CHAPTER 10: GOING INTO A FIGHT AND COMING OUT WITH A DATE
The next three years passed in a blur. Every summer General Presley came to me, and every summer, I gave up my leave. By the time I graduated in the Spring of ’86, I’d managed to accrue an extra three month’s leave. I still didn’t get to take more than a week of it, because I got accepted to the SEALs and ended up spending that last summer in some of the most intensive training in my life. And I was damn good at it too.
When I finally did get around to taking some leave almost two years later, I found myself in another strange situation. I made it home in time for Winter Nights and got the shock of my life: a baby brother. It had been almost a year since I’d seen my parents, and in none of their calls nor their letters had mentioned Mom being pregnant again. But there was no doubt about it. He had the cutest little tigers ears, tail, and claws, as well as red hair and green eyes. He looked so much like I did at that age, it was frightening.
Mom named him Wynn, and refused to discuss why she didn’t tell me she was expecting. There was a whole lot more going on that I knew about, but I was not about to pry into my parents’ sex life. I did however, wonder which of the seven other mage cats had died. You see, that was the rule: there could only be nine of us at a time. There was me; my father; Dane Northman aka Kottrtru, my great aunt Bea in Georgia, Sasha, Leif- who at the time was only about three I think, Eliza, and Roanna, and I hadn’t heard of any deaths. I asked my father about it and he said there had been none, and that he didn’t understand it all either, but that there was something going on that neither of us were privy to. He did tell me that he and mother were taking a sabbatical from the DNA until Wynn was old enough to start school.
Wynn was a cute little tyke. He was only a couple of months old and I ended up spending most of October spoiling him rotten. It was already clear that he had inherited Dad’s enhancer gene as well, and was going to be a hand full. I teased Mom about getting me out of the house just in time to start all over again. She just smiled at me over morning coffee and said , “I have a little better idea of what to expect now. Besides, I went over a thousand years without a child, I think you’d cut me a little slack on a second one in twenty-plus years.”
“Oh, I’ll cut you some slack,” I told her. “Just remember what it’ll be like when it comes time for football.”
“Or he starts seducing the local preachers’ daughters and sons?” she grinned at me.
I shrugged and said with a lopsided grin, “Hopefully, I’ll be able to give him the benefit of my vast experience.”
“Let’s just hope that it won’t lead to as much tragedy,” she said.
“Mother, that’s the way the Lady made us. There’s no getting around it. We sleep with anything that will oblige us. Dad, and myself just figured a way around those urges.”
“Really?” she asked over coffee. “You really seeing that much of Emory? And I do remember getting a long call from Doctor Leger in New Orleans about a boy named Alec. Really Trey, you could at least wait until they were eighteen now.”
I blushed and shrugged, trying not to show my embarrassment, “Alec was the most pleasant part of a very unpleasant affair.”
“Affair?” she asked still teasing me.
“It’s as good a word as any. And although the sex was fun, what happened because of it was not intentional. Ailuranthropy is not supposed to be anywhere near as infectious as lycanthropy, and the mage cat strain of it even less so. On top of that, I never bit the boy.”
“Then how did he contract it?” she asked.
I stared at her over my coffee cup and asked point blank, “Do you really want to know? I mean, you’ve always been pretty sanguine about my sex life, but you’ve never really wanted to know the details.”
She stopped for a moment and considered what I was intimating. For once it was in her cheeks that the blood was rising. “I guess not. I can imagine how it happened if you didn’t bite him.”
“And before you say anything, I’m always very careful now that I know it’s a possible outcome,” I told her.
“Good,” she said. “Although you’re an adult now, it’s still not quite time for you start a family.” She sighed and leaned back in her chair and seemed to consider something. “For now, the Navy is going to prefer that you not be married. You’re entering into a very active period of your career. They’d rather you not have to worry about a wife.” She stopped and I could almost see the cogs in her mind working as she considered her words carefully. “And although because of your unique circumstances they may be more willing to look the other way when it comes to people like Alec, especially since it is part and parcel to what you are, they will not tolerate you flaunting it. It’s not fair, but it’s the way of the world. This government isn’t quite ready to deal with the concept of shield mates. Eventually however, probably around the time you hit lieutenant commander, they are going to start hinting at the idea of you finding a wife. If you haven’t by the time you hit commander, they won’t be hinting anymore. They like their officers to have some kind of ties by that time.”
