Kiraling – Part 24 (Chapter 171-176)
Written by anonxyzus :: [Friday, 20 August 2021 07:27] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 21 August 2021 07:23]
Xara and I are getting a new house! But we won’t be changing our address.
Kara had been helping Xara move her stuff from Kara’s home in California to the cabin. The more they moved, the less happy they were, both of them, with the amount of space we have. So the two of them asked to meet with me and discuss an idea Kara had. I asked Xara, she said she didn’t know what Kara had in mind.
As long as I’ve known the blondes, I’ve been aware that they like nice things. Kara’s house is a mansion, nearly a palace. I’ve never been to Sharon’s home, but, as I’ve noted before, to her, roughing it is a four-star hotel.
Being just as comfortable in a blazing furnace as in Antarctica in winter, you wouldn’t think creature comforts were important to them. And of all the technology they’ve introduced me to, I can’t remember any of it being of Velorian origin. And that makes sense; they don’t need it. Listening to them talk about their home planet, you’d think they never had time to develop technology because the only time they weren’t having sex was when they were just about to have sex or had just finished having sex. So you wouldn’t think the conveniences of modern living would mean much to them.
But you’d be wrong. They do like comfortable surroundings, and they do like convenience.
Kara flew up on a Sunday and I fixed lunch.
“Joseph, would you be willing to upgrade the cabin, to increase the amount of space you have?”
“I would, Kara, but given the size of the lot I’m not sure how we’d do that.”
“The size of the lot is not an issue, Joseph. I can deed the neighboring lot over to you.”
“Okay, so what kind of upgrades did you have in mind?”
“It’s more along the lines of a full replacement.”
“You want to tear my cabin down and build a new one?”
“No, not exactly.”
“Mom,” asked Xara, “do you mean a Kelsorian lift and replace?”
“That’s exactly what I mean Xara.”
Xara jumped up excitedly and hugged her mother.
“Mom, thank you!”
“It’s not a gift, Xara, you and Joseph will have to pay for it.”
Xara’s face fell. She looked at me, then at Kara and said, “Mom, we don’t have anything the Kelsorians will accept for payment.”
“You can get it, Xara.”
“What are we talking about?” I asked.
“The Scalantrans are willing to pay for it in trade,” Kara answered.
“Who are the Scalantrans and what do they want in trade?” I’d never heard of the Scalantrans.
“The Scalantrans are the galaxies largest and most successful mercantile civilization,” said Xara.
“And they want cats,” said Kara.
“Yes, Joseph, cats.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. “Xara, do you understand?”
“No, but I’m sure mom will explain.”
“This sort of thing is very common in interstellar trade,” said Kara.
“The Scalantrans have a Fesussian buyer who wants cats. The Scalantrans don’t have any. We give the Scalantrans cats, the Scalantrans sell the Fesussian the cats and get paid in currency the Kelsorians will accept, then the Scalantrans broker a deal with the Kelsorians to replace the cabin.
“It’s all very simple.”
“What do the Scalantrans get out of it?” I asked.
“Oh,” Kara said, “I’m sure they’ll markup the cats and come out of it with a handsome profit. They’re exceptionally good at that.”
“I have all kinds of questions,” I said. “First, what is a lift and replace?”
“The Kelsorians will send an engineer here to inspect the property, get our requirements, and design a replacement for the cabin. Then they’ll come here and lift the existing structure up and put the new structure down. Think of it like a pre-fabricated home,” said Kara.
“Next question,” I said. “How many cats?”
“Twenty,” said Kara, “ten males and ten females.”
“So we’re going to kidnap cats?” I asked.
“No,” said Kara, “that would be unfair to the cats and their owners. You’re going to capture feral cats.”
Around here, that wouldn’t be hard. The woods are full of feral cats. And it’s easy to tell them apart from pets. If you say, “here kitty kitty,” and the cat comes to you and purrs, it’s a pet. If it tries to scratch your eyes out, it’s feral.”
“We’re talking about regular cats, right? Not bobcats or cougars?”
“Just regular cats,” said Kara.
I turned to Xara and asked, “What do you think, honey?”
“I think we can do that,” she said. “Maybe if we find a kitten, we can keep it.”
“Not if you want me or Sharon to ever come here again,” said Kara.
“You don’t like cats, Kara?”
“She hates them,” said Xara. “She’s had one too many run ins with the Kintzi.”
“You’ve mentioned them before,” I said. “What are they?”
Kara answered. “They’re a Supremis level feline species, very intelligent, with the disgusting habit of coughing up furballs that contain the remains of whoever was their last meal.”
“Arions and Velorians hate the Kintzi,” said Xara, “I’ve never seen one, but mom used to use them like boogeymen in the stories she told me when I was little.
“Be a good girl, Xara, or the Kintzi will get you.”
“How hard can it be to just stay away from whatever planet they live on?”
“They have spacecraft, Joseph.”
Cats in space. Who would of thunk it?
“Okay, back to the house, how do we handle this with the county?” I asked.
“I’ll take care of that,” said Kara. “The State Department will help, since this property has the status of a Velorian Mission.”
“Does the county understand that, or care?” I asked.
“It won’t matter,” said Kara, “just leave it to me.”
“Do I get to meet a Kelsorian?”
“Sorry Joseph, no. They won’t allow that. But you will meet a Scalantran and a Fesussian. They are non-human species.”
That sounded exciting, to meet a non-human ET.
“Is there anything Xara and I have to do besides catch the cats?”
“You need to come up with requirements for your new house. A floor plan would be good. Gloria can help with the security requirements.”
“Do you know what you want?” I asked Xara.
“I have a pretty good idea,” she said. “We should talk about it.”
My dad had a rule about decisions like this, and he’d be upfront with contractors and plumbers and such.
He’d tell them, “The most important thing is that at the end of the job, my wife is happy. If she isn’t happy, I’m blaming you.”
As I grew up, I saw the wisdom of this. At parties and barbeques, I’d listen to wives complain to each other about a piece of work that was done and blame their husbands for it not coming out the way they wanted it. Mom never complained about dad because he set the expectation with the contractor.
After deciding to get married, this was the first major decision Xara and I would make together. And I decided that whatever made her happy would be fine with me. I’d certainly advocate for what I wanted, but keeping mom happy worked for dad, and I was determined to make it work for me.
This was in October, not long after I had proposed. Kara said to expect the Scalantrans and Fesussians between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That gave Xara and me time to prepare.
The weather was turning nasty, and that meant our morning runs were getting nasty too. Xara doesn’t like being out in the rain any more than anyone else does, mostly because her clothes get wet. She doesn’t get cold and miserable like I do. She observed that I wasn’t much of a conversationalist when running in the rain, and that surprised me. I mean, when I’m running with her, I just listen. My responses to her are mostly yes, no, and grunts. But she decided that since I wasn’t any fun in the rain (!), she’d go hunting cats. And between her vision and hearing, she’s a really good cat hunter. She found way more than twenty feral cats in the few square miles around the cabin.
Now that we knew Xara could find them, and knowing that for her, catching them would be trivial, we turned our attention to how we would house and feed them, and keep them clean. You can’t cage feral cats together; they’ll tear each other to shreds. So they have to be caged separately. And you have to be able to feed and water them, and clean their litter boxes, without giving them the opportunity to escape. So we put together a plan.
We went to Home Depot and bought a lot of chicken wire and wood and built twenty individual cages. We bought and cut up tarps we could fasten to the outside of the cages so the cats wouldn’t have to look at each other. That would just stress them out. The cages were big enough to hold a small litter box, food and water bowels.
Xara went to a thrift store and found old towels we could put on the floors of the cages, so the cats could be comfortable. We put the cages in the lair bedrooms. Xara said the Supremis who stay in them won’t be happy about it, because they’ll be able to detect the cat smell for several months after the cats are gone. She anticipated it would be funny to see Sharon’s reaction.
