"Exactly what do you have in mind?" Emerald Stone asked the
gathered around the table. She had been surprised when Wayne had
her to come to this meeting to represent Syntech. Even confined
wheelchair as he was now, he usually handled the day to day business of
the company. But this was a little different. Those
represented a huge economic and political force in the world. This was
the kind of gathering that would give the present administration
They were all currently sitting in the Royal Palace on Thule as a
gentle late spring snow was falling all around the island country.
Present were Lord William one of the Thulian Emperors- she still wasn't
sure how four men and one woman could make up the emperor, but the
system seemed to work for them- Defender Jord'n from the First Pod of
Illia, Agatha Storm representing Storm Avionics, Doctor Adam Stevens
was speaking for the M-7 corporation, and Seth Plainwalker also known
as Moonwind formerly of Paraforce 1 and now a member of the Atlanta
Knights. Lord William cleared his throat and said, "We want to
program that will eventually lead to the exodus from Earth all
transhumans, psis, Atlanteans, Shan, and nocturnals, and will scour
from the planet any traces of the Atlantean Gifted Gene and the AGG
She felt her eyes narrow as she stared at him. "What do you
scour from the planet? That has a ring of unpleasant finality?"
William shook his head and said, "No, not what you think.
know the gene is now activated by a virus. We wish to modify that
virus so that it will act in reverse, removing the gene from those who
are exposed to it, and leaving them unharmed perfectly normal
"This is the kind of thing that can get out of hand very easily,"
Storm said. "That virus almost killed my son. I don't want
to take a
chance on losing him again, or making any other mother face that kind
"We have someone working on it who will make sure that it does
not get out of hand." Jord'n said.
"Who?" Emerald demanded.
Jord'n and William exchanged glances and finally William sighed
and said, "Let's just way we have divine help."
Emerald leaned back in her chair and said, "The Wrought."
her head, and continued, "I'm not stupid, and Syntech will have no part
in anything that might turn into bio-warfare, or heaven forbid
"That's not what we are trying to do," William said. He
continued, "The Transhuman War was just the first round of a series of
conflicts that are going to continue to build. Our computer
and our prescients all agree, we're building toward a cultural war of
unimaginable proportions. The presence of this many transhumans
creating evolution pressures on humanity that are going to lead to
their destruction, and possibly ours as well if we stay here. If
leave, and leave the gene here, then pressure will be alleviated for a
while, but within two or three hundred years at the most, it will build
up yet again. By that time, humanity will be in position to do
Sslelkians did to Earth before the Shan left. It could take
hundred million years to recover, or maybe never."
"What do you propose?" Emerald. She'd had similar
her father about this subject. It bothered a great deal that his
conclusions were similar to what she was hearing here. The only
difference is that these people had a plan of action to do something
about it- she hoped.
"First off, even with the advanced technology represented by the
individuals in this room the simple logistics of getting this
people safely off planet and to an area where we won't be discovered
for a long time makes that plan out of the question," Jord'n said.
"Even if we could do it, it would cause a panic in the human
governments. What we want to do is begin a hidden project. When
leave we're taking everything that is ours with us- the technology, the
people, and the wealth. When K'horal left, it was only him and
Defender Jariss'a, and the rest of the colony's inhabitants were simply
embryos. This time if our projections are correct, we're going to
moving close to two million people. That can't be done with even a
fleet of starships. We need another way."
"And that's where M-7, Syntech, and Storm Avionics come into the
picture?" Doctor Stevens asked, his blue eyes gleaming.
"Exactly," William replied. "We want you to work with us,
less than a fleet of ships, but instead help us perfect the fold
technology that we'll need to move people, cargo, buildings...,"
"... and a planet," a tall blond man entered the room wearing
blue armor and coronet on his head. Something about the man
familiar, and then she realized that he was Kenneth Tyde the DNA
operative that went missing along with his partner several years ago.
It was the six fingers on each of his hands that gave him away.
planet?" Emerald asked.
"It can be done," William said standing and offering his hand to
young man. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Your Majesty.
knew your father." He turned to the others and said, "This is
TydeSteele of Kentaurus."
Emerald noticed the slight look of surprise on the king's face.
"Thank you, Your Majesty."
William smiled and said, "I propose we set aside the titles for
now. I'm afraid they may become cumbersome and confusing."
The king nodded and said, "You' are probably right. It's
just Kenneth." Then smiling he added, "Or Ken, if you prefer."
"You want us to move a planet?" Doctor Stevens asked
Ken looked at him, smiled and said, "If it's not too much of a
Emerald watched as Stevens and Plainwalker exchanged glances.
Something seemed to pass between the two scientists as they both
some calculations on a pad. Finally, Plainwalker looked up and asked,
"When do you want it done by?"
"We estimate that we will be ready for the final flight in about
hundred and fifty years. We'll need Kentaurus moved in about
"Moved to where?" Emerald asked.
"We don't know yet," Jord'n said. "We have someone looking
correct spot right now. We gave him our list of criteria and he
agreed. We need somewhere far enough away that it'll be a long
before the humans stumble on us. That's why we need Kentaurus moved.
Alpha Centauri is just a little too close for our plans."
"Why not move the Kentaurans too?" Emerald asked.
"Because our population is over three hundred million, Mrs.
the King said. "If we started now, we'd have to move four million
people a year. Moving the planet is actually the better
Besides, we have resources that we too can make available now
are ready to open relations with the Thulians."
"You realize that the UN is going to have kittens, when it's
that you are opening relations with another extraterrestrial
civilization without them," Plainwalker said.
"That's just one more reason to leave," William said.
"The UN still
has not given up on its plans to bring the whole world under its
control, and that is not something we can allow. We've seen how
treated the transhumans in their Riyadh facility, and we see how they
treat their replicant soldiers. It is a top down organization
the people serve the government, not the government serving the people."
