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Kiraling – Part 25 (Chapter 177-187)

Written by anonxyzus :: [Monday, 01 November 2021 23:36] Last updated by :: [Wednesday, 03 November 2021 13:12]

Chapter 177

Right before Fall quarter ended, I had to move into a motel for three days. Kelsor was sending someone to do a site survey for our new house and I wasn’t permitted to meet them. They finished and left, and I came home, on Xara’s last day of finals. She had completed all her projects, taken all her exams, and had aced every class. She had a perfect GPA, was on the Dean’s list and Kara was very proud of her. So was I.

During those three days I went shopping for a Christmas present for Xara. I settled on a set of pearl earrings and necklace. Not being the kind of guy who really understands what women want in jewelry, I sent pictures of them to Sharon for her opinion before I bought them. And I’m glad I did, because she had to remind me that a Velorian’s ears are not pierced, because they can’t be. She said she’d heard a story about a Velorian who put on a lot of gold and used high powered narrow beam GARs to pierce her ears. She burned out four GARs before she was able to pierce one of her ears, and as soon as the gold came off the ear healed.

So I talked to the jeweler and he was able to put clasps on the earrings. Sharon approved. And then, because a Velorian can see through gift wrapping, I had Sharon come out and take possession of the earrings and necklace until it was time to give them to Xara.

Xara was easy, I’d seen her admiring jewelry in stores and had a good idea what she’d like, plus help from Sharon. The next problem was what to get for Sharon, Kara, Mona and Gloria. For that I had help, because Xara and I decided that since we were now engaged and ‘officially’ living together, we would buy gifts for the other members of The Family as a couple.

For Sharon, we settled on a wine club membership from one of the Napa Valley wineries.

For Gloria, we purchased a set of online cooking classes led by chefs from around the world. Xara flew out to check up on a couple of the chefs and was satisfied that they were legitimate.

Mona was easy. Xara picked out a couple of nice dresses with matching shoes and jewelry.

Then there was Kara. She was Xara’s mother and she had been treating me like a son from the day I met her. And in a few months, she would be my mother-in-law. We found a beautiful silver diamond pendant for her. (Okay, for this purpose we have to forget about the sexual part of our relationship, otherwise that mother/son thing is just too icky.)

There were three weeks between the end of Fall quarter and the beginning of Winter quarter. Xara and I wanted to have quality time together. Maybe go somewhere for a couple of days with no schoolwork or counterintelligence work to keep us away from each other.

Kara offered to host us at her home for Christmas and we decided to take her up on it. Rather than flying down, we decided to make it a road trip, in my mom car (the Camry Hybrid Kara bought for me), taking coastal routes.

The weather through Washington, Oregon and northern California wasn’t very good, but we didn’t care. The scenery was beautiful, and so was Xara. What more could I ask?

We took our time, stopping in little towns along the way to explore, and here’s something I learned: During the off season, the towns that rely on the tourist trade are very happy to see visitors and really treat you well. Initially I thought we’d be staying in motels along the way, but Xara did a little research and came up with a list of B&B establishments to stay at.

And because you can’t keep a good woman down, or in this case a Galen/Velorian grounded, Xara had me bring my motorcycle suit and helmet so we could go flying. She really liked making a connection with me when we flew, experiencing flight through my mind allowed her to share in the awe and wonder that I felt, something she never really felt because she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she couldn’t fly. It also, she said, helped her to understand my fear of heights and be more sensitive to it.

So we drove from town to town along the coast, and when we could find the opportunity, we’d pull over onto the side of the road, or onto a side road, and I’d put on my suit and Xara would take us flying. She’d see an interesting mountain, or want to explore the cliffs above the ocean, and up or down we’d go, and she’d take it slow and easy so we could see everything. One time she flew us down to a beach so we could watch the sunset, then she flew us up to a nearby mountain top so we could watch it again.

We were in a little town about 150 miles from Kara’s home when we met up with Mona and Gloria. They were bored or something, I’m not sure, but wanted to get out of Kara’s house for a break from whatever she had them doing, so they called us and asked if they could meet us. We were less than a day away from our destination, so we said sure, why not.

Xara found a nice little place for lunch and texted the address to Gloria. It was a family run bar and grille, off the beaten path, and when we sat down the owners came out to meet us, they worked in the kitchen, and their daughter was our waitress. The man bussing tables came over with the rest of the family but only smiled, he was introduced as Art, the son of the owners. He had a tattoo I recognized; it was one worn by a unit of Army Rangers deployed into Iraq the same time I was. He wore his hair very short, a flat top, and I saw scarring on his head. I decided to talk to him after we ate, to find out a little more about him.

While we were eating, a group of four men came in and sat at a table across the room from us. The waitress was on a break, and they got the busboy’s attention and tried to give him their orders. He was pointing at the menus and trying to tell them to wait for the waitress. I say trying to tell them, because he was pointing to the back of the restaurant and then at his watch, holding up five fingers. I think he was trying to tell them the waitress would be back in five minutes.

The ladies saw this and were looking, wondering what was going on. I knew. I’d seen it at Walter Reed.

“He has aphasia,” I said.

Gloria looked at me and asked, “I see the signs, Joe, but what makes you sure?”

“I recognize his tattoo. He’s from an Army Ranger unit that was in Iraq in the same general location I was. See the scarring on his head? He was wounded. I met several wounded soldiers who had aphasia while I was hospitalized.”

The men at the table were losing patience with him, they started calling him ‘dummy’ and demanded he take their order. I didn’t like it, and I was starting to get angry. I barely noticed when Xara put her hand on mine.

“Knock knock.”

The waitress came out and they started complaining to her about her brother. And then they started coming on to her.

“Hey honey, why don’t you sit down with us?”

“No thanks guys,” she said with a smile, “what can I get for you?”

“Honey, you’re all I want.”

Dixon said, “Ricci, I don’t like these guys.”

“Knock knock.”

Johnson said, “I don’t either.”

“Knock knock.”

One of the men stood up and grabbed the waitress and pulled her towards him.

“Knock knock.”

The busboy, Art, intervened. He pushed the guy back and stepped between the men and his sister. All four of the men stood up.

“Knock knock.”

“Four on one, Ricci, and he’s a brother,” said Dixon.

“Knock knock.”

“We gotta help him Joe,” said Johnson.

“Knock knock.”

The men were trying to surround him. He pushed his sister behind him and started backing up, moving her back and out of the way while keeping the four guys in front of him.

“Knock knock.”

“Not now, Xara,” I said.

I started to get up, but Xara tightened her grip on my hand and wouldn’t let me.

“Are they armed?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied.

“Then let me go.”

She let go of me.

I walked over and stood next to Art and moved to cut off one of the guys who was trying to move around to Art’s left.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “I think you’d better sit down.”

“Why, ugly?” One of them asked.

“Art here is a former Army Ranger. I fucking guarantee you he is the toughest son-of-a-bitch you are ever going to meet.”

“Yeah,” one of them answered, “and who the fuck are you, ugly?”

Before I could answer Gloria stood up and said, “He’s the second toughest son-of-a-bitch you are ever going to meet,” as she walked over and stood beside me.

One of the guys looked at Gloria and asked, “And who are you babe, and how’d you like to spend some time with a real man?”

Before Gloria could answer, I jumped in and said, “She’s our force multiplier. You don’t want to mess with her.”

They laughed. But they also lost interest in Art and the waitress. The lighting in the place was low, so they hadn’t gotten a good look at the ladies. Now they were all looking Gloria up and down.

“Oh come on, babe, why spend time with this ugly loser here when you can party with us?”

Gloria laughed derisively and said, “If any one of you can beat me at arm wrestling, I’ll make sure all four of you have the time of your life. But if I win, you leave here. Without your wallets.”

By this time the owners had come out, and Art’s dad had a baseball bat. Art was ready to go at these guys, he was pretty pissed. I put my hand on his shoulder and leaned over and said into his ear, “Just watch.”

There are different degrees of aphasia. Sometimes the person can’t talk or understand what is said to him. Art wasn’t that bad. He couldn’t communicate verbally, but he did understand the spoken word. He looked at me and nodded.

The four guys laughed at Gloria, then agreed to arm wrestle her. Gloria sat down at a table and one of the guys sat down across from her. His friends were hooting and hollering and sure they were going to have a good time with Gloria. It occurred to me while I was watching this that these guys must have been stupid or something. Did they think Gloria challenged them because she was aching to get fucked by them?