Now that we had the cages in place, had bought a lot of kitty litter and cat food, it was time for a test. Xara was about to leave the cabin to capture the first cat when I stopped her.
“Xara, wait,” I said, “take a towel with you.”
“They’re going to try their best to scratch and bite you.”
“So, that won’t bother me in the least.”
“No, it won’t bother you, but they might hurt themselves.”
I handed her a thick towel.
She was back in five minutes with a snarling, hissing bundle of fur inside the towel. We took the cat into the lair, I opened up a cage and … have you ever tried to put a cat through a small opening it didn’t want to go through? They do this spread-eagle thing that is quite impressive. Xara had to work to get its legs together without hurting it, then pushed it into the cage and I closed and latched it as fast as I could.
The cat was obviously stressed. We covered the cage up so it couldn’t see out. Xara could see though the tarp, of course. She checked on the cat every half hour. After about three hours it calmed down, ate the food in its dish and used the cat box.
We had over a month before Thanksgiving, so we opened the cage door to take the cat out and release it, and it bolted for freedom immediately. Fortunately, as fast as that cat was, and it was very fast, Xara is faster. She wrapped it in the towel again and returned it to where she found it.
Now we knew we could get the cats, the next thing to do was design our new house. We had some restraints, mainly the lair. It wasn’t going to move so we had to maintain the same entrance. That wasn’t a difficult problem to work around at all.
Then there were other choices to be made. I thought Xara would like something like what she grew up in, multiple floors with tubes she could use to fly between them.
“No, Joe, I don’t want that at all. Mom’s house was designed for Velorians with compromises to accommodate Terrans. This will be OUR house. It has to be for both of us. And Joe, I think we want to live here a long time. So let’s keep it to one story.”
“Because when you’re 80 years old you aren’t going to want to climb a lot of stairs.”
“I had no idea you were thinking that far ahead, Xara.”
“Well, I am. You have a problem to solve too, Joe.”
“When you’re 80, I’m not going to look much older than I do now. How are you going to explain that?” She was teasing, I knew, but damn, that put some things into perspective.
Xara has many talents. I learned during this exercise that drawing is one of them. She can draw a perfect circle free hand and doesn’t need a ruler to measure distances. As we talked, she sketched out what we wanted. At one point she drew a couple of circles, next to each other, one bigger than the other.
“What are those, Xara?”
“Hot water tanks,” she answered. “The smaller one will be set to 140°, the other will be set to 210°. The large tank will feed water to our shower and tub in the master bath and the showers in the lair. The other tank will handle the rest of the house.”
“Why is it so big?” I asked.
“If we have a house full of Supremis, they’re all going to want to take hot showers or baths.”
“I hope I don’t burn myself,” I said.
“I’ve been thinking about that,” she said. “At mom’s house I marked the faucet to show you how high you could go and not get scalded. I think we should have a valve or spring doohickey that would be too hard for you to turn past a safe temperature.”
“Doohicky. Is that an intergalactic technical term?”
She punched my shoulder. It hurt.
“Well, just write that into the specs, I guess.”
We spent three days writing up the specifications for the house, then we sent them to Gloria who added her security requirements.
We ended up with five bedrooms, a large study that that Xara and I could share, with soundproof partitions if one of us needed quiet. A large master bedroom with two walk-in closets, one for each of us, though looking at all the stuff Xara has, it occurred to Johnson and Dixon that I might get squeezed out of mine. A master bath off the bedroom with two sinks in the counter, a shower for two with all kinds of spigots, a large tub, and wall to ceiling mirrors placed so Xara could reach every part of her body with her heat vision.
I was going to go with a simple toilet. Xara doesn’t need one but vetoed my idea and went with a Kelsorian model with a built-in bidet and something I call an ass washer. It’s really something. She found it in a Kelsorian catalog Kara lent us. I guess it’s kind of like a galactic Montgomery Ward catalog, or maybe Sears & Roebuck.
I’m wondering what Jeff Bezos would do if he knew about this. Try to beat the Kelsorians with free two-day delivery? Build Amazon warehouses on the moons of some far-off solar system?
I asked for a large pantry for the kitchen, which Xara put into her drawing. With the amount of food The Rack Pack … uh, I mean The Family can eat, I wanted a good size stove top and two ovens. Kara told us that we’d have to provide the major appliances. I had no problem with that. I have two duffle bags full of more than enough cash. We’d have to include the electrical requirements for the Kelsorians. That meant a shopping trip to look at appliances, get measurements and add them to Xara’s sketches.
Dining room, family room, living room, three guest bathrooms, laundry and utility room, three car garage with an attached workshop (that was my idea), rounded everything out. Then we packaged it up for Gloria, who spent a day on the security requirements, which weren’t much different from what the cabin already had. She’s just that thorough. Skar-El showed up on a Friday night, I didn’t see Xara until Monday morning, and took the requirements to wherever they were going.
The blondes are very good at compartmentalization. Sharon and Kara very seldom spoke to me about their businesses, Sharon would only talk about Deb when asked. I was learning that Xara compartmentalized too. Come to think of it, Gloria has never really shared her background with me. Mona is more forthcoming if you ask her.
Anyway, now that she was wearing an engagement ring, I started meeting people, friends of hers, that I had never heard of. And most of them had never heard of me. Most of them were women, only a few men. Xara was cutting the men with whom she had sexual relations out of her life. They get too possessive, she said. I try not to speculate on how many there were, and she’s sensitive enough to my feelings, or my male ego, depending on which of The Family you are talking to, not to bring it up.
The young men who were left were, from my point of view, good guys. Most of them had girlfriends, a couple had boyfriends, a couple, according to Xara, liked her but were too shy to ask her out on a date. Too bad for them, it was too late now.
Xara started holding study parties at the cabin. I don’t know why they called them parties, it looked like all work to me. And we’d go out to dinner and dancing with her friends.
She got a lot of ribbing from her friends about how she couldn’t keep her hands off me, she was always touching me. What her friends didn’t know was that she did that to make a connection with me. It is a very intimate way for us to share ourselves. Xara was a little … sad? I’m not sure that is the right word. Initially, I thought of the connection as a two-way highway and Xara controlled the traffic. And that is true to an extent. But the Supremis brain is different from the Terran brain. And the Galen brain is more different. Xara said to think of her brain as a superset of mine. Her brain and mind can experience everything my brain and mind can, and she and I can share that equally. But she is capable of much more that she can’t share with me, and that makes her a little sad.
But back to meeting new people. Her friends were about her age, maybe one to two years older. Most of them couldn’t legally drink, but as long as they had designated drivers, and occasionally I’d have to be the DR, I didn’t see any harm in letting them reduce that stockpile of wine I still had in the garage.
Oh, right, I almost forgot. Under the original proposal for the house replacement, it was understood that the lair would not be touched. Xara came up with the idea of expanding the lair to include a wine cellar. You’d think Kara would nix that as an unnecessary expense on top of an already elaborate house replacement. I thought she’d nix it. Nope. She thought it was a great idea. And when Sharon heard about it, she flew out, looked at the lair, then designed the wine cellar. She said the place would finally “be civilized.” Kara sent the request with the design to whoever it is she sends these things to and the Scalantrans and Fesussians approved it for the low, low price of only two more cats, one male and one female.
While I was at Home Depot buying more wood and chicken wire to build two more cages, Dixon asked me if I thought the Fesussians know how fast cats reproduce. Johnson jumped in and said, no, they must not, because if they did, they wouldn’t be willing to pay so much for them. Truthfully, the three of us have no idea how galactic economics work. Maybe replacing homes light years away from Kelsor is cheap. Maybe Earth is the only planet that has cats and the inhabitants of all the other planets worship them.
Back to new friends. One of the girls Xara knew was from Custer, a little town about 20 miles north of Bellingham. Fun fact: Loretta Lynn lived in Custer for about 14 years. This was before she was famous. She got married at age 14 to a 21-year-old guy and they moved from Kentucky to Custer.
