Eighty One

Frost and Simpson leave Magnus with a parting admonition, finding Wartler is the prime objective. He offers assurances, which is bull, he has no clue where to look for Wartler and in a few more days the body will be part of the wildlife, literally.
“Let’s move, maybe he’ll think they came back for something and won’t do a peephole check. Take out the camera that monitors the door.”
On the way up the drive Lauren blasts the cam, a small ‘dink’ as the laser breaks the lens, rendering it useless.
Lauren is behind me right, the door will open to my left, my first move will be to stick the laser gun in his chest, we see what happens from there.
I knock, hear the footfalls, a deadbolt click over, the handle turns, “Forget something, or want more of my fine single malt?”
I go with gun in face, “Not a drinker Magnus, but you will invite us in anyway.”
He cocks his head, he’s not a rookie, the gun is worrisome, Lauren’s second one is more worrisome, he decides to play it safe.
Actually, he’s pretty cool, he turns and holds his hand out inviting us in, I step past him, he waits for Lauren, isn’t happening.
Lauren, “Come on Magnus, you first.”
“Can’t blame me for trying, you’re both young, might be overconfident,” he follows me, Lauren follows him, kicks the door shut behind her.
He makes his move. Reaches for me with the idea that controlling me prevents him getting shot by Lauren. He’s good, and fairly quick, hand grips my wrist immobilizing the gun, he attempts to twist my arm up in front of me and spin me around to face Lauren.
Be more suspenseful if I said it almost works, or even if he pulled it off, but the fact is he winds up over my shoulder, flipped onto the carpet with a dull thud, then me with my knee in his chest and the gun resting between his eyes.
“Excellent try Magnus, style points for mostly correct technique and the balls to give it a go.”
He blinks at me, “Where’d I go wrong?”
“Twenty years of martial arts training.”
“You? You’re twenty four or five maybe, you been training since you were five?”
Actually, I’ve been training for nearly forty years, but explaining that I have what he’s been looking for, immortality, is not a discussion we’re going to have.
“Yep, and I am really good.”
“Want to make a lot of money?”
I laugh, “I have more money than I can spend even if I live forever. Which segues to the topic of the evening, attempted immortality.”
I lift off him, don’t offer a helping hand, he might get stupid again and I don’t want this to turn into one of those action flicks where the characters keep fighting hand to hand for twenty minutes.
He stands on his own, “You have Wartler?”
“In a manner of speaking, let’s watch a video, shall we?”
Lauren plays Wartler’s tell all, then the audio we collected, including tonight’s.
Magnus, “What happens now?”
“You make your own webcast.”
“Then you kill me, like Wartler?”
“I didn’t say he’s dead, actually he gave us all of his money, guy is healthy wealthy.”
“I’m not, maybe a couple hundred thousand, not even chump change compared to him.”
Lauren helpfully supplies his precise net worth, well, not precise, home prices are an approximation.
“Goddamn, who are you people?”
“Life is for finding out, each of us on the journey if self discovery, which is a waste because our self is malleable, changeful. Right now, you’re different guy than you were even an hour ago.”
“What do you want to know?”
“You’re going to just give it up? I have powerful pharmaceuticals, you may know of versions, I give you a dose, you cannot lie.”
“Don’t like needles, strange I know, given my profession, what can I say?”
“I’m actually starting to like you, sort of, I mean, you’re in an ugly business, but so are a lot of people, heck, I’m in an ugly business.”
“Does that mean I get to live?”
“Depends on how you spill. We want the whole picture, clearly. I’m not interested in your family history, I’m sure it’s fascinating, but time is money or whatever. So painfully accurate details of your pals and superiors and their activities will do.”
“You’ve figured out most of it. We’re a non-existent, parallel government, not me, I’m just a soldier and a spy. Compensation is good, a million a year plus expenses. Out of that, we pay the paramilitary boys you wiped out. There are a dozen more on call. The CIA does the work in country, upsetting the scales and creating chaos. Our stuff is more local, finding weak spots in people, then exploiting them.”
“You’re doing well, who and what, all of it. Just so you know, your two buddies are being interrogated as we speak. The stories better conform or we move to other coercive means to get at the truth. Bear in mind, they are likely going to be drugged.”
It takes him the better part of an hour, names we know and names we don’t, a couple of names he doesn’t know farther up the ladder, fair enough, he’s not top management.
“Is that it?”
“I’d have to resort to a full biography, none of which has much to do with the current operation.”
“It might have to do with persons who are in or were in authority before this gig came along. Give me a few years prior, just the highlights.”
He’s got a memory, I’ll grant him that, another hour of video.
“Cripes, you’ve been busy.”
“One wonders where the time goes, it hasn’t been boring, well, except for surveillance, I imagine you are familiar.”
I smile, “Part of the job, perhaps the most important part, I’m lucky, meditation helps.”
“Never tried it, not sure I have the patience.”
“It was hard for me at first, a still mind is not my natural state, more like ADD.”
He grins, “We might have been pals in other circumstances.”
“I can see that. Okay, here’s what happens. Your stuff matches up reasonably well with the others, you live. It will not be pleasant, Congressional inquiries and Justice Department investigations seldom are. Maybe you can cut a deal, not my department, we don’t work for the government, we work for the sake of the work. I don’t do plea bargains, can’t help you arrange one. I suspect everything you said can and will be used against you.”
“They’re going to kill me anyway, not the government, my employers.”
“Doubtful, they are going to be busy trying to save their own skins, and the good news is, the boys at the top have nobody to rat out, they’re all in this alone.”
“You going to babysit me while this plays out?”
“We have other resources for that. We go to a safe place, safe as long as you stay inside. Our associates will be outside minding the store. Open the door, and there is only one, and you will be dead before you take a step. When arrangements are made, no more than two days, maybe three, the Feds will stop by to collect you.”
He shrugs, “How did you even find out? About any of this?”
“You got overly paranoid, too much camo-covered bullet heads for one small building. A friend asked us to take a look. Our surveillance revealed quite interesting conversation.”
“The building is secure, bug free.”
“Our bugs operate from outside, and the reports to the dead end server were about failures.”
“The fucking servers are encrypted, all along the way.”
I grin, “Our techs firmly believe that what can be encrypted can be decrypted, they operate accordingly. You might be shocked to learn some of the things the allegedly legitimate government gets up to, or maybe not since you discovered various personality weaknesses in our vaunted Congress.”
“If we had you guys, we could rule the world.”
“World domination is overrated, and it is troublesome in the extreme, there’s always some other dope who believes his notion of how to exploit the world is better. The king lives looking over his shoulder and is eventually deposed, it never fails.”
Magnus smiles, “It is so true. Jesus, we never learn do we?”
“Keeps me busy, I don’t mind saying. And since you’ve been so forthcoming, I’ll give you a taste of something vastly more interesting.”
“I’m all ears.”
“What you see isn’t what is, and there are people out there who can do things you can only dream of. And they aren’t nice. The good news is, they cannot organize to any degree, they are incapable of it personality-wise. Think of a conglomerate consisting entirely of psychopaths. Not CEO or religious or politician psychos, they’re common as dust mites and easily spotted. These folks make run of the mill psychos look like kindergarten teachers.”
“Who, where are they, how do the operate?”
“They are successful for the very reason most psychos aren’t. They don’t organize, that is, become part of organizations. Organizations inevitably fail, hierarchies breed jealousies, the guy on the second rung wants to be on the first, and so on down the ladder. The main failing is group think and blind obedience to the made up goals and objectives of the organization. Goals and objectives are simply limitations, then tunnel vision takes over, failure is inevitable, particularly if they achieve great success first. The mindset is, we must be right, look at the plus ticks.”
Magnus stares at me, mouth agape, “Why doesn’t anyone realize it?”
“Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, among others, have been trying to tell people for centuries. They just won’t listen.”