“Wallets on the table,” Gloria said. They all took out their wallets and put them on the table.

They clasped hands, and Gloria said, “Anytime pussy.”

That made the guy mad. He didn’t like being talked to like that. He immediately started pushing. His face was turning red as he slowly began pushing Gloria’s hand down. When her hand was about an inch off the table, she began pushing back just a little harder and their hands came back to vertical.

The three guys were cheering him on. His face was getting redder. Gloria was showing no sign that she was exerting any effort at all. She let the guy push her hand down again, then, when it was almost to the table, she pushed the guys hand up and over and down on the table. He yelled, it must have hurt. She took his wallet and handed it to me.

“Which one of you pussies is next?” Gloria asked.

The next one sat down across from her. Like the first guy, she just toyed with him, and that made him angry. She let him push her hand down three times, and three times she easily brought it back to the starting position.

“You are boring me,” she said. “I am changing the rules. You can use both hands.”

You’d think the guy would have enough pride to refuse and keep whatever dignity he had. He didn’t. He brought his other hand up and stood up and put all his weight into it. And then Gloria forced his hands down onto the table and gave him a little squeeze, which made him holler out in pain. She gave me the second guy’s wallet.

The other two were looking at each other, and their defeated friends, with some indecision in their body language. It disappeared when Mona and Xara came over and asked if they could “get in on the game.”

Their jaws dropped so fast when they saw Xara that I’m surprised they didn’t hit the floor. Gloria got up and Mona sat down in her place and put her elbow on the table, hand up, and smiled, sweetly, at the guy next in line.

“Do you want to play?” she asked, in a sexy, breathy voice. I imagine that voice of hers must have been useful in snagging ‘targets’ when she was working as an Arion agent. It sure would have gotten me. The girl really knew how to turn on the sex appeal.

The guy sat down across from her and put his hand up and was about to grab hers when she pulled away and said, “Oh, my, it is getting warm in here,” and took off her sweater. She was wearing a very lowcut top under it, and she took a breath and I swear she must have added four inches to her already impressive bust. The eyes of the guy at the table nearly popped out of their sockets.

She put her hand up, he took it, and started to push. He was grunting and straining, and Mona said, “Let me know when it’s time to start.”

He pushed harder and his neck veins stood out.

Mona said, “I’d like to play with you some more, but I think if I let you go on like this, you’re going to have a stroke.”

And then she slowly forced his hand down to the table. He screamed in frustration as Gloria picked up his wallet and handed it to me.

The last guy was the biggest, and if you ask me, he was the strongest. He must have been at least 6’4”. If Gloria hadn’t intervened and redirected the guys, he was the one I was going to go after first.

Xara tapped Mona on the shoulder and said, “My turn.”

Mona got up and Xara sat down. She looked at the big guy, waiting for him to sit down. He hesitated; I don’t think he was sure he wanted to. So Xara took off her engagement ring and put it on the table beside his wallet and said, “If you can beat me, the three of us will make sure the four of you have a night you’ll never forget, and you can have my ring.”

That made up his mind for him. He sat down and put his hand up. Xara put her hand up. They grasped hands, and suddenly the guy’s eyes seemed to lose focus. Xara was making a connection with him. And instead of playing with him, like Mona and Gloria had, she slowly, gently, pushed his hand down onto the table. He didn’t even try to resist.

She let go of him and he stood up, turned to the owner and his family, and said, “Folks, I apologize for myself and my friends. We were rude and inconsiderate. We’re sorry, please accept our apologies.”

His three friends just stared at him. Then he looked at them and said, “Apologize. Now. Or I’ll kick all your asses.”

They apologized. Xara put her ring back on. Gloria opened their wallets, took the cash out, and gave it to the waitress, then tossed their wallets back to the guys.

“Are we gonna let them rob us like that?” One of them asked the big guy.

“Shut up. We’re leaving,” said the big guy. And they left.

We went back to our table. The owners came over and said lunch and drinks were on the house. The busboy shook my hand, he looked at the ladies and his eyes said, ‘thank you.’

Xara reached out her hand, as if she was going to shake his, and when he took her hand, he looked at her, and his eyes got big. And then Xara let go of him and kissed him on the cheek and he went back to work.

“What did you do, Xara?” I asked her.

“I taught the big guy some manners,” she said. “He’ll be back to himself by the end of the day. I think.”

“And what about Art?”

“I wanted to see if I could heal him. I can’t, so I sent him some happy thoughts.”

Chapter 178

From the restaurant we drove to Kara’s house. By the route we were taking, it would be about three hours before we got there. Xara was behind the wheel. She was wearing shorts and I had my hand on her leg, so we were in a connection.

Dixon and Johnson were talking about the big guy, and how Xara made him give up, apologize, and leave. Xara glanced at me and said, “Just tell me what’s bothering you, Joe.”

“Xara, what you did to that big guy, do you think it was ethical?”

She thought for a few seconds and then said, “No, not really. It was the better of two bad outcomes.”

Then she was silent.

“Care to elaborate?”

“When I made my connection with him, I saw that he wasn’t going to walk out of there a loser. He was going to fight, and he’s the leader of that little group, and he was sure they were going to fight too. So I tried to change his attitude, and it worked.”

“You didn’t know it was going to work before you tried it?”

“No, I had no idea. And I don’t know how long it’s going to last. But they weren’t going to walk away, and I know if they broke their agreement with Gloria and started a fight, she wouldn’t let them get away unhurt. I don’t think you or Art would have either.”

“I don’t think Art or I would have thrown a punch. Gloria would have ended it before we had time to react.”

“You’re probably right about that. And there may have been damage to the restaurant.”

Dixon made some comment about Gloria bashing chairs over their heads. Johnson laughed.

“Yeah. I see your point, Xara. That probably was the better outcome.”

I was quiet for a while, thinking about this.

“What else is bothering you, Joe?” Xara asked.

“Have you ever done something like that to me?”

She looked at me and said, “No, Joe, I never have. And I never will without your express permission.”

“Okay, thank you.”

“That’s not all that’s bothering you, Joe. Talk to me.”

“Xara, remember when you had your mom bring Gloria up, to be my bodyguard?”

“Of course I do.”

“Do you remember what your mom said to you?”

“About how Terrans can get hurt?”

“Yeah. She said it a little differently, and it reminded me of what my mom said when I was little, and our pet hamster died.

“Xara, do you see Terrans like that, like pets that can get hurt and someday die?”

“No, Joe, I don’t. But this is a conversation I think we should have with my mom.”

“Why?”

“Because she has more experience with this than I have, and she was married to a Terran who died. She has a better perspective on this than either of us has.

“But Joe, you aren’t a pet. I couldn’t love you more if you were a Supremis.”

I was quiet. She sighed and pulled off the road.

“Why’d you pull over?”

“I need to understand this, before we talk to mom. Joe, I want to go back in your memories to when your hamster died, and then to that day when mom brought Gloria up.”

“Didn’t you see that hamster memory the first time you did this?”

“Yes, but I was skipping over a lot.”

“Okay,” I said.

She held my hand and said, “Close your eyes,” and I did.

Then I was at my home in Federal Way. I walked up to the cage my hamster was in and looked at him, he wasn’t moving. I opened the cage and picked him up, and he didn’t move.

“Mom! Mom! Something’s wrong with Henry!”

There was more, Xara saw me crying and heard my mom say what she did. Then she went forward to that day she tried to convince me I needed Gloria as a bodyguard and saw me listen to Kara tell her that Terrans get hurt and die, and Supremis know that when they let a Terran into their hearts.

And then Xara broke contact and kissed me on the cheek.

“I understand,” she said.

“What do you understand?” I asked.

“I understand that you are beginning to get your arms around what the power imbalance between us really means. And I understand that I have work to do to allay your fears.

“We’re still going to talk to mom about this.”

Chapter 179

When we arrived at Kara’s we parked in her garage and went up into the house. Kara wasn’t home, she was working, but she left a note for us that one of the bedrooms had been prepared, and please start putting up the Christmas decorations. We went to the bedroom and there was a queen size bed in it. It was one of the Supremis bedrooms, so Xara carefully marked the shower so I wouldn’t accidentally get scalded.

