Him Who Made The Seven Stars
By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 45

"Some people are uncomfortable with the idea that humans belong to the same class of animals as cats, cows, and raccoons. They're like people who become successful and then don't want to be reminded of the old neighborhood." ~ Phil Donahue, American Hero and Patriot

Hunting the wild Aunt Helen ~

It was still early afternoon after the delivery men drove away. Bubba and Jack decided it was time to go on a safari to hunt for Aunt Helen. Bubba had no idea who or what she might be, but his uncle left instructions for Bubba to find her and take care
of her. As well provided for by his Uncle Brad as Bubba found himself, he felt a deep obligation to fulfill Brad's final wishes. Bubba gathered his keys and the men left for the forbidden barns. The huge structures were a project of his uncle. He designed them and had them built to his specifications. They were enormous and looked more like large airport hangars than barns for a ranch; however, there was no doubt they were built for a specific purpose: research and development – for what, was open for anyone's speculation. Very few people even knew they were there. They were nestled in a valley hidden by a high-rise in the surrounding hills and were mostly camouflaged by enormous, fast growing trees Brad imported from South America with the help of a botanist friend who was a fellow scientist. Only the inverted bow-shaped roofs could be clearly seen even from a second story window in the ranch house.

From Bubba's bedroom, he could barely see the lights over the entryway to each. Brad would always leave the red light on over the door of the barn where he was working. Bubba would walk out and ring the bell to gather him for supper. Later, when they got cell phones, Bubba would just call his uncle, and Brad would walk up to the house; however, if he was engrossed with a project Brad might forget and Bubba would have to walk down and get him. Bubba developed an unwitting paternal attitude toward his uncle over the years because he knew if he didn't make the effort to walk out to the barn and get Brad, he would forget to eat. He only ate two meals a day and most of the time Bubba fixed both. He didn't know how his uncle got along during the time he was away in the service or after he returned. He also wondered if Brad died earlier than his compatriots because of Bubba's lack of compassion to return home to take care of his uncle after his time in the Middle East. Bubba wondered if Helen might have acted as a caretaker for him. He hoped so.

"Damn, them things is like the Frank Lloyd Wright's of barns," Jack said, "They look like something I might imagine him to build. They look like two beached whales with their white underbellies turned to the sky," he added.

"Yeah, whales is a good image for them. Like Jonah, them whales swallowed up my only living relative and left me alone most of my childhood to take care of the rest of the place by myself. Uncle Brad provided for me and made sure I didn't grow up wild like most kids left to their own devices, but it was a lonely haul. I actually looked forward to my time in the service to get me away from here. Once't I was away, I began to yearn for my more simple life on the ranch. They's big enough to be considered whales. Together, they cover the same square footage as a football field. They even look bigger because they's separated about thirty-five yards," Bubba said.

"Were you ever in one of them?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, one time he invited me into his lab area, the one on the left, and showed me around. He told me they were built on the same plan. They's just alike inside. You won't believe the money he spent and the time it must have taken to build them damn things. All them skylights you see, light the interior during the day, and there's four stories in each one. It's an ingenious plan of open architecture to bring the light down through open areas under each of the huge skylights to every floor," Bubba explained.

"Which one we gonna' look in first, Bubba?" Jack asked.

"The one on the right. If I'm correct, he used the one on the left mainly for what he called his basic planning, his foot work, and the one on the right for his projects. If we find her anywhere, I'm almost certain it will be in there," Bubba said.

"Do you think we'll see Hoss again, Bubba?" Jack asked like a young school girl with a major crush on the captain of the football team.

"Oh, yeah! You can count on it, big Brother. Ain't chu' heard? It's in the stars, and next July we collide with Mars!" Bubba exclaimed.

"Well, did you ever?" Jack asked.

"Never!" replied Bubba.

"What a swell party this is!" Jack said, and the two cowboys laughed at their nonsense. "Lord, I'd never take you for a Cole Porter fan, Bubba," Jack said.

"Cole who? Don't know him, but I watched 'High Society' so many times when I's a kid I could sing all them songs from memory," Bubba replied, "I bet chu' ain't never run out into the pasture with your arms trailing behind you, twirl several times, and break into a chorus of 'The Hill Are Alive' only to have a bunch of dumb cows look at you like you's a loony," Bubba said and laughed.

"Don't bet the ranch on it, Cowboy!" Jack said, and they laughed together.

"It used to be my way of living life through other people's stories, and I guess they served their purpose until I got me a taste of the real world in Afghanistan. What we done to that poor country and them folks is awful – all in the name of money and corporate greed. We had no business, other than the whim of corporations, being over there. Now I'm older, and come to a giant fork in the road with them Daniels folks and what my uncle left me. I feel like I'm in my own movie and it's as exciting and wonderful as them early videos were for me back when I's a kid. And you know what? There's just as much a story around these hills as there is in them hills in Austria," Bubba declared.

"Maybe more, Bubba," Jack agreed, "They ain't got cowboys like Hoss in Europe," Jack said and grinned.

"Would you please," Bubba begged and laughed, "You think it's too early to call our bet?" Bubba asked and laughed.

"Yeah, of course it is," Jack replied then rolled his eyes, "Okay, I'll admit he strummed my magic-twanger, but that don't mean he's a good guy or we're compatible," he added.
"I could be wrong, he might not be the one, but I'd say he's a likely candidate," Bubba said.

"We'll see," Jack said, "and if it turns out he is, you'll be the first to know, little Brother," he added.
Bubba grinned at him. He liked small-talk banter with Jack. He could never carry on a conversation with Earl the way he communicated with Jack. Bubba liked to laugh and have fun, but Earl was always dead serious. He failed to see the humor or the irony in anything. For Bubba, life wasn't a long dull continuum but bits and pieces fitting together to make a bigger picture. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you feel like being silly, and other times you get serious; but they're all unique experiences and social properties of living a good life. Maybe his uncle was right about Earl, he was just plumb-dumb as a box of rocks – but oh, that buckaroo-butt what followed Earl everywhere was a thing of uncommon beauty. It brought tears to the big cowboy's eyes, made his mouth water, and his old cayuse would try to kick down the barn doors just to get a good whiff of it. He made a mental note to stop thinking about Earl's ass. He had more important things to get done, and he had responsibilities to others. He wouldn't let Earl Hickson derail him in his attempt to carve out a new life for himself.

The men arrived at the private entry door to the huge barn. There were two enormous doors on either end to bring in or remove large projects. Bubba took his uncle's set of keys and found the one for the door. Bubba knew there were two identical sets of keys, but he never found the second set. He had no idea what happened to them. They opened the door, and the two men accompanied by Bubba's watcher walked inside. They stood for a moment looking into the massive interior and were stunned by the simple beauty of the construction and the way the light fell through the open areas under the skylights to illuminate even the bottom floor. They could see everything, but there really wasn't a lot to see. Larger things were covered with enormous canvas throws, but there was something which caught Jack's eye at the far end of the building.

"Did you see that thing what's covered down there at the far end move when you closed the door, Bubba?" Jack asked.

"Naw, I didn't see nothing. I weren't looking," Bubba replied.

"I saw it move, Master Jack," Brute said, "There! It moved again. Up and down," he said.

"I saw that!" Bubba exclaimed, "Let's investigate," he said and they started to walk to the other end of the building.

When they got there, its movement was even more noticeable. It looked like it might be a huge balloon suspended under a canvas tarp and was bobbing slightly from the slightest air movement in the barn.

"Brute, get on the other side and let's uncover this thing, whatever it is, and take a look," Bubba said.

"Yes, sir, Master Bubba," Brute replied. Jack followed him to give Brute a hand and Bubba walked around the thing. They grabbed the huge coverlet and pulled it back and over the top to reveal what was beneath. They dropped the ends of the canvas cloth to the floor and stood in awe of what they saw.

"Holy shit!" Bubba exclaimed.

"He actually built one, Bubba," Jack said in reverent tones.
"What is it, Master Jack?" Brute asked looking at the large saucer shaped vehicle suspended in midair.

"It's a transportation device, Brute, like our trucks, only it flies through the air," Jack explained.

"What's holding it up?" Bubba asked.

"The way it's bobbing like a fishing cork, my guess is it's a lighter than air craft with ballasts filled with either helium or another light gas, but we'd have to check your uncle's plans to know for sure. Maybe we'll find a clue on board," Jack said.

"Well, I don't want to get started on something else until we find Helen. This will have to wait. Besides, maybe she knows something about it," Bubba said. Jack and Brute agreed, and they started a systematic search.

They pulled more canvas drop cloths off several other unusual things, but they had no idea what they were. They looked cool and advanced. They came to a portion of the bottom floor where there was a living area with an enormous oriental rug covering the floor with some expensive furniture and a small kitchenette which seem fully stocked with dishes, pots, pans, and eating utensils. They decided there was nothing on the bottom floor and climbed the stairs to the second, third, and fourth floors. They found nothing, but were amazed most every floor had something his uncle was working on covered by more canvas cloths. They peaked under a few but didn't see any signs of finding a person.

Jack began to notice the open spaces for the light shining down from the skylights was not uniform. There was one huge column which supported the very center of the structure and was considerably more massive than the others. It covered up two of the large skylights. Jack thought it was strange but didn't call it to Bubba's attention right away. Perhaps the large center dividers were deemed necessary to support the structures, they were simply added as an afterthought, and the skylights got covered up in the process. After a thorough search of the huge barn, when they didn't find what they were looking for, they walked back down the stairs and took a brief break to discuss the situation. They were sitting in the small living area on the bottom floor near a very ornate antique dinning table. The enormous main column acted like a backdrop, a room divider for the areas on either side, and on the walls, front and back, were expensive oil paintings which looked like the works of old masters; however, there was a couple modern paintings as well; one, a huge canvas in no frame of what looked like to Jack an unmistakable Jackson Pollock. Jack said, if they were originals, he thought they were probably worth a small fortune themselves.

"Are you sure both these buildings are exactly the same?" Jack asked Bubba.

"I think so, but it's been so many years ago since I was in the other, I can't be certain," Bubba replied.

"We have to take a look at the other building, Bubba," Jack said.

"Why?" Bubba asked, "If he created her, I'm almost sure Helen would be in this building with the rest of this collection," he added.

"I want to look at the way the building is put together," Jack said.

"Let's go then," Bubba said and they walked over to the other building and let themselves in.
It took Jack only a minute to notice a difference. "It ain't the same, Bubba," he said.

"Now you mention it, I think you're right, Jack, but what's different about it?" Bubba asked.

"The wall where the paintings are? There ain't one in this building," Jack said, "Look, see how the two huge center beams are on opposite sides of the building and span the arc between them. Yet they jut out into the rest of the area for almost a quarter of the expanse on either side," he explained.

"You're right, Brother. I just thought the other was a massive beam – a main support for the center," Bubba said.

"I'm pretty sure that's what your uncle wanted it to look like. Let's close this up and get back over there," Jack said.

