suit.

“Do I need the helmet Xara?”

“No, not for this flight. You might later on, we’ll have to find that out.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to find out while wearing the helmet, rather than finding out I should have been wearing it?”

“Oh Joe, you have such a great sense of humor.”

I told her I wasn’t being funny while she picked me up and headed to one of the tubes. She took us down to the cavern and turned the lights on, and we headed over to the pods. She opened it up and had me get in.

“Okay, put on the mask and turn that knob to start the air flow. I’m going to close the pod. You can communicate with me by pressing that button,” she pointed at a button built into the inside of the lid.

She reached across and flipped a switch built into the lid and the damn thing powered on. It was quiet, but a display turned on with some lights.

She closed the pod lid and it was dark except the display and the lights. While I was looking around, text appeared on the display.

“Can you read this?”

I pushed he comm button and said, “Yes, I can read it.”

“Good. I’m receiving you fine. Can you see the belts and buckles? Buckle yourself in.”

It was pretty intuitive. I buckled in and pressed the button and said, “I’m strapped in.”

“Good,” came across the display. Look for the view port shades. Slide them up to open them.

I found them and did so.

“Good. Now pull down the sunshades.”

I found the sunshades and pulled them down.

“Okay. Find the switch marked power. Flip it up.”

I did and everything powered down. She opened the lid and I turned off the air and unbuckled and she helped me out.

“Think you can remember all that?” she asked.

“Yeah, I think so, it was pretty simple.”

“Okay. This pod is too big to go up the tubes. We have a subterranean entrance we can use. It takes us down to an underwater cave. This pod isn’t intended for underwater use, but we aren’t going deep enough for that to be a problem. So get back in and I’ll strap it on and take us outside.”

So I got back in the pod and she shut the lid. The power switch was lit, so I flipped it and everything powered up. I put on the mask and turned on the air and turned on the display. As soon as I was buckled in I felt the pod go vertical, then, I assume, we were floating. I could feel movement, but it wasn’t jerky, like if Xara had been walking.

The display ports were still open. I raised the sunshades and saw the cavern disappearing behind us. Then we went over a ledge and were falling, slowly, down. It was pitch black, I couldn’t see anything. We stopped falling and then I was horizontal, lying on my back, and soon I could see filtered sunlight. We were underwater. We ascended and I was vertical again, and then I felt the acceleration. We were rising fast and accelerating.

“How are you doing Joe?” came across the display.

“I’m okay Xara. How fast are we accelerating?”

“About 1g.”

Out the viewports all I could see was sky. I couldn’t get an angle to look below, so I had no idea how high up we were. Then I felt our ascent slow, and on the display I saw, “Make sure your straps are tight. I’m going to roll you over onto your stomach.

I checked the straps and said, “I’m tight.”

She slowly rotated the pod so I was now looking straight down. We were way high up!

“I leveled us out at 50,000 feet Joe,” came across the display, “are you warm?”

“Yes, I’m warm.”

“Good,” was her reply, “there is a heater in there you can turn on if you get cold. Can you find it?”

I looked around and saw a button labeled ‘heat’. Like the heater in a car.

“I found it,” I said.

“Good. Are you up for some more?”

“Yes. I’m feeling good.”

She rotated us back to the vertical, and then we started accelerating upward again. Outside the bright blue sky gave way to black, and then I could see the curvature of the earth.

“How high are we?” I asked her.

“100,000 feet,” came the reply.

She rotated me back onto my stomach, and the view was spectacular. I could see the coastline, Baja California, clouds dotting the sky, below me. It was incredible. Then I heard a sound and it got cooler.

“What was that?”

“The venting system just let some air out to keep the pressure at 1 atm. It may be feeling cooler now.”

“It is, but not cool enough to need the heat.”

“Good. I’m taking us down now.”