I nodded, and sipped my coffee. I understood what she was saying. I’d already experienced the Navy’s willingness to look the other way when it came to regs about same sex partners. I got a little more leeway than others because my commanders were usually advised of my status through the DNA. It was a precursor of what would eventually become Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. “I’m not going to do anything that’s going to get me into trouble with the Navy. I have a little more control of myself than when I was twelve,” I told her. “I learned a few lessons the hard way,” I smiled and then asked. “What ever happened to Ljufa anyway?”
“Oh, she married a smith several villages over. I understand she’s expecting her first this winter.”
“I’m glad for her,” I said. “Through her, you taught me a valuable lesson: sometimes it’s just sex.”
“I was worried about that one. When you were younger, you really did tend to wear your heart on your sleeve. Your father and I saw that incident building several months before it happened. That’s why he had the talk with you about condoms and gave you one to put in your wallet.”
“You saw that? Why didn’t you stop it?” I asked shocked.
“Because I knew there was no way to stop it. You and JD were both so hot for that little girl that I knew it was a matter of time before one or the other if not both of you tumbled her.”
“Mom!” I said in surprised.
“She was a walking time-bomb for the pack, and the fact that you tumbled her first saved the pack no end of grief,” she said. “That’s why, while the good Reverend Wilson was packing his family up to get them out of town, I shipped you off to your grandfather’s and aimed Ljufa at you. It’s where I also knew that Ridvin was likely to find you.”
Now that idea hit me like a ton of bricks. Even years later, I still felt the sharp pain in my heart at the thought of him. I drained my coffee and got up to fix another to hide the hurt I knew was showing in my eyes. With my back to my mother while I poured myself another cup I ventured, “You know that if he had lived, it was very likely that things would have never gotten so serious between me and Emory,” I said trying to hide the huskiness in my voice.
“I know, Hon,” she said. “You have no idea how much I hate what happened. But you did right by him. I was wrong to try and stop you from avenging him. At the time, all I could see was my sixteen-year-old son going off to battle Skytreader’s kin, and that scared the dickens out of me. When you have your own children you will understand.”
I nodded and sat back down with my coffee. The last three months aboard the Teddy Roosevelt had left me with a taste for what is commonly called "flight deck sludge". Basically coffee that gets up slaps you and tells you it's time to get to work. Mom's coffee, although good seemed a little weak for me now. "Could we talk about something else?" I asked.
She smiled at me and said, "Sure. You still planning on going to Birmingham today?"
I nodded. "Yeah, Doctor Caroline Green is going to be at
signing her new book. I wanted to get an autographed copy."
"She's the one doing all the
research into transhumans isn't she?" Mom asked.
"Yeah. You thought about sending me to her school out in San Medilla when I was starting to be difficult," I teased her.
"You weren't difficult, Trey. We just didn't know how to deal
your powers. Up until you, your father was one of the strongest
cats to ever live. When your strength went off the chart, we
sure how to deal with it. But you managed to get it under
we dropped the idea. In some ways, you were unique among the
nocturnals." She smiled and added, "That is until Wynn. But
is, your half alfar, you're a mage cat, and you carry the Atlantean
Gifted Gene." I could tell there was more that she wanted to say,
was not going to.
"Well, she's starting to hint that some of her findings are going
be eye-opening to the transhuman community," I said. Of course
what she was hinting at- a correlation between certain transhuman
genetic markers and the genetic combination's involving human
sexuality- would eventually force a major rethinking of how we view
masculinity. I was definitely interested in what she had to say.
was the only person that was doing serious research in mapping the
transhuman and human genome at the same time.