Anyway, this girl was a theater major, and she convinced the Western Theater department to put on a small production in Custer, in a barn a farmer volunteered. We’re talking Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland stuff. Except it wasn’t a musical. They sold enough tickets to have two showings of the play, which means most everyone in Custer was going to show up. Population wise, it’s a very small town. There were some tickets left so the kids in the study group bought them. So one gloomy November Saturday night we drove to Custer to see a play. We sat on hay bales. I shit you not.
After the play I was hungry, the kids we went with were hungry, so we joined the cast party at the Blaine Taco Bell (it was a small cast). I had seen a black suburban at the barn, and that same black Suburban showed up at Taco Bell. I didn’t think much of it, farmers love their trucks, and after their trucks they love their Suburbans, and who doesn’t love Taco bell?
After eating too much at Taco Bell and complimenting the Western kids on a very entertaining play, Xara and I left for home. The freeway was dark, but occasionally, at an exit, there would be overhead lights, and looking in my rearview mirror, I saw a Suburban, and I thought it was the same one I’d seen in Custer and Blaine.
Xara and I weren’t connected. We’d discovered that she could be behind the wheel when we were in a connection, but unless the connection was very shallow, it could be a distraction for me when I was driving. Not always, but if she started sending me a lot of input it would affect my concentration. So just to be safe, at that time in our relationship, we didn’t connect while I was driving. I didn’t say anything until the Suburban took the same freeway exit I took.
“Xara, there’s a black Suburban behind us. I saw it at the barn and Taco Bell. I think we’re being followed.
Xara turned around in her seat and looked.
“Oh shit,” she said. “Remember that Saudi I broke up with? I think those are his people.”
“You recognize them?”
“No, but one of them is carrying a Saudi passport. And they all have side arms.”
I wasn’t packing. I didn’t even have the light saber with me. When I was with Xara, there was no point in being armed.
“I’m not armed, Xara, what do you want to do?”
“Let’s see if they follow us to our road,” she said. “If they are still following us then, let me take care of it. Don’t go looking for any sticks.”
“Jesus Christ Xara! One time! Just one time I attack a shooter with a stick, and you just can’t let me forget it!”
That made her laugh.
I pulled onto the road the cabin is on and they followed, then sped up, passed me then pulled a maneuver that forced me to slam on my breaks and steer hard right to avoid a collision. The Suburban was at a 45° angle blocking my car. A guy got out of the front seat passenger side and pointed a gun at me. Xara reached over and pushed my seat all the way back, breaking it, of course, positioned herself between me and the gunman, then flew out the windshield at him, taking the pillar out as she went.
I heard him scream. I sat up to see the other doors of the Suburban start to open, but the guys on the inside didn’t have a chance to get out before Xara tipped the vehicle over on its side.
She came to my car and pulled the driver side door off and helped me out and examined me, she was shaken up.
“Xara, I’m fine,” I said.
“I want to make a connection,” she said, taking my hand in hers.
“Okay,” I said.
She made the connection and then immediately calmed down. She had been worried that she hurt me when she forced my seat back. And it was that fast, going from worried, almost fearful that she had hurt me, and then completely calm when she did whatever kind of scan she does and found that I was unhurt.
“Call mom,” she said. “Tell her I need her here now.”
The fastest way to summon Kara was to use my watch. I pressed the button combination that signaled her and in seconds the watch vibrated.
“Kara, someone just attacked me and Xara. We’re on the road to the cabin. Xara wants you here.”
I got an acknowledgement vibration. Kara was on her way.
The gunman was sitting up on the ground, holding his gun hand. Xara had broken it. The gun was a few feet away from him. He reached for it with his good hand and Xara put her foot over his hand, then slowly pressed down. I heard the bones crunch as he screamed. Then she picked up the gun and tore it apart in front of him. Jesus Christ, even in the dark I could see how big his eyes got.
The Suburban was on its left side. The right side back door started to open. Xara floated up and slammed it shut. It started to open again. Xara slammed it shut again. It started to open again, and Xara tore it off, pushed whoever it was down and shouted, “Stay in the fucking car!”
Whoever it was in the car didn’t get the message. They pulled themselves up to the new opening in the Suburban, holding a pistol in their hand. Xara took the pistol and threw it, hard. I have no idea where it came down. Then she pushed the guy back down into the car again.
I saw a bright streak in the sky, getting closer. Kara landed, followed by a sonic boom. She was ten feet away from me and I could feel the heat radiating off her. She looked over the situation and, apparently, decided Xara had it in hand, and she turned and jumped into the lake. In a few moments she was out, did that spin dry thing the blondes are so good at, and was back at the Suburban.
Kara and Xara conferred.
“Who are they?” Asked Kara.
“I think they work for that Saudi I was dating. One of them is carrying a Saudi passport.”
“Do you know what they want?”
“No, but that one,” Xara pointed to the guy on the ground cradling his two broken hands, “pointed a gun at Joe.” Then she yelled, loud enough for the guy on the ground and the guys in the car to hear, “The next asshole who points a gun at my fiancé is going to get his head shoved up his ass! Don’t think I can’t do it!”
Johnson said, “I think she can.”
Dixon said, “I think she would.”
“What happened to Joe’s car?”
“I did that. I needed to be between Joe and the gun, I was in a hurry.”
Kara nodded. “Are you hurt, Joseph?”
“No,” I answered.
Then Kara looked at the Suburban.
“Two of them still have guns,” she said.
“The third one had one too. I took it away from him.”
“Alright,” said Kara, “let’s find out what’s going on.”
Kara walked up to the Suburban and said, “Throw your guns out.”
Xara said, “I won’t be gentle if I have to go in there after them.” Then she picked the gunman up off the ground and threw him into the Suburban. It hurt, he screamed.
“Show them what I did to you,” she said.
There was a heated discussion in Arabic. I learned a little during my deployments. It sounded like three against one. Then two pistols came flying out the opening in the Suburban. Kara collected the pistols and threw them into the lake. Then Xara walked around to the other side of the Suburban and tipped it back up onto its wheels. Kara reached into the opening and pulled the men out.
“Who are you?” She asked.
The four of them just stared at her. I don’t blame them, Kara in her flight suit is quite the site.
“Who. Are. You.” She asked again.
One of them started to answer, but he was cut off by another one who said, in Arabic, “Don’t tell the whore anything.”
I said, in Arabic, “Call her a whore again and I’ll break your jaw.”
The four guys and two blondes turned and looked at me in surprise.
“What? I’m more than a pretty face,” I said.
Then the first guy, the one who had started to talk, said in perfect English, “We were sent here to capture Danni Banks.”
I turned to Xara and said, “I thought you said he didn’t know your real name, or where you lived.”
“I guess I was wrong,” she said.
“Which of you is in charge?” asked Kara.
Three of them pointed to the guy who called Kara a whore.
“Who sent you?” She asked him.
He just glared at her.
Xara said, “Mom, Joe, stand up wind from me.”
We repositioned ourselves. Either trust or fear pheromones were coming. Dixon and Johnson both bet on fear.
Xara pushed the guy up against the Suburban, then took his hand in hers. She was making a connection. He tried to remove it, she just ignored him. Then his eyes got big and his legs gave out. I’m sure he was trying to scream, but all he got out were a series of ‘uh uh uh’ sounds. The other three guys broke and ran. Kara caught them and brought them back. They hadn’t moved upwind.
“Nailed it,” said Johnson.
Xara let go of the leader’s hand and stepped back. “Ask him again,” she said.
“Are you going to answer my questions?” Kara asked him.
“Yes! Yes!” he said, groveling. He actually bent down at Kara’s feet.
“Who sent you?”
He gave her a name, Hany something or other. Kara turned to Xara who said, “That’s him, the guy I was dating.”
“And what were you sent to do?”
“To find Danni Banks and bring her back to Saudi Arabia.”
