Forty Five

Vigilante justice. We locate and abduct the abuser, Chula Vista is a hundred sixty miles south of Malibu, on the California Mexico Border, three hours and a bit. After surveillance, including audio recorded by the drone and one visual of The Asshole wailing on the boy while mommy yells encouragement, encouraging the abuser that is. The video is hard to watch, Asshole smacking his face with an open hand, then backhand, repeat, then he flings the child someplace out of the video. We hear a cry, then a loud Thump!
Zoe C wanted to go in guns blazing. I reminded her the child was there and things could go south quickly. 
Our Vengeance Court finds them both guilty, Court being Zoe C and me, we’re judge and jury. The defendants get no lawyer, have no rights, based on their level of educations, they’d probably spell it rites.
We show up at the house early, seven. When the little boy left for school, a rarity apparently, we take the house. Zoe C is calm as a windless day as she removes Asshole’s thumbs, then his balls, it’s rehabilitative surgery. No balls, no testosterone, no violence.
The woman will be mute for the rest of her life, I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what body part was removed.
We send the recordings to the District Attorney anonymously, sidestep useless child welfare. The boy was taken from school and is a ward of the state awaiting suitable foster care or adoption. Mommy and boyfriend will never see him again, like they care, but they will do prison time and suffer all of their days, good enough.
A one night trip, back to Malibu. Since Zoe C and I kept busy, we didn’t get the recordings we wanted until the first evening, then this morning we deconstructed the guilty parties and a drive back home. 
Elle, “No injuries, any problems?”
Zoe C, “None. It’s always dicey getting the targets under control, a Glock gets their attention. The man tried to take on Chef, got a fist deep in his gut for his trouble, when he folded over, he also got a knee in his face. I had to wake him up to torture him.”
Elle, “We had fun, it’s an interesting group, Daphne Sylk is a character. There’s a YouTube of a band called Dead South, the song is In Hell I’ll be Good Company. When she plays it, all the girls drop whatever they’re doing and do the goofy finger-snap dance, when it’s over they go back to what they were doing before.
We did it with them, even McKenzie. Daphne’s right, it’s impossible to feel bad when you do the dance. Aside from the twins, none of them are biologically related but they call themselves family like we do. Oh, and there’s a second set of twins, Russian as well, go figure the likelihood of two sets of Russian twins turning up in the same household. I can’t quite recall all the names but the woman, Janah, appears to be the matriarch, at twenty five, everyone else is younger. Akiko was enthralled, Janah has the same pure white hair, eyes are blue though, not violet like Akiko. Oh, maybe you know since she’s been in movies, Chloe Sylk has violet eyes too, and she’s got auburn hair and a couple dozen freckles, like McKenzie.”
“Others?”
“You have to meet them, which we will in a few days, I don’t want to prejudice you with my take, this is a powerful, self contained family, different from any family or group I’ve ever encountered.”
“Gee, can’t wait to meet them, must be a big house, or do they bunk up?”
“Some do, most have their own room, yes, the house is at least fifty thousand square feet…gigantic. There are eight small children, all girls, they have a dorm in the house. Daphne said they wanted it that way.”
“Chloe isn’t related to Daphne, but they’re both Sylk?”
“Chloe took her last name, they aren’t related.”
“I wonder where all the money came from, the oldest is twenty five you say?”
“Beats me, most of them look like teens, then the children of course.”
I’m listening, then, “Am I supposed to go? One man in a cauldron of lesbians, maybe they’d prefer just you guys.”
Elle, “Funny thing about that, the woman, Janah, knew your name, how you earned your money, she knows about Natalie’s corporation. We didn’t tell her, we didn’t know she existed until yesterday.”
“Not too surprising, I got the sense these are connected people, with a ton of influence, they just don’t advertise it.”
“Sounds like us.”
“I can imagine there are more than a few families of wealth that keep it low profile. Wealth attracts trouble if it’s too public. They, and we, don’t need the grief.”
Natalie, “What do you think McKenzie? You spent most of the time with the twins and Chloe.”
“More to learn first.”
“And you Mickey?”
“Very cool customers, I met Sloane, an older version of me. She’s old enough for the transition, but hasn’t yet. She was vague about why, ‘just not time’ she said.