Mom just shook her head and
asked, "When did you become so interested in bio-genetics?"
I shrugged, "I like to keep up
with what's being said about us," I told her.
"Well, don't let it get you too tied up in knots. Remember, no matter what anyone else says, you were created by Freyja for a specific reason. That means you have all the tools to do the job you were intended to do, and many that you weren't. She's the most powerful will worker of the Vanir, and possibly of all the Elderkin. You are a work of art, by a master. Don't let anyone tell you different," her voice was fierce.
I smiled at her and said, "Don't
worry. I'm not doubting any of that. How could I- not after the
Night of the Howls."
"Thought you didn't want to
talk about that," she said.
"I don't. I'm just pointing out that I understand what you
saying. It was driven into my head rather poignantly during that
time," I told her and drained the rest of my coffee.
"So what have you and JD got
planned this weekend?" she asked.
"Not much. He has to work Sunday night, but we're going up
cabin on the river and do a little fishing Friday and Saturday."
"And get into his uncle's
shine?" she asked with a smile.
"Well, he does owe me a drink,"
I told her.
"Well, at least you two can't
get into too much trouble getting drunk and fishing."
"Drunk?" I asked her.
"I've never been drunk in my life."
She just grinned, "That's too
bad. Sometimes cutting loose a little is good for the soul."
I just laughed. "That's one of the little prices I pay for what I am, Mother. I heal almost instantly, and I can gargle bleach, but at the same time alcohol has no effect on me. Neither do pain killers. If I'm injured, I just have to suffer through the pain."
She nodded to me and then said, "Go on and get out of here before
wakes up from his nap and I make you change his diaper."
I put my cup in the sink, grabbed my jacket and keys and headed out the door. I couldn't help but smile when I slid behind the wheel of my LM002- it had been a graduation present last year. I hadn't had much of a chance to drive it since I'd spent so many months in training or at sea, so just a chance to get it on the road was always a treat.
A quick trip down Highway 69 put me on 78, and forty minutes later, I was entering 20 from Arkadelphia Road and headed into Birmingham proper. Twenty minutes after that I was at the new Galleria Mall- the largest in the Southeast at that time. For Wednesday afternoon in October it was doing a pretty brisk business.
I was on leave, but my CO Commander Thomas wanted us to
colors" when we were out and about on leave. The navy was gearing
for a major recruitment drive, and he wanted us help out with that as
much as possible. Since I was only going to the mall book store,
nowhere that regs would forbid I'd obliged. That meant I was
my khakis and garrison cap and the few ribbons I'd acquired. The
single gold bar on my collar denoted I was a lowly ensign.
I got quite a few double takes as I entered the mall. Navy
aren't exactly common in Birmingham as it's at least five hours to the
nearest ocean so it did attract a bit of attention. Hey, I'll
it; I liked the attention and I got more than a couple appraising looks
as I walked around the place. I also got a couple of hard looks too.
Those came from aging hippies who hadn't quite realized that the
disrespect for the people who protected their freedoms had gone out of
style with that peanut farmer from Georgia.
There was just starting to be a crowd at the book store, so I
my way through rather carefully. Doctor Green's book was on a big
display so I picked up a copy and got in line behind this tall brassy
red head of an Amazon. She was taller than I was, and I clear six two
in my socks, and she was built like Lynda Carter on a good day. I
noticed the UAB student ID clipped to her bag. For some reason,
also smelled of peanut butter and jelly.
"Does the line seem to be moving
much at all?" I asked.
She turned and looked down at
me. Noticing the uniform, she smiled slightly and said, "Slowly, but it
I smiled back and nodded saying,
"As long as it moves, I can wait."
"Hurry up and wait, huh?" she
"Something like that," I told her. Smiling broadly I said, "I'm Trey Greenbough."
"Gates Murphy," she said offering me her hand. I took and
strength there I hadn't expected. It wasn't over powering, but at
same time it felt like there was more to it than a mere human. I
briefly wondered how many transhumans were reading Doctor Green's book.
