Forty One

Well, well, not just a Christian mingle, more like Antichrist hanging with prostitutes. One boat went south, one of the yachts. There were busty babes, but the action we have an interest in was in the conference room.
At first, the language was couched in code, ‘Assignment Thor’ for instance. As they talked of ‘our operatives’ in the community and the ‘enemy’, it became apparent the agenda wasn’t about orphans and food banks. Of course, today, there are no food banks, citizens get a check every month if they fall below a certain income level. Enough to live on, pay the rent, not get rich but not live poor either.
We couldn’t figure out the beef, it wasn’t economic, the wealthy accepted enough taxation to eliminate homelessness, and take the mentally ill off the street and put them in care. They had finally given up on the absurd notion that, in America, anyone could be anything by bootstrapping themselves up the ladder. If I’m born on the fifty yard line and you’re still in the locker room, I’m going to beat you to the goal line even if I walk, even if I crawl.
Eventually, as the booze flowed and the tongues loosened, all came clear, the oldest enemy in the books, they don’t look like us, they don’t think like us. The enemies are minorities and religion, any religion not falling under the Christian umbrella. Black Christians are a special category, they couldn’t be real Christians, they’re black. That Jesus was a dark skinned Jew is ignored. White people don’t breed fast enough to keep up and our cabal of wealthy white guys have been trying to figure out what to do about it.
The first conversation didn’t reveal much but the purpose of the group in a generic sense. We found out who they didn’t like, but rich white guys haven’t much cared for not rich brown guys for a long time. They hire them to crank out software readily enough, but they don’t get invited to the club.
The rest of the boat ride was given over to party and pussy. I don’t know if Christians are the horniest religious group, but these guys could give whichever one is a run for the money. We know because our mikes covered not just the conference room but the better part of the yacht. We only had audio, but the verbiage plus the squeals and grunts told us more than we needed to know.
Nikko, “A fuckathon, they must put Viagra in the punchbowl. I hope they pay the help generously.”
Grace B, “Ten grand a day each. And for that, they do anything except S&M, that’s an extra ten.”
“How do you know that?”
“They pay the girls in virtual coin, I traced the flow, well, to be fair, Emma B did.”
Except for personality and facial features, our quantum bots have identical hardware, capacity and programming. When one learns something new, the others learn it instantaneously. If one takes a wrong road looking for data, when it corrects, the others know to avoid that route instantly. They are constantly updating and expanding their knowledge base. They make Google look like a children’s toy.
Nikko, “What now? Do we know when they meet at the offices we bugged?”
Grace B, “They are open every day and all night. Members from out of town stay at nearby hotels. We could find no regularly scheduled meetings, in keeping with their penchant for secrecy.”
Janah, “They must have some internal communication method, a good one if we can’t find it. Or it could be as simple as disposable phones, call a number, say Friday a week, hang up. Nobody but an insider would know what it meant.”
“Maybe they can mental.”
Nikko, “Then we’d never find out the plan, if there is a plan. We’re stuck until we have more information. The bots will record any conversations, if there’s a formal meeting, it will be evident by the number of bodies and the nature of the discussion,” she stands, “right now, I have my own meeting with Daria and Zi.”
The three are our business and investment managers. Despite reviewing the daily numbers generated by the bots, they still meet informally every month. I think they mostly kick around ideas for more extensive diversification on the investment side. 
I go up to visit Clarissa and Dahlia, catch them leaving the children’s dorm on the way to their temporary room, one of the guest bedrooms.
“By the time we go to Malibu, you will have your own bedroom, then Nikko will add a room for you here. It’s simpler if all of us aren’t around during construction. In fact, Nikko and a couple of others are flying over to Malibu tomorrow to check on the work.”
Dahlia, “This room is nice, we could just stay here.”
“We sometimes get visitors, we like to keep a couple of rooms available. Your new bedrooms will be bigger and more suited to growing girls. By the time you’re teens, you’ll need the space. How are lessons going?”
Dahlia, “The game makes learning math pretty easy, Clarissa speeds ahead of me, Kota B says she has a gift for math. I’m doing okay, I like to read more than I like to do sums.”
I smile, ‘Do sums’, she must have been talking to Emma B, our Brit bot.
Clarissa yawns.
“Okay sleepy girls, take a nap, tea is in, let me see,” I check the time, “an hour and a half.”
I offer kisses to soft cheeks, Valeria comes in, “Girls are just settling for naps.”
Valeria, “Do you want me to lay down with you, or do you want to be alone?”