Eighty Two

While Lauren and I were dealing with Magnus, Dasha and Katya visited Simpson, Daria and Katja stayed behind when Simpson dropped Frost off at his place. These two were clearly further up the food chain, both have homes in exclusive subdivisions, neatly manicured lawns, yawning balconies, one has a pool. Frost apparently lives alone, Simpson has a guest who is inconveniently at home. There’s a light on in an upstairs bedroom and after he enters the house, two shadows appear against the window sheers.
Frost is easy, they use the same approach we used on Magnus. Ring the bell, he assumes Simpson came back with a forgotten something he didn’t want to talk over on the phone.
When Frost opened the door, Daria nearly broke his jaw, then they set him up for true confessions. While Lauren and I are moving Magnus to the motel room, I get a mental from Dasha.
“We haf  maybe a problem, woman ees home.”
“Let me run it past Janah, sit tight.”
“J, Simpson has a companion for the evening, I don’t recall him being married, they bragged about escorts, this might be that.”
“We don’t need to bring in third parties.”
“No, I’m going to tell them it wait it out. Maybe he sends her home when he’s done whatever it is he does.”
“A drone is overhead, I’ll fire up the listening device. He’s not going to discuss business with an escort unless he’s really stupid. Maybe something else useful comes up.”
“Or maybe we just hear moaning and groaning.”