"There's a lot of people here for what is basically a non-fiction
book. I mean it's not like it's the latest Tom Clancy novel." I
to where Cardinal of the Kremlin was still on the New York
Times' Best Seller list. I also noted
that Diane Duane had a new Trek novel on it too: Spock's
reached over and picked it up. It would be good reading for my
duty hours on deployment. I could also trade it for another high
book on the ship's book exchange. Sailors tended go for the geek
of literature. There were even several Dungeons and Dragons games
going on aboard the Teddy Roosevelt. All of them were with enlisted men, but they were
Gates smiled as I picked the Duane book up and said, "That one's
really good. I won't tell you who's behind it, but it's worth the
read. Have you caught the new series?" she asked.
I shook my head and said, "Only the first episode. Wasn't too impressed with a ship's captain who surrenders his ship on the first mission." Actually I didn't like Picard at all; never have trusted the French to do what's right.
"Why does that not surprise me coming from a naval officer. But I know what you mean," she smiled at me wickedly. "It just doesn't feel the same. I miss Kirk and Spock. So what brings a sailor all this far inland?" she asked.
"My home's over in Walker County. I home for leave, and heard about Doctor Green being here so I decided to buy a copy of her book and get her to sign it."
"You have an interest in transhumans?" she asked.
I nodded, "You never know what I might meet out there," I casually pointed the trident and anchor on my uniform. "After Beirut, we're expecting anything to happen."
She looked down and raised an eyebrow. "A SEAL? I'm impressed."
It was about that time, that my stomach decided to make a loud noise and remind me that I'd had an early breakfast, and only three cups of coffee since then. I blushed and asked, "Impressed enough to let me buy you lunch after this?"
"How do you know I'm not
married?" she asked.
"No ring," I told her pointing
to her hand.
"I could be seeing someone," she
countered with a coy smile.
"But your eyes tell me that if
you are, it's not serious." I could be coy too.
"I can't make lunch today. I have to get to class right after here. But I'd like a rain check," she said with what seemed to be a truly regretful sigh. "If you're going to be in town a few days."
"I'd like that," I told her. "I reached into my pocket and took out a small notebook I've carried since my cadet days and wrote my parent's phone number on it. "Ask for Trey."
She quickly scribbled her own number on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I smiled and pocketed it thinking that at least she seemed to realize that I wasn't going to be in town for long. "Call me. I'm home most even..."
"EIIIIGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!" a scream suddenly cut through the front of the line and people began surging toward us. I caught myself rolling off to the side as the crowd rushed for the main doors behind me. I sniffed the air and smelled ozone and something with the odor of freshly-turned earth.
Looking around quickly, I noticed the large black half globe in the center of the store on the ceiling. I quickly traced a series of runes in my palm and released my will. I heard the camera behind the globe sizzle and fry and I smiled to myself. I looked around to make sure that Gates had gotten out safely but was surprised to see her on the opposite side of the flow of people pulling a long wicked-looking handgun from her purse. She winked at me and nodded toward the back of the store.
A clerk was lying on the floor in a growing puddle of blood. The table where Doctor Green had been sitting was overturned. A short Japanese man in a garish blue costume with white lightning bolts all over it was holding her by one arm. Holding the other was a tall female that looked like a cross between a Gorn and and a Sleestack. She was all green and brown with a long tail and clawed hands and feet. There was a sail-like fin that ran from just above her eyes across the top of her head and down the back of her neck like some dinosaur.
"Oh wonderful," the man said.
"A sailor wants to play the hero."
Suddenly lighting leaped from his eyes and slammed into my chest. As I felt the bolt of energy send charges of electricity to my muscles that sent me into uncontrollable and painful convulsions, I heard Gate's handgun bark several times, and then the lightning died.
I stood there feeling the polyester in my shirt melt to my undershirt. As my eyes cleared, I could see the man was now holding his right shoulder as his arm hung limp at his side. Blood was seeping through his fingers. It was a joint shot, and had to hurt like Hel. In the meantime, the female had let go of Doctor Green and was charging Gates.