“And what was going to happen to me there?” Xara asked.
“You would serve Hany.”
“What were you going to do with me?” I asked.
He didn’t want to answer. Xara took a step forward and he recoiled from her and said, “We were going to drug you. With heroin.”
“How much heroin?” I asked.
“Enough to kill you,” he said.
Kara asked for my phone. I don’t know who she called. But about two hours later a helicopter landed and several men wearing hats and jackets that said FBI on them showed up, put the Saudis in handcuffs, and flew off with them. Kara picked up the Suburban and flew it to the nearest junk yard and dropped it, then returned and did the same with my Prius, then joined me and Xara back at the cabin.
“Mom, will you take care of Joe tonight? I need to take care of something.”
“I’m fine, Xara, I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”
She reached out and held my hand. “Knock knock.”
She held the connection for just a few seconds, then broke it. “Your adrenalin levels soared when those men attacked us. They aren’t back to normal yet. Mom will help you calm down.”
“But Xara, where are you going?”
“I’m going to pay Hany a visit.”
I went to bed with Kara that night. Between her pheromones and her fantastic skills, I was pretty calm in an hour or so.
When I woke up Xara was in bed with me, and Kara was gone. She just smiled when I asked her what she had done and said, “watch the news.”
I turned on CNN. It was the usual Sunday morning stuff, people from the government being interviewed. At one point they broke for news and had a small item about a man being found chained upside down to the spire of the Doha Tower in Qatar. They had cell phone video. According to unverified rumors, he was a wealthy member of a prominent Saudi family. No one was speculating which family.
A few hours later the cabin alarms alerted me that someone was approaching. I checked the camera, there were two cars. They parked in my driveway. A guy got out of one of the cars and came to the door and rang the bell.
I answered the door.
“Joseph Ricci?” He asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
He held up car keys and some papers and said, “Sign these papers and the car is yours.”
Long story short, Kara had replaced the Prius. With a Camry. My mom drove a Camry. Kara bought me a mom car. It was a hybrid though. A hybrid mom car.
I signed the papers, the guy gave me the keys and left with the other fellow in the other car.
“Why couldn’t she have bought me a Camaro?” I asked.
Xara said, “I used to ask her that too.”
Xara has a problem. Or I have a Xara problem. Or had. I think I’ve got it resolved.
Monday morning after the Hany incident, Xara asked me to stay at the cabin until she came home, then kissed me goodbye and left. I was going to stay home but looking in the refrigerator, I discovered that we were almost out of milk. Xara drinks a lot of milk. So I put together a grocery list and went to Fred Myer. When I got home, Xara was on the front porch waiting for me, her car wasn’t in the garage, and she was pissed.
“I told you to stay home!”
“We needed groceries Xara. What’s going on?”
“I’m late for class. Just stay home!” and off she flew.
Late that afternoon, Kara showed up with Gloria in a pod.
“Hi guys, what’s up?”
“I don’t know,” said Kara. “Xara called me and asked me to bring Gloria here.”
About five minutes later Xara pulled into the garage. She came inside and saw us all in the living room and ran up to me and gave me a hug and a kiss and apologized for yelling at me.
“Okay,” I said. “It’s okay. What’s going on?”
She explained it. Xara was afraid. Not for herself, for me.
“If I hadn’t been with you, those men would have killed you,” she said. “I want Gloria to move back in and be your bodyguard.”
“Joseph,” Kara asked, “when you go out, without one of us, are you armed?”
“Yes,” I answered, “I carry my revolver and light saber.”
“Xara,” Gloria said, “I have never met a Terran harder to kill than Joe.” Coming from her, that’s one hell of a compliment.
She continued, “I’ve trained him. Except for that one episode with the drug dealers, I’ve never seen him let down his guard or make a mistake. Joe doesn’t need me to protect him from Terran threats.”
“I like Gloria well enough,” I said, “but I don’t need a babysitter. I don’t want a babysitter.”
“Mom?” Xara was on the verge of tears.
Kara put her arms around her and said, “Terrans get hurt, honey. They die. We all understand that when we let one into our hearts. You can’t cage him up, he wouldn’t be happy, and you wouldn’t be happy with the person that would make him. Listen to Gloria, she’s worked very hard with Joe, and he’s learned a lot.”
This was almost shocking for me to hear. Because I distinctly remember my mom telling me, when my hamster died, “Joey, I told you when we got him that they don’t live long. I warned you about this.” I was six at the time.
Do they see us the way we see pets? No, I don’t think so. My hamster would have never proposed to me. But still …
“Okay,” Xara said, “but I want a receiver, for his watch, so when he needs help, I get the call too.”
Kara agreed to that and three days later I got a new watch and Xara got a tiny receiver that fit in her ear canal. I tested the watch; they both got the ‘call’.
It was a while before Xara would let me go anywhere alone. With her long school days, it made sense that I would do the shopping while she was in class. But she didn’t want me out alone, and I could see how worried she was, so I acceded to her wishes did the shopping in the evening, when she could come along.
And anywhere we went, her head was on a swivel. Every time she saw someone with a concealed weapon, she pointed them out and tried to steer me in a different direction. Oh, and even though I was with her, she insisted that I be armed.
“Xara, the reason people opt for concealment rather than open carry is that they are trying to avoid reactions like yours. It’s okay.”
I was worried and called Kara several times about it. She assured me that Xara would be alright, that she, Kara, went through a similar phase with Eric.
And she was right. Before the end of the year, Xara was back to her old self. One benefit for me though, she got used to running with me in the rain, and after she was over her ‘don’t let Joe out of your sight’ phase, she continued to run with me. My misery truly loved her company ?
Xara’s fear for my safety aside, we were evolving as a couple quite well. We were partners, and it felt good. And sleeping with a woman like Xara has its benefits.
We both slept in the nude. Xara, because Supremis think pajamas are a waste of cloth, and me because, well, Xara. Anyway, she needs skin to skin contact to make and maintain the connection, and when you’re both naked in bed there is a lot of opportunity for skin-to-skin contact. Xara would hold the connection at least until I fell asleep. She requires very little sleep herself, so she’d send me into pleasant dreams. But she didn’t control all my dreams. We talked about it.
“Joe, at night, if one of us rolls over and breaks the connection, is it okay if I reestablish it without asking? I have to move you into a light sleep to do that and I’d rather not disturb you.”
“Yeah, that would be okay. If you’ve already asked permission, and I’m asleep, you can do that.
“What do you get from it, Xara?”
“I like to watch your dreams,” she said.
“How much influence do you have over my dreams?”
“I have a lot. I always try to put a nice one in when you fall asleep. But I can’t do that all night, Terran dreams serve a purpose for organizing information in your brain. I don’t want to interfere with that.”
“So you eavesdrop?”
“Yes. It’s very interesting Joe. Your dreams move from place to place, with no logical pattern that I can detect. Do you know you have anxiety dreams about high school?”
“I do. Can you make those go away?”
“I’ll make nightmares go away, the ones you have about combat. But I don’t think I should screw around too much with the process.”
I started trying to remember my dreams when I woke up in the morning. Most of my memories of my dreams slip away if I don’t work on remembering them, except for the really bad nightmares, and I identified at least three occasions when a dream started out during a deployment and shifted to something else very quickly. I wasn’t sure about it, so I asked Xara, and she confirmed that she was doing it.
“You don’t mind, do you?”
“No. Those nightmares are awful, and I remember them. Go ahead and change them.”
After that conversation Dixon and Johnson speculated on how much of my thinking she could influence. So I asked her.
“Xara, if you can change my dreams, what else can you change?”
“I think I can change a lot, Joe. When those Saudi’s were refusing to answer our questions, I entered the leader’s mind and inserted images of me dropping him from a height while I released my fear pheromones. Like most Terrans, he has a fear of falling. Did the image frighten him, or was it just the pheromones, or a combination? I don’t know.
