Sixty Five

Sarah and Mani are doing perimeter and hotel patrol this morning, Ellen’s got room duty until lunch when Sarah will swap with her.
Amelia, “We have a video conference with the Tokyo production team at three this afternoon, it’ll be seven in the morning there.”
Marina, “I sent descriptions of what we’re looking for, they also have the script. I think, given Japanese efficiency, they will have locations scouted and suggestions for us, even alternatives.”
Amaya, “It’s worked like that in the past. Today we’re going over timelines, finishing up casting. What roles are left to fill?”
Amelia, “Casting agency is shy a few stunt people, Chloe does most of her own stuff, they have Ellen and Sarah covered, looking for a girl who resembles Mani.”
“Remember, if you address them outside this room, they have different names.”
Amelia, “We got that, it’s Hollywood, everyone has three names.”
The day plods along , by lunch they don’t have much to do until the conference call. Room service delivers bacon wrapped chicken breast, mixed green salad with vinaigrette.
Amaya, “Let’s take a stroll to Venice Beach, I’m going to seize up if I have to sit in this chair much longer.”
Ellen is on the radio with Sarah and Mani, “Mani, change of plan, you come to the suite. Our principals are taking a walk to Venice Beach. Sarah you get out ahead and pay attention, I’ll be behind.”
Mani appears, the women go downstairs and out. Ellen trails by twenty yards, she sees Sarah ahead of the three by about the same distance. Foot traffic increases as the approach Venice Beach, Ellen catches up.
“Amaya, follow Sarah, it’s less crowded on the beach path.”
Sarah takes a right, the winding walkway follows the beach, fewer tourists who tend to stick to the main concourse full of shops, restaurants and street vendors.
Ellen, “Sarah, man in a cap and sunglasses, hauling it across the grass towards the girls. Get between him and them, I’m going to confront.”
The dope has reverted to his paparazzi sham, he’s got a video camera, one that takes stills and video at the same time. With the camera to one eye, he doesn’t notice Ellen. Then he pulls a revolver out and is raising it towards Chloe. Ellen and Sarah fire at the same time, Plunkett isn’t recovering from two hollow points, one in his spine, the other in his chest. His heart won’t be worth the effort to autopsy.
Ellen yanks his head up by the hair, “Well, well, Johnny Plunkett, imagine that.”
I’ve been following the action through Amaya’s eyes, I’m on the phone as Mrs. Pearson. The FBI actually arrives before the locals. 
LAPD tries, but they don’t get to question anyone. The FBI team says nothing, a medical examiner appears, pronounces the obvious, they bag Plunkett, dump him on a gurney and haul him off.
An FBI agent, a woman in a black pantsuit comes over, “Don’t remove the hats or sunglasses, don’t answer questions. Been a pleasure not meeting you. Love your films Miss Sylk, your novels have lost me sleep Amaya, now get lost.”
Don’t need to tell them twice, in a half hour they are back in the suite, housekeeping just left. They fill Mani in.
Amelia and Marina have no idea that Ellen, Sarah and Mani are professional killers. They think they’re  both security and friends of Amaya and Chloe.
Marina, “Geez, that was intense. You guys ever shot anyone before? Oh crap, none of my business really, sorry for asking.”
Ellen, “Nervous energy after an incident, don’t worry about it.”
She wasn’t going to answer anyway. 
If it occurs to Amelia or Marina, they don’t ask why everyone just walks away after a guy gets shot twice. Maybe they’re too intelligent, realize that they could have been caught up in hours of questioning except for somebody’s connections.
Amelia thinks, ‘Murakami Sylk has a long reach.’ 
She’s only short by a few thousand longs.
The video conference streams along. As predicted, the Japanese crew has two or three options for each location. After scrutinizing the script, and the ease or difficulty of moving from one location to another, they narrow it down to ten preferred and ten backup. And they get excellent cooperation from the Shingon monasteries in Koyasan. 
Amaya, “Better than I could have expected. The temples at Koyasan are splendid, the atmospherics will be sensational.”
Ellen has been surfing the web for pictures and Shingon Buddhism, “Good gravy, what a beautiful place, I am absolutely making the twins go with us.”
