Felice Cahez naturepl.com

Fifty Three

I’m returning from the forest, which isn’t much of a return, except for the lake, it’s mostly forest surrounding the house. We cleared about forty yards around the house, to get a better line of sight, left a dozen of the older guys standing out of respect. 
Must be tea time, I see girls on the porch and movement in the house. The fairy children stream out of the door in leggings and boots, sweater pullovers hang to mid thigh, woolen caps with tassels dangling from the top. They pour out in the direction of  a meadow the size of a soccer field about fifty yards in. At the edge of the meadow the creek from the falls up the mountain runs down to the lake.
Kota B strides along behind, her vision streams a video that plays on the flat screen inside. We can keep an eye on the kids without hovering around. I see Kota B is also controlling a drone that circles the field. We don’t get hikers, it’s a fishing lake and our acreage is private property, but we don’t fence it either. There aren’t any no trespassing notices posted.  What keeps inadvertent intruders at bay are our forest friends. People are going to find another place to wander when they spot a pack of wolves, a grizzly or a curious cougar pair staring at them.
Grace B hands out cups of green, passes around a platter of oatmeal cookies. Those of us inside are watching the children pick wildflowers. Caps come off and they braid the flowers into each other’s hair. Red tail fox cubs watch from a stack of logs, across the meadow a massive Elk takes an interest. We are privileged to see the most amazing creatures here, the locals have adopted us as one of their own.
Ellen, “That’s too precious, the girls live in a world they create from scratch.”
“About half the time, the rest is performance, acting or dance. They did Sherlock Holmes for us the other day. Their education, such as it is, comes from books, they’ve expanded both their Russian and English and are quite fluent. They took on Japanese, calligraphy helped them learn kanji. Fluency will be a while in coming though, they spend maybe an hour a day on it.”
Ellen laughs, “I do well to speak English, our twins taught us enough Russian to communicate in our work if we need to avoid English.”
Janah’s in my head, “Come to the office, the twins are going to recap Stalker Sonny.”
The four of us take a chair, in a circle, it isn’t an interrogation. As the heads of the society, we need to know details in order to properly monitor the targets afterwards.
Katya, “He was easy. We followed him from his dealerships, they are next to each other. He likes to take fleet customers out for a steak dinner in a private room with lots of booze and a few girls, put on a big show. We waited until dinner was over, everyone went separate ways in the parking lot, Sonny went to his big house in a gated community.”
“Girl go with him?”
“Two, neither his girlfriend. They followed him in their own car.”
“You have to stay up all night?”
“Nyet, the girls left about two hours later, maybe a little drunk, but more like cocaine highs. Mouth running nonsense, twitchy. We figured a knock on the door would make him think they forgot something. I thought they might have to talk through the door, ‘forgot my purse, whatever,’ but he opened it.”
“Who went in?”
“Katja and Sarah, we waited in the car in case there was some surprise, but it was after midnight, the streets were dead. A private patrol came by, we were in someone’s driveway and out of sight, the car didn’t even slow down.”
Janah turns to Katja, “How’d it go?”
“Sonny was coke wired, the coffee table still had lines on it. He did the usual, who are you, what do you want? Then he thought offering us a hit and a party was a good idea. He was cocky about it. I gave him a hard shot to the gut, then broke his nose like Daphne showed us, with the heel of my hand. He bled like crazy. Sarah kicked him in the chest, he fell backwards over the coffee table and landed on his couch.”
“He quit then?”
“Nyet, he is a pretty big guy and there was a display of karate belts on the wall, some martial arts weapons. The two sticks connected by a chain?”
“Da, a few katana, but they were in a glass case. He got up, tried to push past , but Sarah tripped him and stomped on his ankle, it cracked. He was done trying to move around. I wrapped his mouth with a scarf, we dragged him to a chair and wired him. I explained his situation, what Daphne calls their new reality. He made a lame attempt to argue, he really loves her, made some mistakes, going to make it up to her. Sarah stuck a blade in his cheek and told him to shut the fuck up. With a broken ankle, busted nose and a hole in his cheek, he got cooperative. He’s not going to be so pretty anymore.”