I switch to Dasha, “Just wait, he’s not married, this may be evening playtime, if he sends her home, you can take him. Turn on the drone feed, Janah’s getting the listening device cranked.”
“Da, okay.”

If I told her to burn down the house, she’d have said, ‘Da, okay,’ and gone to find a can of gas and a match.
At the motel, Lauren reminds Magnus of his end of the deal, “Take a peek,” she parts the curtains just a bit, “see that van, to the right?”
“Those are our people, there are also two on the street. Once we leave, if this door opens….”
“It isn’t opening.”
“As you can see, there’s a stocked ice chest. There are sandwiches, beer, bottled water and a couple of sodas. Sorry, no single malt. Toothbrush and paste on the vanity, no razors, you might have a bit of beard when they collect you.”
“Not a problem.”
“There will be no housekeeping service, go easy on the towels, we did arrange a couple extra of each, you should be fine. Extra roll of toilet paper too. Click on HBO or ESPN for entertainment, maybe CNN in a day or so, you might be famous.”
“I can skip that part.”
To his credit, he gives escape a go, grabs Lauren by the arm and attempts to twist it behind her back. He earns a hard shot to the throat, she takes him by the hair and points the laser between his eyes. I have my blade against his neck.
It’s not necessary, he’s choking like he’s swallowed a bone, both hands to his throat.
Lauren, “And things were going so well. What were you going to do, hostage negotiate? The folks outside have laser rifles, they can take out your eyeball at fifty yards and they aren’t even fifty yards away. They aren’t allowed to negotiate anyway.”
Magnus shrugs, “Got it,” there’s a bit of blood dripping from his neck, he looks at me, “I took a shot because you were across the room fiddling with the tablet, a millisecond later you have a K-Bar at my throat. It isn’t possible.”
“I’m a quantum girl, I got spooky action at a distance.”
“Spooky doesn’t begin to cover it.”
He moves to the bed, props up against pillows and clicks on the TV.
“Dasha, we’re done here, coming to join you, maybe we can figure something out.”
“DA, okay Dahfoney. You will make a plan and we will get Seempson to tell us everything.” 

I’m flattered by her confidence in me.
Our only reasonable alternative is to wait. I could break in and we would get to Simpson and his date without much trouble, particularly if we catch them in the middle of a roll and tumble. We’d have to deal with the girl and park her until we’re done interviewing him. Whether we keep moving along the chain of command remains to be seen, it depends on the level of detail we wrestle out of Simpson and Frost.
The drone picks up conversation, it’s dull, about her college courses, forensic something. Simpson gives enough response to give the impression he’s listening.
I tap into Daria, “Where are you with him?”
“Still talking. He tried to be difficult so I had to drug him. He is singing like a little spy sparrow.”
“We have to wait for Simpson’s company to leave, bring Frost to the motel when you’re done.”

I check out, she’s occupied for a while longer.
Now I’m online with Janah, “Daria had to drug Frost, she’s still working him. I assume you already know that.”
“Yep, we have the video feed from Daria, she’s doing a good job. Nothing to do but wait. So far, Frost’s story lines up with Magnus, I doubt Simpson will say much new. Although it’s possible they are into other things they don’t tell Magnus.”
“When do we get around to Ellis and Potemkin?”
“Haven’t decided. They’ll be easy, and we have Magnus implicating them on his video. I think going after the big dogs is best. If word gets out, or if people start to get nervous when Frost and Simpson don’t check in, we might lose whatever surprise we have left. The Wartler thing will already have them antsy. I’m counting on their faith in their security systems to make them believe they’re invisible.”
“Good thing the shadow government is mostly a small cadre of wingnuts, if they had a hundred members we’d be doing this for the next five years.”
“They have field agents, but we aren’t chasing around the globe after them. We got names and locations from Magnus, we can double check those with Ellis and Potemkin. Once an agent is outed, he’s useless, likely dead. I don’t know, maybe some of them have multiple identities and bolt holes, we create identities for ourselves on our escapades, no reason they can’t.”
“Got to run, car pulled up to Simpson’s, his evening’s entertainment is coming out the door.”