Chloe, “We spent time there years ago, Daphne and Janah were bit hits, Janah spent time in discussion with the monks, and Daphne gave them a set of calligraphies she drew at their request. The Ajikan symbol, the kanji for Shaolin, for Koyasan 高野山 and Shingon  真言宗. ”
Amelia, “Daphne’s a calligrapher?”
Amaya, “A premiere calligrapher, her work sold for a hundred grand a copy, she quit selling it a long time ago, but she still cranks it out. It’s her meditation.”
Miranda, “I guess it isn’t my place, but I need to know. I saw a guy draw a gun and head for Chloe. I saw Ellen and Sarah take him out. Then some people showed up and we walked away. Nobody questioned us, nobody was detained. Is there going to be, what? Further investigation? Are we getting interviewed, or going to testify in court or anything?”
Ellen, “You want to be interviewed, or testify?”
“Well no, of course not, but…”
“Then don’t, nobody is going to ask you jack, nobody knows who you are, they took no names. All you have to remember is your confidentiality agreement. You can say nothing about what happens when you are with Chloe, Amaya, the filmmaking or anything to do with Murakami Sylk. Not to your mama, not to your boyfriend, not to the girls at Starbucks and certainly not to the media.”
Miranda’s jaw is working but nothing comes out, it occurs to her that curiosity is deadly for cats, and production assistants.
Amelia, “You should know better Miranda, Hollywood is built on confidentiality agreements. Yes, you saw a shooting, if it helps, pretend it was a movie being made.”
Miranda is about as red as a white girl can get, good sense takes over, she shuts up.
Amaya, “Enough fretting, we did good work these last days, time for a cocktail. Miranda, relax, we have got this, and smile, Sarah’s done shooting people for today.”
Miranda, “What about Ellen?”
They laugh, Miranda’s lightened up, a good sign, she’s not going to meltdown.
A drink in The Living Room. Amaya read it right, Amelia and Miranda show every sign of just wanting to be in their homes, on the sofa, feet up watching NCIS with a pint of vanilla.
Mani, “They were stressed.”
Amaya, “Who wouldn’t be? I was, maybe not Ellen and Sarah, but they shoot people on a regular basis.”
Ellen, “We don’t shoot people, we resolve conflicts.”
“That’s what I said, where’s the waiter, I need another vodka, what’s for dinner?”
Mani, “I suggest Café Crepe, simple food, crepes and sandwiches, not much from the bar but they make Bloody Mary’s and have sparkling wine. You can even have breakfast. Check the menu.”
Amaya, “Good, nice and simple, I’ll have wine or something there, are we ready?”
They are.
The crepes don’t inspire, but the sandwiches appeal, Chloe even has a beef hot dog with Swiss and béchamel sauce.
Ellen, “Béchamel is the basic essential French sauce, butter, flour, milk and nutmeg. The next basic is roux, which is butter or lard, with flour and nothing else. Béchamel , as you see, is white, roux is brown. It isn’t a sauce for dumping on food, it’s for gumbos or gravies.”
The rest have omelets, Californian, with pico de gallo, avocado and jack cheese, couple sides of smoked salmon round out the meal.
Mani, “Nothing special but the quality was high.”
Amaya, “I was glad to get fed, also glad to be on a plane home tomorrow. We both leave at nine, Ellen you guys will get in at quarter to three. Arizona doesn’t daylight savings, so right now California time is Arizona time, our flight is short, an hour.”
No hijinks tonight, girls are tired, and the extra stress of  Chloe being attacked and a dead stalker turned assassin.

Sixty Six

I’m at Prescott Municipal to collect Chloe and Amaya, they’re right on time, advantage of a private jet. We shoot straight home in twenty. 
“Had enough excitement for a while?”
Chloe, “Thanks to you I’m still above ground, we have gone to LA without escorts before, never again.”
“The Shadows made me cautious, turned out not to be a Shadow this time, they don’t use guns.”
Amaya, “And you got the thing covered up instantly, FBI arrived before the locals.”
“Benefit of seeing through your eyes, it was obvious we needed to get Chloe and you gone. Publicity might put your names in the news, but it also attracts other flies.”
It takes a few minutes to go through our crowd collecting hugs and kisses. Even the sprites line up for a kiss to each soft cheek.
Chloe, “I should travel more often, the welcome home is delightful.”
Danika, “I suspect your family prefers everyone in one spot.”