"I'll handle Lizard Lady, you take out the Japanese guy!" the brassy red-head yelled at me and slung her gun to the side.
I didn't stop to think about another person putting their life on
line, I just nodded and reacted. Reaching under my watchband, I
the miniature sword I had stashed there and said "Vaxa!" I felt
grow in my grip until it was nearly four feet long. Isstonn's icy aura began to
cool the heat rising from my body as I felt my ears melt to the top of
"Neko!" the man screamed at me and let go of his shoulder.
see lightning dance around the wound, across his chest and down his
hand as he rose from the floor to hover in midair.
"I." I said in Japanese as I swished the sword to one side. "Am." Then to the other side. "Not. A. Catgirl!" I said, a slash at the air punctuated each word. I'm not sure what startled him the most; the fact that I kept coming at him, or my use of Japanese. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark form step from the shadows.
I turned to look just in time to see a flash of midnight blue and white dash in, grab Doctor Green, and then shadow port out. Just before he left the room, Night Angel gave me a quick thumbs up. I looked over at Gates and said, "That's it, the Doctor is safe!"
Just then, the Lizard Lady
slammed into her growling, "I'm no lady, I'm Serpenterra!" she stressed the last two
syllables. The two went tumbling into and then through the
counter behind Gates.
"And I am Neutron, and you were foolish to bring a metal sword to
fight one who controls electricity." Lightning lashed out toward me,
but scattered around the blade.
I growled and continued my shift
on up into my battle form, Isstonn growing with me. "Something wrong Neutron, Isstonn not conductive?"
He glided back to avoid me and hurled another ball of lightning
direction. This one slammed into my chest and once again, I felt
muscles wanting to spasm. But there is a difference in what a six
man can take and eighteen feet of weretiger can take. It hurt
less and I continued to press forward. I could see the fear begin
rise in his eyes.
"Again, you Americans are
throwing your weight around," he spat at me.
I feinted with a thrust to his left side and he pulled his
shoulder and arm out of the way of my blade. I moved in to take
advantage of the opening this created on his right, only to catch a
burst of lighting right in the eyes.
Suddenly the world went white and blue around me, and I could see spots everywhere. "Mjolnir's spit!" I cursed and swung in the direction I last saw him. Suddenly the room began to heat up and the floor rocked beneath us.
"Let's see how you like being encased in Earth?" I heard Serpenterra growl at Gates. I could hear the sounds of rock grinding against rock; of concrete and steel snapping and bending but I could see nothing.
Suddenly I was hit with another
blast of lightning to my face and I smelled burning fur. Stop fighting their fight! I
told myself. So you're blind. Even
a blind tiger can catch prey.
I stopped and stood stark still. I could hear the sounds of
rock along with a cold chuckle coming from off to my left. I
hear the sounds of the mall's security alarm going off, and I could
hear the sounds people screaming in the back ground. On top of
that, I could feel a static charge building up in my fur, behind me and
to my right. I feinted forward with Isstonn and
then suddenly twisted the blade sideways, and brought her back behind
me with a long one handed slash. I was rewarded with the feel of
biting deep into flesh and bone. I could hear the crackle of ice
forming as she imparted her rime frost.
Suddenly I was caught in what felt like ten gauge shotgun blast.
There was a loud popping sound and then rocks slammed into me from
left. I spun in that direction and suddenly felt Serpenterra's
hide wrap itself around me and we were both hurled through the wall
into the store next door. I think it was a clothing store, as I
feel cloth and steel racks all around me, but the whole world was still
one big blue blur.
The floor under me cracked and seemed to flow up and around my
foot. The very concrete beneath the carpet felt like some kind
as it began to climb my body. I twisted my feet in place and felt
concrete fight to gain purchase against me. I lifted one foot and then
another, and felt the flowing rock and concrete fall away from me
advanced on the sound of scales moving against the floor. No
how hard she tried, unless she stayed absolutely still, I could still
hear the sound of Serpenterra's scales moving against each other.
