Twenty Nine

Today the whole crowd tours the construction, fair number of bots doing much of the manual work, and a few more doing technical installation, like wiring. The subcontractors are more like geeks than the old style construction types, plans are on screens, not blueprints. Measurements are to the millimeter, there are no gaps, straight walls are straight, counters are perfectly level. Like our home in Arizona, doors slide into the wall, facial recognition or a thumbprint opens. The door slides shut when we’re in, slides shut when we leave.
All windows are double pane clear polymer, bullet proof and shatter resistant. They frost over with a voice command. Nikko bought the mountain, the valley behind us and the mountain behind that. There’s not much reason to frost the windows to the sides and rear, but Kota B does it at night as double protection for the children. They are frequently nude in their dorm room and always when they swim. It would take a first class telescope to zoom in on them from the surrounding hills and it still wouldn’t reveal much. This, however, is the drone era and the things are ubiquitous. 
Eloise and Lauren devised a neat solution. Drone patrol. Cameras around the house search the sky, programmed to ignore birds and focus on inert matter, metal or plastic polymer and batteries. Like Arizona, if a drone approaches within five hundred yards, it will be lasered out of the sky. Our Arizona property is still remote, we haven’t had to shoot down any. Malibu will be closer to a busy corridor and lots of development. People are bound to be curious about the huge Victorian mansion on the mountain.
“I’m impressed Nikko. You could have had Grace B monitor all of this from home, but you came out anyway.”
“We get better results if we seem approachable, not long distance overseers. The subs made several useful suggestions regarding materials and plumbing they likely wouldn’t have just reporting to a bot. Still, Grace B and Emma B did a spectacular job, they don’t get distracted or frustrated, they don’t get bored.”
Sloane is running the mountain with Sarah, the children are going from room to room, empty now, plumbing is still being installed. The job is simplified because the baths are essentially identical in most rooms. The dorm has a multi use bath, like Arizona. A line of showers in one open shower room, soap and shampoo dispensers at little girl height, four water closets, half a dozen sinks. The dorm itself is virtually identical to the one in Arizona . Canada is different, more lodge style with high ceilings and skylights with retractable covers. The snow piles up in winter, we were concerned about leaks.
Uma and Zofia come up, “Tetya Dafna, the Gids say this is a magical place, we will have many adventures,” two beautiful smiles sparkle up at me.
“The family will anticipate hearing your stories. You are happy then, about our newest home?”
Zofia, “Da, and our new sister Britt will join us in our adventures. The Gids say she is strong and brave. You are going to teach her mystical arts. She will have other gifts from the Zycyryn.”
“I don’t suppose they said what gifts.”
Uma, “The Gids did not say, they can be secretive, or just playful. We will see when we see. We did not tell Britt, the Gids say she needs your training first. After you have given her the qi transmission, then they will decide.”
“I never said anything about qi transmission.”
Zofia giggles, “Gids know the future. If they say you will transmit qi, that is what will happen.”
“What else do they know about the future?”
“Valeska asked, the answer was some, not all. They would not say any more.”
Uma, “Tonight, we will dance on the mountain, Zycyryn will come, our new home will be full of energy. The family will always be protected here.”
“Thank them please…um…what about Arizona….Canada…Manhattan?”
Zofia, “Those homes are already protected Tetya Dafna. Didn’t you know?”
“Nobody said anything to me, it never came up I suppose.”
“Oceane and Cassie know.”
“Zofia, Oceane forgets the last minute, Cassie doesn’t talk.”
Nadia is behind them, “We should have said something, in any case, there is nothing to worry about when the family is at home. The Gids know of your travels, there is danger then, but the danger is required. You cause pain, and even death. The Zycyryn understand the necessity, but they will not make you invulnerable. To bring pain, you must risk pain.”
“And I agree. They are right to deny protection for the work we undertake.”
Uma, ‘The secret passages are wonderful, dark, creepy, we have to learn the corridors and which rooms they lead to.’
‘You’ll figure it out.’