Dahlia, “You take the middle.”
I get up to leave, snag a kiss from Valeria and move on to my room. I think about a lie down, but I’m not feeling nappy, instead I put on a dobok and head to the workout room to do taekwondo forms. Nikko joins me sometimes, but she stays fairly occupied with kendo and teaching the children the art.
An hour in, Dahlia and Clarissa appear with Valeria behind them. the park cross legged on the floor while I revisit advanced forms, twenty more minutes and I’m sweat soaked and guzzling a third glass of water. I plop down facing the girls.
Valeria, “You will teach us.”
“Happy to,” I look at Dahlia and Clarissa, “is that what you want?”
“Okay, mornings after breakfast, one hour. I’m thinking four days a week. It will help if you practice a bit on your own the other days. There are videos of the forms you can follow, Susan and I made them years ago. Doesn’t matter when they were made, the forms never change. Kota B will run them whenever you want.”
Dahlia, “Tomorrow?”
“Yes. We may have to travel soon, but not tomorrow. If I’m out of town, use the videos, or ask Nikko if she’s here. When we are in Malibu, my mom knows what to do, we learned together and then taught together. There is also an introductory video that tell you about the art and the training, watch that first.”
Valeria, “Time for tea, we will watch it after.”
I go off the shower, I don’t even want to sit next to me in my current state of grubby.
Grace B spots me, “Leave your sweaty shit in the laundry room, just wrap in a towel if you’re shy.”
I grin, “There is no shy at Casa Sylk,” I strip and pile my stuff in the hamper, stroll back through the house in my altogether to our bedroom for a warm shower and hair wash. 
Comb it through, air dry will do, slip on a slinky silk shirt that hangs to mid thigh and head back to the kitchen. Tea service has begun, I snag a couple of oatmeal cookies cup of Japanese green then join the others, most of whom are at the big table, a few outside by the pool.
Morshchiny comes over, since I’m sitting she doesn’t need to snout me, she’s staring eye to eye, then eye to cookie, I get the idea, actually I knew it would come to this, which is why I took two.
I break on in half, hold it out, chomp, swallow. I fork over the other half.
“No more, go to the children.”
She lumbers over to her post, cookie poking out of her mouth. She thumps down and drops it on the floor for a few licks before it disappears.
I hear one of the children, Karol, “Tetya Dafna, we are going to do a Kabuki play, The Scarlet Princess of Edo.”
“What’s it about?”
Nikko, “A gay Buddhist monk and his lover, an acolyte, breaking their vows of celibacy. They decide to commit suicide, but only the acolyte goes through with it. A princess with a deformity, who is abducted and raped. That’s just act one of four.”
“Does it lighten up then?”
“No, it gets worse. Drowning, poisoning, stabbing, drunkenness, a murdered baby and prostitution.”
“Just the thing for the children’s cultural development.”
The children laugh, “It will be fun, and we get great costumes. Nadia will play the gay monk, Devona will be the acolyte that jumps off the cliff.”
“Who’s the Scarlet Princess?”
“Tasia. We drew cards, she got the red queen, the card closest to scarlet and a princess.”
Nikko, “Bizarre, but it is classic Kabuki from the eighteen hundreds and revived in the twentieth century. Kabuki is always violent, frankly not much different than much of Shakespeare. It’s also eight hours long.”
“Sounds educational, and the girls have done Hamlet and Macbeth, loads of violence in those.”
Uma, “And witches, our favorite.”
Amaya, “They shall perform it brilliantly, I have the scripts, Chloe and I are rehearsing the lines and shall teach them to the children. It will be, of course, in Japanese. Kota B will run a screen with subtitles for those of you who don’t speak it. We will do each act over the course of two weeks, one every other day.”
Lauren, “Sounds a rather monumental project.”
“Oh, and I need five more actors, so you. Sloane, Valeria, Dahlia and Clarissa have to take roles.”
“None of us speak Japanese.”
“I have you in lesser speaking roles, you can learn the words, Chloe will help with pronunciation. We won’t be ready to perform until we are in Malibu, it is not like I have the kids all day for rehearsals.”
I ask Dahlia, “You up for it? Clarissa?”
“We performed for people three hundred times a year, this is easy. Kota B started us on Japanese already, it will help us with the play. We are also learning the writing, which is nice, it’s like drawing.”
Janah taps into my head, “Keep them busy, don’t treat them like trauma victims, attention when they want it, leave them alone when they don’t. It’s worked every time and better than I could have hoped.”