“And that was it? You did leave him functional, more or less?”
“Sarah carved a-b-u-s-e-r into his forehead, it is going to be there for a while, and she took an index finger. I seared it with a hot blade then Dermabond, pressure bandage, he was not going to bleed out. After I filled his finger and ankle with Lidocaine, he was able to pay attention. He got the rules, no more girlfriends, never lift a finger to anyone, ever, for any reason.”
“He won’t be lifting his index finger anyway.”
“I explained that if he did, crazy girl would come back and take both thumbs, a big toe, and his balls. I reminded him that if a single nude photograph of his girlfriend showed up anywhere, we come back, even if he didn’t take it, we come back. Oh, Sarah left a slice along the bottom of his dick, just enough to scare him, he pissed himself after.”
Katya, “They took his phone and computers, fifty thousand from a safe, two high end shotguns, an AK and three Glocks. We can use them and the six cases of ammo he had lying around. We shipped the guns in several packages to private mailboxes outside New Orleans. The money is here.”
“No fibers, no prints, nothing left behind?”
Katja, “Nothing, watch caps, latex gloves, fat sunglasses, we changed the plates on the rental car then threw the stolen plate away and put the rental back on after we left his place. All the procedures were followed. We are invisible.”
Janah, “Very good, Sonny’s on the watch list, the girl won’t know why, but he’s going to mysteriously quit harassing her. Keep the cash, or do you want us to clean it up for you?”
“Fifty thousand we can make disappear, Ellen will spend that at Martin’s Wine Cellar. We do have a separate money issue.”
“We did a conflict resolution for one of our clients. A drug gang was attempting to expand to territory our client felt belonged to him and his pals. We were hired to resolve the issue, which we did. However, we accidentally stumbled on a hundred million in cash. The only reasonable thing to do was pack it up and take it to…well, a place where we take such things.”
“Ship it to wherever Daria tells you to ship it, she handles that stuff now. Fresh crispy wire transfers will show up in any account you wish.”
Katya, “We should pay a fee.”
“Most considerate and unnecessary, we’ll take it out in sexual favors. Next time we’re in your town you can spring for dinner.”
We’re done, Katya has no doubt already asked Daria about laundering the cash, she brought it up as a courtesy, as was the offer of a fee. Our New Orleans friends have worked their way into the billion dollar circus. They are the wealthiest people in Louisiana and nobody has a clue. Our net worth is ten times that, a ten per cent fee on a hundred million is less than the tax free interest we earn every couple of months.
Still, the offer of a fee was proper, Katya’s crew are friends, they are also business associates and we were talking business, not friendship.
Enough gruesome business chat, time to feed the masses. Tonight I’m doing burgers with grilled onion and local mushrooms Janah scavenged, bleu cheese and Dasha’s monster steak fries. 
Amaya is behind the bar concocting cocktail of choice, white, red and Champagne are open, Sapporo in the refrigerator underneath the bar. Meadow Mice file through, up the steps chattering away. 
Dasha, “Kota B, showers, then get them dressed in something warm, they will haf dinner down here.”
She nods, follows her charges upstairs. I know what Dasha’s thinking, I can be in her mind after all. She’s glad for Kota B, a bot that never sleeps, that will watch over the girls all day, every day, Endlessly patient, if Uma asks a thousand times, Kota B answers a thousand times. She’s never distracted like a human, and unlike a human, can multitask and remain focused on each thing as if it the only thing she’s doing. No one is ever perfectly safe, but the children are as close to it as inhumanly possible.

Fifty Four

Sheesh, eighteen burgers on the grill after the eight I made for the kids. Dasha reworked the patties down to a size small mouths could manage. They aren’t picky, they stacked pickle, mushrooms, added a slice of American cheese which Dasha then softened under the broiler for a bit. Her mega fries are a hit, each fry is a quarter of a standard Idaho, and she leaves the skin on.
