Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Uplift Protocol: Mars Issue 29

 

Issue 29:  For Your Consideration

               

Oh? Do people still wonder why I got to slap that annoying House lady a few times without a Bodyguard squad coming in? It has to do with how Typherians see women in social situations. I used that to every bit of advantage I could get. Plus that’s not the first time I’ve slapped other women. Or had them get in my face. You should see the old holovids of Into the Fire. That was why E’ratha had no recourse. She’d have to acknowledge a human woman bested her. In the social sphere. With billions watching through INet and TNN source broadcasting. Why do you think J’ino wanted Eliza so ignorant? Women have the “I win” social button. Murphy torpedoed House Etiquette Norms within a Week. –Anna McQuire

Tonight we have quite the development. Earth and her explosive women. While those of us within the Commons see various displays of social and military power on the front lines within other communities and cultures, we are often reminded that the Houses of our great Ascendancy don’t always mesh well with others. Oddessen, M’tah, and Ayeer are an exception but even they are beholden to old rites and laws.—L’adur of the Commons, Host of “For Your Consideration”

To this day, with what I know now: I’d wish I had been triple the amount of ignorant. I didn’t just launch a nuclear social strike on Typha. I let loose with a Big Bang. E’ratha couldn’t openly do anything to Anna. That would force her to recognize a common human female as a social peer. No, she waited. In the end, it didn’t work. Anna is still quite vocal and abrasive but she’s mellowed in other areas. Gwen didn’t repeat the same mistakes that Anna did with her Weave Speaker clairvoyance. My little sister has McQuire to thank for that avoided time bomb.—Sleeping in Starlight, a memoir of the 22nd century

New Wave Studios

Downtown New Ashbury

July 4th, 2104

 

Anna leaned forward in the plush hoverchair. Her dark gray eyes sparkling at being the premiere guest on the Alliance News Network nightly news slot dubbed “Outer Cosmic Tapestry.” It was a dream come true. She had always wanted to be taken seriously. This was about as ground level in the overall news arena one could get. They had connections beyond Earth territories. She relished that House idiot's rage behind the scenes. Anna had Teddy placed near the backstage. Ready to record the fun. The hum of the audience invigorated her. The public discourse was firing all over. She kept her expression professional but on the inside, she was crowing with delight. Typha’s leading Newscaster was standing a few feet away from E’ratha.

His short-styled black hair, lined with white at the temples, was noticeable even here. He had even dressed Terran style. With a nice black one-piece suit. A white stripe ran down the side. Teddy sent a message.

///He’s wearing a stage suit from Captain Cosmos. This should be fun!///

            Anna crossed her legs. Waiting for the other 4 to cross the threshold.

*****

L’adur maintained proper protocol. Just to ruffle E’ratha’s sour demeanor further. The human Holo studio was bustling with activity. She was annoyed that none of them greeted her with proper reverence. He saw a rather fit and tall human woman walking towards them. Her gray eyes striking even with the whites surrounding those irises. That color was rarer with Typherians. Her soft Texan accent was more pronounced as she greeted him first.

            He smiled. His eyes warming to the challenge.

            Let’s see what else human women were made of.

*****

            I reached out. L’adur’s grip was solid. His eyes widened as he felt the pressure of my returned handshake. I eased a bit. Caution but respect flowed from him. Brushing up against my Empathy shield. I had myself clamped down a bit due to the absolute bundle of joy standing a few feet away. Her guards were impassive. My mother arrived. J’dax next to her along with some Ayeer guards in black, silver, and blue. The shashes were blue as well. My eyes nearly bugged out of my head. What mom was wearing would put a peacock to shame. E’ratha’s people had gold, brown, and crimson.