Forty Two

This morning I have taekwondo with my three new students. 
“You watched the video?”
Valeria, “Last night. Susan is really good too. It was interesting, you were both younger, you look so much like your mom.”
“It is true, which is why we started calling her Sis. She had me when she was only fifteen, a mistake she was glad she made.”
I didn’t get them doboks yet, a few lessons in shorts to see how they take to it. I also decide to skip the Korean terms for now, they’re learning Japanese and there’s no point in creating confusion over a few terms.
We take a step by step through the first taegeuk form, a simple one. They have the steps in fifteen minutes. We do stretches after the form, doing the form is the warm-up. Little girls who took dance and self taught tumbling have no trouble with full side and front splits. I demonstrate front kick, thigh up to horizontal, chamber by drawing knee towards chest, then kick straight out with the heel. Fifty with each leg, fifty sidekicks, fifty back kicks, all less than half speed. I want them to get the feel, the proper angle, they can work on speed later.
“Okay, good job, show me the form and we’ll call it for today.”
Valeria has it, Dahlia and Clarissa get stuck in one spot, we fix it and they do it twice more.
“When you practice on your own, do it facing front, then turn so you do it in all four directions.”
Dahlia, “Why does it matter?”
“You get used to certain cues without knowing it. Face the front every time, then as you progress through the form you see the same thing when you make the turns. When you have to do it from a different direction, you get confused because your brain has imprinted those cues. You should be able to demonstrate the form anyplace, from any direction.”
“Show us the sticks,” she points to the nunchaka hanging on the wall. 
I don’t use rubber versions to train, even new students. Rubber doesn’t crack your knuckles when you screw up. A sharp rap will make the student pay attention and to understand why the things are dangerous.
I do a few simple exercises.
“You make them spin like crazy.”
“I banged myself a lot at first. When it’s time to learn a weapon, you will go slowly, like we did the form. When you have it down, you will naturally speed up.”
“What is it good for?”
“With so many guns today, not much as a weapon. If the bad guy has a knife, nunchaka come in handy, or even if he’s just big. I keep in practice because it is excellent training for eye hand coordination and it keeps the skill in muscle memory. I never carry them around. When you get good, you don’t think about it, just do it. That’s why we practice forms. If you have to defend yourself, you want the moves to be automatic. Okay, good session. Day after tomorrow, we’ll go again.”
Dahlia and Clarissa hustle off to the pool, ditch their clothes in the laundry room first. The other children must already be there, I can hear screeches and laughter.
Valeria, “They did well.”
“As did you, what do you think?”
“I need to know it for the other work, besides, it is good exercise with a purpose, not just running on a treadmill. We will take a shower, you will take advantage of an innocent fourteen year old, then we have to help with lunch.”
I grin, a luscious pre-lunch appetizer.
I service the sylph to her satisfaction, she goes off to dress, I’m in my standard 
t-shirt. Valeria comes along in a skirt, half t-shirt and platforms. 
Dasha, “Ellen ees for setting out cold cuts, girls can make toast or plain, we haf also rolls. Dahfoney, prepare condiment, Valeria and I will watch and look beautiful.”
They get the easy stuff. Girls start to roll in and assemble sandwiches.
Kota B, “If someone will make haf sandwiches, I will get the children organized and they can have lunch outside.”
Valeria, “Dasha and I will do them.”
They get the kids set up, the rest of us spread around to eat.
Amaya looks out the patio door at ten naked little girls, “If anyone saw the kids they would think we’re running a perv farm.”
Grace B, “You are a perv farm, just not a child perv farm.”
We laugh, Amaya gives her the evil eye, Nikko says, “You made the bot the way she is.”
Amaya, “She has a persona to play. If I recall correctly, Daphne came up with the character. I thought of Emma Watson and Kotakoti, both far more pleasant.”
Grace B, “Bugger off.”
We laugh again, Grace B doesn’t take prisoners.
Amaya, “She’s getting worse, she used to defer to me.”
Eloise, “They aren’t fixed like a common software program, they learn and adapt, like self driving cars.”
Amaya, “I have a project for you. Make one of my Formula One cars self driving, I want to see if I can beat it, give it the same juice as in the others.”
“It’s going to learn your style, you will win at first, eventually you have no hope.”
“I do not mind getting bested, I shall be learning as well, the whole point is for it to test me.”
Nikko, “Admirable, after the car, build a kendo bot.”
Eloise, “Daria, you can develop the software?”