We do, but travel they must, Nikko, Daria and Zi to San Fran, much more than Chloe and Amaya go to LA. They haven’t been in over two years. All of us will go to Japan, it will be interesting to see the children’s reaction. Kota B is focused almost exclusively on Japanese now and the kids are soaking it up. Half the time I have no idea what they’re talking about. If they spend the other half in Russian, then I’ve no clue all the time.
Janah, “It isn’t mystical, most of their chatter is about books, plays and their next costume drama. Since they’ve been in Arizona, a lot of it is about go karts, swimming and racing around the mountain in the nude.”
Dasha makes them wear shoes, and of course they have to be helmeted, with knee and elbow guards when they go karting. When they get in their kid size karts, they move like they move anywhere, tightly packed, completely synchronized. Nobody steps on a toe, or bumps the girl in front of or next to her. Watching them on the karts is almost mystifying, like professional drivers, less than a hands width from the kart in front or behind, never any contact. And they weave in and out, everyone gets a chance to be first, in the middle and bringing up the rear. 
I should add, the world has changed significantly. All our vehicles are electric. Unlike the early versions, these suckers can fly. Our home is completely off grid, we are entirely solar, it’s Arizona, there’s almost nothing but free sunlight.
In the pool, synchronization is nonexistent. They swim at different paces, Nadia and Tasia like underwater, others a normal crawl, others favor backstroke. Diving is complete chaos. While Oceane is Olympic caliber, barely a ripple when she enters the water, the kids leap into space and splash down.
It’s a combo desert and mountain out here, the sun is bright far more than it’s cloudy and rain is only occasional. Tans develop, but Kota B is careful about sunscreen, her sight is different from our sight, she looks at their skin, senses the changes and automatically keeps track of time and UV intensity. 
Tonight, they’re going up the mountain with Danika. There’s a cave up there where Danika feels a vibe, she goes often to meditate. In her case, that frequently means a trance for hours, or all night.
Dasha surprised me, raised no objection to an all night campout. Then again, she seldom refuses a request from the girls, it’s not like they ask to do dangerous things. I set them up with packs and a light supper, plenty of water, naturally Kota B will be with them, then Uma turns to Dasha.
“Mamas must also come, where is your pack?”
Dasha, “You want me to come with you?”
“Da, and Mama Daria also. We will have adventure.”
Daria is dubious, camping out isn’t her strong point, but Dasha has decided and while the twins aren’t subject to flattery, that the children want them along warms their hearts. 
I jump in, “Go on with Danika and Kota B, Mamas will change clothes and I will fix their packs, they will be up shortly. It’s getting dark, you need to get up there before it turns black, and Kota B needs to build a fire.”
“Da Tetya Dafna, spasibo.”
“Dobro pozhalovat, have fun.”
You are welcome exhausts most of my Russian.
I see Cassie going up the hill with them.
“What’s Cassie doing?”
Janah, “Going along. I saw them talking earlier, they have a plot of some sort. Cassandra is indestructible, if she gets hungry or needs water, they’ll share with her.”
“I’ll throw extra in the twins’ pack.”
Dasha and Daria come down, “Here, apples, bananas, a thermos of cold vodka with a few ice cubes in it. Protein bars. I also added coat hangers, marshmallows chocolate squares and graham crackers, you can make s’mores.”
Daria, “What are s’mores?”
Dasha, “I know, simple to make, children will making. heat marshmallow over fire, put chocolate square on cracker, then hot marshmallow, then another cracker on top.”
Daria, “If you say so, I have vodka, good enough.”
“There’s also a brick of cheese and a plastic knife to cut it. Enjoy.”
Dasha, “Spasibo Dafna, we will haf camping fire, children will get filthy and high on sugar and chocolate.”
“What being a kid is all about.” 
Off they go, ten minutes behind the children.
Janah, “You realize that dinner is now on your shoulders.”
“Not to worry, Dasha didn’t know she was camping until a few minutes ago. There’s a big pot of spicy sweet white beans, hot sausage, garden burger variety for you and Oceane. Another pot of brown rice, I only need to get cornbread in the oven and we’re set.”
Amaya is opening wine and making cocktails, “Good to be home and back to my bartending duties. Grace B, pour wine, Chloe, Lauren and I are the only vodka drinkers around. We shall have ours by the pool and contemplate my magnificence.”