            The colors had some significance but I pushed that away. I was here as Eliza Murphy, nothing more. I shook mom’s hand as well. This caused a definite reaction in all the guards. L’adur pressed his lips together. Not in disapproval. To stem the humor threatening to explode. I wasn’t even in anything other than my captain uniform for the Jupiter Rising. Lorain had suggested I change the setup. Black flight pants. Black boots.White undershirt. With a overlap. It went across my chest to serve as an extra holster. My jacket? With this latest update, it was a deep cerulean. It was suspiciously close to the blue tone wrapped around mom’s waist.

            No cap upon my head. Doc had styled it so it looked regulation perfect.

I offered my arm to Mom.

She took it.

            Saying nothing. She didn’t need to.

            >>Trust me. Keep your uniform with that combination. When all is revealed it will make an even bigger statement than you know.<<

Doc knew what these colors meant. So did that Commons TNN (Typherian News Network) host. He waved us forward.

As we entered the studio Anna genuinely smiled at me. That was a first!

Mom’s outfit shimmered like liquid silver under the studio lights. The black underlayer covering gleaming blue boots. Her indigo sash catching the attention of all in the audience. On her right forearm was a white bracelet that ran to her elbow. Within its center was a crystal. I had no proper way to describe it. E’ratha bit back a scream when I touched the material. It warmed to my touch. I kept my face controlled but I knew where dad was. Instantly. He was with J’dax. Posing as one of mom’s bodyguards.

            Mom further goaded her House rival by raising that braceleted hand to my cheek.

            “I offer the long road of stars. May you find the path you seek.”

*****

            Lorain watched from the crowd.

Cloaked to look like a common civilian. J’ino had just acknowledged Eliza as a Peer. Letting all know how she viewed humanity’s hard-working men and women. E’ratha took her seat. Ignoring everyone. She wouldn’t like what came next. The doctor was certain. L’adur knew. It was why he had the whole Ascendancy network on standby. They were all present to making history.

*****

            Anna shot a pointed inquiry at mom. “So Ambassador. What’s with the outfit? State meeting?”

            Mom’s regal bearing came out. The fire burned deep within those gray-green orbs.

“In a manner of speaking. As of today, our borders are open to Humanity. Along with their allies. Not as guests. My father wishes for a Military compact against our foes. We humbly request the aid of the Terran Alliance. Alongside her notable demis.”

E’ratha hissed, “We do not need…” Her head lulled back as mom glared at her.

Mom continued, as if not interrupted, “We recognize Earth and all of its territories as a Council Member. As of 1600 your standard time, you have been granted full rights and obligations to the Greater Cosmic Tapestry. As you put it.”

Not one word was uttered. The silence was so profound you could hear a pin drop.

A rumbling tsunami of sound cried overhead.

Javelins. 1000s of them. Crossing the atmosphere of Earth. Forming into a giant ring around the Sol System. It was on every feed. Not just Terran either. Every place that Uplift Protocol touched. Litari, Bardaxian, Markav, Typherian, along with planets they had no names for. Or didn’t know about just yet. Like Nola’s people.

The Curator of the Amarche leaned in next to me. His dark matter form shifting constantly. Humanoid one moment, flowing from one race to another. Typherian, Litari, Bardaxian. All melding into his dark matter frame. “The waters rise Protector. Ready yourself!” No one else could hear him of course.

*****

            The people of the Highest Temples watched. Warleader Uthar gripped his mug tightly.

            His “research station” was a decoy. Their space defenses were cloaked within the World Shaker. What humans called the Weave.

            Earth was now one of the Council. He hoped it would be enough. He was just glad that  Nola, his daughter was safe with the crew of the Jupiter. His purple eyes glued to the station’s readouts. No one besides a few knew what was within those ships. He didn’t ask. Didn’t want to know. His people would work hard. The long dark was ahead. They would provide the lights to carry all souls home.

            Unity would not win.

            Tarvel Prime would join Humanity within the Bright Tapestry of the Cosmos.

*****

            The Jupiter Rising parked itself in high orbit over New Ashbury.

Waiting for the signal.

J’ino placed her hand over her daughter’s.