What they haven’t figured out is that the passages can be altered, a wall slides in place so that what used to be a clear passage can be cut off, changing the routes. They will be on a random shuffle, one passage shortened, but another opens up that was closed when they passed. The architect and engineer had a great time dreaming them up, not to mention the million dollar bonus they earned for getting it right, baffling, challenging, an illusion of passages that don’t exist, or that exists but appears closed. Flickering electric candles spaced far enough apart that the passage is dead dark in stretches.
Evening comes, the crews have been gone for some time. At seven, a drone delivers pizza and drinks, we sit on the ground and eat while the sun sets. The views are spectacular, just enough scattered clouds to add color to the orange glow of the sunset. Lights come on along the PCH and twinkle from homes on surrounding hillsides. 
The children dance, they usually dance in a circle, tonight the circle winds around the entire house. As they move to the slow beat, Amaya kicks in the vocals, a chant from the David Byrne song Regiment, with amazing vocals by Lebanese singer Dunya Yunis.  Amaya catches the exact pitch, and how she holds the notes for so long is breathtaking. Her version takes nearly ten minutes, I wonder if she will be able to speak when it’s done.
While Amaya sings, the children snake around us, hips glide like a slow belly dance, hands in the air. They make ever smaller circles until they are inches from where we are sitting.
Amaya hits a particularly long note, a hundred feet up, sparkles burst over us, not like fireworks, there is no heat, only millions of tiny beads of light. These are the physical manifestation of Zycyryn.
We weep at the beauty of the entire performance, more poignant than common applause.


We fly back to Arizona this morning, hard to top Oceane riding a shark and the privilege of seeing the children’s Gids. Lauren and Eloise return with us.
Britt, “How does Amaya do so many voices? And hold those notes for so long?”
“She has perfect pitch, if she hears a note, she can replicate it exactly. How she extends the notes is a matter of practice.”
“I hear her singing all the time, and doing her screenplays and novels characters out loud.”
“It helps fix the character in her mind, to create better dialogue. She says it is difficult to decide how much altered dialogue to put in novels, like southern twang, or Bronx accents. It can confuse the reader. Screenplays are different, the actors will be saying the words, accent becomes part of the performance.”
“Nadia found an old movie she wants us to do as a play, something called Rocky Horror Picture Show, do you know what it is?”
I laugh, “Only the greatest cult movie of all time. I’ll get Kota B to run it for everyone. When it was popular, before I was born, people used to go to midnight screenings dressed as the characters.”
“What’s a cult movie?”
“Something out of the mainstream, not designed for all audiences. There used to be a word, camp, like hip or quirky, even weird. Something not to be taken seriously. The best way to understand it is to see the movie.”
“We’re weird.”
“Maybe we’re a cult movie.”
She likes that, smiles, “Kota B is going to play the movie for us tonight, then we will start working on our version.”
Nikko comes into the kitchen, “What’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show?”
“It was made before you and I were made, nineteen seventy five, more than ten years before you hit the delivery table. I was born in a manger, my wise woman was Ms. Alva.”
“I thank her for you every day. Without her influence, you  would have been even flakier.”
“Not to mention I wouldn’t have learned to cook, Sis never cooked, still doesn’t cook. Her stove became just another kitchen cabinet when Janah and I left.”
“The second reason I thank her. I’d have built a shrine, but shrines aren’t my thing.”
“Ms. Alva would have hated a shrine, well, maybe a stack of cast iron skillets and pots. I still have hers in Manhattan. I should get Emma B to ship them to Malibu. That would be a way to honor Alva, she would love it, her skillets making meals in a fifty million dollar house.”
“Hundred million plus with the dirt it sits on.”
“Even better. You know, those pots are over a hundred years old, think of it.”
Ellen, “You got hundred year old cast iron and it’s sitting in a cabinet in Manhattan? Dang girl, that’s sacrilegious, I can use the crap out of them.”
“What can I say, we started buying Cruset and got spoiled.”
“We can use both, we cook for an army.”
“I’ll have them sent when the house is finished, no point in shipping them here only to cart them to Malibu. I suspect with Amaya’s film work and the ocean, we’re going to spend the bulk of the year there.”
