Thursday, 1530 Hours
Alana and Janai spent the entire afternoon at the National Archives and the Museum of American History, absorbing as much as they could about the country they were in. Thanks to their ability to read and retain visual images and words as quickly as they viewed them, they were able to absorb a wealth of information in a short time. Both visitors were amazed at the speed with which the new nation rose to become a leading power among earths many countries. The leadership abilities of their people were definitely a lesson to be learned. And the hardships they had overcome to keep their fledgling country united had made an impression on both Janai and Alana. Janai, the protector, marveled at the superiority of the military forces while Alana, the Princess, was equally impressed with the democracy and statesmanship of the countrys top leaders.
Father is right. There is a lot to be learned from these people.
Janai remained silent and merely nodded as they walked out of the building. Where do you want to go next? Janai asked as they came out to the sidewalk.
Id like to look at some of the monuments they built to honor their leaders. Theres more to be learned just by the way they erect the tributes to their great leaders.
The late afternoon light was beginning to fade and temperature began to drop as they walked down The Mall towards the Washington Monument. Most of the people they saw were scurrying to bus stops and Metro stations, eager to head to warmer homes or hotel rooms. Alana and Janai for the most part, were not much affected by the cold breeze even though they did begin to feel the chill as they walked along the Tidal Basin on their way to the FDR Memorial. Walking through the outdoor rooms of this unique monument, Janai was impressed with what she saw. His courage and optimism as he faced the trials of his terms in office his remarkable wife who championed human rights and his determination and leadership as he led his country through war to a victory he never lived to see. Reading aloud, Janai was particularly struck by his quote on war:
"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."
Its a brave man who detests war so much, but yet does not bend to the winds of war and instead, lead his country to victory, Janai said solemnly after she finished reading the quote and walked on.
Yes, Janai, youre right. I only hope that I never have to face that kind of a decision when my time comes to sit in my fathers place. I just hope that the rumors of rebellion in the western provinces are just that rumors and nothing more. We have had peace in our lands for so long Im afraid our people would wish to seek the easy road to resume their tranquility no matter what the price.
Janai stopped, turning to gaze at her princess, looking past her youthful earthly body and seeing her as the next leader of their homeland. My Princess, she began seriously as she reached out, placing her hands on Alanas shoulders, I have every faith in your ability to rule our land. Your wisdom and compassion are well beyond your years and you have the best advisors in our land at your disposal.
Alana smiled as she lifted her hands to gently caress Janais cheeks. I have you, Janai. Thats more than Ill ever need. The desire to initiate the touch was not new to her. She knew she had been falling in love with her protector for a very long time now and had often dreamt of what it would be like to touch her. However, to actually carry out the desire was a new development, and she momentarily wondered where the boldness came from. Alana kept her hands along Janais cheeks a moment longer, relishing the feeling that gesture was eliciting in her human body and triggering a deep seeded wanting in her she wanted more. She wanted to touch Janai in places that would speak of her love. That would communicate how she truly felt about her protector and that would bring pleasure to Janai and to herself. The urge was so great at this moment and she wanted to fulfill that desire here and now. Her body desperately ached for it. Alana closed her eyes daring to read Janais thoughts, smiling inwardly to realize that she too had a longing.
The touch startled Janai. It was the first time Alana caressed her in such a tender fashion. And, she was not in a hurry to have that sensation discontinued. In fact she longed to be able to reciprocate with one of her own and found herself almost imperceptibly leaning into Alanas hands. The warmth she felt coming from those hands traveled inward, reaching around the heart she felt thumping wildly in her chest. It was a remarkable sensation, and a wonderful one, one she cherished almost as much as the deep love she felt for her princess. Love? Janai was struck by the thought. Is it love I feel for Alana? Or, is it duty, honor, and respect? The confusion in her mind grew and warred with her sense of duty.
Standing there, gazing into one anothers eyes, time seemed to become suspended. As if in slow motion, they found themselves moving closer together until their bodies were touching, pressing closer and closer. Alanas head shifted, raising her face to meet her protectors as they inched closer still. Both hearts were pounding forcefully as their lips were now but a breath apart. They could feel the warmth of each others breath as they exhaled and fell into each others gaze.