“We have three quantum bots, the software is the easy part. We have to refit the car for the additional computers, steering mechanism, brakes, the whole lot..”
Eloise looks at Lauren, then Britt, “Ladies we have our challenge.”
Lauren, “Excellent-O, Emma B, please come up with the specs, we can go to grease monkey in a couple of days. Well, Britt can go to grease monkey, I do not do grease.”
Daria, “Eloise and I worked on the karts and cars before we went electric and after we went electric. With Britt, we can trick out a Formula One, upload the software and watch it outmaneuver Amaya.”
Amaya, “Hah! Challenge accepted Commie.”
Never a dull moment at Casa Sylk, although Nikko is mostly responsible for the homes, so Casa Murakami. Or Amaya for the interiors, she doesn’t have a last name, Casa Amaya.
Grace B comes in, “Action at one of the clubs, Nikko, Janah, Sylk, audio in the office.”
We break away to the office, find spots and sit to listen. Must have just cranked up, there’s a dull roar of guy stuff, then, “Attention please, take a place, we have updates, discussion, then cocktails followed by fat steaks.”
“Here, here!”
There’s a general shuffling of chairs, noises like coffee service, cups clink, then it’s relatively quiet.
“Gentlemen, we have been patient, planning takes time and we had to do it in utmost secrecy. People in this country watch the demise of the white population, the ferocious breeding animals of the dark population, and fail to understand the consequences. While smaller families make sense to us, and advances in CRISPER technology have given your children unprecedented advances in both intelligence and biology, the minorities can’t afford or are afraid of those treatments. They try to make up for it by cranking out more children. We are going to change that.”
A voice, “We keep saying that shit, nothing ever happens. All I’ve done is cough up cash with nothing to show for it.”
Murmurs of agreement.
First Voice, “I appreciate your concerns, I do, I’ve kicked in my share too. But we are talking genetic alteration on a massive scale. And doing it without tainting the white population. We can’t simply dump chemicals into the water supply, it has to be targeted, and it has to be untraceable. We have undertaken a hugely complicated biological research project and it has been done with not a whisper of a leak. In the era of constant surveillance, privacy intrusions everywhere, that alone is rather amazing.”
A third voice, “Cut to the chase Miller.”
First voice is Miller then, “We have a test delivery system in place, airborne, low level drone flights. A mist that will not be visible, has no scent, no taste. Any male breathing it will be rendered permanently impotent, and there will be no explanation as to why. A second system, which we will test in a different city, will make females infertile.”
“How are you going to target it that fine?”
“Minorities still prefer to live among their own kind, despite all the bullshit from a few one-world types. Blacks live in black neighborhoods, Hispanics in others, Indians in yet others, Muslims live around other Muslims.”
“Still, won’t their be white people in the area?”
“Collateral damage, can’t be helped. A few Caucasians only, no big deal. Most of them won’t be our kind of people anyway, if they were, they wouldn’t be in those areas.”
“You have a date?”
“Yes, but the less you know the better.”
“Bullshit, I want to know the time and place, I don’t want to find myself or my family inhaling poison vapor for fuck’s sake.”
Lots of agreement, and anger, “Frank’s right, we’re up to our asses in this and we have the right to know. Call the vote Miller, now.”
Miller concedes, “All in favor of sharing the date and time.”
A chorus of Ayes.
“All opposed.”
“Motion carried.”
Then it’s quiet.
A new voice, “So? Quit dithering Miller, what’s the fucking time and place?”
“A month to the day, barrio near the Texas Mexico border for the men, a near hundred percent black neighborhood in the Memphis suburbs. I think that’s enough detail, none of you live anywhere near those places and you aren’t likely to go there on vacation. You will be updated on results as soon as they’re available.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means we won’t know much at first. The treatment has been shown to be effective within twenty four hours. It will take months to see if birth rates decline in the targeted areas. Fortunately, in today’s world, it’s easy to track birth rates anywhere in the world. You all knew this is a long term project, we were clear on that from the outset.”
“Speaking of anywhere in the world, what about the breeders in Muslim countries, Africa?”
“Right now, our concern is to see population declines in the US. It will take decades to spread the treatment over the planet. It isn’t like we can fill up a satellite and spray a single country. We have a limited supply of product as it is.”
“When will the others be told?”
“Before the event of course. Again, none of our members anywhere live in the two targeted areas. None of our members live in proposed areas, part of the reason they’re on the list. I presume the others will feel as you do, dates and places will be released in ample time to ensure none of us will be in the vicinity.”