Next we went into the closet where the Christmas decorations were stored and pulled out boxes and boxes of lights, ornaments, etc. We had tested all the lights and replaced the burned-out ones when Kara arrived. She quickly changed out of her business suit and started stringing the lights with Xara.

All I could do was watch. The indoor and outdoor lights were hung from nails and fixtures that I couldn’t reach. Because there were no ladders. They were floating all over the place and in a very short time had all the ornaments and lights up.

And then Kara wanted to grill us. Mostly me, but both of us. She’d heard from Mona and Gloria, (who hadn’t arrived yet) about the little confrontation at the restaurant. She wanted to know why I stuck my nose into it. Well, I stood my ground, with Johnson and Dixon backing me.

“There were four of them, Kara, bullying a disabled vet. And then they started harassing his sister. I can’t ignore that when it happens.”

“Fuckin’ A,” said Johnson.

“You tell her Ricci,” said Dixon.

“Joseph, what would have happened if Mona, Gloria and Xara hadn’t been there? Don’t you think you could have been seriously injured?”

“I don’t know. Art’s dad did come out with a baseball bat. And Art was a Ranger. I think we would have come out just fine.”

“Xara,” said Kara, “you can jump in here anytime.”

“Those four guys were being very obnoxious mom. I know you’ve always said I should stay out of disputes between Terrans, that it isn’t our place to intervene. But I can’t ask Joe to ignore his conscience.”

“Xara, a few months ago you didn’t want me to leave the house by myself,” I said.

“I know, Joe,” she answered me. “And it makes me nervous to see you step into a dangerous situation. And if those men had been armed, I wouldn’t have let you go by yourself.

“Mom, Joe and I are going to be husband and wife. If he takes a righteous stand, I’m going to support him and stand with him. And mom, his actions were righteous.

“And mom, I’m a California girl and an American citizen, and genetics aside, by place of birth, I’m a Terran.”

Kara and I just looked at her. Dixon and Johnson even shut up. A young Velorian/Galen, who for all intents and purposes has a reasonable claim to the title of Goddess, just declared that she is one of us.

“What does that mean?” asked Kara.

“I’m not exactly sure mom, I have to think about it. But I think it means that I’m going to take a more active role in protecting this world. Because it’s my world, mom.”

“Xara, haven’t you already been doing that?” I asked.

“She means something more Joseph.”

“More? What is more?” I asked. I was confused.

“Joe, when the towers in New York were attacked, mom and Sharon did nothing. We watched it on TV. Mom and Sharon didn’t do anything to save any of those poor people, or try to intercept the other flights, because they are here to keep the Arions away, and nothing else.

“I’m saying that I want to do more than that.”

“The implications of that are enormous,” said Kara.

“I know, mom.”

“What implications?” I asked.

“Joe, we can talk about that later. We will talk about it later.”

“The implication, Joseph, is that she would set herself up as the final arbiter of justice, accountable to no one.”

“Mom, I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Xara?” I asked

“Later Joe, I have to think about this.”

Chapter 180

I wanted to talk about it now, and so did Kara, but Xara said no, she had to think about it first.

What she did want to talk about was my concern that, to the blondes, I’m a kind of pet. And Kara decided to bring Sharon in on that, so Sharon was invited to dinner. And Gloria and Mona arrived, so they would be included too, and then Crystal was going to be there. I was going to be examined by three Velorians, two Arions and one enhanced human. Dixon and Johnson suggested that I’m not a pet, I’m a bug under a microscope.

After everyone arrived, Gloria announced that she was going to fix dinner. I asked if I could help.

“No. We’re having spaghetti. I made the sauce last night. I used one of your recipes. I just have to heat the sauce, boil the noodles and heat up the garlic bread. I have chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream for dessert.”

I hung around in the kitchen anyway. And when Crystal came in to see what was going on we had a little bit of controversy.

“Gloria, aren’t you going to rinse the noodles before you pour the sauce over them?” Crystal asked.

“No. Why would I rinse them?” Gloria replied.

“Look at the color of the water they were in. Don’t you want to rinse all that stuff off?”

Gloria looked at the pasta in the colander and wrinkled her brow, then looked at me.

“You don’t rinse the noodles,” I said, “because what you call ‘stuff’ is actually starch. You want the noodles to keep that starchy film so the sauce will stick to it. It also thickens up the sauce.

“If the noodles were going to be served cold, as in a pasta salad, then you’d rinse them.”

“Joe is right,” said Gloria. “It is not proper to rinse noodles that will be served warm in a sauce.”

Dixon said, “She didn’t know that before you told her, Ricci.”

I nodded my agreement.

Given that The Family was present for dinner, Gloria made a huge amount of spaghetti. And for once, she wasn’t piling seconds onto my plate.

“You look good, Joe,” she said. “You have put on weight in all the right places, and you are eating like a healthy Terran should.”

“He has to eat well,” said Xara. “I work him pretty hard every night.”

All the ladies nodded.

“And he’s getting bigger too,” said Xara.

Kara and Sharon both looked at me, or rather through the table and my clothes, at me.

“About 1 millimeter in girth and 2 millimeters in length?” Asked Sharon.

“Yes,” answered Xara, smiling at me.

“Um, what?”

“It’s from having regular sex with a Supremis,” said Crystal. “Your junk is getting bigger.”

“I’ve been having regular sex with these ladies for some time,” I said. “No one said anything about me getting bigger then.”

“You’re having much more sex with me,” said Xara, “than you were with mom and Sharon.”

“How can you tell how much bigger I am? A millimeter or two here or there isn’t going to make much difference.”

“I can feel it,” answered Xara.

“And Sharon and I can see it,” said Kara.

“But if I’m not aroused …?”

“Once a Supremis has had you, Joe,” said Crystal, “they know exactly how big you are flaccid and how big you get aroused.”

“How much bigger will I get?”

“There’s no way to tell,” answered Kara.

“Xara,” asked Sharon, “have you been having him sleep inside you?”

“No,” answered Xara. “Would that speed things along?”

“It might,” answered Sharon.

“It did with Eric,” said Kara.

“I’ll try that!”

“How would that work?” I asked.

Xara laughed and said, “It’ll be more fun to show you than to explain it to you.”

All the ladies thought that was funny. Dixon, Johnson and I weren’t sure they were being serious, or pulling my leg.

“Or pulling your dick,” said Johnson.

Between dinner and dessert, Xara asked Sharon and Kara to stay at the table. Since she didn’t specifically exclude Gloria, Crystal and Mona, they stayed too.

“Joe is having trouble understanding where his place is in our relationships,” she began. “He thinks we treat him like a pet hamster.”

“Xara, that’s not what I said.”

“Explain it to us, Joseph,” said Kara.

So I went into it. How, when Xara was shaken up over an attempt on my life by the Saudis, Kara talked to her about it the same way my mom talked to me when my pet hamster died. And it made me wonder how they see me. Or any Terran I suppose.

After I finished the ladies were quiet for a while. Mona broke the silence by saying, “I’ve wondered what it would be like to have a pet Terran.”

I didn’t think that was funny, not funny at all. Neither did Dixon and Johnson. But all the ladies laughed.

“Joseph,” said Kara, “you understand how fragile you are compared to us, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you think it is natural that people who love you would worry about you?”

“My parents loved me very much, Kara. And they were worried sick about me during my first deployment.”

“Of course they worried about you Joseph. We worry about you too. But for us, it’s different, because the harm that can come to you, cannot come to us. And Joseph, we live much longer than Terrans.”

“Our protectiveness,” said Sharon, “does not diminish you in our eyes.”

“Neither does our fear for your safety,” said Xara.

“But Joseph, we are going to outlive you. All of us. When you are an old man, Xara won’t look much different from the way she does now. When Xara decided to take you as her husband, she did so knowing that she would outlive you. And that pains her. Do you understand?”

“I think I do,” I said.

“It pains all of us, Joe,” said Sharon. “Your death will break our hearts, and as Kara told Xara, we have to understand that before we let a Terran in here,” she pointed to her heart, “or we risk despair. Or worse, for you, putting you into a gilded cage to protect you.”

They were all looking at me. I didn’t know what to say, and I thought I should say something. But Gloria came to my rescue.

“It’s time for dessert! Chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream.”

Chapter 181

After dinner we all talked about this and that. Gloria told the ladies how I bravely stood up for Art and his sister. She made it sound like a heroic epic. As did Mona when she added her version of events.

