Calm



Steady




Mind

Thirteen

I see Katya talking with her sister, then she comes over to me, “Sarah and Mani need a ride to the airport tomorrow, plane at nine. Return unknown, but it shouldn’t be more than one day.”
“Sure thing, Amaya will drive them, of if she’s working on her screenplay, I’ll do it.”
“Spasibo,” she walks off, joins her sister, they go off to find Sarah and Mani.
I don’t ask why, I know why, and I don’t ask where the plane is going or where it will be returning from. They have work, somebody’s going to die in the next twenty four and the poor sod doesn’t have a clue.
 They will have a name and a photo, a make of car and license plate, an address. Katya won’t know why the target is the target, she doesn’t want to know. Who did what to who, or who benefits financially, or who wants to jump the promotion line is irrelevant. They kill for money, everyone has a conflict or two, sometimes enough of a conflict to hire a contact killer to resolve it. Soon, there won’t be two unhappy people, there will be six happy ones and one dead one.
I get online with Amaya, “Hey sweet, Sarah and Mani need a lift to the airport tomorrow. Plane leaves at nine. Do you want to drive them, or I can do it, or just let them take one of the trucks. They won’t be more than a day or two.”
“I will do it, be good to air out the Tesla.”

She could blast any of our cars around our race course, Amaya just likes to drive bless her. I can take it or leave it, I prefer to leave it. I don’t even use our karts or racing machines around here much. I do the SUVs to keep in practice, we took Bondurant tactical driving protection courses and have gone back regularly over the years. Amaya’s taken all their stuff several times, Formula One and oval speed track. It’s weird now, electric cars over two hundred miles an hour. Almost no sound except when the car swooshes by like a land rocket.
Janah taps in, “Come to the office.”
She’s at the desk reading a report, Grace B is next to her, no doubt reading the same report via qbits in her system. There are photos of a man, a big one, with a thick shaved head and a nose that’s seen a few bar fights. One ear is mangled, and there’s a scar just south of his right eye down to his earlobe.
“Sheesh, what’s that thing Arnold said to the predator?”
Grace B, “You are one ugly motherfucker.”
“That’s it, you a fan of thirty year old flicks?”
“Emma B, Kota B and I have watched every movie ever made. At least every one on any digital format. A distraction while we clean up after you slobs.”
She’s full of it, we are the neatest humans on the planet, well, except for Janah. Her only flaw is leaving empty tea cups all over the place. She’s a serial tea drinker, as in all day every day. And she gets a few zillion calls and messages, many of which need the privacy of the office. If she’s in the living room, she moves to the office, tea cup forgotten on the end table. Grace B brings a fresh cup, which gets left there when she leaves, distracted by another call.
“Why are we looking at an ugly guy when we are surrounded by luscious women?”
Grace B, “Because Ugly has arisen to our attention as a world class asshole. Too much juice, booze, lots of anger. I assume he has an hyper-muscled body and SDS, short dick syndrome. He carries a big gun as a penis substitute. He likes to beat his women, beat up men who he thinks are trying to fuck his women, he likes young girls, too young.”
By juice, she means steroids, the drugs are far more sophisticated today, synthesized and easy to acquire. Despite all the improved pharmaceutical technology, users still get violent when they over-juice. From the photo, Ugly is clearly out of control.
“He looks thirty five-ish, how young is young?”
“Twelve.”
“That’s young. Where we going, and when?”
Janah, “Duluth Minnesota, on the shores of Lake Superior. We can go tomorrow, around the same time as Sarah and Mani. You and the twins, I’m along for the ride. I need Transportation to get a place to park him while we chat, and to get us a van. Ask Daria to prep the pharmaceutical case.”
Grace B, “You should turn him over to Katya.”
“It’s tempting, but we don’t do Society work that way. We refocus the target, get him in a condition where compliance is the only option. We don’t kill unless one of us or an innocent is in mortal danger.”
“You realize that is not the most rational course of action.”
“Yes, I do.”
Grace B shakes her titanium head, “Humans, what a species.”
We prep, have dinner and hit the sheets after a movie. Then it’s morning and we’re boarding a small jet to Duluth, Sarah and Mani board a different jet to we don’t know where, to off we don’t know who.
It’s a four hour flight, we lose two hours in time zones. Duluth is CST, but Arizona doesn’t have daylight savings time, so when they push clocks up an hour, there is a two hour difference between us and them. We left at nine thirty, arrive three thirty.