“Zak, any thoughts?”
“From what I couldn’t see, the tone between them is absolute trust and caring. Oh, and they have a mastiff too, big girl who likes her scratches, just like Zelda. Theirs is primarily for the children, the dog sleeps with them in the dorm and follows them around when they go outside. And they call her Morshchiny, Russian for Wrinkles.”
Mickey, “I am so curious about the children, eight little girls, I think the oldest is nine. They aren’t related but don’t try telling them that. You know how birds flock in a burst, then circle and shift on a dime, how none of the birds collides despite flying wingtip to wing tip? That’s how the girls are, they move in a pack, a swarm. In their case the littlest ones lead and the older ones follow. They give adorable a whole new meaning.”
“And what about Akiko?”
McKenzie, “Sat outside with Oceane and Cassandra. Cassandra doesn’t talk and Oceane doesn’t talk much.”
“I suppose they enjoyed not having to listen to one another.”
McKenzie, “Cassandra can levitate.”
Zoe C, “Come on McKenzie.”
Mac ignores her. Zoe C should know better, McKenzie isn’t capable of joking around, or making things up.
Natalie, “When did McKenzie start fabricating stories?”
Zoe C, “Never, but geez, levitate?”
I have to meet these people.

Forty Six

After further investigation of the slimeball boyfriend and the girl who stupidly sent selfies of her breasts, we decide it doesn’t merit a visit from us. If the girl remains traumatized, she can go to therapy. Traumatized in my view is excessive for something like that. She learned a valuable lesson, nobody died. Considering the number of girls not much older than her doing internet porn, exposing a whole lot more than a couple of emerging breasts, the event sounds more like drama than trauma. If we had to fly around beating up assholes, we’d never get home.
Zak comes along, “Chef, Daphne says she’ll teach me kendo, Mickey too.”
“When did she say that?”
“Sloane sent a text to Mickey, we didn’t ask to be taught, as much as I wanted to, she volunteered. Chloe is also a kendoka, as is Nikko.”
“Who’s Nikko?”
“A gorgeous Japanese girl, her dad is a 9th Dan, from a samurai clan…did I just make a rhyme?”
“Pretty much, so you’re going to suit up and swat each other with bokken and shinai?”
“What’s that?”
“Bokken is a wooden sword the size of a real katana, the sword used by samurai. A shinai is a bamboo striking stick, strips of bamboo fastened together to make a kind of round weapon for kendo practice. Practice with real swords is dangerous, a simple slip or misjudgment and somebody has a slash across a body part.”
“That’s not good…unless it’s a bad guy.”
“Exactly.”
It’s good to have the kids excited about an activity that’s both healthy and confidence building, although Zak and Mickey hardly lack self confidence. And it’s generous of them to offer.
Zoe C, “Great for the two kids, they get to practice kendo with a movie star, her Ultra Violet films were full of action, snappy dialogue, humor and zero time wasting filler. I’m wanting to meet Amaya, she wrote the scripts for Chloe. When we were over she was in LA arranging for a director. ”
“Ah, wouldn’t mind meeting Amaya myself, lovely thing she is.”
“I’d give her anything she wants anytime she wants it. But with Chloe Sylk for a girlfriend…”
“Maybe a threesome.”
She grins, “There’s a fantasy I can enjoy, Zoe, Chloe and Amaya, the mind spins, I may get the vapors.”
“They’d be lucky to get you.”
“How sweet, if I ever go straight, I’ll go straight for you.”
“Now I may get the vapors.”
She grins I earn a kiss on the cheek, “We’re not physically intimate, being able to read your thoughts and you mine is a kind of intimacy most people will never experience.”
“It is, isn’t it?”
McKenzie comes along, “McKenzie made two thousand six hundred fifty seven, feed Zelda and Cilia.”
It’s five, the dogs eat at five, they even know when it’s five, which is why they are staring up at Mac right this very.
Pellets hit the stainless bowls, plink down in a cascade, they dig in and crunch. Mac refreshes the water bowls, they create a small flood when they’re done eating, then it’s time for a walk around the property.
“I’ll clean up the spills, have a good hike.”