It’s not a taxi, those have mostly disappeared, this one has no driver, likely an Uber or one of the multitude of other hire car services. She’s attractive enough, young, not twenty yet, and she’s not hoochied up, in jeans and a pullover with a waist length leather jacket. She could be a college freshman with a healthy sideline income.
Lauren, “We all going in?”
“Not yet, let Dasha and Katya have their turn, we’ll wait long enough to see he’s under control, then go back to the hotel. Daria and Katja will be finished, by then Janah will know how the stories match up.”
We watch Dasha laser his security cam, then go to the door, Katya is off to one side like Lauren was with me.
Simpson’s behavior is predictable, like Magnus and Frost, in this case he assumes the girl forgot something, purse, some makeup thing, the door opens, “What’d you for...”
Dasha kicks him so hard in the gut he’s airborne, before he hits the floor, they’re in and the door closes.
I look through Dasha’s eyes, Simpson is on his butt, rolling to his side trying to catch his breath. He hasn’t even looked up at his tormentor yet. Then hands, has to be Dasha, grab the cloth of the robe he’s wearing, one hand chest high, the other over the tops of his thighs, and picks him up like a sack. Simpson must go one eighty, but it’s Dasha, she tosses him on a big leather couch, he lands with a thud. Dasha isn’t a time waster, she takes a wrist, yanks his arm out straight and pulls it over her knee. Simpson tries to hit her with his free hand, Katya has her gun to his temple.
“Be still or die.”
Simpson tries for hard stare, he may as well try to frighten a rock. Katya gives Dasha the laser gun, she keeps Simpson obedient until Katya inserts the needle into his vein.
Less than five minutes later, he’s relating his life story. Lauren and I return to the Residence Inn.

