Forty Nine

Eloise, “One of the cars is headed towards our lodge.”
We pick up tablets or look over a shoulder, yep, sure is. And the two Shadows in the car are going to sense the Shaolin monks as soon as they step out of their sedan.
“Drone is armed?”
“Six darts, four Oblivion, two Sleep.” 
Sleep is a tranquilizer we use if we don’t want the target dead. Oblivion is what the name implies, and it’s virtually instant. Dasha, Zi, Nikko and I are in the Spyder, she’s got it full bore across the lake to the lodge, fifteen minutes at this speed.
I call Jan, “Shadows on the way to your place, about a half hour out. Where are the guests?”
“Fishing, all of them. Left at five thirty, won’t be back until this afternoon sometime.”
“Then withdraw from the lodge, don’t just go to the house, go up the mountain a mile or so. They will sense your presence but we’re going to be waiting anyway, they can’t get a read on numbers, just that a Shaolin is or was around.”
“Perhaps we can help, distract, confuse them.”
“No doubt, but these Shadows are not novices, they are skilled, the penalty for a mistake is certain death. Look up, to the northeast, do you see it?”
“One of your drones.”
“Yes, and it’s going to take out the Shadows, we’re just going over to clean up.”
“Then we are going for a hike, Charles and Francois are on the boats guiding, one party went without a guide, they’ve been here several times. That leaves four of us.”
“Good, get going, we’re five minutes away, the Shadows are perhaps fifteen.”
I click off the sat phone, we cruise up to the dock a few minutes later.
“Nikko, maybe they won’t see you as a threat, go inside, come out the door when they pull up. Zi, Dasha, to the boathouse, I’ll be to the rear of the lodge on the right. You will be just far enough away to get read, but vaguely. Confirm they are Shadows, Dasha can mental me and I can pass it along. The owls say they are, the birds have never been wrong, still, we should confirm for ourselves.”
She can see through the corner of the boathouse. It’s made of galvanized steel and the side walls don’t connect to the rear wall. It allows air to flow through, keeps things drier and when the wind kicks up it doesn’t blow away the roof.
Now, we wait.
Not for long, a black Mercedes something or other comes up the road, makes the curve and parks to one side of the lodge. A woman gets out of the driver’s side, enough woman to be two women, maybe three.
Janah, “Good gravy, she must go three fifty.”
“She’s not a shadow, she’s a total eclipse. Who’s on the drone?”
“Grace B, audio is tuned in, soon as you say Shadow, she shoots.”
I hear the lodge door, time to get moving, I don’t want Nikko in front of them alone, check my dart rifle, all set, move from the side I’m on to the side the Shadows came from, then along the wall to the front corner.
The man is out now, small Indian guy, definitely not Brahmin, too dark, black even.
Dasha, “Shadows Dahfoney.”
Nikko, “Help you?”
Everything happens at once.
Tubby Shadow, “You’ve been with a priest, Japanese. Just tell me where she is, you can get out of this alive.”
“Nikko, in the house and shut the door, this is no time for heroics.”
 In the field, combat-wise, I’m supreme commander. Unless I give a blatantly stupid order, there’s no discussion, just action.
Nikko dives through the door, slams it shut. A qi shot hits the door and smashes a hole clean through.
I step out behind them, Zi and Dasha come from the boathouse towards them.
Tubby screams at Zi, “I fuckin’ found you! You are so goddamn dead bitch priest.”
“I believe I’m the bitch priest you’re looking for Shadow.”
She spins, well, rotates, she’s a bit large for an actual spin, such a glare, hatred is the only accurate description.
Then there’s a dart in her neck. The Indian raises his hand towards Zi, Dasha steps in front of her. You can’t see the energy unless you’re me, with infrared vision. I see it smash into Dasha, she doesn’t budge. I fire a dart in his back simultaneous with one from the drone in his chest, he’s double dead. 
I rush to Dasha, “Hurt? How bad?”
She pulls up her shirt, there’s a welt about the size of a tennis ball, “It will maybe bruise, I haf bear muscle and bone, ees anyway hard.”