“Have you decided about Manhattan, the condo?”
“Going to keep it with a maintenance bot. We’ll go back occasionally, visit the temple, the parents, a few friends. If we sell, we have to find a bunch of hotel rooms whenever we visit and haul clothes. It’s simper to keep it. When Susan has friends in town, they can stay there. She, Lacy and Taylor have met all kinds of people in their perpetual travel. some come to New York, we let them use the condo, part of it anyway. Emma B seals off most of the bedrooms. They use one or two and the kitchen and living area. Our private quarters are inaccessible.”
“So they know about Emma B?”
“She dumbs down, they think she’s a housekeeping bot like most people have. They don’t have that many people coming through, once or twice a year. The parents are mostly traveling and aren’t in Manhattan.”
Katya joins us, “Ellen, there is a conflict, do you want to go?”
“Send Sarah and Mani if it’s more than a day trip, we have a crowd to feed and I don’t want to dump it on Daphne and Dasha.”
Katya, “Probably a flight out and back the next day. You have a point though, they can go, it is simple work and doesn’t require more than two.”
Many assassins work alone, they prefer it, and most of Katya’s work could be accomplished by one of the girls. That doesn’t matter to her, she wants a backup, someone to watch the territory while the other does the job. She and her sister started the business working in tandem, although the middle-woman, Penney, never knew about twins. She never knew a Katya. Didn’t matter what targets knew, they weren’t going to be around to testify about one killer or two, or even twins. Once Katya shifted to the dark web for contracts, Penny served no purpose. Katya gave her a generous severance and they went their separate ways.
Our policy in the Society is the same, two Social Workers, always. We don’t do murder for hire, we do refocusing, that is, refocus an abuser from abuse to something else, fear of us. Us means one of our teams. We employ contractors to chat up abusers, hard chat, and obtain agreement that their abusing days are over. Compliance monitors to make sure the agreement is upheld. Our teams don’t just talk, abusers don’t understand talk, they understand pain. We speak to them in their preferred language. Sometimes we go personally. There are lots of abusers, and we have only a few talented Social Workers and they must take a two month hiatus after each job. We are happy to take on work when it’s necessary, after all, Janah and I were the original Social Workers, then Nikko, then Zi, Dasha and Daria. Sloane has been a part of it, sometimes Amaya and Chloe., but they’re more involved when we hunt and kill Shadows.
Amaya, “The kids are rewriting Rocky Horror, I’m giving them dialogue suggestions, and we’ll go into rehearsals in a week or so. I wonder if we should show the movie to the family first, most of them have never heard of it.”
“You think the play will make more sense if they’ve seen the movie?”
“The play should stand on its own, then again, they want to retain a couple of the songs, Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite in particular. I figure an hour tops for the whole thing. If they’ve seen the movie, we can cut out a lot of explication and just do the fun bits.”
“I see your point. And, for us, the joy is in seeing the children perform anyway, they could be doing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”
Amaya brightens, “You are a genius, well, not like I am a genius, but pretty good. After Rocky Horror, we do Who’s Afraid. It’s perfect, four characters, most of the movie is in one house, the dialogue is superb. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at their finest. God, that film is almost seventy years old. And that one won’t need a preview of the original, in fact it will be better  without a prescreening.”
“We watched it, but that was thirty years ago. I watched a movie when I was twenty five that was forty five years old when I saw it, now it’s almost seventy and I’m still twenty five.”
“And I’m seventeen….forever, sneaky Lauren opted to quit aging when she was fourteen.”
“So did Oceane and Cassie. We have mid twenties, late teens and mid teens, then children.”
“What about Britt?”
“Don’t know yet. We’ll have a better idea in a year, see if she grows, she’s only eight.”
“No, I mean, the policy is not to go for the RNA and protein injections until puberty has passed. What if Britt ages but wants to stay as one of the children? The children don’t age for reasons unknown, not because of our markers getting passed to them.”
