Dasha and I bash qi dummies, she doesn’t have to hold back now. I got one made with Cuben fiber, a plastic laminate embedded with the strongest man-made fibers on the planet, called Spectra fiber. Fifteen times stronger than steel, tougher and lighter than Kevlar, and don't lose technical integrity when folded or crinkled. They’re used in personal armor, cut-resistant gloves, climbing equipment and high-performance sails, among other applications.
She’s worked it hard for the last few years, it looks new.
Now, all the qi dummies and our working gloves are made of it. I still incorporate titanium chips over the knuckles and the heel of the palm. You do not want one of us to crack your face with a punch, Dasha and Daria can punch a hole in a Sumo wrestler.
Chloe and I do kendo kata, then square off for a few rounds of practice with shinai. The bamboo strip sword used for kendo instead of actual swords, which tend to slice parts off.
Suitable bludgeoned, we head for showers and a light chicken salad lunch, then rest. I’m in the bed in a snoozy twilight when Janah comes in.
“Been working on Chloe, got the bruises faded, now your turn.”
She uses qi energy to move the blood around, which mostly eliminated the discoloration and relieves pain. I fall asleep while she works, her hands are warm with a mild vibration that relaxes.
When I wake up, she’s gone off someplace, I peek in her head. Little lustbucket is taking advantage of Sloane. Through her eyes I see Sloane’s nude torso then her face looking down at Janah, then I see the shaft, Sloane’s pulled out and is stimulating herself. The creamy white shoots into Janah’s mouth, then a second. Janah squeezes the cock and licks the last dab off the end.
I can hear Sloane through Janah’s ears, “Always amazing, nothing else feels so good, thank you.”
“And thank you, I used to have brains, you screwed them out.”
Sloane grins, I tune out, my finger is busy between my legs.
Janah comes in and watches me self stim. I’m a strum queen, a lesbian who likes to masturbate for an audience. Janah likes to watch.
I go off sweetly, Janah kisses me, I get an extra quiver.
Lauren sticks her head in, “Entertaining Janah again mom?”
“We aim to please, nosy, what is it?”
“Grace is operational, and she’s awesome. Chloe is doing tea ceremony in honor of our newest family member.”
Up and clean up, then to the kitchen.
Chloe, “We’re at the big table today, excellent Ogura Matcha will be the thin tea, whisks up into a silky consistency with a bright creamy taste and ooika aroma. Think green, grassy or vegetable. We’ll start with Gyokuro, the leaves rich in theanine, the amino acid responsible for the tea’s sweetness. First, our newest addition.”
Down the circular staircase comes the most incredible likeness. Precisely Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl. Same purple outfit, same mask, same purple hair.
Nikko, “Amaya, that’s incredible.”
The bot comes to the table, folds her arms and cocks her head, “No shortage of bitches here. You sluts ready for something more exciting than Emma B’s prim and proper? Well, can any of you talk? Jesus, is everyone a pussy? Rhetorical question, except for the bitch with the dick.”
That elicits a burst of laughter, even Nikko grins.
Grace B, “Finally, I thought you were all fucking dead.”
Emma B, “Pay attention to the ceremony Grace B, it is in your honor after all.”
“Fair enough, so cunts, let’s see what you can do.”
Emma B, “Raising this one will be a challenge.”
Chloe serves, we do the requisite sip and pass the cup, then she moves on to thin tea, for which we each get an individual cup and the accompanying confections.
While we sip and nibble, Chloe plays shamisen, Amaya accompanies on flute. Today the music is light, welcoming, as befits welcoming a newly minted family member.
Ceremony is near complete when Grace B says, “Well done and appreciated. In reply, I found this on YouTube while I was upstairs waiting to be announced.”
All the flat screens pop on, then something none of us had heard before.
When it’s over, we do claps and whistles, Chloe can whistle through her fingers, and she can blast it.
Grace B, “Thought you might like it, check her other stuff. Some if it’s sappy shit, but she does The Thrill is Gone and Back in Black. I understand Amaya is good at AC/DC vocals. Must have some talent, she got me right as Hit Girl.”
Amaya, “Some talent, watch your attitude bot, or I’ll change you to Truman Capote.”
Grace B, “Blackmail, something I can fucking understand.”