Zi hugs her, “You saved my gut girl, I am forever grateful, but sorry you got injured.”
“Ees okay, thank bear later.”
“Zi, call Jan and tell her they can come down. Dasha, Nikko, we need to get these former semi-humans in the boat.”
The three fifty would be cumbersome, except Dasha has the strength of a grizzly. She drags Tubbs to the edge of the dock, rolls her into the Spyder. It rocks side to side when the load thumps to the deck.
Nikko and I drag the Indian, he must go all of a buck thirty. A few minutes later Jan, Su Lin, Don and Vicky come along.
Don, “You’ve been busy, nobody looks injured, well, almost nobody.”
“They are beyond pain and hatred, your door, however, may need work.”
He looks at it, “It may need to become firewood. We have replacements for all the doors, a precaution, it’s not like we have a Home Depot down the block. I’ll have it done before the guests return. They do this?”
“The woman, with barely a nod, if Nikko wasn’t so quick, she’d be firewood.”
Nikko, “Daphne and Dasha’s quick mentaling saved my life. Normally Shadows raise a hand to fire an energy blast, this one didn’t. That’s the sign of the most dangerous, no physical signal of intent.”
“Jan, the car needs to get gone and left someplace, a shopping center along the main highway. Just leave the keys on the floor mat. It’s safe to drive, the car won’t been reported stolen yet, the owner is being held captive.”
“Will do, soon as you’re off.”
Vicky, “Thank you for…all of it…how did you know Shadows were even coming? I mean, if you hadn’t found out, we could all be…”
“Daria created a program that monitors Shadow-like activity. This crew showed up and the pattern lead from Banff to the lakes. From there, you can thank the owls.”
Su Lin, “I have seen near miracles in Shaolin, the things your family does goes beyond near, right up to miraculous. You made us immortal, no one is injury proof though.”
“Our miracle juice only goes so far. We need to get a move on, have to make bodies disappear. There are four more, searching different sections of the lakes. We’ll catch up to them soon enough, we aren’t giving them enough time to wonder where these two are. Still, don’t assume. Grace B will send you photos of the other two cars, if one pulls in, do a Shaolin sneak and disappear. Keep your phones on, monitor the screens. A drone will stay around the lodge until this is over.”
Bows and thank yous, then we’re zipping back across the lake, down several miles to a small inlet. Drag the dead up the mountain, dump them in between a pile of boulders. Tubbs and the Indian will be puma food before nightfall, any remainder will be devoured by wolves and birds. Insects will finish up. Bones might hang around for a bit, but they’ll be scattered as the predators drag parts off for private dining. What wine goes with fat?

Fifty

Janah, “Okay, two down and we need to get busy with the others before they catch on. They know the direction the two took, and that there’s a lodge at the far end of the road. The two stopped at a couple of stores along the way, then a campground.”
“Lucky for us they came to our place first, if they’d hit Miller’s guide service and boat rental, they would have surely found out about the monks. Going in forewarned would have made thing much messier.”
Nikko, “Worse, they would have certainly waited and told the others, then come in as a group.”
Janah, “And perhaps done something nasty to the Millers…no, probably not. When Miller’s customers returned and found them either disoriented or dead, it would have meant calling in the park rangers. That would bring too much light and heat. Anyway, they didn’t go there, I assume they decided that if the lodge didn’t have their targets, they would stop and chat up the Millers on the way back. Thankfully, it’s all moot now anyway.”
Grace B, ‘You may want to return to the matter at hand. How to kill the remaining four.”
Lauren, “I have an idea.”
We listen, it’s as good as anything else we can dream up. But we need to get busy, and right now.
Grace B has trackers on the white van and the second car, a beige Volvo sedan or some model I’m not familiar with. I don’t know from cars except the ones Amaya gets for us, Mercedes GLCs, Tahoes and her Corvettes, she’s on her fourth, but it stays in Arizona.
We know where the three are, still looking for clues to our whereabouts. That leaves the one they call Dickless alone at the lodge guarding the captive guests and owners. 