Emerald raised an eyebrow and said, "With all due respect, the
those words coming from a man who wears the crown of an empire rings
something of a sour note."
William smiled and said, "You have to understand how the empire
constructed Mrs. Pruitt. When it comes to matters of natural
my power is far more limited than the President of the United States,
or even Congress. The first and most basic right that all
share, be they noble, citizen, or subject is the right to be left the
Emerald nodded. She really did not understand how the
civilization was structured, so she would have to take the man's word
for it. The others in the room seem to accept his supposition as
so she left it alone. "What do you need Syntech to do?" she
Daniel Williams Junior, or JJ to his friends looked around the
apartment and found it to be surprisingly to his liking. JJ
tall serious young man with jet black hair and ice blue eyes. He
somewhat thin in build but there was a intensity in his eyes that few
baselines could meet comfortably. As he wandered through the
apartment, feeling very satisfied with the layout and the set up, he
heard Wade looking through the other rooms.
He had no idea that his dad had any contacts in Atlanta, and was
completely surprised at the deal the owner of the building was willing
to offer JJ and his pack. Of course the word pack really didn't
to them. It was more of a gathering of close friends who had a
goal and mission. Four werewolves, a witch and a werecat, a pack
Their most immediate of missions was to deal with the vampire
attacked Lee Plainwalker. Yeah, Lee was much younger than the
them, but that was why they were here to deal with it; he was still a
kid, and it was their job to look out for the kids. The second
mission was to scout around the city to get ready for next year when
they'd all be attending Georgia Tech for their freshman years.
JJ really had no desire to be at odds with his father, but
found himself in that situation. Wade was the main cause for his
his father's disagreement. He was everything that Sheriff
could respect, but at the same time, everything that he felt wasn't
good for the pack. It was a real bitch growing up as the heir
to the werewolf king of North America.
Wade wasn't pack, and it looked like he and JJ were getting
As far as JD Williams was concerned, he could deal with his best
friend, Trey Greenbough being promiscuously bi, but the idea of his own
son sucking dick was something he was having trouble getting used to.
Add into the situation, the fact that Wade was not another
but a mage and he was that much more uncomfortable. Then there
Wade's religion, he was Wiccan. All of those things, JD probably
eventually get past. Most of the problem came from the situation
The young witch had his right leg shattered in a severe beating
stepfather when he was around six. The damage had never healed
properly, giving him something of a limp . It was clear that JD
thought that Wade would be a drain a pack in an emergency situation.
JJ felt that that his dad just didn't know Wade well enough. From
on the patio the young witch called, "There's a pool!"
"You just want a chance to wear that bathing suit you bought at
the mall the other day," he teased his lover.
"Well, duh," Wade said. "I didn't buy it to stick in my
sock drawer and gather dust."
JJ smiled at that. Wade was pretty to look at and he knew
but we've got other reasons to be here right now," JJ told him.
Wade stopped and gave him a cold look and said, "I haven't
that, JJ. I want the bastard as bad as you do, maybe more.
But I can
at least appreciate the moment. For a wolf, sometimes you focus
much on the future, and not enough on the present. Right now,
looking at an apartment. Tonight we go hunting."
JJ stopped and thought. Maybe he was letting his
his dad color his own thoughts. "Sorry. I guess that was uncalled
"No, it wasn't uncalled for, it was just inaccurate," Wade told
"We've got good information on this Todeshaus guy, but we can't
anything about it until tonight. Right now, we're putting things
place for this fall. We focus on that now, and hunting tonight."
nodded and looked around again. "I can live with this, how about
nodded and said, "I can more than live with it. Are you sure
about the rent thing?"
JJ nodded and said, "As long as we're willing to take care of the
place, do some garden work around the grounds and keep the residents
from getting too rowdy, then that's what we pay a month."
"JJ, this place is worth ten times that much. This isn't
neighborhood of Atlanta, but it's up there. And it's local to
everything we need."
"Except the university. That's across town," he said.
"There's a main MARTA stop less than a five minute walk from
here. I can handle that," Wade said.
"Yeah, but are you willing to bust heads to keep the rowdies in
The landlord is worried about a growing drug problem in this
of town. He doesn't want it in his building," JJ asked him.
"If I have to. Usually, I prefer other ways of dealing with
difficult people," he said with a smirk.
"What curse them?" JJ asked.
Wade shrugged and said, "Whatever works."
of the corner of his eye Kevin watched the young dragonborn move about
the lab. There was a grace and power in Kymbrall FeyStone's
like he'd only seen in the most dedicated of martial artists.
continued to type the parameters the two had set into computer as he
spoke, "May I ask a question of a personal nature?"
Kym smiled over at him and said, "Depends on the
"Why not simply go back and get your old armor?" Kevin asked.
"From what I'm told, it does after all belong to you."
Kym stopped for a moment and Kevin could see the minute shift is
weight as the blond looked out over Las Vegas Bay. Without
spoke softly, his voice barely above a whisper. "Too many strings
attached to that armor."
"I don't recall any...," he stopped realizing that the young
did not mean real strings. "Oh..., I'm sorry. I
didn't mean to
Kym turned with a wan smile and said, "You didn't offend.
asked a question." He sighed and added, "That armor represents a
to dragonborn from the dragons. It was a political gift to an
organization to which Ah no longer want to be tied."
Kevin nodded his head. He knew there was some bad blood
and the other 'born, he just didn't know what it was about. Kym
performed far above anybody's expectations in that war, killing more
dragons than just about any other person on the field. "But you
the need for a bit of steel between your shoulder blades?" he asked
with a smile.