Bubba didn't question Jack, and they returned to the other building. Jack immediately went to the wall and rapped on it with his knuckles. There was a small echo. "This ain't no beam, Bubba, there's another room behind this wall," Jack said.

"Where's the door?" Bubba asked.

They walked all the way around the massive structure and didn't find a hint of a door. They came back to the living area and sat down again. "Do you remember another door on one of the other floors?" Jack asked.

"I don't recall seeing one," Bubba replied, "Did you notice anything, Brute?" Bubba asked.

"No, sir. Like you, I thought it was all one massive piece of wood to hold the weight of the center," Brute replied.

"Your uncle was a very clever man, Bubba. There has to be an entry to that space around here someplace," Jack said. He looked around, and it suddenly struck him, "The rug!" Jack exclaimed.

"What about the rug, Brother?" Bubba asked.

"It's covering the entrance to the room where Helen is!" Jack said.

"Let's move these chairs off the rug. If I'm right, I don't think we'll have to move the table," Jack said.

With Bubba and Brute's brawn, it didn't take them anytime to move the four chairs and begin to roll up the rug toward the table. About halfway to the table they uncovered a trap door. They pulled it open and found a stairway down into a basement area which was well lit and didn't require any lights because of the direct light from above. They walked down into the basement and directly beneath where the false beam sat was a large room divided into three rectangular rooms surrounded by panels of glass. The two adjoining rooms on either end held machines and lab equipment, but lying on a padded table inside the middle room was the body of a woman with the rays of light from the skylight overhead concentrated on her nude body. She was covered only with a light-weight cloth which looked like cheesecloth.
"You's a fuck'n genius, Jack!" Bubba said quietly with appreciation.

"No, I just read too many kid's detective novels growing up. There was always a hidden drawer in a desk or a hidden room in a mansion," Jack said.

"You get extra cheese on your spaghetti tonight, Brother," Bubba said, and they laughed.

"What do we do now?" Jack asked.

"We go in and wake her up," Bubba replied.

"We should probably look around for some instructions," Jack said, "What if you have to turn her on?" he asked.

"I ain't never been with a woman, Jack," Bubba said quietly like a little boy.

"No, Bubba, that ain't what I meant. I mean like finding an ignition switch to start her up," Jack explained. Then he saw the grin on his friend's face, "Oh, shit! I just bought the farm on that one, didn't I?" he asked.

Bubba laughed, "E'aup, like a big catfish hit'n a trot line -- hook, line, and sinker," he replied.  

"Bubba, they's lights down here. See overhead, and where does that tunnel go?" Jack asked.

"Deductive reasoning, Sherlock. It goes off in the direction of the other barn," Bubba said.

"My, God, then there must be another trap door over there," Jack said.

"I'd bet my boots on it, Buckaroo," Bubba said, "Makes sense. He didn't want him or Helen to be observed. What better way to keep their lives private?" Bubba asked.

"Ingenious," Jack said, "Maybe Brute and I should stay out here while you go in and wake her, Bubba," Jack said.

"She can't be that wild, Jack!" Bubba exclaimed and got Jack and Brute giggling like school boys. "You don't want them other boys to call you a sissy, do you?" Bubba asked.

"I'll get you my pretty, and your wee sleekit cowerin' timorous beastie, too," Jack said in his best wicked witch imitation, quoting Baum and Burns.

"Now, that's my superhero big brother I know and love," Bubba said, and they shared a laugh.

The men came to the glass, but they saw no way to open the glass door. Jack noticed a square post sticking up from the floor about halfway down in front of one of the end rooms. He walked over to it. "I think this device unlocks the doors and will only open with a hand-print, Bubba," Jack said.

Bubba and Brute came to stand by Jack and looked at the small computer screen with one black button on the bottom. "Press the button on the bottom, Bubba," Jack alliterated and backed up several feet. Bubba and Brute looked at Jack like they were stunned.

"Now, wait a minute! You want me to press the button, but you back up?" Bubba asked raising an eyebrow. He and Brute laughed, "So much for my superhero-big-brother," Bubba said breaking up. Watchers rarely laugh but Brute did that time. Their laughter sounds more like a wheezing fit caused by asthma. "Here goes nothing," Bubba said and pressed the button.

"Please place the palm of your right hand onto the glass screen," a voice from an overhead speaker said. Bubba placed his right hand on the plate, and it scanned his hand and fingerprints. "Please state your pass-phrase," the voice instructed. Bubba's face went blank. He looked first at Brute and then Jack.

He heard a voice in his head. << Remember a phrase your uncle used to say to you? Try it, Bairn, >> Brute send to him.

"The eyes of Texas are upon you," he replied and the men heard the three door locks open.

"Thanks, Brute, I'm surrounded by frick'n geniuses. Ain't complain'n none. You get extra sauce on your spaghetti, my beloved pet," Bubba said and Brute grinned real big.

"He told you the pass-phrase?" Jack asked.

"He told me to remember a phrase Uncle Brad used a lot. That was it," Bubba said.

"Way to go, Brute!" Jack patted the huge beast on the back and Brute just beamed.

They walked over to the door of the center room, but there was no handle or place to open it. "Just press on it gently, Bubba. My hunch is, it's one a them spring loaded openers," Jack said.

Bubba pressed against the frame, and sure enough, the door popped open. Bubba could immediately smell the fresh air circulating in the room. There was a very subtle updraft but there were no stale or unpleasant odors. The room had a faint scent of lavender. The men entered the room and situated themselves around Helen. Bubba was impressed his Aunt Helen was a middle-aged woman about the same size and shape as Kate Daniels. She wasn't a raving beauty, but she would pass as a fine handsome looking rancher's wife in Texas. Bubba looked upon her and marveled at her perfection.

"Aunt Helen," he spoke to her with no response.

"Take her hand, Bubba," Jack urged him.

Bubba, raised the cheesecloth throw, found her hand, and took it in his to gently hold. Helen's eyes opened, she looked at Bubba and smiled the sweetest smile, she slowly raised his hand to her mouth and gently kissed it. "You came for me," she barely whispered.

"Of course I did. You were number two on my list just the way Uncle Brad planned, Aunt Helen," Bubba replied, "How are you?" he asked.

"Weak, Bubba. Very week. I've been in suspended animation for sometime – longer than Brad planned for me to be here, I think. I feed on the light, but we're just coming out of the darkest winter on record. You got here just in time. A couple more days and I would expire. All my programming and memories would be lost," she said, "I need to receive a full charge to return to optimum operating condition," Helen said.

"What can I do to help?" Bubba asked.

"Have you fledged, Son?" she asked.

"A couple of days ago. I'm still learning to use it. I almost scared me and ma' brother over there half to death a while ago when I's show'n off for him wiff' ma' new wings. I unwittingly took twenty years off his looks. He looks you'st a little older than me, now. If I charged-up and released my energy to you, can you tell me when to stop, Aunt Helen?" Bubba asked.

"Sure, there won't be any problem," she said softly.

"Okay, then, let me get set up," he said gently returning her hand to lay on top of the cover. Bubba quickly removed his Western shirt and handed it to Brute to hold for him. He disappeared and reappeared just as quickly with his new gold wings and leather harness. A big smile crossed Helen's face. Bubba took her hand again and leaned over her, "You ready, Aunt Helen?" he asked.

"I'm ready, but tell me, Bubba, is Brad...?" she asked but couldn't get the final word out. Bubba watched a tear form and run down her pretty but pale cheek. Like a noble cowboy, Bubba whipped out his bandanna from his hip pocket and carefully dried it for her. She smiled at his gesture of gallantry and compassion.

"I'm afraid so, Aunt Helen. We'll talk when you're fully charged, stronger, and your emotional stamina is greater. Then we will share more with each other," Bubba replied.

"You look so handsome and gallant with your wings, Bubba. I told Brad he did the right thing by sending you to Retikki Prime. I'm so proud of you," she whispered softly.

Bubba didn't know what possessed him, but he leaned over and ever-so-gently kissed Helen on her forehead. "We'll talk later. Let me know if I'm filling you too fast, Aunt Helen – and in the name of some forgotten god, please tell me when your tank is full. I wouldn't want to cause you harm by overloading you," he said.

"I will, Son," she replied and smiled.

Brute and Jack were standing side by side with an arm around each other's waist. Jack unconsciously rested his head on Brute's huge shoulder. The big beast smiled at him as they watched their brother raise his wings and start to gather the bio-electrical energy of the universe. Bubba continued to hold Helen's hand and unconsciously raised his other over her to act like a ground. He could feel the energy from the ether begin to gather in his wings and flow through his body, down his arm, and transfer into Helen's body. Helen lay back and got a satisfied smile on her face like she was enjoying an eight course meal and every bite was more delicious than the next.

Bubba began to think there was something very sexual about the exchange. Certainly it was sensual to him, but it wasn't the same basic, raw animalistic way he was attracted to Orville. His attraction to Orville was down and dirty, roll in the mud, get it all over you, wonderfully messy, big-bang release cowboy sex; the stuff stars are made from. This was on a different plane. It was like he was ejaculating his load of gathered energy into her to bring her back to life. His uncle may have created Helen, but Bubba was providing her with a means for a re-birth; another beginning. It was sweet and fulfilling but not at all dark or dirty, and it was a high bonding experience for both. He wondered if it might be the way angels have sex with each other. He recalled the blind angel Pygar and Barbarella placing their hands together to have sex until their hair stood on end and steam shot out their ears. He remembered hearing Clarence Womack say the angels of Jehovah were sexless eunuchs; neither male nor female. They couldn't be corrupted by something so base and disgusting as sex. Someone must have gotten some wrong information. Bubba was quite sure Captain Nick, Clyde, and Balthazar weren't eunuchs.   

As he was filling Helen's bio-batteries he couldn't help think how much Helen reminded him of Kate Daniels. Her facial features were similar but just different enough she had her own natural beauty and charm. Bubba imagined she was made to be a middle-aged companion for his uncle; only, she never grew older as Brad did over time. Somehow, Bubba instinctively knew it was never a problem for Helen. While there was no such things as bio-batteries, per se, it took a while to recharge Helen's body. She was a manufactured creature which survived on the capture, storage and use of, for lack of a better term, a universal life giving force which all creatures need to exist. In her case, she was able to absorb and transfer the sun's rays into a healthy food source for herself. Bubba was acting like a giant capacitor to collect and provide her with a super-sized meal without the calories, deadly carcinogens, or a little paper hat to wear while dining.

The Chinese developed a term for this energy force as 'chi' or 'qi' and held beliefs in it long before western man even considered the possibility. Fairly early on, Chinese thinkers began to believe there were different fractions of 'qi' and the more coarse and heavier fractions of qi formed solids, while lighter fractions formed liquids, and the most ethereal fractions became the 'life-breath' of our world which animates all living beings. In the 'Analects of Confucius,' compiled from the notes of his students sometime after his death in 479 B.C., qi could mean 'breath.' Combining it with the Chinese word for blood, making 'xue-qi,' blood and breath, the concept could be used to account for motivational characteristics.