“I’d have to experiment on someone to learn more.”
“That someone could be me, Xara. I trust you; you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“We’d have to be very careful Joe. I wouldn’t hurt you intentionally, but I don’t know what I don’t know. I nearly took you too far during sex. If I experiment on you, we’d have to be very, very careful. I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.”
“Xara, is it a good thing for you to develop your mental powers to their full capacity.”
“It is Joe, but I don’t want to break someone in the process.”
“Think about it Xara, maybe you can come up with a protocol that has built in safety.”
“I have no idea how that would work, Joe. But I’ll think about it. It’s very sweet of you to volunteer yourself.”
Johnson told me to ask her about the pain. I’m always in a little bit of pain, from all my wounds and surgeries. But when I’m in the connection, the pain goes away. So I asked her.
“Yes, Joe, I’m aware of your pain. It’s very easy for me to block it, and you seem to sleep better when I do. Is that okay?”
“Yes, Xara, it is okay. But please, in the future, let me know when you’re doing something.”
“You mean every time?”
“No, just the first time, so I’ll know that whatever it is I’m feeling is from you. I just want to know, okay?”
“And Xara, I do notice that I sleep better. Thank you for doing that for me.” She gave me a nice kiss and a hug.
Our sex life was evolving too. Xara was serious when she said she wanted to learn what I liked, and unlike Sharon and her mother, she’d tell me what she liked, and instruct me on how to … stimulate her and give her pleasure. Supremis women do not require a lot of foreplay, they are always ready, but if you can convince them to slow down and enjoy the buildup, they find they enjoy taking their time. Just don’t try to hold them off too long or you’ll find yourself on your back with lungs full of pheromones and a raging hardon inside a beautiful woman going to town on you. That’s what happened to me.
Sex with Sharon and Kara is great. Don’t get me wrong. But they are always in charge and in control. Xara is in charge and in control too, but she makes me feel more like a participant. And she lets me initiate sex. With Xara, it’s more romantic. And that romance is helping us get closer.
Back to our partnership, most of the housework was left to me, along with cooking. With Xara’s school commitments she just didn’t have time for it. She’d pitch in though when she did have time. She could dust or vacuum the tops of shelves much easier than I could. She’d just float up off the floor and get it done in no time.
She did have one neat cooking trick. She can emit microwaves through her eyes. It’s fun to watch a bag of popcorn pop while she rotates it in her hands.
I’m wondering what kind of doctor Xara is going to be. We’ve been talking about it, and her new abilities open up more possibilities for her. Initially her plan was to be a surgeon. Combine her tachyon vision (I don’t even know what a tachyon is), which allows her to see through things, with her incredible dexterity, and her high visual acuity and she’d be able to perform just about any surgery and wouldn’t need imaging devices.
But with her new mental abilities, her options increased dramatically. She could already detect a person’s heartrate with her ears, and see their body temperature with her vision, but now, by making a connection, she could monitor insulin levels, adrenalin levels, and who knows what else.
I met a Scalantran and a Fesussian!
We had Thanksgiving at the cabin. The Family was there, along with Major Moore and Crystal. Again, Deb was a no-show. And Sharon did not want to talk about it.
Xara was very excited about the two of us being host and hostess for the first big holiday celebration since we had become engaged. Given who was coming to dinner, we bought the biggest turkey we could find and 15 lbs. of potatoes, cans of cranberries, and a lot of gravy mix. Given that we only had the capacity to cook one turkey (Kara’s kitchen could handle several) we decided to go overboard on deserts. Heavy on chocolate, of course.
At dinner Kara stood up to toast the engaged couple and announced that in one week the Scalantrans would be here with a Fesussian to collect the cats they contracted for, and then the process of building our house could begin.
We were ecstatic. Xara could hardly wait to get started, but our guests were staying downstairs, and Sharon, Kara, Mona and Gloria made it clear that they had no intention of sharing space with cats. Everyone left Sunday morning.
I have to stop here for a moment to gripe. When I was a kid, I loved Thanksgiving. And part of the reason why was that I could look forward to turkey sandwiches in my lunch for at least three days after school resumed. Not with Supremis around. There wasn’t any turkey left over by the time they were finished.
Anyway, Sunday afternoon we went out and bought several large bags of cat food. Cats don’t eat a lot, but Kara told us the trip to wherever they were going would take at least a week, and we wanted to make sure the cats had food. It didn’t occur to the Supremis, because they don’t think of these things, but I also bought several very large bags of cat litter.
Then, Sunday evening, after dark, Xara took a couple of towels and went cat hunting. It took her four hours, but we finally had twenty-two cats, eleven males and eleven females. Xara said it would have gone faster but she came across several females who were obviously nursing mothers, and she didn’t want the kittens to be stranded. She did bring back one pregnant female.
When Kara said our visitors would arrive in a week, we both thought a week from Thanksgiving. They didn’t come until the weekend. The cats weren’t happy at all. It took both of us to clean their cages. Xara handling the cat and me cleaning the litter boxes and the litter the cats kicked out of the boxes. It wasn’t any fun, but we kept reminding each other we were getting a new house out of the deal.
Kara arrived at the cabin Saturday afternoon and told us our visitors would arrive after dark. About an hour after sunset a storm rolled in. There was thunder and lightning and a lot of rain. A few minutes after the storm started Kara said, “They’re here.”
She was looking out the door to the deck towards the lake. I couldn’t see anything, none of the lights came on, and then there were two figures who came up the deck and stood at the door. Kara let them in.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I saw. Kara introduced them to us. They had names I couldn’t pronounce. The Scalantran was humanoid, or roughly humanoid, in appearance. He was about seven feet tall and had six digits on each hand. Two of them were opposable, so I suppose you could say he had four fingers and two thumbs on each hand. He was dressed and had footwear; I don’t know if he had twelve toes.
He was very slim. His skin was almost translucent. I say almost, because it had the appearance of being nearly see thru, but not quite. He bowed to Kara, and they started conversing in Velorian. He had a thick accent which made it difficult for me to follow along, but Kara and Xara had no trouble with it.
Kara introduced him to me and Xara. He bowed to us; Xara bowed to him, so I bowed too. I couldn’t help but notice that Kara did not bow to him.
The Scalantran then introduced the Fesussian to Kara. How do I describe the Fesussian? He looked like a Muppet. His torso, or what I would call a torso, was roughly shaped like a haystack and covered with orange fur, which changed shades of orange as he listened and talked. In the middle of his torso there was a mouth. I think it was a mouth. It had what appeared to be lips. His (I have no idea if it was a he, she, or something else) torso was supported by two short legs that had knee joints like the rear legs of an animal, say a horse or a dog. The legs were covered in fur, and he had two feet that looked like hobbit feet, only with three toes each. I don’t think he was wearing any clothing.
He didn’t have arms. He had two stalks or necks, about three feet high with heads on top. Remember I said he looked like a Muppet? Think of Animal from The Muppet Show. Each head had nostrils, a mouth and two eyes. There were indentations on each side of the heads that I assumed were ears. When it talked, it talked from the mouths in the heads. Not at the same time, one at a time. Sometimes it would talk from the right head, sometimes from the left. There was no rhyme or reason that I could see as to which mouth it chose to use. When he talked, his fur changed shades. He was about six feet tall.
The Fesussian spoke in a squeaky language that the Scalantran could speak. He acted as the interpreter between the Fesussian and Kara. The Fesussian asked to see the cats. We took them all downstairs into the first room with the cat cages. I took the cover off one of the cages and the Fesussian bent, at the neck, down to take a closer look with one of his heads.
This was amazing to see. His neck was fully articulated. He could bend it in any direction to bring what he wanted to look at into view. While one head looked at the cat in the first cage, the other head talked to the Scalantran, who relayed to Kara that he was asking about the food and litter.