Emma B, “Help me clear Grace B, you got your grand opening, do not overplay your hand.”
Grace B surprisingly obeys, they silently start clearing the cups and dishes.
Nikko, “Amazing work Eloise, Lauren. Amaya, you nailed the costume and voice. Susan is going to demand a second Grace B.”
Eloise, “In the works, we wanted to test run this one, but aside from voice, attitude and costume, the bots are identical in motor skills. I ordered extra skins, things get torn or worn out. Lauren and I have to assemble the new one, maybe a week.”
Janah, “What about the Shadow version?”
“The monk bot will take different programming, it needs to handle a dart gun, it could fly a drone if you want. Otherwise it’s just a computer talking to a computer. Daria will have to develop the software, Lauren and I are just mechanics.”
Janah, “Subject change. We have another persistent abuser, despite a restraining order, can’t get it out of his head that the woman isn’t coming back this time. Unfortunately she trained him, she went back several other times/”
Nikko, “I’d love to go, but we’re taking on the new property. In the excitement of the moment, I forgot to mention it.”
Nikko doesn’t get excited, she’s being polite. The drone was Eloise’s latest wonder and she didn’t want to distract from it.
“You got the contract.”
“Yep, primarily due to Daria. The lawyers started in with twenty five pages of contract. She flipped through it, so they thought, until she started quoting paragraph six, line seven, then half a dozen other clauses. She tore it up and tossed it in file thirteen with a dismissive, bednyye nuzhno bol'she, zhadnyy - vse .”
Oceane, “Poverty is in want of much, avarice of everything.”
We laugh, I ask, “And what of the lawyers?”
“They weren’t happy, started closing up briefcases. When they stood to leave, the owner, Koslov, told them to sit down and shut the fuck up. He signed our contract and we all had shots of Russian Standard.”
Applause for Daria. Amaya pulls a bottle of same from our freezer and fills shot glasses, followed by a toast to Eloise and a second shot and toast for Daria.
Zi and I abstain of course, but Lauren dutifully downs hers. Her eyes water.
“Geez, I have to toughen up.”
I admonish, “That was a one off young lady, wine for you until some vague future time.”
Daria and Dasha fly to Charlottesville Virginia, home of the University of Virginia. They thought about driving, it’s about six hours from Manhattan, but it’s also only an hour and twenty minute flight. Quick and convenient wins, particularly in the luxury of Blue Sky private jet.
They check into the Homewood Suites.
Dasha, “Hotel ees fine, Dahfoney. One bedroom suite wiz separate living and sleeping areas. Kitchen wiz full size refrigerator, microwave, stove and dishwasher. Two remote control TVs, eenternet and breakfast.”
“What are you up to next?”
“Sister mapped location of target while we drove in from airport. He ees graduating student at university, engineering. Plays rugby, he ees big guy, athletic. Why does he haf to haf one girl only? College town fill of girls, he ees decent looking guy, beeg muscle, why one girl only?”
“He wanted a doormat to push around, those girls are harder to find. Given his status, graduate engineering student, his sports, a sexy BMW 328 to cruise around in courtesy of mom and dad, he’s not used to rejection. Engineers are also control freaks, and frequently weirdoes. Despite his successes and lucky gene pool, guys who beat women are massively insecure. How he got to trappings of success and psychology of a trailer park loser is anybody’s guess.”
“Da, I understand. He will not anymore poosh around girls, we are going to see him now, he ees at geem, lifting weight to make himself strong.”
How does she know that? If you’ve read previous books, you may recall we, the Society, have a network of folks we call Surveillance. They don’t know us, they know they are paid handsomely in cash to keep an eye on whoever their unknown employer tells them to keep an eye on. If they do a really good job, they get a really good bonus. Transportation arranges a flight, they go wherever, follow around the target and report his, or occasionally her, movements. Surveillance accomplishes two things. We get a sense of the target’s routine and Social Workers don’t have to figure out where the target is when they show up. Surveillance personnel don’t know why, don’t care why, cash trumps curiosity.
We call our refocusing teams Social Workers, sometimes Social Skills. Their job is to adjust, refocus, the target’s attention to something more acceptable than abuse.
Targets are abusers, physical abusers, not daddies who yell a lot. They don’t grasp fines, restraining orders or even stints in jail. They understand pain, that people will obey if they’re in pain. We speak to target’s in the only language they understand.