Paper towels, I wonder how many paper towels we go through, Zoe C keeps two twelve roll packages in the utility closet. The only bigger stack is toilet paper. The Sylk girl has over twenty housemates, our paper usage must pale by comparison.
I need to think over dinner, check the refrigerator to see if Mac has already begun something. She has, I see flank steaks in a baking dish marinating. 
What else?
Natalie comes in, “You’re deep in thought.”
“Sort of, what sides do you want with flank steak?”
“Everybody like baked or mashed, add creamed corn or spinach, you’ve got it covered.”
“Cornbread?”
“Yeah, got a little jalapeno to add?”
I look around the veg drawer, “Sure do,” I pull out a couple and dice them.
Nat parks on a stool next to the kitchen island, I whip up the cornbread batter, get it in a Pyrex dish and slide it in the oven. Creamed spinach is simple and takes ten minutes….I know, I’ll make it creamed spinach with cauliflower rice.
Potatoes. Baked is the most straightforward, I wash eight Idahos, poke them with a fork and stick them in the microwave to get a jumpstart on cooking. I give it six minutes, then coat in a bit of olive oil, garlic powder and paprika. Wrap in foil, transfer them to a pan and slide that in the oven. 
Set the timer for the cornbread, the box says eighteen to twenty but I find it’s more like fifteen or it gets too dry.
Potatoes can cook until six, sit in a warm oven until dinner. I’ll make the spinach at quarter to seven, dinner time will be seven tonight, sometimes it’s more like seven thirty. Eating dinner at five or five thirty is uncivilized. 
Ah, here comes Zoe C, approaching cocktail hour.
“What’s dinner Chef?”
“Flank.”
“Red then, got just the thing, a stout cabernet nicely chilled in the wine cellar,” she goes off to get two bottles, returns and opens them. 
She’s started decanting the wine, pouring it into a crystal decanter to aerate the wine as it goes from one container to another. She says it opens up the flavor better than just going straight to a wine glass.
She brings me a vodka rocks, her preferred cocktail as well, Natalie has wine.
Elle comes from her room, “Yum, smells like cornbread, and flank steak.”
Zoe C hands her a glass of red, “Sides of creamed spinach with corn, and baked potatoes.”
“Where’s the kiddies, out with the dogs I take it.”
“Yep, should be along soon.”
And they are. I can hear the hose running, after circling the property paws pick up dirt we don’t need in the house. It also helps that shoes are left at the door, not worn inside. Socks, martial arts shoes or bare feet are for the house. 
Zak races in, “What do I smell? Cornbread for sure, baked potatoes Chef has seasoned with garlic powder and paprika. Meat is still raw, steak of some sort.”
“Good job, flank steak tonight, rare and thin sliced, ketchup, horseradish if you wish, or Tabasco, regular or habanero. I have scallions, clarified butter, sour cream and sautéed mushrooms to add to the potato.”
“Like the Zen monk said, make me one with everything.”
Zak has no food issues, put it on his plate, he makes it disappear, the idea of picky eater is completely lost on him.
The girls come in, Akiko takes a stool at the island next to Natalie who takes the opportunity to kiss one soft cheek, then the other. Akiko smiles up at her, Akiko’s smile could melt steel.
Zak, “I heard kisses, where’s mine?”
Zoe C smacks both cheeks, “How’s that handsome?”
“Much better thank you.”
Natalie, “Don’t just favor Zoe C, come here,” he gets two more.
“This is great…um, Chef, don’t bother okay?”
I’m struck everyday by Zak’s attitude and demeanor. He takes everything in stride, blindness compensated for by heightened sense of smell, and hearing. And there’s his total bestie Mickey and his other bestie Cilia. The children are a perpetual delight, one almost hopes they’d be these ages forever.

Forty Seven

We arrive at the Sylk compound, gate swings open when I press the call button, I see they’re as security conscious as we are. Small children will do that, their wonderful world surrounded by a frequently nasty one.
A tall, five ten, woman with shoulder length black hair and mildly oriental eyes opens the door. She’s in what looks like silk pants and an ivory blouse, she’s barefoot.