While Confucius probability didn't say, "When called an idiot, it is sometimes better to be quiet than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt," he was reported to have said, "The morally noble man guards himself against three things. When he is young, his xue-qi has not yet stabilized, so he guards himself against sexual passion. When he reaches his prime, his xue-qi is not easily subdued, so he guards himself against combativeness. When he reaches old age, his xue-qi is already depleted, so he guards himself against acquisitiveness."

The Japanese symbol for 'Chi' meant the Earth, and came from the idea our planet was one large organism imbued with a life-force of living energy similar to the Gaia principle. 'Chi' is also a probability distribution in mathematics: Chi distribution; Chi-squared distribution; a Chi site, a DNA sequence that serves as a recombination hot spot; Creatinine height ratio, a metric used in determining body composition; and as a symbol for electro-negativity. It is also used to describe the study between the interaction of computers and people and vice versa.

The word Chi, or Qi, sounds phonologically similar to the word Chit of Hinduism. (Not to be confused with the bull-chit of Scientology) While it's difficult to translate the sense of the term 'Chit.' Broadly, Chit means a conscious, or intelligent energy. Elements of the 'qi' concept may also be found in Western popular culture. The Force in Star Wars was supposedly provided by a microscopically small unseen life form known as the 'Midi-chlorians' which reside within the cells of all living things and communicates with the Force. They live symbiotically with every life-form and without them life could not exist. The Jedi learned how to listen, communicate, and coordinate with the Midi-chlorians. While every living being has a connection to the Force, one must have a high enough concentration of Midi-chlorians in one's cells in order to become a Jedi Knight or a Sith Warrior. Midi-chlorians are based on endosymbiotic theory, and they readily equate to other notions in the West of energeia, ιlan vital, or vitalism, which are all purported to be similar.

Not forgetting his cowboy heritage, Bubba wondered to himself under which category a healthy bowel movement might fall. He was certain there was almost something nearly sacred – certainly mystical -- about a damn good dump. Cowboy philosophy don't run too deep. Perhaps it's for the best. Not unlike nebulae which give birth to stars, there ain't so many 'what ifs' which are the breeding ground for higher thoughts to clog the works. When it comes to approaching a hard and difficult life, metaphysics won't get a cow to do what you want it to; nevertheless, Bubba found himself facing a crisis in his young life, on the precipice of a large doubt-filled canyon about to fall over the edge waving his arms about trying to regain his balance so's not to disappear into oblivion. He seemed to be gaining more responsibilities than ever before, and it was unsettling for him. Bubba surprised himself by rising to the challenge and found an untapped well-spring of human empathy and compassion within himself he never knew he possessed. It started with finding and reviving Helen.

Bubba continued to pour his energy into Helen until she was a healthy color. Helen smiled at the big cowboy towering over her, and once she felt sated, she reach over with her right hand and gently placed it over Bubba's. "I think that's enough for a while, Bubba. You may stop now," she said quietly.

Bubba nodded, let go of her small hand, and lowered his wings. His wings were still filled with spare energy, he shook them a couple of times, and the excess fell to the floor to be absorbed by the concrete. He disappeared and reappeared without his wings. Brute handed him his Western shirt and he put it on.

"You look so handsome as a cowboy-angel, I almost hate to see you shed your wings," Helen said, "And who are these two fine looking men you brought along with you?" Helen asked looking at Brute and Jack.

"The large furry critter is a watcher. He is my slave, my friend, and my protector. He also acts like a second conscience and a wise adviser to me. He was my main man, my surrogate parent, and protector when I's just a young boy visiting Retikki Prime. His name is Bubba's Brute. The other, more human looking fellow – although we ain't real sure -- is my bonded older brother. He also happens of be my attorney. His name is Jack McCormick," Bubba introduced his friends.

"Good to meet you, Gentlemen," Helen said and held her hands out to them. Brute took one side of the table and Jack the other to take her hands. They held her small hands and Jack looked at Brute. The big beast nodded his head for Jack to speak.

"It's good to meet you, Aunt Helen. Pay no attention to my younger brother. I assure you, I'm a card carrying member of the human race. We didn't know what or who we might find. It took us some time to discover your whereabouts, but we put our heads together and finally figured out where you might be," Jack said.

"It was a family effort, ma'am," Brute said and blushed.

Helen thought they were both charming. "Glad my nephew has such good friends," she said. She let Jack's hand drop and looked into Brute's eyes, "Will you help me up, my handsome beast?" she asked and began to pull on his huge hand. Brute gently pulled her up into a sitting position. Her light cover fell to her waist and the men got a full shot of her breasts. They were not big but perky and firm. Bubba lunged for the cheesecloth on her right side and Jack grabbed the other side to raise it to her shoulders to cover her nakedness. She thanked them and slung it over her shoulders to let hang loosely down her front. "I think I need to sit here for a minute before I try walking," she said.

"Take your time, Aunt Helen, we ain't in no hurry, ma'am," Bubba said.

"So tell me about Brad, Bubba. I think I can handle it. I may shed a few tears, but it's a woman prerogative," she said.

"He come down with the cancer, Aunt Helen, but he didn't tell nobody about it. It was slowly eating him up, but he never said a word to me. I would have spent more time with him, but he didn't want it that way. He passed away, and we buried him last week. I only learned about you a couple of days ago when we reviewed a video he made for me. He had me repeat some silly words what triggered some things within me what were installed when I was a young boy visiting Retikki Prime. The first thing for me to worry about was fledging and that took two days to complete. We come looking for you as soon after as we could," Bubba said.

"When he put me down in here, I knew he was doing it so I wouldn't have to watch him die," Helen said and put both hands to her face and cried. Bubba instinctively placed his big arms around her to comfort and soothe her. She got herself together and Bubba let her go. "He was so good to me. I never regretted a moment I came to Earth to be with him and become his companion. He rescued me from a terrible Ork rebel-pirate mercenary who stole me from a wonderful family on a more advanced world. I was a domestic servant, their nanny, and took care of their several children from birth to seeing them grow up to become good citizens; only to later see them come to rack and ruin from invasion by the ruthless Orks.

"Their civilization was almost completely destroyed until other worlds came to their rescue and fought back the overly ambitions and greedy barbarian Ork hordes. They didn't do it so much out of compassion for the Aldebarans as they did for their own self-interest. They knew if they didn't draw a line and stop the mongrel horde they would be next on their agenda. Better to stamp out and check aggression on another world than have to do it on their own. Nonetheless, as a benefit of their enterprise, many of the Aldebarans survived. Many more were sold into slavery, or worse for food, to less advanced races and are scattered throughout the galaxies," she said.

"My uncle said he created you to be a companion for himself," Bubba said.

"He did, Bubba. I was little more than an automaton when I was given to Brad. I had the potential from my creators but whoever purchased me had the choice to give me only the knowledge to become a good and efficient nanny for their children. I was capable of far greater things but what they wanted and needed was a drone. I don't resent them for it. I didn't know any better at the time. In all races there are social strata. If you allow your servants to know only a small amount they must depend upon you. They can't think or reason for themselves or hope to improve their lot in life. I believe the same thing is happening to your world right now. For years the conservatives have tried to dumb-down the school systems to create little more than worker-drones who will believe their misleading propaganda. I was never allowed more knowledge than seeing to the care of young children. That's what they bought me for, so they saw no reason to further educate me. Brad brought me to Earth and set me on a course of instruction to educate me. Being a pseudo-life form capable of acquiring and learning from any source, I consumed the knowledge he fed me like a sponge collects water. I don't require sleep and can learn at an accelerated rate. While he was sleeping, I was reading and consuming as much knowledge as I could to please him, until one day he realized I knew more than he did on a number of topics. Our roles slowly changed over the years, and I began to teach him those things he never covered or subjects in which felt his knowledge was deficient," she explained.

"And now you're mine?" Bubba asked sheepishly.

"If you want me, Bubba, I would be proud and honored to belong to you as a member of your family," Helen replied.

"Excuse me for asking, but were you and my uncle intimate?" Bubba asked as tactfully as he could.

"Of course, Bubba. Brad owned me. After he rescued me, I was given to him by the high council on Retikki Prime. He was my master, but he never forced himself on me. He was a true gentleman of the old West. When he needed me, he came to me with his boots shined, his hair-slicked, teeth cleaned, his body scrubbed to the nines smelling of lilac water, with a bouquet of flowers, and his hat in his hand. He didn't very often, but when he did, I never said 'no' to him. Besides, your uncle was a kind and considerate lover," she replied.

"Would you expect that from me, Aunt Helen?" Bubba asked.

"Not unless you need me, Bubba. I don't have needs like human women. Their sexual cycles are determined by their seasons and hormones. There are times they are more receptive than others. I have none of that; however, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a human male as much as one of your women. I just don't have the need to seek them out for sex. Brad programed me to be more of a companion than a love object. Even though he never told me he loved me, I'm quite certain he felt affection for me," she replied, "He made sure he spared me the sorrow and personal agony of watching him die little by little. That was enough. My life with Brad was good and fulfilling. I will always have the memories of the good times we shared to comfort and console me. We leaned on each other and accomplished many great things together," she added.

"You two will have long winter nights together when you will have plenty of time to discuss the more intimate details of human-cyborg relationships. Could we skip the sex education video for now and move on to more immediate concerns?" Jack asked.  

Bubba grinned. "Where's your clothes, Aunt Helen?" he asked.

"In that wardrobe over there behind Jack. I have two dresses," she said.

"Only two?" Bubba asked.

"Brad didn't think I needed any more, and I never questioned him. When I laundry one, I wear the other, then switch," she replied, "I can get it," she said, dropped her cover, and stood completely naked before them. Jack turned his head but Bubba and Brute didn't. "I'm sorry Jack, I didn't mean to embarrass you. I forgot men on your planet aren't used to seeing women naked unless they find themselves in an intimate situation. Bubba, you and Brute don't seem bothered," she observed.

"I think my lack of embarrassment comes from my time spent on Retikki Prime when I was a boy. Everyone goes about naked. I was naturally shy about it, but Brute taught me our bodies are not something to be ashamed of," Bubba replied, "While I can appreciate the female form, I'm not particularly taken with it," he added.

"Brad explained it to me. No problem. Brute, you're a good teacher," she praised him, "Come, Bubba, you can help me dress," she said like she just expected the huge cowboy to comply, and he did.
Jack never looked at her the whole time. He walked over and stood behind Brute's hulking form until Helen finished dressing. She picked out a light blue dress with a lavender flower print. It was plain but pretty. She put on a pair of low heeled pumps and was ready to go. Bubba noticed she only had two pair of shoes; the pumps and a pair of low-cut sneakers.

"What will we do with you?" Bubba asked like he was addressing himself as well.