Surveillance has been following Ugly around, his name is CJ Masters, but we aren’t going to introduce ourselves, Ugly will do.
We didn’t book a room, if we need one we’ll pop into a Hampton or Embassy. Our panel van is waiting, we put our bare minimum luggage in and head to the abandoned warehouse Transportation located. Their job is to access the place, make sure it has power and water, add a few accessories. A chair, required restraints, which means duct tape and picture wire, a cooler with water, bottled tea and lots of ice.
Dasha opens the warehouse, I drive inside, she rolls down the door. We get busy disguising. Janah’s hair is naturally pure white, that won’t do. I temp dyed it before we left, she’s mouse brown. We have watch caps, Dasha has a Fedora fetish, she’s wearing a grey one. We have death black fat sunglasses, my special gloves and knee protection.
The gloves are a special blend of woven chain under a flexible weave of nylon. Knuckles are covered with titanium caps, as is the heel of the hand. You do not want to get your face smashed with either one. I’m particularly proud of my knee protection. Overlapping caps of titanium based on a lobster’s tail. We can bend our knees normally, but if we get kicked or hit with anything hard, the titanium absorbs the blow, no busted kneecap, no leg that cracks the wrong way. And our knees become even more destructive weapons.
We have version of the old EvoShield chest protectors. Snug shirts with inside pockets into which we slide titanium sheets that cover our ribs and breastbone. Hit it as hard as you can, good luck with your fist, your stick or even your knife.. Naturally, we have steel toe sneakers.
Time to find Ugly and get ugly.
Janah, “He’s at the gym. Do you want to humiliate him there, or take him in the parking lot and bring him here?”
“As much fun as it would be seeing him try to deal with Dasha or Daria, I think we take him and drag him here. Too many people with phones, and a bunch of guys with heavy objects handy. I don’t want to have to deal with a dumbbell trying to crack my skull with a dumbbell.”
Daria, “And if we are going to modify his brain, we have to get him from the floor of the gym to our van and gone with a bunch of people around.”
“Settled then, let’s get going. If he’s true to form, he’s there another hour, maybe six-thirty.”

Fourteen

His gym is a throwback, a musclehead gym, with lots of free weights, few machines and nothing aerobic. Surveillance peeked inside from a distance. It’s an invitation only gym, one of the members has to recommend you, there’s no website, no listed phone number. Allows in only the riff raff they like, keeps out the riff raff they don’t, like any ethnicity except white. 
Unpainted concrete block building, parking lot full of trucks and motorcycles. Bikers scoffed at electric cycles in the beginning, then they started outrunning Harleys, two hundred mph top end, battery recharges as the bike moves. You can ride sea to shining sea with no stops if you can stay awake that long. Cars drive themselves now, cycles don’t. The drawback for bikers is a relief for the rest of us, they don’t make any noise.
There’s a death’s head skull painted over the entrance door.
“Geez, this place reeks skinhead macho. Glad we don’t have to go inside, the reek can only be worse.”
Janah, “Taking him inside would be a problem. This is a club of like minded racists. They can’t let their klansman be humiliated, we’d have to fight every Nazi in the place. This isn’t one of your martial arts extravaganzas where the hero takes on fifty guys and wins.”
“Nikko and I did eight once, but to be fair, she had a katana.”
Dasha, “When was that? I am not remembering.”
“Before you delightful double delights came along, before Chloe or Amaya, it was just Janah, Nikko and me.”
A couple of XLs come out, one triple X goes in.
“No small guys in the place, you’d think they’d have a couple of token wimps, or starter boys, you know, before and after.”
Janah, “They don’t advertise, to get here they have to get large someplace else first.”
“Maybe prison, lot of weights, plenty of drugs, good opportunities to test one’s self defense skills, meet cute guys.”
A half hours passes, big men leave, fewer big men arrive. 
“Rush hour is over, the gym is emptying out,” the parking lot has six trucks and three cycles, one truck is Ugly’s.
And he appears, the men who left before were mostly showered and dressed in jeans and t-shirts, toting gym bags full of rank workout gear in search of a washing machine. Ugly is no different, he’s actually rather spiffy compared to his peers, khaki pants, boots, a dress shirt.
“Maybe he has a date.”
Dasha’s wandered over to the passenger side of his truck, it’s one of the big ones, a four door with oversized tires. He’s got a handgun strapped to his side.