Suddenly I was hit with a blast of hot gooey weight that clung to my body and burned horribly. Fire is one of the few things that all therianthropes feel, and I was no different. It may not harm me that much physically, but it hurts on a spiritual level that is impossible to explain. I struggled to shake it off, but it seemed to cling to my fur and body like a second suit. "Kald vindr!" I commanded Isstonn and felt a cold north wind suddenly blow through the mall. Somewhere in my mind I heard the howling of wolves and briefly caught an image of woman of ageless beauty with white blond hair smiling at me: Skadi.
I felt the goo on my body begin to harden, and then crumble and break away. Slowly my vision began to clear- at the edges at first, and I could make out the forms of flames at either side of me. Whatever she'd hit me with had set fire to the clothing in the store. With a final shrug of my shoulders, I shook the stone from my body like a cat shaking off the rain. I caught sight of a great brown form ahead of me and I charged, Isstonn raised high.
"Whoa there!" I heard Gate's
voice. "I'm not her."
I sniffed the air and confirmed the smell of peanut better and grape jelly before asking, "Where?"
"That blast of cold wind really messed with her. She
that hole." She then pointed to a large hole in the concrete that
what I could tell with only about half my vision, was slowly closing.
"We'd better get out of here, before the Bippies arrive," she said grabbing my hand. Her strength was surprising as she pulled three quarters of a ton of weretiger out into the main concourse. "You know, you're attracting a lot of attention in that form," she said.
"I'll attract just as much if I go back to my human form as well.
Plus, I'll garner a ticket for indecent exposure," I told her.
Shrinking Isstonn down
and then slipping her back into the band of my watch, I said, "But I do
have another form that may be a little easier for us to get away."
I don't often use my housecat form for anything other than
reconnaissance, but it can sometimes be useful for other things. I
forced my body down into about ten pounds of tiger-striped tom.
did, I felt my eyes readjust and begin to heal the damage that the
lightning stroke did. I briefly wondered what happened to
unlike Bart, I can't talk in my tiger or my housecat form. Gates
scooped me up and headed out the main entrance and into the parking
surprisingly few steps we were across the lot and at her Ram Charger.
"I really do need to make it to class. Can I drop you off
she asked opening the door and dropping me inside.
I meowed up at her and then let my body shift to my human form. "
truck is over in the other parking lot. If you could take me
get my spare keys out from under the back bumper and hand me my gym
clothes, I'd appreciate it," I told her.
She gave me an appraising look, her eyes lingering over parts she
seemed to like before she finally nodded and asked, "Where?" She
held up my wallet, my name tag, my keys, and my notebook. "I
you didn't want these lying around."
I grinned at her and then directed her over to my truck and a few
minutes later I was pulling on my gym shorts and shirt. She
the truck appraisingly and said, "I didn't know Lamborghini made a
aren't many of them on the market. It's got a re-tuned Countach
It was a graduation gift from parents when I was commissioned," I
"Some graduation gift," she said watching as I pulled on the sweats and tee-shirt she handed me from the back of the truck. "You still gonna call me?" she asked casually.
"Hel, yes," I told her.
"I've got to get to any woman who wades into a fight like you do."
She just grinned at me and said,
"Good. I'm off most evenings."
"How about tomorrow night?" I
"Seven o'clock good for you?"
"Seven it is," I said as she took the notebook from beside me on
seat, and wrote down her address. "It's not hard to find."
I just grinned. I liked a
woman who could take charge. "See you then."
Mom and Dad of course had heard about the fight on the news, and figured it was me. Of course the fact that Night Angel had identified me as one of the good guys helped. He called Gates a concerned citizen exercising her Second Amendment rights in a dangerous situation. When I got home, I spent two hours on the phone to Commander Thompson explaining what happened, and then four hours explaining it to Dad.