She rotated us back to vertical, and suddenly I felt weightless. That went on for what seemed like quite a while, and then I felt acceleration again. She was slowing our descent. I don’t know how high up we were, but off in the distance I saw the contrails of a jet. And then Kara and Sharon came into view, smiling and waving at me. I waved back, don’t know if they could see me.

The bluffs the house was built into came into view, and our descent slowed some more, and then I felt a bump, we were in the water, then under the water. We came up in the cave, and Xara brought us back to her workshop and very gently laid the pod down, so I was resting on my back. I turned off the air and the power and she opened the lid and I was looking up into the smiling faces of three very wet Velorians.

Xara helped me out of the pod, and then all three of them stepped back and did that spin thing where they completely dry out, and their hair falls back into place, perfectly, and then Xara wanted to hear all about my experience.

“Well, you were there Xara,” I joked. “I felt fine. I was never uncomfortable. Everything worked exactly the way you said it would.”

“How about your fear of flying,” asked Sharon.

“I’ve spent so much time with you three, and been flying so much, it’s like its gone.”

That made all three of them smile.

Then Kara said, “Breakfast is almost ready.”

Xara put her arms around me and all three of us went up the tubes, and Xara took me to my bedroom. I changed and met her in the common area, and she floated us down to the dining room.

At breakfast Sarah was fascinated by the details of my trip, and she had a lot of questions. About the time I started in on my second helping of hash browns, Xara asked, “Sarah, would you like to try it? Sharon, we could take them both up.”

Sarah lit up with excitement, “Yes! I’d love to!”

“Do you have a second clicker and earpiece?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Xara, “I have several sets, and they are matched to the pods. I’ll just need to recharge Joe’s air tanks first.”

“Is that complicated?” Sarah asked.

“No, but it takes a few minutes. The tanks have a lot of capacity and it takes a while to fill them one breath at a time.”

“What?” Sarah asked.

I answered her. “The Velorians don’t use a lot of oxygen for their metabolism, so they don’t produce much CO2. Most of what they breath in is exhaled unchanged. Xara fills the tanks up like you or I would blow up a balloon.”

Sarah turned to Sharon and said, “You’re amazing.” Sharon gave her back a big smile and a kiss.

After breakfast Sarah and I went back to our rooms to change into our motorcycle suits while Xara and Sharon tended to the pods. It wasn’t long before they came to get us and took us back to the cavern. Xara gave Sarah the same tutorial she had given me, then she sealed her in the pod. Sharon strapped it on and walked around a little bit, then put the pod down and opened it and asked Sarah if she was okay. Sarah said she was fine, so I strapped into my pod, turned the air supply and power on, and we were off.

The pod communication system was more capable than I thought. Sarah and I could hear each other, Xara and Sharon could hear each of us, and the clicker streams that came across our display were color coded. Green text was from Xara, blue text was from Sharon.

This time was different. The acceleration was 1g, I asked Xara and she said so. But we were accelerating for a lot longer. And then, across my display, I read, “We’re in low earth orbit now, about 150 miles above the surface.”

Sharon and Xara pointed our pods so we had a great view of the earth, it was beautiful, the pictures and videos you of the planet from orbit don’t do it justice, and then flew in front of us and waved.

This turned out to be a very emotional experience for me, and I was close to crying. The beauty of the earth from this altitude, the joy of being able to see it, the beauty of the Velorians I was with, and the love they had for me, especially Xara, was almost overwhelming.

The ladies flew behind our pods and began orienting them to give us a good view as they described the various features of the earth as they came into view. Absolutely the best tour I have ever been on. We had just about completed one orbit when the ladies said it was time to come down. They told us not to worry, the ride may get rough but we would be safe.

They oriented themselves and the pods so that their bodies would take the brunt of the reentry forces and friction. Of course, we felt the gravitational forces in the pods, but Xara and Sharon acted as human, no Velorian heat shields. Though Xara later told me the Vendorian steel the pods were made of were very capable of handling the heat and stress.

