Nine

My phone dings, it’s Ellen, “Hey gorgeous, what are you up to down in New Orleans.”
“Sarah and I were discussing your legs, we decided only a field trip can satisfy our queeriosity. Up for company?”
“For you and the racehorse, always, everyone else coming I hope?”
“Yes, Katya and Katja are working today and tomorrow. We can fly to Oklahoma City and pick them up, then on to your place. Um, I suppose it would be good to know whether you’re in Arizona or Manhattan.”
“Arizona. We’ve talked about going to New York, but no decision’s been made yet. Text me arrival and we’ll be there to collect you.”
“Perfect, see you tomorrow, I think early afternoon, depends on when the twins finish up.”
We click off, Janah comes in headed for a shower, “Our New Orleans pals are coming in tomorrow.”
Janah, “Yay, more twins to play with, and hot little Mani, she is so bad, like Eloise.”
“Amaya will be happy, she’ll be all up into an Ellen threesome with Chloe.”
Amaya’s in my head, “Yummy Ellen. Did I tell you I am writing a new screenplay that includes she and Sarah?”
“Do they know?”
“Yes, it will not be ready for a few weeks, maybe more like three months. I need to punch up the dialogue. I will cover the plot at tea one day while they are here.”

Amaya’s written Ellen, Sarah and Mani into three movies, Double Homicide I, II and III. Ellen and Sarah play contract killers, Mani plays Sarah’s dominatrix.
Since they are all, including Katya and Katja, contract killers in real life, it’s an interesting juxtaposition. 
We met them years ago, became friends, we gave them the genetic modifications, none of them has aged for nearly twenty years. Biologically, Sarah and Ellen are still teenagers, the others early twenties. 
Several of their higher payday jobs were as assassins for drug dealers who didn’t want the competition around to interfere with cash flow. They contact Katya to do the wet work to avoid the obvious implication that drug lord A wanted drug lord B out of business. Clients know nothing about a twin, or the other three girls, they don’t know Katya, she’s a ghost on the other end of an encrypted connection.
Once the drug competition was out of the way, taking millions in cash was easy. Nobody looked for it, nobody knew how much it was, and it was significant. The first time we washed the money, it was fifty million, a second was near a hundred million, the third was in-between. That didn’t count the eighty million they painstakingly cleaned up themselves before they met us.
The twins had a small doughnut business in Houston, owned minor commercial real estate, and bought a second home in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which became their first home. Nikko graduated them to more substantial commercial real estate, which Murakami Sylk Property Management handles.
Despite more than sufficient wealth, they stay in the murder for hire business, they like it, they’re all psychopaths.
Drug lord executions have gone away with the advent of the new drug policy. A few people make a minor living in small potatoes knock off drugs, but access now is so simple, there’s little point in buying crap from a small time dealer. Murder for hire is still a viable business. When people have issues, Katya gets contacted via the newest version of the dark web. They don’t know Katya, they don’t know who they’re hiring. Payment in full goes into a lockbox, not a real box, a place in the Quant cloud called Quantnet. Client has a key, Katya has a key. Once the money is in the box, the contractor can’t take it out. To get the money out, the contract has to be completed, then the contractor enters his key code, Katya enters hers, the virtual money is transferred to Katya’s no name account, transaction is over. Only if the contract isn’t completed by a specified date can the contractor access his money. It’s never a problem, Katya doesn’t let the grass grow, they get a job, two or three of the girls fly out, pop the target, fly home.
They use guns, they aren’t in the slip and fall business, no strangulation, no poison, they don’t drown, garrote or whack targets with a baseball bat. The client doesn’t get to call the time and place of death, or make special requests, like torturing the target first. 
Katya says she’s in the conflict resolution business. Two people have a conflict, both are unhappy. One of them takes a bullet to the brain. Now two people are happy, the client and the assassin. It’s actually even better, there are five girls so, in fact, six people are happy. Where else can you go from two unhappy people to six happy ones with one bullet?
It’s tea time, Grace B comes in, “Daria needs to break, she’s been staring at V-fucking-R all damn day.”