Kym laughed and said, "You sound like mah dad. No, not
really a need
for protection, more of a need for symbolism. Your reality is one
superheroes. The world has started identifying Dragonphyre with a
of stylized armor. Ah would like to continue that identification,
simply with a new set of armor. A set that Ah paid for out of mah
pocket and that has no strings attached."
"Well you don't have to pay me for this work. I'm happy to
I'm curious as to what you are going to do about replacing your
"Ah'm not," Kym said. Kevin could see a dark worry in the
eyes. "At least not yet. It was only really effective
dragons, something Ah don't think Ah'm going to be fighting again.
can do a lot of damage with my bare hands and feet."
Kevin nodded and continued enter the data. "But you want to
be able to summon the armor like you did your old."
Kym nodded and said, "Yeah. Walking around with a
mah shirt would kind of give things away. Ah'm told you were
create your own high tech armor so that you can summon it to you with
just a thought."
Kevin laughed and said, "Yeah, and I should be able to do the
thing for you, especially since you don't have to interface with any
technology." He looked down at the computer screen. "Now,
told that the stuff you wore before was more ceremonial than practical.
Do you to make some changes- to make it more practical? You know,
your butt isn't hanging out."
Kym seemed to stop and think about it for a moment. Finally
his head and said, "No, Ah'll take my scars as they come. The
supposed to be a symbol, not for real protection. That's what mah
forcefield is for."
Somewhat surprised, Kevin nodded. He got the feeling that
more was going on Kym's head than just wanting the symbolism, but it
wasn't his place to question it. He did stop for a moment and
the dragonborn carefully. His own powers tended to be somewhat
scrambled around him. Kym was from another reality and that made
ability to KNOW what was going on with him somewhat wonky.
simply asked, "You aren't trying to get yourself killed are you, Kym?"
The question seemed to actually penetrate the cool exterior of
blond's demeanor. He stopped and said, "Not that Ah know of."
wasn't so sure that he was telling the truth.
"Then you won't mind if I give the bodysuit under the armor a bit
durability then. It's a new formula I've been working on. I
idea from Cyberstar, and am working with one of the Stryker Norris
Academies to field test it. A second test model wouldn't
data. It will be flexible, pliable, even soft under most
circumstances. However if it's hit with a strong kinetic force,
or energy, it'll go rigid forming hard plates for the duration."
This time, Kevin could see the conflict in Kym's eyes.
Finally, he nodded and said, "Go ahead. That would be
"I can't believe you even had to think about that," another voice
from across the room. Kevin turned to see Jake standing there.
"Jake!" he said.
"Afternoon, boys," he said.
"Captain Lee," Kym said formally nodding to the other boy.
"Not Captain Lee anymore, Kym. Had to do what you said the
Thorns were so good at, change my identity."
Kym smiled and said, "Very well..., Jacob."
"You can be an ass sometimes, you know it, Kym?" Jake said with a
Kym just nodded and said, "So, Ah'm told."
Jake cam across the room and kissed Kevin on the forehead and
himself up on one of the high counters. "So, we're working on
Dragonphyre armor. Cool. You sure you don't want to update it, at
least cover your butt?"
Kym shook his head and said, "No. Ah actually liked my old
Then looking around to make sure that nobody was around, he
"And to be completely honest, Ah enjoyed the way it put me on display."
Jake turned and smiled at Kevin and said, "He's going Shan on us.
Before long he'll be flying naked through the sky."
Kym grinned at him, and the smile actually managed to reach his
"Let's just say Ah enjoyed some of the scandalous looks Ah would
"You, my young friend," Jake said, "need a boyfriend."
The smile in Kym's eyes went out like a light being turned off.
southern accent suddenly thickened as he said firmly, "No, Ah don't.
Boyfriends, friends, or family could get themselves killed
what we do. Ah'd rather not put anyone else in danger.
me tend to end up with a serious case o' the deads. It's best if they
simply stay away."
Kevin and Jake exchanged looks. He knew that he and Jake
about this particular conversation later. There was still some
undiscussed ramifications of his own death to be covered- along with
the conversation he'd had with Leif several months ago. Finally
turned to Kym and asked, "Summer vacation is coming up. Any plans?"
Kym chuckled recognizing that Kevin was changing the subject.
said, "Not yet. Thought maybe Ah'd see if Ah could enroll in a
o' summer courses at UNLV. Build some college credit."
"You want to go to school over the summer?" Jake asked.
this egghead was ever that crazy! Take some time off, Kym. You've
through a lot. Get yourself centered and figure out where and
chuckled and said, "That was why Ah wanted to take some classes.
would give me a broader exposure to the differences in our timelines."
"You know, Leif had mentioned that he was thinking to ask you to
go hunting with him in Alfheim," Kevin told him carefully.
"That would be an experience," Kym said. "If he does, Ah'll
definitely consider it."
"Do that," Kevin said. "As for your new armor, I should
have it ready by the end of the week."
"Thanks," Kym told him.
Prince Valkon smiled at the thought of how his brother sauntered
the conference room and announced he had something to tell "Papa
Vlad." Michael was not by any genetic relationship, his brother.
he was the genetic and bloodline son of Valkons own bloodline
progenitor's family. In some ways, that made them far closer than
genetic brothers. Michael was also not exactly right in the head,
the Americans were wont to say. He had the mind of a five year
the body of a fourteen or fifteen year old, and was in actuality far
older than that.
Most of all Michael was the chosen of the spirit of the Voodoo
of New Orleans. With his ability to see and speak to spirits, he
lot like a spiritwaker; but in the end he was something far more
dangerous. The spirits talked to Michael, they watched out for
and they told him things that were important to them, to the city, and
to the nocturnal community as a whole. Valkon had learned
early on in
their relationship not to discount anything he had to say. It
always make sense at first, but there were times when it was very
Moreover, Michael did things Michael's way. They were not always
subtle, but they got the job done. Case in point was the
with which Valkon was dealing now. He looked down at the thin man
wearing a pair of running shorts and a tee shirt, bound and gagged and
laid out on the sofa in the outside waiting area of Vlad's office.