“Hi, welcome, I’m Daphne Sylk, Zoe C said you guys also skip street shoes in the house. I have fresh slippers, or you’re welcome to socks or bare feet.”
I shake her hand, “Good, and yes, same at our place. You’ve met everyone except Natalie, I’m Chris Carlyle, Chef to friends.”
Daphne, “I didn’t line up the family to greet you, there are too many and likely only McKenzie remembers all the names.”
I know the answer, but I ask anyway, “Why just McKenzie?”
“We have a couple of eidetikers as well, Janah is one, Daria is another. The family will introduce themselves over the course of the day, we can be a little overwhelming en masse.”
Natalie, “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Pleasure’s all mine, come in, most of the others are around the pool, the rest of the weirdoes will show up eventually. Oh, here’s Morshchiny, I understand you have a mastiff, and a Great Dane. Morshchiny will check you out, just a sniff or two.”
“That’s exactly what Zelda does. Cilia, the Dane, tends to hang back and let Zelda do the honors.”
The main room is massive, couches and lounge chairs with end tables, coffee tables in front of each couch. It’s like an old school hotel lobby except the kitchen and dining table are, like ours, part of the communal area.
“Beautifully decorated, I like the art painted directly on the walls, someone is quite talented, who does the calligraphy?”
Daphne, “That would be me, a long time family friend did several pieces, Janah’s mom did the rest, and here’s Janah,” she welcomes us, we follow them across the room and outside.
White hair like Akiko, Janah isn’t as tall as Daphne, five six or seven. Daphne’s thin, not anorexic, just slim. Janah is curvier, not PC curvy, a substitute for fat, but filled out in the places women fill out. She fills them out well. The two women are even more stunning together, the vibe between them is palpable, clearly one in spirit.
The day is Malibu lovely, seventy eight, sun with a few fat clouds. In the pool are kids, around the patio tables is a coven of perfection. Where did they find these girls?
Natalie, “One of the art works reminds me of a Kiersted.”
“Good eye, it is a Kiersted, Janah’s mom, she uses her maiden name on the art.”
Nat turns to me, “Have any idea what a Kiersted is worth, think high six figures, minimum,” she tells Daphne, “One of my clients has a Kiersted, it’s prominently displayed in his office, every visitor comments on it. She does 3D like no one else.”
Natalie giggles, “And they have one painted directly on a living room wall.”
Daphne doesn’t mention that each bedroom has one, we find that out later when the girls tour the house. One wall in the children’s dorm is a Kiersted mural, the only one on the planet. The 3D effect so pronounced you think you can reach out and pick up one of the kids. It’s a work depicting the children and Morshchiny. Right now it’s wine and cheese on the patio, half a dozen glass topped tables, patio chairs that are actually comfortable, cushioned, not metal things that break your butt after fifteen or twenty minutes.
Mickey and Zak are talking to the little girls just exiting the pool, naked as the sunrise.
“The children swim nude, hope nobody’s offended.”
Zoe C, “How we do it at home, except Chef, he’s way liberal, not that liberal.”
Another tall woman, Japanese, and a shorter one, Chinese, come out.
“This is are our business managers Nikko and Zi, the third is Daria,” we introduce ourselves, they sit, Natalie asks about their businesses, we have little idea of their resources, obviously deep.
Nikko, “A film production company, except nobody uses film anymore, digital production doesn’t have the same feel. There’s a drone company, we sold off real estate in New York and San Francisco before we moved here. The rest is not so much an operating business as investments. I understand you are running an investment company Natalie, I’d like to hear about it if you’re inclined.”
Natalie smiles, “Stop me when I get to boring,” she explains her concept, how many businesses her company holds and something of the revenue stream.
“We aren’t cash flow rich, yet, but all the businesses make money, after expenses that money flows up to the parent. My job is to allocate capital and not let aggressive young entrepreneurs go bankrupt with big ideas. If I can retain eight percent, we’ll do just fine.”
Nikko, “Hypatia, yes?”
“How did you know, we’re hardly a household name.”
“Daria did a bit of research.”
The children swarm by, Morshchiny right behind, followed by Mickey and Zak.
As Zak zips by he informs us they’re going to the dorm.
Janah asks Elle, “Do you have a business, or some other interest?”