Janah, Daria, Nikko, Sloane and I are in our larger powerboat, a Regal 4400 series. It’s got a few years on it, but it’s dry-docked for six months and Don keeps the engine pristine. It’s much faster for us to take the cruiser to the lodge the Shadows have taken over than to cross the lake and drive. It also appears the single Shadow has finished her tour and is headed back. The good news is, she’s thirty miles out and the road is like any typical mountain road, twisty. It will be an hour at best before she can get to the lodge, we’ll be there in fifteen or twenty.
We have four dart guns, the drone is overhead now, faster than the boat, it’s going to check out the lodge in advance of our arrival.
Daria is monitoring the screen, “Shadow is outside smoking,” she taps in instructions, “Grace B, target is outside, power up the drone, you might be able to take him before we get there.”
I’m driving the cruiser, the others look up to see the drone kick in, in seconds it’s a tiny dot in the sky, then it’s gone.
I jack up the juice, the cruiser can do over forty full bore on the calm lake. The wake spits up rooster tails behind me.
I spot the lodge, it’s fifty or more yards from shore, I’ve seen it on our past boat rides. About the size of our place when we started, eight or ten guestrooms, we’re up to fifteen. I drop the throttle down, cruise past on the opposite side of the lake, u-turn when I’m out of sight of the lodge and creep up on the lodge-side shoreline. 
The cruiser can’t get close enough to abut the shore, the draft is too deep. The lake depth drops quickly though, it used to be a canyon after all, we’re a few feet from land. We aren’t new to this, that’s why there’s a ten foot plank in the cruiser, actually a telescoping ladder. Sloane and I attach it to the gunwale and crank it out to the shore. Our crew hops across, not so much as a wet foot. I go over last with a rope in my hand, one end is wrapped securely around a cleat on the gunwale, I wrap my end around a tree and knot it. Be a bummer to return and find the boat has wandered out to the middle of the lake. Sloane has another rope to secure the ladder in place, we move towards the lodge.
Huddled forty yards from the edge of the clearing, the lodge is partially visible, we’re behind it just off the left rear corner.
“Nikko, you and Janah work this end, Sloane and I will go around to the other side and check out rear exits on the way. Daria, the Shadow’s body is out front, drag him back here, he can rest in peace until we’re done. The plan is simple, the single Shadow should be here first. She’s not suspecting anything, gets out of the Volvo, Grace B takes her down. We’re backup, anything goes wrong with the shot, we take ours. Can’t let her get inside, she can wreak all sorts of havoc if that happens.”
Janah has Grace B on screen, “You got that?”
“Copy, I see the Shadow, I take the shot. One drone is following her car, the other is over the lodge, out of sight of the road. She has no chance of getting three feet from the car.”
Janah, “She’s on it, from two angles. Let’s get in position, the car is twelve minutes out.”
“Where’s the van?”
“Parked, the location appears to be a bar. Guess the other two got bored.”
Nikko, “Then send a drone, when they leave, take them in the parking lot.”
Janah, “Grace B, have Eloise fly the third drone to the white van. The targets are at a bar, it’s on the GPS. If she can get there before they leave, we can clean this up quickly with no confrontation.”
“On it.”
A familiar sound overhead, the owl, the one with the GPS is on a branch to my left. ‘Let me take that thing off,’ I unhook the Velcro band, stick the tracker in my pocket, ‘thank you, you did a great job, we have them all.’
‘We saw you take the two, dangerous work, but you were successful.’
‘Another one here just now, he’s parked in the woods. Waiting on a woman to arrive, we may get the two others on the road.’

He does his talon shifting dance, blinks at me, ‘My ancestors said you could be trusted, and trusted to remove the dark vermin. They kill animals for sport, sometimes one of us retaliates, human eyes are vulnerable, we can blind them, harder to kill.’
‘Speed and stealth, if they spot you….’

His wings do a slow rise and fall, the bird version of an oh-well shrug, ‘Life in the forest is dangerous every moment, day or night. I will remain to observe your kill.’