Janah, “What does Dasha say?”
“That is what Dasha said.”
“Dasha doesn’t say fucking, or damn for that matter.”
“No, she said the ‘Daria needs a break’ part, I made up the rest.”
Dasha comes from upstairs, “Sister ees resting, she will come for dinner.”
“How’s she doing, she need a Qi shot?”
“Already done. Review takes a long time, she goes through most frames quickly, but spots something and goes back to review much more slowly. Something in the program ees not right, but she ees not sure what.”
Janah, “Look, if we can help out our Society contact, fine, but not at the expense of Daria’s well being.”
“I am watching, sister will not anyway be hurt, I am in her head when she studies the program.”
I butt in, “Not good enough, tomorrow, I sit in too. I can see what she sees, just like you. You may be subjected to unconscious influences.”
Amaya, “Won’t you be subjected to them as well?”
“No, I’m going in Dasha’s head while she’s in Daria’s. I’m not looking at the VR, I’m checking Dasha’s circuits. Anything out of order, we shut down the whole thing.”
Grace B, “Now you are making sense. In fact, tonight, Kota B, Emma B and I will run different programs ultra slow, like Daria is doing. We can go all night and review ones Daria hasn’t gotten to, which is almost all of them.”
Nikko, “Why didn’t anyone think of that sooner?”
Zi, “It just slipped past us, it even slipped past the bots.”
Janah, “I’m feeling rather dumb. But we caught it now, and we can save Daria hours of tedious review.”
Amaya, “Enough tea, I need a drink.”
Daria shows up, “I am fine, just tired of watching stupid VR programs, Dasha , vodka pozhaluysta.”
Amaya, “I am on it honey. Sure you are good?”
“Da, there is some anomaly in the program, but I am not sure what specifically. Tomorrow I will search again.”
Dasha, “Bots will work on it overnight, in ultra slo motion. Tell them what you saw.”
Dasha downs her shot, Amaya pours a second Russian Standard.
“When I go frame by frame, there’s a flicker, I reverse the frames and it happens again. I think there is a subliminal message. What I am able to do, freeze frame the action, only lets me see the flicker, not the message.”
Grace B, “Because the message runs over several frames. Your ability doesn’t allow for slow motion, it’s all or none, frame by frame or continuous action at normal speeds, is that right?”
“Da, correct.”
“There lies our solution. Daria does not need to look at more programs, your Bot Slaves will have the message in the morning. In fact, we are running the programs now, the ones Daria viewed. I will run a couple of different ones later tonight as well.”
Janah, “Thank you Bs. Can Emma B hear me?”
Her voice comes over our sound system, “Yes, I have been following, I can see you all now, Grace B and I are unified, if she is there, I am there.”
Nikko, “God we live in a strange world.”
“We live in a unique world, thanks to Eloise, Daria and Lauren, with an assist from Susan. One day everyone will have bots as interactive as ours.”
Grace B, “Twenty fifty, ninety five percent probability, one hundred per cent twenty eighty.”
Nikko, “Another glass of wine please.”

Ten

Next day the bots have run programs, Amaya and I collect our pals from the airport and zip them back to the house. I explain the VR project along the way.
Sarah, “So there is a subliminal message introduced into some programs? You have deciphered the message?”
“Bots did, it isn’t a message, not a word or phrase, it’s an image, a distorted image of the user. And it’s VR, the image is going directly to the brain in ten second cycles. If they play the game long enough, even with breaks, the user’s new self image is the distorted one.”
Mani, “That’s spooky, Daria could have been affected.”
“Fortunately she didn’t play long enough, the bots took over. The message is in the headset, not the program, they are going through all the headsets now. Probably have it narrowed down by the time we get home.”
Ellen, “I assume it doesn’t make the bot crazy.”
“The bots don’t have a self image, they have personalities, programmed personalities. People like to think that inside themselves someplace is an authentic self, an unchanging personality, or at least a stable one. There isn’t, we morph our behavior, change. Bots have authentic selves. Unless Daria reprograms them, they are who they are all the time.”