Kara turned to me, and I described, in a combination of Velorian and English, what the food was and how the cat used the cat box. At this the Fesussian’s fur turned a very deep shade of orange and he spoke to the Scalantran, who then spoke to Kara, who then turned to me, with a smile on her face, and said, “The Fesussian wants to know if all cats will use the box.”
I said yes, in Velorian, which was translated by the Scalantran. Then the Fesussian said something to the Scalantran, who translated for Kara, who said, “The Fesussian wasn’t expecting this. He is very pleased and wonders how much litter the cat will need.”
I pointed to the bags of food and litter we had bought, and that was translated and the Fesussian let us know how happy he was that we provided extra litter and food. The Scalantran and the Fesussian then got into a long conversation that had the Fesussian’s fur changing all kinds of shades of orange. At times the Fesussian would stop speaking and turn its two heads to look at each other. This went on for a couple of minutes, then the Scalantran turned to Kara and said something, and Kara turned to me and Xara and said, “The Scalantran informed the Fesussian that food and litter were not part of the original contract and would only be provided at extra cost. The Fesussian agreed. You’re getting a bonus.”
Great, we’re getting a bonus. How would we use it? I had no idea. But Xara did. We’re using it to get a robotic house cleaner she found in the Kelsorian catalog. It’s like a Roomba on steroids.
The Fesussian then started quizzing us about the care and feeding of the cats, and the domestication process. I let Xara handle that. She explained that these cats were feral, but their offspring, if raised around and handled by ‘people’ would be tame. It occurred to me that the Fesussians didn’t know anything at all about cats, so I asked, and the answer was that I was right, and these cats were not meant for Fesussians but for someone else. He didn’t elaborate.
I had been wondering how the Fesussian managed without arms and hands. I found out when he stepped to the next box, bent a head over it, and took the cover off with its mouth.
He inspected every single cage, asked questions, and when I explained that the cats would be less stressed if their cages were covered, he put the covers back on, with his mouths.
I was waiting for him to ask to take a cat out of a cage and hold it, I wanted to see how he would do that, but he didn’t.
There was a lot of back and forth between the Fesussian and the Scalantran. Then the Scalantran, from some pocked I hadn’t seen, took out a small tablet and held it up to one of the Fesussian’s heads. The Fesussian stuck a tongue out and pressed it to the tablet. Kara said that’s how he signed it, with a tongue print. Then he did the same thing with the tongue in the other head.
The Scalantran told Kara, who told me, that the transaction was confirmed, the funds had been transferred, and the Fesussian was ready to load the cats into the Scalantran shuttle. I asked if they needed my help. I was told no. Then we went upstairs, the Fesussian opened the door to my deck, with one of its mouths (Dixon said we’d have to clean that handle) and three more Fesussians stepped out of the darkness and came in. All six of their heads were looking around the cabin as the first Fesussian led them down to the lair. They all came up, each carrying a cat cage, using the mouths on their heads like we would hands, with their heads positions so their eyes were pointing in the direction they were going. Very strange to see.
They made several trips down to the lair and back up, then out into the darkness, where they disappeared, only to reappear for their next trip, until all the cats and food and litter were moved out of the cabin and into what was, I was told, the Scalantran shuttle, which I never saw. I asked if I could get selfies with the Scalantran and the Fesussians. Kara didn’t even translate, she just said no.
After everything was loaded and the Fesussians had gone back to the Scalantran shuttle, the Scalantran pulled out another tablet which Kara signed with a thumbprint, and then a retina scan. Then there were bows all around and the Scalantran left. Five minutes later, the storm broke up and the stars came out. The next day the Bellingham Herald ran an article about a strange micro storm over Lake Whatcom the night before. No damage or injuries were reported, and the National Weather Service had no explanation.
We spent hours and hours cleaning to get the cat smells out of the lair. Or I spent hours and hours. Xara helped, but she still had her schoolwork. Her nose is much more sensitive than mine and that sensitivity allowed her to locate the sources of the odor, so we were able to focus our cleaning in the right places. I joked that if I ever decided I didn’t like my mother-in-law to be, I could just bring a cat into the house. Xara didn’t think that was too funny, she liked cats and would have loved to have a kitten.
She said when Sharon was first on this planet and needed a place to live, she answered an ad placed by a woman looking for someone to share an apartment and share the rent. The woman had a cat. One day Sharon was taking a nap when the cat jumped up on her. That woke Sharon up and when she saw that feline face she panicked and threw it against a wall, hard enough that the cat splattered against it. Her roommate immediately kicked her out. Xara didn’t want anything like that to happen here.
Hearing this story, Johnson asked how Sharon paid the rent, given that she was newly arrived. So I asked Xara.
“Earth isn’t the first Terran world Sharon has been on,” said Xara. “She knew how Terran men would react to her. She worked as a high-end escort until she had enough money saved up to start a business.”
“I wonder how long she had to work to save that kind of money.”
“Think, Joe. You’ve been with Sharon often enough. Do you think it would take her long to build up a sizable savings account?”
Dixon, Johnson and I all agreed it wouldn’t have taken her long at all.
Janelle was at a birthday party for one of her pediatric patients, a little girl who was celebrating her fourth birthday, a birthday she would not be celebrating were it not for the medical care she received from the Arion Prime.
The little girl’s extended family was present, as were many of the neighbors, including Miguel and his family. Everyone was thanking Janelle for saving the little girl, and everyone wanted to have their picture taken with her.
After dinner, the older women, one by one, brought their unmarried sons to meet her. She knew what was going on, she had overheard them talking. The beautiful young doctor was single, and what family wouldn’t be proud to count her as one of theirs? Rather than laugh at them, or kill them outright, she reminded herself that she was grooming these people to be subjects of the Emperor, and they had all been very kind to her. So she shook all their hands, and when asked, politely said that she had no boyfriend and wasn’t looking for one. And it was cute to see how shy the young men were. In a culture where machismo is very important, they were intimidated by her stature and beauty. She was tempted to release just a little of her pheromones to see how they would react, but looking through their clothing, she decided they didn’t need any encouragement.
As the celebration extended into the evening, the party suddenly became quiet when everyone heard gunshots. A family who had left the party early came back and told them that the gangs had encircled the neighborhood in technicals, a term that referred to heavy weapons mounted in the bed of a truck and were going door to door looking for cash that had been stolen from them. They were telling everyone on the street to go home, no one would be allowed to leave the area until the gangs finished their search. The police had all left the area and were nowhere to be found.
Miguel looked at Janelle with panic in his eyes. He had two bags of gang loot in his home. She quickly went to him and took him by the arm and pulled him away from the crowd gathered around the man telling everyone what was happening in the streets.
“Miguel, stay here with your family. I will protect you. Do not be frightened, do not panic. Try to calm these people down and keep them here.”
“Si, senorita. What will you do?”
“I will show the gangs the folly of coming into our neighborhood. After I’m finished, keep the children off the streets until they have been cleaned up. The little ones do not need to see the results of what I am about to do.”
With that she disappeared out a back entrance, jumped up to the roof, and scanned the neighborhood to see where the gangs were. The technicals were blocking the streets that led into and out of the neighborhood. She could see the men going door to door, and Miguel’s home was in their path. She would have to act quickly.
She undressed. She had bought a new outfit for this party and there was no way she was going to let it be ruined by blood. She then made her way, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, until she was behind the technical blocking the street Miguel’s home was on. There were three frails there, one on the automatic weapon mounted on the truck, two others with automatic rifles standing by it. They had radios.
She jumped up onto the bed of the truck and crushed the skull of the frail manning the gun. She then jumped down and knocked both frails off their feet, and stomped on the legs of one, breaking them. She grabbed the second frail and picked him up.
“Who are you?” It asked her.
“Call for help,” she ordered it.
It struggled futilely to get out of her grip. The frail on the ground, with the broken legs, picked up its rifle, aimed it at Janelle’s torso, and pulled the trigger. The bullets bounced off her, of course.
She turned and blasted that frail with heat vision, badly burning it and making it drop its rifle and scream.