He shook his head and said, "I cannot apologize enough for my
brother's abrupt actions, Mr. Frostbridge. I do appreciate your
understanding. As you know, Michael doesn't always stop to think
things through when he takes it into his mind to do something."
bent down and began to untie the other man. "Several years ago,
my father commented that he had not seen me in a while, Michael took it
upon himself to kidnap me from my own shower and bring me here. I
didn't even get a chance to dry off. I was in New York City at
Valkon watched Frostbridge's hands very closely. He was a
who appeared to be in his mid thirties, with longish strawberry blond
hair and blue eyes. Valkon knew two things about the man: the
that he was a mage of the first order. He'd been trained by
the best, including the Sovereign Mage, Emory Greenbough. The
was that he was a weretiger.
It wasn't that unusual for a shifter to have the mage gift.
were limited to using it in their human form only. Pride mages
sometimes cast a limited number of spells from other forms, but for the
most part, the ability to cast magic while in a wereform belonged
exclusively to the magecats. Even limited to casting in his human
the man was still dangerous both in human form and in his wereform.
Frostbridge nodded his head and massaged first one wrist and then
other. "Exactly why am I here, Valkon? I haven't broken any
Valkon could see genuine worry in the man's eyes. Of
up to find yourself bound and gagged and waiting in Vlad's office would
be enough to worry anyone.
"Michael received instructions from his lady that there was
information you need," Valkon told him as he poured a glass of scotch
and handed it to the man.
Frostbridge waved it off, still wary of his situation.
Valkon smiled. He'd forgotten that Frostbridge had started
out in New
Orleans before he'd gotten involved in the Vampire War of the Southeast
back in the early eighties. That involvement had rocketed the
mage, barely sixteen at the time, into the middle of nocturnal politics
in the US. It was rumored that he'd been infected with
by Trey Greenbough during that time. Although to be honest, he
couldn't imagine anyone surviving being bitten by Greenbough or any
other weretiger. "Yeah, I suspect it's Marie. He's using
disconnected tone of voice that he uses when he talks about her."
Frostbridge looked at him and said, "Did anyone bother informing
Walther that I've been kidnapped? I'm supposed to meet with him
Valkon shook his head and gestured toward the door leading to the
inner office where Vlad was talking to Michael. Without comment,
Frostbridge entered the room as Valkon told him, "I don't know. But
I'll find out."
Entering the office, Valkon noted that the others were already
The small well-appointed room was a bit crowded with his father,
brother, Janos, and all six members of the First Pride. He looked
to his brother and asked, "Michael, did you tell Chancellor Stone that
you were taking Mr. Frostbridge?"
Michael gave him an innocent look and said, "No. Should I
"Well, it's a good idea in these situations. How would you
someone took one of your little friends and didn't tell you about it?"
he gently scolded the vampire.
Michael stopped to think about what he said, "Not happy.
I'd be worried about them."
"Well, Chancellor Stone will be worried about Mr. Frostbridge,"
Valkon told him.
"I'm sorry," Michael said with a bit of a pout to his voice.
"It's okay, Michael," Frostbridge said. "How have you been?"
"Pretty well. They're still putting the city back together
big storm. I don't seem to remember other storms taking this long
fix," Michael said with a genuine smile.
will inform Chancellor Stone," Janos, Vlad's chamberlain said backing
out of the room.
"Thank you, Janos," Valkon's father acknowledged he chamberlain's
"Have I done something to offend the Chancellor of the
Southeast?" Frostbridge turned to Vlad and asked.
Vlad smiled and said, "Not at all, Mr. Frostbridge. I apologize
stepson's abruptness. He has some news for you, and tends to take
most direct route in these matters."
"News?" he asked.
"It concerns your family," Vlad said.
"My family? My parents and the rest of my family were
killed in that
werewolf attack on the commune when I was thirteen," Frostbridge.
Vlad smiled and steepled his hands together. "Ah, not your
progenitors, but your descendants, so to speak," he said with just a
hint of amusement.
"Descendants? I don't have any descendants," Frostbridge
"Not quite," Vlad said. "I understand that you made a trip
about twenty-some-odd years ago on some kind of diplomatic overture
from Chancellor Stone."
Valkon noted that Frostbridge seemed to think about what Vlad had
said. Finally, he replied, "Yeah. I think I remember the
"During that trip, you spent a rather unusual weekend with a
young nurse in town for a convention of some sort?"
Frostbridge nodded his head and said carefully, "Yes, sir...,"
"Well, it seems that you left more than just footprints on that
trip. You left the young lady with child," Vlad told him.
"She never contacted me again after that," Frostbridge said, a
surprised and worried tone to his voice. "I had no idea."
Vlad shook his head and said, "No, she never contacted you
because she was married."
"Married?" Frostbridge asked in shock.
"Married," Vlad said with a smile. "I won't fault you for
you didn't know about, Alec. And from what I know of the young
home life, I won't fault her. At least she was genuinely fond of
and the child was conceived in joy, which is more than can be said for
her relations with her husband." He turned to Brendan, the
primal tiger and asked, "What ever did become of your father, Brendan?"
Brendan and the other young men exchanged glances. Valkon
have been a werecat, but he could tell when there was a secret involved
in an exhange, and this one shouted it. Finally, Brendan said,
left of him is sealed behind a wall in the basement of an apartment
building on Homestead Air Force Base. But what has this got to do with
Vlad smiled and said, "Come now Brendan.