Elle explains her algorithms, not details, the premise, “I’m doing well with one, okay with one, one needs to be dropped, something isn’t clicking. My day job is taking care of the house with Zoe C.”
“If you wish, perhaps Daria can take a look, it’s your baby of course, so no insult if you don’t want outsider access.”
“Hell yeah, she can take it apart and reassemble it. Writing algorithms is tedious work though. She may not want to.”
Janah, “The kind of thing that’s up her alley, Daria creates spreadsheets for her amusement, and she can digest a financial statement in a glance. In fact, here are the twins now.”
Dasha, “Hello, my seester Daria, I am Dasha, I haf to feenish already dinner preparations, good for meeting you…where are children?”
Natalie, “Two went to the dorm with the children, I have no idea what McKenzie and Akiko went off to.”
Chloe comes out, “I saw them with Oceane and Cassie, Sloane was with them. Hi, I’m Chloe,” she smiles her way around and parks next to Janah.
Elle, “Well dang, my first real movie star, I know you hear it all the time, but we are fans, and chef has been through all of Amaya’s books.
A blond, ash blond, not white like Janah, steps out. I want to…I don’t know what I want, in a family of attractive women, very attractive women, this one is exceptional.
I stand as I did for Chloe, “I’m Chef, this is Natalie, Elle, Zoe C, the kids re elsewhere right now.”
Zoe C jumps in my head, 'Christ on a cracker, that’s the most beautiful woman on the planet…she’s flipping perfect, perfect doesn’t even seem adequate.'
'Well, like you, she a lesbian, who knows, anything might happen, besides, you’re hardly second place, not to mention Elle.'

Amaya sits between Elle and Zoe C, “Best spot, between two delectable orchids.”
I stand, “Maybe I can give Dasha a hand, I love kitchens and you have a first class commercial one, think I’d be imposing?”
Janah, “Not at all, the last time I saw Dasha flustered was never. Keep in mind she talks to herself when she cooks, it’s how she stays organized.”
Amaya holds court with movie making stories. My impression is Amaya holds court if she just sits silently. 
“Hi Dasha, I’d like to help, this kitchen is incredibly equipped.”
“You will help coat trout filets, sides are new potatoes and steamed asparagus. First boil potatoes, the last few minutes we will put spears in a colander put over potato pot and steam. Dessert ees ready, bread pudding, no raisin, we do not anyway care for raisin.”
We get busy, McKenzie comes along and helps, feeding thirty people is a project even if the recipes themselves are fairly simple.
While we work it Dasha occasionally recaps the next steps to herself, at least I think it’s to herself, she doesn’t seem to require an answer. A different set of twins shows up, holy moley.
Dasha, “You will meet Katya and Katja, they are also Russian girls except we are all American citizen now.”
I hold up my hands, “I’d shake but I’m kind of involved.”
Katja, “No problem, welcome to our home. This must be Akiko, beautiful girl like Janah with white hair. Look Katya, she has violet eyes like Chloe.”
Akiko smiles, Katja says, “She does not talk, like Cassandra, silently happy.”
“Akiko will occasionally weigh in, on more…um, esoteric matters, not every day stuff.”
Katja, “She has met Oceane and Cassandra?”
“A short visit last week.”
“Sister and Katja were out of town for business. I will take her to Oceane, if they met last week they have both forgotten it by now.”
Katya tells Dasha, “We will help serve when you are ready.”
Dasha, “Da, okay.”
Damned if these twins don’t resemble the first set. I’d love to know how they came to be with Daphne’s crew, but I’m also good at minding my own business. Instead of questions, I get my brain back into potatoes and fish.

Forty Eight

Just as we wrap preparations, a tiny sprite comes along. Not a child but not even as tall as McKenzie.
Dasha, “This ees Eloise, she ees computing hardware genius. I am busy, introduce yourselves.”
We do, this time my hands are clean and I shake her hand, she has unusually long skinny fingers, and glasses that slide down her nose only to be shoved back into place. She’s also quiet, soft spoken, a cute elf.
Dasha, “Here ees Sloane, she ees always show up on time for food, like Morshchiny.”