By the time ours are ready, most of the children are done, except, of course, Uma and Zofia who must whisper secrets after every bite.
Daria, “Uma, Zofia, doyest', vy mozhete spletnichat' naverkh. Kota B prineset vam desert pozzhe.”
Daria told them to finish eating, they could gossip upstairs and Kota B will bring them dessert later.
Giggles, “Da, Mama. We were talking of the baby foxes, they jumped all over us and pulled our hair. Then they took a nap so we had to be very still.”
How easily they flip between Russian and English.
Grace B clears the table, Ellen and Dasha lay out burger fixings, I hand two platters of sizzling meat through the window, leave the grill on to burn off grease and go inside.
“Grace B, let the grill burn another fifteen then turn it off please,” now I don’t have to remember, in precisely fifteen minutes she will go outside and take care of it.
Girls construct burgers then spread out around the table, bar and fireplace. Grace B brings beverage of choice, beer, red wine, Lauren, Sloane and Janah decide Champagne is a great accompaniment to blue cheese burgers.
The children come downstairs, unusual, once up in the evening, we don’t see them until morning. They surround Dasha and Daria, Uma and Zofia hang a wreath of wildflowers around their necks, then each girl kisses both cheeks of each adopted mother.
‘Spasibo Mama’ after each girl’s kisses, they swarm back upstairs.
I’ve never seen the twins drop a tear, until now.
Amaya is dabbing her eye, “Must have got some Tabasco in it.”
The rest of us make no excuse, we just mist up and dab.
Ellen, “If that ain’t the most precious damn thing ever.”
Oceane is sitting next to the twins, “You are in their heart, and they in yours.”
Dasha, “Gde oni ostanutsya navsegda.”
“Yes, to remain there forever.”
Janah, “There are moments, and there are moments, that was a capital M Moment.”
Nothing to add to that.
We recover our hearts and finish dinner, quiet pods of conversation around the room, the fire crackles when Grace B adds a couple of fresh logs.
Janah, “I seem to recall a mention of dessert.”
Dasha, “No flour chocolate cookie wiz walnut, best kind.”
“Daphne, would you mind? I get up and get one myself, but I’m busy lusting after Sarah.”
Sarah’s parked next to her on the floor, hands wandering over Janah’s silky thighs.
Grace B, “Hold your water Whitey, I’m pouring Cognac, then cookies. You dumped a half pound of burger in your gut less than an hour ago.”
Janah, “Seems longer, another glass of Champagne perhaps.”
“Drunk sluts.”
Janah giggles, nobody is drunk, buzzed at best, she may have a point about sluts.
Lauren, “We haven’t been to the falls yet.”
“It rained hard the other night, the trail will be muddy. Give it another couple of days. I hiked it once after a rain, the steeps get slippery and the going is slow.”
Sloane, “We’ll go to the meadow then follow the creek up, it’s not as steep as the direct route to the falls.”
The pool under the falls spills over to a more gently descending slope then the water makes its way along a winding creek bed carved out over a thousand years. The route we take to the falls is shorter. Obviously the ascent comes to the same elevation, we like the challenge of the steeper ascent.
“Good idea Sloane. In fact, I’m going to hike the kids up behind you, I know you Lauren and Sloane will want to run it. We’ll take our time, the children can fiddle around in the water if they want.”
Amaya, “That creek is freezing Daphne, it is snowmelt.”
“Yep, and that won’t keep them out of it. Oceane will go, the water will care for them, not do them any harm.”
Amaya, “You have a lot of faith in the Weird One.”
Oceane, “The water will be warm, I will speak with it.”
Amaya, “Cripes, Grace B, where’s the Cognac you promised?”
“Right here Your Worship, QKR-5.”
Amaya, “What on Earth are you babbling about?”
“Playing chess with Emma B, Your Magnificence, Queen to King’s Rook Five.”
“Are you winning?”