“Of all the military men I’ve met since being on this planet,” said Mona, “you are the only one who is a true warrior.”

Even Xara was praising my courage.

“You guys realize that you did all the work,” I said, “right? You’re the ones who defused the situation and made those men stand down.”

“Yes,” said Gloria, “but you are the one who spurred us to action.”

“I didn’t ‘spur’ anyone to anything,” I replied.

“But you did,” said Mona. “We wouldn’t have involved ourselves at all if you hadn’t stood up for that man and woman.”

Dixon and Johnson reminded me that they stood with me and should get some of the credit. I ignored them.

What followed was a long and not very exciting conversation about Supremis ethics, from the Velorian point of view. On an undisclosed world, such as Earth, don’t get involved in Terran politics or interpersonal disputes, let Terrans handle their own problems, concentrate on eliminating or limiting Arion interference.

I didn’t know what to say. They certainly interfered in my affairs, mostly for my own good, but being Kiraling, that was different. They did sit out the 9/11 attacks, and to be honest, Dixon and Johnson and I had a problem with that. On the other hand, Kara ran a pharmaceutical empire, with the goal to subvert the power of Big Pharma and bring lifesaving drugs to the masses at an affordable price.

And neither Sharon nor Kara had any problems with becoming wealthy, though to their credit, it was through hard work, not using their formidable powers for exploitation.

Like I said, it wasn’t a very exciting conversation.

When it got late and I was starting to yawn, Xara suggested we should go to bed. I never argue about that, everything that happens in bed with Xara is good. Very good. This night, after we made love, Xara wanted me to try sleeping inside her. It’s an interesting process. And I’m not going into detail about it. It was bad enough listening to Dixon and Johnson carry on.

But a little detail. Velorian muscles, down there, are different from Terran women. If I get close to the opening, while flaccid, she can use her hand to position me, then her internal muscles can pull me in and hold me.

This works well if she is on top of me, or I’m on top of her. But sleep that way? If she’s stretched out on top of me I’m not going to sleep very well unless she is supporting a major portion of her weight using her flight powers. So she’s not going to sleep.

If I’m on top of her weight isn’t an issue. From her perspective I might as well be weightless. But then she has me breathing into her face or drooling on her shoulder or … you get the idea. So the way they manage it is to spoon. She lays on her side facing away from me, and I saddle up to her and she positions me and pulls me in.

But that means neither of us can roll over or reposition ourselves to get more comfortable. We were experimenting and trying to figure it out, and having a lot of fun doing it, when there was a knock at our door and Kara and Sharon walked in.

“Xara, Joseph,” started Kara, “you don’t have to sleep that way all night. Just give it half an hour to an hour a night.”

“But mom, won’t he grow faster if I hold him inside me all night?”

Sharon answered. “Probably, but that isn’t too practical.”

“Are you in a hurry to have me get bigger?” I asked. Foolish question.

“Yes, I am.”

I should have known.

After much discussion, and turning down Kara and Sharon’s offer to demonstrate, (I turned it down. Xara was fine with it) we agreed to just try for a little bit at a time until we figured things out.

This was totally unexpected. A committee of neighborhood representatives, appointed by the people of the neighborhood, invited Janelle to dinner and asked her to run for what someone from an American city would call Alderman.

As new businesses came into the now gang free neighborhood, and people from different parts of the city came there to shop, the local people were thriving. There was more money, for everyone, once the hand of the gangs was out of the till. The gangs noticed and tried to send their collectors back. Miguel informed Janelle, and Janelle stopped them. Brutally.

So the gangs tried a different tactic. Through corruption and graft the gangs controlled the police department. They paid the cops, from the top to the bottom, to look the other way and not interfere with gang activities, such as the collection of so-called protection money. So when the gangs kept losing collectors, they asked the police to make the collections for them.

Most of the cops wanted nothing to do with it. They’d seen the bodies of the gang collectors. A few, though, agreed, and when Janelle found out about it, she put a stop to it. Brutally.

There had been whispers about her. People started noticing that she was often seen in the area when gang members or now, cops, were killed. No one had any proof, and when people asked Miguel, he feigned ignorance. But the whispers continued and became rumors. And the rumors spread throughout the neighborhood and the people thought, if the beautiful doctor could keep the gangs out, and keep the police honest, maybe she should be the one representing them to the powerful who ruled the city, instead of the stooge who worked for the gangs.

And so there they were, buying her a fine meal and plying her with the very best wine and asking her to stand for election.

“But I am not a citizen of your country,” she had objected.

“None of our laws require that you be one,” they had answered.

“You know nothing about me,” she had said. “Why would anyone vote for me?”

“We know that you are kind and generous,” they had said. “Everyone who has come to your clinic speaks very highly of you. The pharmacists and other businesses who have dealt with you say you are honest and fair.”

She had tried to decline. They had been insistent. She had said she would think about it.

“Think about it as long as you need to, senorita,” they had replied. “The election is in eight months.”

She contacted Near Earth Command and asked for guidance. NEC said they would inform High Command and ask for an expedited response. That, in Janelle’s experience, was another way of saying to her that NEC didn’t want to deal with it, and neither would anyone else. And so she was doubly surprised when, two weeks later, NEC informed her that High Command approved and even encouraged her to become involved in the politics of her Area of Operations.

The approval came with a request for a detailed description of the political structure of the area including a description of how leaders were chosen. Arion High Command was familiar with the concept of democracy; they had crushed many democracies. But the actual workings were something of a mystery to them, they’d never bothered to learn how they worked.

And so Janelle met with the committee again, this time with Miguel at her side, and told them she was willing to move forward, provided they could advise her and introduce her to the world of city politics. They had been delighted and readily agreed to do anything and everything they could to help her.

“Miguel must be involved,” she said, “he is my most trusted confidant.”

“Senorita,” Miguel said, “I know nothing about politics.” This was the first he was hearing of the proposal.

Janelle reached for Miguel’s right hand and held it in hers, smiled and said, “I understand, Miguel,” she replied. “But you know me, and I know I can trust you.”

“Yes, senorita Janelle,” he said.

Miguel seemed nervous.

“What is it, Miguel,” she asked him.

“Senorita Janelle, the man you will be running against, Senior Morales, was picked by the gangs for this position. They have killed opponents of his in the past.”

Janelle turned to the others at the table and asked, “Why am I just hearing this now, from my friend. Why didn’t any of you tell me?”

The men looked at each other, and then, finally, one spoke up.

“Senorita Janelle, we believe that you are responsible for the peace and prosperity we are enjoying. Completely responsible.” Out of respect, and maybe a little bit of fear, he didn’t voice his belief that she was the person responsible for all the gang deaths.

“I see,” she answered. “Then you must tell me about all the people who have run, and how they were killed, and anything else there is to know.”

They agreed.

“Senorita Janelle,” Miguel said, “they haven’t just killed candidates. They have also killed campaign workers and their families, and the candidate’s families.”

Janelle thought about this.

The men at the table continued to look at each other, and then one said, “Senorita, we are afraid of the gangs. But you, you are not, and you have given us courage. If you stand for election, we will work with the community to assure your security.”

“Anyone who works on my campaign must also be protected,” she said.

The men all agreed to that.

“I will hold each of you personally responsible if anyone who works for me is harmed by the gangs. Do you understand?”

They did. They had seen the bodies of the gang members too.

When the meeting broke up and Miguel was driving Janelle home, she looked at him and said, “Miguel, we need to think about your security, and Juanita and the girls too. May I come to your home tomorrow for dinner and a discussion?”

“Yes Senorita Janelle, of course.”

“Between now and then, see if you can make a list of all the ways the gangs kill their opponents.”

Chapter 182

On Christmas Eve Sharon arrived with Major Moore. Once again, no Deb. I started to ask Sharon about it but shut my mouth when she gave me a look of warning and I felt my face get warm. Apparently, she can ask me anything and everything about my romantic life, but I can’t ask her. Kiraling rules seem to be whatever the Velorian you are talking to at the time wants them to be.

At dinner, which Gloria allowed me to help prepare (and it was definitely better with my help), Major Moore, or Sarah, evidently for this occasion we were back on a first name basis, brought up the subject of my career.

“You could go before a board to promote to E6, you have the time for it. Or you could go the Warrant Officer route.”

“Could he switch services,” Xara asked, “maybe go to the Air Force or Navy or Marine Corps?”