Hey! Lookit the queers! came a shout from behind them.
Yo! Which ones the wife? shouted one of the teens.
Aint the big dyke, thats for sure, came another response.
Startled, Janai and Alana, pulled apart and looked towards the group of teenagers approaching them. Janai swept Alana behind her for protection and assumed her full height, readying herself.
Why dont you lezzies take a hike! This is a public place and we dont like your kind messing it up. The teen that was obviously the groups leader approached with a macho swagger.
Why dont you young men just leave us alone before someone gets hurt, Janai stated calmly as the youngster continued to approach. She assessed the level of threat from the group and decided that it was miniscule if that. The teens were no match for her strength and powers.
The young leader stopped and looked around holding his arms out. He was nearly Janais height, but composed of more fat than muscle. Oh, tough butch, huh? He looked back at his buddies and laughed. I dunno guys are you scared youll get hurt? Laughter arose from the three teens behind him.
Alana pressed her hand on Janais back and whispered. Come, Janai. Theyre just boys and we wouldnt want to hurt anyone.
Janai nodded, heeding the words of her princess and relaxed her stance a bit. Okay, were leaving, she told the leader of the group, holding out her right hand in a peaceful motion. She reached back with her left hand and motioned for Alana to start backing away. As they reached the stairs leading to the Tidal Basin they turned to descend them, leaving the jeering teens behind.
When they were halfway down the steps, one of the teens threw a stone at them, hitting Alana squarely in the back and eliciting a groan from her. Janai turned and in one fluid motion fixing the group with a deadly stare, daring them to continue. The teens immediately stopped their forward motion, dropping the stones they had picked up from the landscaping around the shrubbery, all except the tallest boy. He grunted and turned away in a feint, then whirled back and hurled the stone at Janai. Her reaction was quick and decisive. She raised her right hand holding the palm towards the object and sent a mild burst of a force field toward it. The stone never made it much beyond the boys hand as it shattered sending shards directly back at the boys. Then another invisible force field emanated from Janais eyes sweeping towards the teens, knocking them hard onto the flagstone where they remained dazed and motionless. Janai turned back to Alana taking her elbow firmly and guided her the rest of the way down the stairs.
Are you all right Princess? Janai questioned as they hurried down the walkway.
Yes, it was just a stone. Im fine.
They could have hit your head, Princess, and I dont know how your human body would react.
Did you hurt the boys? Alana immediately began to worry.
No, theyll be fine. Just dazed for a bit. Perhaps theyll think twice now before they try that again.
Once they were out of range, Janai focused on getting them back to where they would be able to find a hotel for the night. Neither dared talk about what had almost happened between them as they made their way back toward the city proper. Their bodies were still tingling from the initial contact and both walked in silence as they tried to process the powerful feelings that had surfaced within each. Janais thoughts scolded her for dropping her guard, what if one of Varians men had found us at that moment? I would have failed in my duty. Alana could have been killed. I must stop these confusing feelings! I must concentrate my powers on my duty. I must!
Finally, Alana broke the silence. I suppose well need to find some currency if we plan on staying in a hotel, she commented as they headed across Constitution Avenue.
Yes, Janai agreed, thankful for the distraction. I saw one of the dispensing machines just up the street here. Well get what we need there.
A few minutes later, Janai was standing in front of the ATM, slowly moving her faintly glowing hand over the machine while Alana watched for anyone to take notice. The screen lit up requesting the amount desired. Janai punched in an amount and waited as the machine processed the information, then rolled out the bills. She took them from the machine, folding them and placing them into her jeans pocket. Then she waved her hand over the machine, resetting the mechanism for the next customer.
That should do, she said as she turned around. There is a hotel, the Hotel Washington, just a few blocks from here. We can spend the night there.
What about clothes? We should have something with us when we check in or they may get curious.
We can say our bags were lost. No need to worry about that now, Im sure well find a suitable place to shop tomorrow, Janai commented as she led Alana in the direction of the hotel. Im more worried about tonight, she thought as her mind returned to that suspended moment in time just before the boys showed up.