All through the trip Sarah and I kept up a constant chatter. She was obviously as excited as I was and just as grateful to Xara and Sharon for the experience.

After we returned to the cavern we changed in our rooms, then joined the group in the main floor living room. Sarah, when she is excited, is more talkative than me, but I think both of us managed to communicate our sense of wonder and gratitude to the group. Kara just smiled at us as she listened.

The rest of the day was spent in the game room, or in conversation with each other. Gloria slapped her brain scanner on me and took some more measurements, and I finally had a chance to get to know her better.

Okay, so up until now, I understood there to be three kinds of Supremis: Velorians, who had all the powers of a Supremis. Arions, who were divided into Primes and Betas. The Primes were generally like Velorians, except they lacked the power to fly. The Betas couldn’t fly, didn’t have heat vision, and though extremely tough and resilient, were not invulnerable like Velorians and Primes.

Talking to Gloria, I discovered that she is somewhere between a Prime and a Beta. Stronger and tougher than a Beta, and the equal of a Prime, maybe more than the equal of some of them. She had heat vision, could see through things, and was invulnerable. She said she was a kella’prime, she didn’t translate it for me and I didn’t ask. I asked, and she said gold worked on her the same way as it did on the Velorians. That made me curious about her sex life. Dixon and Johnson, if they had been here, would have been bothering me non-stop to ask her about it. I decided not to.

But it made me curious about something else.

“Gloria, if you’re like a Prime, and can see through things, how come you never used those abilities playing cards or dice games?”

“I don’t have the same P1 genes the blondes have. And I consider it impolite to use those abilities against you.”

“I wish you could teach them that.”

“I can’t. I’ve tried.”

After dinner Kara and Xara sat down with me and told me about the changes they made to my cabin.

The main cabin itself was relatively unchanged. There was a new roof, and the doors and locks had been reinforced. There was an addition to the cabin over the stairs that led to my new basement. The basement would house the equipment Kara wanted me to have, plus lead to a subterranean reinforced tunnel that had been put in place.

Lake Whatcom is 185 feet deep at its deepest. There was now an underground/underwater entrance to the basement which the Velorians would use when they wanted to be extra discreet about their comings and goings. I asked why they needed that. In the time I’d known them no one had seen them come and go, or if they did, they hadn’t said anything about it to me. They said it is better to have the tunnel and not need it than to need it and not have it. I’d heard that before. To me, it meant they knew why they might need it, but didn’t want to worry me about it. Which worried me. I wondered if Gloria was trained in human psychology. If so, Kara, Xara and Sharon could use some lessons. But I just nodded my head and smiled.

Before the evening was over, as I was heading up to bed, Kara told me and Sarah that there were guests coming the next day for Thanksgiving dinner who only knew her as Lisa Banks, and discretion was to be maintained until the guests left.

After I turned off the light in my room and pulled the covers up, the door opened and Kara came in, got in bed with me, and released her pheromones. It was a very good night.

The next morning, Thanksgiving, everyone gathered in the kitchen to help prepare for dinner. Not the family kitchen, the big one. There were several turkeys, lots of potatoes and dressing, cranberries, and Gloria was baking several chocolate cakes. No one had told me, so I asked who the guests were and how many there would be. Kara was bussing in the residents of a women’s shelter. As the only man who would be in the house, and a scary looking one at that, she, almost apologetically, asked me to keep my distance from the guests, to not approach them, let them approach me. I told her I could do that.

It worried me. I didn’t want to frighten or make anyone feel uncomfortable. I told Kara I’d be happy to eat in my room when the time came if that would make her guests feel more comfortable. She thanked me for that, said she didn’t think it would be necessary, and would let me know if it was.

Well, I was worried about nothing. Being in Sierra Vista and on base, I’d seen my celebrity wax and wane. Kara’s guests arrived, and most of them recognized me from the news reports, and, as far as they were concerned, I was still a hero. And to have these women treat me like that, and have their children look at me like I was Superman or Batman, I wasn’t uncomfortable with it at all.