I pull the van around next to his driver’s side door, out about six feet, don’t want to spook him.
I don’t, he pays us no attention. Daria exits the passenger door, Janah slides open the side door of the van. He turns, hand on his gun but the hasn’t drawn it, more like a habit. He sees Daria, cocks his head.
“Need something?”
Daria, “Need you in the van.”
He grins, “You think I’m getting into a van with somebody I don’t know?”
“Yes.”
He’s not intimidated, he can’t see me, Janah’s in the rear of the van invisible. He doesn’t unstrap his gun, instead, he reaches for Daria.
She lets him take her by the arm, “Get in your fucking wheels and split, or find yourself with broken body parts.”
Dasha is behind him, she has her hand around his wrist, the hand resting on the gun, “In the van CJ, or you get the broken body part.”
He laughs, she’s only holding him, hasn’t applied the bear strength yet, “You are joking, a coupla’ hunnert pound girls gonna make me do anything? Get lost.”
He yanks his gun hand, it doesn’t move, he yanks Daria’s arm, she doesn’t move. Dasha, flips open the gun safety strap and removes the Glock.
“Old fashioned one, but a great performer, looks like you take care of it. Enough chat, in the van CJ.”
He’s not a total dope, he tries a kick, a solid one, to Dasha’s knee, nothing happens, CJ is nonplussed, this isn’t his imagined scenario. He kicks again, more nothing.
He lets Daria go, tries to lunge at Dasha. He’s at least two seventy, maybe pushing three hundred, and having trouble processing that he can’t move an inch, even though one five six girl only has him by the wrist.
I hear voices, “Hey CJ, what the fuck? Bitch has your Glock man.”
Dasha turns, point the Glock at the two men, “Piss off,” she fires a round at their feet, they piss off.
CJ climbs in the van, Janah lays her hand on the side of his head, he passes out. Dasha and Daria climb in, I pull away. Two guys in the lot aren’t in a rescuing mood, they don’t attempt to follow.
“Think I should have further discouraged them?”
Janah, “No, my take on that place is it’s full of men who don’t like cops. And it’s a good bet they know something about CJ here. That women find him offensive isn’t likely a surprise.”
“I switched the plate, the van is allegedly registered in California. The warehouse is five miles. Think I’ll pull over and swap it out, they may be more alert than we think and they can call in a kidnapping anonymously.”
I find a closed garage, pull alongside, rear of the van faces a dumpster and a fence. I swap the plate, toss California to the rear of the dumpster, it slides down behind a stack of boxes, good enough.
Ten minutes later we’re in the small warehouse adjacent to a half empty industrial park. Transportation has done its usual stellar job, there isn’t a car, van or truck in sight. Dasha gets out and opens the roll-up door.
I back in, she pulls the chain, the door slides closed, locks it. There is no other entrance, only a small side room with a toilet and sink. I flush the toilet, run water in the sink, so far so good. By the time I finish the utility check, CJ is strapped in the hardback chair and Daria is prepping him for an IV.
Dasha and I sit in the van. CJ saw two girls, not twins, they look nothing alike when we work. He won’t see anyone for the duration. He’s facing the rear wall blindfolded. He’ll hear a disembodied Janah speaking into a voice altering microphone, she sounds like the old machines, a man with a gravel voice and no modulation, each word sounds the same.
Daria cranks him up with a mild amphetamine, he stirs back into consciousness.
Oops….he tries to stand, which gets him a nicely sliced ankle and cut wrists, the chair topples over.
“Fuckin’ fuck.”
Daria rights the chair, CJ is facing the blank wall, his blindfold still in place.
A disembodied voice, “Best to be still CJ, that’s picture wire, it will slice right through long before you snap it.”
“Are you insane? Fuck am I doin’ here? You think I got money, or some asshole gonna ransom me? Good fuckin’ luck.”
“No, sit still and listen, then maybe you walk away.”
He twists his head, trying to get a bead on the voice. The speaker is directly behind him, six feet in the air, which makes it sound like it’s everywhere.
“You have been a badass motherfucker CJ. Fights for no reason, usually with guys who have no chance. Does not make you macho to beat up a hundred and seventy pound nobody.”
“Fuckers hit on my girls, I fuckin’ hit them, thass how it is.”
“Not anymore. But that’s the least of your infractions. A twelve year old girl is not your fuck doll. And you pimp out three others, all under sixteen. Is not hard to imagine you had them as well, before you turned them into a sideline income.”