I found out through Dad's contacts that Neutron and Serpenterra were both operatives of Richelieu Factor. There wasn't a whole lot on the lizard lady- she was reptilian, strong, and was a terrakinetic. However Neutron was a different story. He was rather well known in international circles. He was ainoko, half Japanese and half American, and took the hatred the "pure Japanese" threw at him and directed it toward his American heritage. He was a transhuman, with electrical based powers and one of the Factor's most highly paid assassins. Someone had wanted Doctor Green alive, otherwise we'd never been able to stop them in time.
I did what I could around the house, we were gearing up for Winter Nights after all, and and I spent some time watching my baby brother for Mom while she got things prepared for the feast. She did manage to tease me about being the only person she knew of that could go into a fire fight and come out with a date. Mostly though, I spent it relaxing. It had been a long series of training courses to get me where the Navy felt I was ready for missions. I knew when this leave was over, I was going right into the thick of things.
The next night found me ringing the door of a rather nice home in
Shades Valley. At first I wondered if she stilled lived with her
folks, because it was not what I would expect to be owned by a young
college student. A young blond boy of about four or five opened
door. He looked up at me, and his eyes narrowed as if he was
me. Then they became huge blue orbs of surprise. "Mom!
the door!" he called back over his shoulder.
"Now Kevin, how many times have I told you not to make
about what your power tells you," Gates came out of the back of
house and told the little boy. She smiled up at me and then said,
sorry. It's his gift. He can see to the heart of
I stood there stunned. "Some gift," I said finally gaining
composure to enter the home. "I wouldn't let that one get out," I
She smiled at me and said, "I know, we try to keep it under
think he was just excited to see you. "Kevin, this is my friend,
Greenbough. Trey, this is my son, Kevin."
The little blond boy looked up me with serious eyes, wiped his
his shirt and offered it to me. "It's nice to meet you, sir,"
"It's nice to meet you too," I
told him shaking his hand.
"I'm sorry. My dad's
running a little late picking him up. Do you mind waiting?" she
I shook my head, "Not at all."
Looking around I asked, "Will he mind?"
She shrugged and said, "I don't
think so. Dad and I have an understanding about things now."
I raised an eyebrow. "May I ask
a personal question?"
She smiled, and said, "Go ahead,"
"Where's Kevin's father?"
"In Washington; he's a US
I raised an eyebrow, "But
you're not married?"
She shook her head, "No."
She then leaned down to her son and said, "Go finish your juice
in the kitchen."
The little boy nodded seriously and then raced out of the living room. She gestured toward a large white chair in the tastefully decorated room. "He's like that. Never walks when he can run. Please sit down." She waited until I'd taken a seat and then said, "No, I'm not married. I had Kevin when I was fifteen, his father was forty-one and married. I was young and stupid; he was simply a sleeze bag." She grinned at me, "So, you don't have to worry about an angry husband busting in the bedroom door."
I raised an eyebrow at the
allusion. "Just making sure I'm not poaching," I told her.
"You're not poaching," she said.
Before I could say anything else, the doorbell rang and she got
answer it. A man in his mid fifties entered the home without
for her to get the door. He stopped in his tracks when he saw me
rising from my chair. However before he could say anything, Kevin
barreling through the living room and launched himself into the man's
"Whoa there, Kev!" he said in a
friendly tone. Looking over at me, he smiled and said, "Hello."
I offered my hand and said,
"Hello, sir. I'm Ensign Trey Greenbough."
He smiled at me and said, "That explains the uniform and the hair
At ease Ensign, I'm not going to bite you. I'm Kelly
"The senator?" I asked.
"The senator," he confirmed with
a smile. I'm surprised to see that you know a member of congress
not from your district."
"My parents have always stressed
the importance of being up on civic affairs," I told him.
He nodded and looked me up and down. He seemed to like what he saw and finally said, "So, you're the guy that helped Gates stop that kidnapping. Good for you." He turned and looked at her and said, "And good for you too."
"I don't understand," I said.
"My daughter's life isn't the easiest in the world. She
friends, and I'm glad to see that she's finally making them," he told
me. "Not many young men are willing to be friends with a young
mother who stands six foot six."