Eighty Three

Janah, “Magnus and Frost sound like two sides of the same coin. Minor detail differences, some dates don’t match exactly, that supports the idea they’re not lying. These people have been into everything, one of the others, a guy named Jameson, ran a child porn ring on an island they had to get to by air. He dressed it up as a Christian camp for poor kids, foster kids, boys and girls. Jameson did a tour years ago in Thailand, got the taste there. His group of pedos paid the kids in cash and flew them back.”
“That was a side interest then.”
“Sure, it’s hardly a moneymaker, Jameson must be rich, it’s an expensive way to make child porn videos.”
“Any other activities? I mean on the world domination side.”
“Same old, stir up trouble in some backwater, get the natives restless, start a war, sell weapons. They have deposed, terminally, elected officials. The population gets scared and practically demands a police state. It happened here in ‘Murica, remember when every local sheriff’s office had Humvees and swat teams?”
Daria and Katja show up after parking Frost in the same motel as Magnus. We follow Dasha’s interview with Simpson on the video feed.
“We know about Jameson’s extracurricular activity. If you were involved, better think up a story, because he is going to name you if you were.”
Simpson, “We all knew about it. Nobody else wanted to touch it. People he included in that circle had nothing to do with us, I don’t know who they were, or how many. We only knew because Jameson got drunk and mouthed off to Magnus about it. Some of us wanted to light him up over it.”
“Would have been a good idea, you are going to be associated, even if you did not participate, you did not report it.”
“How could we report it? Jameson gets busted, he starts yammering about everything else to get a plea deal. I told the others we should off him and it goes away. They wanted his contacts in Asia. He learned to like little girls in Thailand and Cambodia, a consequence of his network in fact, it was a common thing there. Magnus and Elliot were trying to get close to his contacts, then we could get rid of Jameson and retain the arms and drug connection.”
“Who makes money in drugs these days?”
“Nothing countries with a lot of unrest. America wised up about drugs and developed alternatives. Many places overseas it’s not like that. There’s still money in drugs and his contacts were useful because they kept us insulated from direct drug deals. We provided money for bribes and to purchase wholesale, but we never had to do it ourselves. Not as much cash as arms, but substantial enough. Millions every year like clockwork. And it takes cash to fund a revolution before the money rolls in to buy arms.”
“Like terrorists in the early days, growing poppies to pay for the bombs and guns.”
“Exactly like that. War ain’t free. But if you can front cash, the returns are enormous.”
“You know the next question.”
Simpson is jacked up on out Truth drug, there is no resistance, no amount of willpower will help. He has to spill.
“Dr. Paul Friedlander. He runs an organization that sends docs and aid workers to poor countries or the remaining encampments of immigrants fleeing one craphole or another. It gives us a legitimate route to funnel drugs and arms. It also provides our on the ground people with cover, working as aides. They find out who’s got the best chance of organizing rebels in numbers sufficient to create trouble. It’s a long process. Friedlander is a South African. His father got caught up in the apartheid thing, and the blacks killed him. While he saves black lives on the one hand, he’s happy to see them die in wars we stir up on the other.”
“Who else?”
“Jessica Nicholson. Her father developed a chip that improved the accuracy of shoulder fired rockets, he made a bundle, she took over. She has advanced engineering degrees and the company now cranks out some of the fastest, most destructive laser firing drones on the planet. Over two hundred miles an hour, three hour flight time, enough laser power to destroy a three or four story building, or a half dozen smaller targets.”
I hear Katya’s sardonic, “Impressive.”
Simpson would wet his pants if he knew what our drones can do, two hundred is just cruising speed, and they can fly for hours, or forever in the sunlight.
Dasha, “Tell me about the Senators.”
“Oh yeah, those two assholes. We primarily use them to push through no bid arms purchases or inflated prices for Nicholson’s drones. They cost her two hundred grand to make, the fucking defense department pays two million. God those assholes are stupid. Schmidt and Becker get a piece to push through the deals. Fucking Jameson says Becker has been to his kiddie porn island, I can’t prove it, Jameson may just be spouting bullshit.”
Dasha, “In every organization, there’s one person on top, someone who makes the final decision. Who is it?”
Simpson frowns, “Should have been me, but it’s not. Hal Hollander, a big mouth Texas asshole. Daddy made money in the oil bidness, yes he actually says bidness.
Hollander bought a baseball franchise, then an NFL team. He got Senators Schmidt and Becker on board, seats in the owner’s box and all the pussy you can eat will do that. Girls who serve food in the box are maybe eighteen, I have my doubts. I went myself once. Those young ladies would do just about anything, and all four of them were sizzling. Anyway, Hollander anointed himself final decision maker, we went along because we need the Senators.”
“Anyone else? We want everyone, do not disappoint me and let me find a name you should have known.”
“Two Congressional aides, Marcia Benson and Sophie Grass. They just provide intel, who is on board with what on Congress, we have the Senate covered, we just want to know what the current stink is in the House. We use it to coerce Congressmen. Those idiots are always up to something, drunks, dopers, wife beaters. Once we have them by the balls, they vote like we tell them to fucking vote.”
“Nothing in the administration?”
“Hah! Don’t need the President. Congress wrestled back war powers and controls funding for everything else. She’s a face for the people, a figurehead. When she gets bored with state dinners, she hops the plane and flies to Europe or Asia for more state dinners. The job of most powerful person on the planet doesn’t exist anymore.”
Simpson is taken to his room in the no tell motel. It’s kind of funny, they have no clue the other captures are there.
All our travelers are in my suite, “We need to get a wrap on this. Those guys sitting in a motel room for another couple of days are going to raise questions, no room service, nobody sees anyone coming or going.”
Janah, “Have the Minders leave a couple of cars parked in front of the rooms, then move them for a couple of hours. People will see motion and assume the obvious, guests are coming and going. And use older cars, it’s a motel, not a hotel. And the cars need to be left for most of the night.”
One small issue resolved.
“Okay, and what about the rest? Do we capture everyone? The big fish is in Texas remember.”
“What does everyone think?”
Dasha, “We will make beeg enough stink wiz video we haf already. There are names, places, too many to be brushed off.”
Katya, “We should go to Texas and interrogate the boss.”
Lauren, “She’s right.”
“If it takes more than another two days, we can have the Minders relocate the three. Ellis and Potemkin are being followed, if they try to bolt, it won’t do them any good.”
“What if they try to leave the country?”
Janah, “I’ll have their passports revoked, if they have passable ID in fake names, we might lose them though.”
Eloise, “Send two for Hollander, the others round up Ellis and Potemkin and park them someplace.”
“Sounds like a plan. Do we know if Hollander is at home?”
Janah’s got Grace B onscreen, “Hal Hollander, Houston Texas area, owns the NFL football team, where is he now and can you get a schedule for the next day or two?”
She’s on in two minutes, “Target is at the office now, in the new stadium in Houston. Scheduled for meetings in Washington tomorrow, Senators Schmidt and Becker. Registered at the Willard InterContinental. Thomas Jefferson suite, two nights.”
“Travel with bodyguards?”
“One companion only, a woman, alleged to be personal assistant. Jan Olsen, black belt, licensed to carry. No other traveling companions or bodyguards. Hollander is also a black belt, judo.”
“When are his meetings with the Senators?”
“Four p.m. tomorrow with Schmidt, same time next day with Becker.”
“Is the suite rented tonight?”
“Book it for one of the shell companies and use Daphne’s travel name as the guest.”
“You are going to bug it.”
“We are going to bug the crap out of it.”