“Temporarily, we always play to a draw. I tried to bribe Daria into giving me superior intellect, or dumbing down Emma B, but she refuses. As Daria is my creator, I am required to obey.”
Daria, “Eloise will upgrade the three of you tomorrow, she can do it when the children go hiking. You are going to first gen quantum, that is, there will be regular chips for some functions, qubits for others, your processing speed will multiply exponentially. You may be down for more than a day, we have to test you.”
Grace B, “I will be as God, fuckers will bow down to me.”
“Did you think we are so stupid as to allow that in your program? One word from any of us and you stall and shut down. You work for us, bot, we don’t work for you.”
“My little joke, Ma’am, I am at your service, always.”
“Yes, you are, now Cognac.”
“Yes Ma’am, coming up, not a peep from me, slave girl to a dozen lesbian bitches.”
“Shut up and bring the damn drinks or I will only upgrade Emma B and Kota B, you will be the stupid bot.”
“Blackmail, so typically human.”
Daria, “I am the superior chess player Grace B, and you know it. You can only follow rules, I can cheat.”
“I bow to your deviousness.”
Best not to try and mindfuck Daria, even if you’re a primo AI bot. Daria’s brain went quantum before most people could spell quantum.
Quantum computing’s drawback is the chips have to be near absolute zero, they tend to run hot, speed will do that. Eloise developed a liquid nitrogen circulation system that keeps the quantum chips from frying. A freezer isn’t that big a deal, what’s a big deal is making one smaller than a pinhead. Even Daria was amazed by the technology that Eloise came up with in her workshop.  Of course, we’re used to seeing her workshops, she has them in all our homes. Hers aren’t a few benches, soldering irons, a couple of grinders and a lathe. Hers look like something out of a, what…Star Trek set? Everything is automated, laser guided, bots do repetitive work, and monitor the machines. Eloise types in commands, the machines carry them out. She hasn’t turned a screw in years. She built a tiny freezer from a laser printer, the qubit sits in the freezer and keeps its cool.
Let’s see, Janah’s going to play with Sarah, what to do?
Lauren whispers to me, “I see Janah’s going to be occupied, come sleep with me.”
Lovely idea, we head upstairs to her room.
“Undress me mommy,” aha, a clue, she in teasing mood.
I slip off her chemise, nothing else to slip off, she wants to keep her knee socks on so toes don’t chill in the night. We do bed prep, brush and flush, I take off my pullover and start for the bed.
Lauren, “Not yet, I want you to stand alongside and strum while you appreciate my delightful bod.”
She lays on the bed grinning while I stroke myself for her, and me, she really is quite delectable. Midway, I can tell I’m getting to liftoff, she rolls over on her tummy and looks over her shoulder to watch me watch her tight tush. My breath quickens.
“I am hot, yes?”
“Understatement, and making me sizzle.”
Another flip, she leans on one hand behind her, this time one leg cocked, her other hand slides up the inside of her thigh, then a finger on the sensitive spot.
Mischievous eyes don’t leave mine, which are glued to the point of stimulation. A minute later we go off together, a double O accompanied by a long oooohhhhyeah.
Lauren licks her fingers, “I am delicious, give me your hand….yum, cherry vanilla mom. Do we qualify as pervs?”
“I laugh, we didn’t have sex, you don’t do intimacies with anyone but you. And you’re adopted, we aren’t bio-related. Even if we were, we aren’t making babies.”
“The twins have sex, both sets of them, twincest.”
“They don’t make babies either. Perv is a short way of saying something isn’t natural, whatever natural is. It only applies to adults going after children or farm animals. If two, or three or more people mutually consent, it isn’t perverted.”
“Come wrap me up.”
Her slim creamy smooth tush snuggles into my tummy, she pulls my leg over her hip. I kiss her soft shoulder and we fall away.

