Chapter Thirty Seven

We defer our trip to the mountain top until Nikko and the others are in. I don't want Oceane here without our martial artists around. We do go to the falls, an hour hike, and I take Sloane up the rock climb which runs next to the falls. After that, it's a steep hike up to the top, maybe two hours, but not particularly dangerous. This is the second or third time she's done the difficult climb up and back.
Sloane, "Geez, that's a challenge, it's only what, a couple hundred feet?"
"Yes, but you have to pick and choose, the mountain changes a little every year, and I don't want to trust old pitons from the last time we went up."
She stretches her fingers back and forth, "Hands took a beating."
"Give me your hand," she does, I send qi into one hand for fifteen minutes, then the other.
Sloane, "My hand is warm, and it's like electricity, it vibrates."
"Blood flow is key, get the ache out, and stretched and strained ligaments repaired. Tonight, we'll soak them in dit da jow, David's mystery liniment. In the morning, no problems."
Her wolf pal has followed us up the mountain, he nuzzles her, "It's okay, mom fixed me up."
He seems satisfied, he glances at me and allows me to pet him, a privilege normally reserved for Sloane and Oceane.
"See mom, he knows you are taking care of me."
Oceane is with us, she's been quiet, taking in the mountain, "The wolf wants to share his skills with Sloane."
"Like a transmission, something from him to her?"
Oceane, "Yes."
Janah, "A grey wolf can see and smell better than a domesticated dog, can run up to forty miles an hour, is incredibly agile. We've seen him bounding across small logs without missing a step."
Sloane, "Wow, mom, can I?"
My mom part is leery, my Shaolin part demands she be allowed to decide.
"It is your decision. I don't know what happens. My transmission for the eagle and owl was painful, I almost passed out, did pass out at the end."
Oceane, "He will train her like a pup, slowly. It may hurt, pain teaches more than pleasure."
Sloane strokes his muzzle, "I will be trained, what do I do?"
Oceane, "Tonight, when the moon is full, he will come."
We make our way back to the cabin, the wolf is steps behind Sloane, then bounds off to the woods when we walk up to the porch.
Amaya and Chloe skipped the hike to take the houseboat out, Chloe says, "Lake is so still, I caught Walleye, perhaps you will grill them for dinner."
"Where are they?"
"In the refrigerator, Dasha and I filleted them already."
"Simple then, what else Dasha?"
"I made vegetable zoup, ees simmer already now. Also cornbread, ees enough."
Cocktail hour comes around, we enjoy on the porch until it's time to grill fish, then dinner. Sloane and I go outside and park on the big rock. The moon is huge, seems to take up half the sky. The others enjoy it from the porch, wine in hand.
A howl from the woods, Oceane says, "He calls for Sloane."
She and I go into the woods. Between the moonlight and my owl vision, it's easy going, I can see forest creatures peering at us, including a grey owl staring from his perch in one of the white spruce, like giant Christmas trees, that make up this section of forest.
I hear her in my head, "The wolf will not hurt the child."
Reassuring, my heart's still a bit racy, pain for the animals is a fact of life, they don’t get aspirin or splints.
A quarter mile in, he approaches. Oceane is with us, she is our interpreter.
"Sloane needs to lie next to him, on her back. We may sit with her and observe."
"Sloane, you ready?"
"Yes mom. It will be okay, really."
For the next two hours we're sitting in the moonlit forest. I feel the animals watching, the wolf pants, Sloane is still, as if asleep.
I sense the owl behind me, turn and look up at her.
"You have not lost your flexibility," my head is near backwards.
"No, I keep in practice, it has been useful in our work."
"You have killed."
"Yes, Shadows."
"I know them, we stay away, they kill for fun, not food. But then so do most humans. The only good thing is you also kill each other. One day humans will be gone, not soon enough. The wolf is doing all the work. You must go now, he will call again another moon."

The big female lifts off effortlessly and is gone into the night. I stroke the wolf's flank, thank him. He's clearly exhausted, breath in shallow huffs, like he's been running a long way. His partner comes out of the dark. Oceane has a bottle of water, pours sips into his mouth, he finishes one, she produces a second, he drinks all of that. His mate nuzzles him, the wolf stands, shakes himself, they trot off into the shadows.
Sloane blinks out of her twilight, "I felt him inside, like a vibration, electric, it stung a little, like iodine on a cut, then I got used to it."
"Feel good enough to walk back?"
"Sure," she stands, legs a little shaky, takes a few tentative steps, spins, then races away towards the cabin.
"Geez, I can't even move that fast."
Oceane follows me out of the woods, we are treated to a symphony of wolf calls for the next half hour.