Once again, I saw how the children were attracted to the Supremis, and how kind and gentle the Supremis, even Gloria, were in return. Sarah and I even got our share of attention from the little ones.

I was still careful about it. I didn’t approach them, I let them approach me, and most of them did. They were comfortable enough with me that Kara let me serve dinner with the ladies. I’d go around the table filling glasses and cups with sparkling cider, or milk, coffee, whatever was wanted, except alcohol. There was no alcohol served, some of the women had substance abuse problems.

At the end of the evening, after the guests had left, Sarah and I were exhausted. Kara told us let the Supremis and Crystal take care of cleaning up, so we went to the game room and played pool for a while, and then just collapsed onto a couch and talked. Mostly about inconsequential stuff, until she asked,

“What do you know about Deb?”

“I know she doesn’t like me.”

“Have you ever met her?”

“Once. And she was very cold towards me. I don’t think she likes men. And Sharon told me she’s been enhanced.”

“Enhanced, what does that mean exactly?”

“I’m not real sure, I’ve never asked. Ask Sharon, or Crystal, maybe they’ll tell you. They’ve told me that Deb and Crystal have been enhanced, and at least for Crystal, that makes her ‘tougher’ than us. But beyond that, I don’t know what it means.”

“How does a person become enhanced?”

“I don’t know, Sarah. They’ve never explained that too me and I’ve never asked.”

“Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“Well, yeah, but there are tons of things I don’t understand about them. How do they fly? What provides the propulsion? Why can their skin feel so soft yet deflect bullets? And how does heat vision work? They say it is all genetics and DNA. But DNA is just a strand of chemicals, it doesn’t make sense to me. But there they are.”

“Do you trust them to be honest with you?”

“I do. If I ask them a question about something, they either give me an honest answer, or they tell me they won’t answer the question. They don’t lie.”

“You said earlier that being their Kiraling gives them the right to run your life. Were you being serious?”

“Well, that’s mostly Kara, really. Though none of them are at all shy about dropping in on me, unannounced. Except for Gloria, who can’t fly. But she follows Kara’s lead.

“When they met me, I was a mess. More of a mess than I am now anyway. Sarah, I was heading for a very bad ending. And the Velorians intervened in my life, and they have made it better. Kara has all but adopted me, you can see how Xara feels about me, and Sharon has been nothing less than a good friend to me.”

“A friend with benefits,” Sarah observed.

“Yes, a friend with benefits. But I don’t think they see it that way. Sex and love are very different for them than for us.”

“This is all hard to believe,” Sarah said.

“I know,” I said. “Sometimes I think I should be waking up in a hospital tent in Afghanistan, that this has all been a dream.”

“It isn’t a dream Joseph,” I heard Kara yell from wherever she was in the house.

Sarah sat straight up, surprised and startled.

“I told you last night, there is no such a thing as a private conversation in this house. They can almost hear you thinking.”

The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Crystal took Gloria shopping. She wanted to see ‘what makes this day Black.’ Sharon, Xara and Kara spent the day with me and Sarah, taking us underwater in the pods.

The underwater pods had to be able to resist the pressure of the ocean while being able to maintain standard pressure inside. That meant that the hardware for venting air had to be more robust. Otherwise they were not too different. And that was a problem. The Supremis can see very well in low light conditions and can see in no light conditions too. Something about subatomic particles? I’m not too sure. Anyway, me and Sarah can’t. In the absence of external lighting, once we were below 700 feet or so, we couldn’t see anything. But there was plenty happening closer to the surface.

Xara seemed to delight in teasing the sea lions. She’d swim us around them and through them, some were curious and got closer to take a look, others were pissed off and tried to attack us to chase us off. We saw a lot of fish and being that there were sea lions in the area, Xara didn’t have to take us too far to find sharks.