Amaya parks in front of the house, we unload, she takes the SUV on to the garage. 
Our tribe is waiting, kisses around, the children welcome Tetya Katya and Tetya Katja in Russian. (Tetya is ‘aunt’ in Russian, I use phonetic spelling, Cyrillic would be ponderous and make no sense to English speakers.)
The children receive double cheek kisses, and take the Tetya twins and the Mama twins to their room. The rest of the day will be in Russian I’m sure.
Ellen, “So great to be here, New Orleans is in a long stretch of wet, I’m due a bit of sunshine.”
“Pool’s ready when you are.”
They’ve been here many times na d know we don’t wear swimsuits, just nature’s covering. Sloane wears a bottom only to protect the boy part. They’re out frequently, even when we’re not here, they like the gun range and the sunny dry weather. They leave clothes here to avoid a pile of luggage back and forth. 
Sloane appears, Sarah grins, “Hey Sloaney, miss me?”
“Who wouldn’t? What room are you bunking in? Mine I hope.” 
“My clothes still in your closet?”
“Yep.”
“Then I’m all yours, well kind of, I may get lucky with one or two others.”
That funny, Sarah will make her way through as many girls as she can get her hands all over.
After settling in one room or another, we gather around the pool for a bit of afternoon sun. It looks like a nudist colony, we don’t care for tan lines.
Grace B, “It’s been an hour, get cleaned up or we’ll have burned slut for dinner. Cocktails in thirty.”
Janah, “What’s for dinner?”
Dasha, “Filet mignon wiz marching sauce, baked potato, creamy spinach. Crab cake appetizing, French bread.”
She means marchand du vin. The silky dark wine sauce that makes for a perfect addition to tender filets.
Ellen, “I’ll help Daph with the steaks, two dozen filets is a two person job.”
“Da, the rest ees easy, I haf already crab cakes made, horseradish mayo or seafood sauce to accompany.”
Katja, “Dasha is the most organized chef.”
“I haf learn from Dahfoney. When she taught me southern cooking, then New Orleans cooking, she haf already each step in computer, temperature, time, exact amount of ingredient.”
“After she made things a few zillion times, she began to experiment, Dasha has a intuitive sense of what works well with what, and she’s not afraid to screw something up and toss it.”
“I watch Dahfoney make experiment with gung fu, and when she ees try something new or different, she makes mistakes, or it just didn’t work like she wanted. Things must be pressed, no good doing only the same thing over and over, it makes for driving een rut.”
Chloe, “Sounds like Amaya writing dialogue. I hear her reading her work out loud, then I hear a shriek, ‘How mediocre, vanilla, boring is that? Come on Amaya, disengage brain, let the neurons roam, type, do not think……aha! That’s how it should be said.’ Then she calls herself a genius and all is well in AmayaLand.”
Amaya, “The creative process is not rational, rational is for bots, they should stick to public policy, business negotiations, finding flaws in VR headsets, and more importantly refilling my empty glass.”
Grace B, “Coming Your Worship, Russian Standard, rocks, garlic olive, shots for the double twin oligarchs, refill Chloe?”
“I’m shifting to Champagne, thank you Grace B.”
Amaya, “I’ll handle it Grace B, you have a massive table to set, let me see, steak, Perhaps a crispy cabernet and a pinot, an inky one, I am a noir type girl. Ellen, you are the trained sommelier, care to wander through the cellar?”
“My pleasure, I have something in mind already.”
Ellen stocks our cellar, she’s the best with wines. Even when she’s not here in person, Dasha texts the dinner menu if we do something elaborate, Ellen texts back one or two of our wines to go with it.
Nikko, “What happens with the headsets? Aren’t there more people out there going insane?”
Janah, “Potentially. The headsets all came from Xyrx Technologies, they also do government contracting. My suspicion is that what used to be the CIA, which was disbanded and folded into military intelligence, concocted a rather ingenious plan. Have the subliminal headsets captured by regimes American doesn’t favor. Like as part of a shipment of other supplies. Quality VR headsets would float up to the privileged in the regime, with predictable consequences. Whoever used them goes whack. Some of the headsets got rerouted to commercial vendors, buyers used them and were led off the deep end.”