Chapter Thirty Eight

Sloane has no trouble sleeping, a good sign, I thought she'd be fidgety. Janah said she'd come racing out of the woods like a blur, shot across the grounds, then a u-turn back to the porch. She leapt from the ground, vaulted the railing and stuck the landing. She cleared a six foot vertical from as many feet away.
Janah, "It was amazing, a streak across the lawn, turned on a dime, ran towards us, then the jump. She got something from him, I don't think even you could have made that leap from that distance."
Even after an exciting night, I'm up early, diddling around in the kitchen, Dasha comes along a few minutes later, we have coffee, well, I do, she has black tea.
"What for breakfast, traditional?"
"Da, beescuit, bacon, schrambulled, this time wiz crim. Janah haf not gone for berries, maybe today. It will be enough to get day started."
I start biscuit batter, Dasha breaks eggs while the bacon sizzles. Chloe appears, then Janah and Daria. Eloise, Oceane and Sloane are still sacked out I assume.
Then Oceane comes in with a basket of blackberries and raspberries.
"You went out early."
Oceane, "The berries said they were fat and ready from the rains. They are sweet."
She rinses them in the big colander, gets a cup of green tea and sits. When they've drained, I put them in a big bowl and add a small pitcher of heavy cream and a bowl of cane sugar. I taste one.
"You may not need to add sugar, Oceane is right, these are sweet on their own."
Janah tastes, "Delicious, a little cream on top is like dessert for breakfast."
Dasha, "I will make berry pie, you must get another basket full today. For lunch we will haf chiz, cracker, pepperoni and salami. Dinner ees lasagna wiz garden burger, maybe root vegetable and herb eef Janah will find."
Janah, "Oceane and I know the spots, we can also have mushrooms, maybe Daphne can fry them for an appetizer."
Dasha, "Da, and extra, I will make mushroom zoup for tomorrow or next day."
Janah, "Yum, I have my mission, it will be at least two trips, how splendid, a day in the meadows."
Amaya, "Chloe and I will help, Oceane will spend half the time chatting with mushrooms."
"They tell me if it is okay to eat them."
Eloise shows up, gets a coffee, "Good morning, berries, wow, who went out already?"
We pile eggs, biscuits and bacon on platters, girls pass around and fill plates.
Eloise, "Sloane still asleep?"
"Either that or she's out hunting for a mate, or a field mouse, or both."
Amaya, "Eeeww, gross. You are an abominable mother, it is a good thing the child has me as a proper role model."
"Can't disagree."
"I should say so. Disagreeing with me is a sign of a faulty frontal cortex."
Sloane flies down the steps, sails out the door. I see her zip off the porch, jump the big rock and race around the front lawn, then back up the porch and inside.
"Wow, I'm starved."
Dasha puts a plate together for her, "You haf to eat wiz fork, not stick face in eggs like wolf dog or Eemaya will haf attack heart and do beeg dramatic."
Chloe laughs, Amaya says, "All the hours I spent teaching the brat to enunciate English, she reverts to Slav-speak."
Dasha, "I can do your majesty's English anytime I need to, it is more fun to keep my accent, thank you."
Amaya, "You sound like a Russian thug just to charm Daphne."
"I adore our Russian thugs," I kiss Dasha and Daria, "besides, it helps us tell them apart, for that matter it helps them tell each other apart."
Janah, I wonder if you're on to something. Can idents be so close they have a single identity?
Ours mental and merge, maybe they swap, how would we know?