Committing offense to Typha’s long-held House traditions by speaking the Blood Pact out loud.

“I offer you the place at our table. Ashes linked across the Sands of Blood, Bone and Time.”

L’adur joined in with, “Well met Traveller. We see you upon our Shores. Be welcome here.”

E’ratha stormed out of the newsroom. Anna reciting something that made all the Typherians there stare at her wondrously. Even the handful of E’ratha’s mooks that still lingered pulled up short.

Anna’s tone respectful under the circumstances, “Humanity recognizes the offerings of Trust. Seek no Hidden Knives. We stand back to back.”

The Curator murmured, “Repeat this now.”

My mouth moved. Uttering the words.

“Twin Stars cross the Infinite. The Shadow quakes. The Mother Listens. The Tree Entertwined burrows deep. The Wall Reforms Along the Ouroborous. The Long Night is not Forgotten.”

Professor Nara, the Litari Weave Speaker chittered excitedly. He floated above us. Chanting the Words of Rebirth. I had spoken a deep truth to the Litari people.

Curator nodded.

Do not forget them.

Typha has but it isn’t the fault of V’alkor.

You will see. When your true name is revealed.

Call out to C’alain. He will answer.

The Murphy Household

Camp Osirus

           

Abraham Murphy lit more fireworks. Watching his grandson race from point to point. Their household was situated on the very end of the officer housing complex. So they had a bit more privacy than most. So a few demi antics wouldn’t be noticed. Provided they stayed careful. His wife, Eleanor, moved up beside him. Linking her arm with his. They strolled along the pathway. Mindful of Zachary’s horseplay with his two younger brothers in tow. It still amazed him how full of life children could be. Nothing would be the same anymore.

The thought brought joy but sorrow as well.

Humanity would enter the crucible.

He prayed they were ready.

Bright flashes of red, white and blue brought tears to his eyes.

Home would remain. Provided its defenders stayed the course.

“Justice shoots ever forward.” The motto that meant everything to him.

Eleanor held out a small device.

The indicator brought a delighted cry to his lips.

They would be parents all over again.

He picked up his wife and dashed around.

“Today everything changes!”

*****

            I knew before they said anything. I had an early warning system. White’s voice drawled out, <<Oh? But yes, very correct. I know how far along too! But let's save that for another day shall we?>>

            The night sky was filled with gleaming flashes of Old Glory. I found myself floating a bit.

            We would help. No matter what. Nothing could stop us.

            Not House feuds, Unity’s rot, Set’s Dark Mirrors, all of it was washed away for this one bright moment. I saw my brother standing next to Mary Valcourt. Their heads close together as they watched the show as well. I caught mom’s eye. She nodded. Knowing what lay ahead. My brother and I had been connected for so long that in some ways, we knew each other better than we knew ourselves. He had known how I’d feel about Doc even before I did. So it was with Mary. They would heal one another. Gwen tentatively approached me.

            Handing me a piece of paper.

            I opened it. It was a drawing.

            She had me sitting on top of the Jupiter Rising.

            Markav Collective ships following in our wake.

            I knelt, “Thank you!”

            She smiled shyly and dashed back to mom.

*****

            J’ino hoisted Gwen up onto her shoulders.

Knowing that she’d miss this. That one day Gwen wouldn’t ask for the shielding embrace of her father’s arms. The reassurances of her mother. They would leave the nest. Finding a wide universe of adventure.

They grew up too quickly. These kids of hers.

Lorain Lanis’ thoughts dwelled on different avenues. The warmth of the July evening heating her bones. She hugged herself. Biting her lip as she focused on what would become of the future. How would they really save Eliza? She would have to pull beyond all her limits. For that one chance. She had held her captain’s heart in her hands. Willing it to pump even as those long-ago Keeper disks had nearly killed Eliza.  Cooper and Auggie raced over. Their eyes reflecting in the glow of the fireworks. Cooper’s simple faith reaching through the fog. <<Bardax flies with you.>>

She knew he meant more.