“I don’t think his role quite fits the Navy,” Sarah said.

“And I don’t fit the Air Force,” I added.

“Why not?” Asked Xara.

“The different services have different mindsets, Xara. I have an Army mindset, it’s the best place for me.”

“I don’t understand,” Xara said.

I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, let me explain.

“When the army is told to secure a building, they send in a platoon of soldiers and the building is captured and everyone stays healthy and alive.

“When the Navy is told to secure a building, they send in a squad of Marines, and someone dies.

“When the Air Force is told to secure a building, they take out a thirty-year lease with an option to buy.”

I guess Sarah had never heard that one before. She laughed and laughed, then said she couldn’t wait to share that joke at the Pentagon.

Different families have different traditions around when to open Christmas presents. Many wait until Christmas morning. My family always opened our presents on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t going to say anything, but Xara was beside herself with excitement and wanted to open them after dinner.

Velorians can see through just about anything, so when it came to presents wrapped under a tree, there was no way to surprise them. I’m surprised they bothered with wrapping them at all. But she wanted to open presents that evening, and Kara and Sharon agreed. They were all excited about something. I soon found out what.

We sat down in the room where the tree was, and Xara pulled out a large package and handed it to me to open. It was fairly heavy. I put my ear to it and shook it, there was something moving around inside but not too much.

“Skietra Joe!” Xara exclaimed. “Just open it!”

So I unwrapped it and there was a box, not cardboard, I’m not sure what it was made of, and it had lettering I didn’t understand, it wasn’t English, Arion or Velorian. I looked it over and couldn’t find a way to open it.

“Put your palm over that outline,” Xara said, pointing to the rough outline of a hand on the top of the box.

I did, and the top quarter of the box opened on a hinge. Inside was a grey suit of some sort, neatly folded. At one end of the box, in its own box and compartment, was a … tablet. An electronic tablet. The box had a title, but I couldn’t read it, it wasn’t in any language I knew.

I took out the suit out and looked at it, then looked to Xara.

“Remember when we used our ‘bonus’ from the cats to order a robotic cleaner?”

“Yes.”

“I didn’t order that. I ordered space suits for you Joe. Kelsorian space suits with all the bells and whistles.”

“Really? Space suits? When can we try them out?”

“Tomorrow! And there’s more!”

She carried four more boxes to me and set them down. They were each about the size of a large suitcase. I tried to lift one up and couldn’t.

“They’re too heavy for you, Joe,” said Xara, “just open them.”

I unwrapped the first one to find a box like the one the space suit came in, but heavier construction. I found the palm outline and put my palm in it and heard several latches release and then the top opened, and inside was a cylinder with what looked like connectors, and in another compartment another tablet.

“It’s a reactor Joe, to charge up the suits.”

“A reactor? What kind of reactor?”

“It’s an anti-matter reactor,” she said, smiling.

I think my jaw dropped. “Isn’t that dangerous, Xara?”

“Not really. It’s very sturdily built, and a very small amount of anti-matter goes a long way.”

I looked at it skeptically.

“This isn’t like an anti-matter core you see on Star Trek, Joseph,” said Kara. “There are redundant safety systems built into it. In 300 years Kelsor has never had a reactor accident. I wouldn’t let it on the planet if I thought it was dangerous.”

“Open the other boxes, Joe,” said Xara.

So I did. The other boxes contained tanks and cables and things I didn’t recognize, and more tablets.

“That is the equipment you need to charge and maintain the suits. I’ll show you how to use it.”

“Wow,” I said. “Just … wow!”

There was a lot more under the tree for me. Sharon had bought me a whole new wardrobe, including a new dress uniform. Clothes that would fit me better since I had put on weight and muscle.

All the ladies appreciated their gifts. Sharon bought a vacation for herself and Sarah. There was no mention of Deb.

“Thank you, Sharon,” she said. “It isn’t often that I get to travel someplace where people aren’t shooting at me.”

Gloria and Mona were surprised that we gave them gifts, and very happy too.

“I will take these cooking classes soon,” said Gloria. And then she kissed me on the cheek and hugged me, then the same with Xara. That was almost as surprising as getting a space suit. Gloria isn’t usually that demonstrative.

Sharon liked the wine club, surprisingly, she’d never joined one. And Kara was very pleased with the pendant.

Xara loved the earrings and necklace.

“He had the jeweler make the clasps for you,” said Sharon.

Xara hugged and kissed me and said, “It’s getting late. Let’s go to bed.”

So we took our leave of the rest of the group and headed to our room.

Chapter 183

When I woke up the next morning, Christmas morning, I was alone in bed. I walked into the shower, and as I was turning on the water Xara walked in, nude, and showered with me.

“What were you doing up early?” I asked her.

“I was moving the boxes for your spacesuits down to the cave. Not everything was under the tree, there were four more boxes.”

“Really? What was in them?”

“The rest of the suits, all the equipment needed to keep the suits, the reactor and all the accessories and instrumentation in running over. Normally, on a spaceship, you’d have a section devoted to the care and maintenance of all the suits. It doesn’t take much more to care for multiple suits than it does for one. We could maintain a dozen suits with the equipment it takes to maintain one.”

“Accessories?”

“Yeah. Some really cool ones.”

“Great! When can we try them out?”

“After breakfast we can go down to the cave and start setting everything up. We should be able to try it out by late afternoon.”

Everyone wanted to see the suits in action. So we all went down to the cave after breakfast.

Xara said there were more boxes. They were crates. Large crates.

We opened up all the boxes and crates and took out the tablets. Xara said they had the documentation. She showed me how to turn the tablets on, and I took the one from the first space suit box and powered it up. A screen came up with writing I didn’t understand. All the blondes could read it, and Gloria too. It was in Kelsorian.

“These are sold all over the Galaxy,” said Xara. “The tablets support a number of languages. I had to send special instructions and a dictionary so the Kelsorians could program it to use English. Scroll down the page.”

She showed me how to scroll through the text on the tablet. Down at the bottom of a long list was the word, English. Xara told me to press on it, and I did and suddenly all the text that was displayed was in English. It automatically took me to another screen, and this one was a license agreement. It said I was to read the entire agreement and then accept it. If I didn’t accept it I wouldn’t be able to use any of the suits.

“That’s just boiler plate, Joe,” said Xara. “Scroll down to the bottom and touch, Accept.”

So I did, and then I was taken to a table of contents. The first section was titled, “Read me first,” so I did. It talked about taking the suits out of their boxes and connecting them to … there was a lot of that. Connect this to that. Turn on this. Wait for the light to turn blue. If you see a green light go back and start over. This went on for all the tablets in all the boxes. It was quite complicated. But Gloria and the blondes seemed to know what they were doing. Which I wondered about. Why would any of them have any experience with space suits? So I asked.

“It’s part of our training,” said Sharon.

“Mom sent me to Space Camp three summers in a row,” said Xara.

“Space Camp?” I asked.

“On Kelsor,” she answered.

All told, there were six space suits. One of the crates contained a skeleton that could be worn as an exoskeleton or endoskeleton depending on which suit it was paired with. Its primary purpose was to supplement the strength of the wearer. It could be used to lift and move heavy objects, or to take over the workload if the wearer’s muscles were fatigued.

The first suit, the one in the box I opened the night before, was light weight and had attachments for stuff like air or oxygen tanks. It had self-contained heating and cooling and was meant for light duty in a low-pressure environment. Low pressure meant standard pressure or lower, where standard pressure was the atmospheric pressure at sea level on Kelsor, which wasn’t too different from earth. It would be good for trips to space, or high in the atmosphere, but was not suitable for deep dives under water.

Xara pulled out one of the tanks and hooked it up to a compressor that filled it with air. The compressor also had an attachment that could separate out different gases, so it could fill a tank with pure oxygen.

I stripped down to my underwear and put the suit on. It had invisible fasteners, something like Velcro, except you couldn’t really see them and they made the suit airtight. I looked around for a helmet and couldn’t find one. And there didn’t seem to be any hardware or fasteners up near the neck to attach one.

Xara called my attention to a flap just above my left wrist. I lifted it up and there was a small touch pad under it. She pointed to a symbol on the pad and told me to touch it. I did, and then had the crap scared out of me when the suit expanded around my neck and came up and over my head and suddenly, I was wearing a helmet. And gloves. And boots. I was wearing a helmet and gloves and boots. I was startled and nearly jumped out of my skin while yelling. The Rack Pack thought it was hilarious, they knew what was going to happen.