As they continued to walk in silence, both reflected on the intense moment they shared before the group of teens showed up. Janai continued to reprimand herself for the brief lapse and focused her powers on protection, tuning in to her surroundings, and looking for potential danger. Glancing over at Alana as they walked beneath the warm glow of the streetlights, Janai watched as the lights danced in the blondes hair. A thin smile was on Alanas lips and Janai wondered what her princess was thinking about just then. When a stiff breeze hit them as they turned the corner, Janai was shaken back to duty, reflexively draping her arm around her smaller companion. Looking ahead, she concentrated on their objective two more blocks pay attention, Janai. Staring straight ahead as they walked, she missed seeing Alanas smile increase to a full grin.
* * * * *
The Marines double got off the Metro at the next stop and crossed over to the southbound side. He boarded the next blue train and was headed back to the Rosslyn station within minutes. He knew he would not find the woman standing on the deck, but thought he knew where she might be headed. Two stops later he exited at the Pentagon station. The Metro stop was under major construction so it took him a bit to walk out and see the massive military building within a short distance. It was early afternoon and he had a lot to do before he could return to implement the plan he formulated on the Metro. Turning, he went back down the escalator and boarded the next train. Once he hit the suburbs, he began his search. Finding the shop he was looking for, he entered and bought the needed items. It took a while before he had his outfit complete, but once he walked out of the shop, he definitely looked the part. Carrying the packed duffle bag, he went back to the Metro and boarded the next train to the Pentagon. He was amazed at the courtesy he received from fellow train passengers when they saw him in his Marine uniform. He hoped he knew enough about this country and its military to get by with his plan. After asking a few questions, he found out the majority of Army personnel entered and exited the building at the Mall Entrance so that would be where he would position himself for the wait. At 5:30 he saw his target emerge from the building and head to the parking lot. He followed at a discrete distance, closing the gap when the woman stopped at her vehicle.
Colonel Peterson was in a very good mood as she exited the Pentagon for her trip home. The day had gone well and her review of incoming reports showed no major concerns popping up on her intelligence radar screen. She was happily whistling the theme from a television show when she caught the reflection of a Marine approaching in the drivers door window of her Boxster and putting her on alert.
Excuse me, Colonel, he began with a broad smile. I was wondering if you could give this lost jarhead some direction. He stood at attention with a salute held.
Colonel Deanna Peterson looked up at the young Marine and returned the salute, relaxing from her alerted state. Well, Ive got to admit when a Marine calls himself a jarhead to an Army officer, youll get my attention. What can I do for you Corporal?
Well, Maam, I just was assigned to Quantico
Youre definitely lost then, she added, her good mood was evident in a dazzling grin.
Yes, Maam. I am. You see I decided to get off the train here in DC and see the sights before I headed over to the base, but now that Im here well, Maam Im a bit turned around. Could you point me in the right direction?
Tell you what Corporal. Ill do better than that. What the heck, she thought as she walked over to the trunk and unlocked it. What could it hurt to do a good deed once in a while? Besides, hes part of our military family and we should help each other out when we have a chance. You never know when you may need a little help yourself. Toss your duffle in here and Ill give you a lift half-way there.
Yes, Maam! Thank you, Maam! He was delighted that this was working out better than he expected. He had hoped to just meet her and if necessary, overpower her until he could use his powers to find out what he could, but this was even better. He might not have to even kill this human.
Getting into the Boxster, they drove south to Occoquan, Virginia. They drove in relative silence through the rush hour traffic only exchanging names, but once they hit Interstate 95, their conversation picked up.
So, where you coming from Corporal? Dean asked as she pulled out into the passing lane. The speedometer was hitting 80 and she was pushing it past the speed limit just a tad.
Arizona, Maam. Fort Huachuca. He had studied the contents of the Marines wallet, anticipating these types of questions and hoped he got the pronunciation correct.
Never been there. Whats it like?
Hot, Maam. Just hot.
Dean chuckled at his response. Well, Quantico can get hot too, but at least youll have rain once in a while. It may take you a bit to get used to the humidity around here though.