“It’s not a decision she needs to make until she’s Nadia’s physical age, around eleven. My guess is, she continues. The children have no choice, Britt’s hormonal structure will change, unlike the children. That’s more Janah’s area though.”
Amaya, “We shall find out when we do, besides, it’s cocktails, heavy thinking is done for the day.”
After dinner, we spread round the living room and watch the now near ancient Rocky Horror Picture Show. Considering the changes in sexual attitudes since nineteen seventy five when the movie was released, it’s now only cute, not as out there as it was when it first hit the screens. Most of the original cast is long dead.
Zi, “The plan is for the children to perform it?”
Amaya, “We are making modifications. I plan an exploration of changing sexual attitudes, what they were at the original release, then decade by decade shifts in culture. It will not be a documentary or a morality play, it will be entertainment, as ridiculous as we can make it. The film you saw tonight is only the barest structure of the play as I envision it. The children will have the bulk of the input, but they know nothing of the sexual and other cultural mores of the eighties, nineties and two thousands.”
Sloane, “So it’s kind of a history lesson.”
“Yes, without the ponderous overtones, I would say a blend of sarcasm and humor, particularly with the children’s take on those years.”
Lauren, “How will they get a take, an overview?”
“Kota B is assembling a montage of news, magazine articles, television programs and movies that will begin in the seventies and wind up in the twenty thirties. Not only do they get a historical panorama, but they can get a sense of the nuance, the changing verbiage the cultural shifts and the cultural obstacles to change. And they are seeing it fresh, they were never a part of it.”
Sloane, “How can you convey that in a play? I mean, most of us weren’t even around in the eighties.”
“I am working on a couple of approaches, you will have to wait until we bring it to you on stage. It will be at the Malibu house, we cannot possibly have it fleshed out before then. The kids have hundreds of hours of video to watch, then discuss, then turn into dialogue. In fact, it may take several months, I may be overestimating the time they can devote to it.”
“There’s no hurry. It sounds interesting, informative and ultimately entertaining.”
Uma, “And I get to sing Sweet Transvestite, completely costumed like Dr. Frank N. Furter.”
“The Mamas are going along with that?”
Dasha’s still in Malibu, but in my head, “Children leef wiz a houseful of crazy lazebian sociopath girls, what ees beeg deal of wearing stockings and girdle wiz fake tits?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”

Thirty One

Sara and Ellen are off to off someone. Only two of them going, it isn’t like they’re taking down a drug cartel. There aren’t any drug cartels to take down. New pharmaceutical formulations remove the addiction. People still want to get high, but they can do it and put it aside. Nobody spends all day trying to get money to buys the next high. Besides, virtual reality is better than the buzz.
Lauren, “Why do they still go out and kill? They’re rich, they can do anything for a thrill.”
“Why do you take off your clothes at every available opportunity?”
“I like it, but other people like it too. The people they kill don’t like it.”
“If you didn’t get jazzed, you wouldn’t do it. Maybe as a favor, but you wouldn’t instigate it, which is what you do most of the time.”
She laughs, “Touché mommy. My hobby seems more sane…well, not sane, but less dangerous.”
“It is. Although the way they do it mitigates the danger. They don’t ask the target to have a quick draw contest, he or she doesn’t know they’re a target. People know they have enemies, but they don’t make the leap that those enemies might have them silenced.”
“You have enemies, Shadows.”
“True. The difference is, we know they’re out there.”
“What if a Shadow hired a hitman?”
“Shadows are far to egotistical to think they need help. They will partner with other Shadows, as we found out. But it is highly unlikely they would go to an outsider and put out a contract on us. Still, something to think about, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Mention it to Janah, she’s good at juggling the pros and cons of stuff. And it will give her overactive mind something to chew on.”
“I shall.”
“Um, on a prior subject. Perhaps I could persuade you to do a bit of tease.”
She grins, sly and seductive, “I thought I was the one who instigated.”
“Exception proves the rule.”
“Come along, I’ll have you squirmy and panting in no time.”
In her room, we slip out of t-shirts, it’s easy to undress around here. She stretches her languid luscious on the bed tummy down to start. Turns her head to watch.