“Don’t know what you’re talkin’ bout.”
“I have pictures and video CJ. Denial does not work, I do not need you to admit to anything, we are not the law. We are our own private justice system, you have already been tried and found guilty. There is no appeal.”
He’s silent, processing, Janah lets him ruminate. We can wait a long time, but we don’t have to.
“So, okay, now what? We gonna sit here and bitch?”
Janah changes the plan.
“No, I am going to cut you loose. The woman who approached you in the parking lot is here. You and she are going one on one. You win, you walk.”
Ugly is silent, his short experience with two women he couldn’t budge has made him cautious.
We load the mike and speaker in the van, I back it to the rear wall, click on the headlights, step out. Janah takes the driver’s seat, Dasha in the passenger, I’m standing behind the driver’s open door.
Daria drags the chair into the light, I walk up behind him, snip his ankles free, then his wrists, snatch the blindfold and return to my spot.
CJs back is to us, it’s obvious he’s blinking, letting his eyes adjust. Then he sees Daria standing in front of him.
“Kinda fight is this? You gonna get hurt girl, hurt bad.”
Daria remains silent, staring her disconcerting dark eyed blank.
He walks up to her, I see his head tick tock, trying to get his mind around the situation. 
“I get it, I take a shot at you, your friends join in. Maybe they get lucky, or maybe you got a much bigger pal back there. And you got my Glock.” 
I say from the darkness, “one girl asshole, that’s the deal. Nobody is going to interfere. Beat the girl, go home. And quit screwing around, we have things to do.”
In a move quicker that belies his size, he backhands Daria’s jaw. Her head twists, something we practice, it takes a lot of steam out of the blow and the opponent thinks they made solid contact.
She could take him down with one blow, she’s going to play with him instead. A sharp uppercut just beneath his sternum, titanium knuckles do their bit, he actually lifts off the ground, stumbles backwards. He catches himself before he does a butt plant, pretty agile for a big guy.
CJ manages to squeak out, “Got me nappin’, won’t happen again.”
Two long strides and he goes for his own body shot, a sharp right shoots straight out, not an amateurish roundhouse. His meaty fist connects with the titanium sheet covering Daria’s ribs. 
“Fuck! Fuckin’ body armor,” he shakes his injured knuckles, I zero in, knuckle of his forefinger is at an awkward angle, sort of smushed down into the back of his hand.
In his rage, he forgets that a kick to the knee in the parking lot resulted in nothing, he tries a front snap kick, clunk. Daria doesn’t move.
Frustrated, he picks up the chair, swings it overhead. As it comes down, Daria kicks the front of the seat with her steel toe shoe. The chair shatters, CJ is left with a wooden leg in one hand. He smiles, like he’s just gotten the upper hand.
Swings it back and forth, then a big swipe to the side of Daria’s head. Most people pull back, away from the weapon, Daria steps in, grabs his wrist and squeezes.
She crushes his wrist, the chair leg drops to the floor, CJ yelps like a wounded dog. Her other hand holds his elbow, snaps it forward while pushing his wrist….a wet gushy crack. That arm is useless.
Even his steroids and adrenaline rush can’t overcome a crushed wrist and snapped elbow, his forearm dangles from his upper arm, blood drips, bones stick out from both mangled parts.
CJ makes a halfhearted swipe with his good arm, Daria slaps it away.
“Better to keep one arm functional than to be stupid,” she twists, titanium covered knee slams into his ribs, then twice more. 
Ugly is a lump on the floor, an ugly lump.
“Who are you…what are you?”
“Your new owner.”
She introduces him to his refocused world, no underage girls, no violence, no guns. He will be watched and reminded of same. Noncompliance will earn him another visit.
“If have to see you again, I take both legs at the knee, your thumbs and one eye, no hospital. Girls are gone, your money is gone, credit cards and phone are gone.”
She drags him to the corner, blindfolds and reties him with picture wire. Leaves him lying there.
I yank the chain and roll up the door, it’s dark out, a lone streetlight half a block down. No cars.
Daria heads to the van, Ugly says, “You just gonna leave me here?”
“EMT will be along soon enough,” Janah cranks the van, Daria and I get in and she eases us out to the street, right turn, gone. 

Fifteen

“Think he’s fixed?”