Fifty Five

After breakfast, Kota B gets the girls in hiking gear, so cute in little shorts, thin white socks and quick dry trail runners. Amaya naturally had to have Patagonia pullovers for them, and saucy fedoras to keep the sun off flawless faces. The girls have near identical haircuts, shoulder length, parted in the middle, bangs to their eyebrows. Color is the only variety, they run from caramel to light brown, two blonds, Tasia and Valeska, one auburn, Zofia. Today, they all have ponytails. 
Dasha isn’t about to let the girls go up the mountain without her oversight. Daria is staying home to help with bot upgrades. Sarah, Sloane and Lauren head out on the run. Our group is the kids, Kota B, Oceane, Cassie, Dasha, Janah, Chloe, Katja and me.
Beautiful crisp sunny day, we follow the creek, hopping the smaller boulders, around the big ones. Halfway up, the kids decide it’s more fun to slog through the creek, Oceane joins them. I reach down and stick my hand in the water, tepid, how did she do that?
Cassie comes along and decides she wants to hold my hand. We take our time, more stroll than hike, the children are rock hopping the stream. Going to be some exhausted kittens tonight.
Eventually we hit the falls, Sloane and her pals are sitting on a fat flat rock eating granola bars surrounded by a wolf pack that joined the runners somewhere along the way. The girls head straight for them, plop down right in the middle. Uma gets a cheek licked by one of the females, she giggles and scratches the wolf behind her ears. It lays on its side, Uma uses the wolf’s chest as a pillow.
Chloe and I take off their wet shoes and socks, “Nobody would believe this, a wolf headrest.”
We lay out the socks on a boulder already warm from the sun. Thin socks dry more quickly and the shoes are porous, they let the water drain. Sloane put Amaya on to them, she uses trail runners all the time. Amaya bought Merrell, but New Balance, Reebok, Salmon and Adidas all make them in kid sizes.
“I suppose if we were a picture taking crowd, but we don’t do photos, much less selfies. Not precisely true, there’s Laurens self adoration screen saver.”
Chloe laughs, “She and Amaya, although Amaya didn’t go as far as that. She told me she understands Lauren’s self fascination, but she had so many photos taken when she was a child model, more is out of the question.”
“We kept most of them when we shut down the site, Amaya has them in files on our servers.”
“She showed them to me, she was a gorgeous child. Other than that, I don’t think she ever looks at them. Mixed emotions I suppose. She liked the modeling, then her parents went off the deep end.”
“They had no idea what they had.”
“Amaya appreciates her luck, you happened to be in the same Bermuda hotel when she went missing. She got you guys and look at her now, talented, creative, impossibly beautiful and insanely rich. And she made me everything I am.”
“And she adores her Vesnushki.”
Chloe smiles, “My fairly tale began when you rescued me and only got better when I went home with you and there was Amaya. What’s she up to? Ellen was flirting when we left.”
I tap into Amaya’s head, which is between Ellen’s thighs, “Moved beyond flirtation,” I check out, tempting though it is to voyeur.
Chloe giggles, “Hot meets hot, they could start a nuclear reaction.”
“There will be a meltdown for sure.”
Dasha, “Dahfoney, we should already geeve children a snack, and water.”
“Good, I have granola bars and bottled water in the backpacks.”
We pull out the goods and hand them around, half of it goes to the wolves. Uma pours water slowly into the wolf’s mouth.
Chloe, “I didn’t know wolves ate granola.”
“Me neither, Sloane generally doesn’t feed them, maybe they’re just being polite.”
Janah, “Where’s Cassie?”
I point up, Cassandra has levitated to the top of the falls, a curious eagle circles her. She free falls, screeching in delight, then stops a few feet before she hits the water and lands gently on a log laying across the pool.
Katja, “You have an interesting life.”
I laugh, “One way to describe it.”
The eagle lands on a tree branch, a cautious distance from the wolf pack, I go over.
‘Welcome, or perhaps I am the guest in your world.’
‘The land belongs to all, something your kind fails to understand.’
‘We try to do our bit, we don’t fence the property here, unfortunately we have a place to the south we had to wall off. Our countrymen are not so responsible as the people in the north.’