Eighty Four

“Eloise, prepare something please. You have your tools?”
“Always, the drones may need a repair or alteration. I have a half dozen microphones. The suite is large, three thousand square feet. He may meet with the Senators at the dining table or the sitting room. I need to cover the sitting room, the dining room and both bedrooms.”
“You think the assistant is more than a bodyguard?”
“I have no idea, if she is, we might pick up something, if she’s not, perhaps he has other evening entertainment.”
We arrive late, nearly ten. If the desk clerk wonders about a woman renting a three grand a night room for what amounts to a night’s sleep, it doesn’t register on his face. A concierge comes over to welcome me, I’m polite, remain distant, I don’t want to be memorable, even in my disguise. 
“Thank you, flight was delayed, I won’t get to enjoy the suite much, but I am exhausted, the only thing I will need is sleep.”
“Very good Miss Montiere, again, welcome to the Willard InterContinental,” he strolls off to other guests lingering at his desk in one corner of the lobby.”
Best to let the bellman haul my suitcase up, a guest in such an expensive room doesn’t schlep luggage. Janah and Eloise are in another room, a regular one, where we will stay the two nights Hollander is here. When the housekeeper comes to clean the suite tomorrow we need it to look like only the guest who checked in used it.
It takes Eloise less than an hour to plant the bugs and make them disappear.
“They won’t be activated until I click the switch. If someone sweeps the rooms, nothing will show up. We give them an hour after check in, if Olsen is in the habit of looking for bugs, she’ll do it first thing.”
“Given short notice and the good fortune the suite was available, you did first rate work, Eloise.”
“Janah will reward me before we go to sleep. You coming?”
“Have a nightcap, at least you two have one, I’m going to sleep.”
Janah, “We won’t be long, one bottle of wine we won’t finish. Wash one glass and it will appear you had a glass alone.”
“Got it, night ladies.”
The bed is super comfortable, I’m not super tired, but tired enough. I don’t know if they left before or after I went to sleep, but when I get up, there’s two wine glasses, a third of the wine left. I clean and replace one, wipe prints from the other but leave it upside down on a hand towel in the bathroom. I take a hot shower, fiddle around with my disguise, toss my stuff in the suitcase and vacate the room. No need to formally check out, I go to the lobby, find the restaurant and have breakfast alone. Then go to Janah and Eloise’s room.
“Eat breakfast yet?”
Janah, “No, Eloise kept me busy before we went to sleep, just finished a shower.”
“The restaurant is good, big city hotel expensive, but good. I’ll check in with everyone while you two go down and calorie up.”
They go off to feed, I connect with Dasha, “Suite’s taken care of, what’s the plan?”
“Katya and I are going for Ellis, sister and Katja for Potemkin. We haf made already arrangement for rooms and Minders, deeferent motel. Then Minders will also relocate Seempson and Magnus.”
“They know how to move them?”

I can feel her roll her eyes, “Da Dahfoney, targets will be under control, you do not haf to think of everything.”
“We’re close, two more days before the world of Washington explodes, we need it to move it along smoothly.”
“Okay, before Ellis and Potemkin, we will go along wiz Minders and insure transfer.”
“Tell Grace B to give the Minders a heads up that you will be joining them.”
“Da Dahfoney, I already told you, you do not haf to think of everything.”
“It’s my nature, see you soon.”