Morrigan wouldn’t elaborate on the trip to Bardax.

The scripts from Goldenlight’s archives a distant flicker.

Doubt tore at her.

Then two sturdy arms pulled her into the air.

Eliza’s cheerful grin playing across her face.

*****

            I told Lorain, “Whatever it is can wait for the dawn. Tonight? That is made for dancing!”

            I rose higher into the air.

Relying on White to obfuscate us. Highmaker and Horus helped. Politely steering Terran Alliance monitoring away for a few minutes. I grinned as I felt Doc’s internal temperature rise to compensate for the altitude. But we weren’t so high up that she’d freeze. She punched my arm. “Captain, I’ll have you know I am quite capable.”  She was serious. Her green eyes blazing.

My mind flashed back to the previous nights.

I replied, “I noticed!”

She blushed delicately. I didn’t need to elaborate further.

I spun her around in slow circles. Her arms around my neck.

Her tone light, “The Dawn will come. Nothing’s the same anymore.”

I leaned in to kiss her.

She gripped my jacket. Pulling me in deeper.

Then Cooper was there.

<<Ah! Forgive me! We have an Alert. You were requested! All the Redeemers are requested!>> His black triangular ears plastered to his head apologetically.

Doc took another five seconds then pulled away. “Alright. Let’s go.” She wanted say more but held back. She cupped my chin. Wiping away her lipstick from my face. “Later.”

*****

            The Puzzler fired at the gargantuan metal shark. His face was covered with bright red lipstick. Grinning as he dodged the massive thing’s maw with his grav boots. An earth-shattering sonic boom filled the night air as The Star-Spangled Banner decended. Knocking Jaws on Steroids out cold. Hitting its main power core helped. His alert beacon echoed in his ears. “Ahh, so that wasn’t the mission?”

            Star gave him a two-fingered salute with her left hand. “Nope. But we should take out this trash as well!”

            Golden Bulleteer popped in to form the shark into manageable pieces. Blue Blaze assisted him. Zach waved to his sister, “I'll light more firecrackers for you!”

            Their mission: The Green Defender Corp.

            Trainees had gone missing. They were tasked to bring them home.

            Cooper encased everyone else in a green glow.

            <<First, I must also ask Sparta to come as well. His mate is the sector leader of the Greens for Bardax!>>

            Eddie gawked as the complete Roster of the Golden Redeemers appeared within a Bardaxian transport. Sparta circled. His hackles raised for danger. The long dark called to all of them. Arthon glanced around. Holding a book in one hand, while he had a spatula in the other. His voice clipped. Star examined his housecoat.

            Doc nudged her with a well-placed elbow.

             Ritark’s shadowed form unfurled from Arthon’s muthra symbols.

            “It would be nice to have more warning.”

The Atlantian sounded exasperated rather than upset.

            His demi suit appeared on a rack next to him.

            “Ah. Well then. Where to?”

            He might as well take it in stride. At least Cooper had let him travel in his housecoat.

            He was eternally grateful that he hadn’t been in the refresher at the time. Gathering all the materials for the Alarm program had completely sidetracked his involvement with the team for a bit. He snatched his suit from the rack and found a place to change.

            If they needed all the Golden Redeemers then this was serious.

Bardaxian Sector

Green Defender Training Facility

Planet Nufa

 

Minds-The-Trees shivered.

She had been searching. Hearing the cries of the young ones.

The burned one would not have them. She bared her teeth. Her white fur rippling. Emerald energy flowed around her. Help was coming. The ground sparked. The air putrid. Void Walkers had never dared to take a Bardaxian. A plea along the Green sounded once more.

//Hurry! She hunts us. Find us! Along the Path of the Ancients! Mother! I’m scared.//

She howled. Her fury soaking the earth beneath her paws.

She ran.

The storm overhead unleashed its payload.