My hands run over me, then a gentle swipe between my legs starts me up. I can’t take my eyes off her, she smiles, scoots to her knees and undulates those slim hips. She’s got a primo ass, and she’s flawless, not a mole or freckle, smooth as satin. She flips to her side, one long leg cocks up, her hands explore.
“I am so silky, I could touch myself forever,” now one finger works between her legs, soooosloooowwwly, and so ero-tic-ah. 
I am warming, heating actually, wet and slick. I notice her own finger is damp when she lifts it to her mouth and slides it through her lips.
“Nothing compares to my taste, I love all of me, and I see you are infatuated, as well you should be…mommy.”
She sits on the edge of the bed, spreads her legs, leans back on her hands. 
“Show me what I do for you.”
I do, my O hits so hard I gasp, shiver, shudder, sink to my knees moaning.
I look up, Lauren bites her lip, how can anyone be so seductive?
Her toe brushes my lips, then slips in my mouth. I hold her foot and suck.
When she’s satisfied, she pulls it out, “Good girl. Now, you may have one kiss.”
I crawl forward, lean in, feel her moisture on my lips, I kick in qi energy and hold the kiss for a few long seconds. She squeals. I’m dying to engage my tongue, it’s not the agreement, a kiss is all she will allow, and she must offer, it isn’t a given.
“Thank you.”
“You may go, I shall lay here for a bit and think of how fortunate you are. I’m certain you can find a girl to devour.”
As I return to my room, I pass Eloise, take her hand, “Spot me a few minutes, Laruen has me inflamed.”
Her eyes sparkle, “When you get like this, it is so easy to make you do the filthiest things.”
“Anything you want.”
“Everything I want, now shut the door and get in bed. Fire up that qi tongue and start on my butt, slut.”
This is working out splendidly.
We play for an hour, shower together, it’s coming up on tea time. I join Ellen in the kitchen.
“What’s for tea?”
Ellen, “Finger sandwiches, the stuff is out, you can cut the bread, I’ll fill. With the building girls in Malibu, it’s you and I for food prep. Chloe is making tea, she’ll be along in a sec.”
During tea, Eloise updates, “The basic bot is ready to go to New York. I’m flying with it, assemble at the condo and check out operation. Then pack and ship Emma B to Malibu. She can stay at the hotel with the twins and I’ll assemble her later, or Daria can do it if she has time.”
“We don’t travel alone, who’s going with?”
“That’s the same as alone, neither of you is a bodyguard.”
Sloane, “I’ll go, it will only be a couple of days. You have to keep an eye on Oceane and Cass though.”
“They’re on GPS, which Grace B and Kota B monitor. If they get within five hundred yards of a wall, we get a notification, even if Cassie is floating. In all this time, we’ve never had to go and look for them. Still, you have a point. I’ll visit regularly.”
Amaya, “I’ll be in the dorm working with the children, Chloe and I can check on them from there as well.”
Grace B, “Christ, you make a problem out of nothing. I will put the two airheads on the screens. They do not give a damn about privacy. 
“Feeling bitchy today?”
“I do not have feelings idiot, I am a bot, rational, no stupidity inducing hormones.” 
Janah, “Tea sandwiches hit my empty spot. I’m for a DND rest before cocktails,” she means do not disturb.
Britt, “When does my training start Tetya Dafna?”
“”Do you have time tomorrow? Or I should say, pick a time every day. Kota B, what is her schedule?’
“The children swim in the morning, breakfast, lessons until ten thirty. Amaya comes in then for the new play. They will work at it through lunch. Rest time from one until two, creative time, tea. You may call gung fu creative time, Britt has limited interest art, she is learning calligraphy, which is focused meditation. I suggest an hour before tea. Schedules are flexible. Every other day is gymnastics instead of art. Little girls have wads of energy. If they have been up much of the night with the Zycyryn, it all goes out the window the next day. I keep track of hours on lessons and languages, exercise and art, it evens out over time.”
“Okay then, three thirty til four thirty. If we miss a couple of days a week, it’s fine. Do we have the basic monk’s outfit for her?”