Yes, Maam. Im looking forward to the rain. Ill even be glad for the humidity.
Have you been stationed elsewhere?
Oh, here and there. I havent been in that long but Im looking forward to my assignment.
Whats your MOS? Dean asked in polite conversation.
Temporarily at a loss, he mentally reviewed the papers he found in the wallet. Hoping he had it right, he answered, Military Police.
Good choice. Youll find a lot of opportunity once you leave the service with that training under your belt. Dean pressed the accelerator down a little further as she hit a piece of empty roadway. Are you planning on making the Marines your career?
Yes, Maam. I think Im pretty good at what I do. He smiled knowing that statement was a true fact. It looks as though youve been in for a while Colonel. You plan on finishing your career in the Army?
Thats my intention, Corporal. Dean looked over at the Marine as he watched the scenery slip quickly past. She smiled inwardly as she noted she was cruising down the highway at a pretty good clip and the Marine seemed not to be bothered by it. That is, unless I get picked up speeding and end up in jail, she mumbled softly and slowed the powerful car to match the flow of traffic around her.
They chatted amiably for a while longer while he looked for a way to find out if she knew anything about the young couple that he had just eliminated. Worse case scenario, he would overpower her when they got off the highway and resort to more expedient means of finding the information he wanted. Finally he decided on an opening remark. You look like youve been in the desert too, Maam. Nice tan.
Thanks, she replied as she thought of the source of her tan. I just got back from a short leave. I went to St. John with a friend and did some diving. Wow, I am in a good mood, she thought after volunteering that information. She looked over at her passenger, noting the athletic build. Have you ever gone diving?
Only once Maam. I prefer to stay above water. He quickly went for the information. I thought Id give it a try and hoped to find some sunken treasure. Instead, I found I didnt like relying on a tank of air to breathe. He paused as if in thought. Have you ever come across anything valuable on a dive? That one time I did go, I once found a bunch of kids toys jacks, a toy car, even some old marbles.
Oh, once in a while. You can find the strangest things in the ocean. Things that just dont make any sense being there, but there they are. In fact, we found a couple of marbles this last time. Strange place for something like that, but you never know what the currents will carry with them or some boater will toss overboard.
He couldnt believe his luck. First contact and he had a winner. Really? The marbles I found were all crusty looking I thought maybe they were gunshot at first.
The ones we found were real beauties, very polished. Almost like they had just been dropped in. Ones a blue-green and the other is a light purple, but only if you hold them up to the light. Otherwise they have an iridescent cast to them.
They sound nice. Are you keeping them or giving them to your kids? That description fits Janai and the Princess perfectly, he thought, not believing his incredible luck at finding them so easily.
Dean laughed, Keeping them, but not for any kids. Theyll make a nice memento of the trip. Even have a holder for them. Dean took her exit off the highway and stopped at the end of the ramp, looked both ways and turned right. The bus station was only one block away.
He was trying to decide if he should just let her go, or force her to take him to her home. As he debated, Dean pulled into the bus station.
Heres where I let you off, she said as she pulled into a very busy parking lot. You can get a ticket to Quantico inside. There should be a bus along pretty soon. She hit the trunk release, opened her car door, and stepped out of the car in one fluid motion. I dont think you can get lost from here.
Caught off guard by her quick departure from the vehicle, he realized that the choice had been made for him. He opened his door and stepped out, walking to the trunk to remove his duffle. Thank you, Maam. Im sure I can find my way from here. He picked up the duffle and saluted before heading into the station. After returning the salute, Dean got back into the Boxster and headed for home.
* * * * *
Thursday, 1800 Hours
Dean pulled her sleek black Porsche into the garage at exactly 1800. She no sooner got out of her vehicle and Katie pulled in next to her. As soon as Katies car was parked, Dean hit the button to close the garage doors then walked over to open the door for Katie.
Hey, love. Nice timing, Katie slipped out from behind the steering wheel and got out of the car, tipping her head back to receive a kiss.