Issue 28: Here

Issue 30:

 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Uplift Protocol: Mars Issue 28

Issue 28: Courtship of the Stars

 

            My people find the threads of fate to be ever-changing. But there is one constant thread: The soul. It binds everyone together. Earth, Land, Sea, Sky, and Space. We are children of the Weave. No matter what you decide to call it.—Nola, Tarvel Sorceress

            Sparta often said I had the best yet worst kinda luck. I’ve decided that the Weave is having fun at my expense. You’d think I’d get to have a nice double date but no, that’s not in the cards today.—Jonas “Eddie” Olsten

            We caught a majority of the Artock fleet. Since we couldn’t find the Nix family, we assumed they escaped. Dad was right, unless you find a body, it's likely your enemy is still out there. But even then there can be doubts because modern medicine can mimic casualties as well. Other discoveries would pop up later. For us? That day was a distraction. Lorain wanted to take her mind off things. She never said how things went in the operation theater. I didn’t ask. I just offered what I could: My love and support.—Sleeping in Starlight, a memoir of the 22nd century

New Ashbury (Texas)

Mrs. Highwind’s Theater

June 28th, 2104

 

            Mondays.

            I should have known something would happen besides the double date on this type of day. We had decided on taking some time out from cleanup, demi duties, more mutated dinosaurs to send first-class into orbit. An enterprising would-be villain had decided to resurrect some more Jurrasic period travelers via Dark Shaman rites and a rather confused bookseller. Having mystic relics and spells right under your nose is never a good thing. Sir Avalon had assisted. With many additions to the Murphy Jar.

            It even shocked dad.

            Then again he’s more in tune with magical matters nowadays. That 5-year trip was at the forefront of my thoughts. Today I was wearing a very well-cut navy blue pants suit. According to Lorain, it was quite form-fitting. Just the way she liked it. She was in a slim green cocktail dress. A pretty diamond necklace with a blue gem in the middle. Eddie had a tux. Complete with walking cane and beard styling gel. Nola was decked out in a purple number that turned just as many heads as Lorain’s outfit. Instead of purple skin her’s was a nice tan color. With her orange eyes hidden behind a warm hazel. She always had fun changing eye color. That was fairly commonplace for the general population.

            Eddie offered Nola an arm. I hooked my right arm around Doc. Her left arm went around my waist as we walked towards the theater. Tonight’s play was a musical. I didn’t mind what it was. I was just glad to have a quiet moment in between all the giant revelations about life, the universe, and everything. As we entered the main hall, voices rose excitedly. I glanced at the information streaking across my vision.

            The Exodus: Cosmic Journey

            A Markav production.

            Doc ordered some Long Island Ice Teas.

            She was usually a lightweight when it came to alcohol.

*****

            Jonas sat with Nola. Eliza and Doc on the right. His hidden sense highlighting various engagement rings stuffed in pockets. Above them. In the rafters of the theater were cloaked Bardaxians. If he had to guess it was added security. Most of their forms were of Sparta’s size. Two Green Defenders were monitoring entries and exits. He could tell by the turn of their heads.

            Bright purple exploded from his eyes as he spotted two squads of C.A.P personnel in attendance. Not just the standard either. This was the elite branch. What Micheal Brookes was a part of.

            He leaned over, “Hey Captain! We got C.A.P SF and Bardaxians in here.” He tapped the side of his temple. Eliza took a quick scan of the area.

            “Lot’s of Amarche as well. Huh, maybe there’s a VIP here.”

            Nola glanced at her mirror. It was the size of a compact for now.

            “You are right Captain Murphy. X’mil’s sour-faced cousin is here.”

            Jonas saw Lorain roll her eyes. “That will be fun.” While Eliza planted a light kiss on the Doctor’s cheek, “Who knows! Maybe it will be therapeutic for her!” Olsten and Nola doubted that but all eyes turned to the stage as the curtains drew back. Jonas rested his arm on the back of Nola’s chair. The knot in his chest loosened. He would make the best of today.