Amaya, “Came in today, shoes too. Her big feet suggest she has growing to do, either that or she is destined to be a circus clown.”
Britt giggles, “I do have more foot than height, big ears too.”
That may answer the question of her remaining a child. The other children are unusually proportionate, most kids have outsized heads or hands, feet or ears, an indicator that they will be growing into them.
“Starting can be a grind. First we build up your stamina and flexibility, the kata part doesn’t start for two or three months.”
Kota B, “I have explained the general routine. She also knows to follow instructions, no ‘why this?’ or ‘how about that instead?’. There is a Master and a student, the Master says, the student does.”
Britt blinks up at me, smiles. Going to be difficult to push her adorableness into and past her pain tolerance.

Thirty Two

We’re into the third week of Britt’s training. She had a running start, gymnastics with the kids has her flexible, and she’s a little girl, practically double jointed. She’s been a trooper, I started her like every student starts, horse riding stance until she collapses. Handstands, run up the mountain, run down the mountain. Sloane leads her along, loping wolf-like, no strain for her, Britt huffs, hands on her knees until she gets her breath.
Janah or I qi her legs and torso, she’s building tummy, back and shoulder strength with the plank. I see her in the position several times a day, good for her. We sit cross legged and talk after a session.
“Yes, but no complaining allowed.”
Good again, and she has yet to ask when something new will begin, or how long anything will take. Kota B’s doing I suppose.
“Tomorrow we work on the qi dummies. First, front kick, then we add variations of kicks and punches as we go.”
“I see you using them, and the twins, you can make them buzz like crazy.”
“When we hit a pressure point with enough force, the dummy buzzes. One second is a light contact, three seconds a disabling blow. You will practice enough so you don’t have to think about the pressure points when you strike, you will hit them automatically. How long that takes varies by student. Doesn’t matter, practice and you will get there soon enough.”
I decide a little peek at the future might help her persist, “When I’m satisfied with your kicks and punches, you will learn basic fighting techniques, arm and wrist locks, takedowns. Then your first kata. During sparring, you will be hit, arm twisted, fall hard. Am I being mean?”
“No, you are being kind. If I get hit, I need to know it won’t kill me, that I can keep going.”
“Yes. Now, get a shower, you can be a few minutes late for tea.”
She stands and bows, backs out of the room. It isn’t polite to turn your back on the Master.
Janah sits, “She’s doing well.”
“Sure is. Kota B has coached her, but we coached Black, David and Chan to get accepted to the temple, nothing wrong with a heads up. She can’t know what to do intuitively, or by observing other students, there aren't any”
Chloe joins us, she’s just finished a kendo session with the children.
“Kids are amazing, they pick up things so quickly. And they love getting dressed up in their uniforms, tying each other’s hair back, all the ritual. And when we have sparring or matches, they give no quarter, every girl is responsible for herself. And good Lord can they screech, my ears ring. Britt coming along?”
“She’s determined, I don’t think she’s naturally graceful like Nikko. Gymnastics gave her excellent proprioception though, she’s balanced and centered. And for a little girl, she’s quite strong, her legs are like granite, washboard tummy, arms and back are solid. She’s going to have dense muscle, like the twins. I need to make sure she retains flexibility.”
Chloe, “She gets the others to stretch her, and she does a full side split, can stand on one foot and hold her leg in the air over her head. I doubt flexibility will be an issue.”
Grace B, “If you have done enough child abuse for today Movie Star, which buys you exactly nothing with me, I don’t give a damn about your fucking autograph, tea is ready, no thanks to Daphne or Chloe.”
During tea, the children have their own low table, Britt usually joins them, occasionally she parks next to Chloe or Amaya, a nod to her Mamas.
Oceane is sharing a cookie with Cassie, out of nowhere she says to no one in particular, “Shadows are near,” then she breaks off another hunk and feeds it to Cass.
“Grace B, you catch that?”
“Of course I caught it dimwit. There has been no pattern of Shadow behavior, certainly none around here. That does not mean there are not Shadows in the vicinity, they simply have not done anything the algorithms connect to Shadow activity.”