Mmm, Ill say. Dean shut the car door and they walked out of the garage and up to the house. How was your day? Are the recruits looking good?
Well, after I ran them through the gauntlet on their first day, some of them were not looking too chipper today, Katie chuckled. I thought about giving them a break, but figured they needed to be pushed hard, so I didnt.
Good move, love. Never give them a break this early in the game, otherwise theyll be expecting it. She grabbed the mail and newspaper from the boxes by the walkway. Do you have any outstanding students, or is it too early to tell.
Too early, but there may be a couple of possibilities, Katie replied.
They reached the house and Dean unlocked the door and attended to the alarm system after setting the mail and newspaper on the table by the door. The cats came mewing their greeting before racing to the kitchen for their evening meal.
Katie followed them to the kitchen where she fixed their plates before heading to the bedroom. After stripping off her clothes, she went to the bathroom and began running the tub. She planned on taking a nice long bath before dinner.
Going to take a little soak? Dean inquired as she entered the room.
Mmhm. Im a little sore myself. Pouring in some Epsom salts into the water before stepping into the Jacuzzi she added, Care to join me?
Dean stood watching as Katie stepped into the steaming water, totally mesmerized by the magnificent body of her lover. Now thats what I call an offer I cant refuse, Dean winked at her, Be right back, Im going to take the leftover pasta fagiole out of the freezer and start warming it up.
Katie turned on the jets, and leaned back, enjoying the hot, swirling water. Before she knew it, Dean was slipping in and pulling her into her arms. Allowing herself to be cradled, Katie sighed and closed her eyes, wishing time could be suspended, at least for a little while.
You know hon, Katie breathed, I could stay like this forever.
Dean chuckled at the vision of two old women with pruned skin sitting in a Jacuzzi full of cold swirling water. Well, okay, but I hope you like me in soggy wrinkled skin.
Oh, very funny, Katie chided. Then she came up with the same vision in her mind and started to chuckle too. Well, at least wed be a matched set.
Mmm, Dean murmured as she moved her head to the side, kissing Katies neck on the way to the targeted earlobe. At the same time, she lifted her hands off Katies stomach and began exploring her supple breasts, teasing the nipples taut in the process. That maneuver elicited a small moan, so she doubled her efforts on all three fronts, smiling in satisfaction as she felt Katies body begin to react.
Katies voice quavered as she felt her body begin moving on its own in response to Deans attentions. Ahh, umm, I guess ungh we could mmm keep the water heated using this ahhumm, tactic.
Mmmhmm, Dean drawled out slowly as one hand leisurely slid lower, seeking to heat up the water just a tad bit more.
* * * * *
The Hotel Washington was one of the older hotels in the city. It had served many Presidents, dignitaries and celebrities through the years and still is considered a premier lodging place. Janai and Alana were able to check in without too much trouble, but there were concerns by the desk staff when neither could produce identification. The evening manager decided that since they could pay in cash and didnt look like the type to cause trouble, he would make an exception. He even had the concierge put together a few extra toiletries in a basket: some toothpaste, deodorant and toothbrushes. He also gave them directions to the local department store when he handed Janai the room keycard and was rewarded with two gleaming smiles for his thoughtfulness.
The concierge carried the basket of toiletries to a bellman, who escorted them to their room on the fifth floor. At the room, he opened the door and handed Janai the keycard and the basket. Janai knew the drill from here, and pulled out a ten-dollar bill handing it to the man as she entered.
Thank you, maam. Please call if theres anything else you need, he offered politely before heading back to the bank of elevators.
Closing and securing the door behind her, Janai let out a soft sigh. Well, that went better than I expected.
Yes, Alana admitted, I was beginning to wonder if the lack of identification was going to be a problem.
The room had two double beds, an Italian marble tiled bathroom, and the usual toiletries, hairdryer, coffee maker, etc. The beds looked inviting and the view of the city was outstanding. As they entered further into the room, they removed their jackets and tossed them over the two overstuffed chairs by the window. Alana pulled back the sheer curtain and stared out at the city bathed in lights.
This is a beautiful city, she commented quietly.