"I don't require much space, Bubba. Once I'm fully charged, I can remain in these buildings indefinitely, and as it is your right as owner and my master, certainly you may come visit whenever you choose," she said.

"I will have to give it some thought and discuss it with the rest of my family," he said motioning to Brute and Jack. "Are you amenable to changes what might better suit your place in my family for me, Aunt Helen?" he asked.

"Of course, Bubba. You are my master, but I also think on you as my nephew from my previous master's association," she replied.

"Do you require food and drink?" Bubba asked.

"I can eat human food and digest it, but I find the process rather disgusting when I have to void that which I have consumed. Unless it's required of me, I'd rather not. I do, however, require a certain intake of fluids in the form of distilled water. Brad built me a distiller and as soon as I have some pure water I will be fully restored," Helen replied.

"Come then! Let's find you some water and perhaps you might show us around and answer some questions for us, pretty lady," Bubba said.

"Do you think I'm pretty, Bubba?" Helen asked.

"Yes, ma'am. You're pretty enough for me to be proud to introduce you as my aunt," Bubba replied.

"Thank you, Bubba, you're very kind, and I would he honored," she said.

"Do you need to gather your personal things if your going to be living topside in the belly of the whales for a while?" Bubba asked.
"Belly of the whales? I like that, Bubba. It's a biblical reference to the character Jonah having been swallowed by a whale. A good metaphor, Nephew," Helen complimented Bubba, "But to answer your question, no, I can come and go down here as I please. There's another entrance to the basement you didn't discover in each whale. I'll show you when we go topside, as you put it," she replied.

Bubba's family went upstairs and closed the large door and replaced the carpet while Helen went to the small refrigerator, found a small bottle of distilled water, poured herself a large glass, and drank it. She poured herself another and drank it as well. Then she put the bottle back into the refrigerator. She began to perk up even more since she hydrated herself. Bubba and Brute finished putting the four large overstuffed chairs back into place.

"First question, Aunt Helen," Jack spoke up, "About the paintings on these walls and several in the other building, are they originals or copies?" he asked.

"Have you examined them closely, Jack?" she asked.

"We didn't have time. You were our first priority," he replied.

"They are originals. Several were given to Brad by the artist themselves," she said, "We entertained many famous people in the world of science and the arts over the years. Did you go into the music room in the other building?" Helen asked.

"We haven't even finished exploring this building yet," Jack replied, "That Jackson Pollock painting alone is worth over a million dollars," he added.

"Brad seemed proud of the legacy he left Bubba, but I never got involved with money or what something was worth," she said. Helen saw they were through replacing the furniture. "If you will come this way, I'll show you a second entrance to the basement," she said and motioned for them to follow her. Helen led them to the end of the great wall. The walls in the hallway dividing the huge barn had four built-in book shelves, two on either side. On each side, in the middle of the book shelves was a center divider about three feet wide with a painting on the wall lit by a small pin-spot. Helen walked up to the inside wall and merely pushed against it. It opened to reveal another, well lit, level floor where one could walk, close the portal behind them, then navigate the stairs leading down into the basement.

"It's so simple. So subtle. We missed it completely," Jack said.  
"There's another just like this one in the other whale in about the same place," Helen said and smiled at her use of Bubba's terminology.

She showed them around both buildings and was the perfect host to explain in detail everything they saw. She showed them where the emergency escape crawl tunnels were in case of a fire. She was like a petite airline hostess instructing her passengers about the plane they were flying on.

"And the saucer-craft is a lighter than air vehicle?" Jack asked.

"It started out that way. It still has the helium ballasts but toward the last of our time together we developed and built anti-gravity devices which worked on the changing polarity of the planet's natural charge. Since it's constantly fluctuating, it was necessary to create a computer controlled device which could react instantaneously and compensate. It can also be used to repel the field and propel the vehicle without a need for fuel or a power source. Our next step was to install the device and do away with the helium ballast, but Brad decided they would make an excellent backup system if the other failed, especially in test flights. It's fully functional as it is and seats six comfortably. Brad and I tested it with just the helium ballast and it works fine," Helen explained.

"Jesus, Bubba, it's like having your own Disney World in your backyard!" Jack exclaimed, "I knew there was a good reason why I decided to bond with you as my little brother," he added and laughed.

"I cain't even comprehend what this means. It's gonna' take some time for me to consume and digest all this. We better make up a bedroom for you in the house, Brother. I got me a feeling you's gonna' be spending a lot of time around here," Bubba said, "That means another trip to Brady," he added.

"Them furniture stores is gonna' love you. You better not go without me, Brother!" Jack warned.

Bubba laughed, "I wouldn't think of it, Bro," he replied.
It was late in the afternoon by the time they finished the grand tour of both whales. There was so much information, Bubba was feeling overwhelmed by it all. "You been awfully quiet, my handsome beast, what do you think of all this?" Bubba asked Brute.

"I haven't seen such wonders since I left Retikki Prime to become your protector, Master Bubba," Brute replied, "You're lucky you have your Aunt Helen to help and guide you through this bounty of inventions and ideas. She will become an invaluable resource of information and instruction for you," he added.

"Can you teach me what I need to know, Aunt Helen?" Bubba asked.

"Of course I can. We may have to start with the basics, but that's part of why Brad allowed me to learn was so I could pass on our combined knowledge to you. You should have most of Brad's earlier work on file in your DNA. You just have to learn how to access it, and you still have to make a visit to Retikii Prime to gather the rest of Brad's intellect so you can stand on the shoulders of both of us," she replied, "Once we start, I promise, it will be like a freight-train going downhill picking up speed as it moves along with the weight of it's momentum behind it," she added.

"It sounds like Uncle Brad had my life planned out for me," Bubba said sort of regretfully.

"Only your adult life, Bubba. He gave you the freedom of your youth to become anything you wanted to be, but his idea is only a backup plan. You don't have to accept any of it. No one is forcing you to become something you won't be comfortable with," Helen said firmly.

"Truth is, Aunt Helen, I ain't got nothing else, but with the Daniels' help, I might have a good chance to become a successful rancher. I'd like to give it a go. Can I do both?" he asked.

"It will depend on your motivation, Son," Helen replied.

"My sage advice, for what it's worth, is to take one day at a time, little Brother," Jack said.

"I agree with Master Jack, Master," Brute said, "It seems like a daunting task, but give it a try. You been handed this opportunity with the financial resources to do it. Don't get discouraged. Listen to Helen and Jack, Son. Talk with the Bull. They won't guide you wrong," he added.

"Okay! Enough for today. Come with us to the house, Aunt Helen, and visit with us while we have supper. Then we'll bring you back here for the evening. You're welcome to stay in the big house with us if you like," Bubba said.

"That's sweet of you to offer, Bubba, but I don't require a sleep period. It would probability be better if I'm out here where I won't disturb anyone. I'm comfortable in the belly of the whales, and I can put my time to good use organizing and planning ways to introduce you to some of Brad and my more cutting-edge projects," Helen said.

"You mean there's more?" Bubba asked in awe.

"Oh, Bubba, you just got the walk-through tour. As Brad liked to say, 'You ain't seen nothing, yet, Kiddo!'" she said.

They locked up the barns and walked to the house as the sun was slowly setting in the West. It was a lovely sunset almost like it was an omen or a blessing for their future together. Helen seemed a bit apprehensive about leaving the barns, but Bubba assured her she had nothing to worry about. He didn't think he would worry her with his plan to take her along with him to the Daniel's ranch the next day. Bubba decided if she was going to be a member of his family, he was going to include her. He felt she lived a cloistered life long enough. It was time she got out among people and made some friends of her own.

Bubba's small dinner was a hit, and as he promised, Jack got extra cheese and Brute got a big ole helping of spaghetti with extra sauce. Helen talked with the men and answered more of their questions. She was pleasant and sociable with those she knew and trusted. Bubba wondered how she would relate with a group of new people. He planned to find out the next day. After the men walked Helen back to the barn, said their goodbyes with promises to see each other the following day, Bubba locked the door and the men headed back to the big house. It was still early evening.

"You men up for a quick transport to the Daniel's ranch?" Bubba asked.

"I'm game. How 'bout you Brute?" Jack said and asked.

"I'm Bubba's Brute. I go where my master goes," Brute said.

"Wise beast. What's up, Bubba?" Jack asked.

"My uncle may have been good to her, but he didn't know very much about women. Poor thing's only got two dresses, and they's thread-bear. She washed that blue one she's wear'n so many times you can see through it," Bubba declared.

"I agree, and the other one looked worse," Jack said.

"You think Ms. Kate might have some'um she could wear for when we drive over there tomorrow?" Bubba asked.

"I'll bet she does, Bubba. You feel comfortable transporting us?" Jack asked a little weary.

"Ask me that question again after we land in a watermelon patch outside of Pontotoc, big Brother," Bubba replied, laughed, and got a laugh out of both friends.

Bubba wasted no time winging-up and left his shirt on the front porch in an old rocking chair. He surrounded Jack and Brute with his wings, and they disappeared. Bubba wasn't right-on but he was close enough as they materialized in the dining area of the kitchen. The Daniel's just finished supper and were enjoying dessert and coffee. They were a little surprised someone was transporting without warning. Bubba, Jack, and Brute stood there for a minute gathering their bearings like they were surprised Bubba managed to get them there.

"Hey, Guys, what's up?" Billy asked.

"I's here to buy a dress!" Bubba blurted out. The kitchen was suddenly quiet; so quiet you could hear a mouse fart.

"We got anything in Bubba's size, Grandma?" Billy asked, slapped his knee, and broke up laughing. Everyone in the kitchen roared. They even got Bubba, Jack, and Brute laughing.
"H'it ain't for me, Mr. Smarty-boots, but if you got one in my size, I wouldn't mine trying it on. Hell! If it makes my butt look thinner, I'll buy it!" Bubba shot back. There was more laughter.

"Is it for your Aunt Helen, Son?" Kate asked.

"Yes, ma'am, Ms. Kate," Bubba replied.

"Then you found her?" Kate asked.

"Yes, ma'am, wiff' my big brother and my protector's help," Bubba replied.

"You men had supper?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am, Mrs. Daniels. Bubba fixed a nice salad and made spaghetti. It was good, too," Jack replied.

"You men, and Brute, sit and have dessert with us and tell us what you need Bubba," Kate said.

Everyone was hanging on each word Bubba and his posse told them. They were fascinated by the adventures the men experienced. Jack was careful to let Bubba take the lead and didn't volunteer any of their findings. He didn't know how much Bubba wanted them to know. Jack noticed Bubba didn't say anything about the saucer. After they finished, Kate led the men to the bedroom where Kate stored all her old dresses for Vox to wear. There were three closets full of women's dresses. Kate told Bubba he could have anything he wanted from those closets as Roxanne was beginning to buy her own clothes and didn't really have any more use for them. Besides she had a closet full of women's clothes at Vox's house.