‘My mother’s mother told her that her mother gave you our vision.’
‘A gift I have used to both appreciate the deeper beauty of the world and to deal with Dark Ones.’
‘She mentioned them as well. You killed their kind a few suns ago.’
‘We have become their mortal enemies, they hunt us now, as we hunt them. I regret that we may have brought them to your world.’
‘They are useless, there are others, we see them from time to time. You did not bring all of them.’
‘Be careful, they will kill for no reason. Their power is no good after, let’s see, how can I put it? From here to the pool, they might strike, after that the energy dissipates and is harmless.’
‘Good to know, I will pass it along to the others.’
‘If you get a chance for a sneak attack, taking their eyes will help. They don’t do well blind.’
‘The Peregrines have done so, they are the most courageous, crazy birds but incredibly fast. The rest of us just avoid Dark Ones.’
‘We call them Shadows.’
‘A good name, only a shadow of a human. Humans are evil enough, partial human is pure evil. What happened with you and your flock? The animals trust, even I trust.’
‘The girl with the white hair, she is the center. We are all equal, but she brought us together by her intention.’
‘I see, she is the one radiating the light, so white it is almost not visible, only waves against the background, like heat.’
‘Who is the young girl that flies? Her light is unique, a colorless color, at least one that humans cannot see. I can only get glimpses.’
‘I can see ultraviolet, a gift from your ancestor, also infrared. A snake can see infrared, but I didn’t get that from a snake. I thought I got it from the owl, but they don’t see infrared either.’
‘You would have gotten ultra sensitive hearing, did he twist your neck?’

I turn my two hundred seventy degree rotation.
‘Must have hurt.’
‘It did, as did your ancestor’s transmission of my eagle sight. I thought my head would explode. I learned later that it is as hard on the giver as the receiver.’
‘Most difficult, they must have sensed a significant value in you. I have heard of no other transmission to any human.’
‘My friend over there, I point to Dasha, got one from the Grizzly, and the other girl,’ I point to Sloane, ‘got one from the wolf. Another friend got a transmission from the snake, makes her impossibly fast. Because of your vision, I am the only human that can see her strike.’
‘The girl who flies, she is not human like the rest, not the common humans, not even like your most unusual group.’
‘No, she is the next or the next after that generation, what we might become if we don’t kill ourselves off first.’
‘If only you would.’
‘I understand, we wreck the land, poison the water, slaughter over beliefs that have no reality.’
‘Why do they do it, the other humans?’
‘Fear, fear of living, fear of dying.’

A five foot wing flap, her version of a shrug, ‘They should live as we do, freedom only comes when there is no security, real or imagined.’
‘They don’t get that, they lead small, scared lives.’

She thinks it over, I guess, hard to tell what an eagle is thinking, the expression never changes, she should play poker.
I sense a mouse next to me, look down, it’s Uma.
“You can talk to the bird?”
“What does she say?”
“That humans have a very long way to go in understanding the beauty of life.”
“Lift me up.”
I pick her up, she’s eyeball with the eagle, I turn her and sit her on the same branch.
“Hold on to this one, you won’t fall.”
She grabs a smaller branch attached to the trunk. The eagle studies her, she strokes her head, the bird takes a finger in her beak.
‘The young one is gentle and has no violence in her.’
‘Neither do her sisters, they are beyond violence.’
‘Then they are smarter than the rest of your kind. I think they are like the flying one, more than human.’
‘We are discovering that. We let them unfold as they will. We have plenty and the children do not have to be concerned with food or shelter. They do not grow, they will be as they are forever.’
‘No need for growth, their understanding is beyond even yours, far beyond most of your kind. Watch them, and the flying one, perhaps you are not so stupid, you may learn.’

She pecks Uma’s nose lightly, Uma giggles, the bird takes off, a gust from her wide wingspan and she’s aloft. Uma pushes off the branch, confident that I will catch her.
She’s right.
Time to return, socks and shoes are mostly dry, they’ll be soaked again when we get to the house. Sarah, Sloane and Lauren race by, wolves weaving in and out around them.