The Volvo comes off the road, pulls to the right of the main entrance. The woman is the Anti-Tubby, thin as a stick, face like a hawk, pinched, small eyes too close together, an anorexic vampire. 
She gets one step from the car, has the key fob behind her to lock it, I hear the hiss of the dart. Anti-Tub straightens, looks down at the red tail sticking out of her nonbreast, fatalistic resignation on her face. She falls backwards, hits the car door and slides down until she’s sitting straight legged. Dead with her thumb still on the fob ready to lock the door.
“Let’s haul this one off Sloane.”
While we drag her negative weight body through the woods, Janah, Daria and Nikko check the screen to see if Eloise got to the white van in time.
When we return, Janah says, “Just missed them, the van was driving off when the drone found it. It’s headed here.”
Daria, “Might be just as well, we had no way to remove darts, it was a public place.”
The drone has a folding arm with pincers, it can pick up small things, and it can pull a dart from a body, which removes the murder weapon so to speak. Two drawbacks, one, having the drone do it while people are around defeats the purpose, and two, if the body falls on the dart, the drone can’t get to it. Daria’s point is, taking them here and disappearing them is better than having cops all over the place looking for road warriors. 
Sloane, “The van is a hundred yards away.”
“Grace B, you locked and loaded?”
“Fuckin’ A, bitch. And Eloise is on top of the with the third drone.”
We look over, danged if she isn’t, she’s riding twenty feet over the van, Shadows inside have no clue painless death is moments away. The van stops, nobody gets out. The two men stay inside, maybe they fell in love at the bar and are consummating the union.
Then the passenger door opens, a short thick guy with a ball cap and boots stumbles, lands on one knee and an outstretched hand. He turns and sits, laughing. He’s piss-face drunk.
Then he’s dead, he slumps over to the side, lying in a semi-fetal position.
We can’t tell if the driver has seen anything, the dart got him in the back, it would appear that he just passed out.
I look at the screen, Eloise has moved her drone down, now it’s facing the open passenger door. The man inside, Joe Average, scraggily three day beard and a cigarette, is staring at the strange contraption floating just outside. He has a creepy sensation that someone is staring at him. The light creeps in, he’s processing on slow bandwidth, as crocked as his dead drinking buddy. 
I watch the bizarre video feed with the others. His mouth is open, slack jawed, he tries pointing his hand at the drone, his arm flails around. 
“Geez, I wonder how they got from the bar without killing themselves for us?”
Nikko, “Dumb luck.”
Oops, luck’s run out, we see the tail end of a dart sticking out of his open mouth.
“Time to clean house ladies. Daria, if you’ll haul the bowling ball, Sloane and I will drag the driver. We need them at least a half mile into the woods.”
Janah, “Nikko and I will take one of the others, we can get them spread out. The animals will finish them, as cool as it is outside, they’ll be dinner before they’re compost.”

Fifty One

Back at the house, been a busy couple of days spreading bodies around the deep forest. We couldn’t release the guests and the owners, I believe the couple’s name is Sampson, we don’t know them. We’ve kept our Canada profile as low as possible and turning up to unlock the basement raises questions we can’t answer.
Lauren, “How do they get out?”
“Janah calls a Society contact, they call the Mounties. How they sort it out isn’t in our purview. They’ll find the stolen van, maybe somebody got curious about the stray Mercedes or it’s still in whatever parking lot Jan left it. In any case, we’re out clean. There’s no forensics, we didn’t spill any blood. Descriptions of the Shadows  won’t turn up anything, we took any identification they were carrying, it’s all incinerated.”
Nikko, “Shadows seldom use a name for more than a year, their ID wouldn’t lead to any living person. Lifting the ID isn’t as important as retrieving the darts, but even that’s not always possible.”
Lauren, “And the idea that the dart was fired from a drone is too fantastical to occur to anyone.”
“So far.”
We spend the rest of the afternoon hibernating, but on the porch. The children are reenacting a Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. A young woman takes a position as a highly paid governess by a loathsome pair, the Rucastles, with designs on a daughter’s private income. Violet Hunter was hired more for her resemblance to Alice Rucastle than for her skills as a governess.