Grace B, “As you wish Your Worship. Christ, what an ego.”
Chloe giggles, “I adore her ego, and kindly don’t let the tide go out in our drinks. I was nearly murdered by a madman, I need additional fortification this evening.”
“I only wish I had come along to kill him myself, not to worry, refills as needed.”
“Eloise, I’m not feeling any bad vibe, but to be cautious, send a drone up the mountain and run the feed to Grace and Kota B. Grace B, play it on the flat screen please. And load it with tranq darts.”
She hops up, five minutes later we’re watching the girls arrive at the site, Kota B has collected firewood along the way and starts building a fire. Children collect more firewood and stack it nearby while there is light left. Kota B shows them how to do it properly, a circle of rocks, lots of dirt with no scrub grass or bushes near.
Nikko, “Good thought to send the drone Daph.”
“The twins are there, Danika’s not a warrior priest, but she is Shaolin, and Kota B can punch a hole in a boulder, but still….”
Su, “Still a good idea. There are leftover vigilantes roaming around. The property is walled, but some might see that as a challenge, curious to know what needs to be walled off.”
“We haven’t had any problems with outsiders. You’re right though. We weighed the advantages and disadvantages of a wall. The prospect of ATVs or just hikers wandering through made our decision. Girls tend to swim and sunbathe nude, now there are the children who would stay naked all the time if we let them.”
Amaya, “They are a savage race of  performance artists. I did a fair amount of performance art until I discovered my incredible writing skills.”
Nikko, “Your entire life is performance art.”
Amaya grins, “True! I never know who I will be next. I am a happening that is always happening, a perpetual happening as it happens.”
Nikko, “Sheesh.”
Amaya, “Daphne, pass along to Nikko that if she continues to tease me with those glass slick legs, I shall have to take advantage later.”
I go to Nikko’s mind, then back to Amaya’s, “She said it is her intention, and if you go to her room later, she has other intentions. Nikko wants private time with you, Zi will be happy to entertain Chloe.”
Amaya grins, whispers to Chloe, another grin. A glance at Zi, how cute, Zi blushes.
Assignations are easy to arrange around here. For instance, I whispered a word to Oceane earlier. Later I’m going to use my tongue, not to whisper. Janah has a salacious eye on Sloane, they’re off to one side, I see through Janah’s eyes as she slips one hand along Sloane’s bare thigh, squeezes the shaft tucked sideways in her snug boy shorts. 
Janah, “I stopped by Sloane’s room to drop off towels, she was exiting the shower, and there I was with fresh warm towels. I dried her and got inspired in the process. We decided to wait until bedtime, build a bit of sexual tension.”
Before the place erupts in orgy, I announce dinner. They line up for white beans and hot sausage, warm buttery cornbread, cold Sapporo is the beverage of choice.
They manage to make it halfway through a documentary on AI. In its infancy in the mid twenty teens, now a full blown way of life in the late twenty twenties. We developed our own, not we, I couldn’t write an algorithm if my life depended on it, Daria, Sis and Lauren did.
Today, cars can self drive, eighteen wheelers are almost all driverless, as are most airplanes. The manufacturing jobs politicians cried about in twenty sixteen that moved offshore or to Mexico are now done by bots, so the Mexicans don’t have those jobs anymore either.
Most restaurants are bot driven, we keep real people as wait staff at Ultra Violet with an chef to oversee, the Down Homes have a cook, otherwise the food prep is automated. We were scrupulous about our people, they worked until they voluntarily moved on or retired, we just didn’t hire replacements.
America finally got its act together on health care. Insurance companies are gone, there’s one health care system, much of the diagnosis and treatment is done by machines. Prescription drugs are near free, and are free if your income level is below a certain point. Instead of a minimum wage, there is a basic income for anyone over eighteen. You can’t buy a home on the hill with it, but you can get a livable apartment, buy food and use a state of the art transportation system, do I need to say, run by bots?
How was it financed? Higher taxes on big incomes, fifty percent of every dollar over two million, from any source, including capital gains and dividends. Seventy percent over five million. No deductions for home mortgage interest over a hundred thousand, collectively, not per home. Corporations no longer get any federal or state subsidy of any kind, either in reduced taxes or direct payments. 