Janah, “His sideline stable of underage girls is gone, he’s broke, his credit will be crap and Surveillance has his laptop on the way to the Society. We have video of him handing the girls off to customers. He’s going on the sex offender registry,” she laughs, “wait ‘til he finds that out. His truck is headed to a chop shop and I have him on video getting his ass kicked by a girl. After you edit Daria to unrecognizable, he gets a copy and a copy goes to the gym. Our main inconvenience is tracking him to wherever he moves, he won’t stay in Duluth.”
“Compliance won’t mind, they get paid to follow him, then keep an eye on him for a while.”
Dasha, “Sister keeks his ass big time. He ees beeg, now only a beeg mess.”
“He’ll be pasted together, it isn’t the old days. He’ll get a functional prosthetic arm, his ribs will be cranky for a while, Daria obliterated the right rib cage, he’ll get a substitute set installed. What will keep him in line is the other stuff, video, his new status as a sex offender. He’ll be offered the chance to neuter which will get him off the list after three years. With the nanobots in his system, he won’t want young girls again, or anyone else.”
Janah, “Everyone takes the neuter option, if he takes it we can drop him.”
What if he doesn’t? We send another team, not us. He gets turned into a vegetable, drooling while he stays plugged into a VR headset of nature programs, boring ones. We used to send a different team to disable intransigents to complete physical dysfunction, but today’s medicine has made complete dysfunction almost impossible. Now, we drug them into insensibility, drugs that alter the brain permanently, they have no memory or ability to function without a feeding tube. If they show no progress in a couple of years, and they won’t, the state pulls the plug for us.
We park for the evening, there are a few spiffy hotels in Duluth, but we opt for Hampton. We take suites, which  means a second room with a sofa bed, still only one bath. 
Dinner is pizza and wine, we channel surf for a bit in one suite, then I go with Daria to the second suite, Dasha stays with Janah. I help Daria relax after her adventure, then she pulls out a strap-on and screws my brains to mush. Sleep.
Hampton breakfast, car to the airport for ten, home by noon with the time zone reversal.
Amaya is there in one of our SUVs, “We need to hang, Sarah and Mani land in a half hour. I followed the action through Daphne, the twins were awesome.”
Dasha, “Ees almost too easy, bear makes us strong, Dahfoney’s gloves and other gear makes us hard to hurt. Better than getting beat up by beeg man anyway.”
Amaya, “I should think so. In the past, Daphne and Nikko would come home full of bruises and cuts. Janah had to bust her ass with Qi to get them put back together, then sleep for two days while she recovered. Plus the house would stink of liniment for a week. I think they made it out of sewage.”
“It smelled woodsy, maybe musky.”
“As I said, like animals in the woods. I am not a pioneer woman with hairy legs and a man who reeks of smoke and road kill.”
The Blue Sky jet appears on the horizon, then Sarah and Mani are down the steps. Each has a small bag, none of us carry purses. The flight crew doesn’t want to know what’s inside those bags.
Sarah, “Fancy that, you guys get in just before us. Good flight I trust?”
“Always on Blue Sky, good coffee, a warm pastry, we had breakfast before we left.”
Mani, “We had breakfast on the plane, steak and eggs, it was great. And our trip was so much fun.”
Mani’s idea of fun is pointing her Glock and squeezing the trigger. She has other ideas of fun, mostly involving Sarah and physical abuse.
Chloe, “A one day wonder, well, one day out, one day in. And nobody with an injury.”
“Amaya was reminding us of the old days, when we sometimes had to take our licks, this is better.”
Janah, “You still spar, your sparring is other people’s idea of a street fight.”
“You never know, we find ourselves in altercations we didn’t know would be altercations. We have no intention of losing our hard earned pain tolerance.”
Sarah, “Where’s Sloaney?”
“Likely with Oceane and Cassie. She and Cass ran the mountain and dirt biked, came back filthy. Oceane spent the morning you know where, the sprites swam with her. After showers, we fed them lunch, I think they’re napping.”
Sarah’s eyes twinkle, “Then she’s in bed,” she goes off to Sloane’s room.
Ellen grins, “Sex machine.”
Mani, “Do tell. After our conflict was resolved, we were steamed and spent a couple of hours doing stuff that may be illegal in that state. Flight back today and she’s ready for another go.”
Janah, “Yesterday was then, this is now.”
Ellen, “My thought exactly.”
They head for Janah’s room, guess I’ll have to relax elsewhere, I got a vibe form Ange that she wants Ellen exclusively.
Time to think up dinner, “Dasha, any dinner ideas?”
She asks Grace B, “What did they haf last night?”