I smiled and said, "I always appreciate friends sir. I've helped my friends through some rough patches and they've done the same for me." I shrugged, "As for being a mom; Mom's are neat. As for unusual characteristics; we've all got those." I got the feeling that there was a whole lot more going on with this family than I suspected.
He looked at me and gave me a quick friendly wink and then looked down at his watch and said, "If we're going to make it back to Loganville before your mother starts worrying, we'd better get a move on. Has Kevin eaten yet?"
Gates shook her head, "No.
He insisted that you were going to take him to McDonalds so he
could share his fries with Ichy."
Senator Murphy laughed, "He's
still hauling that thing around?"
"Oh yeah, and I'm going to put it up in a few years and drag it out to embarrass him with it when he gets married," Gates told him. Turning to the the little boy she said, "Go get Ichy, and your bags and then say goodbye to Ensign Greenbough."
He nodded to her and then raced off to his room. She looked over at her Dad and said, "You take the drive back easy, Dad. And call me when you get there. If I'm not home leave a message on the machine."
"Now, who's worrying?" he smiled
"I am, and I always will."
She kissed her father on the cheek.
He returned it with a hug and
then looked over at me, "And you take care of my daughter."
I smiled and said, "It's just
He nodded and said, "An officer
and a gentleman to the end."
"Yes sir. I worked too
hard for this little gold bar."
"Good to hear, young man.
Anything not earned is never appreciated," he told me.
"Yes, sir." I replied.
Somehow this man made me feel like I was twelve years old again
and talking to my grandfather.
Before much else could be said, Kevin came running back into the
a small suitcase in one hand and the strangest looking little stuffed
animal I'd ever seen in the other. He put his things by the door
came over to me, "Goodbye Ensign Greenbough. I hope to see you
sometimes." Then turning to his mother he gave her a hug and a
the cheek and said, "Bye, Mommy." Then he turned to his
and said, "I'm ready Grammpa."
"Well, let's get out of here and
let the big kids go to dinner," Senator Murphy said.
"Yes sir," he took his grandfather's hand they headed out the door.
Kevin Murphy was probably the most pleasant, well-mannered kid I ever met. He grew up to be a serious young genius who had he lived would have changed the world in ways I can only imagine. It is for that reason alone that one of these days when I finally catch Cat's Claw, I'm going to kill her; very slowly and very painfully. And then I'm going after the people who hired her.
But that was eleven years in the future. This was then, and although I had an idea of what was coming, I had no idea who would have to pay what prices. Richelieu Factor, Shadu, and the UN were just starting to make their first moves in a battle that would last decades and cost millions of people their lives. Damn it sucked to be a foot soldier.
Not long after Senator Murphy had left with Gates son we found
ourselves seated at Le Chateau, one of the nicer restaurants in the
city. The wine was good, the food excellent and the
exquisite. As we sat talking about our lives and just getting to
each other, I came to realize that Gates was the kind of person that
could very well become a lifetime friend.
Over my glass of wine I asked, "I'm curious, I did some checking
found out that Neutron can generate a personal forcefield that stops
small arms fire. How did you manage to shoot him in the shoulder?"
She grinned at me and said, "First off, Reggie isn't a small arm.
He's a Redhawk .44 Magnum. Secondly, I've done my own
found out that most of these villain types that have force fields have
them set to stop nothing bigger than a .38 or the occasional .357.
Secondly, they are not set to handle dumb dumb rounds. I
rounds. First one is dumb dumb, the second is brass jacketed. The
sheer force of the whole round impacts on their force field instead of
getting deflected. That usually takes it down long enough for the
second to penetrate."
I raised an eyebrow. This woman had really thought about what she
doing. I was impressed. "So are you expecting to take on
on a regular basis?"
She smiled at me and said, "Eventually. My ultimate goal is
together a task force within the police departments to act as a rapid
response to transhuman threats. That way, the task force can
the distraction while people like yourself, Night Angel and that new
team out of Washington, Paraforce-1 can take down the real threats."