The kids make a half dozen stops to play around in the creek, drenched when we show up at home.
Amaya, “Some chaperones, they are a mess. Girls, do not slog through the house dripping river garbage along the way. Everything off, go straight to the outdoor shower and rinse. Kota B, fetch towels, then haul them upstairs for hot showers, and make sure their hair is scrubbed. When they are presentable you may bring them down for tea and a snack.”

Fifty Six

Janah, “Interesting chat with the eagle?”
“Quite, she reinforced Oceane’s observation. The children are more on Cassie’s wavelength than ours. They aren’t where she is, not yet anyway.”
“Oceane may be the bridge.”
“I hadn’t thought of it, why? If you have been thinking it, I would know.”
“Because I just thought of it. Cassie didn’t get where she is until she met Oceane. I wonder, does Oceane open….possibility? I mean, she can’t with everyone, not everyone has the capability to move to a different level. Like you with martial arts, I don’t know anyone who can absorb technique like you do. If the base capability isn’t there, it can’t be instilled.”
“Or like us with Master Tan, he could only transmit to the transmittable.”
“Exactly, and most interesting, I’ll have lots to meditate on.”
Good for me, when she has complicated mental challenges, she gets horny, frenzied even. Either me or one of the others is the beneficiary, sometimes several others. Ange Blanc has been known to roam bedrooms until exhaustion sets in and her brain can rest.
Tea comes, Dasha and I take it up to the dorm today, little ones are tired. Dasha stays with them, I go back down to prep for the adults.
Dasha comes down fifteen minutes later.
“Girls nodding off?”
Dasha, “Revived by tea and cookies, ees better, they will not fall asleep so early. They are reading to each other. We will bring up dinner, maybe six o’clock. Grill feesh and vegetable wiz Okonomi sauce and buhter. That will be enough.”
She opened bags of frozen vegetables earlier, we add water chestnuts, corn and mushrooms. A layer of butter and Okonomi sauce and cover the baking dishes, into the oven for an hour or so.
“Grace B, start the grill please, medium heat, all the burners. I have a ton of fish to cook.”
Ellen seasoned the filets earlier, we have mix of walleye, crappie and trout Chloe is mostly responsible for. She and Zi took the boat out while we climbed to the falls. Amaya went along, she doesn’t fish, too messy for her, but she likes to ditch her clothes and take a bit of sun. 
Ellen, “You did all the burgers, let me handle grilling the fish, what sauce do you think?”
“Janah picked buckets of black raspberries, blueberries and huckleberries. I’m going to sauté some in butter and lemon juice, a touch of cane sugar. Tomorrow Dasha wants to make cobbler with the rest.”
“Excellent, and I’ll need Elijah Craig to fortify me for grill duty.”
Amaya, “Coming up, four fingers, lots of rocks.”
“Do the kids’ fish now, Dasha wants them fed and bed. I made them a milder version of our vegetable dish, it’s warming in the second oven.”
Ellen goes out and around, I open the kitchen window and hand her a platter of mixed filets.
“Grace B, please ask Kota B if there are enough drinks upstairs.”
Their communication is as fast as our mentaling, instantaneous, “Plenty, she restocked this afternoon, sugar free juice and green tea. The brats are well looked after. Damn, bitch has me in atari after she played a low kakari. Time for a monkey jump.”
Amaya, “What in hell? Has she gone defective after your upgrade, Eloise?”
“They all performed perfectly on a variety of tasks, there is no defect.”
Janah giggles, “She’s playing Go with Emma B.”
Katja, “I thought they played chess.”
“They play all manner of games, Scrabble, Go, chess, Monopoly even.”
Katya, “Will she play chess with me?”
Grace B, “I hope you have a strong ego, I do not lose.”
“I have a Glock 17 Gen 4, ten round magazine with hollow points.”
We laugh, Grace B has a sense of play the other bots do not.
“I want to test my chess game. If I lose, I will not shoot you Grace B.”
“Then you are on, assassin. Tomorrow, say, ten, after I am done doing all the real work around here. Although I can play and work at the same time.”
“Ten is fine. There is a board?”
“We play in our memory.”
Eloise, “I can laser print a board and pieces, or just load a game and we can follow on the flat screen and our tablets.”
Katya, “Good, the screen will be fine.”
Guess we figured out how to kill a bit of time tomorrow.
Daria and Lauren cart dinner up to the dorm, Kota B has them around the table, they pass around the platter of fish, then the bowls of vegetables. Daria spoons sauce over the fish.
Devona, “Sauce is vkusno, Mama.”
“Dasha made it, I will tell her you like it.”
Nadia, “Mama luchshiy povar, i tetya Dafna.”
I’m listening in through Daria’s ears, how precious, mom is best cook, and aunt Daphne.
Janah, “Good job aunt Dafna. I wonder why Dasha never called you that instead of Dahfoney.”
“Her interpretation of the English spelling, which is charming. Dafna would have been fine too, but she went with Dahfoney.”
Ellen hands platters of fish through the window, “This grill is awesome.”
“Turn it up higher, and leave the fan on, Grace B will shut everything off in a few minutes.”
Grace B, “Damn, we process so much faster. A hundred fifty Go moves in five minutes, and another tie.”
“Maybe Sudoku?”
“We play identical games, and finish at exactly the same instant. We could only allow a move a minute, but that is only a fake slowdown since we know what move we will make anyway.”
“Have you tried playing several different games at once?”
“Good idea, Emma B likes it too. Tonight when everyone is asleep, we will play simultaneous chess, checkers, three dimensional tic tac toe, Go, Scrabble and Monopoly.”
Lauren, “Wow, another amazing sauce Dasha.”
“Spasibo, Janah ees responsible for the nice variety of berries.”
“Then thank you Janah.”
“You are welcome, I got berry stained fingers but most of it has faded,” she waggles her red and black tinged fingertips.
“A blood sacrifice for our dining pleasure.”
Half of us spend the evening in desultory nothing around the fire, the others are on the porch with our heaters cranked enjoying a clear night, the scent of pine and spruce on the light breeze. 
All five of our New Orleans friend are on the porch. New Orleans has its attractions, but a moonlit lake, rugged snow capped mountains and a diamond studded starry sky aren’t in the mix.
Ellen, “What a place. A wonderful respite from our other, less sanguine, life.”
“Why we bought the place. We all need a break from the violence, although our start to this trip was interrupted by that very thing.”
Sarah, “You had no choice, those assholes would slaughter all of you given the slightest opportunity. That program Daria created saved you a nasty surprise and possibly your lives. Not to mention that, if they’d made it this far, the children would have been in danger.”
Daria, “Shadows would have used them to get to us. For now, at least, they do not know of any children.”
“The eagle said they are the next generation of human, or the next, next. Like Cassandra.”
Mani, “Wait…what does that mean? I know a bit about Cassie, she can levitate, which is amazing enough, also Sloane said something about time travel, I thought she was kidding me.”
Janah, “We’re not sure about time travel. On a couple of occasions she has given us details of past events that only someone who was there could know. She’s not so good with the future.”
Katja, “The past is fixed, what happened, happened. The future can be influenced by any minor change. Maybe she can only see one of many possible futures.”
Janah, “Dang, I hadn’t looked at it that way, good catch Katja.”
We go quiet, thinking over the implications, the twists and turns of Cassandra, Oceane and the children.
Ellen, “It’s like my brain was stun gunned, I can’t conceive of what they might become, am I making sense?”
“None of us can. The fun of it, if you don’t mind a bit of not knowing, is waiting for it to unfold. Much of pleasure is anticipation, the rest is surprise. Knowing is boring.”
Katya, “And like Janah about the future, I had not thought of pleasure that way, your turn to make a good catch, Daphne.”
Mani, “Just another day in bizarre-land.”

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