"What's her size? Do you know, Bubba?" Kate asked.

"You! You's her size exactly, Ms. Daniels," Bubba replied, "She even looks a little like you," Bubba added.

"You know what she likes?" Kate asked.

"The poor thing only has two dresses, and they're worn out, Mrs. Daniels," Jack said.

"Oh, Dear," said Kate, "You want me to pick out some things for her, Bubba?" Kate asked.

"I'd be much obliged, ma'am," Bubba replied.

It took Kate thirty minutes and she picked out about fifteen different dresses. She picked out five spring prints, several quarter length, and a couple of full length more formal looking dresses. She laid them out on the bed and told Bubba to take them all, and she threw in a brand new slip she just bought for herself.

"You tell Helen she can go through these closets and pick out anything she wants, Bubba. You are bringing her with you tomorrow?" Kate asked in anticipation.

"Yes, ma'am, that's my plan. She ain't never been away from them barns to socialize so this will be a new experience for her. I'm a mite worried, but I got faith in her," Bubba said.

"We'll try to be on our best behavior, Son, and I'll threaten them cowboys with their lives," Kate swore and got Bubba laughing.

"Thanks, Ms. Kate, we shore' 'nuff appreciate yore' kindness and generosity," he said.

"Glad to help, Bubba. See you men tomorrow anytime after eleven," Kate said. Bubba held dresses. Jack held dresses. Brute held dresses and one slip as Bubba spread his wings and they disappeared.
* * * * * *
After they returned to the Kirkendall ranch, Jack decided to call it an evening and drive back over to his family's ranch. Bubba offered to make-up a bed for him, but he wanted to clean up for the next day and wear some fresh clothes.

"Come early tomorrow morning, and I'll make breakfast for us. I promised you breakfast last week but got caught up in the Daniels' world. Do me a favor?" Bubba asked.

"Sure, Brother, name it!" Jack said firmly.

Bubba pulled a twenty out of his pocket and handed to Jack. "Stop by the market and buy four of them big bags of carrots for the guard cattle tomorrow?" Bubba asked.

"Will do, Brother. See you about eight-thirty. You might need a hand with them dresses," Jack said and grinned.

* * * * * * *
The phone rang early at the Breedlove ranch. Elmer and Vox were already up getting ready to fix breakfast for them, Oatie, and Jethro. "You got the Bull!" Elmer answered.

"Hey, Dad, it's me, Pete. I managed to get the next couple of days and weekend off from the feedlot. I traded the other man a couple of weekends I'll work for him. Where will I meet you?" Pete said.

"C'moan over here to the ranch, have breakfast wiff' us, and we'll go together as a family," Elmer said. There was a silence on the other end of the phone and Elmer could swear he heard Pete crying, "You there, Son? You all right?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah, Dad, I'm here. Sorry, I just choked up a bit. I'm all right. That would be great. I'll see you in a little bit," Pete said and hung up the phone.

In the meantime, Oatie and Jethro arrived in the kitchen, arm and arm, twittering like a couple of Love birds discussing how to build a nest. "Pete's on his way, Son," Elmer said to Oatie.

"That's fine, Master Bull. I don't think he's ever met Jethro before. How should I introduce him to Pete?" Oatie asked his main man.

"You two's bonded mates, ain't chu'?" the bull asked.

"Yes, sir," Oatie replied.

"Jethro's your husband, ain't he?" Elmer asked.

"Yes, sir, he's gonna' be," Oatie smiled.

"You ashamed of him?" Elmer asked and grinned.

"Hell, no! How could you ask such a thing, Granddad?" Oatie asked getting his feathers ruffled.

"Well then, you got chore' answer what to tell Pete," the bull replied, "It ain't our job to accept Pete. It's Pete's job to either come on-board, get wiff' the fuck'n program, accepts us like we is, or go his own gotdamn way down the road. I'm giving him one last chance, but if he can't handle it, I won't put up with him no more – and I don't expect you to either. I'll cut him out of my life," he explained.

"Then I'll tell him the truth," Oatie said.

"Good! I'll expect you to keep your word. Do you still love your old man, Son?" Elmer asked.

"Of course I love you, Granddad," Oatie said knowing full well Elmer was talking about Pete.

Elmer grinned real big. "Good one, boy! Right answer, but you know damn well what I meant. Do you still love Pete?" he asked and grinned.

"I'd be a damn liar if'n I's to say I don't care about him, but I don't knows I'd call it love. He done broke my heart, Bull. When Pete kicked me out and turned his back on me, I made up my mind I would never waste time trying to love a man what don't wanna' love me in return. That's when you took over as my dad, and I transferred all my love to you. Best damn investment I ever made. It would take some do'n on Pete's part to get me to trust him enough to think on him as my dad again. You and Jethro's been better dad's to me than Pete will ever be," Oatie said.
"All right. I agree with ever' thing you said, but if I asked you right-nice, will you give him a chance -- for me?" Elmer asked.  
"You don't even have to ask, Master Bull. Your wish is my command," Oatie replied.

"You boys been watching them god-awful Star Wars movies again?" Elmer asked and grinned.

"Yeah, me and my demon-dad done watched 'um all on our prenuptial honeymoon," Oatie replied and laughed.

"Jesus Christ! Some honeymoon! And I suppose you're planning a post-nuptial honeymoon?" Elmer asked and laughed shaking his head.

Oatie ignored him, "Why is Vox still wearing his bathrobe, Master Bull?" Oatie asked.

"One guess, Son," Elmer replied.

"You're gonna' start Pete's education with Vox and Roxanne?" Oatie asked and got the biggest grin on his face.

Elmer turned to Vox and spoke to him, "You know, Honey, didn't I tell you the other night, I thought our grandson got one hell of a lot smarter after he finally decided to give his'self to his husband?" Elmer asked and laughed.

"Yes, Daddy Bull. He did tell me that, Oatie," Vox replied and grinned.

"Lord 'hep us," Oatie said and laughed with them, "Now I know I ain't gonna' have no problems being honest with Pete. Let him sink or swim," he allowed.

"At this time, if we were at the Daniels' place, I'd point my finger at Ramrod Rutherford, but you'll have to do, my love," Elmer said and pointed his finger at Vox.

"Hosanna!" exclaimed Vox holding his arm up with a clenched fist.

"Hosanna, in the highest!" the other three men shouted holding their fist up. Then they laughed like a group of school boys. They were in great spirits as they pitched in and helped the great bull and his little heifer get breakfast ready.

Pete arrived and was greeted by his old man with a hug and a kiss. He shook Vox's hand. Pete met Vox several times before but never in his bathrobe. Oatie grabbed Pete and gave him a hug and kiss on his cheek. Pete returned his son's affection, but Oatie still called him Pete. Oatie took Pete by his hand and led him to Jethro. "Pete this fine looking buckaroo is Jethro Quince, the ramrod for our ranch. Jethro is also my slave, and soon to become my husband," Oatie said with pride.

Pete took Jethro's hand and shook it, "Good to meet you, Mr. Quince," he said respectfully.

Jethro returned his greeting, "Good to meet you, Mr. Breedlove," he said.

"When do you men plan to be married?" Pete asked like it was an everyday thing.

"We're planning on a June wedding. We ain't set a date yet. We're still talking with Master Bull and Vox about coordinating a date, but if you're interested I'll let you know," Oatie replied.

"Please do, and if I'm invited, I'd be proud and honored to attend," Pete said, "Will it be local?" he asked.

"Yes, near the Daniels' ranch. Billy Daniels' surrogate dad is captain of a great ship, and he has consented to do us the honor of marrying us in his castle on board his ship," Oatie rattled off like it was nothing.

"Sounds interesting," Pete said, but he had no idea what Oatie was talking about; a castle on a ship?

Breakfast was served and talk was lively around the table. After everyone ate a hardy meal and were drinking coffee afterward, Elmer saw the time had come for him to talk with his boy. Everyone around the table sensed it, including Pete. "Glad to have you join us this morning, Son, and spend the weekend with us. I'll lay our cards on the table, because I know I speak for everyone gathered here. When you came to me before asking forgiveness and throw'd yourself on my mercy, I was still angry with you, and turned my back on you. I've lived with the guilt ever since, but probably never would have made an effort to make amends if you hadn't got your act together, stopped drinking, carousing, settled down, got a good job you been working at for over three years now," Elmer said.

"Actually, four going on five the first of May, Dad," Pete said.

"Even better. Congratulations, Son. Proud of you for that. Inviting you to spend the weekend wiff' us is an invitation to make the first steps at reunification and becoming a family again if you're interested," Elmer said.

"Certainly I'm interested, Dad, or I wouldn't be here. I know I did wrong. I understand what I done. I accept the responsibility for my actions, and I ain't got me no excuse. However, I also paid a price of losing two of the finest sons a man could ever hope to have because I rejected them. I come to understand by rejecting Oatie, I unwittingly rejected my other boy. To be included in any way with what family I got left would be the answer to a prayer, sir," Pete said and pulled his bandanna from his hip pocket to wipe his eyes and blow his nose.

"That's all well and good, Son, and we hope you enjoy your time with us, but we must also warn you, you are about to take a journey today like none other you could ever imagined. We are not the same family you knew years ago. We have come a long way in our journey and you will see and experience things today you never thought possible. All we ask is you keep an open heart and certainly an open mind. First up to bat, is my announcement to you that Vox Humana, his sister Roxanne Humana, and I are engaged to be married. We're even talking about a double marriage ceremony with Oatie and Jethro on Captain Nick's ship," Elmer said.

Pete looked stunned. "How can you marry two people, Dad?" Pete asked.

"It ain't as bad as it sounds, Son. You can marry two people when they share the same body. I would have married Vox by his'self. Hell, we been fuck'n long before your momma died. She cut me off and refused to have sex with me anymore so I found me a partner one Friday every month with our church organist. I also fell in love with Vox, but it weren't until recently we discovered my intended mate is a chimera," Elmer explained.

"What's a chimera, Dad?" Pete asked.

"A person born with two people inside them. They start out as two eggs to become twins but something happens and the eggs join together so one lives on the outside and the other on the inside. Roxanne lived inside of Vox for years without him ever knowing, but close friends of his knew about his other half before he did. Roxanne would come out to them while Vox was asleep," Elmer further explained.

The Bull of the Hill Country went on to tell his son the rest, and at the end, asked Vox to remove his robe and morph into Roxanne.

Pete was stunned. "My God in heaven. That's the most amazing thing I ever seen! You dirty old man!" Pete exclaimed and laughed, "You done hit the jackpot! You got the best of both possible worlds in one person. Now it makes sense. I don't see nothing wrong with it, but I know there's folks out there what would find some reason to speak agin it. I won't name names, but we all know who I'm talk'n about," Pete declared.