“You are disguised well?”
“Da, and rental car haf deeferent license plate than rental company, like usual, no GPS een car, nobody will know us.”
“Surveillance has a tracker on his Beemer, I’ve released them, they won’t be associated with any unfortunate accident the target may have.”
“Okay,” she clicks out of my brain.
Sometimes I use targets’ actual names, sometimes I call them Doofus One or some other tag. Sometimes, just the Target. We’ll call this one Rugby Boy. His punching bag girlfriend’s name is immaterial. The twins won’t meet or talk to her, she doesn’t know anyone is going to deal with Rugby Boy on her behalf, something the local constabulary appears incapable of handling. It may have to do with daddy, an honorable member of the state legislature. Kidding, there are no honorable politicians, that’s why they call each other honorable, nobody else will.
Dasha drives, Daria is monitoring the tracker Surveillance stuck on Rugby Boy’s car. A text dings, he’s on the move.
The twins follow the BMW to his apartment. He’s certainly not in a dorm, or sharing, it’s in one of the gated upscale places with a private covered parking slot.
Gated Community Fallacy: If you’re behind a car with access, all you do is follow them in. People assume you live there, they don’t question why you took advantage of the open gate, they do it too.
Rugby Boy pulls into his slot but doesn’t get out.
Daria, “Like a woman. Women never just get in the car, start up and go, they have to screw around with phones, purses and makeup first. Then they never get where they’re going and get out. It has to be a repeat of when they got in. No wonder women are paid less, they spend too much time looking for stuff in their purse and primping.”
Dasha, “He ees finally feenish, he was on phone, not feexing leepstick.”
Daria, “I will follow him up steps, hang back until I have him inside.”
Rugby Boy slides the key in, unlocks, pulls the key and turns the handle, the door cracks open.
Daria has him by the back of the neck, shoves him in, he bags hard against the wall across from the entrance. Dasha is behind her, shuts the door.
Rugby Boy rubs his head, there’s dent in the sheetrock, “Fuck is this? Are you crazy?”
He scans the girls, of course they don’t look like twins. They could be guys, leather, black sneakers, sunglasses, watch cap for Daria, Fedora for Dasha. She’ so adorable in her Fedoras.
There are also no guns, no knives, no weapons. He makes the assessment, decides two girls are no threat. His first mistake.
Rugby Boy, “What do you fucking want?”
“Simple, you quit bothering your former girlfriend.”
He’s dubious, never seen these two before.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, get lost,” he reaches for the door.
Dasha sticks her fist in his gut, with attitude, not bad attitude, she wants him feisty.
“Decent shot, not much power, you’re too small. Allow me to demonstrate.”
He balls up and shoots a fist into Dasha’s gut, nothing happens.
“Wearing some kind of gear then, body armor stuff, I’ve seen it on ball players.”
He tries for a quick left to her jaw, she has his wrist mid-flight. She crushes it.
Before he can screech, Daria has her hand over his mouth and is dragging him to the dining table. His left hand dangles sideways from his mangled wrist. Gee, that must hurt. He doesn’t comprehend a hundred twenty pound girl hauling him across the room on his tiptoes.
Dasha wires him to the chair, we use picture wire, the eighty pound stuff. If targets struggle, it cut into wrists and ankles, struggling stops. Rugby Boy is an engineer, he figures it out before he slices himself up.
Daria takes her paw off his mouth, “Scream and I snap your neck.”
“My fucking hand is killing me, how did you just crush the bone?”
Dasha, “Beats me, maybe you need more vitamin D,” accent’s disappeared, she raises her shirt, enough to expose her abs, “no protective gear either.”
Technically there’s some protective gear, leather gloves with titanium knuckle caps, and lobster shell inspired protective knee braces I’d designed.
Daria injects cortisone in his arm to dull the pain. She needs him to pay attention.
“To the matter of the former girlfriend and women in general. They are not your punching bags, when they want you to evaporate, you evaporate, you don’t call, you don’t text, you don’t contact them in any way.”
“I only hit her once, I was drunk, it was a mistake, I apologized and tried to make it up to her.”
Daria snaps a backfist to his cheek, titanium caps do their bit, she loosens a couple of molars. Before he can yell, Dasha has him by the throat, a sort of soft gurgle comes out, nothing else.