Janai walked up behind her and gazed out at the brightly lit Washington Monument. Yes, it is. These people have a lot to be proud of.
Theyre not much different than us in a physical sense, are they. It was more of a statement than a question. I mean we look very much like these humans, for the most part.
Yes. Our outward appearances are really much the same. She paused considering the differences. But we have advanced so much beyond them. Just our ability to imitate other forms by latching onto their DNA
And our powers, Alana added.
Janai nodded, Yes, especially our powers.
But beyond that, Alana continued, they seem to have something that we have lost.
Turning to face Alana, Janai frowned, What do you mean?
They have such energy and drive. They are fiercely independent, yet compassionate and protective, yet again, provocative. I believe this is what my father wanted me to learn. To see the things we have lost. To experience their resilience, their actions in the face of challenge, and their creativity.
Creativity? Janai repeated as she hiked her right eyebrow up.
Alana turned and faced Janai fully. Yes, Janai. We go through our lives in a very routine way. Everyone has a duty and everyone performs his or her duty. No one questions, there are no complications, and its well, so dull. Even with the occasional disturbance as with the rebels in the western area, our civilization is so boring compared to these people. She turned and looked back out on the city. Weve stopped being creative. Were complacent.
But, our civilization is so advanced. Our creativity is what got us there. Janai frowned, not seeing what Alana was trying to get her to see.
Yes, it got us there and then left us there. We dont see, or desire, or feel, she said with sarcasm. We exist. Thats all. Just exist. The emotions are few and far between, our passion is gone.
Passion? Janai queried, now hiking up both eyebrows.
Alana turned again and looked straight into Janais eyes. Yes, passion. She reached up and placed her hands on each side of her protectors face and was overwhelmed with the emotion of that simple act. Even this kind of passion, Janai.
This? Janai began to tremble at her princesss touch aware of a growing need she recognized but was afraid to acknowledge a physical need that rose from her core, sending her nervous system into overload. She didnt want the feeling to stop, she just knew she wanted to stay right there and give in to it. To let these emotions take hold. But could she? If she did, would she be able to maintain her attention to her duty? She knew it would be a betrayal of the responsibility she had been given. For as long as she could remember, her duty was to protect Alana. To die protecting her if necessary. It would be a betrayal of that trust given to her by Alanas father. Wouldnt it?
Yes, Alana whispered, pulling closer and lifting her thumbs to gently explore the high cheekbones on Janais beautiful face, not seeing the earthly one, but the true form of Janai in her mind. You feel it too, dont you Janai, Alana smiled.
Yes, came the simple and honest response.
Alana, bolstered by the admission, continued, The women we replicated they have that passion. You saw that in their actions last night. Their lovemaking was so passionate. They were absolutely beautiful together, she paused, gathering her thoughts and steeling herself to her actions. She had always felt an attraction to Janai, at least ever since she could remember, and shed hoped that Janai felt the same pull. The brief interlude at the memorial gave her the courage to find out if the love she now knew it to be was reciprocated. I think somehow, their passion has entered into our physiology too. Its awakened our emotions again. Alana allowed her hands to continue tracing Janais cheekbones, gently caressing them with her thumbs, each movement eliciting stronger sensations from them both.
Janai moved her hands, placing them behind Alanas back, gently pulling her closer. She reveled in the feel of the muscles of Alanas back as they moved beneath her touch. Once again their hearts began beating that wild tempo harder, faster, louder. This time, no one was there to stop the movement as they inched closer. The moment their lips touched, Janai thought her eardrums would break with the sounds. Her head was spinning as her body gave in to the temptation she held back for years. The awakened emotions were so much stronger than the attraction she had previously felt for her princess. Could Alana truly feel this way for her or was it just the passion of the human form speaking. Either way, she was caught up in the same flood and was swept along giving in to the current as it brought them closer to each other.
Their first kiss was soft tentative explorative. It opened their hearts and minds. It opened their eyes to look deep into each others soul. For the first time in each of their lives, they truly felt whole. The gaping emptiness that was the by-product of duty was suddenly filled and surprisingly intensified their allegiance to each other. Breaking from that first kiss was the most difficult thing they had ever done and they both inhaled deeply as though starved for oxygen.