“How can you be sure it gets to all the men and women?”
“We can’t, of course. Some will be traveling or working elsewhere, others will be inside, the vapor doesn’t penetrate walls. Like I said, we get to as many as we get to and see how effective it is. This is a patience game.”
“Be simpler to just blow up the spics and sand niggers.”
“And start a race war? Don’t lose sight of the original problem, there are far more of them than there are of us.”
“Is this like a virus?”
“It is exactly that, but one that cannot be transmitted once inhaled. Any vapor left on cars, buildings, wherever, dies inside of an hour. The virus needs a living host, unless it is contained in a specific tightly controlled environment. Once we transfer it to the drone’s dispensing containers, we have a half hour to get it released in the air where it will be active for another half hour.”
“Cutting it fine.”
Chairs scrape, general hubbub, appears the meeting has concluded.
Janah, “Grace B, continue to monitor, although it isn’t likely much will be said that tells us anything fresh. We’ll see what happens at the next location, they must be meeting soon.”
Grace B, “Will do.”
Surveillance snaps photos and collects plate numbers. Some appear to be hire cars, members who flew in from someplace else, plates won’t help, but collecting crisp head shots will simplify identification when the bots match them up to names. The simplest method is to sort through driver’s license and passport photos. If you have a head, your likeness is someplace on the web.

Forty Three

Three days later, the second location, Dallas, goes more active. We know the clubs are open twenty four hours, and there was the noise of general conversation, business deals or political discussion, no mention of gas or population control. Then Grace B noticed more cars than usual on the surveillance feed and the noise level picked up. We recorded a meeting that generally paralleled the first, except Miller, who is apparently the liaison between the biologists and chemists and the money men, gave the same speech, skipping the you don’t need to know part. He’d learned his lesson, men that rich don’t take kindly to mystery, not when they’ve coughed up wads to get their insane dream into a twisted reality.
“Grace B has most of the details on the members we captured on video, which verified the work she did from hacked membership data. It appears we have around a hundred forty clinically insane men, a flock of sociopaths at the least.”
Nikko, “Weird since sociopaths generally don’t flock.”
Janah, “Everything that can happen will happen eventually. The probability is low, but it obviously isn’t zero.”
Nikko, “Well Commander Sylk, what now?”
“We tag Miller’s car, follow any flights he takes. I want one of our trackers on his cars, but he may use a GPS jammer. That means drone surveillance”
“And if he gets on a plane?”
“There will be a flight plan, we have to be there when he arrives.”
“How do you plan to accomplish that?”
“Good question.”
Grace B, “So lacking in imagination, listen up slowpokes. I take control of the plane, create a crisis, the fuel tank appears to be near empty, a leak that requires an emergency landing. They find an airport, ground crew determines that the plane has no leak and adequate fuel. Only a malfunctioning fuel warning system.”
Janah, “Genius, thank you. Buys us enough time to get to the intended destination. Soon as we have his flight details, we put our flight service on notice, get there before he does.”
Nikko, “What if it’s just another meeting?”
“We have to go anyway. I doubt his bio facility is near one of the seven cities, but he might go from there. We can’t lose track of him at any point from now on. If he goes, we go.”
“Okay, then what?”
Janah, “Couple of options, snatch him and make him cough up the location, or follow him to the location, lock them all down and the Society calls in the feds and hazmat teams.”
“What happens to the gang of psychos?”
“I need to think that over, we need to get the manufacturing facility shut down first. I may have an idea on what we do with a hundred forty rich whackos.”
Nikko grins, she knows what I’m thinking.
A day passes, then on the next, Miller books a private plane to Salt Lake City from Miami. He’s going tomorrow, we schedule a flight to Salt Lake, which from Arizona is a quick hop. His arrival is scheduled for one thirty, we won’t need to reroute his plane, we’ll be there waiting.
Nikko, “Who’s going?”
“Not sure what we’ll need. We don’t know if he’s just going for business or if the lab is near Salt Lake. In all the monitoring we’ve done, the location of the lab where they make the gas has never been mentioned. Telling a hundred and forty people would be a bad idea. They balked at not being told where it would be tested, but not about where it is made.”
“If we don’t know why he’s going to Salt Lake, then more than three or four seems like overkill.”
“Maybe Janah, you, me and electric Valeria.”
“One of the shooters, if he goes to the facility, it may be guarded. I know we don’t want to kill outright, but the laser can injure, put guards out of commission.”