"If you approach everything today like you done with my announcement of Vox, Rox, and my engagement, you won't have no problems, Son, but I want you to keep count of the number of times you say out loud or to yourself, 'That's the most amazing thing I ever seen.' Vox and Roxanne are mild compared to some of the things you will witness today – and, yes, Captain Nick has a castle on board his ship with a lake full of black and white swans. It looks like something out of Disneyland only better because it's a real castle," the great bull said.  

Vox left for a few minutes and returned fully dressed in his Western outfit. He helped Oatie and Jethro clear the table, load the dishwasher, and tidy up the kitchen. Afterward, they took Pete on a quick tour of the ranch. When he arrived, the twenty-five new slaves were having breakfast in the bunkhouse. Pete didn't notice but a couple of them. He was astounded to find out they were slaves and Oatie and Elmer were in business with Billy Daniels. They openly discussed their arrangement and agreement with the Daniels. Pete seemed comfortable with it. He didn't hold any hopes of inheritance from his dad anyway. Elmer already told him Oatie would get the ranch and Pete would get a flat cash sum and that was it. Pete held no grudges. He was happy for his son. After what his family put the boy through, Pete figured Oatie deserved anything his granddad left him. Of course it chapped his mother's butt, but Pete found great comfort in that thought.

It was getting near time for the Breedlove contingency of the greater Daniels' family to leave for the Daniel's ranch. They got into the ranch van and Elmer asked Oatie to drive. Elmer put Vox between him and Pete in the back seat, "Now when we get there, Son, drive on up to the herd. Pete and I will get out, I'll take him and introduce him to the guard bulls, and chat them up a bit. I got some good news for Thor and Zeus anyways. I'm to gather them, and me and Pete will walk them up to the house. Billy said for them to put their second bulls in charge, and they will be off duty for the rest of the weekend to join us and their giant. Ya'll drive on up to the house and wait for us there," Elmer said watching Pete out of the corner of his eye. He saw a small grin on Pete's face, but he didn't say anything.

* * * * * * *
After Brute, Jack, and Bubba finished breakfast they walked out to the barn where they left Helen. Their arms were loaded with dresses. They looked like roadies for a traveling fashion show. Bubba unlocked the door and hollered for Helen. She was in the living area sitting in her favorite overstuffed chair reading a manual for one of the last inventions she and Brad worked on. When she caught sight of the two cowboys and one great beast loaded with dresses she smiled and then laughed. She wondered where in the world they could have found so many dresses in such a short time.

"What is this?" she asked.

"Dresses for you, Aunt Helen," Bubba replied, "We're taking you with us today to the Daniels' ranch and you will have the opportunity to meet, visit, and talk with some other women about whatever women talk about. We wanted you to look your best so we got these dresses for you last evening after we brought you back to the belly of the whale," he explained.

The men carefully draped their treasures over the backs of the four large chairs and even put a few on the table. Helen was overwhelmed and began to shed tears. "They're all so wonderful. It's so thoughtful of you, Bubba. I don't know what to say," she said.

"Thank you, will do fine, Aunt Helen," Bubba said.

Brute handed her the slip Kate gave the men for Helen. It was still in the package. She looked at it in awe. "What is it, Bubba?" she asked.

"Mrs. Daniels called it a 'slip.' It's an undergarment you wear beneath the dress you choose," he replied.   

"Thank you, very much, kind sirs. When do I have to be ready?" she asked.

"As soon as possible. We'll be leaving for the Daniels' ranch after you dress yourself. So pick out a dress you'd like to wear and wear your pretty slip underneath," he added.

"But they're all so pretty. How do I choose?" she asked almost like she was befuddled.

"It's a pretty, warm day out. Pick something spring-like to be comfortable which will look bright and gay," Bubba encouraged her.

She picked the prettiest of the spring-like dresses and excused herself for a minute. When she returned she looked wonderful. She twirled around once to show off the skirt, the men gushed over her, and told her how pretty she looked. "I love the slip, Bubba. It's so soft and comfortable. It makes me feel like a real woman. I can't thank you men enough," she said.

"You are a real woman, Aunt Helen. Don't let anyone tell you different. Just be sure and thank Kate Daniels when we get to the Daniel's ranch. These were some of her dresses she was willing to share with you," Bubba said, "Are you ready to go?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm a bit apprehensive about being with other people, but if it's what you want, I will comply, Bubba," she said.

"It will make me happy, Aunt Helen. I ain't never had me much family, and it would be good for me to know I have an aunt to care for who cares for me as well," Bubba said and gave her a small hug.

* * * * * * *
Bubba planned to get to the Daniels' ranch a little early to distribute his goodies for the guard cattle. Jack brought him the carrots he asked for in the back of his SUV. They transferred the carrots to the back of Bubba's truck. Brute climbed in back with the carrots and disappeared. Bubba drove, and he and Jack put Helen in the middle. They pulled into the entry to the Daniels' ranch across the cattle guard. Jack got out and hailed Thor and Zeus. They exchanged greetings and Jack asked them to let Bubba pull off the road onto the side, explaining they had some treats in the back of the truck for the cattle on guard. Thor and Zeus instructed their herd to do as Master Jack wished, and Bubba drove over to the side. Brute materialized and handed Bubba and Jack one of the large bags of carrots. Bubba carried his to the opposite side of the road and instructed Jack to cut his open and walk up the road distributing the contents.

About that time, Oatie Breedlove and his family pulled into the gate. "C'moan, Son! Let's you and me give Bubba and Jack a hand," he said to his boy, Pete.

"Sure, Dad, be happy to," Pete replied and they got out of the van. The cattle recognized the Breedlove van and parted for Oatie to drive up to the ranch.

Elmer took Pete directly to Thor and Zeus. "Howdy, Mr. Thor – Mr. Zeus, we come to give Bubba a hand with the treats. This here's ma' son, Pete," Elmer said.

"Good to meet you, Mr. Breedlove," Thor said.

"Uh, Dad, that bull just talked to me," Pete said excited and giggled like a school boy.

"Of course he did. Y'ain't hear'n things, and I ain't no ventriloquist. Be polite and answer him, Son. I done taught chu' better'n 'nat," Elmer gently reprimanded his son.  

"You, too, Son!" Thor said to Zeus.

"Sorry, Mr. Breedlove, I had my mouth full of them sweet carrots, sir. I's taught h'it ain't polite to talk with ma' mouth full. It's nice to meet you, sir," Zeus said.

"It's nice to meet you fine looking bulls," Pete said, "Oh, my God, I can't believe I'm talking to cattle!" Pete exclaimed.

"That's two, Son!" Elmer said to Pete and laughed. He turned his attention back to Thor, "Kids! You can't tell 'um nothing these days," he said in mock disgust.

"You won't get no argument from me, Master Bull," Thor answered, and they shared a laugh.

"You bulls don't eat too many of them carrots. You's gonna' have lunch with us. I was told by your master to gather you here at the front gate and walk you up to the house. Billy wants you to put your seconds in charge so's you can join us for a long weekend and be wiff' your giant buddy. You's officially off guard duty as of right now," Elmer said firmly.

"Beg'n yore' pardon, Master Bull, but we thought it was tomorrow, sir," Thor said.

"I know, but trust this old bull, it's been changed. I done cleared it with Billy, and you's expected today. C'moan! Me and ma' boy will walk you bulls up to the house," Elmer declared.

Thor sent mental orders to his next two bulls, and they came forward to stand guard. Brute handed Elmer and Pete a sack of carrots, they joined Jack and Bubba, and began to throw them to the side of the road as they walked along toward the house. "What was that monster in the back of Bubba's truck, Dad?" Pete hollered.

"Ain't no monster, Son. He's Bubba's Brute. He's a Bigfoot or better known as a watcher. Brute's the Kirkendall's protector. We got two wiff' us at all times; Catfish and Blackie. You just can't see 'um. I'll introduce 'um to you a little later, if you like," Elmer hollered back.

"Amazing!" said Pete to himself.

"I heard that, boy! That's three!" Elmer exclaimed and laughed.

As they went along the cattle would thank the men for being thoughtful and generous enough to remember them and bring them treats. Pete was in awe and told them they were welcome. Bubba went back to his truck and drove on by, but Jack decided to join Elmer and Pete to walk Thor and Zeus up to the house.

"You men been doing okay?" Jack asked the bulls.   

"Tolerable, Master Jack, right tolerable," Thor replied.

"My boy ain't seen yore' kind before, Mr. Thor. He's got some catch'n up to do to the rest of us about the wonders of the Daniels' ranch," Elmer said.
"Take it a little at a time, Son," Thor said to Pete, "enjoy the difference, and ask about what you don't understand. Us cattle know pretty much about what's going on around here, and we'll lend an ear to you," he allowed.

"Thanks, Mr. Thor, I just might take you up on yore' kind offer," Pete replied.

"The truth of the matter is, them cows is a morphed species of another humanoid form, Son. You remember how Vox was able to morph into Roxanne? Well, when we get up to the compound, you'll get to watch Thor and his son Zeus morph into their humanoid form," Elmer said.

"No!" Pete exclaimed.

"Master Bull is right, Pete," Jack assured him, "I done seen it for ma'self," he said using the cowboy vernacular.

"Them slaves you met at our ranch this morning were once cattle like Thor and Zeus. They were brought here to help the greater Daniels family start a new community of people who live for one another and not for corporate greed," Elmer explained.

"You mean we's being invaded by aliens, Dad?" Pete asked.

"More like an occupation, Son. You won't see no guns or zap'n folks with ray guns," Elmer said and Jack laughed.

"Don't jump to conclusions, Pete," Jack said. Jack and Pete were school mates. They were the same age and went through grade school together.

"I been meaning to ask, how is it you men look and act twenty years younger than before? Jack, you's my age, but you look twenty years younger than me," Pete asked.

"Avon Skin So Soft! Wonderful stuff! It repeals mosquitoes and other biting bugs, too," Jack replied, and Elmer broke up laughing. Even Thor and Zeus laughed at that one.

"I buy it by the gallon," Jack added and got another round of laughs.

"You'll find out today how we look younger, Son. We don't have to tell you. Just keep you eyes and ears open, and you'll see how it happened; and, while I'm sure Avon makes a great product, it won't make you look no younger. What happened with you, Jack? You do look mighty good for your age," Elmer asked.

"Bubba was show'n off yesterday and accidentally zapped me to look and feel twenty years younger. He didn't know what he was doing. Like to scared the crap out of bowfus, but I ain't complaining none. I couldn't believe how good I looked and felt this morning," Jack replied and Elmer slapped his leg and laughed harder.

"Another thing you'll notice about the greater Daniels' family is, we have a lot of fun, and we laugh a lot. Ain't nothing sacred," Elmer said.

"Amen to that, Master Bull! Where's Ramrod Randy when we need him?" Jack said and laughed.  

He no sooner got the words out when they heard a young boy shout, "Master Bull! Master Jack! Thor! Zeus!" Randy cried and turned from Bubba and Brute's arms to run full out to Elmer's arms.  