“Call for help!” She insisted and pushed the frails radio into its face. It keyed the transmitter and called for help. When it tried to describe its attacker, she broke its neck.
She tossed the body away and put the radio in front of the remaining frail’s face. She keyed the transmitter and began burning its torso. It screamed and then screamed some more. Then she crushed the radio, grabbed the frail’s jaw, lifted it up then slammed it into the pavement, fracturing its skull and killing it.
She thought about jumping back up into the bed of the truck to use the gun on the frails who, she could see, were rushing to the aid of their dead comrades, but decided against it. It was a very powerful large caliber weapon and the bullets it fired would likely carry a long distance, penetrate the walls of homes, and possibly kill innocents. Innocents under her protection. No, she would have to do this in a more personal, hands-on way.
She got behind the truck and pushed it over onto its side. Four frails came running down the street and when they were close, she jumped from behind the truck and quickly killed three of them with blows to their bodies and heads. The fourth frail she grabbed, disarmed it, took its radio off its belt and told it to call for help. She keyed the transmitter and put it in front of its face.
It was so frighted it could barely speak, so she gave it some encouragement by pulling off one of its fingers, telling it things would get much worse for it if it didn’t call for help. It worked. The frail called for help. It got a response very quickly, asking what was happening.
Janelle keyed the transmitter and said, “Listen to your friend die.” Then she began breaking its bones, making it scream into the radio. When she was satisfied that ‘help’ was coming, she killed the frail and went back behind the truck to wait.
This time the gang didn’t send four frails. They sent everybody, including their technicals. And they weren’t being cautious. The technicals were coming fast, and the frails on foot were running. This was good, she thought, if she could limit the violence to this area, maybe the collateral damage could be kept to a minimum.
She waited for the first technical to get close, then she pushed the one she was hiding behind into it, a fast as she could. The frail at the gun began firing, many of its bullets piercing the gas tank. The gas and fumes leaking out were ignited by the sparks created by the steel of the truck being scraped against the pavement, and by the time Janelle hit the oncoming technical, she had a nice conflagration going.
She watched the frails coming down the street, and then she saw people looking out their windows to see what was happening.
“Skietra!” she thought. “Why didn’t I put out the streetlights!”
Well, better late than never; very quickly using her heat vision, she burnt the lights out. Very soon the area was dark, lit only by the lights from the homes, headlamps on the technicals and flashlights carried by the gang members.
She turned her attention to the technicals, ‘shooting’ out their lights with her heat vision. Some had lightbars with external wiring. It was easy to melt the wires.
There were a lot of technicals. There were a lot of armed frails. There was no time for subtlety. She ran into her adversaries faster than they could track her, smashing a skull here, ripping out a throat there, burning off some heads with blasts of heat vision so powerful that the gangsters near her targets were getting burned. A few, she disarmed, knocked down, and shoved the barrels of their rifles through their chest and into the pavement, killing them and pinning their bodies to the street.
The frails fought back, but she was too fast for them to properly aim at her. Nevertheless, so much lead was flying that some of it hit her. She was aware that some of the nearby homes were taking fire and she tried to maneuver so the bullets would either hit her or go harmlessly down the street, to little avail.
She attacked some technicals physically, with her body, others with her heat vision, melting them and roasting their occupants, flames climbing high when their gas tanks leaked and ignited.
At one point she rammed her fist through the hood of a technical. Amazingly, to her anyway, the bolts attaching the engine to the frame held, and she was able to pick up the technical with her arm and use it like a large hammer. She destroyed two other technicals before her makeshift battering ram fell apart around her arm.
The last five living frails broke and ran. She cut them down with her heat vision. Then she went from technical to technical making sure their guns would be useless forever and finishing off the few wounded, yet still living, frails she came across.
She was filthy and covered with blood. She made her way back to the house where the party was and looked through the roof, looking for Miguel. She made her way to the back entrance and waited for him to come close to it. She quickly opened the door, blew a soft puff of air at him to get his attention, then quickly closed the door and waited for him.
“Senorita,” he said when he saw her, “are you hurt?”
“Of course not, Miguel,” she answered with a smile. “But I am a mess. Can I have the keys to your home so I can get cleaned up?”
“Yes, of course senorita,” he said as he reached into his pocket and handed her the keys.
“Thank you, my friend,” she said. “Keep everyone here until I return.”
She made her way across the roofs to Miguel’s home, let herself in and took a shower, being careful to clean up after herself. She didn’t want Juanita to return to a mess. After she was clean, she returned to the rooftop and dressed, then made her way back into the home.
Everyone was speaking at once, wondering what had happened. A couple of the men went out and returned saying the gangs had left. One ventured out to the far end of the neighborhood and came back, trembling, and in a halting voice described the carnage that he saw. No one knew what to do, and they all stayed, debating whether it was safe to return to their homes. After about half an hour they heard police sirens. A half hour after that a policeman knocked on the door and asked the partygoers if they had seen what had happened. No one had, except Janelle, and she wasn’t talking.
One man asked the policeman if it was safe to return to their homes. He said it was, and over the next fifteen minutes the families trickled out until no one was left except the host family.
In the following days the newspaper ran articles quoting witnesses saying they saw the silhouette of a tall person moving faster than anything they ever saw, killing men left and right and destroying their vehicles. No one could describe the person’s face. The authorities decided they couldn’t take the witness reports at face value.
The gang leaders wanted to send men to interview the witnesses. They couldn’t find anyone willing to go. They all knew about the mysterious person or persons who had been attacking gang members and killing them at will, leaving orders to stay out of that neighborhood.
The gang leaders went to the morgue to look at the bodies of their dead underlings. There were cartridges and shells littered over the entire area where the battle took place, but there were no bullet holes in any of the corpses. The men had been brutally killed, but how and by who was a mystery.
The gang leaders had a meeting. They agreed that it was best to stay out of that neighborhood, until they could discover who was behind the attacks. They assumed it must be a large, well connected paramilitary group, using highly trained commandos. Possibly mercenaries from Russia or the United States. They put out feelers to their associates across the world but got no answers.
The day after the attack Janelle went door to door, accompanied by Miguel, checking on the families who lived in the homes adjacent to the battle. She was relieved to find that no one had been hurt, though many were badly frightened. A few had windows to replace and bullet holes to patch. She discreetly sent the families money to cover the cost of the repairs.
Work was slow, but things were getting complicated. There was a report about a large gang battle in Central America, but the DEA thought it was all internecine warfare. Kara accepted that, and we didn’t investigate further. The only reason I brought it to her attention was that it was the only interesting thing I was hearing about.
Now, the complications. Major Moore, using our backchannel telephone communication, let me know that the brass above her were concerned about my upcoming nuptials. Everyone knew I had a special relationship with the Velorians, no one knew why. Major Moore had an inkling, but she was being discrete. Sharon made sure of that.
In counterintelligence, having a close relationship with your sources isn’t considered a bad thing at all. In fact, it is encouraged. But sleeping with your foreign intelligence partner was frowned upon, and sleeping with, and marrying her daughter was unheard of.
Kara, I thought, had made it very clear that she handpicked me for reasons of her own, that she was very close to me, and she wasn’t going to tell the Army or the U.S. government what those reasons are or why we are close. When she heard that my engagement to Xara may be attracting the wrong kind of attention at the Pentagon and other government circles, she decided to schedule a meeting to explain who was in charge.
And when we learned through Major Moore that some were questioning if I was loyal to the United
States, or loyal to Velor, Kara hit the roof. Not literally. She would have gone through my roof. But she was pissed and decided not to schedule a meeting, she’d just show up at the Pentagon and explain that Terrans have their place in the Universe, Velorians have theirs, and when push comes to shove, it isn’t the Velorian who is going to be pushed or shoved. And it sure as hell isn’t going to be her Kiraling either. Dixon, Johnson and I didn’t think it would end well, for anyone, especially not for me.