            Even if a Kaiju riding on a clown entered the premises.

*****

            The Artock strike team cased the Theater.

Based on their intel E’ratha of House Cyphuskara was currently within the building.

On a supposed mission of Cultural Sharing.

The lead hitman smirked at that. That lady wasn’t interested in any affairs but her clan. Even the Commons held no promise to that woman. E’ratha was the most hated of House envoys. But she had connections. Knowledge that his employer wanted to be erased. He set the timer within his guts. He would be the sacrifice but it would be done. His soul would be saved. That was all that mattered. Draken Nix was a fool. Unity was the true faith!

“Glory to the Gray Herald.”

His cohorts set more bombs around the various blocks. Knowing that the sensors would respond in less than a minute. It would give their leader time to kill E’ratha.

*****

            The putrid stench hit my nostrils. It was pure decay.

I pinged Uncle Paxton, <<We got trouble!>>

            I was out of my seat and striding towards the VIP section. I alerted Cooper as well. To warn the Greens patrolling above. There was an Artock in here. Eddie already knew what to look for, <<He’s already inside the parameter! How’d he get past the Bardaxians?! Hell, how did he not ping on my radar either!>>

            The Amarche intoned, “The Gray Herald.”

            Only I could hear them. I jumped over the barrier. The C.A.P team and Green Defenders diving in. E’ratha’s frown deepened. “What you do want?!” I reached out and threw the Artock to the ground. Dived on top of him as the explosive went off. Green protective fields going up as a dull thud echoed under me. The Artock was dead. His eyestalks and mishappen head appearing as his stealth field sputtered out. The Markav stage performers crowded in. Offering to pull me up. One exclaimed, “No wounds!” The others pointed upward.

            “Ahh! Protected by the Green.”

            I didn’t appreciate the cold intensity of E’ratha’s ice-white gaze.

            A small ugly smile formed. When she thought no one was looking.

*****

            Lorain hooked into a private channel, <<The Green Defender explanation won't work. We have to prepare for a possible leak. Notify central.>>

            She raced to Eliza’s side. Double-checking for any wounds. There were none. Her nice suit was quite ruined by yellowish-brown fluids. Bits of Artock heart muscle lingered. One of the Markav went to the back of the stage. Bringing out a rather retro-style Victorian suit. Eliza grinned and said, “Thanks! I'll put that to good use.”

            When she re-emerged she was making the most of it by propping her tophat rather gaily about. “Where’s a pipe when you need it!”

*****

            J’ino, alongside her brother, strode into the Theater. She breathed a small sigh of relief when she saw Eliza was unharmed. Even grinning a bit at the overall surreal factor of Victorian fashion sense. Her daughter made a polite bow, complete with tophat in her hands, “Alms for the Posh!”

            J’ino would laugh later. She didn’t like that oily hunger plain on Cyphuskara’s face.

            E’ratha opened with, >>That human is a demi. I wish to study it for genetic variance. Now.<<

            J’ino snapped, >>No. Humanity’s demis are not our property. We are not on Typha.<<

            The other responded, >>This place has changed you little Ayeer. Your House is a blight!<<

*****

            Mom’s face was granite. Her eyes burned through.

Made me glad I couldn’t hear things.

The only one I didn’t have to concentrate to mind speak with was Dexter.

E’ratha moved in on me. Her gait was measured. Then Doc was there. Bristling.

Lorain snapped, “Off Limits.” The Typherian laughed.

“How quaint.” She exited without a backward glance.

Flesh slapping flesh echoed throughout the Theater.

Anna had entered the fray and gave E’ratha a piece of her hand in the process.

*****

            Anna smiled sweetly, “That was for me.” She stuck again.

            “That was for the Commons.”

            The third left a blazing red mark.

            “That was for Earth. Have a nice stay in New Ashbury!”

            Teddy observed the catfight. Recording it for prosperity.

            There would be a need for it later. His wife had indicated as much.