Xara told me to touch the symbol again and the helmet and gloves and boots disappeared back into the suit. Oh, when I jumped when I was startled, that’s when the soles of the boots surrounded the bottom of my feet.

“That wasn’t funny, ladies,” I said.

“Yes, it was,” replied Gloria.

The ladies helped me explore the suit. There was a small touch pad under a flap on the right arm too. The two pads had identical functions; you could use either one depending on which hand was free.

“The only way to initialize the helmet is with the pads,” said Xara. “After that you can use voice commands.”

“Sweet,” I said. “What are the voice commands?”

“Almost anything you want,” said Kara. “You have to train the suit.”

Training the suit meant initializing the helmet and going through the touch pads assigning commands to the various functions. The touch pads, little screens, were scrollable and context sensitive with menus and sub-menus, so you could scroll through them and select any of the commands you wanted.

Training the suit is a long process. Not because it’s difficult, but because there is a lot to train it for. We were so excited to try the suit out that we ran out of patience. So we stuck with basic commands such as raise and lower the visor, adjust the temperature, communication stuff, and a few more things.

At last, we were ready to try it out. My air canisters were full, and heavy. The tanks were strong, and the air compressor could put a lot of air into them. The tanks attached on a kind of swivel thing that allowed me to lie down on my back in a pod and the tanks moved to position themselves at my sides, under my arms.

Xara sealed the pod and then flew it, with me in it, to the exit at the top of the house. She positioned the pod so I was looking up, and we took off. I saw the sky go from blue to almost black. She stopped accelerating and I became weightless. After a few minutes she opened the pod and helped me out of it. And there we were, the two of us and the pod, floating in space, in orbit around the earth.

I’ve been in orbit with Xara before, inside a pod. But this was … different. I had freedom of movement. And I could reach out and touch Xara. She came up to me and put her forehead on my helmet, so we were looking at each other in the eye. I said, “I love you,” and she mouthed it back to me. It was incredible.

Over three hours we did two orbits and then she signaled for me to get back in the pod. An hour later we were back in the cave and Sarah was getting into the spacesuit so Sharon could take her up. Afterwards I heard her asking Sharon what she would have to do to get a spacesuit of her own.

“Xara,” I said, “this has been the best Christmas ever.”

“I’m so glad you liked it, Joe!” she said.

There was a lot more stuff than would fit in my car. That evening we disassembled everything and packed it into pods. Even the crates. They had this neat thing they would do, when empty, where they folded up into something much smaller. Still heavy, but smaller. We also packed my new wardrobe Sharon had given me. Kara, Sharon and Xara then flew everything up to the cabin and put it in the lair.

When they got back, we had a dinner that Gloria and I prepared. She was grudgingly admitting that I knew my way around a kitchen better than she did and we made beef bourguignon together. I let her make the dessert by herself. That really is her specialty. If it has chocolate in it, she can master the preparation in no time. It’s like she’s a savant.

You might wonder why we had to make a dinner, why not have leftovers from the night before. Because there were no leftovers. Supremis don’t have leftovers. They eat everything you put in front of them.

That night in bed Xara pushed me over onto my back and got on top of me, inserted me inside her and stretched out on top of me.

“Joe, with the suits, there a so many places we can go together.”

“What do you have in mind, Xara?”

“Well, we could try the Annapurna Circuit again. It would be easy to bring the compressor with us, so you’d have enough oxygen. And I’d like to take you to the top of Everest, K2, all the highest mountains and let you walk around.”

“Sounds good. Anything else?”

“I want to take you to the moon.”

“The moon? Really? Xara, I’d love that!”

At this point she started massaging me with those wonderful vaginal muscles of hers.

“We’d have to plan it carefully, Joe. I could pre-position air tanks on the moon, and if I calculated the orbits correctly, I could position them in space. We wouldn’t want to take too much time getting there and back and risk running out of air for you. We need to do some tests to determine how much acceleration you can handle, and for how long.”

“Uh huh.”

She smiled and said, “Having trouble concentrating?”

“Uh huh.”

“Knock knock.”

“Come in.”

“I love you, Joe. Now, I want you to come for me.”

I did.

“I’m going to stay here with you inside me for a little while. Would you like me to help you go to sleep?”

“Yes please.”

I dreamed of exploring the moon with Xara, Dixon and Johnson. It was a good dream.

Chapter 184

The next morning, we said goodbye to everyone and got in the car and headed back to Bellingham. The weather had turned bad, and we decided to drive straight through on I-5, only stopping for meals and bathroom breaks. For me. Xara didn’t need any breaks.

Non-stop it would be about a sixteen-hour drive, but of course I need the breaks, so it was more like a twenty-hour drive. We started out switching drivers every four hours, but Xara quickly determined that I wasn’t getting enough rest, so she drove most of the way.

We got back to the cabin early the morning of the 27th and I went straight to bed. Xara, bless her, stayed up and went down to the lair and set up all the equipment for the space suits, then unpacked the new clothes Sharon had given me and put them in my closet and drawers. She packed up my old clothes and took them to the Goodwill drop off in town.

When I got up, we ate, and then headed down to the lair and started going through all the space suit equipment and the documentation. I had initially thought that Xara would leave that to me, but she didn’t. She wanted to work through every step of it with me and study the documentation with me.

We talked a lot about the capabilities of the suits and what we could do with them, and I slowly came to the realization that the suits meant as much, or more, to Xara as they did to me.

For me, it was a way to have adventures, to go places I’d never be able to go to otherwise and do things I’d never be able to do otherwise.

For Xara, it was a way for her to share, with me, life the way she experienced it. She saw it as a way for me to level up to her, though in reality I could never possibly be on the same level as her. But I could get closer, and she wanted that, very badly.

“You don’t limit me, Joe. But you do limit us. There is so much more to life than Terrans are able to experience; I want you to have those experiences. I want your life to be richer. I want our life to be richer.”

Before I proposed to her, hell, even after I proposed to her, I wondered what in the world she could possibly see in me. Why would someone who could have everything she wanted, anyone she wanted, settle for me?

And now I understood that she wasn’t settling. She wasn’t stooping down to my level. She was going to lift me up to hers, or as close to hers as she could. And this struck me so hard and so deeply, that I started to tremble.

“What’s wrong, Joe?”

I couldn’t get the words out. I held out my hand and said, “Make a connection.”

She took my hand in hers and I invited her into me. She was quiet for a minute, then broke the connection, put her arms around me and said, “Yes, Joe. You understand,” and kissed me.

We put all the space suit paraphernalia down, went upstairs to the bedroom and spent the rest of the day and into the night making love, until I was too exhausted to go on and fell asleep.

There was a knock on her door. Janelle wasn’t expecting any visitors. She looked through the door and saw two armed gangsters. This could present a dilemma, it was broad daylight, people were about. Killing and disposing of them could present a logistical problem.

She opened the door and one of them said to her, “Senorita, we must ask you to come with us to a very important meeting.”

“Who will I be meeting with?” She asked.

“You will see. Please do not make us force you to come with us.”

She decided to go with them. Maybe they’d take her someplace where she could kill them without drawing attention.

“Let me get my purse,” she said.

“No senorita,” they replied, “you don’t need it.”

She shrugged her shoulders and went with them.

One of them opened the door of their car and held it for her while she climbed into the back seat. Both of them got into the front seat.

“Where are we going?” She asked them.

“Out of town, senorita, you will see.”

“Out of town,” she thought. She wondered how many of these ‘out of town’ facilities they have.

As they drove through the city, Janelle noted the decorations that were up everywhere. The people were celebrating the birth of their major deity. She had bought presents for Miguel, his wife and his children, as was the custom, and at their invitation had attended a ritual at their local worship center, called a church, in honor of the birth of their deity.

Afterwards, and at the recommendation of her advisors, she had introduced herself to the local members of the population’s priest class. When she told them that she was running to improve the lives of the people, by reducing the influence of the gangs, they had reacted with guarded optimism. One of them, called a bishop, had told her that they’d heard those promises before, and nothing had ever come of them. She had assured it, no, him, he was an ally who would one day be a subject of the empire, that she was different, she would protect the people. He had said that he had heard that she was already doing that, and told her that the church would back her, but that they were also afraid of how the gangs might react. She had told him that she understood. And then he did something totally unexpected. He asked her to bow her head, reached up and put his hands on her head, and said a prayer over her. She was quite touched by it.