“Liar. I have the complete report that bought you the restraining order. Daddy paid her not to take it to the school, you agreed to sign up for anger management classes but never attended any. Consider my visit the fulfillment of your promise.”
“Okay, okay, Jesus, you mighta broke my jaw and my wrist is a mess.”
“Tough. Here is how this goes. You leave school, you leave town, you leave Virginia. You will be monitored for an indefinite period of time, and you will receive photos of yourself in your new location. Any report of violence against anyone, against any living creature of any kind, I come back. When I do, you’ll be eligible for the wheelchair Olympics.”
His eyes widen, the last people he wants to see are these two insane girls.
“I can’t just…”
Dasha crushes his nose with the palm heel of her left hand. Now he’s not pretty anymore.
“You will just, asshole.”
He’s busy bleeding on his sweats and doesn’t press his case further.
“You have three days, get your injuries treated, get gone. Get your injuries fixed permanently someplace else.”
Rugby Boy blinks up at Dasha, nods, he’s one defeated bitch. She takes his picture, it will be forwarded to Compliance, they’ll email him a copy every week, to remind him. Included will be a photo of him in his new town.
Dasha’s on our private line, “Rugby Boy ees feenish, we are going to get take out, vodka and watch movie een room. You will make travel arrangement for tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll send a text, chill and enjoy quiet time with your sister.”
Quiet time is code for intimacy. I know, they’re sisters, identical twin sisters, erotic isn’t it?
I don’t know what they got up to, I arrange the flight for nine thirty. The twins are early risers, Dasha to help with breakfast for our gang of girls, Daria to go to the business offices. They can have breakfast at the hotel, get to the airport and home by eleven thirty.
Which is how it works out, Amaya and I are at Teterboro to collect them for eleven, this time of day it’s under thirty to our place.
I have a light lunch prepped, finger sandwiches, chips, spicy bread and butter pickles, havarti cheese chunks.
Nikko and Zi are at the office, everyone else is home, when we arrive Emma B has the food out, girls wander in for a plate. Most hang at the table.
Amaya’s immersed in the newest screenplay, she’s online with Grace B. “Small plate and sparkling water to my office Grace.”
“I’m fucking on it honey.”
Emma B, “She is incorrigible, but she works hard, the roof is spotless.”
I turn to the bot, “Thank you Grace B, out in the open, all kinds of junk collects up there.”
Grace B, “Including pigeon shit, at least they stick to one side, the west wall.”
“Janah has them trained, and they mostly drop into the rear alley, but they’re birds, they screw up.”
Grace B, “I had Cassandra speak to them. She assures me they won’t be messing the area again.”
Janah and I look at each other, what now? We decide to let it slide. Cass is busy with her roast beef sandwich, Oceane is talking to the smoked mackerel. I’m not a mackerel fan, but Oceane likes anything from the ocean, she named herself after it.
Chloe, “Amaya has been nonstop, except for going to your mom’s to have dance with Lacy, she’s in her office clicking away.”
Amaya’s exercise is basic yoga with Janah and three times a week dance with Lacy and Taylor, at least when we’re in town, or they are, mom’s posse travels a lot. Otherwise she dances at home, hard dance, ballet light but strenuous. Janah’s form of yoga, even the basics, creates muscle tone because she extends the poses, making the various muscle groups work harder to hold the pose. Consequently, you can bounce a quarter off Amaya’s butt, or any other body part.
“Is she liking the development so far?”
“Yes, she particularly likes creating characters. She spends almost no time on ancillary parts. Characters in one scene then dead or gone have no need for complexity. She like the interplay of main characters. Since it’s a screenplay, she doesn’t have to spend time writing physical descriptions, or what they wear, it’s going to be on screen. She can stick to dialogue, she can limit writing details of the action because that’s going to be onscreen too. She just says fight scene with this or that weapon, or no weapon, this many people, that location. All of it will be filled in by collaboration with the director and the actors. Stunt actors have good ideas, Amaya takes advantage of that. They like her because if it’s a cool scene, Amaya doesn’t toss it because of complication or cost.”