            E’ratha’s eyes were wide. The sheer incredulity reflecting there.

            “How dare you! I am the Scion of my House!”

            “I dare a whole lot. I’m American.”

            A crowd had formed.

*****

            Eddie linked everyone in. Jupiter’s crew and his social networks. From the Terran Alliance and beyond. This was virial. Even Typherian outlets were tuned in. The Commons had no love for most of the Houses. They actively ignored most of the “higher echelon antics.”

But this?

This was a prize fight that they wanted Anna to win. X’mil’s clan was the most loathed within the Typherian hierarchy. The Commons were a mix of hard-working and innovative. Often at the front of the spear in exploration and defense. With various levels of telepathy and matter manipulation. From what Nola indicated from her mirror observations, they were almost another culture within Typha, one that Eliza would appreciate more once she got the full lowdown on how things worked for someone like her mom vs the Commons rule.

            Eddie didn’t understand why they didn’t kick most of the Houses to the curb.

Nola kissed his cheek. “That is a quest for another day my dear.”

*****

            J’ino never thought she’d want to hug Anna. She was sorely tempted now. Within her House Line, her Uncle B’karis exclaimed, >>That will be on re-play for the whole homeworld to see for weeks. The Commons are going to have a parade in the streets for many cycles.<<

            Her father was holding his gut, she could tell by his breathless reply, >>I know Eliza wouldn’t do such a thing but all’s fair when women dominate our social circles. How did Mrs. Anna know to broadcast this?<<

            J’ino replied, >>Teddy.<<

            M’taris echoed, >>Oh my. Unexpected Silver Lining! I’ll go get my dancing shoes.<<

            J’dax was also recording this encounter. Having been clued in by Teddy beforehand.

*****

            One of the Markav gave me a walking cane to complete the retro suit. Eddie and I had a polite duel of canes in the background as Anna’s commentary vs House Sourdrops continued. We even played up each hit. “AGAST! I AM STRUCK!” I exclaimed as I fell to one knee. Craning my neck to stare straight at E’ratha.

            “Fair maiden of House Windmill! I offer you my gallant protection! Seeing how I got Artock all over me. The brave noble knights of the Green offered their utmost blessings! Thus I was saved from harm as well!”

            Eddie added, “Indeed! This humble Terran Alliance reporter has recorded the whole thing. Huzzah for us lowly moral humans. Cyphuskara could do with some tender loving care. I volunteer all unmarried men of Earth to your service Madame of the Most Shrewable!”

            Mom was on Cloud 9. Ascending to a height unseen to my eyes.

            I suspect it had something to do with Eddie’s generous proposal.

            Some of the human guests and Markav had grinned at my windmill remark.

            To me, X’mil was an evil Sancho and I imagined most of his House reflected that.

            I must have been on target because E’ratha pushed through the crowd and teleported to Y’lansa’s ship orbiting Earth. Mom held out her hand to help Eddie and me up. I took it. Her mind voice at peace.

            >>Thank you for that Space Cadet. Go enjoy your date.<<

            She glanced at Doc for a split second.

Saying something to Lorain’s ivory ring then departed.

The play continued. After an intermission.

Doc didn’t care. She sat in my lap. Drinking a fourth Long Island Ice tea.

*****

            Nola took a page from Lorain’s handbook and made herself quite comfortable. Enjoying the giddy expression on Jonas’s face. He winked, “Not all bad. Quite a few explosions too!” She giggled and replied, “But these ripples will go outwards. Once the duality of certain parties is revealed this will have more weight. Rest easy my love. Life is what you make it.”

            She paused. Her eyes searching his. “Every moment counts.”

            Eddie rumbled, “That’s the truth. I don’t doubt that now.”

*****

            E’ratha ignored the questioning glances of the crew. The other House representatives. Even the Commons workers and security that talked behind her back. She could feel it. Those worthless hungry eyes. Wanting her to fall. That human woman. She brought up the INet social network. Hating the human tech while begrudgingly using it.