Municipal bonds are federally tax free, which drove down the rates municipalities had to pay to borrow and funded the transportation and infrastructure improvements. College is free to any qualified student, paid for by fixing the insane property tax structure. There are no longer tax giveaways for agriculture, no business of any kind gets an exemption or a property tax holiday. The politicians finally figured out that the Earth belongs to everyone, but that development, for homes, apartments and commercial interests is also necessary. Property tax is now viewed as a payment to the people for the right to own and develop property for profit. The rate is ten percent of the true value of the dirt, not the value ten years ago, or because you grow corn on it. Just factor it into the cost of doing business. Yes, prices went up, but not by ten percent, far less. Churches are no longer tax exempt, there is no tax deduction for religious donations. No deduction for educational donations, the 501c3 is a thing of the past. No more 401k, all pensions are paid via Social Security. The government simply confiscated all the money in corporate pension plans and stuck it in the Social Security Trust. It is also unable to borrow against the Trust for any reason.
Military expenditures are less than a third of mid twenty teen levels, the army is automated now, no soldiers go off to kill people. We no longer interfere with or subsidize any country, including Israel. Any catastrophe gets direct aid to the people, we no longer send money, food or other necessities unsupervised. That’s essentially what our military does now, disaster relief.
Energy is either nuclear, hydro or solar, wind didn’t catch on quite as predicted. Nobody like those giant fans. Less than ten percent of the gird is fossil fuels, and is predicted to be zero in ten years. There are a few gasoline or diesel vehicles, but no new ones can be manufactured, and there is a steep tax on fossil fuels which makes it impractical to own a fossil vehicle anyway.
There is a surplus in the budget, debt is some miniscule amount of GDP.
How about that? A system that works for everyone, and rich people like us still don’t miss any meals, we can still afford upscale everything and we are happy to pay our share to do it.

Sixty Seven

Planned assignations get diverted by the feed from the drone. We watch children dancing around the fire, naturally they’ve lost their clothes. The harmony is remarkable, they don’t all do the same thing at the same time, looking down on them from the drone feed, it’s like a kaleidoscope. Arms out, then up then held to the chest, they twist and sway back and forth like trees in the wind.
Lauren, “How do they do that?”
Nobody answers, nobody knows. 
It is mesmerizing, sometimes a ballet, sometimes like a Sikh spinning frenzy, then the spin on one foot with the other leg straight over their heads.
Cassie is levitating over them, We see the outline of Danika in the cave, Dasha, Daria and Kota B observe silently. The light changes, well, aside from the fire, there is no light, then there is. Layers, or I should say columns of light, not like a laser show, like a vertical aurora borealis. What looks like a hundred colors to me. And it begins to swirl around the children, slowly, then faster, then so fast the colors are indistinguishable, then white, as pure a white as ever witnessed. We can only see the children because we are observing what the drone sees from directly above. On the ground there is only a blaze of brilliant white. 
We see Dasha and Daria, their hair is blown straight out behind them, Danika is motionless in the cave, the interior now brightly illuminated. 
Amaya, “Cassie…look!”
A laser-like bean streams from Cassie’s head, straight up into the night sky, our entire compound is lit up as if it were a clear spring day. An audible hum vibrates throughout the grounds, like singing, or a chant. We are transfixed, it’s beautiful, too small a word…majestic, magical.
A shower of sparks, as if the whole panorama soundlessly exploded, crystal sparkles rain down on the girls, on Daria and Dasha, Cassie is covered in them. They aren’t hot, more like a shower of glitter that dissipates in a few moments.
Our screens show Cassie floating to the ground, the children surround her. The audio is on, but there is no sound, they aren’t chattering, there is a silence past any silence I’ve ever experienced. Up the mountain and here in our home. Whatever happened, it’s no good tarnishing it with talk.
A full ten minutes like someone pressed the mute button, nobody knows what to say. The girls take places around the fire as if it was nothing unusual. Dasha shows them how to make s’mores. We watch little girls make marshmallows torches until they get the hang of just toasty, then squish them on top of the chocolate sitting on a graham cracker.
They feed bites to each other, how precious. Daria and Dasha take pulls from the vodka thermos.
Cassie starts walking down the hill, it’s not quite a half mile to the house.
“Sloane, get up there and walk back with her.”
She runs it wolf speed, it takes under a minute. Oceane has a second drone in the air, its light illuminating the path as they return to the house.