Has your recent fatherhood so befuddled your brain that you can't
recognize when I'm trying to introduce you to your own biological
Valkon watched the slow dawning of realization as it
crossed both men's faces. In unison they exclaimed, "He's my
Merrick thought of the paperwork back on his desk and sighed.
Sometimes he wondered if it was breeding when his back was
seemed everytime he left his office, there was that much more when he
got back. He briefly considered locking his door and see if it
continued to multiply while he was gone. He was starting to
he'd been hired as an administrator or a file clerk, and whether or not
they were the same thing. The Stryker Norris School
very well connected, so funding usually wasn't a problem. But the
paperwork to get it was sometimes horrendous. It had orginally
founded in the early eighties to deal with the rising number of
transhumans that were starting to appear among the populations. The
first school, Pacifica, had been headed by Doctor Elizabeth Green
in San Medilla, California. Their most famous team had become Paraforce
1 toward the end of the recent Transhuman War.
that was a war he and his wife, Nicole had missed. At the time,
had been in their own reality dealing with their own conflicts, and
trying to forge a peace between the dragons and the dragonborn.
hadn't worked and his entire reality had paid the price for it.
people would be surprised to discover that it had been Merrick's
actions that had been partially responsible for the unravelling of the
forces that made up the membrane protecting his home reality.
been faced with a hard choice and a split second to make
it. He could
have done nothing and let his wife's son, Tommy and his family die from
a thermo-nuclear blast- the third one dropped on him- or he could
snatch the young man and the other thirteen survivors away from certain
death and take a chance on destroying his home reality. Merrick
not allow himself to second guess his choice. He'd acted and an
reality died, but Tommy, Elizabeth, and a half dozen 'born/dragon
bonded couples had lived.
After the events of the subsequent
Dragon War in this reality, they'd been offered a home and a chance to
settle. They'd also been offered the job of running this school
transhumans as well as a place to farm out the twelve children they'd
brought with them into a safe environment. Homeguard Academy
was somewhat special as it had its roots all the way back to World War
Two and the Homeguard team that had defended the US from fifth
columnist, saboteurs, and the occassional supervillain during that
awful conflict. That put a bit of pressure on Nicole and him.
not quite the flagship school of the foundation, but it was definitely
one with a rich history.
He looked down at the grade reports
from his teachers, and then up at the faculty at the meeting and shook
his head. "The kids are all over the place. Some are far ahead
others were woefully behind," Christie Gordon the head of the middle
school department was saying.
"Are there any patterns in the areas of weakness?" Merrick
"Yeah, most of them didn't get the base knowledge they needed in
elementary," she said. "If they'd just learned the basics we
build on it, but half of them don't even know their multiplication
Merrick shrugged and said, "Assign them extra remedial classes,"
"The local parents won't like it," Greg Digeronimo said.
"They can always withdraw their child," Merrick told him.
Dekalb County nor Fulton County. We're private and if we don't
their child is making the grade we can give him or her the help they
need, but in the end, it's up to the child and the parent."
Digeronimo smiled and said, "I'm not arguing with you sir.
I'm just pointing out that there will be complaints."
"Then direct them to me," Merrick told him. "I'll deal with
'Yes, sir," Digeronimo replied.
"Any other issues?" Merrick asked.
"We're were burning through our uniform budget almost as fast as
legal budget," Melissa Grant, the school's chief financial officer said.
Merrick nodded his head at that news. It wasn't
unexpected. Part of
that was Nicole's fault. She'd taken one look at the khaki school
uniform and immediately set about to changing it. She said it reminded
her too much of an old William Holden movie. Instead she came up
a smart black on black design that stood out while at the same time,
wasn't quite so reminescent of the nineteen forties. When he'd
complained about the budget, she'd told him exactly what he could do
with his complaints and went out and found the funding for them
herself. "We have alternative funding for the new uniforms.
the bills to Mrs. Bishop and she will take care of them."
"Yes sir," Grant said.
He wouldn't say that his relationship with his wife had become strained
over the last few months since that uncomfortable Christmas vacation,
but he could tell she was worried about Kym. She'd talked to her
nephew at least twice a week since then, but even he could hear the
wariness in the boy's voice. Kym still didn't entirely trust
and Merrick wondered if he ever would. He also wondered if that
necessarily a bad thing. In some ways, Kym's attitude was
Forcing his mind away from personal problems, he turned back to
issues at hand. "How is the integration between the baselines and
"Much smoother than we expected," Tom Allison, the head of the PE
department said. "Once it became understood that the whole
the school was to teach baselines and transhumans to live and get along
together it sort of smoothed out. The mask rule that Mrs. Bishop
down helped a lot."
Merrick smiled at that idea. Even the dragon and dragonborn
that were on fourth grade team were required to wear a mask and hold a
code name. The idea was that only the Shan and transhumans who
obvious feral traits that could not be hidden easily would be allowed
to not wear a mask when in transhuman identity. There was just
much of a chance of someone ascertaining the identities of the other
students through association otherwise. Of course it had been
Nichole's idea, and she would remind him that all her ideas were good
ones. He couldn't argue with that; after all, she'd married him.
"Any particular details I need to be made aware of?" he
"Well, there's still a slight problem with several of the bunking
arrangements. Some of the students are still getting used to
coed suites," Grant said.
"Is that going to pose any problems?" Merrick asked. He
himself was a
little worried about that concept, but it seemed to be pretty accepted
among the transhumans. Part of it was the fact that 85% of the
so-called "tank" or "brick" and over 70% of the energy manipulators
were gay or bisexual anyway, it pretty much made the idea of gender
specific housing a moot point. The psis just didn't seem to care
way or another. He got the feeling that most of the problems
going to come from the few baseline boarding students.
"I'm not sure. We've had a few baselines threaten to
the idea. Most of them worrying about their little angels getting
pregnant or getting someone pregnant," Grant said with a smirk,
confirming his suspicions.