“Okay, I’ll ask Katya, which means both of them. Ellen is a chef, with Valeria and me gone, she and Dasha have the bulk of the meal responsibility.”
“Britt and Chloe will help.”
I go off to find Katya, explain where we are, “If you and Katja don’t want to go, I’ll take Sarah or Mani, or both. We aren’t going to fool around, if he isn’t going to the lab, we’re going to snatch him and make him give it up.”
“Sister and I will go, when?”
“Tomorrow morning, leave here at nine, plane will be ready when we get to the airport, we’ll be in Salt Lake for eleven. The target isn’t scheduled until one thirty.”
At tea, I tell the others we’re on a trip tomorrow, maybe a couple of days. As usual, there are no questions, if it was a pleasure trip, everyone would be going. They know it’s business of some sort, which usually means bad business.
I use the time between tea and cocktails to throw  my working gear in a small suitcase and pack a few things for Janah.
She comes in, “Pharma case is ready to go, Eloise has two drones ready in their travel cases. You packed me, thanks.”
“Easy, we aren’t going fancy, it’s working gear and light casual. Can you grab the makeup kit?”
Not makeup for dress, makeup for disguise, we’re flying up as us and will do a bit of cover and conceal while we wait on Miller.
“I’m going to check on Valeria.”
She’s got a small suitcase out, “Have it covered?”
“I think so, working clothes, vests and pullover, slacks, steel toe sneakers, gloves and oversize sunglasses,” she slides them on, I smile, she looks like a fly, but that’s the idea, they cover her cheekbones and distract from her deliciously formed face.
“I look like a bug.”
“Your face is unforgettable, and we don’t need you remembered in the field.”
“The rest of it is jeans and tops, do I need dress clothes?”
“Nope, no fancy restaurants, this is track and capture, your batteries good?”
She touches my arm, I get a mild Zap!
“Good to go then. Let’s get downstairs, what’s for dinner?”
“Roast beef poboys with fries. Ellen is making the popup fries everyone likes.”
Popup fries we stole from Antoine’s in New Orleans, essentially twice fried potatoes. The second fry causes them to expand, leaving an airy inside and a crispy outside, they are scrumptious with the added benefit of being lighter than normal fries.
We walk down together, she takes my hand and we descend the circular staircase side by side.
Ellen, “Godamn, what a vision, how can two different sets of legs both be perfect?”
Amaya, “That’s the attraction, perfect variety.”
Janah, “I’ll say, I need a large red.”
Amaya is at her spot behind the bar, she’s lined it with glasses of Chianti, then a line of Russian Standard rocks next to optional olives and cocktail onions. Our Russians, which means both sets of twins and Valeria, toss chilly shots, then switch to on the rocks. Ellen and Sarah, bourbon drinkers, have Elijah Craig. The company had finally rereleased eighteen and twenty one year old vintages and Ellen spent forty thousand buying multiple cases of both. The bourbon runs between two hundred fifty and three eighty a fifth today, we’re talking a hundred twenty bottles, not exactly a warehouse full. 
The children are allowed wine, half of which is water. While they’re still physically children, they would be teenagers if they aged. They occupy an in-between world, physically children, mentally more world-wise. They have a glass, Nadia, Tasia and Valeska, the oldest three, sometimes have a second. They hardly stumble around trashed, I think the giggling is more animated, but with them it’s hard to tell, they are an animated group.
Uma, “We are learning how to lie.”
Britt, “Lying comes naturally to girls.”
Zofia, “We decided we didn’t do it very well, so Amaya is teaching us.”
Nikko turns to Amaya, “You going to turn them into politicians?”
Amaya, “Better liars than that. Politicians are stupid liars, they lie about things that can be checked. One never lies about facts. One lies about the vague, or what one knows cannot be verified. I am not teaching them to become liars, I am teaching them how to lie effectively. They know each other intimately, they know what one will say before she says it most of the time. They are practicing by lying to each other, which is incredibly difficult, and are outed almost immediately. I lie to them fairly successfully, Chloe is lousy at it, she cannot lie at all. I plan to bring in the big gun, Nishiko.”
Zi, “Nikko doesn’t lie.”
“I did not mean to say she does. What I mean is that it is impossible to tell what she is thinking. I will make up lies and mingle them with the truth, then Nikko tells her story. If they can see through her, they will be as good as Janah, our resident lie detector.”