Alana buried her head in Janais chest and sighed. Do you understand now?
Janai wrapped her arms fully around Alana and nodded. Yes, my Princess. I do. She reached up with one hand and lifted Alanas chin so she could drink in her beauty with her eyes. Theres only one problem though.
Alanas eyes opened wide. And that is?
I can not allow myself to fall into this passion, this torrent of emotion. I have to remain vigilant. She sighed and pulled further away. Earlier, I let my guard down. I did not recognize the threat approaching. Those teens could have been Varians men I cant allow myself to let down my guard. I cant fail my duty to you.
Varians men? What makes you think he has sent someone after me us? Alana wouldnt give up so easily, pulling Janai in close once more. The communication youre still worried about that and I still cant see Varian turning against my father and the High Council. The trouble with the rebels doesnt involve Varian. My father would know and he would put a stop to it.
I fear you take the rebels too lightly, and you forget that I know Varian well, too well. I believe that he is capable of deceit and would use his influence and respect your father gives him as a tool. Janai counseled. This group is very determined. Perhaps they too have acquired some of these humans traits, only I fear the bad ones. I can sense a presence following us. Its at the fringe of my senses, but its there. Im not imagining it.
Oh, Janai. I do take their threats seriously, but I cannot believe that Varian is involved. Whatever the threat is, we shall deal with them on our return together.
Alanas comment and implied commitment made Janais eyebrows practically rise to her hairline. Together? But, Alana I dont think your father or the High Council would approve of you taking my counsel. I am but a protector Her words were cut off as Alana placed her lips on hers once more. Only this time, the kiss was not soft or tentative. It was firm and hot and explorative. As she gained entrance to Janais mouth and explored further, the sensations of pleasure rose once more. Adding her hands to the exploratory process, Alana eagerly felt Janais body react as Janai inhaled sharply at their firm, insistent touch.
Thoughts of the two benefactors in their bed the night before slipped into place and Janai nearly fell into the abyss, but her resolve did not crumble, and she gently, but in a positive way pushed herself away from Alanas pursuit. I I can not, she said with great effort. I must hold fast to my duties. I must keep you safe.
Saddened, Alana stopped her attempts as she searched Janais eyes, seeking some affirmation of the love she felt for her companion. Janai, can you honestly tell me that you wont no dont love me?
In response, Janai smiled and cupped Alans face with her right hand. The body you adopted is quite beautiful, but not as beautiful as your true form, she smiled at her charge, allowing her thumb to gently brush Alanas lips. I can honestly tell you that I do love you. I realized today that I have loved you for a very long time. But my position, my responsibility, is to keep you safe and I can not do that if Im distracted if my senses are overloaded.
Alana smiled and whispered, Why Janai, I do believe you are complimenting me.
Janai blushed and lowered her gaze only to have her head lifted by Alanas hand. Thank you, Janai. She reached up and pulled her protector down into another kiss, this time shorter, but still full of tenderness and love. Janai I love you. I have loved you for a very long time
As I have loved you, Janai cut in. She smiled as she saw a tear escape from Alanas deep blue eyes. Bending her head down, she kissed the tear, picking up the sweet salty taste on her lips. A tear? Have you taken on that emotion too?
Alana smiled back. Just a bit of joy escaping. You have given me hope tonight and my heart is overwhelmed with joy.
As is mine, was Janais simple response. As is mine.
* * * * *
With dinner consumed and the dishes washed and put away, the two women settled in the living room with their evening cup of Chamomile tea. Settling in her favorite chair, Dean opened the newspaper and scanned the headlines. Katie picked up the new Clive Cussler novel she bought that afternoon at the newsstand next to the cafeteria and headed for the recliner. The three felines that had been snoozing since they finished their evening meal decided it was time to stretch and find a lap to sit in. Sugar was the exception. Instead of the normal nightly routine where she would settle in one of her masters lap for the rest of the evening, Sugar uncharacteristically decided it was time to play. She jumped up on Katies lap, meowed and rubbed her head on the hands holding the book. Katie obligingly reach out to pet the normally quiet, docile cat and was surprised when Sugar flopped down and pulled the proffered hand to her belly where the feline began licking the hand in long quick strokes. After five licks, she jumped up, releasing the hand and leapt to the back of Katies chair. From there, she pounced on an unsuspecting Butter who was making her way toward Dean. Ricocheting off a now prone Butter, Sugar raced around the living room floor, switched to bounding from one piece of furniture to the next, knocked the newspaper from Deans hands, jumped to the floor and dashed to the kitchen.