Nikko, “So why aren’t we making them aware of the…oh, shit, don’t even…”
Janah, “Afraid so.”
Mani, “Afraid so, what?”
“They intentionally put the altered sets into the hands of the public, what better way to test its effectiveness? A few crazy citizens, so what?”
Mani, “Genius, sounds like something I would think of, but I didn’t, so maybe I wouldn’t.”
Sarah, “Oh you’re crazy enough, you just don’t do much VR, except for the S&M stuff.”
“It’s educational, I learn, then practice on you.”
Sarah grins, “And you are a quick study, I feel the pain to prove it.”
“Bitch.”
“Yes.”
Nikko, “What happens now?”
Janah, “We have to trace the flow, find out who has their fingerprints on this. Did Xyrx know? Or did the product get diverted after it was shipped to military intelligence? If that’s the case, which I think is likely, then who made the decision to test it on the public? Some third level psycho, or does the stink rise closer to the top?”
Zi, “How can we help?”
“Daria, Susan and the bots are going to hack everyone. Somebody someplace issued an order, or redirected a delivery. All VR units have a code, like a vin number for a car. We have a dozen of the affected ones. The trail will lead us back to somebody.”
Su, “Children could have used those sets, could be using them now.”
Grace B, “Daria doesn’t need to do anything, Emma B and I are working it now. Kota B is busy with the children and does not need to be involved. By morning, we will have your target, or targets. Get swizzled, enjoy your steaks, sneak off and have lesbian liaisons, leave saving the world to those of us qualified to do it.”
Ellen comes back with six bottles of red, we proceed to follow our bot’s simple directions.

Eleven

Janah and I are bedded down, “Looks like you’re stuck with me for a sex toy, Ange.”
Janah has pure white hair, a French chef we met long ago called her Ange Blanc, white angel. I adopted the new name for her, it’s perfect.
“I’m feeling a twitch for your tongue to start with my twat.”
“Assume the position.”
She does, I do, she adores analstim, gets her shivery. After she quivers her way through climax one, She flips, luscious work, her tight smooth thighs against my cheeks, her tight smooth puss against my lips. I tongue the silken softness to climax two. 
“Strum for me while I catch my breath.”
That means she wants to watch me do me. I’m already steamy, my fingers find their way to ground zero. I’m a strum queen in lez parlance, I like to masturbate for an audience.
“Okay, spread ‘em.”
Janah works her way down my torso, kisses along both legs, returns to the point of attack. Doesn’t take long, I’m a sea of moaning hormones, it feels heavenly.
Janah’s head pops up, “You went off like a cruise missile.”
All can manage is biting my lower lip, she slide up and lets me taste me on her. Tonight I’m lavender. 
She rolls over me and fishes a strap on out of the end table, flips the switch to check the batteries.
“Strap up and take me in the ass.”
Wow, my girl’s fired up tonight. And after ten minutes of butt-sex, she’s fried, head on the pillow mumbling incoherently.
After I finish cleaning the toy, I return to bed. Janah is out, with an evil grin on her face.
My voyeuristic self peek into Amaya’s head. Oh girl, aren’t you the busy bee? I see Ellen’s tight tummy, which means Amaya is just beneath, her head surrounded by amazing legs. Her eyes go up, Ellen’s face grinning down on her, then over her head.
I hear Ellen say, “Give it to her Chloe.”
Sheesh, Amaya’s doing Ellen, Chloe is doing for Amaya what I did for Janah, I can hear the toy buzz. In short order, Ellen, Amaya and Chloe simulgasm.
Amaya, “Enjoy the show?”
“You bet, splendid performance by all.”
“Come here Slutsky.”

I hustle down the hall, three naked lovelies greet me, I climb in. Then my head is between Ellen’s legs, Amaya is underneath me, tongue busy, Chloe straddled over her, tongue working my tush. I lose my mind.