Cassie doesn’t explain, we don’t know if she can explain to us mere immortals, she floats past and goes up to her room with Sloane and Oceane. Sloane returns a few minutes later, we stare at her.
Sloane, “Anyone know what a zycyryn is?”
She pronounces it zy-sear-in. Y like i, sear like a steak.
Janah, “There is no such word, or thing, you heard correctly?”
“Zycyryn, yes, she talked of they, as if they are a race, a collective.”
 “Maybe. She’ll tell Oceane more perhaps, or Oceane may already know.”
“Grace B, anything on Zycyryn?”
“My search returned no results, not an ancient culture, not a new one, nothing. There’s a long dead twitter account for a Zycerian Ernesto, last tweet thirteen years ago, November 2014, Facebook page shows almost nothing.”
Lauren, “Nothing on the mountain had anything to do with whoever he is, or was. And the pronunciation s different.”
Nikko, “Janah picked more strange fruit with those kids.”
Amaya, “J, are you getting more bizarre? First Oceane, then Cassie, Lauren is fairly sane…’
Lauren, “Excuse me?”
“As I was saying, Lauren is mostly normal, then the children. What are you up to?”
Janah feigns ignorance, “I play the cards I’m dealt.”
“No, you are the dealer and you are dealing off the bottom of the deck.”
Lauren, “Excuse me again!”
“I do not mean that Miss I Love Me, I mean she’s engaged in sleight of hand. We go off to deal with Shadows, or abusers, and somehow they have unique children and we bring them home. Once, twice, maaaybe thrice is a coincidence, and three is stretching it. There are eleven of us after she picked you, then eight children, none of us ages, the adults for reasons we know, the children are a mystery.”
“So, you would prefer our family to be somehow less interesting, or talented?”
Amaya is nonplussed, unusual for her, but she recovers, “Do not be ridiculous Daphne, that is not my point at all. I am curious as to how Janah gets the vibe, prior to our even showing up, that there is someone or several someones to rescue that are special, unique even, like moi.”
“Don’t over complicate, Mademoiselle Moi. She gets the vibe when she’s there, I know, I’m her. Going in, we don’t know what we have. However, most people would read the rescued poorly. You, for instance, would have been rushed off to therapy, or worse, stuck in a foster home, one the assumption that your young experience had damaged your psyche. Chloe wouldn’t have been rescued at all, nobody knew she was there. It went that way with the rest. Can you imagine what the children would have undergone if they had been discovered by the police or some social service agency? They aren’t biologically related, they would have been returned to Latvian orphanages and treated as broken china.”
Amaya, “And Janah saw more than broken china.”
“Yes. You had a child modeling site, people assume a six to ten year old child with hundred of photos and videos of herself in short skirts, showing her panties or just in panties or tiny bikinis was being exploited and vacant on what was really going on. In fact, you developed an inordinate sense of self possession and confidence.”
Lauren, “Putting it mildly.”
“I loved it, well, some of the sessions were endless, but I taught myself to sing, and I made up dozens of stories waiting around for the next shoot.”
“Case in point.”
We have broached this subject before. Adults assume trauma and act accordingly. They fail to see that treating a child as if they have been traumatized is the trauma, they take the role thrust upon them. That they are falsely mindreading never occurs. And it ignores the incredible resilience of children.
It’s late, we set aside prior plans for intimate alliances for this evening. Far too much to process to focus on sexual gratification. Tomorrow, however, is a new day.
Grace B will monitor the drone for the rest of the night, and Kota B is up there with the girls and will keep the fire going. I take a last look, the little ones have dressed and bedded down like a pile of puppies. The Mamas are in the center of the pile, they’re the pillows.

Sixty Eight

I’m making breakfast when the flight of extraterrestrial children flood in from the mountain. Dasha and Daria don’t look worse for the wear, Danika is up there all the time, nothing new to her.
“Everyone sane, more or less.”
Dasha, “We slept through sunrise, did not move any muscle all night. What ees breakfast?”
“Waffles, eggs to order, bacon in the oven staying crispy, preliminary of smoked salmon which is on a platter in the refrigerator if you’re starved.”
“Nyet, showering first,” she turns to the kids, “go and shower, wash hair, you will come down for breakfast after.”