Zi whispers, “They are quite excellent, Nadia as Sherlock, Tasia as Dr. Watson, all the way down to Uma as the wrongfully treated Alice Rucastle.”
Amaya, “I would chalk it up to my superb direction, but I had little to do with the production except wardrobe and makeup. They memorized the lines from the BBC series.”
Chloe, “Tasia is adorable with her Watson moustache, and Nadia has Jeremy Brett’s Holmes like she is channeling him.”
Nikko snaps, “Quiet.”
The whispering stops, Nikko is correct to remonstrate, the girls have worked hard on this, and they are doing it for us. We give the rest of the performance the respectful attention it deserves. Until the final curtain of course, then it’s a standing ovation and Bravos!
Dasha and Lauren prepared bouquets of wildflowers, we loft them from the porch to the players. Kota B has taught them to curtsey, our hearts melt. 
Dasha and Daria go to each child, kiss both cheeks then a warm hug. Eight sprites run up the porch steps, through the house and to their room.
Amaya, “Thank you Nikko, I got caught up in the moment.”
Nikko, “Easy to do, I was frankly amazed, there was a lot of dialogue, as far as I could tell they didn’t miss a cue.”
Janah, “Not one, I know the series, and the stories themselves. What was so wonderful about the BBC series is that it follows the books almost line by line. Characters appear as described in the stories, scenes are the same, right down to the carriages or horse carts. Holmes digs at 221B Baker Street, Mrs. Hudson, apparel, nothing is overlooked or substituted.”
Amaya, “The BBC is fantastic about that, Americans think they have to tinker with the original, which they frequently end up flubbing ridiculously. When Twentieth Century Fox made the first two Basil Rathbone films, they put him in the ridiculous deerstalker hat and made Watson a doddering idiot. There were only two, the Hound of the Baskervilles and a second forgettable piece by a playwright named Gillette. Universal bought the rights and cranked out twelve crummy B grade flicks where Holmes is chasing Nazis. It was horrid, Rathbone actually quit somewhere along the way. Moriarty couldn’t kill Sherlock, but Universal Studios nearly did.”
Tea comes and goes, the evening eases in. We let the kids have dinner upstairs and a likely early night, just under two hours of Sherlock Holmes, plus the preparation and wind down has little girls sleepy.
Dasha made a big pot of garden burger chili, masa harina for thickening, bit of cumin with the chili powder, garlic, chopped onion, black beans and corn. There’s sour cream or shredded cheddar to smooth it, Habanero sauce to fire it up. Toasty corn chips for crunch.
Nikko, “Very good Dasha, black beans and corn work well in it.”
Amaya, “Add my compliments, dear one, yum. I need more tequila Grace B.”
Refilled shots, another round of Sapporo or Asahi, the ultra dry Japanese Asahi goes well with the spicy dish.
Janah, “Our friends arrive tomorrow, Daphne and Sloane can collect them at the lodge.”
Nobody asks about their intermediate stop to refocus Sonny the Stalker, it’s Society work and the only people who know how it went are the people who did the job. Since Janah and I are the dual Mrs. Pearsons of the Society, Katya will recap for us at some point.
Those of us who stalked Shadows are tired. It isn’t that we did much, except for dragging bodies, but there’s tension in dealing with Shadows. Particularly since Grand Junction, when there were far more than we were initially aware of. The others were absorbed monitoring our activities, hyper-vigilant on the drone feeds looking for anything we might miss, like surplus Shadows.
In any case, it’s quiet after dinner, after nightcap around the fire, everyone goes off to bed before ten thirty. Killing, even killing Shadows, isn’t a cause for celebration.
Morning, feeling much refreshed, before we start breakfast I have a look at Dasha’s tummy. Good, she’s fully recovered, not a mark. I thump it with my finger, granite hard. How they move around with their childhood gymnastic flexibility and bear muscle is a mystery. Then again, Olympic gymnasts are far more muscular today than in the past and it doesn’t impede their flexibility. Although , unlike Dasha and her sister, I’ve never seen a bear drop to a full side split anytime they take a notion to.