"Just how many baseline boarders do we have?" Merrick asked.
"Six," Grant told him. "Five boys and one girl."
"So put all the boys together and put the girl with a
predominantly female group."
"The only predominantly female grouping we have is an Atlantean
from one of the minor houses. It has one boy, and of course, he's
"Slide her in with the Atlanteans then," Merrick told her.
"Yes sir," Grant replied.
"Is that going to be a problem?" Merrick asked. "Are her
parents some of the ones screaming the loudest?"
"Actually no. Her parents signed the co-ed waver without a
problem," Grant said.
"So it's one of the boys parents objecting? Financially or
politically connected, or is he just someone who wants to be a pain in
"Both. He's the son of a local media giant who travels a
afraid of some girl getting pregnant and using it to tap the family
fortune, I think."
"The man signed off on the waivers, correct?" Merrick asked.
"The boy passed the baseline aptitude tests to get in, correct?"
Grant replied, "Barely."
"In that case, board him with the other baseline boys like we
earlier. Send his father another copy of the handbook with the articles
involving housing as well as his signature highlighted. If he
pull his son, then we can always refund him the difference in tuition,"
Merrick told her. "Some people are beginning to see that there
political and economic advantages to having social and business
connections to transhumans. Let's face it, a huge chunk of the
wealth is in the hands of various transhumans: Gates and Kevin Murphy,
the Greenboughs, the Wrought, Doctor Plainwalker, and of course the
Lords of Atlantis have more money than God."
"Not to mention the sizable amount that you and your
family have managed to amass," Grant said.
"There is that. How do you think we're paying for the new
uniforms?" Merrick snarked.
"Oh? Didn't Mrs. Bishop tell you? M-7 is donating the new
They're a bonus for us testing out the new combat uniform design
Kevin Murphy is coming up with. He wants to eventually market it
Merrick turned and looked at his wife as she came through the
door. "No. Mrs. Bishop didn't tell me."
in the hell did we end up here? Leighanne
asked herself as she waited with the rest of her family for the results
of the judges' voting. They were back stage at the Miami
Center where Stars of Tomorrow were holding
auditions for the
upcoming season. She couldn't believe that Corey had made it this
It wasn't because of any lack of talent- he had that in droves.
was because of his choice in music.
Her first husband- Coreys father- Dillon, had introduced Corey to
she called honky-tonk country. From an early age, the two would
and sing along with Hank Williams, Johnny Horton, and a plethora
other older country crooners. When Corey turned four, Dillon had
Corey down at the family piano and they began to peck out the chords of
some of their favorite tunes. It wasn't long before he'd bought
beginner's guitar and the two would sit and play together a lot later
into the night than Leighanne was comfortable for her son staying up.
She'd tried to temper her son's taste in the older stuff some.
introduced him to some more modern artists, but to be honest she
couldn't get him much past Sawyer Brown and Diamond Rio. He had
honky-tonk on the brain. She secretly suspected that what Corey
about the songs was the ballad aspects of telling a story that was so
prevalent, especially in Johnny Horton's stuff.
When Dillon had been murdered, she got the feeling that
seeing his music as a connection to his father. He'd gone even
into it telling her that it showed what he was feeling. That
her. Corey was one of the few people in the world whose mind she
not easily read and she was afraid that the stuff would sink him even
deeper into a depression. But, he'd surprised her, and had
right. The music was a way for the little boy to express the
that were tearing him up inside. Just before being injured, he'd
again submerged himself into his music, trying to give his feelings
some form. Now she knew that he had been pining over the fact
Chris had no interest in him beyond just being best-buds. At the
it had worried her.
After recovering from the accident, and then Dragon War he
down, and actually gotten a boyfriend, but once again the siren song of
his music called him back to it. When Bonnie had shown him the
advertisement for the auditions for the Stars of Tomorrow television
program, even she'd encouraged him to enter. She was hoping that
program would force him to expand his musical repertoire. After
there were only so many honky-tonk songs. Weren't there?
She watched as Bonnie, Chris, D'an'a and Stefan all hovered
waiting on the final score. Leighanne wasn't surprised when the
announced that Corey was in first place. She knew he was good,
just glad that the judges thought he was too.
His bald head gleaming in the overhead lights, Mr. Carville, the
show's producer came backstage and clapped his hands saying, "Okay,
you've got one hour to get changed and get ready for the final
performance." Something caught his eye and he looked behind
and asked, "Who let the Navy in here?"
Leighanne turned around to see Captain Carter standing there with
of her officers. She smiled over at Mr. Carville and said,
excuse us, we need to speak with Coral and Depth Charge. It's
important." Sensing something was amiss, Leighanne slipped her
phone from her pocket and started recording.
The tall bald man's eyes narrowed and he asked, "Can't it wait
until after the auditions?"
"Actually; no," Captain Carter said, her blue eyes narrowing back
the man. "There are lives at stake." Leighanne smiled
to herself and
realized that Mr. Carville had no idea the kind of woman with which he
was dealing. Captain Carter was the captain of the Navy's only
powered research submarine- the Hyperoodon. The ship
that was a
joint venture between the Navy and the Woods Hall Oceanographic
Institute and had been making some unbelievable discoveries of late.
Captain Carter on the other hand had been very instrumental in
the navy to work with Corey and D'an'a in various research projects.
She was definitely a force with which to be reckoned.
Corey turned to her and asked, "What's wrong Captain
"There's a sub that's down in your favorite stomping grounds,
Over a thousand sailors are trapped on the edge of the Puerto
trench," Captain Carter told him. "We've sent down an ROV but it
lost, and we don't know to what. The problem is that side-scan
shows the edge of the crevasse on which it's sitting is exhibiting
signs of crumbling. If it does, it'll be the greatest naval loss
the Arizona." She looked up at Mr. Carville and said,
"So like I said, lives are at stake, sir."