They drove for over an hour out into the countryside and into the mountains before coming to another of the seemingly numberless logging and mining facilities of this area. She had known about his facility, she found aerial photographs of the entire country on the internet. She didn’t know it was in use.

During the drive, the two frails in the front seat engaged her in casual conversation. There were no, what some frails called, ‘sexist’ remarks, no comments about the way she dressed, no thinly veiled threats against her. She was impressed, these two frails were, for gangsters, very polite.

They pulled up in front of the door, there were several other cars there, and the two gangsters got out of the car and opened the door for her and brought her inside. She was again impressed with how polite they were and thought that perhaps she would make their deaths quick and merciful. Perhaps.

They ushered her into an office where four more frails were waiting for her. They introduced themselves, asked her to sit down, and offered her a glass of sparkling water, which she accepted.

“Senorita, we understand that you are running for alderman in your district.” It seemed more like a question than a statement.

“Yes, I am.” She replied.

“Senorita, we do not think that is a good idea. The alderman who represents your district is a very fine man, from a good family, and he works hard for his people,” one of the frails said.

“Senor,” she replied to it, “it is my understanding that he works for the gangs, not the people.”

“Senorita,” one of them said, “it is the same thing. The gangs take care of the people. We protect them.”

“That is not what I see,” she said. “I think the people need someone who will protect them from the gangs.”

“And you think you can do that, senorita?”

“I do.” She replied.

The frails prattled on about how it would be a mistake for her to leave without giving up her candidacy. Janelle wasn’t really listening, she was looking around the building, ascertaining how many frails were here and planning how to kill them. She noted that each of the frails in the room with her had a pistol. Out of sight, but not out of sight to her.

Her attention was brought back to them when one of them asked, “Senorita, how do you propose to protect the people of your district from the gangs?”

“Before I answer your question,” she said to it, “let me ask you some questions.”

“Certainly, senorita.”

“Who knows I am here?”

“Only us, our drivers, and the men who drove you here,” it replied.

“Who knows you are here?”

“That is hardly any of your business, senorita,” it answered.

“Please, senor, humor me.”

“Besides those of us here, each of our lieutenants knows where we are.”

“I see,” she said.

“Senores,” she said, “I am going to run for alderman, and I am going to win.”

“It is unfortunate that you feel that way, senorita. You see, we cannot allow you to leave here if you insist on running.”

“Very well then,” she said, “In that case, I will show you how I will protect the people of my district from the gangs.”

And then she stood up and began undressing. At first the men were confused, and then one thought he understood what was happening.

“Senorita, we will happily accept the gift to us of your body, but that does not change anything. We cannot allow you to run for alderman.”

Janelle finished undressing, folding her clothes and putting them out of the way where she was sure they would not get dirty or damaged.

“Oh, senor, I am not offering you the use of my body. I’m going to kill you, all of you. I just don’t want to muss my clothing in the process.”

They laughed at her. Then the closest one stood up and approached her and grabbed her by the arms and attempted to pull her closer. She easily pushed it away, into the wall across the room. She only put enough force into it to hurt it, but not kill it. But it was hurt bad and sank to the floor, moaning in pain.

The other three were shocked, but not for long. They drew their weapons and pointed them at her. She smiled at them, then looked at the frail slumped against the wall and blasted it with her heat vision, burning off the top third of its head. At that, the other three frails began shooting her.

She nonchalantly walked through the hail of bullets, to each one, put her hand around their gun hands, and crushed their hands, and guns.

At the sound of gunfire and screams, the drivers all ran towards the room, guns drawn, and began shooting at Janelle. She easily disarmed each one of them the same way as the others; she crushed their guns and gun hands. Except for the two who drove her. She decided she would make their deaths easier; easier on them. She got to them and simply took their guns away from them and crushed them and threw them aside.

They were trembling with fear before her and aroused. She’d seen that before and it always amazed her that frails about to die by her hand could be sexually aroused at the same time.

There was one dead frail on the floor and seven more flopping around, screaming in pain, and the two who had driven her, who were, as yet, unharmed.

She pointed to the opposite corner of the room and said, “Go stand over there and wait for me. Do not try to escape. It will go very badly for you if you do.”

They obeyed her.

Then she went to each of the wounded frails and crushed their arms and their legs, making them suffer. Then she stood over them and said, “That, senores, is how I will protect the people from you.”

Then she addressed her drivers. “You two were very polite to me, and for that I will reward you. You will not suffer like these frails.”

She was about to turn her heat vision on them when a sudden thought made her stop. She’d heard the frails use a saying, ‘up your ass’, or ‘shove it up your ass’, or ‘he’s got his head up his ass.’ She’d even seen a movie where the hero told two frails he was going to shove the head of one up the ass of the other.

She understood frail anatomy very well, and didn’t think it was possible, but she decided to try. She ripped the pants off one frail, then grabbed another by the neck, placed its head against the anus of the first, and attempted to shove its head up the ass of the other. She didn’t think it would work, and it didn’t. It did elicit some wonderful screams though.

Then she turned her heat vision on the wounded frails. She made them scream some more before burning holes through their hearts.

The two remaining frails were trembling and crying, but she had given them hope, and they clung to that hope, believing they were to be spared.

“Come to me,” she said.

They approached her.

“Kneel before me,” she said.

They knelt.

“Close your eyes.”

They closed their eyes.

“Oh. I’m sorry. Whichever one of you has the car keys, please give them to me.”

One of them reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys and held them out.

“Thank you,” she said as she took them out of his hand and put them on one of the desks in the room.

Then she walked around behind them and gently put her left hand on the left side of the head of one of the frails and put her right hand on the right side of the other frail’s head. Then quickly and with great force she slammed their heads together. So much force that she was splattered with blood and brains. She tore the clothing off one of the frails and cleaned herself off, then took the car keys and her clothes and went outside, got into the car that brought her to the facility, and drove about one hundred feet away from the building and got out of the car.

She picked up each of the remaining cars and threw them into the building, then punctured and ignited their fuel tanks with her heat vision. As she dressed, she noted with satisfaction that the entire building was engulfed in flames.

She got into the remaining car and drove back to town, abandoning the car several blocks away from her apartment, and walked home.

Chapter 185

We spent two days exploring the suits and the support paraphernalia that came with them. Xara picked up the Bowflex and moved it to a new location in the lair to make room, then we set up the charging station, the compressor, etc. After that I went back to work, to the job I was being paid for, and Xara started doing calculations and working on figuring out how to get me safely to and from the moon.

The DEA was still sending reports out about gang warfare in Central America. In one area, four separate gangs had been decapitated, their leaders had been killed. All at the same time in the same place. The DEA theory was that someone from outside the area infiltrated and attacked a meeting of the heads of the four gangs. I had just finished writing this up for Kara when Xara came downstairs with a glum look on her face.

“What’s up buttercup?” I asked.

She frowned. “Buttercup is out,” said Dixon. Johnson agreed.

“I’ve run up against a major problem in our moon trip plans,” she said.

“Is it that there is no way for me to eat and drink?”

“You knew?”

“Well, yeah, but you had so much figured out, I thought you had that covered too.”

“Well, I don’t, but I have found a solution.”

She opened the Kelsorian catalog and showed me a page of accessories. Accessories we didn’t have.

“What am I looking at?” I asked. It was a picture with a description. Written in Kelsorian, which I couldn’t read.

“This,” she said pointing to the picture, “recycles and purifies urine so you can drink it. We just add these things,” and she turned to another page, “which are water bottles with sippy straws that thread into your helmet, and between the water you can carry with you and recycled urine you would be set.”

“Then,” she said, turning to another page, “we can get these food paste things that have their own tubes into the helmet.”

“How do we get these things?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I’ll talk to mom. Maybe we can sell some more cats.”

You might think I’d object to drinking my own urine, albeit recycled and purified. You’d be wrong. Get yourself deployed to a Middle Eastern war zone. You’ll drink worse stuff than that. Not intentionally, but when you are up to your armpits in an open sewer, things splash into places you’d rather they didn’t.