Sloane isn’t shy at all, handshake, she met McKenzie last time. Sloane is a girl, her body forgot and gave her a penis and testicles, that what Mac said anyway. Can’t tell from looking at her, she’s not conventionally pretty, still striking in her own way.
“Have we met everyone?”
“Nyet, Lauren, Sarah, Ellen, Mani and Britt are out shopping, they are here in maybe ten.”
Good gravy, how do they keep track?
“Dasha, there’s a ton of cooking, I mean, as I understand it, you guys eat most meals here, am I right?”
“Da, yes, we order out maybe once a week for dinner, usually Chinese, sometimes Popeye Chicken, everyone likes.”
I laugh, “Sounds like us, we probably go to the same places, Asian Fusion for Chinese?”
“Da, and sometimes Mama Jin’s.”
“I heard about that place, must be good or you wouldn’t mention it.”
“Asian Fusion for most dishes, Mama Jin is for Peking Duck. We haf to call three days in advance for so many.”
“I’m gonna try it. So, all the home cooking, it can’t be just you.”
“Nyet, Ellen, Mani and Britt help, even Daphne who cooked all meals until family got beeg. Ellen ees best cook ever. She has learned the best New Orleans dishes, gumbo, turtle zoup also. Anyway, four girls in beeg kitchen, ees easy, we all like cooking for family of crazy people.”
A ‘ding’, screens around the house open, show the front gate. A Tahoe comes through,
“Ees girls, not alien invaders,” she taps a tablet on the table, the screens shut down.
I see a girl head to the door, one I haven’t seen before, she resembles someone I can’t quite place. She opens the door, goes out, girls come in with packages, then the unknown girl comes in with more packages.
One of them, a tall girl like Daphne in snug shorts and a t-shirt, she slips off platforms and walks over.
“Hi, I’m Ellen, this is Mani, Lauren, Britt and Sarah, welcome. Are the others outside?”
Dasha, “Da, go and introduce, maybe we should get naming tags.”
I carefully watch Ellen as she heads to the patio, she could be Elle, taut and tight, legs to curl up and die for. I may need a few Valium to keep my heart from exploding.
Dasha, “Ellen is most beautiful girl, like Eemaya and your Elle.”
I wonder who Eemaya is, then my brain clicks in, Dasha’s accent, she’s talking about Amaya.
Mani stays behind, “Emma B, take the packages to the laundry room, tomorrow separate what needs to be dry cleaned from washables. We have guests today, take care of them first.”
“Yes Mani, shall we serve cocktails now?”
“Ah, she is housekeeper then?”
Dasha, “Nyet, we haf cleaning bots for that. Emma B and Kota B are like…um, what do you say, valet…butler?”
“Ah, big help in a household this size.”
“Da, Eloise made them and the cleaning bots, Daria and Daphne’s mom wrote the code, took forever, complicated programs, a million lines of code.”
I stare, my jaw works but no words come out. 
I take a deep breath, “You are telling me that she’s a robot?”
“Da, robot.”
A second girls appears I don’t recognize, goes outside, I hear her ask if anyone needs anything, she returns and goes to the bar, starts making drinks.
The bot she calls Emma B shows up again, takes a tray of soda, cocktails and wine outside.
Zak comes in, “Chef! Did you see the bots? They look real, like real people, one looks like a young Emma Watson, I didn’t recognized the other.”
Dasha, “You are blind boy, how do you see…wait, Mickey, you can see what Mickey sees, da?”
“How’d you figure that out?”
“I see what sister sees, hears, like Daphne and Janah. Daphne can be in Amaya’s brain, also Nikko’s.”
And here I thought Zoe C and I were doing somethin unique, we just hadn’t met the right people.
Dasha, “Kota B ees made to resemble girl who does fashion and cosplay in Japan.”
I take another look, “The bot doesn’t look Japanese, or Asian of any variety.”
“No, Kotakoti is American girl who does cosplay, popular in Japan. Eloise decided to make our bot look like her.”
Zak, “What is cosplay?”
“Costume play, make up a costume or make one that ees graphic novel or science fiction character. Een Tokyo there ees whole district where girls go wiz making up costume to show off talent. Many people take picture, girls do it for fun, ees not for money. Look up on eenternet, you will see. Oceane did it for a while, she makes beautiful costume, but has put aside for now. She does mostly art, drawing wiz color peenzil. She drew Akiko last week.”