Friday at dinner, Sarah broached the subject of enhancement.

“What is enhancement? What does it do and how is a person enhanced?”

I looked around the table, expecting someone to answer, but the Supremis and Crystal weren’t talking.

“Is this a sensitive subject?” asked Sarah.

Kara answered her. “Enhancement is a sensitive subject, Sarah. It is a process to modify a Terran’s DNA, to make it a little bit more like ours. It’s a dangerous process that can lead to death. Sometimes it results in increasing the strength, visual and audio acuity of a Terran, and makes their skin and bone structure more resistant to harm. Sometimes it changes nothing at all. But it is only undertaken after very careful consideration. And we only speak of the details among ourselves, or with the person chosen for enhancement.”

“How do you choose who to enhance?” asked Sarah.

Sharon answered, “We only share that information with the chosen. Sarah, you aren’t going to get any answers, or any answers that satisfy you.”

I wasn’t saying anything. I was just listening. But while Kara was talking, Xara, who was sitting next to me, reached over and held my hand.

There was an awkward silence, broken when Gloria said, “At a mall today, I was looking at a dress. A Terran woman tried to take it away from me. I saw Terrans fighting over a television. This Black Friday you have, it makes people behave badly. You should ban it.”

That made the rest of the table laugh, and Gloria just looked confused. She didn’t know she was being funny.

That evening, after I had gone to bed, Xara came into my room and laid down next to me. She put her arm around me and didn’t say anything. I fell asleep. When I woke up, I’m not sure how much later, Kara was there, and I was inhaling her pheromones. Johnson and Dixon would have been so jealous.

Saturday was stress testing in the pods. Not stress testing the pods. Stress testing me, in the pods. Xara wanted to get an idea of how hard she could maneuver without hurting me. For these tests I wore my helmet, and she tightened braces that would keep it, and my head, from flopping around too much.

“I’m going to start off gently,” came across my display. And she made some gentle turns and rolls.

“Now I’m going to increase the speed and intensity.” And the turns and rolls came on faster and harder. My stomach started to get queasy, so I closed the view ports. That helped, a lot.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said. “A little nausea but closing the view ports helped.

“I’m going to up the gs.”

And before I could respond I was slammed back into my harness, then slammed against the restraints, then slammed from one side to the other. At one point I felt the blood rushing to my head, then I was being pressed down into the harness, then I was straining against my restraints. Then everything stopped and across my display I saw, “I took you to 6gs. Are you okay?”

“That was rough Xara, but I don’t think anything broke. I may have some bruising from the restraints.”

“Okay, we’ll head back, and I’ll check you out.”

And she accelerated, but not too hard, and when we got back to the cavern, she helped me out of the pod and then walked around me, checking me out.

“No bruising Joe. Are you up for trying out the underwater pod?”

“Sure,” I said.

Underwater, we were deep enough that it didn’t matter if the viewports were open or closed. I couldn’t see anything either way. As far as I could tell, she subjected the pod, and me in it, to the same forces. She was very happy when we got back to the cavern.

“Joe, I think if I had to, I could evade a jet with you in the pod without you coming to any harm.”

“Okay. I’m not sure why that would be important, but it’s good to know.”

“I’m going back to the engineers to talk to them about putting lights on these things, so you can see in the dark.”

Sunday was spent exploring the nearby mountains. Sharon took Sarah, Xara took me, in our respective pods, and went to various places, peaks, waterfalls, etc. and let us out of the pods to explore. Sarah was like a little girl, and I suppose I was like a little boy, exploring mountain tops and canyons. Sharon and Xara loved us loving it. Sharon told me this was an exciting new way for her to share herself with the Terrans she loved. The pods removed a lot of the restrictions they would have carrying us in their arms, and she talked to Xara about planning a vacation in Hawaii, getting me and Sarah there in the pods.

“Cheaper than airfare, and faster too,” she said.