Zofia peers in the oven, “Tetya Dafna makes vafel', they scurry off to their dorm. 
Waffles are a favorite, warm butter and maple syrup, and to make sure they get over stimulated, powdered sugar on top. In fact, sugar doesn’t wire children up, it’s a myth. We are cautious about the amount they eat though, today is an exception, not the rule. 
Janah comes along, “Yay, waffles, Chloe will be happy.”
“Chloe’s always happy.”
“If you had Amaya pawing you every night, you’d be happy too.”
“I do okay with Ange Blanc.”
Janah giggles, “And every other girl in the family. Enough innuendo, can I eat now?”
“How do you want eggs?”
“Poached, or the soft boiled you do in the shell.”
Poached is simpler with the number of girls to feed. Fortunately the children like eggs scrambled, or omelets, which are simplest. Our indoor commercial grill makes over easy or basted, easy as well. 
I have waffles warm in the oven for the first wave. I make eggs of choice as they arrive. The children appear, so does Dasha. She takes care of feeding them and today they wade through a fat waffle and I don’t know how many eggs. They like us to crumble bacon and add cream cheese to the scramble. Kota B delivers plates to them out by the pool.
The adults want poached, which seems to fit with waffles, they disappeared the salmon with coffee. After last night, girls are focused more on eating than conversation.
Sloane breaks the ice, “Oceane says Zycyryn are beings Cassie has been in contact with. She doesn’t know where they came from, neither does Cass. They are the, what?...entities that take her to the past and allow her to levitate. The children sense them as well.”
Eloise, “Sense them? Do they speak to her, what does sense mean?”
“Language barrier maybe, I don’t know. Cassie sees them, but they don’t speak. Ocean asked, Cass said things are just understood. Whatever they do, and however they do it, she says no harm will come to Cassie or the kids.”
Amaya, “So no anal probes, they don’t get kidnapped and hauled away to outer space?”
Lauren, “You’re the only anally probed twat around here.”
Amaya huffs, “A certain white haired girl has the taste.”
Janah, “I have my own aliens to take care of it.”
Nikko, “It’s a bit early for this conversation.”
“Is that what you say when you’re drilling Amaya?”
“We don’t do it at breakfast.”
Eloise, “Do you, or Oceane, know anything else about them?”
Sloane, “Oceane probably does, you know how she is. When she’s done with a conversation, which is quickly, it’s left her mind. Grilling her gets the Oceane smile and nothing else, her mind’s gone elsewhere.”
Amaya, “Her mind is gone into a black hole. If she was not so annoyingly stunning, I would be annoyed by her tendency to instantly vaporize her last thought.”
Oceane is feeding Cass a bite of waffle, the rest of us are furniture around the room. It isn’t indifference, they care for us in their way, and they know we will provide for, even kill for them. Oceane has used the drone to kill, Cassie has observed our less pleasant moments. They aren’t Tinkerbelles flitting around life with magic wands spreading fairy dust.
Janah, “They are in touch with things beyond our understanding, and why not? Oceane is a generation beyond us, Cassie and the children a generation beyond her. They are the reason AI will never catch up.”
Zi, “So humans will evolve to stay ahead of AI?”
“Not exactly. AI will surpass humans, to a degree that’s already the case. It’s good for humans, they make a mess of things, always. Cassie and the kids are part human, and part….another kind of life form. Daphne got eagle and owl skills, Sloane the wolf, the twins the bear, Nikko the snake. Those are all earthly beings, the beings, if that’s what they are, perhaps we might say energies, in contact with Cass and the kids are beyond that.”
Grace B, “Janah is correct. I am a superior entity to a human, I am smarter, I am more durable, I understand human emotion but I am not subject to its messiness or ridiculous biases. Neither Kota B, Emma B or myself can grasp the energy Cassandra or the children can. Whatever it is, it is unknown, except to them.”
Nikko, “I’ll leave you to examine the mysteries of Cassandra, I have to examine the mysteries of spreadsheets. Daria, Zi, we have calls to follow up on and numbers to crunch.”
Our business bees fly off to the office to perform money miracles. Lauren and Eloise retreat to the workshop. Not sure what they are working on, Eloise mentioned a stun gun, one that uses a pulse of energy like our qi, not wires like a taser. 