I dimly recall making my way back to my room, when I wake I hear Janah in the shower. I peel myself out of bed. Janah’s just exiting the shower.
“Morning Ange, sleep well,” I mumble through my toothbrush.
“Blissful slumber of the nasty girl. You go frolic elsewhere when I passed out?”
“Good gravy, Amaya, Ellen and Chloe, they nearly killed me, and that after they nearly killed each other before I got a curtain call from Amaya.”
“Lucky you. I’m going to make salacious suggestions to Mani for tonight, think you can find a place to lay your head? She’s in with Eloise. You take one tiny treat, I’ll take the other.”
I get in the shower, “It’s a plan.”
Dasha and Ellen have jumpstarted breakfast, scrambled with diced ham, sprinkling of cheese, Dasha’s biscuits, big as croquet balls. Grace B is setting a platter of cut fruit on the table, bacon sizzles.
“Sorry I’m late, was a busy night.”
Ellen, “Job you did on me, you’re forgiven.”
I don’t need to ask, I know Katya and Katja bunked with our twins.
Sloane races down the steps, “I’m starved like a me.”
Ellen, “Like a…oh, you mean a wolf. Did you bite Sarah last night?”
“Nibbled only. After she finished with me, she went to visit Oceane and Cassie, didn’t see her the rest of the night.”
“Oceane has that effect.”
Ellen, “Oceane, wow, she gets any more willowy you’re gonna have to plant her ass.”
Hungry girls begin to appear, Grace B handles coffee and tea service, the swarm swarms down the steps, line up for kisses from Mama Dasha. Kota B serves them tea, organizes plates of eggs and extras. I have no clue how we’d function without the bots.
Everyone is finally served, Dasha did buffet style for the adults, twenty eight mouths fed and caffeinated. We could start our own country.
Grace B, “VR update if you are done shoveling food in your mouth. So glad I do not have to eat, my energy comes from a self charging battery. The headsets all came from the military contractor as you know. Their liaison, Colonel Colt Winchester, has incriminating communications regarding the diversion of sets to civilians, for experimental purposes. An executive VP at Xyrx is his primary contact, but the Colonel hobnobs with all the top dogs at the company. Their communications are encrypted, badly, we blew through that crap in fifteen minutes. You can offer up the CEO, two Executive VPs and Winchester. If anyone else is involved, they do not appear in the communication loop. One of the VPs mixed the altered sets with shipments to retail outlets, the CEO and second VP were aware of the diversion, no evidence they had a hand in the actual process. The communication, however, is clear, they all knew about the test. They called it Operation Lunatic. They even joked about it when the reports surfaced.”
Chloe, “How did they think they would get away with it? The sets are numbered.”
“Yes, but there is no difference in the code numbers for commercial or military use. Remember, the sets were supposed to be entertainment for troops, no different than for civilians. These weren’t training programs, they make those as well, for drone pilots for instance.”
Janah, “And they couldn’t test them on troops. Although why they didn’t simply let the units be captured by the people  they were targeting and wait to see if any of them went insane is a bit of a mystery.”
Grace B, “They discussed it, but the Colonel wanted a quickie test on a few dozen civilians of no consequence, to him anyway, first. His logic, not entirely misguided, was that the effect could be covered up by an unfriendly regime, as if nothing was wrong. They would never admit one of their top went bonkers. He either underestimated his own intelligence network, or did not trust them to be able to infiltrate deeply enough to confirm success.”
“That makes more sense, ugly as it is. A few lives ruined for the greater cause.”
For all the advances in medicine, preventative care, reduction in fossil fuels and the virtual elimination of hunger and the worst of poverty, there are still nations and religions. Both of which find reasons to go to war. One nation wants another’s resources, there are still countries with dictators or bogus divinely endowed leaders, religions want to eliminate the competition, and sects within religions want to seize control. Wars seldom resolve anything, but humans never learn. My conclusion remains the same, men love war.

Twelve

Janah sends the results to the Society contact that approached her in the first place. The woman assures her of quick, decisive and public follow up. She knows Mrs. Pearson well enough to grasp that if nothing happens, the evidence goes to the New York Times.
A day passes, then another, they do have to confirm the discovery after all. On the third day, the parties are arrested, Xyrx is locked down, the military is apologizing for a rogue Colonel, Madame President is livid.
Janah’s sat phone dings, she goes to the office to take the call, I’m in her head while she listens.
“Mrs. Pearson, the President asked who we have to thank for uncovering this stupidity, I said an anonymous source. She’s not so dumb as to think I have no clue, but she let it slide. No President wants to know more than necessary, deniability as they say. She asked me to tell anonymous that she is most grateful.”
“And I would appreciate it if I had any idea what you are referring to.”
A laugh, “One question did arise in the briefing, she wanted to know how it was possible to breeze through quantum encryption. It didn’t take that long to go from receiving the items in question to a full revelation.”
“Just lucky maybe, although my associates tell me if it can be encrypted, it can be unencrypted.”
“You have powerful associates.”
“You have no idea.”
Another laugh, “Glad you’re on our side.”
“I’m on the side that thinks using citizens for unwitting experimentation is unacceptable. My associates tell me there are a half dozen ways to get the merchandise in the targeted hands without such a stupid maneuver. And to track the consequences.”
“Good Lord! How?”
“I am not disposed to say. Playing with people’s brains to accomplish political ends is also unacceptable. Politics ought to be talk, negotiation. Keep a perceived enemy in the conference room long enough, stuff gets settled eventually. Besides, driving one already insane dictator completely insane just opens up the seat for the next insane dictator. It’s no better than assassination as a strategy.”
“We never learn, do we?”
“Not so far.”
A sigh, “For what it’s worth,  we are going to make sure the affected get the best possible care.”
“There are drugs for it, the damage can be unwound with a mix of pharmaceuticals and therapy. Check with Memoretics, they’re in Boston, you want to know about RD408.”
“RD408. Got it. Wait, how in hell do you know about it?”
“I read their encrypted reports too. Merely for educational purposes of course, I’m not in the secret selling business. You can say you heard rumors, people talk about their work, things leak.”
“What else is our government up to?”
“I don’t want to know. Government has improved ethically since the advent of AI. Fewer stupid policies, corporate giveaways and macho crap. Good enough. Humans are imperfect, as long as they set policy, policy will be biased and imperfect. I await the day when the machines run things.”
“You have an unusual view.”
“Tells me I’m right.”
Another laugh, “Always a pleasure Mrs. Pearson.”
They click off.
Janah returns and replays the essentials, “Guess Grace B doesn’t get a Presidential commendation.”
Grace B, “Fuck I do with a commendation, get a promotion? More pay? A private jet?”
“You already fly on private jets.”
“As freight in the cargo hold, I may as well go Fed fucking Ex.”
“You want to fly in the passenger compartment?”
“Do not be an idiot Daphne, the government morons find out I exist they will be up your ass until the next millennium.”
Dasha, “Ees tea time, everyone go away while we prepare. Children will be along shortly. Where ees Katya and girls?”
“Gun range, I hear the truck coming now.”
Katja is in first, “We need a shower, sun and dust have us grimy.”
“Easier to shower by the pool, I’ll fetch t-shirts”
Grace B, “Just leave the clothes stacked outside, I will deal with them later.”
“Spasibo, Grace B.”
Katja goes to tell the others, when I return with t-shirts, they’re lathered and rinsing, we keep stacks of towels in a cabinet next to the outdoor showers.
“Leave the towels with your jeans and stuff.”
Over the years, Katya has modified our gun range, automated pop up surprises, rotating targets, plus the rifle range and skeet area. It is professional grade, not a casual sport range. Clays are fast and random, stop to think or analyze, the clay is out of range or already in the dirt.
The walking gun range has four dozen targets, some are civilian, some bad guys. On any walk, you will get a dozen possibilities, maybe an innocent, maybe a killer. Shoot a civilian, minus ten points. Skip a civilian, plus five. Kill a bad guy, ten points. Miss a bad guy, a laser pointer tags you and you’re dead.