True, ever since I’ve known her, Janah can crack any lie. She collects tone of voice, the slightest tremble, body movement, visual intensity in an instant, on top of the obvious, lying about stuff that can be verified or blown away. Janah’s has facts, details of events in her head, she seldom has to look up things. If anyone can flash a lie past Janah, I’ve never met them.
Dinner is served, crusty French bread, tender roast beef slathered in rich brown gravy.
Devona, “Yay! Pommes de Terres Soufflées, we haven’t had them since….”
Jesica, “The last time we had roast beef sandwiches, Wednesday August 25th, three months and five days ago.”
“You have a crazy memory.”
Jesica  has hyperthymesia, an extremely detailed autobiographical memory. If you ask her where she was on February 6th 2025, she knows who, where, what and why.
“I can’t help it, it isn’t like I try to remember, I don’t keep a diary, digital or analogue.”
Karol, “What would be the point?”
Lauren, “Nobody here is normal, whatever normal is, well, Britt Brat is close, I’m abnormally gorgeous.”
Britt, “So you’re constantly telling your mirror.”
“Everyone wants to be my mirror.”

Forty Four

Salt Lake City, an executive airport south of the one Miller is scheduled to use. Our SUV is waiting, load up luggage, pharma case, drones, head off to the east side of town. We didn’t have food on the plane, the flight was short and we had a nibble at home.
“What do you want for lunch?”
Nikko, “Something light, sushi maybe, if we don’t have to drive all over town.”
Janah’s fiddling with her phone, “Three miles, turn left at the next cross street.”
This trip we don’t use a driverless car, we don’t want it GPS tracked. 
Nikko declares the sushi to be adequate, we don’t sushi at home, preparation is time consuming and we have thirty two people and one giant dog to feed.
Janah, “It’s one, we need to stalk Miller.”
The airport he uses is bigger than the one we flew into, more of a terminal building, more cars in the lot. We also don’t know if he’s getting a rental, a driverless or if someone is picking him up.
There are two doors, but they aren’t twenty feet apart, the sliding kind with sensors. The place isn’t busy like a major commercial airport, primarily small jets with less than four passengers, the odd one with ten or twelve.
Janah, “That’s him, coming out the right side, appears to be alone.”
Miller is Joe Average. Medium build, maybe six feet, an age that should be showing a bit of gray, but doesn’t. 
“He colors his hair, nobody’s hair is so evenly brown.”
Nikko, “Christians, isn’t there something in their Bible about vanity?”
Janah, “Ecclesiastes, he seems like more of a Revelations guy.”
“Any significance to him being in Salt Lake?”
“It’s chock full of Mormons, maybe he’s one. The club doesn’t specify what flavor Christian is required.”
Katya, “From what Daphne explained on the plane, this group uses Christian as a cover.”
“Yes, still, maybe they only hire Christian escorts for their extracurricular sex games, say a prayer before the blow job.”
Janah giggles, “Remember the preacher we outed in Little Rock?”
“That was hilarious, he even went by his first two initials, JC. He used to have the more attractive members of his congregation come for private sessions in his office. His style of pastoral counseling involved oral sex. When he jizzed in their mouth he’d say, ‘take this and drink ye all of it’.”
Katja, “No way.”
“Way, we heard it. We theorized that bored housewives got weary of their own husbands sermonizing and decided that committing adultery was suitable revenge. It also allowed for asking God’s forgiveness, then relieved of consequences, they go at it again. A revolving door of sin and spotlessness.”
Katya, “In a perverted way, it makes sense.”
Katja, “Jesus died for their sins, it would dishonor his sacrifice if they didn't commit them.”
The twins are nothing if not practical.
Miller’s looking around, not headed to a car. Then one pulls up, a man driving, Miller gets in, Nikko is capturing it on video. Now we follow.
Janah, “Whoever it is, he’s not shown up at any of the clubs.”
Nikko, “I’m sending the video to Grace B, she might be able to figure out who the driver is. The driver isn’t super clear, maybe we get a better shot whenever they get where they’re going, got the plate anyway.”
They arrive at a hotel, both men get out and go inside, Nikko gets a better shot and forwards it to the bots.
Valeria, “We need to see what room they go to,” she hops out, off like a bolt in her giant sunglasses. 
She returns, “Twelve fifty, a suite. I hung around the door, did not hear anyone else, just the two men.
“Good job, I’m glad you thought of it and bashing myself for not.”
Five minutes later Nikko’s phone dings.
“Axel Wegner, a biologist from Düsseldorf, been in the states ten years. Worked at Stanford, then UCLA, left three years ago, no known employment since. The car belongs to Servants of the One True God. There’s no church location listed, no website, just the name.”