Billy and his grandmother were busy welcoming Bubba and his Aunt Helen. They just invited them to come into the house with them when Randy spied Elmer and Jack walking up with the guard bulls. Kate grabbed Helen by the arm, and they walked over to see the commotion. The last few steps Randy took a leap of faith to land in his Master Bull's waiting arms to be spun around and made over like he was Pepin King of Lilliputia. After much hugs and kisses for everyone including the two huge bulls, Elmer introduced his son, Pete, to Randy. Randy was the consummate genteel cowboy, shook Pete's hand, told him how good it was to meet him and welcomed him to the Daniels' ranch where there's something new and wonderful around every corner. Pete thanked him and assured Randy it was good to meet him as well, "Are you the young man I saw on television a couple of months ago in the parking lot of WalMart in Fredericksburg?" Pete asked.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Breedlove, that was me and my big brother, Cowboy Billy. It was the first time we met and Master Billy done healed me of a terrible disease what was killing me and gimme' a new chance at life, sir. It ain't no wonder me and my family come to love him and all the Daniels," Randy allowed.

"I should say not. I love them too, just for saving a cowboy as fine looking as you, Randy," Pete replied with tears in his eyes.

"Enough of the hero worship bull-shit, welcome to the Daniels' ranch, Mr. Breedlove," Billy took Randy away from Elmer's arms, stole a kiss, and shook Pete's hand with his free hand.

"Good to meet you, Mr. Daniels, and thanks for inviting me to share some time with your family," Pete said.

"You're welcome, sir. We hope you have a good and memorable time visiting among us. Now you bulls ready to morph, get cleaned up, and join us for lunch?"

"We're more than ready, Master Billy. We're thrilled it's a day early," Thor spoke for them.

"Well, I decided this is a special weekend and everyone needed a little extra so why not my faithful guard bulls? You men may go ahead and morph for us," Billy said.

"Hold it, Mr. Thor! Hold it, Mr. Zeus! I think not, Master Billy!" Randy said firmly.

Billy looked at Randy like he was shocked. "Why not, Baby Buckaroo?" he asked.

"Not a wise move having them fine bulls morph out here in the open. I can take you upstairs to your computer and in five minutes show you ever' dang thing what's happening in this compound from a satellite twenty-two thousand three-hundred miles above in a stationary orbit," the boy said.

"Ramrod Randy's got a good point, Master Billy. I used Google Earth several times to peek at ranches in the area and can see everything down to a nat's ass," Jack said reinforcing Randy's comment.

Billy looked at Randy in awe. "You know what? You're absolutely right, Cowboy. Good thinking! I knew there was some special reason I done grabbed yore' little ass up in that parking lot in Fredericksburg, and it's to keep this old cowboy from making a bigger ass of himself," Billy complimented Randy and stole another kiss. Everyone laughed. "To the barn! Anyone who would like to welcome our guard bulls may join us. Boomer! Grab them two bathrobes from the front hall closet they used the night of Bubba's fledging and meet us in the barn," Billy shouted to his mate.

Billy put Randy down and took his hand to walk with him. Elmer took his other hand and they followed the huge bulls to the barn. "C'moan, Son, you don't wanna' miss this," Elmer said to Pete, and he fell in behind his dad. "I's pleasantly surprised to find you still here today, Cowboy," Elmer said to Randy.

"My mom's pretty good about me spending time with the Daniels. My big sister went home last evening, but I asked to stay over. I knew today was gonna' be a big day. I didn't wanna' miss Captain Nick and you joining Master Billy's inner circle after we take care of Joe the blue giant," Randy said.

"Glad you's here, Son. Be proud for you to witness my ring'n. If I git scared, will you hold ma' hand?" Elmer asked.

"You know it, Master Bull. We's buddies, you and me – womb to tomb – birth to Earth! Hosanna!" shouted Randy and held up his little fist.

"Hosanna, in the highest," the other cowboys replied and held up their fist – then everyone laughed.

"Good one, Son! See? You's git'n the hang of it," Elmer complimented the boy. Pete laughed. He was enthralled.

All the major players in the Daniels' extended family were present in the barn, except the McMartins and they were driving into the front gate as the last of the men walked into the barn. The ladies took Helen and went into the house.

"Now, I think we're secure. Anything else I forgot, Ramrod Randy?" Billy asked and everyone laughed.

"Naw, sir, Master Billy. You's fine. You got Ramrod Randy's green light," he said.

"Dogies! That's a relief," Billy said teasing, "Okay, men, go on ahead and morph," Billy commanded.

Pete's eyes almost popped out of his head as he watched the big bulls morph into perfectly fine looking men. In fact, they were almost too perfect. He thought they would make exceptionally handsome cowboys. Boomer arrived with the robes for the naked men.

"Why'd ju' ask for them robes, Kemosabe?" Nick asked Billy.

"Modesty mostly," Billy replied.

"Why don't we just transport them to the castle?" Nick asked, "Let them clean up in Billy Gog's apartment. You already done got cowboy clothes and boots wait'n for them there," he added.

"Glad I got you and Randy around to keep me on track. My brain ain't hit'n on all four cylinders today, Tonto. I guess I'm worried about our blue giant. Of course, that's what we'll do and transport them back for lunch," Billy replied.

Randy ran to Thor and Zeus. He didn't care they were stark-naked. They took him up in their arms, hugged, and kissed him. Several of the other men joined Randy including Bubba, Jack, and Brute. About that time two young boys came running into the barn followed by their huge dad. The McMartins arrived. Rory and Cal saw Randy getting attention from Thor and Zeus and they had to have some, too. After greetings and introductions all around, Billy took charge again.
"Okay, who wants to travel to Captain Nick's ship to deliver our guard bulls to our other giant, Billy Gog Groats?" Billy asked and held up his hand for a show of hands. Every hand went up. "Okay, then, we got to have more'n a couple wing-up. Bubba, you wing up. It will be good experience for you. Clyde, Balthazar, Captain Nick... any volunteers?" he asked.

Oatie, Jethro, and Elmer raised their hands. Tron, Nathan, Moss, Tom McMartin, and Enoch raised their hands. That should be enough. Oh, by the way, did anybody think to invite Perry Reed and Mick Flynn?" Billy asked.

"We didn't. We just assumed they'd be here today," Elmer replied.

"Let's get these men to the ship, and we can take care of that later. Ramrod Randy, remind yore' big bother if'n he fer-gits. Let's wing-up, Gentlemen," Billy said.

"What's he mean, wing-up, Dad?" Pete asked.

Elmer was already busy removing his Western shirt, "Here, hold my shirt for me, Son. You'll see in a minute," Elmer said handing Pete his shirt. Pete was impressed by his dad's firm build at his advanced age. Oatie handed Pete his shirt and smiled. Jethro bowed to Pete, and Pete held his hand out for the big man's shirt as well. In several bright flashes of light the men disappeared and instantly returned fully fledge with their beautiful wings.

Pete's eyes almost bugged out of his head, "Holy Shit! My dad, my boy, and his husband... all of you... you's a band of angels!" he exclaimed.

"Now, now, Pete, we couldn't be no band. I ain't never tooted no horn nor banged no drum. I cain't carry a tune in a bucket, Son, you know that," Elmer soothed him and everyone laughed.

Pete was even more taken aback when the angels raised their wings and everyone in the barn disappeared, only to reappear in the courtyard of the castle on board Captain Nick's ship. It was like going to another world. The men could see the great Shedu Bull Beauford in one courtyard and the great Shedu cow, Madam Spartza in another. Walking around were dwarves, and halfings who dropped everything and ran past everyone to get to their beloved hero Jethro. Jethro picked up his leather kilt in storage with his wings and was ready for the trip. They were all over him, begging him to morph into his demon form. Jethro seemed hesitant.

"So much for Master Billy and Captain Nick," Billy said in mock hurt and got a laugh out of the other men. They never saw such devotion as the village people held for Jethro, and as word got out around the ship, more people flooded the court yard of the castle to get a look at their hero, say hello, and steal a kiss. To steal or get a kiss from their demon was considered good luck. Billy didn't mind a bit. He encouraged it. Jethro was his man who would build his city. He was sure of it. "Don't be shy, Jethro. Give them what they want, Son," Billy urged him.

Jethro looked into Oatie's eyes, then looked at Elmer. "Your master gave you an order, Son, and you have my blessing," Master Bull said.

Pete watched as Jethro transformed into a huge red demon complete with horns and a big strong tail. The villagers went nuts applauding for their hero and were all over him again. Oatie smiled and let his mate enjoy their devotion.

"How many 'I-can't-believe-it-ain't-butters' you counted so far, Son?" Elmer asked Pete.

"I lost count between eight and fifteen, Dad," Pete replied and giggled like a young boy. "This is amazing!" he exclaimed, "And this is all on board a ship? Do I even want to know what kind of ship, Dad?" he asked.

"One what travels the Universe," Elmer said quietly.

"I's afraid you's gonna' say that," Pete said.

"Ain't nothing to be afraid of, Son. These people ain't monsters. They live a hell of a lot better than most folks on Earth. Do they look unhealthy or repressed to you?" Elmer asked.

"Lord no! They look healthy, strong, and happy. They certainly seem to love my boy's mate. That's says he must be a good and kind man to get such admiration and devotion from these folks no matter what form he takes," Pete reasoned.

"Sound reasoning, Son. Jethro works for Master Billy four and a half days a week planning and coordinating a new town the Daniels plan to build here in the hill country. He makes more money per month for his master than Oatie and I make with his practice and two ranches. We'll take you to see the model they built if we have time this weekend. It's fantastic," Elmer said, "Oh, and by the way, we got twenty-five more slaves over to the other ranch. We're into big-time ranching with the Daniels family," Elmer tossed off as an afterthought.  

Billy Gog Groats, the giant, came into the courtyard and was rushed by Tron and Zeus. It was obvious to everyone they were glad to see each other. Billy left Clyde and Balthazar with them to transport them back to the barn after Thor and Zeus cleaned-up and dressed themselves in the Western clothes Billy and his staff provided for them. There were many tearful goodbyes from the village folks when their beloved co-worker and leader prepared to leave with his master and family. Jethro reassured them he would be back on the job come the following Monday, but in the meantime, they would see him attending Joe and Crunch's smack-down.

The love which passed between Jethro and the villagers was palpable and of all the wonders, Pete Breedlove found that particular moment and feeling most notable and moving of any he thus far witnessed. Somehow, for all the high-strangeness and gee-whiz awesomeness of everything, he couldn't help be overwhelmed with the solid, basic humanity of everyone connected with the Daniels' experience -- as Oatie and Elmer kept referring to the ranch. The uniqueness and variety of the lifeforms on board Captain Nick's ship was astounding to Pete. He got to meet the Sun Bears, Billy's Psyches, Archie and Edith, and everyone of Captain Nick's protector's including Joe and Crunch. He particularly like Leon, the lion man; Pan, the panther man, and Razza, the dragon man. Pete's head was spinning from total immersion into the Daniels' world. He decided Randy was right; around every corner was something new and wonderful.