            ///Anna McQuire: Former Holo Host, Into the Fire, now Freelance Commentator for Earth Centric matters vs the Outer Cosmic Tapestry.///

            She entered her chambers. Throwing off her clothing as she entered the cleansing unit. Its vibrations scrubbed her skin clean. Humans still used water. Sentimental idiots. Her mind flashing back to that bomb. That demi was so much more than she appeared. Must be on the C.A.P payroll. So many of them had been present. Not to protect her. She could tell by their body language. The bursts of resentment from their minds glow. To protect all the innocents around her. Her icy white irises gained a stormy glint. She knew her House was hated. That was fine. In the end, her House was all that stood between the gates and the barbarians that wanted to take Typha for themselves.

            The All-Father.

            Chronos.

            Unity.

            It didn’t matter what face the enemy wore. Her sacrifices would save everyone.

            She was just one of the few to make the necessary choices. Unlike that weak-blooded idiot currently warming the Throne. She would take control. Lead them to victory against Unity. It was the only way. If she managed to crush J’ino and the rest of those Ummatosh eggs along the way. All the better.

Eliza’s Studio Apartment

Downtown Ashbury

 

                I stretched out on the bed.

It had been a while since we had been back here.

            It was the same as I remembered. The walls were soundproof. It allowed me to concentrate on the things that mattered. Not that I didn’t tune into the hustle and bustle of New Ashbury and beyond. It's just I needed some downtime. The Jupiter Rising had a few areas like that as well.

            “Lights. Low!”

            The sink was running. I peered through the wall. Just enough to see her outline. The Artock incident made me a bit jumpy. When I didn’t see any Amarche or strange blips on my senses I let my eyes wander back to the holovid display. Many headlines ran across the screen but foremost was Anna’s triple play. I’d probably get a mouthful in the morning during the “Relations” weekly meeting.

Doc had been quiet after we got back.

Her thoughts were focused. Intense. I could tell that much.

I found out why a few moments later.

Brainpower didn’t factor into the equation.

*****

            Lorain padded out of the bedroom.

Leaving a comatose yet satisfied Eliza behind. She threw on Murphy’s old NASA s hoodie. It was more than enough to cover everything. She climbed the two flights of stairs to the top-floor balcony. A few minutes later Q’vera joined her. “Here’s the update  from the birdcage.” Q’vera didn’t comment on Doc’s appearance. She was far too professional for that. Still, it gave her a small level of comfort that someone beyond family cared about Eliza. Not the Defender. Not the Banner. Not the Weight of Typherian Heritage. Just plain old Eliza.

She floated skyward. “See you around Doctor.”

Lorain nodded. Reading the message until it was firm in her memory. Then she burned it. She made herself some hot cocoa. Returning to bed to find Eliza exactly the way she left her.

A small smile plastered on her face.

Lorain shrugged off the hoodie. Burrowing under the covers.

Tomorrow would be another day.

She would be ready.

*****

            Eddie was having similar thoughts to Lorain. Nola had shown him images in her mirror. Typha would be a tougher nut to crack. The Commons would love the duel blood source. The Houses would be horrified. Even some allied with V’alkor. They would see it as an invasion of Typherian merits. The Houses were so insular it surprised Eddie that their mindset lasted that long. Nola rested her head on his chest, “It is because Set pulls at them. The Commons are safer because their powers aren’t as pronounced. It's in the Houses you will find demi levels of matter manipulation and telekinesis. Among other things.”

            He kissed the top of her head. “I know. It’s just it feels like when it all falls down to the wire, there won’t be much of a Typha to save.”

            Her orange eyes flashed in the dark.

            “Jonas Olsten, have faith!”

            He smiled, “I do. Promise!”

            She kissed his chest. Right over his heart. “Good. You are learning!”

            They drifted off to sleep.

The sounds of the Jupiter Rising a familiar background hum.

Issue 27: Here

Issue 29: Here