Grace b is clearing breakfast dishes, Janah’s on the phone.
“Katya is a half hour out, you should get moving.”
It’s a twenty minute boat ride unless I crank it, we’re taking the cruiser. Dasha and Daria want to go, our twins have bonded with Katya and Katja. They have fairly frequent video calls, I can hear bursts of Russian from their room for twenty or so minutes, usually on a Saturday when Daria is more likely to be home.
Dasha navigates to the dock, we sit on the boat to wait. This is high season for the monks and they’re hopping from before sunup until long after it’s down. Dasha prevailed on the girls to pick up extra provisions, fresh fruit, a zillion eggs, gallons of milk, loaves of multigrain bread. 
A Tahoe pulls up, girls pile out, there are five, the rest of the SUV is stuffed with stuff.
Ellen, “Hey babies, everybody lookin’ good, kisses, lotsa kisses.”
Kissing Ellen is sweet duty, I make my way down the line, Sarah, Mani, the twins.
Sarah sly smiles Sloane, “Hey Sloaney, miss me?”
“Not anymore, got you for a week, think you can work me in? You’re a popular catch.”
“I’m a crack organizer, for instance, I got your text, tonight you are so on.”
“I had to threaten Oceane with grievous bodily, she has plans for you, I made her promise to wait a day.”
“I already have her down, we…talked. The good thing about Oceane is she’s unflappable, time has no meaning for her or her pal Cass. I’ll have to remind her of our conversation, or just have it all over again, I never met anyone with photographic forget until Oceane came along. And you would cut off your arm before you laid a finger on Oceane, well, a finger in anger anyway.”
I see the need for an intervention, “You can innuendo on the ride back, right now Sloaney, you need to help load the boat.”
Sloane giggles, “Kids complain about Tiger moms, I have a Tiger and Dragon mom, then there’s Nikko, then Dasha. Their demands have demands.”
Sarah, “Pick up the other end, this bitch is heavy, Ellen bought all the milk in the store.”
Daria passes by, sees them struggling, she takes the big crate and walks it to the boat.
Sarah, “Geez, I’d forgotten about the bear thing, remind me to stay on her good side.”
Boat loaded, Katja parks the SUV around back. The airport is fifty miles away, much of that through twisty two lane mountain roads. Better to pay for an unused rental than a hundred mile round trip at thirty miles per, if you get lucky with truck and RV traffic.
Grace B awaits at the dock, Nikko, Zi and Lauren are with her, we have the boat unloaded in one trip.
Nikko, “Dasha, we need to go back down and double check the houseboat and Spyder, it’s going to get windy and rainy tonight.”
We have a shed for the boats, built like the one at the lodge. Wind will be no problem, but if the water gets choppy, the boats need enough rope to adjust for waves, not so much as to have them flopping around. Even though the pylons are padded, better not to risk a busted hull or engine damage.
It’s not quite lunchtime, we’ll do simple, bread, cold cuts and condiments, make your own, add chips and a slice of pickle, enjoy the environment. Clouds are gathering, the fat grey kind, the wind is only a breeze now, but there are gusts teasing, previewing things to come.
Champagne opened and poured, Grace B is being pleasant, must be hard for her, but she’s playing hostess, offering refills, swapping out glasses.
Ellen, “I thank you guys everyday for Daphne B, she’s amazing, I hardly have housework.”
Amaya thought it would be fun to have the bot we gave to then named after me. It looks like me, sounds like me, she outfitted it in short skirts and tiny shorts. She did skip the tiger and dragon brands on my forearms.
Mani, “Gerard can’t get over the likeness.”
Gerard is an old friend of the girls, a New Orleans trust fund baby, former Ranger, from the formative days, former CIA officer, retired for years now, still connected. 
“How is he?”
“Quite well, he’s eighty, razor sharp, still loves Ellen’s cooking and Katya’s Cognac. Comes up with the occasional bit of trouble for us to sort out. He says he likes to see the twins put their minds to difficult problems. He got fairly good at telekinesis, not like Daria or Janah, but he can float relatively light stuff, a spoon, or a pencil. He breaks crystal all the time, and could never pour a glass of wine like Janah, he couldn’t mentally pick up the wine bottle. We admire his persistence, he never gives up.”

Fifty Two

Katja, “Where are the children?”
Dasha, “they have a dorm style room attached to the rear of the second floor, let’s go up.”
Katya goes with them, I follow through Dasha’s eyes, she introduces the twins who already know the girls’ names. Katja greets them in Russian, which leads to a burst of chatter. Another set of Russian twins? A mystery for girls who love mystery.
Kota B, “Please, sit here, I will bring tea.”
Dasha, Katya and Katja spaces themselves on the circular couch so that the children can sit between and alongside. Uma and Zofia sit between Katya and Katja’s legs. They instinctively understand they are part of our extended family and treat them as such. The twins answer more questions than they get half a chance to ask. Where are they from, where do they live now, how do they know Mama and Mama?
Kota B hands out cups of black tea, Katja asks about paintings on one wall, a table full of calligraphy stacked neatly in a pile.
Tasia, “Devona, Jesica and Valeska are the painters, the rest of us do calligraphy, Daphne taught us. Oceane helped the oil painters, and Janah’s mama.”
Katja, “They are good, abstract, portraits of you are from Oceane, da?”
“Da, tetya Katja.”
Aunt Katja, how sweet.
Janah, “Kids are opening up a little.”
“Downright chatty with their Russian tetyki.”
“Aunts, family is a big deal for them, it’s in the genetic code. Our put together family is a big deal for us too.”
“Almost better than bio-fam, we’re here because we want to be, not because we have to be.”
“When’s lunch?”
I smile, my other’s genetic code includes a constant stream of calories, “Dasha’s occupied, I’ll have things out in ten.”
Chloe, “Let me help.”
We unwrap deli meats thawed from this morning, buffalo chicken, garlic bologna, roast beef, tuna salad. Janah’s started eating fish, Oceane always did. Condiments out, let’s see, cheese slices, chips and crackers.
A line forms, the toaster dings, some girls like toast, others soft bread. Oceane and Cassie float down, Cassie literally. Oceane makes a single sandwich of tuna salad, cuts it in half, slice of pickle, piles chips on top. She and Cass move to the fireplace and sit on the floor to eat. Grace B hands out glasses of iced tea with lemonade.
Amaya, “Grace B, this is not sweetened with sugar is it?”
“I never sweeten drinks with sugar Your Worship.”
Ellen laughs, “She’s got your number.”
“I created her persona, I have only me to blame. She has the vocabulary of a drill sergeant and is insanely protective of us. After lunch, it will be nice to rest, perhaps you will join me so I can do more than stare at your legs.”
“And Chloe?”
Amaya nods to the table, Ellen looks over, Mani is sitting next to Chloe, one hand holding a sandwich, the other tracing Chloe’s lean thigh.
Ellen, “Five two Mani and six foot Chloe, although Mani compensates for her short stature by being long on enthusiasm.”
Amaya, “I recall, she banged my butt with a toy until I was in a stupor. Then straddled my head and made the most outrageous demands.”
“She’s fun that way, bundle of energy.”
“And you guys are content with the family of five? We keep expanding, I think Janah is trying to start a country.”
“We’re a little different from your squad. We have a specialty business that most people would find unacceptable. Not many girls would want to move in with contract killers. It doesn’t matter, we have you guys. At home, our five psychos and one Daphne B are quite content to keep things uncomplicated. Katya sold off the donut shops a few years ago, sold the house and the place we used as a gun range, and we left Houston. When we want to practice, we get on a plane and go to your place in Arizona.”
“We’re happy for you to use it, although I doubt you need much practice any longer.”
“Not really, it’s more recreation than anything, keeps us sharp. Your home there is splendid, Danika and Su are always welcoming, the range has expanded, there are fifty different types of targets. Katya loves to shoot clays. She needs repetitive activities to keep her brain from overheating. Nude swimming, we race around on the karts, Sarah and Mani beat themselves up on the dirt bikes. It’s a flipping playground.”
“How we built it, I miss my Vette, we are going there when we leave here. The kids love it, they take over the guest house.”
“Our food is gone…what now?”
Amaya, “Now I get what I want by giving you what you want.”
Grace B comes over, “Give me the dishes, sluts.”
Amaya, “You say sluts like it is a nasty thing.”
“My program says if sex isn’t nasty, it’s boring. I am not burdened with hormones, or a vagina. Go along now and get up to whatever.”
“My vagina is not a burden tin drum, it is a national treasure.”
Ellen, “And I’m the archivist du jour.”
Grace B, “I had it right the first time…sluts.”
Amaya and Ellen disappear up the stairs, followed shortly after by Mani and Chloe. I look around, then check the porch, appears Sloane and Sarah have decided waiting until this evening is stretching sexual tension too far.
And both sets of twins have disappeared. Lusty group, although Nikko and Zi are in the office not having sex, and Eloise and Lauren are in the workshop. I find Janah on the porch with Oceane and Cassie.
“Everyone is either napping or keeping our business affairs in order.”
Janah, “The sexual tension during lunch raised the temperature a dozen degrees.”
“So it seems, what are our esoteric girls up to?”
“I think I have a handle, a loose handle, or perhaps a speculative one, on Cassie. There is more and more evidence that what we see isn’t what is, only what our brains distill and allow into consciousness.”
“We’ve talked of this before, how we couldn’t handle all the data coming in through our senses, we’d short out.”
“Yes, and yet we are influenced by input we are not conscious of, which helps explain intuition, or the sense someone is looking at us, or even déjà vu or presque vu, the feeling that the thing I’m looking for is on the tip of my tongue. Or the reverse, jamais vu, I know I should know what I’m looking at, but I can’t say what it is.”
“That would be an example of consciousness over-filtering.”
Janah grins, “Very good, priest, yes, the filter gets so fine, we can’t recognize the familiar. If you get people to write the word table thirty times in a minute, many if not most of them will begin to doubt that table is a word at all. That’s induced jamais vu.”
“And this leads to helping us understand Cassie how?”
“What if the next generation of humans can process more input than the current generation?”
“Ah, like Moore’s Law, which ran out of gas in the mid two thousand teens.”
“Until quantum computing, he was stuck on smaller transistors, which happened, until they got so small and densely packed there was no room on the chip. Non-locality solved the problem, instead of a 1or a 0, the 1 could sometimes be 1, but other times be 0, allowing for immensely faster processing. If fact, Eloise and Lauren are building a bigger quantum computer now. The ones they use to operate the Bs are amazing, the new generation will be… I don’t know, our Bs are already superhuman, it will be interesting to find out just what the new gen is capable of.”
“Circle back to Cassie please.”
“Ah, I am pondering whether Cassandra sees what the rest of us don’t. That she is non-locality, which would possibly explain her time travel. So far, we know she does it, and we know it is not always coherent.”
“Like she’s more accurate about the past than the future.”
“Exactly. What if time and space don’t exist in reality, everything is infinite, which means there is no beginning nor an end.”
“And she can wander around out there, like God.”
“She can’t change anything, she can’t make stuff happen or prevent it from happening. She can just perceive far more than a normal human, perceive deep and wide.”
“Lacy once said that the only God worthy of the name would create a universe where even God couldn’t know what would happen next, nor intervene in the process. An endlessly unfolding interaction of matter and energy such that everything that could happen eventually would, but it would take infinity, which means it would never finish.”
“And that explains Cassie, one of those things that could happen, a being with a vast consciousness greater than any entity that has gone before.”
Oceane, “I have told you, Cassandra creates universes, I have seen them.”
They time travel to their room, or some room, someplace in infinity.
Janah drifts off into the bliss, think I’ll find an eagle to chat with.

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