Billy and his posse transported back to the barn at the ranch and found Perry Reed and Mick Flynn waiting for them. Mick Flynn decided to come on board the Daniels' coop-ranching business offer and was hoping they could find time for Ramrod Randy and his man, Rand Snoddy, to pick out another twenty-five cow-people for his ranch. He was vacillating whether or not to join the Daniels' growing group of ranchers, but he finally made the decision.

"Did you have anything to do with Mick making up his mind to join our co-op, Bull?" Billy asked Elmer when he got him alone.

"Absolutely not! You know me. I would never do nothing like 'at! Cowboy's code of honor! I just done told him it become a family thing with me, and I wouldn't butt-fuck no rancher outside my family," Elmer said, "Once't he stopped crying, I got him settled down, made a little love to him, give him one a' ma' best really good, slow, solid, deep bull-of-the-hill-country fuck'ns, he done come around to my way a think'n real quick-like," he bragged.

"You are a terrible man, Master Bull! God I love you!" Billy declared and laughed.

"That's what Mick told me, too!" the great bull bragged again, and they fell together laughing.

Also waiting for them was the Tate contingency, Will, Buster, and their fine looking newer family member Everett; oh, yes, and the very lovely Miranda and her family. It was the pups' first time out in public, and they were on their best behavior; but, hell, they were just pups. They were fascinated by everything and everyone. They would fly from person to person to receive hugs, to be petted, or a receive a treat.   

"Was that another 'gasp' I heard from you, boy?" Elmer gigged Pete.

"Yes, sir, but only 'cause I almost shit ma' Wranglers, Dad," Pete replied and laughed, "Dogs what can talk with wings? This place is better than I imagined what Heaven might be like. Where are the winged horses, Pa?" Pete asked. He hadn't called Elmer 'pa' in years.

"Any day now, I expect, Son," Elmer replied.

Also waiting was Judge LaFleur and his son Wesley, his wife, and little boy, Cody. It was Cody's day for another treatment from Billy and his posse. Billy figured since they had so many enhanced family members gathered, a super massive infusion of their healing light just might swing the balance in defeating Cody's disease. He was hoping so, but he would still continue to provide Cody with therapy for sometime. There was a party atmosphere in the air with the expectation of the coming smack-down not unlike tail-gate warriors at a super-bowl game without the excessive drinking and noxious foods. There was such a buildup to the event, no one knew what to expect but everyone could sense it was going to be a turning point in several people's lives. They just didn't know how large or small the impact might be; nonetheless, none of them would have missed the weekend for the world.

When Thor, Zeus, and Gog walked out of the barn accompanied by Clyde and Balthazar everything came to a halt. More than one jaw dropped open. The two large bulls and their giant made impressive and authentic looking cowboys. Of course the boys ran to them for more hugs and kisses, but they weren't alone. Several of the men including Bubba and Jack wanted a piece of the action.

It was a warm, but not hot, spring day. The family decided to serve lunch buffet style and set up tables for folks to sit at under the huge oak trees next to the old barn. There was room for everyone. Lunch was a light affair. They served mesquite barbecued chicken with cowboy beans and several different potato salads and green salads. Everyone had enough to eat. Thor, Zeus, and Gog seemed to really enjoy their food and being together. Billy and several of his posse tasted Crunch's blood to have his DNA on file within them so they could provide a goodly portion of Ork semen for Joe to ramp him up for the contest. Thor and Zeus heard them talking about it. "You know your new slave is a shape-shifter, don't you, Master Billy? He might be able to provide you with a rather large quantity of Ork gizz for your blue giant," Thor said.

"I remember something about it, sir. Can you morph from collected DNA from body fluids?" Billy asked Billy Gog.

"Yes, Master, but a small taste of his blood would be better," Gog replied.

"We have some available. We'll give you a sample. Let's see, we got four cowboy-angel shifters and one giant shifter. Depending on Joe's stamina we might be able to use a couple more. Anyone else think they might like to have a go at shape-shifting and get a free blowjob from our blue giant? If you been enhanced you got the ability within you. All you need to do is follow the yellow brick road of the DNA your body digests," Billy said. Several hands went up. Oatie, Jethro, Elmer, Bubba, Moss, Enoch, and Tom McMartin's held their hands up. Okay, we only need about eight – if that many. We'll have to see how hungry our giant might be, so I'll choose three. Jethro, because he's got experience in shifting; Bubba, because he needs the experience; Oatie, because he's got the medical background to understand the science behind it; and one more – Master Bull, just because I wanna' see what he'll look like as an Ork," Billy declared and laughed. "Now, before you men agree you must understand, Crunch is another chimera similar to our beloved Vox and Roxanne. He's a Human/Ork chimera. To morph from such a combination of two DNA patterns might be tricky for the novice, but I think me and my posse can help you if you have a problem or get stuck. You men still want to be considered?" he asked.

Everyone of them assured him they wanted to try. Pete couldn't believe what he was hearing. He met Joe and Crunch on the ship, and while he admired the huge green Ork, he was wary of him. He wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley in a deserted city late at night. Now his boy, his boy's future husband, and his dad were going to shift to become one. Pete rang up another one for the amazing-counter. He didn't believe Elmer when he told Pete he would be taking a journey like no other he ever experienced. His dad neither lied to him nor over-exaggerated.

After lunch the men knew they had their work cut out for them before they even got around to taking care of Joe the blue giant. They were going to limit the number of cowboy-angels for taking care of Cody so the boy wouldn't become frightened; however, his daddy and granddad didn't think it would be a problem. The ladies, including Cody's mother were busy finishing putting things away and cleaning up after lunch. They decided not to serve dessert until after the men took care of the boy. When Billy asked Cody if he would mind being naked in front of a bunch of cowboys, it didn't seem to bother him, but Billy could sense the boy might be frightened. When they got to the slave processing room off the barbershop, Billy whispered instructions to Randy, Rory, and Calhoun and sent Cody off with them and his dad, Wesley. When they returned, the boys and Cody's daddy were naked except for their cowboy boots, and every cowboy-angel in the place was naked except for their boots.

Randy carefully explained to Cody a cowboy weren't really naked as long as he was wearing his boots. Cody grinned real big when he saw everyone else naked, too. Granddad LaFleur was naked and picked his grandson up to gently place him on the padded table. Even old Pete was naked in empathy for the young boy. He thought the men's united gesture was one of the greatest acts of love he witnessed in sometime. He was even more impressed when he watched the cowboy-angels raise and spread their wings over the young boy and the concentrated light which gathered and was disbursed from their wings was so powerful and strong he could only look at it for a few seconds. Here he was, a brown dirt cowboy witnessing something few mortals ever get to see, and he was being given a second chance with his family. His heart swelled with joy and pride, and he knew he would never make the same mistake again. 

When they finished with Cody, Billy gathered him from the table, gave him a big hug, stole a kiss, and handed him to his granddad. Wesley was shaking the naked men's hands and thanking each and every one. He had a big hug, and a kiss for Billy. When the hubbub died down, Billy looked at Oatie and Elmer, grinned, raised an eyebrow and motioned his head toward Pete. He didn't have to say a word. They knew what was on his mind. Oatie looked at Elmer and he nodded, then they nodded to Billy their approval.

"Peter Breedlove!" Billy slapped his hand flat on the table, "Come forth, and lie on this table beneath your master!" Billy said in a commanding voice. Pete didn't know what was going on, but he instinctively did what he was told and lay on his back on the table. He was still naked except for his boots. The men gathered around him, raised their wings, and began the process for him. Oatie and Elmer knew Billy wasn't going to give Pete the whole package, but he would look twenty years younger when he got off the table. Pete never felt such a wonderful feeling in his life. It was fulfilling as well as sensual and his penis engorged with blood and grew strong. It was the first time in his life, Oatie ever saw his old man naked, and he was impressed. Pete was his father's son, no doubt. "Open yore' pie hole for me, Pete," Billy ordered and Pete complied. Billy ran his index finger over the top and bottom, and the men watched as Pete's teeth disappeared. "Feel with your tongue, Pete," Billy said and saw a look of horror as Pete discovered his teeth were missing. "Don't be afraid, Pete, I'm going to give you a new set," Billy ran his finger over Pete's gums and a new set of perfect teeth instantly appeared. "Now, try again, Pete," Billy said.

Pete ran his tongue over his new set of teeth and smiled a perfect, bright white smile. Billy had everyone slowly power down and allowed Pete to sit up. Everyone was stunned at how much younger he looked, and his teeth were perfect. "Go look in the mirror over there, Brother," Billy told him. Pete almost ran to the mirror and when he saw he looked twenty years younger he openly wept for joy. He came and knelt before Billy and paid homage to his boots. "Thank you, Master Billy. How can I ever repay you?" he asked.

"By being good to your family, Pete, and help your fellow man. That's all I ask. Now come to my arms and show your master your love for him," Billy demanded. Pete sprang up, threw his arms around Billy's neck and didn't hold back. He kissed Billy with the passion any lover might display. Billy let Pete give and take as much as he needed until the man was reduced to tears. They broke it off still holding each other as Oatie, Jethro, and Elmer came to put their hands on Pete and Billy. It was like the prodigal son returned to the fold.

* * * * * * *
The men put their clothes on; all but Oatie and Jethro. Clyde and Balthazar went to get Joe the blue giant to bring him to the slave processing room for his physical exam and check up. The other men went back to the tables to have their dessert. They would save some for the other men to enjoy after Joe's exam was complete. Oatie did a complete and thorough exam on Joe and determined he was in good health and shape for his age, but he had some concerns about Joe's heart. Oatie couldn't be more specific, but he was afraid Joe might be developing an arrhythmia. Billy didn't seem to be concerned. He told Oatie he could correct it, but after they finished, he wanted Oatie to listen to Joe's heart again. Oatie agreed.

When Oatie and Jethro finished their dessert, Billy's posse and extended family returned to the processing room. They left Joe with the boys. He was a gentle giant and loved their company. The men returned and Oatie handed Billy the vial of Joe's blood he extracted. Billy was the only one who was going to sample his blood so he could channel his power and make corrections on Joe's huge body. It was almost a moment of sanctification between two men of different species when one samples the other's blood to 'know' him and become his blood-brother. Billy took a small amount on his finger and brought it to his mouth. Billy looked Joe in his sad, tired eyes and tasted his small amount of blood. He immediately felt the information coursing through his veins. A great clap of reality like a rolling thunder came to Billy, and he went weak in his knees. He almost collapsed and would have if Joe hadn't grabbed his master, pulled him close, and held him tight to his huge naked body. Billy was a mess. He started sobbing in Joe's arms and held him tight. "Why ain't chu' never told nobody about this, Joe?" Billy wailed through his tears.

Next Chapter: The Secret In The Blood

End of Chapter 45 ~ Him Who Made The Seven Stars
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