“Ellen made burgers, she’s got osso bucco ready for the oven, you do not have to do diddly.”
“Dang, that’s sweet, I’d thank her later but Janah’s thanking her now.”
Dasha, “Grace B, children are asleep?”
Grace B is always online with Kota B and Emma B, the bots know more about what we’re doing than we do, “No, they are grooming each other like a pack of chimpanzees.”
“Dahfoney, we will visit children.”
Up we go, a circle of little ones brushing hair, painting nails and toes while Kota B conducts a Japanese lesson.
Uma looks up, “Mama! Tetya Dafna! You have come home, look, we are making ourselves beautiful.”
“You are always beautiful, nice job with the nails though.”
We make the circle, they expect double cheek kisses, they may be the most kissed children on the planet, even on planets they visit with the Zycyryn. Who can resist? They’re adorable, so affectionate. I used to say Chloe was the happiest girl in the world, but our little darlings match her grin for grin.
“Where haf the Gids taken you?” 
Nadia, “When Mamas are gone, we do not go anyplace. We ask the Gids to watch over you.”
How precious.
Dasha, “Gids are anyway to be watching over you, not us.”
Tasia, “Nyet Mama, Kota B takes care of us when the Gids are here and when they are gone. Also Tetya Amaya, Tetya Sloane, Oceane and Cassandra. They are always coming to see us.”
Zofia, “Tetya Amaya is teaching us a new play, we will be on a different world, with evil people trying to capture us. Uma is taken prisoner, we have to rescue her, and we have many adventures trying to find where they have taken her. When we do, the Gids help us sneak past the guards into the depths of a mysterious fortress. It is exciting, when Tetya Amaya tells the story it even feels dark and dangerous, even though it is only a story. And she has funny things too, like Valeska calling the leader of the evil beings Cranky Bastard.”
“Amaya is a performance artist, she knows how to take her audience out of the rational mind and into the emotional one.”
Karol, “We fight the evil ones with swords, Tetya Chloe is showing us how to hold them, how to strike, we have swordfights to practice.”
“Chloe is an accomplished kendoka, she knows swords.”
Devona, “We watch Tetya Chloe and Tetya Nikko, it is so fast, we can hardly see the shinai strike. Tetya Nikko always wins, but Tetya Chloe gets points too.”
“Nikko is too fast for me as well. It’s good to practice against her, we have to stay exactly in the moment, sense the intent of the opponent, look for the datotsu-no-kikai.”
Jesica, “The chance to strike,” she mimics a kendo thrust.
“Excellent, you are learning.”
Kota B, “Nishiko is teaching them as well, Amaya has ordered kendogi, hakama, bogu, shinai and bokken.”
They’ve gotten into it, tops and bottoms, protective gear and the practice swords, shinai are made of strips of bamboo bound together and used for practice, bokken are wooden swords that are the same weight and feel of a real katana.
“Tetya Nishiko is an expert, 8th dan, what do you call her when training?”
They answer together, “Hanshi Murakami, Tetya Dafna.”
Dang, they have been learning, Kota B’s influence no doubt, and Chloe.
“You are bringing them along Kota B.”
“The children learn instantly, sometimes I wonder if I proceed too slowly.”
“No, go slowly. Nobody around her ages, we have forever. Let them enjoy the process, not eat the whole cake in a few sessions.”

Sixteen

The children are precious in their kendo outfits, Nishiko and Chloe have found a new mission with their class of eight kendōka. Renshu, practice sessions, four days a week, an hour that frequently stretches into two, held in Japanese. Little girls screeching kiai! like banshees don’t need encouragement to yell on the attack. I think that might be the part they like best. To them, it’s another kind of theater.
Contrast kiai with another kendo essential, hei jo shin, the three kanji characters represent calm, steady, mind.
Nishiko is incapable of adopting the traditional stern Hanshi face when the kids lose focus. The best she can muster is a twisted lip, kind of the famous McKayla Maroney Olympic frown.   
Danika and Su have been in Canada since July, it’s pushing September and they will be home soon. We’ve been so busy, Canada wasn’t possible this year, next August for sure.
Ellen calls, “Hey Daphne, got a bit of news.”
“You sound enthused and less enthused.”
“Yep. We’re moving out of New Orleans. We talked about the deterioration of the city, the state tries to keep the Gulf of Mexico at bay, but we think it’s a losing battle. People are in denial, so real estate prices have held. We’re bailing before reality sets in.”