Chapter 186

We did do some traveling and sightseeing with the suits before school started. We went to the summit of Mt. Baker, Rainier, and Glacier Peak, in snowstorms with the temperature well below freezing, and I was totally comfortable. The suits all had built in night vision and thermal vision, which I had fun testing.

Three days before Winter Quarter started for Xara, Skar-El showed up. He was only here for a day though, so Xara wasn’t gone too long. When she returned, she told me Skar-El had agreed to contact the Scalantrans and ask them if the Fesussians were interested in acquiring more cats.

Xara was taking another 20-hour course load. That’s a heavy load for anyone, but between Xara’s Galen and Velorian genetics, she could handle the load easily. As I’ve mentioned before, it still takes time to do research and write papers, but she didn’t have to devote as much time to studying as a Terran would. Still, I was surprised when she asked me to teach her how to cook.

“Didn’t you get that when you went walking through my memories?”

“It’s not the same thing, Joe. I know all your recipes, but when you cook the food comes out tasting better than when I do.”

So I started teaching her how to cook, and cook well. She wanted to take shortcuts, which I had to discourage. On the face of it, browning meat with heat vision is quicker than doing it on a stove. But unless you are very patient, and Xara wasn’t, you don’t put the time into it that is needed for the meat to absorb the flavors of whatever spices you are using. Plus, it is hard to multi-task when your heat source keeps disappearing to look into the refrigerator.

We baked bread. Nothing tastes better than homemade bread fresh out of the oven. We made a lot of bread. Xara can eat a lot of bread.

We baked pastries. Oh my lord, how she loved the pastries. And yet, no matter how much she ate, her figure didn’t change at all.

The gangs were in disarray. The heads of the four major gangs had been assassinated and while their lieutenants knew where they were when they were killed, and who they were talking to, they somehow didn’t put two and two together and come up with Janelle as the assassin.

There were power struggles. There was infighting in each gang for control and fighting between the gangs as they tried to expand into each other’s territories.

For a while it looked like the gangs had forgotten all about the upcoming election, the man Janelle was running against did not forget, and he became a problem.

Janelle was meeting with different community groups, campaigning, and asking for their support. There were merchant groups, that reminded Janelle of the guilds back home. There were PTAs, and then there was the church. The bishop was backing her, and the local parishes were hosting meet the candidate sessions in their churches.

The church was a different kind of organization that was beyond Janelle’s experience. They had this bishop who was the top dog, and then pastors and parochial vicars. And the bishop and his priests were all, supposedly, celibate. Janelle thought it would be fun to test their commitment to celibacy but decided against it. The bishop and the priests were all very kind to her and were promoting her to their congregations.

The man Janelle was challenging saw this, and was very unhappy about it, so he asked for help from the gang who owned him, and they stopped their fighting long enough to kidnap a priest and threaten to burn down his church, with him in it, if he didn’t stop campaigning for the gringo who was sticking her nose where it didn’t belong.

When the priest was released, he went straight to the bishop with his story, and the bishop called Miguel’s pastor, who called Miguel, who told the story to the Janelle.

“Miguel, bring the priest here,” she said.

Miguel brought him to Janelle’s clinic. She invited him into her office.

“Please Father, sit down and tell me what happened.”

She could see he was nervous. He was a young man, only a year out of the seminary, and he was intimidated by Janelle’s beauty. Sometimes she had fun teasing the young men who reacted to her this way, but not this time. These church people were turning out to be very good allies and she wasn’t going to do anything to threaten that alliance. He also had bruises.

He told her everything, including the names of his kidnappers, and, when asked, where they live.

“How is it you know so much about them Father?”

“I grew up with them senorita Janelle. We went to the same schools.”

“Are they responsible for your bruising.”

“Yes, senorita.”

“Thank you for telling me your story,” she said, “please be careful in the future. Try not to go anywhere alone. I will see what I can do about the men who kidnapped you.”

Janelle contacted NEC and asked for a strike team. Four or five Betas to give the gangs something to think about other than kidnapping and beating innocents.

NEC decline her request. They were still nervous about the Protectors and were telling her to be discrete. They were afraid of the attention a team of Betas operating under the direction of a Prime might attract.

The rest of the message was asking her if she had heard any talk of a Protector marrying a frail (utter nonsense in her opinion), and a series of questions about the political situation in the city she was in. They wanted to know everything. How candidates were picked. How elections were conducted. How she would fit into the power structure once she was elected. (A bit presumptuous on their part, she thought, but correct, she was certain she would win.)

No Betas coming to support her, so she would have to take care of the kidnappers herself. How was she to do that, send a message without revealing that she was the messenger?

She found her inspiration in the book that the church considers sacred.

She rented a van and had Miguel drive her to the homes of one of the four kidnappers late at night. She waited for them to come out or come home. As it happened, she caught all four of them together on the street outside one of their homes. She was quick and lethal, snapping their necks before they even understood what was happening to them. No one saw her. She put the bodies in the van and had Miguel drive to the central plaza of her district. While Miguel was driving, she was burning her messages into the bodies of the dead frails.

While Miguel waited, she unloaded the bodies and arranged them next to each other, with a scripture reference burned into the torso of each one.

The first one: Proverbios 6:16-19

The second one: 1 Juan 3:12

The third one: Génesis 9:6

The fourth one: Deuteronomio 27:25

Then she brought Miguel back to her apartment and gave him something strong to drink. The odor of burning flesh nauseated him. She came very close to losing her damage deposit on the van.

After fortifying him with Tequila, she drove him home and told him to take the next day off. The day after that, she told him to purchase a van. She was getting tired of the exorbitant rental fees she was paying, and she wanted to customize a van to suit her purposes.

Chapter 187

“Joseph, I applaud your diligence. But this is not something for us to be involved in.”

“Kara, look at the pictures,” I said. “Those burns are very precise; it’s easy to read the words.”

“Yes, Joseph, I understand. But a Prime would not reference a Terran holy book.”

“I agree with Kara,” said Gloria. “This is not something an Arion would do.”

I had been following the DEA reports from Central America for months. Something about them just didn’t seem right to me. When I sent Kara the report about the bodies with biblical references burned into them, she dismissed it as ‘normal’ gang warfare, because that’s what the DEA said, and she trusted their judgement. I asked to meet with her personally to make my case that this was something she should pursue. She had flown up with Gloria.

“Is it something an Arion could do?” I asked.

“Maybe,” said Gloria, “but very few Primes would have the control necessary to burn a message this precisely. And if they did, I doubt they would have the patience. And working incognito on this planet, they wouldn’t leave evidence for a Protector to find. And this would be very out of character. A Prime wouldn’t even know about your Bible, nor would he take the time to learn about it if he did.

“I must agree with Kara. This is not the work of the Arions.”

When Xara heard her mother and Gloria were coming up, she asked them to stay for dinner, a dinner she wanted to cook. So when Xara got home from her classes she set to work on dinner immediately. Gloria and I were specifically told to stay out of the kitchen.

She was making Chicken Cordon Bleu. She’d stayed up late the night before pounding the chicken breast, layering the ham and cheese, and getting it ready to bread. She wasn’t going to deep fry it, thank goodness, I didn’t trust the old fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink, she baked it instead.

It was good, we all told her so, and she was very proud of herself. During dinner we kept the conversation light and didn’t talk about Central America. Xara filled us in on the classes she was taking, I talked about the space suits, and Gloria told us about the cooking classes she had been taking.

After Kara and Gloria left, I helped Xara clean up.

“How did your conversation go?”

“She doesn’t think there’s anything to it beyond what the DEA is saying.”

“The DEA knows what they’re doing, Joe, they’ve been investigating the drug cartels for a long time.”

“I know Xara. But all this activity, and now bodies with messages burned into them, it seems like something we should be looking into.

“Maybe I’ll make the trip down there to look around for myself.”

“Absolutely not! It’s too dangerous!”

“I’ve been in danger before, Xara, and you know I know how to take care of myself.”

“Joe, going down there would be reckless, and you know it. Keep gathering the intelligence from here. If you find something more convincing, mom will listen.”

“Okay, Xara. But if these strange reports keep coming in …”

“Joe, if you come up with something that convinces me, and mom still isn’t convinced, I’ll go down there with you.”

“Okay,” I said. We had finished cleaning up and Xara was starting to wriggle out of her clothes.

“You’re doing that on purpose to change the subject!” I said accusingly.

“Is it working?”

“Hell yes!”

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