A startled Dean looked over at Kate. Whats gotten into her?
Katie, just as startled, shrugged her shoulders and followed the cat into the kitchen anticipating a resulting seizure from the unusual activity. Flipping on the light, she found the wayward cat crouched under the kitchen table, tail snapping back and forth as she concentrated on her prey: a furry toy mouse. Tossing her head several times from one side to the other, she meowed loudly and then pounced on the toy, batting and chasing it around the slick kitchen floor. Katie stood watching in amazement as Sugar played with the vigor of a six-month-old kitten.
Whats gotten into you? she mumbled in amazement. You havent had that much energy in years. She pulled out a kitchen chair and observed Sugar for signs of the expected seizure that was bound to come from the excess activity only it never came. Sugar continued to play until the toy mouse finally came to rest beyond paw reach under the refrigerator. As the cat stared at her prey, Katie noted that Sugar was not even breathing hard. The joy of watching her beloved cat play soon turned to caution then fear as she worried that this may be a forewarning of doom; a final act of defiance exhibited by Sugar before she submitted to her legacy of poor health. The mere thought of losing Sugar after fifteen years brought tears to Katies eyes. She got up and walked over to the cat picking her up gently and hugging her to her body.
Hey, sweetie. Are you okay? she whispered in the cats ear. In response, Sugar gave her master a long, affectionate lick and began to purr. I think I should get you to the clinic tomorrow for a check up, huh? This just isnt like you and youre worrying me. Sugar just looked up at her master and mewed contentedly. Running tomorrows schedule through her mind, Katie figured she could drop Sugar off at the vets office on her way to work. She walked over to the kitchen phone and dialed her veterinarians office and left a message with her concerns, saying she would be by on her way to work.
The cats actions the rest of the evening did little to calm Katies trepidation as Sugar continued to play, antagonizing her mates, and generally acting as though she were a kitten. Finally, by the time Dean turned on the nightly newscast, Sugar had mellowed her activities and went to her bed to nap.
Reading the concern on her lovers face, Dean joined Katie on the couch and cradled her in warm, loving arms. Worried, huh? Dean whispered as she tightened her embrace.
Mmhm. I havent seen her act that way since she was a kitten.
How long has she had been having seizures? Dean had only known the cats for a little over a year and other than administering her medicine, she did not know the cause of the seizures.
Since she was about five years old. She had been hit in the head by a rock thrown by some boys that lived down the block from Aunt Lois and I. We thought she was dead by the amount of blood, but when we got her to the vets office, she started to come around. Katie paused remembering the limp body of Sugar as she laid it on the examining room table. She was a senior in high school at the time and was still living with her Aunt Lois. She had a terrible skull depression from the force of the rocks impact and the vet kept her overnight for observation and a thorough workup on her the next day. X-rays showed a bone chip lodged in her brain. Aunt Lois and I were hoping it wouldnt result in any permanent damage, but soon after that, she began having seizures. Eventually, a tumor began to surround the bone chip, worsening the seizures. The medicine has slowed the growth, but Doctor Fabian is sure it will be her undoing. The seizure medicine keeps them at bay, but Im worried that something is very wrong. Her behavior tonight is so atypical. She hasnt acted like this since she was a kitten.
They werent able to operate and remove the bone chip?
No, it was in a spot that was too risky. Her chances of surviving the operation were slim, and if she did, the odds were too high that she would have been paralyzed. Doctor Fabian suggested the growth inhibitors and some seizure medicines. The seizures were mild and we hoped they would eventually subside. Katie looked up and smiled. