Sixty One

A couple of days pass without a Muslim dangling from a cross. I’m flipping through online newspaper while I down my required caffeine.
Oops, I mental my other, “Got another Islamic Jesus in the desert.”
“Christ on the…no, wait, not good, haven’t had tea yet, is it ready?”
“Yep, just steeped, double strong yerba mate to get your neurons dancing.”

Sarah showed up last night and devoured both of us, she was still curled into Janah when I got up.
Janah shows, Sarah right behind, “Coffee is fresh.”
Sarah, “God I need a cup or three. What Janah did to me after you fell asleep is illegal in many parts of the world.”
“In our world, anything between consenting girls is legal.”
Janah, “The news?”
I hand her my tablet, Sarah reads over her shoulder, “Just unnecessary. Guy had a family and taught physics. Kids in high school, popular honor students. I mean, they didn’t even wear headscarves and stuff, working to fit into the community. That’s bullshit. I’m a fucking psychopath and I wouldn’t crucify people. Let’s find these assholes and kill them. Better yet, let’s find the fuckers and crucify them.”
Dasha is pouring wicked black tea for herself and Daria, “Sit down Sarah, Janah will figure out who ees responsible, then we will feex.”
Janah, “Nobody’s asked me to look into it. I’m certain the FBI is in a frenzy after a second murder. The President is going on television later this morning. I’m not sure what we can do with the whole world focused on Phoenix. Daphne, round up the troops, feed and water them, then we have a roundtable to think this over.”
“Dasha, Miso soup,  scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, smoked salmon, glazed ham, cut fruit and yogurt. We want high protein, nothing to make anyone sluggish. I’ll be back to help in a minute.”
Sarah, “I need to be busy, I’ll work the fruit and yogurt, make more coffee and tea.”
I go off to various bedrooms, I can mental Daria, Amaya and Nikko, they’ll get Eloise, Chloe and Zi up and active. Sloane is just stirring.
“Jump in the shower and get your head in gear, we have a confab downstairs. And make sure Oceane and Cassie are there and paying attention.”
“On it mom.”
I find Danika in the guesthouse, “Another crucified Muslim, we’re going to swap ideas over breakfast, where is Su?”
“On the roof in meditation.”
“Unplug her and join us in the main house please.”
Katya and Katja are awake, I spot Eloise between them in bed, “We need a meeting, there’s more trouble in Phoenix and Janah want all our heads together. Caffeine and protein downstairs.”
Not sure where Ellen was, but she’s in the kitchen grilling ham when I return, orange sauce warming on the stove.
Family and extended family is responsive, We added a table next to our twelve seater, the main room resembles a breakfast conference. After they’ve gotten drinks, we place platters of eggs, ham, salmon, along with bowls of fruit and yogurt.
“Orange sauce for the ham was a neat idea Ellen.”
“It’s orange marmalade heated, I use cherry pie filling sometimes. Ham is better with some sort of glaze, coulda’ used cane syrup, I know you keep Steen’s around.”
Nikko, “Update on the situation.”
Janah, “Another crucifixion, I’ll leave you to read details. Finish breakfast, think about it, then we’ll talk.”
A silent breakfast as they eat and share a half dozen tablets reading the stories. Muffled comments as they point to one fact or another, then the speculations of the FBI or reporters.
Dasha, Ellen and I clear, refresh coffee and tea.
Janah, “Initial impressions? I’m not looking for a game plan, just do a mind dump. It doesn’t need to be thought out or reasoned. If the idea doesn’t work, fine, but we won’t know that until it’s on the table and dissected.”
Nikko, “The FBI must be doing the obvious, interviewing family, last seen when and where, where were they supposed to be. They didn’t go missing and were held someplace, the second man was at school two hours before they found him dead.”
Janah, “And they’ve traced normal routes to and from home and the school where he taught. We need to find out if any of it was secluded.”
Daria, “Simple enough,” she taps her Pixel C, she has his name, tracks down a home address then routes it on maps, “if he went the most direct route, it’s all major thoroughfare. He lives in a subdivision, houses all around. Wait, second best route, only a half mile longer, passes a park next to an elementary school. At the time of day he would have passed it, kids were out of school and gone.”
“I’ll find out if he was known to use that route. Or he could have been running errands in a completely different direction. I’ll ask our if he was scheduled for anything, dentist, doctor, go to the gym.”
Katya, “Where was his car fund?”
“Duh, of course, he didn’t drive himself to his own crucifixion.”
Katja, “If he was abducted in his car, maybe he did. Was the car at the site?”
“Lots of good questions, let me see what they know,” Janah goes off to call her FBI contact.
Amaya, “What do we know about the first one?”
“He was a cleric of some sort, they first thought he was killed because of it, but he had no history or online record of jihadist connections.”
“Family?”
“Wife, no children, brother in Palestine who drives a delivery truck. Not clear on his brother’s status.”
“And the second’s overseas connections are still being checked, the murder just happened yesterday.”
Janah returns, “One problem solved, the second’s car was at the site, the first was parked in its normal spot at the mosque. So they took the cleric from the mosque or the mosque parking lot, they snagged the teacher in his car.”
Daria, “Car have GPS?”
“Yes, he went to a carwash, they must have been following him, people don’t schedule car washes, they wouldn’t know to go there in advance.”
Chloe, “So far, it seems well coordinated, but the victims seem random. One a cleric, the other less formally religious, at least if his family’s dress and the kids social activities mean anything.”
“All true, still, we’re only dealing with a sample of two. Could be as simple as ease of capture.”
Zi, “And perhaps to demonstrate that no Muslim is safe, actively religious or no.”
Nikko, “What so called militia groups are in the area?”
Janah, “Another good question, Daria?”
“Two prominent groups come up, Arizona State Militia and Arizona Militia claiming hundreds of members each. Also Desert Rats, doing primarily border patrol. Does not mean they limit themselves to that, or that any of the militias do not have splinter groups, men who might take more malicious action.”
Amaya, “Are not most of these groups about opposition to the government, conspiracy theories about a new world order, or the government taking away guns?”
“Yes, usually. The rise of ISIS has made them more paranoid, followed by Boston, then San Bernardino. Syrian refugees make them even jumpier.”
Nikko, “Don’t these groups generally issue statements, take credit, want to make a splash?”
Janah, “Beats me what they think they’re up to, but yes, generally they offer some explanation, justification or issue threats of more to come. So far, nothing like that.”
Daria, “Six footprints, not a big group. Still, somebody must know who they are, or suspect them. They would have strong anti Muslim sentiment and said it out loud to someone.”
“What if they’re a cell, part of a larger network? Adopt the same tactics as other terrorists?”
Janah, “Daphne might be onto something. The NSA must be monitoring cell phones, screening texts or the dark web. Daria, dig around in there, and call Susan, she’ll want to be in on it.”
“Da, good idea,” she taps her android screen, walks to the office.
We’re wrapping up when she returns, “She’s starting now, happy we called, says hello to all.”
Hello mom, she’s going to dig until the dirt flies. Our militia whackos are under the microscope.
Daria, “I am going to office, quiet in there, unless, Janah, do you need to make calls?”
“Not yet, let’s see what you and Sis find.”

Sixty Two

Nothing to do until there’s something to do. Dasha and Ellen are dealing with lunch prep, I’m sitting with Oceane.
“Anything in the discussion give you something to work with? You predicted the crucifixion.”
She’s staring off into space, I figure I’ve lost her, then, “A piece of the wood. They put the man on wood,” she hugs me, goes across the room and up the stairs.
“Janah, can we get a sample of the crosses they used?”
“Why on Ear…oh, Oceane wants to handle them. Should have thought of that myself, good thing you questioned her. A few minutes later and crucifixion would be gone from her mind. I’ll make a call, a strange call, I’ll have to convince them I’m not souvenir hunting.”
“Tell them you’ll send it back.”
“Do we need one with a blood stain as well?”
“Don’t know, she seemed more interested in who handled it, not who was nailed to it. Asking for a bit with blood might be too bizarre.”
“I’ll make a call.”

She taps in ten minutes later, “Coming overnight to our Society PO Box in Prescott  Valley. I told them I was taking an absurd long shot, someone I met who claims to be psychic. I said it would likely be nothing. They’re desperate enough to just go with it. Oh, and he’s including unmarked and bloodstained from both, he volunteered, I assume he thinks the psychic may pick up a vibe from the blood.”
Dasha, “We will haf cold cut sandwich, cheeken, toorkey, corn bif , also quinoa vegetable. Toast or sesame roll, ohnyon, chop cabbage, Kewpie mayo, spicy mustard or cranberry sauce. Kimchi or guacamole cheeps.”
“Perfect. I see Ellen’s doing red beans and sausage for tonight.”
“Da, also fried cheeken, we will serve sausage separately, beans will be vegetarian, brown rice, garlic bread.”
“I’ll send a text, noon for lunch?”
“Da, they will make their sandwich, ingredients will be out from twelve to one, or they can go hungry until tea at four thirty.”
I’m banging out a text, “I’ll pass that along.”
Dasha tells Ellen, “We haf two hours before lunch, Dahfoney will watch beans, we will go to my room and make sex.”
Ellen grins, “Splendido.”
Well, I get to stir beans every half hour or so, that’s something. I hear the faint grind of engines. The track is far enough away, it really doesn’t register in the house, but the windows are open and fresh mountain air circulates throughout.
I park by the pool and ogle nude Oceane and Cassie as they swim and dive. Sloane must be on a bike, I see two off in the distance, one airborne off a jump, the other just landing. Must be Sarah.
I’m blissed, beautiful girls in the pool, other beautiful girls active around the compound, having fun together in our sanctuary away from an insane world.
I do bean duty, at eleven thirty I wrap Oceane and Cass in big towels and tell them to shower and get ready for lunch. The others come down from the track, off to rooms to clean up, Sloane and Sarah  came along earlier and went to shower.
At quarter to, I lay out cold cuts, the accompaniments, bread and rolls.
Instead of stalking the house to round up girls for meals, Eloise added a soft gong to the intercom. Press a button on my IPhone and family shows up.
Danika and Su are here already.
Danika, “The gong is a neat touch, kind of Zen in the lesbian monastery.”
Su, “Quinoa salad is great Daphne, just right with a toasty sesame roll.”
“Dasha’s doing, she dressed it up with black beans and a sprinkle of lime juice. The base salad came from Fry’s.”
My cooking partners appear, hair still wet from the shower, must have been quite vibrant sex play.
Dasha, “Ellen ees too delectable, after I leek, I use strapping on, she ees happy girl.”
“She looks a bit dazed.”
“I go down on her again een shower.”

Sheesh, I stirred beans.
Ellen comes alongside and whispers, “She did me six ways from Sunday, I just received. She said the two sets of twins are planning a foursome this afternoon, she’s saving up orgasms for that.”
“Going to be tempted to get in her head and peek.”
“Suppose I hook up with you and Amaya, you’ll be distracted.”
I tap into Amaya, “Ellen wants the nasty with us after lunch. She and Dasha played this morning, but Ellen was on the receiving end, I take it she wants to give as well as she got.”
Amaya, “She’s chosen wisely.”
“Amaya is up for your attentions,” Ellen grins.
The table is surrounded by girls constructing sandwiches, they spread around the room and outside. The general tenor of talk I overhear is about the crucifixion ugliness.
Our tribe is not religious, some of us are Buddhists, but we have no Gods, don’t pray to anything. Some Buddhists do, others pray to Buddha or Bodhisattva, we think it’s all nonsense. Janah was thought of as a Buddha when we first went to the temple, but she let it run its course. Eventually the old masters passed away and so did talk of Buddha. Chloe is the closest thing we have to a Bodhisattva, she is perpetually cheerful and happy. Perhaps an example of what a Bodhisattva would be like, not a flicker of concern over the illusory world of common perception.
Oceane is almost completely removed from the world our minds create, Cassandra is out of it entirely.
It is said that the enlightened, those who have joined the Absolute, can see the future. Oceane has premonitions and revelations. Cassie may as well, though she does not speak of them. It is said that they can travel anywhere instantly, it’s called teleportation, also use telepathy and clairvoyance. Telepathy I know, some of us are telepathic, thus talking mind to mind. Oceane is clairvoyant, Cassandra, it’s hard to say.
The mystics who live in these supernatural realms don’t consider them supernatural. They consider them natural, they are not caught in the illusion of duality, for them there is no this or that, right or wrong, up or down. They think the common human perception of things, places and persons to be unnatural.
I decide to test the claim, “Oceane, you and Cass come with me please.”
In identical long white chemises, barefoot, they look like vestal virgins.
“Janah, round up Chloe and meet me on the roof.”
We have two rooftop sanctuaries, on the main house and the guesthouse. Janah will understand I mean the main house.
We park in chairs under the solar array, all our power is generated by the sun, excess is stored in an underground vault of batteries.
Janah knows what’s on my mind, she is my mind, I explain to Chloe that I am testing the claims of clairvoyance and time travel espoused by the more mystical Vajrayana Buddhists.
“Cassie, Oceane predicted the crucifixion of a man in Phoenix, a Muslim man. Since then, another has been murdered in the same way. Do you understand?”
Cass, “Oceane told me. Ignorant men do ignorant things, what of it?”
“We are concerned that it will escalate, get worse. Other Muslims may try to retaliate, white men will attack, innocent people get caught up in it and are injured or killed.”
“In my world, nothing dies.”
“I understand, but they are ignorant, full of desire and hatred. We need to find these men and stop them. I appreciate that there are violent men everywhere, and fixing these won’t fix the rest. But we can stop this and to do nothing is to acquiesce to murder. I need you to reach out, Oceane is getting samples of the wood from the crosses. Wood is a living thing, she can let it speak to her. Listen to the story, then see if you can find the men responsible.”
She looks to Oceane, a nod so slight a blink would have missed it. Cassie goes to lotus, then rises off her seat into the air.
Chloe, “She’s gone to the void, you won’t get anything else for now.”
I kiss Oceane, get her gentle smile, Chloe, Janah and I go downstairs. Cassie may be floating for a while.
Sloane is in the kitchen, I explain, “Cass and Oceane are on the roof, we are asking for Cassie’s help. Go to them, don’t disturb, just keep an eye out. I’ll keep the roof on the video monitors as well.”
“Will there be trouble?”
“No, but I pushed Cass into new territory, asking something from her. I have no clue how she will respond. Your presence may, if she needs it, reassure her. In any case, it can’t hurt. If they want to return to their rooms, don’t interfere.”
“On it,” she scoots up the stairs.

Sixty Three

The slivers of wood are in, Amaya drives Dasha and I, we need to make a grocery run as well. Nineteen mouths to feed three times a day, the refrigerator and pantry empty fast.
Katya’s crew has to return to Houston tomorrow, they do have a business there after all. They have not said so, but I suspect they have a conflict to resolve, which is what they call their assassination sideline, conflict resolution.
I take the package to Oceane while Ellen and Dasha put away groceries. The first night in, two weeks ago, we had filet mignon with marchand du vin. We’ll close their visit with the same thing.
“Oceane, here are the pieces, the bags are separated by event, with separate bags in each for the bloodstained bits. We told them not to mark which bag has which cross sample.”
We did that because we wanted to give the impression we were doubtful of the psychic Janah invented. It gave her cred with her contact, she isn’t some woo-woo sucker falling for psychic babble. Which is funny because we are in fact using psychic abilities.
Oceane, “The wood will tell me its story.”
Despite our strategy, she empties both bags in a pile, then picks up one piece.
Janah’s watching through my eyes, laughing, “So much for plans.”
Oceane holds each piece in her palm, it’s reasonably new wood, pine. If you’re going to crucify someone, there’s no reason to go with anything majestic like mahogany, cypress or teak.
Cassie comes in, sits next to Oceane. They look at each other, I sense soundless communication.
“Janah, ask Chloe to come up.”
She appears a minute later, we stand silently while Oceane holds each piece in turn, sometimes touching one with her finger.
Chloe, “They are talking mind to mind, an arc of golden light between them, then it stops, picks up again, like pulses alternating.”
Janah, “New information.”
“Wonder when this started?”

Oceane, “Cassie knew us before you rescued her. She drew you to herself so she could be free of the Shadow.”
Geez.
Chloe, “Interesting.”
Oceane, “After their tree was cut and they were made into planks, they lived in a big orange store where men came to buy boards and tools. One day men came and bought them, they were moved to a smaller place and they lived there for a while.
The men who constructed the cross smelled of wheat, barley and yeast and talked of other men they called terrorists. They made the wood into a cross, drilled holes to bolt it together.”
“Beer.”
She holds up a piece of wood, “This one was taken to the desert and assembled while other men dug a hole. Then they left. After a while, the truck returned with a man. They tied the man to the wood, then hammered spikes through his hands and ankles. The man screamed and he asked for help from someone called Allah. But there was no help. The men raised up the cross, stuck it in the ground and filled in the hole with dirt. They drank from cans and laughed. After a while, they shot the man in the head and left him there.”
“What happened with the second man?”
“The same.”
Chloe, “There was no mention in the news of them being shot.”
Janah’s come upstairs, “Withheld on purpose I presume. The killers had to do something, it can take days to die of crucifixion. Although in the desert, birds would more likely finish them off before the victim asphyxiated.”
“Oceane, does the wood have anything to say about the men, a physical description, things they said?”
“Men look alike to trees, they are better at scents.”
“And what of the blood?”
“One man’s blood was sick. The other just a man.”
She turns to Cassandra.
Chloe, “Golden arcs again.”
“Maybe they’re talking about McDonald’s.”
Janah, “Those are golden arches.”
“Anything else about the scents of the men?”
Oceane rubs the pieces of wood between her hands and is silent for a time.
“Two of the men smelled like the big store, one of engines and oil, one of hot metal. One other had the scent of dogs, the last like the smell when you shoot guns.”
“Anything else? Doesn’t matter what, anything you picked up, or were told.”
“They smell the fireplace, they want to join their family and return to the void.”
“Janah, did you say you would return the samples?”
“He told me not to worry about it.”
“In the fire they go.”
We go downstairs, everyone is gathered, Oceane tosses the fragments into the flames.
It’s tea time, Dasha has it prepared, with a big dinner coming she has only cheese and crackers out.
I recap Oceane’s talk with the trees.
Nikko, “So they drink beer, got the materials from Home Depot, and two of them work there. One works on cars or machinery of some sort, two have dogs, maybe even train dogs, one unknown.”
“That’s the sum of it.”
Katya, “What now, you going to visit all the Home Depots in Phoenix? Engines, oil and dogs may be useful once you have suspects, it doesn’t narrow the field for finding anyone.”
Oceane, “Cassandra knows who they are, at least what they look like, and the truck they used.”
Amaya, “How does the floating fairy know that?”
“She went back to the time the men were crucified, she saw it.”
Dead silence in a room with nineteen women in it, how often does that happen?
“Sloane, take Cass to her room and write down everything she tells you…no, record it. She won’t be responsive with a crowd of us, Oceane, go with them, let her reveal her observations in her own way, but remember, it is important to get her impressions before she forgets all about crucifixions and smelly men.”
Sloane, “Come on Cass, you can help us figure out what needs to be done.”
They go upstairs, we spend a fair amount of time climbing stairs here, the rest of the group isn’t going anywhere, anxious to get Cassie’s report.
Mani, “Is this for real? I mean, she went back in time?”
“We have no idea. It’s never come up before, but lots of stuff doesn’t come up with Cassandra or Oceane. They don’t always live where we live. Oceane said that Cass reached out for us to rescue her from the Shadow. We didn’t get a text or an email, I can only assume she did what we do, intend for something to happen until it happens.”
Ellen, “She was a child though, yes?”
Janah, “Six or seven, we aren’t sure.”
“Then how does she even know to look for help?”
“Because she was a blank. The Shadow inadvertently enabled her to see things other children don’t, their parents are filling them up with nonsense so fast they lose innate perceptual abilities. The Shadow just wanted a doll to dress and pose. He didn’t try to have sex, she wasn’t molested. He bathed and dressed her, but there was no indication it was in a sexual way. And he didn’t spend that much time on it according to the housekeeper. Most of the time Cass was left to herself. Shadows are generally perverse and malicious, but sometimes they’re just strange. In any event, she wasn’t fed full of beliefs and ideas. I think she came to be what more children could be if they weren’t tainted by parents. None of this is much more than speculation, I’m not advocating parents treat their children like dolls to be dressed and posed.”
Katja, “That is why you suggest we unwind our misperceptions with meditation, to gather qi and learn to see what others miss.”
“Exactly, and it can be a bunch harder to slough off the biases first, they get deeply ingrained, there’s no undo or delete button.”
Katya, “You have meditated for years, yet you cannot do what Cassie claims.”
“No, and I don’t know why except to say it never occurred to me to try. When Daphne and I discovered mentaling, telepathic conversation, to generate and receive qi, then along came talking to animals, not to mention apparently eternal life, we were busy learning. Thinking of time travel never arose. Now that it’s come up, neither Daphne nor I have any interest in returning to the past or peering into the future.”
“What about Cassandra?”
“I suspect Oceane encouraged her, Cass probably wouldn’t think of it on her own. What motivated Oceane to prod her is unknowable, neither of them demonstrate much curiosity about anything.”

Sixty Four

Sloane delivers the recording, there are physical descriptions of the men, a couple of first names, Trey and Rob, one that sounds like a last name, Hicks. Like Gibbs on NCIS. His given name is Leroy Jethro, can’t blame him for wanting to be called by his surname.
They talked of Rotts, we take that to mean Rottweilers. One truck seems to be on the order of a Ford Super Duty something. The second vehicle she described as a box, so a van of some sort. It was dark, no mention of colors, no clue if she even sees the past in color. They also talked of sending the report ‘up the line,’ implying a person or persons who knew about the crucifixion and are in authority.
We already know the men were shot with a 9mm, could be any number of popular concealed carry pistols, Smith and Wesson, Sig Sauer, Kahr, Beretta all use nines.
The last part of the recording is revealing, after the kills, they returned to ‘a building with a sign.’
We hear Sloane ask, “What did it say?”
There’s silence for a bit, Cass doesn’t read well, but she knows letters.
Oceane says, “Here Cass, take the phone and tap in the letters,” the recording ends.
Sloane hands me the phone, hicks machine. Now we’re rolling, how many of those can there be?
Janah, “Excellent Sloane, tell the girls they did wonderfully,” Cass and Oceane are still upstairs.
Daria’s on her tablet, “Got the address in Chandler, south of the city.”
Nikko, “We need to get there before they crucify someone else.”
Janah, “If they’ve abducted someone, it will be tonight and we have no idea where.”
Zi, “Suppose Cass goes to the future, if she can?”
Sloane, “She’s asleep, I think the time thing is energy sapping.”
“Maybe like intense qi. Look, today is shot, we’re taking our friends to the airport tomorrow for nine. Let’s just continue on to Chandler, check out the machine shop and let the plan unfold as it will.”
Amaya’s making cocktails, “Who goes?”
 They look to me, I’m security chief, “I suspect everyone wants to go and I can’t think of a reason they shouldn’t. It will be good for Cassie and Oceane to be out for a while.”
Chloe, “This is maybe a militia, is it safe for them?”
“No, that’s why we will be, vewy, vewy quiet, we’re hunting whackos. Besides, Oceane is a drone pilot par excellance.”
Katya, “We will change flight, they have guns, we have guns.”
“We can’t do a shootout Katya.”
“Point taken.”
“And you presume they feel the same way?”
Amaya, “We have lots of transportation, two SUVs, two more of our training SUVs and lots of skilled drivers.”
“We may also need to follow around several people. Okay, Eloise, how many drones do we keep here?”
“Four with dart guns, and a half dozen Spark Nano trackers.”
Amaya, “And there are tranquilizer darts, and the rest of our pharmaceuticals, Truth, Trust and Oblivion. If we capture Hicks, he gets to tell us all about his pals.”
“Skip Oblivion, we aren’t going after Shadows.”
“How do you know they aren’t?”
“Cassie would have said something, she knows Shadows when she spots them. And Shadows don’t join militias or give a damn about Muslims.”
Time to grill filets, Ellen and I get busy with that, Dasha has the sauce prepared, sides of baked potatoes, stir fried vegetables, and choice of Italian salad or crispy cold romaine with gorgonzola.
While we enjoy dinner the big group is subdued, not frisky. Tomorrow could be anything from a lot of surveillance and little action, to facing down pokes who think toting concealed is just dandy. And at least one of whom has used his carry to murder two men.
This of course means nothing to Katya and crew, they don’t care who kills who, reasons religious or monetary don’t matter. Why they want to be involved is unclear, other than they feel a kinship with us.
Janah, “I suspect Katya thinks we’re being naïve, going to track armed men with darts.”
“She may be right.”

Our policy is to go gun free. Dasha, Daria and Sloane enjoy the range, but it’s intended as another activity, not a lifestyle. Yes, it’s complicated, maybe even denial. We kill Shadows with drugged darts, swords or qi just as dead as if we shot them. There is no rational explanation, it’s what Janah will accept. Her preference aside, if a Shadow or any other puke was on the verge of killing one of us or an innocent and the sole option was a gun, Janah would pick it up and blast away.
“Sloane, change all the plates before we leave tomorrow, drivers will have ID corresponding to the fake plate and registration. Katya, your girls have fake ID?”
“Always.”
Sarah, “We never know who we are from one day to the next.”
Girls fed, most of us spread around the living room, which is an extension of the kitchen and dining room. We watch Before I Disappear, a cutesy comedy drama with Fatima Ptacek playing Sophia, the precocious grounded preteen, and her loser uncle. Not our normal fare, something light before heavy days to come.
Time for sleep, I go first to check on Cass and Oceane. Cassie is asleep in Oceane’s room. I hand check her temperature, touch her neck for a pulse, everything normal, the beat slow and steady. Oceane is next to her, eyes fluttering in near sleep. I kiss both on impossibly soft cheeks and go to my room.
Janah’s checking the news on her tablet, “No crucifixions, at least not that they’ve found. I’m zipped, climb in and cuddle me to sleep.”

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