Carville crossed his arms and said, "Be that as it may, if you
these auditions, you'll lose your place in the competition. The
are the rules."
Corey and D'an'a exchanged glances and looked over at Leighanne.
Corey shook his head and said, "Mr. Carville, you have no idea
much I want to go on your show. But as Captain Carter said, lives
at stake. If those sailors die, I get the feeling any victory
that contest would taste like ashes. You set the rules for the
contest, and I understand that you don't want to bend them. That's
cool." He looked over at Captain Carter and said, "But I can't
down someone asking us for help; not when people could die."
Leighanne had never been prouder of her son when he handed Chris
guitar and said, "Take care of this for me please." He looked up
Captain Carter and told her, "I'm afraid that we left our harpoons at
home. If time is as important as you say it is, then we don't
time to get them."
Carter nodded and said, "Let's go. I've got a jet a waiting to
take you to the Constellation."
Leighanne said, "Actually, your harpoons are in the back of
Corey nodded and said, "Then let's get them and get on our
turned to Mr. Carville who was shaking his head saying, "Trust me,
you'll regret this."
Corey smiled at him and told him, "Maybe. But I know I'd
helping even more." Without another word they left the auditions.
had been one hell of a day, and Lorna was glad to be back at their new
home. The place was finally coming together and starting to feel
a real home. She smiled at the thought how many little personal
touches each of them had put into the place to make it feel like home.
She tossed her keys into the little silver bowl on the table-
something Aerin picked up at a flea market in Eastern Kentucky- shucked
her business jacket and lay it over the banister leading upstairs as
Leif entered behind her.
The two had been back east doing a talk show for M-7 while Corbin
Aerin were out in what was left of California stringing the last few
miles of power cable. That was one for the record books, the
island chain had been rewired and resupplied with electricity by M-7 in
just a little over a year. And it was all optical relay, so there
no danger to anyone who may end up getting into the lines. It was
brand new state of the art technology, and used the most abundant
resource on the planet: sand.
Even eight hours later, Lorna was still chuckling at the way Leif
handled the rather candid questions thrown at him by the women on The
Vista. He actually called one of the grand dames of female
slut and an adulterer on national television, and made her sit and take
it. Not in so many words mind you, but he made it clear that
were somethings a gentleman doesn't discuss, and he sure the hell
doesn't write a book about sleeping with a married US Senator.
pretty much left the woman speechless for the rest of the interview;
which was a good thing. It allowed Lorna to engage the other
women about important issues, like the President's new Transhuman
Registration Bill that was appeared to be stuck in the Senate.
They talked about the rising star of Beth Nichols, formerly
as she geared up her own political campaign. Most of all, it
her pretty much direct the conversation where they wanted it to go.
During their little twelve minute segment, they managed to cover
the good that M-7 was doing out west in getting California back online,
and how the company had shifted gears and was now working almost
exclusively with State and Local police jurisdictions to help deal with
terrorism, natural disasters and the occasional transhuman bad guy.
Lorna would be the first to admit though that the main reason
been able to do that was simply the strength of their personalities.
Most people were incapable of meeting the gaze of any of the
for more than a few seconds. It was simply a matter of divine
meeting human perceptions. There was no psionic manipulation-
Aerin's area of specialty- instead it was simply what Corbin called
their "awe factor". Whatever it was, it made their
much easier. It also sent a message to the talking heads. The
will not tolerate having their personal lives hung out like last week's
dirty laundry. There were still a few people in this world with
self-respect and class.
As she kicked her shoes off next to the stairs she sighed and
across the expensive Persian rug- something that Corbin had bought
while in Germany- on the way to the kitchen. As she passed
main living room, she looked over at the small altar that Aerin and
Leif kept by the fireplace. Something was missing. Entering
kitchen with Leif right behind her, she asked, "Leif, where's your
Leif smiled and slipped past her. He opened the fridge and
the jug of milk and took a long swig. Putting it back in the
he smiled over at her and said, "I loaned it to Wade."
"Why did you loan the hammer you and Aerin use for blot to Wade?"
asked as she picked up an apple and took a bite and then opened the
back door to let the cats in.
Both cats immediately flew in on feathered wings and landed at
blond's feet and began rubbing up against his legs. He reached
and gently stroked both of them between their wings and then smiled
over at her. "Lee Plainwalker was attacked by a vampire.
Wade and a few others are going teach him the error of his ways."
Lorna couldn't believe any vampire would be dumb enough to break
Covenant. Going after a kid meant the final death- no questions
"Is he okay?"
Leif nodded and said, "Yeah, he's staying with the Trey
Greenbough's grandparents in Alfheim."
"Somehow I get the feeling that he's in far more
danger there than here," she said with a smile.
"What do you mean?" Leif asked as he took down a can of wet cat
food from the cabinet.
"All that cute blond hair and all those alf girls. He's
age when they start playing "I'll show you mine if you'll show me
"Yeah, there is that. I understand that Trey spent quite a
few afternoons out in the barn with this girl named Ljufa."
"I thought that was Ridvin," she said as she leaned against the
counter watching her consort feed the cats. It was such a
between reality and his reputation. Such a huge ferocious man was
down one of the most gentle souls she'd ever known.
looked up and asked, "How do you know about Ridvin?"
"Some stories are so poignant, so primal that they get out.
told us the story when we were little. I think she was trying to
prepare us for working with you."
He nodded and dished out the food. "We're very careful
mentioning Ridvin. Rumor has it that there's been some wheeling
dealing with someone and my uncle concerning Ridvin and nobody wants to
She frowned and said, "That hardly seems fair. I mean if
nobody remembers him, what happens to his soul?"