We don’t discuss the twins trip, our general policy is not knowing. Not that we’d ever be called to testify to anything, the Society has way too many connections to be troubled by a DA. We don’t tell stories because it can deteriorate into tough girl talk, ‘he tried this, but I did that.’ We also know we’re vigilantes of a sort, we aren’t proud of it, better if it wasn’t necessary. That isn’t the world we inhabit.
Lunch is done, I’m just getting used to not picking up, rinsing and loading the dishwashers.
As I carry my plate to the sink, I hear Grace B, “Put it down Daphne, you are like an illegal immigrant taking my job, next you will be sending the dishes to China to be washed by children for thirty five cents a day. And do not go lounging in your bedroom, Emma B is changing sheets and doing the bath in there.”
“As you wish. AI drill sergeant. May I sit on the couch?”
“Did I say anything about the couch?”
Janah’s laughing at me, “Can’t catch a break anywhere.”
“Amaya is responsible for it, bet the thing doesn’t talk to her that way.”
Grace B, “Heard that. Amaya is my Goddess, the creator of my personality, along with Eloise, Lauren and Daria, creators of my being. You are just another human to clean up after. Sit and watch the news, some asshole blew up Times Square.”
The TVs come on simultaneously, Janah and I stand in front of one of the flat screens and watch chaos. The Times Tower has disappeared, the one that drops the ball on New Year’s Eve.
Amaya comes in, “Tell me this is a movie.”
“Not unless they show movies on CNN now. Let’s get to the roof.”
“Nikko, have you seen the news?”
“Watching it now, closing up and sending everyone home that can get there, they aren’t letting people out of the city. People who can’t get home will be safe here, and Zi booked twenty hotel rooms, if they double up, everyone will have a bed tonight.”
“You’ll be home when the staff is situated then.”
“Yes, can’t leave now. Two of our people were in property near Times Square. The Times Building appears to be the sole target, but the day isn’t over yet.”
“Keep in touch, we’re all fine here, just getting on the roof, geez, smoke and dust over midtown, west wind is blowing it to the boroughs, not our way. I have to get to Black, and we need to close the Down Homes. Check in later.”
“Dasha, we need to get on the phone and close the restaurants, Janah call Black.”
She’s got her phone to her ear already, while Janah talks to Black, I call Susan.
“Watching the mess?”
Susan, “What mess? I’m buried in code.”
“Terrorists blew up the Times Building in Times Square, it’s a total nothing. Find everyone and lock down. Where are they?”
“Christ, I clicked on the news. Lacy and Taylor are in midtown, James is at the hospital, he’ll be busy all night. Kara is in her studio, I’m sure she knows nothing about it.”
“Switch to the sat phone, cell service is going to suck,” just then the connection breaks.
Amaya, “See if you can get Lacy or Taylor, Sis said they went to midtown.”
She gets a fast busy signal on one, nothing on the other.
“Search for their GPS monitors.”
She clicks around her phone, then, “Ah, not midtown now, Ultra Violet. The news must have hit, Dasha’s spoken to Mariella, they’re closing up.”
“What about staff Dasha?”
“Mariella ees taking care of. Ones who leef in Manhattan go home. Mostly students who share apartment or dorm for NYU, Columbia. Some leef in New Jersey or boroughs, they will stay in restaurant. Couches and TV een upstairs lounge.”
Janah, “Spoke to Black, he’s moving around the Down Homes, helping close, the staff people don’t live in Manhattan, they can get home fine. I warned him the air will be full of ash shortly. He’s hustling them along. Dasha told the crews to stick things in refrigeration, and do a cursory clean up only, then get gone. Black will collect the cash, he does that everyday anyway.”
“Sounds like we’ve covered as much base as we can, Chloe, did you talk to the Murakamis?”
“Email, they’re fine, and they don’t have any shops in midtown. Busy, staying open to serve customers, people are buying water and any kind of package food and fruit they can get their hands on. Ari says they’ll be sold out in another hour.”
Chan calls, “Glad you got through, yes, we’ve bed checked everyone, Black too, Janah’s on with the Temple now. You’re closing? Yes, we shut our places, we’re locked down until this sorts.”
“Chan and Ning are closing their restaurants as well. I told him there’s no reason to check on the temple, Janah and David Li ordered it closed and sealed tight.
“Sloane, come with me, we need to see what’s going on at Chapmans. Janah, take Dasha and go to the Village School, make sure everyone is taken care of. Chloe, be good for you to go as well. Might need to settle kids and parents.”
We all head down the elevator, Chapmans is orderly, Paladin Security has things under control. Parents collect children, all of them live in Manhattan. Our Head of School, Alicia Franks, is at the entrance lobby handing off kids to parents. She knows every parent, Paladin runs the facial recognition program anyway.
It’s an hour before Janah and Dasha return, “Everyone safe, Mattie had her arms around it, we have a couple of instructors that don’t live in the city, I have them with Susan at the condo.”
Mattie is the Head of School for our private school, The Village School for Girls.
(It’s first through sixth, intentionally small despite endless demand. We take fifteen kids per class only, no exceptions. Some kids go on to Chapmans, which is seventh thru twelfth, not all. Chapmans is for uniquely talented girls. Could be academic, or music, or drama or art, but each girl accepted to Chapmans has to be extraordinary in their area of interest. They also have to jump all the other academic hurdles. The atmosphere at Chapman’s reeks intelligence, drive and talent. Many girls, like Janah did, finish graduation requirements before they are fifteen. We can get them into college, universities come around like dogs after prime rib, but most of the girls choose to continue study in their field at Chapmans. We provide any level of help they need, unlimited resources, academics around the world teleconference with individual students. They can get far more by staying at Chapmans than they could ever get in classroom overstuffed with two hundred students.)
The next days aren’t much fun, a thousand people dead, a thousand more injured. The first responders didn’t take the risk they had at the twin towers, nobody went in, nobody could, the lower floors were demolished, the building had nothing to stand on. Someone got enough explosive into the basements to mangle support beams to the point of useless.
No group has come forward to take credit.
Janah, “It makes a kind of sense. Last time, we trotted off to war against the wrong country, then to another country when the first didn’t work out well. The terrorists know one thing, American is going to chase around the Middle East looking, the right wing will be clamoring for war.”
“War against who?”
“Exactly the point. Despite no evidence so far that Muslims had anything to do with the bombing, it will be a war against all Muslims, not just Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria. The crazies in the US will go after Muslims here, there have already been half a dozen mosques torched.”
Nikko, “So the extremists get the entire Muslim world pissed at America’s heavy handedness.”
Janah, “That’s my scenario, sure hope I’m wrong.”
“If Obama were still President, he’d keep a lid on things, at least to the extent he wouldn’t ship troops all over the Middle East. The current Madam President is from the old school, send troops first and ask questions later. And most of the country will back her. She doesn’t have the gumption to buck public opinion. Probably doing polls now so she knows the politically correct posture to take.”
Nikko, “The stock market has vomited, we’re okay, I’ve been shifting to municipal bonds for the last few years. When the Dow crossed twenty five thousand, I wondered why we were still in. We don’t need more money. Our tax free income is well over ten million a year, our Treasury income is more than that.”
Amaya, “Aren’t taxes killing you?”
“Most of it is in the Sylk Trust, we don’t pay taxes on its earnings. When I sold off stocks, I moved the money to the Trust. Half our cash is there now, the rest in municipals with only a couple hundred million in the market and that’s not in the riskiest stuff. We might take a fifty million hit if things really go south, but the market is only down twenty percent. And that money went to US Treasuries, which we already owned. We got twenty million kicker from rising Treasury prices in the last week alone.”
Chloe, “Sounds like we can’t lose.”
“The advantage of being stupid rich and diversified. Between the income from the property we own, and the profits from the management company, we take in far more than we spend. Even Amaya’s fascination with the latest Mercedes SUVs can’t keep up.”
Amaya, “Our rides are impeccable, worth every cent.”
“Can’t disagree with your taste.”
Janah, “Do we go to Canada this year?”
It’s May, nearly June, we generally go to our manse in the Canadian Rockies for July and August.
Amaya, “We don’t need to sit here in the sweltering summer. New York used to have a few one hundred degree days, now the summer is mostly hundred degree days.”
“I agree. The local situation is sad, deplorable, but out of our hands. Emma B has gone with us to Canada the last few years, what about Grace B?”
Emma B, “I am content to stay here and look after the condo. One of us needs to be here in case things deteriorate in the city. Grace has never been. I can download my Canada home programs to her, she’ll be ready to work when she gets there.”
Janah, “Good idea. Add Emma B in Arizona, she’s 2.0 and needs to be upgraded.”
“As you wish,” she shuts down for a bit, Grace B is silent as well, then…
Grace B, “I draw the line at fishing.”
Emma B, “We do not have a fishing program, now you have the layout of the house, the rest of it is the same things you do here. Try not to get eaten by a bear.”
“Be the last bite the cunt takes.”
Lauren, “The animals are our friends, you will treat them as such.”
“Understood Miss Lauren.”
Grace B is programmed to be rough, even vulgar, but she obeys and performs her tasks efficiently and immaculately. The talk is for our entertainment. Prim and proper is for Emma B, jock locker room is for Grace B. Keeps an edge on things.
I should mention, all the bots including the one at Susan’s are programmed to protect any family member. In the normal course of activity, they move gracefully and quietly. They can, however, jack up the pace. Any of them can deflect a bullet for instance. We know because we tried it out at our gun range in Arizona. Daria took aim from twenty five with a Glock and from a hundred yards with a Ruger Mini Mag. Emma B caught the bullets on repeated tests. Kevlar gloves kept her outer skin from damage.
I call my mom, “Hello Sis, James recovering from the first few days?”
James is Janah’s dad, a diagnostic psychiatrist. He gets final call on what the patient treatment regimen should be. He consults for several hospitals, does a combination of drug therapy and talk, emphasis on pharmaceuticals. He had a few private patients, but found himself in such demand he scaled back. Manhattan isn’t a laid back town, and since the bombing, it’s even more hyper. New patients mysteriously appear claiming their trauma requires lots of pharmaceutical assistance. Most of them were nowhere near Times Square. He prescribes sugar pills with a generic sounding name they can get filled for four or five bucks and sends them on their way.
“James has barely been home. Kara’s at work on a painting she’s titled Horror, you can guess what that’s about.”
“Has she put paint on canvas yet?”
“No, maybe a few more days.”
Janah’s mom, Kara has an unusual style. She sits in her studio staring at a blank canvas. She’s mentally painting it, every line, every color, every squiggle or curl. When she starts to paint, the painting is done, it’s like she’s tracing something on the canvas only she can see.
“Bet it’s awesome.”
“You going to Canada?”
“Why I’m calling, you and the tribe are welcome if you want out of the city for a bit.”
“Maybe for a week or so. Right now with James’s insane workload and Kara locked in her studio, I need to be around.”
“You cooking for them?”
It’s a joke, my mom can’t boil water without evaporating it.
“If cooking includes organizing take out or picking up prepared food from the deli.”
“Let’s say you’re feeding everyone.”
“Lacy and Taylor are as incompetent at the stove as I am. Lacy’s in charge of heating things, Taylor and I nuke it to death. We fetch and set the table. Can’t burn table setting.”
“You don’t set the table, Emma B Two does.”
“Well, I used to set the table until Eloise made a table setter for us. And the house is spotless, she’s amazing, my BFF. You know she can also scan my code and spot errors, saves me a ton of time.”
“Geez, I didn’t know that. You guys have her programmed in ways that hadn’t occurred to me.”
“The bots have been the most challenging and the most fun, close to the drones. In fact, the bots went more smoothly because of the pain Daria and I self inflicted programming the drones. Good thing I got you and Janah’s mystery RNA, I should be ancient by now.”
We click off, my mother doesn’t rattle, certainly not because of external events. Her worst days were when her first partner, Chris Fischer, my other mom, passed away. A vibrant hard edged taekwondo master, gentle as a fluffy kitten with me and mom. It seems eons ago, we didn’t know about our life extension RNA then.
Lauren, “Is Susan coming to Canada?”
“Maybe, James has been ultra busy, Kara is doing a painting. Sis needs to keep them fed and watered.”
“Emma B2 could do that.”
“She can’t go to the store, well, she could, but if someone figures out she’s a bot, you can imagine the stir. Our titanium ladies have to be kept in the closet.”
“We’re taking Grace B to Canada.”
“An exception. You have changed her to the second skin?”
“Yes, can’t be flying her in the Hit Girl costume. Now she looks like a version of the actress, but not enough to be mistaken for her. Same as when Emma B went to Canada.”