Sunday night Kara came into my room, and she wanted to have a conversation.

“Joseph, when you get back to your cabin Gloria will be there to show you the changes we’ve made and walk you through the equipment. You’ll start receiving information from me to be shared with your government.

“You will also start learning the Velorian and Arion languages. Gloria will get you started, Xara will help you after Gloria leaves. We’ll be trying an alien technology for this that speeds up learning. It works very well for Velorians and Arions. Gloria will attempt to adjust the machinery for you.”

“Is it dangerous, Kara?”

“We don’t think so, but Gloria will be very careful to make sure it isn’t. Trust her Joseph.”

“I do trust her, Kara.”

That was true. Even though Gloria scares the crap out of me, when it comes to my health and safety, I trust her.

I guess Kara decided we’d talked enough, because out came her pheromones.

Xara drove me to the airport Monday morning. She drove me to the passenger drop off curb, and as I was about to get out, she said, “Joe, I’ve got something I’d like you to think about.”

“What’s that Xara?”

“I’m going to tell you, but we aren’t going to discuss it. I want you to think about it, and we can discuss it after you return from your class.”

“Sounds ominous. Do I really want to hear this?”

“Probably not right now. But maybe if you hear it now and think about it, we can have a drama free discussion of it when you get back.”

“Drama free, I like the sound of that. Okay, hit me.”

“You’ll wait until you get home to talk about it?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve checked the laws about this Joe. In Washington, with mom’s consent, I can get married at 17. Joe, we could get married.”

I opened my mouth to object. She stopped me by sealing her lips over mine in a really good kiss, then pulled back and said, “Think about it. I’ll talk to mom about it and we’ll discuss it when you get home.”

I really wanted to talk about it, there and then. But I told her I’d wait, so I got out of the car, pulled my bags from the trunk and walked into the terminal. I wondered how this discussion was going to go with Kara.

 

Chapter 105

Back in class, there were only a few days left, and the rest of the time was spent on SDR, Surveillance Detection Route. We’d been told at the beginning of class to explore Sierra Vista, to drive around and get to know the city. Now we knew why. We were to design our SDRs, run them, then critique them.

The ide of an SDR is to expose hostile surveillance. And it has to be subtle, you don’t want to alert the surveillant that you are on to him or her. So unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, where my head was always on a swivel, I’d have to do this carefully and quietly.

We’d had lectures and demonstrations in class, now was the time to see if we’d learned anything. So I sat down with a map of the city and planned my SDR. I needed a route that would give me opportunity to determine if someone was following me.

Some of us were told to design walking SDRs, others, SDRs in a vehicle. I was assigned to take a vehicle. I designed a route that would take me from my condo to the other side of town and back. I designed it to take advantage of one-way streets and U-turns, with stops at convenience stores. I hoped to get this right, not just for the class, but because Gloria had stressed to me the importance of being able to identify a surveillant.

The Army doesn’t have an endless supply of intelligence and counterintelligence personnel to drop what they are doing and follow a trainee around. We were told that only a few of us would be followed. And while we had been trained in techniques to shake a surveillant, for this exercise that would not be necessary. The instructors told us they used to do that, but after three or four traffic accidents caused by students who had watched too many James Bond movies, they decided to drop that aspect of the exercise.

I won’t go into details about my route. It was three hours long, but I did spot my surveillant, and so got an attaboy the next day in class. We had a short graduation ceremony where we got our certificates, then we were all on leave for thirty days. For everybody else, that time would be used for PCS activities. For me, it meant going back to my cabin to begin working for Kara.

I did think about Xara’s proposal(?), but it was just so sudden. I didn’t know what to tell her. I honestly thought she needed to give college more time. I had to admit to myself that her first term hadn’t gone the way I thought it would. I thought her eyes would be open to all the possibilities, and I’d become just a good friend. So far, that wasn’t happening. I’d just have to talk her into waiting, I guess. I didn’t have a plan at all.

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