Nikko, “A tax dodge. Bunch of rich guys saving a few dollars.”
Janah, “Tax avoidance is an international game. People want services, just as long as somebody else pays for them. Billions go uncollected or diverted into schemes like this one. Church membership has declined precipitously in the last couple of decades, good riddance.”
We pay our taxes, or did until scads of our money went to tax free bonds. At least it helps states and municipalities build things, make repairs. Nikko has substantial sums in other currencies to balance out dollar fluctuations. Whatever we make overseas is taxed there. We didn’t set up fake churches to buy us cars.
I get online with Grace B, “See if there are vacant rooms next to 1250, Salt Lake Fairfield Hotel.”
One minute passes, “Twelve fifty two, you want it?”
Thirty seconds, “Booked, check in anytime, under the name on the cards I gave you this morning.”
She cranked out business cards, Saffron Corp, and my travel name, Edith Faust, Marketing Director. Apparently I trade in organic spices.
I check in, go up to the room. The others follow individually with a few minutes in between. No luggage, Janah brings in the listening device. Our other alternative was to launch a drone and have it listen in had an adjoining room been unavailable. This is a fairly busy area, drones are picking up and delivering things all the time. A thought hits me, the twins haven’t come up yet, I get Katya on my sat phone, “Perhaps drive someplace and launch a drone anyway, Eloise or one of the bots can take it over, we don’t have to be tied up flying it.”
Katya, “Good idea, sister will come in, I will drive someplace quiet, get the drone ready and call Grace B.”
She joins us twenty minutes later, we’re listening to Miller and Wegner chat about impotence and infertility.
Wegner, “The product is amazing, male rats go impotent within an hour, same for female fertility. We finished up studies on pigs last month, pigs are remarkably similar to humans biologically.”
Miller, “Side effects?”
“Nothing so far, as you know, there were problems at the outset, too much stimulant, rats had heart attacks, we got the balance right eventually. We used very little stimulant on the hogs and they weigh as much or more than humans.”
“Why do you need a stimulant at all?”
“Only to get the virus internalized more quickly, it isn’t actually necessary for efficacy.”
“Then don’t use it at all. If we get humans dying it defeats the purpose. We don’t want people to know there’s anything wrong, only that they can’t conceive. Eventually the population of sterilized with be too large to ignore, and the virus will be discovered, but that will take years, maybe decades.”
“Do you want to come to the facility today or tomorrow?”
“I have no reason to go look at lab equipment. I’m here to get a final update only, we don’t discuss this on phones. The canisters are ready, they perform as expected?”
“Absolutely, releasing a gas in the air is old technology, time tested. When we release it, people will see nothing, smell nothing, there’s no taste, no different than any communicable virus. The carrier gas is transparent, we’ve been over this already.”
“I know, and it’s time to act, breeders are popping out minorities practically in litters.”
Janah, “That’s not true, birth rates are down around the world. Most people don’t need six kids to support them through old age.”
“He lives in an alternate reality, his beliefs fit his world view, not actual reality.”
Miller, “Good work Axel. We will pick up the canisters in two weeks, deliver them to the target cities and begin to change the world. Now, I have to make a conference downtown.”
“Have the drone follow Wegner, he’s going to the lab sooner or later and we’re going with him.”
Miller’s voice, he must be on the phone, “It’s done, you have everything ready, date to collect the material?”
Silence for a few seconds, “I’ll see you in a few days,” then nothing.

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Pommes de Terres Soufflées

2 pounds large potatoes

Wash and peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise into slices 1 1/4 inches wide and one-eighth inch thick. Soak the potato slices in cold water to remove excess starch.
Have two pots filled with oil, one at a moderately hot temperature (275 degrees F) and the other at a very hot temperature (400 degrees F). Drain
the potatoes and dry them carefully. Put a single layer of potatoes into a frying basket and lower the basket into the moderately hot oil. Keep
moving the potatoes around, dipping the basket in and out of the oil until
the potatoes begin to brown and to puff. The partially cooked potatoes
may be set aside for awhile before the second stage, or may be finished immediately.
Put the partially cooked potatoes in a basket and dip the basket into the pot
of very hot oil. Again be careful to cover only the bottom of the basket with potatoes and to keep them moving around in the oil until they are golden brown, well puffed and crispy.
Remove from the oil, drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle with salt for seasoning. Serves 6.