Since our cars, dirt bikes and carts have all gone electric there isn’t as much maintenance. And batteries aren’t like early twenty first century batteries, everything is graphene. Lightweight, charges in minutes, even better, self charges off the motion of the vehicle just like our bots. We don’t plug them into anything, computers have no wires, the flat screens have no wires. Power cords for them are only necessary for a quick charge, then unplug and hide away.
Daria comes from the office an hour later, “Katya and Katja have work in Phoenix, they will come for a visit after.”
“Ellen and the others?”
“Staying in New Orleans, they have a job on the Gulf Coast.”
“They are welcome to come out afterwards.”
“Da, I told them. They will let us know.”
I’d like to get my lusty hands on Ellen, and Sarah and Mani for that matter.
Dasha and I go to the workout room, punch and kick qi dummies for a half hour, then we get into ground fighting. She would be impossible to handle if she kicked in her bear power, but she doesn’t. We roll and tumble, stand and swap kicks and punches. Along the far side Nikko and Chloe are finishing up kendo kata and prepping for a match. Janah and Amaya are out by the pool twisting up in yoga while Oceane swims laps and Sloane vaults off the high board.
The children are buzzing around the kart track, electric motors barely a soft hum. Much better than the whine of gasoline engines a few years ago. Dasha and I take a break while Daria takes on Zi. Lauren and Eloise join Oceane and Cassie in the pool. The sun is out, the temperature moderate, around eighty, cloudless sky and more of the same for the rest of the week.
Su comes along, “Your family is always active, like the old days in the temple.”
“I’d say habit, but we just like it. And there is variety, Amaya and Chloe also dance, not just soft geisha, but active ballet. Sloane and Cassie run the hills or swim, Nikko does martial arts, today kendo, but she participates in our mixed arts and taekwondo. Daria, Dasha, Janah and Lauren do gymnastics.”
“I’m less active than Danika, she’s up and down the mountains constantly, and she eats sparingly. I’m the chunky Buddha of the tribe,” she laughs at herself.
“You’re role is as a contemplative and scholar, your brain does the strenuous exercise.”
She smiles, “And now the children have given me worlds to contemplate. Most Buddhists believe in reincarnation, I am not one of them. But our core philosophy does not address other beings, or entities. What Cassie and the children see, does not strike me as a consequence of reincarnation. I think the concept is just a version of Christian or Islamic religions, both promising eternal life. What Cassie senses is not that, not the dead who returned as something else.”
“That’s Janah’s department, you should hide away with her and perhaps Danika, let the discussion free range and see what happens.”
Su brightens, “What a splendid idea. Of course. We may not come up with answers, but the questions are more fun anyway. Do you think Janah would want to? I know Danika would.”
“Janah will wonder why she didn’t think of it. Make a time and find a spot away from the distraction of the rest of us, maybe Danika’s cave, or just a long walk around the property.”
Su, “I shall make arrangements with them this afternoon. Danika knows the property intimately, she will take us on a hike and we will let our brains free roam.”
Sometimes I come up with a decent idea. Now I have to come up with lunch. Dinner is already in progress, pulled pork in the slow cooker, mashed potatoes later, all day green beans on the stove already, fresh today French bread, which I have to fetch this afternoon.
Dasha, “We will haf already beeg dinner Dahfoney. I will make cheeken finger for lunch wiz coleslaw, enough.”
“Let’s get cleaned up, I’ll help with the fingers, is the slaw already done?”
“Nyet, but eengredient ees in refrigerator, purple cabbage, carrot, maybe onion, not much. We will chop and them make feengers.”
It’s eleven, just about right, fifteen to shower, “Grace B, please chop the cabbage and carrots, one half onion only. I’ll be back by the time you’re done. Enough for everyone.”
Grace B, “Duh, did you think I would decide the children did not need to eat? You and the Russian dump the sweaty gis in the laundry room while you are here. Why should I have to follow you like a fucking puppy and collect them in your rooms only to bring them right back. Have some sense.”
Dasha mumbles to herself, “Eemaya makes bot wiz smart mouth, only treats Eemaya like queen of universe.”
Grace B, “I heard that Cossack, just do what you are told and show some appreciation.”
Dasha looks at me and rolls her eyes, “Dahfoney, we will haf shower and you will make me feel gud also.”
My adorable Cossack has been reading my mind.

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