Zak, “Can I see it?”
“Kota B, take Zak to Oceane’s room, look around for drawing of Akiko, Oceane won’t remember she even did it, or know where it is now.”
Kota B, “I straightened yesterday, the finished drawings are safely stored, I recall Akiko.”
Zak, “Awesome! I have a bot escort, and I’ve never seen Oceane or her pal. After I meet them, I still won’t have seen them,” he laughs at himself.
“You best take Mickey or you won’t see the drawing either.”
Zak slaps his head, “Sometimes I forget I’m blind as a beetle.”
“You have blindsight.”
“Yeah, but I’d never be able to distinguish what’s on a drawing, let me round up Mik.”
He does, they follow the bot to the circular staircase, a good idea I wish we’d thought of. They aren’t better than a common stairway, but they look neat. In this case, there’s one at each end of the main room, stairs and railings all mahogany, plus two outside from the second floor balcony to the patio, metal, they are outside after all. 
Dasha, “We will grill trout now Chef, two minutes, turn two minutes, done.”
I get a stool for Akiko, McKenzie is also womaning the griddle, I get to keep time while Dasha arranges the potatoes and asparagus.
Dasha, “Young girl ees okay wiz griddle? Ees hot.”
“She does the grill at home, no worries.”
Dasha clicks on the vent, I can feel the air rush past, but there’s almost no fan sound. 
“I see, hear, you have the fan silenced, we did ours by putting the fan closer to the exhaust vent.”
“Same thing, plus motor is sound proofed, mostly, it’s in a box with vents to dissipate heat. Daphne has sensitive ears, she can hear a whisper across a room. Common noise for us is amplified for Daphne.”
“How does she watch TV with everyone else then?”
“Earplugs.”
“Of course, duh.”
Dinner is ready, Daphne gets on the house intercom to round everyone up. It’s a visual treat, near two dozen women, of which it is impossible to say who’s the most attractive. An achievement considering the breathtaking beauty of Amaya, Ellen and Elle. This didn’t just happen, somebody intended things to be this way.
The children swarm down the staircase, Morshchiny in the lead this time, there is food involved after all. The children have their own table, sized for them. They sit quiet chattering while Kota B and Emma B bring their plates. Water is already on the table, the bots pour it into glasses of ice with lemon.
I tell Dasha, “We let the kids have a splash of wine with seltzer, if you have rules about that, they won’t mind.”
“We haf three rules, consideration, generosity and cooperation. Janah taught us, eef you haf those, you don’t anymore need rules.”
I have got to get to know this Janah better. She’s not far out of her teens, where does this equanimity, intelligence and poise come from? And what of Daphne? She has a commanding presence, not a bossy commanding, rather one who has faced trouble, violence and sacrifice and come out the other side, not merely intact, but stronger. I don’t get the impression she ever lacked confidence, justifiable confidence, not arrogance..
We’re seated, bots deliver plates, pour wine, don’t miss a beat, don’t spill anything, no awkwardness or stilted talk. Kota B sounds like a California girl, Emma B, British, not cockney, the Queen’s English.
Zak, “You will see the most extraordinary drawing after dinner. Oceane’s picture of Akiko, it’s like…well, forget that, just wait.”
I finally get to see Oceane. Tall-ish, maybe five nine, languid, more serene than a Tibetan monk lost in meditation. Carries herself with perfect posture, moves with stillness, a paradox, but that’s how it seems. Watching her move is a visual dessert, when they coined the word willowy, they had Oceane in mind.
When she came down the staircase, her companion, Cassandra, was cross-legged, floating over Oceane’s right shoulder. When she sits, Cassandra sinks into the chair next to her.
I look over at Zoe C, Natalie and Elle, all staring, mouths open in disbelief.
Mickey, “Geez moms, you look like you’ve never seen anyone levitate before.”
Laughter, kids see stuff and take it in stride, adults have ideas of how things should work, children are smarter…at least until they go to school where instinctive curiosity and awareness is replaced by mindless obedience.

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