And what Dixon and Johnson and I didn’t expect, and what Kara didn’t expect, was that Xara became the voice of reason.
“Mom, there’s a really simple solution.”
“Yes, Xara, there is. It’s called heat vision.”
“Fuckin’ right,” said Dixon, “burn their asses.”
“No mom. The question is, in marrying me, is Joe shifting his allegiance from the U.S. to Velor?”
“I think that’s the gist of it,” I said.
“What’s your point Xara?” Asked Kara.
“Show them my birth certificate and hospital records mom. I’m a U.S. citizen. I’m registered to vote!”
And that’s what she did. Kara scheduled a meeting with the Pentagon. She showed up in her flight suit and, as Major Moore described it, offered to do a show and tell demonstrating her powers, and the Secretary of Defense agreed to it. She melted stuff and bent metal, all while sitting in the lotus position about three feet above the conference table. Apparently, it was quite effective. And then she pulled out her documents showing that Xara was, indeed, a citizen of the United States of America. And she told them how proud she was that her daughter was marrying such a fine, upstanding, war hero, and how wonderful the government of Velor thinks it is that our two peoples can be joined together by this union.
Kara said that after the meeting she met privately with the Secretary of Defense and Senator Jackson, who told her that neither of them wanted any trouble over the marriage, and that she gave them the perfect opening to put a stop to those who were trying to make trouble.
Oh, Kara invited the Secretary of Defense to the wedding.
“Kara, Velor knows Xara is marrying me?”
“No, Joseph they don’t. But they will.”
“And they’ll be happy about it?”
Kara laughed and said, “They won’t give a rats ass about it, Joseph. Protectors and Scribes assigned to Terran worlds are expected to take Terran lovers. We’re trained for it.”
“Do a lot of Velorians marry Terrans?”
“No, Joseph, not a lot. On disclosed worlds, where Velor has an official presence, romantic liaisons between Velorians and Terrans are discouraged. It happens, but a marriage would get the Velorian sent home. Permanently.”
Case closed, right? Wrong. There were several attendees at the meeting who had heard of, but never seen Kara. They were completely bowled over by her beauty and strength. And when they reported to their superiors, suddenly Major Moore was flooded by requests from dignitaries and appointed officials to get an invitation to the wedding.
“Joe,” began Major Moore, “I’ve heard from three defense undersecretaries, the Secretary of State, General Rosenthal and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
I had her on speaker with Kara and Xara.
“General Rosenthal will get an invitation,” said Kara, “but no one else.”
“I’m not sure how I’m going to deliver the news,” said Major Moore.
“Don’t bother,” said Kara. “Send me their names and I’ll take it up with Senator Jackson. I’ll tell him he can deliver the news, or I will, personally, and none of them will like it.”
“Kara,” I said, “Generals, Senators and Cabinet Secretaries seldom travel alone. Often, they’ll have assistants, including press assistants, and sometimes security.”
I didn’t know this for certain. Certainly, when they came to the Middle East, they brought a horde with them. But from the TV shows I’d watched, and the news, I thought they traveled with a group domestically too.
“Mom,” said Xara, “I don’t want this to get out of hand.”
“Don’t worry honey, I’ll take care of it.”
“There’s more,” said Major Moore.”
“What is it,” said Kara, with some irritation in her voice.
“Questions have come up about Joe’s rank. His MOS switch has delayed his promotion to E6, and some think that given his position he should be an officer, or at least a Warrant Officer.”
“We discussed a promotion to Warrant Officer before,” said Kara, “that might work.”
“Wait! What?” I interjected. “When did this happen?”
“Joseph,” she said, “it was part of the agreement to make you my liaison.”
“Warrant Officer Joe. I like that,” said Xara.
“And you didn’t consult me about this?” I asked.
“No, Joseph, and I apologize.”
“Joe,” asked Major Moore, “have you thought about career advancement?”
“No mam, not in a long time. I didn’t think there would be any advancement for me after I was released from Walter Reed.”
“You should put some thought into it sergeant.”
“Joe,” Xara asked, “wouldn’t you like to be an officer?”
“That’s complicated, Xara. Officers and enlisted personnel have very different mindsets. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. I need to think about it.”
“What do you mean by different mindset?” She asked.
I thought for a second and decided the best way to explain was to tell an old army joke.
“A Colonel was about to start the morning briefing to his staff.
“While waiting for the coffee machine to finish brewing, the Colonel decided to pose a question to all assembled. He explained that his wife had been a bit frisky the night before and he failed to get his usual amount of sound sleep.
“He posed the question of just how much of sex was ‘work’ and how much of it was ‘pleasure?’
“A Major chimed in with 75%-25% in favor of work.
“A Captain said it was 50%-50%.
“A Lieutenant responded with 25%-75% in favor of pleasure, depending upon his state of inebriation at the time.
“There being no consensus, the colonel turned to the Private First Class who was in charge of making the coffee and asked for his opinion?
“Without any hesitation, the young Private First Class responded, ‘Sir, it has to be 100% pleasure.’
“The colonel was surprised and as you might guess, asked why?
"Well, sir, if there was any work involved, the officers would have me doing it for them."
Kara laughed so hard she actually floated off the floor.
Janelle read and reread the dispatch from NEC trying to figure out if Command had lost its collective mind.
“There are unconfirmed reports from one of the Northern Continents that there are rumors that a Velorian Protector is about to wed a frail, a low-ranking soldier in the armed forces of one of the countries of that continent. Be on the alert for any confirmation of the rumor and forward immediately to NEC.”
Unconfirmed reports of rumors? They broke their silence for this? This was utter nonsense. Everyone knew Velorian females were whores. They had sold so called Companions to Terran worlds, where they supposedly mated with their frail owners. But a Protector? If the frail survived its wedding night, it certainly wouldn’t last through the honeymoon. What was she going to do? Wear gold? Gold for a frail, a low ranking one at that? No, this was impossible.
There were men here that she liked because they were kind to her and respected her. But she’d never put on gold for them. How likely was it that a Protector would? No, she’d acknowledge receipt of the message and then forget about it.
But thinking about it made that old itch resurface, and she wanted to scratch it. So she called Miguel and told him to get a van and meet her at her apartment. That evening she would go hunting for a gang member or two she could take to her playroom for a masturbation session. She’d have to have Miguel wait outside for her in the van, but that was okay. He had given no indication at all that the killing of gangsters bothered him. She suspected that he approved. He was just too shy, or polite, or maybe frightened of her, to say so.
Three hours later Janelle was feeling refreshed and renewed. She had caught three frails and enjoyed them immensely, making them last until just a half hour ago. She had discovered that if she rotated through them, moving to the next one before the previous one was dead, the respite allowed the first one to last a little longer. And it was so much fun to tease them, let them think they were escaping her before she caught them and used them again.
Cleanup was quick and easy and now she was sitting in the van, next to Miguel who was driving, enjoying the night air coming through her open window and the music on the radio.
She was pleasantly surprised that she enjoyed the Terran music of this area, especially the instrumentals.
“Do you suppose we could find a battery-operated music machine. Something I could bring here and listen to music while I entertained my guests?”
Miguel was quite sure he didn’t ever want her to entertain him the way she entertained the men she brought to this place. Their screaming was still fresh in his mind.
“Yes Senorita, there are many different models.”
“Oh good. Would you mind taking me shopping for one tomorrow afternoon?”
“Not at all Senorita.”
The next day Janelle went shopping for a ‘music machine’ with Miguel. This was a week after her battle with the gangs, and she noticed the streets were busier. There were more people, especially women, in the shops and on the sidewalks. And the merchants seemed happier than she had ever seen them.
“Miguel, why is it different?”
He knew exactly what she was referring to.
“Senorita, the gangs have abandoned this neighborhood. Everyone feels less afraid. Freer. You did this senorita.”
“Yes,” she thought, “I suppose I did.”