"That's what we're afraid of jinxing. Nobody is sure, but
there's definitely something going on." Leif told her.
"Okay, but what's that got to do with you loaning Wade your
she asked as she caught herself watching the way the light played
across his muscles. He moved with a grace and ease that belied
"It's one of the few things we can do: bless
things," he told her. "Can you imagine what's that thing will do
to a vampire?"
"But Wade's Wiccan, not Asatru," she said.
"No, but it's close enough," Leif said. "And I made a point to
put a little extra in the blessing."
She smiled at the thought of Leif going an extra little bit to
sure that he could get a dig at the vampire who'd attacked their little
friend. When they were at the Academy, little Lee had sort of
darling of every class. He was a bright and vibrant little boy
reveled in his ability to shapeshift into a metallic werecat-like
feral. The idea of any vampire attacking him made her blood boil.
"What did you do?" she asked.
"Let's just say that when Wade needs it against the vampire, he
can share some of my strength," he told her.
"That's going to impress Junior," she told him stepping in close
and running her hand across his broad chest.
"I thought it might," he said, sweeping her to him with a
that always surprised her considering his strength. He bent down
kissed her gently and she felt a fire begin to burn inside her.
been feeling it build all the way to the airport, and then on the
flight home. The kiss simply turned up the heat, transforming it
a slow burn to a sudden inferno in her loins.
She pressed her smaller frame against his and pulled his face
hers and kissed him fiercely. He wrapped his strong arms around
and smiled into the kiss as his large hands began to massage her
backside. She heard a groan and realized that it was coming from
own throat. She felt her sex begin to heat up, and could feel a
heat spreading out from the crotch of her panties. With her
she reached up under the sharp business skirt she was wearing, hooked
her thumbs into the sides of her underwear and pushed them them down.
Breaking the kiss, she stepped back and slipped them the rest of
way down her legs and stepped out. Leif gave her a questioning
and asked, "What's gotten into you?"
"I've been on a slow burn ever since you told that old hag with a
speech impediment that you were not going to discuss your bedroom
activities on national television with people you don't know.
called her on admitting to an affair with a married man, I thought her
jaw was going to hit the table. The look you gave those two
comediennes was priceless. You were my knight in shining armor
she told him reaching for his belt buckle.
chuckled and said, "Don't you want to take this to the bedroom then?"
"Why? she asked in a very seductive voice. "We're here, and
ready." He smiled and kissed her again, all the while she was
at the belt of his dockers. Lorna had never met a man who could
out a pair of slacks like Leif Hunter- both front and back. But
again, she'd admit that she was prejudiced.
Finally getting them open, she pushed his slacks and briefs both
the front of his well toned thighs and smiled at the eight inch pillar
of hard wide flesh that was making a slow arc as it rose in front of
his stomach. She reached down and took the length in her hand and
stroked it up and down reveling in feeling the way the foreskin would
roll up over the glans; loving the wide expanse that she knew would
stretch her and give her that wonderful sense of being full that she
she so craved.
She lifted one leg up and wrapped it around his waist until she
feel the tip of his dick poking at front of her slit. Then with a
grace and ease of a gymnast, she lifted the other, climbing his frame
until she had her legs locked behind her. She felt his hands go
her ass to support her weight as she lowered herself onto his dick,
loving the way it stretched her opening wide. Leaning in, she
a playful smile and kissed him. "I've been so hot, I'm surprised
couldn't smell it."
He smiled and kissed her back as he began to lift her up until
cock was barely inside her, the wide head flaring the inner lips of her
pussy, and then let her slide back down until he was embedded in her to
the point that his white pubes were mixed with her black. "I did,
a gentleman doesn't comment unless invited."
"Well you know the invitation is always open for you or my
she said told him briefly thinking of the their other two lovers out in
He nodded to her and began to walk over toward the table in the
of the room. She heard the ripping of cloth and realized that she
probably should have let him step out of his slacks before impaling
herself on him. He just smiled at her sheepishly and said,
these pants can go in the garbage." He set her butt on the table
she leaned back on the hard maple. Pulling her legs up a little
higher, he hooked her ankles over his broad shoulders and went to work
thrusting into her seriously.
She was so horny it didn't take long for her to be right on the
of a powerful first orgasm. With a couple of long powerful
took her over the edge. She felt a spot at the back of her pussy
suddenly explode and rush through her body. For just a second,
felt her vision shrink to small tunnel and the only thing she could do
was make a quiet mewling sound.
When she came down from it, she looked up to see Leif's handsome
just inches from her as he continued to pound away at her. With a
smile he said, "That didn't take long."
She pulled him down into a kiss, as he set about to seriously
her. It was a failing of the tall blond man. He always
wanted to make
sure that his lover reached climax before he did, wanting to ensure
that his lover has a good of time as he was. sometimes forgetting that
he's supposed to enjoy it as well. It was a strange failing in a
magecat, since they had a reputation of being sensualists. She
as he pushed her blouse up over her breasts and ran a hand under her
bra. With a quick twist he unhooked the front clasp and buried
left nipple in his mouth.
Before she realized it, she was on the upswing of second orgasm.
started bucking her hips against his, meeting his thrusts and relishing
the feeling of his wide dick stretching her, filling her, loving her.
Right as she reached the point of no return, he suddenly started
pounding away harder, his body became stiff, and she could feel the
length of flesh buried in her begin to spasm. She knew he was filling
her with his cum and that was all it took to send her over the edge.
Several minutes later, he looked at her and asked, "Are you sated
enough now to take this to the bedroom?"
She nodded, smiled and asked him, "Why are you so
interested in taking it to the bedroom?"
He nodded over to where the two winged cats were sitting by the
watching them. He said, "Because I'm tired of hearing them