“I was surprised they managed to hang on this long, they threw a lot of new technology at the marshes.”
“Which is why the lake hasn’t met the river…yet. And they may pull it off, but we don’t need the grief if the French Quarter becomes Lake French Quarter.”
“Where are you relocating to?”
“Kind of why I’m calling. Katya hasn’t decided. We have solid offers on our property here, our place, the club and the rental property.”
“Why don’t you park here or in Manhattan? Winter is coming, Canada is only viable for another three months, then it’s snowed in.”
“You’re ahead of me, is it a problem? Katya wants to talk to Nikko and Daria, shop for a place, someplace.”
“When do you need to come? Not that it matters. We’re going to Manhattan next week, but only until December, then back here. When do the sales go through?”
“Anytime, down payments are paid, buyers are qualified and serious. We can be gone in a few weeks, less than a month.”
“What do you do with your stuff?”
“Not moving anything, I mean furniture, only clothes, personal things, computers. Katya doesn’t want to haul furniture around, we aren’t attached to things. It’s first rate stuff, the buyers paid up for it.”
“And your only close friend there was Gerard, before he passed.”
“Yep, a few restaurant owners and managers, but we don’t hang with them, just make our dining rounds. I cook a lot at home, the girls prefer it.”
“When you’re ready, come here or to Manhattan. You have the access codes, just show up. Funny that you made the decision, Janah and I have been talking about whether we want to stay in New York. Every year we spend less time in the city. Our property management business is there, but Nikko hired a CEO years ago, she keeps it running with Japanese diligence. Nikko sold off much of our personal property the last six or seven years. Now we get paid for managing it. We don’t own anything but the 5th Avenue property, and the building our condo is in. All the schools have been sold, and the Down Home restaurants and Ultra Violet. Nikko is considering selling even the property management business, she says we can get a fortune for it.”
Ellen laughs, “You could give it away and still be filthy rich.”
“True, but Nikko isn’t having it, she has a million hours invested in its success, not to mention another million hours from Daria and Zi. We keep the film company, the drone business and the VR company. Nikko wants to keep her hand in business operations, but she has new priorities.”
“What’s she up to now?”
“Teaching kendo to our kids, she and Chloe have been upping their game as well. I think Nikko is ready to focus on her Japanese side, actually, she said so.”
Ellen, “I’ll talk to Katya, tell her the good news, we owe you guys so much.”
“I’ll take it out in sex.”
Ellen laughs, “You’d get that anyway. At least now, we have more time for self indulgence.”
We click off, Janah walks in, “Looks like time for a few life adjustments.”
“I am so glad Nishiko has decided to wind down, or at least wind up in a new direction. Working with the kids convinced her. Zi will have time to enhance her sensitivity skills, not sure how Daria fills the day.”
“Daria will be fine, somebody has to be hands on with the remaining businesses and investment accounts. We have billions to manage. They don’t shuffle money around much, but just keeping track of dividend and interest payments and all the foreign currency accounts would be a full time job for a gaggle of managers.”
“At least most of it is automated, but Daria isn’t happy unless she’s examined all the daily activity.”
“Her systems record and post every price, transaction, all income and expense every minute. With flags to highlight any unusual or unexpected bit. She has it so tight, last year she didn’t average a flag a month, and it was all easily explained. If we do nothing but collect dividends, we can’t spend the money fast enough. The money she gets for the property management company will kick up our income stream even higher. It’s gotten beyond the ridiculous. We get two billion a year in dividends and another two billion in tax free income.”
“Geez, I gotta keep up, I had no idea.”
“You cook, it’s a job, one you enjoy, but still. Dasha and you shop, plan meals, then prep and prepare them. When do you have time to analyze business accounts?”
“Nikko gives us updates occasionally, I confess to zoning out of details, too busy listening to her silky voice, it’s like meditation music.”
Nikko has crept up behind me, “So I put you to sleep?”
“Mushin no shin is not sleep, it is the mind of no mind, as you are well aware.”
“Good save,” she kisses me, delightful smooth slick lips, she in her tiny snug cotton shorts, I’m eyeing smooth glass slick legs.
“Can I borrow your body for an hour? I have a plan.”
Nikko gives me the blank stare, whenever she’s in the shorts, it’s a clue. She has needs she wants met, and so many girls around to fulfill them. 
Nikko turns to Janah, “You too, creamy, I want to be double teamed.”

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