I call home, “Grace B, find Britt or Sloane please, just checking in.”
“You finding enough shit for me to do? Christ, clean up this business so I can get a moment’s fucking peace, hang on…”
Britt appears onscreen, I see Sloane next to her, “Hey girls, everything good?”
Britt, “When are you coming home, we’re, like, orphans or whatever.”
“Uh huh, with Amaya, Chloe, Ellen, Sarah, Nikko, Zi, Danika and Su there, not to mention the children and three bots.”
Sloane, “It’s good, but not as good. Emma B has kept us posted on the progress, Grace B curses up a blue streak about all the work you have her doing.”
“Emma B does some of it too, Grace B is Amaya’s doing, vulgar drama queen.”
“I heard that Slutsky.”
Britt giggles, “She’s right here, listening.”
“And it’s a goddamn good thing I do not have feelings. It is six in the morning here for fuck’s sake.”
“Kiss your sister for me Sloane, and go back to bed.”
“Bye mom, be safe and wrap up the bad guys.”
“Stay vigilant Grace B, it’s going to get busy.”
“Fuck you.”
Ellen is on, “Just got up to make coffee and think up breakfast, looks like you guys have the situation under control.”
“We got a chance to reel in the big fish, it seemed stupid not to take it.”
“Britt has jumped in to help with meals, she’s got a knack, I don’t have to explain stuff twice. Chloe’s been helping too, she’s kitchen competent, nobody’s burned anything, food tastes like it should. We’ve stayed basic though, no fancy appetizers or caviar blinis.”
“We can fancy it up when Dasha and I get back. You taking good care of those legs for me?”
She steps back so I get the whole body shot, “Sheesh, now I’ve got two more  reasons to live.”
“Hurry home and I’ll give you lots of reasons to live.”
“Consider me incentivized, see you soon, sweet.”
Janah and Eloise return, “You didn’t linger over breakfast.”
Janah, “Things to do, we split a waffle and had standard scrambled, side of bacon. They even got it crispy enough. I have to make a few contact calls, not related to this project, and there are a couple dozen emails I’ve not replied to yet.”
Eloise does a bug check, we can hear the housekeeper doing housekeeping things, sheets rustle, toilet flushes, water in the sink and bath. Then a vacuum for the finale.
“They all work.”
“Then we wait. Hollander’s flight arrives at two, an hour to get here, check in at three. He has a meeting with Schmidt at four. It’s only ten, I’ll stick the DND tag on the door and we won’t get interrupted by housekeeping.”
Janah’s at one end of the suite on the phone, Eloise is on a video call with Lauren about the new bot for Arizona and the ones for the parent’s place in Malibu. They still plan for Daphne B at Susan’s, and Janah B for her parents. I wonder if they’ll forget about the real us?
Nikko calls, good to see her exotically lovely face, “We’ve been following, nothing horrible so far.”
“We take them by surprise, like Society work, targets have no idea there are insane vigilantes after them. Shadows are worse, the live in overconfident paranoia, we are out to get them but they believe their skills will take care of us.”
Nikko, “We’ve killed enough to heighten paranoia, actually I don’t think it’s paranoia when people really are out to get you. Amaya’s animated movie releases soon, the prescreening for critics is next week.”
“Amaya wouldn’t put anything out of poor quality, particularly a project involving the children. If it isn’t a commercial success, it won’t be because the film is bad.”
Eventually I make my way through the family, Zi, Sarah, Amaya, Chloe, Oceane and Cassie all appear onscreen, then the children.
Uma, “Tetya Dafna, our movie comes out soon, we are excited, Amaya says it is really good.”
“Amaya doesn’t do bad, she doesn’t know how. Have you been on more adventures?”
“The Gids have been quiet while Mamas and Tetyas are out of town. They will take us someplace when you return. We are training Morshchiny, she’s smart, she goes straight to her potty area. And she started swimming! First she sat on the steps that go down into the pool. Then Devona coaxed her to swim. Today, she just jumped straight in.”
“Congratulations, she needs to be exercised, Mastiffs will just lay around and eat if you let them.”
“Sloane and Sarah took her running around the property,” she shifts the cam to the not so little pup, asleep in the floor of their dorm, “she got kind of pooped out.”
“So I see.”
Tasia, “Oceane was looking for you yesterday, we explained that you were traveling, I think she misses you.”
“I talked to her earlier and promised it would only be a couple more days, we’re almost finished. You guys be sure to check on she and Cass a couple of times a day, okay?”
Nadia, “When Morshchiny wakes up, Uma and Zofia will take her to Oceane’s room, she is going to draw them together. We will keep her busy with swimming and drawing.”
“Thank you girls, see you very soon.
It touches my heart. When you’re around her, it’s hard to know Oceane even recognizes you, but she does, and she’s not good with family members in two places. She likes her tribe in one spot, despite not exchanging a word with most of us. For her, presence is far more important than patter.

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