Chloe, "When do you want to go?"
Janah, "It's nine, maybe a half hour, an hour?"
Amaya, "Good with me, I have several story ideas, I will be on the porch processing words."
Girls go off to dress for the day, it's cool, not cold, I stack floppy hats by the door, they don't need sunburned noses.
"Done Sloane?"
"Yes, that was really good. Can I go outside?"
"You're almost fifteen, you can go where you want, when you want. I would like to know that you're going out and where, but it's up to you to tell me. Always take your GPS like the rest of us."
We carry personal trackers, Shadows make it a dangerous world for us, beyond the normal dangerous world. Any of us can track the others if we need to. It isn't like we follow each other around, it's a safety precaution. We're good about having them with us, except Oceane. She never goes anyplace without at least one of us, we always have to remind her to get her tracker. Eloise inscribed simple operating instructions on Oceane's, we don't know if she would remember how to use it otherwise. She says the phone and tracker will tell her what to do, I've never seen her make an actual call. On the other hand, she can fly the drone perfectly with no refresher instructions, she says it tells her where to point on the screen.
In fact, she's taking the drone with her today while they search out berries, mushrooms and herbs.
Daria, "Drone is all charged, pay attention, there are tranquilizer darts loaded."
"Why does she need those?"
"Drone flies differently with weight of darts. Better for work if she practices with it loaded. Her drone at home doesn't have darts."
Oceane flies it off the roof at home, circles the neighborhood, she's her own Oceane Earth, at least for our stretch of the Village. Once she flew it to the Shaolin temple and swooped in on David Li and Manolo working in the garden, then got shots of gung fu practice. Bunch of monks waving up at it with big smiles.
Girls go off to forage, Daria and Eloise take the powerboat out for a spin. That leaves Dasha and I. We decide it's a perfect moment to climb back in bed and do lascivious lesbian lust, lovely.

Chapter Thirty Nine

Our days of languid nothing always seem to evaporate when we're in Canada, Nikko and Zi arrive, Dasha and I zing across the lake to pick them up.
"Travel okay?"
Zi, "Always, Blue Sky is such a treat. We are so happy to get a break, we worked all day and entertained clients three nights a week, then a big dinner for the employees."
Nikko is quiet, Dasha has the boat full bore, we may set a new cross the lake record. I rest my hand on Nikko's neck, check her qi, even Nikko has a battery limit and hers is on empty.
"You are on total nothing for a week."
Nikko, "I'll be okay in a couple of days."
"I'm security director, and the security director is ordering a week of zip. You can make the fires in the evening, that's it."
Nikko, "Hai."
Instant agreement, she really is whipped.
Welcoming hugs all around, we get their gear stowed in their bedroom. They lose an hour flying out from the left coast, it's nearly seven now. Maybe a big steak dinner tomorrow, first let Nikko and Zi ease into their downtime. Cocktails and appetizers, Dasha and I have fried crappie fresh from the lake, we made a cheese grits casserole and stir fried root vegetables coated with garlic sauce.
Zi, "Incredible, this fish is amazing, and grits, what a treat."
I watch, Nikko eats a reasonable amount, a good sign. Dasha made berry pie, Nikko eats her portion of that too.
Janah, Looks to be just worked out, nothing more. She takes our businesses so personally.
Would have been better to have Daria along, lighten up some of it. I heard her on the phone with them several times, Daria could have handled more of the client negotiations face to face.
We won't make that mistake again.

Daria, I will go with them in the future, Zi is good for chatting up clients and employees, not so much at dealing with lawyers.
We couldn't know, opportunities came up that they hadn't planned for. Nikko is tough, too many long hours and too much sake, the new clients are Japanese and they require long bouts of booze and bullshit before business.

I make Chamomile tea, Nikko and Zi are in bed by ten. The rest of us hang out at the fireplace, Sloane falls asleep on the mat with a big pillow under her head. She spent most of the day wandering the forest with her wolf pals.
Chloe, "I wonder how it will affect her? She can run like a wolf, does she have the same scent capability? I don't even know what a wolf can do, is it like a dog?"
Janah, "A gray wolf has about a hundred times the scent sensitivity of a human and much better hearing. They don't see as sharply, fewer color receptors, but have excellent night vision. They also have jaws that can crunch through bone, much stronger than a dog. We haven't figured out if Sloane received all those capabilities."
Oceane, "The wolf gave her speed and agility, her sight remains the same. She hears better and catches scents more intensely. He gave her some, not all, of his sensory skills."
Amaya, "How do you know that? Do not tell me the wolf told you."
Oceane, "Okay."
Amaya, "Okay, okay what?"
"You said not to tell you."
"Wait, the wolf told you, is that it?"
"Can I tell you now?"
"Out with it moonbeam."
Oceane smiles, "Yes, he told me, he also told Sloane, you can ask her."
Amaya, "Sheesh, weirdoes abound."
"Said the girl who can imitate any voice in either speech or song."
"Does this mean she's going to be sniffing butts all the time?"
Amaya, "Daphne! You are disgusting, come to me tonight and show me what you mean."
Janah, "Just let Sloane sleep here, she's dead away."
I get a comforter, she's got pillows, the fire is down to embers. Dasha and I collect cups and pile them in the dishwasher. The others have drifted off to bedrooms, I pop in Janah's mind, Daria's in bed with her, then I see Eloise and Dasha climbing in. Janah’s got a busy night ahead. I go to Amaya and Chloe for our own femme frolics.

Chapter Forty

Ah, always sleep well after a bout of girl sex, and last night was three girl sex, by the time I get downstairs, Dasha has coffee brewed and strong black tea in the pot.
"What am I doing for breakfast?"
Dasha, "You will make Hollandaise, we haf fried feesh fillet left over, heat up and make St. Charles New Orleans."
She means eggs St. Charles, poached eggs over a slice of fried fish with Hollandaise on top. Really tasty. Starter of Milk Punch, whole milk, wee bit of sugar, rum and a touch of nutmeg, like a less rich eggnog. I decide to accompany with fluffy buttery biscuits. It's a bit of a production since we don't have all the egg poachers we have at home. Here we can do eight at a time, but it's just as well since not everyone is up. The whole idea of Canada is a more flexible and relaxed schedule.
Amaya comes in from the porch, "Getting some great ideas for something. Do not know yet whether it is a book or movie or both," she pours a second coffee.
"What's the storyline?"
"Alienation. This will diverge from my action adventure mindset, I am inspired by Haruki Murakami. He is a genius of the genre, better than Camus for my money. It may be my forever project, the entire story is non-action, or, I should say, disaffected action. A breakdown of and with authority."
"Sounds heavy."
"That is the challenge. I am going absurdist."
"That's sure a one eighty for you."
"Yes, and it is making my brain sweat. The world has gotten so absurd, it's hard to think of how to top it. I may as well read the Huffington Post and watch clips from the Daily Show."
"Ready for breakfast?"
"Bring it on."
I make enough for the three of us, Chloe comes along so I give her mine and poach more eggs when Nikko and Zi show up. Next thing I know, everyone has eaten except me.
Eloise, "That dish is so good."
Chloe, "I could start every day with a Milk Punch."
Dasha, "You will sit down Dahfoney, I will make yours now."
Sloane, "Mom, my jaw aches."
I feel around, nothing obvious, Janah checks, "Her lymph nodes are normal," she tells Sloane, "open up."
She probes around her gums, tests teeth to see if any are loose, nothing.
"I'll give you aspirin, come here and let me cold qi it for a while."
"Thanks Dasha, this stuff is so good, guess I'm repeating, but crunchy fried fish, smooth eggs and creamy Hollandaise makes for a taste delight."
"There are a half dozen pieces of feesh left, somebody eat."
Janah, "Bring me one Daph."
Her hands surround Sloane's jaw, I feed it to her. When I return to the table, the fish is gone, eggs long gone, biscuits gone. High praise for the chefs.
"Sloane, don't wander far today, take a day to rest. If you feel the need to run around, run around right outside."
"I'm good with nothing mom, my legs are tight, I went a little hard yesterday."
Nikko, "What's all this about?"
"Ah, you don't know. Sloane received a transmission from the gray wolf."
"A transmission, like you and the eagle? Was she hurt?"
"No, he went gently. So far, all we know is he likes to run fast and jump over things. That's what happened yesterday, now she's paying. She has the motor skills, but is still growing the muscle and sinew."
Janah, "I suspect the jaw is about the same thing. She may need bones to chew on."
Nikko, "A gray wolf can snap an ankle bone clean through. Be careful, he jaw muscles may overwhelm her tooth capacity to handle it."
"Hadn't thought of that, Sloane, don't clamp down on anything until we get a handle on this."
"I won't, it feels better now, Janah has me frozen."
Amaya, "This family is already absurd, perhaps I should direct my attention to that."
Nikko, "What is she talking about?"

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