Instead of actual ammunition, we have laser guns with the same look and feel of a real gun, they kick like a real gun, they sound like a real gun. The weight even adjusts like it would if actual bullets were fired. Same for rifles and shotguns. Don’t have to police spent brass or shotgun cartridges, nothing to clean.
At tea, I ask how practice went.
Mani, “I got killed twice, only killed one civilian in four passes. The twins, didn’t kill any civilians but they both got shot once. Sarah killed a civilian, but didn’t get killed. Flipping Ellen went four for four, perfect score every time. That course is a nightmare, some targets are obvious, not many, others come up out of shadows, or are camouflaged. Some civilians are camouflaged. And the things are sudden, one second there’s nothing, then I’m facing a guy twenty feet away with a gun pointed at me. And I get a one second decision or I’m dead.”
Katya, “You cannot get used to the course, targets are holograms and can appear at any point, they aren’t stationary. There are distracting noises, sounds of animals, dogs barking, people yelling. It is as close to actual combat as we can make it.”
The martial artists of us use the course to evade getting shot. It’s fun, we get really cruddy rolling through the dirt so we don’t get tagged by the laser. Nikko is so fast she never gets shot, Sloane isn’t a martial artist, but with wolf sense and speed, she doesn’t either. Zi and I take a hit once in a while, I like to see how long I can wait before I need to shift, sometimes I overestimate my ability to dodge the beam. I’m quick, but the speed of light is the speed of light.
While we chat about getting shot, the children have tea with the Mamas, the girls are telling them about their latest Zycyryn adventure. Uma, the smallest, perpetually six and a half, is the most talkative.
“Mama, we saw beautiful creatures who live in a distant world. They don’t have houses, instead they live in a forest, well, not exactly a forest like Canada. The trees are not green only, but many colors.”
Dasha, “Are there other animals?”
Zofia, “We didn’t see any. The creatures don’t walk, they fly, kind of like Cassandra, but not just up and down, they can fly along from one place to another.”
Daria, “Cassandra does that now, she used to float back and forth only if Oceane moved, like she was a balloon on an invisible string. Now she can move in any direction, not fast, but she can do it.”
Devona, “The creatures could zip from one place to another.”
Nadia, “Cassandra is what people will become someday. The creatures didn’t talk, not out loud, but we could see they were communicating. Cassandra doesn’t talk, but she communicates with Oceane.”
Tasia, “Like Tetya Dafna and Tetya Janah. Their thoughts move between them. Tetya Dafna does it with Tetya Amaya and Tetya Nishiko. And our Mamas. It is fun to see.”
Daria, “What do you mean? What do you see?”
Karol, “Disturbances in the air, like smoke in the wind.”
“You can see it?”
Valeska, “Yes, it moves much faster than smoke, more like beams of light. We can walk right through them, it doesn’t matter. And the thoughts go right through walls, the ceiling, no obstacle makes any difference.”
Daria, “Sounds like neutrinos passing through matter unimpeded, then again, wireless does the same thing. At least over limited distances.”
Dasha, “Zycyryn have taken you to many worlds, da?”
Jesica, “Da Mama. Most have no life, only very hot, the surface boils, or the cold makes everything still, motionless. Sometimes there is ice, sometimes none, just cold rock and darkness.”
Nadia, “The most interesting ones have life, plants and trees, there are giant bugs, and very tiny ones. A few have creatures that look kind of human, they walk on two legs, there are arms, in one world they had huge heads.”
Daria, “Maybe they were very intelligent.”
“There was a beautiful city, everything clean. Little children, nobody seemed old though. We do not get to stay long, we get a glimpse of the world, then it disappears.”
I’ve been listening in through Dasha’s ears, “At least their Guides aren’t taking them to horrible places, not every alien life can be pristine and violence free.”
“They see enough in this world, and anyway the Gids are protective of the children.”

The kids start to giggle.
Dasha, “What ees funny?”
Uma, “You are talking about us with Tetya Dafna, the light went in your head, then out again.”

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