“Chloe, let’s walk the drive to the road, Sloane, Janah, the other side with Danika. Katya, your people stand guard around the perimeter of the house. Anyone wandering for any reason, stop them. If they don’t obey, take out a leg with the laser guns. Ellen, the roof with the laser rifle, Su, you’re with her as spotter, take the binoculars and survey the outbuildings, the guest house, the track and the areas around the pool. Be warned, a Shadow can grab your mind. Stay on the radio frequency, if you feel weak or dizzy, say so. Grace B, immobilize anyone that isn’t us. Kota B, children to the dorm and seal it, you too Britt. Amaya and Eloise, lockdown in the dorm with the kids, fly the drones from there, you’re looking for intruders, use the halogen lights when it gets dark. I hope this is overkill.”
I’m security chief, when threats arise, I decide, everyone follows instructions. My decisions can be questioned, but make it quick and relevant, we’re past maybe and what if.
Everyone moves to their assignments, Ellen on the roof with a laser rifle, Katya, Katja, Sarah and Mani park at the four corners of the house. Nikko, Zi and the twins are in Malibu, good, fewer people to worry about, bad, all of them are martial artists.
Chloe and I walk the half mile to the entrance gate, nothing, no cars parked on the road in either direction. Chloe doesn’t sense any Shadows, neither do I. 
“Let’s walk the wall.” 
I mental Janah, “Walk east to the main gate. Chloe and I will take the west side. We spotted nothing at the gate or on the road.”
“Nothing back here either, but it’s steep and rocky beyond the wall, an unlikely point of attack.”

Amaya’s in my head, “Two people east of the gate, on the outside of the wall. Just standing there smoking.”
“Anyone west?”
“Eloise surveyed it, nothing, the only activity is the one I have, check your phone, you can see them.”
“Janah, you are going directly towards two people hanging out on the other side of the wall, eight hundred yards further on. Chloe and I are cutting across the grounds, move forward another five hundred yards and hold.”
“Got it.

I’m on the radio to Katya’s crew, “Two people on the west wall, Amaya has them on GPS, check your phone for location. They are not inside the wall, but our property extends two hundred yards beyond the wall. We will determine if they are Shadows, until then, don’t kill anyone.”
Katya, “We copy. Ellen, sight them.”
“Got ‘em already, smoking, it’s a fucking dry mountain, assholes, I oughta waste ‘em just for that shit.”
“Any move to scale the wall, decommission them.”
“Fuckin’ A copy that.”
“Amaya, you have them?”
“Copy, I can stun, immobilize or kill, you want Eloise to zero in?”
“No, her drone needs to be following the wall around the property, these two may be a distraction. Two Shadows aren’t going to take on all of us on our own ground.”
“Message delivered. She’s putting two more drones up, Kota B and Grace B will fly them. Nobody is getting over any wall anyplace without a nasty surprise.”
“Janah, backtrack, this is too simple, have to be more Shadows. We have four drones in the air, monitor the phone. Chloe and I will find out if the two we know about are Shadows or just stupid people curious about the wall and what’s behind it.”
“Moving now.”

Chloe and I are within fifty yards, I can see cigarette smoke drifting up on the other side of the wall.
I whisper to Chloe, “Get close enough to get a read, I have to hang back, if they’re Shadows, they’ll sense a Shaolin. Then again, if they’re Shadows, they’re here because they already know there are Shaolin. Duh Daphne. I’ll go with.”
Chloe, “Stay behind me thirty yards, better not to give them more information than we need to.”
Good point, I hang back, she’s behind the wall, turns nods a yes…Shadows.
I mental Amaya, “Shadows, let them scale the wall before you take them.”
“Got it.”
 “Janah, we’re waiting to see if they come over the wall, anything else?”
“Nothing, the drones show nothing. I suspect this is a scouting party. If there are more Shadows, they’re observing from someplace else.”
“I can’t risk the radio from here, tell Grace B and Kota B to fly the surrounding area while it’s still light.”
“Will do.”

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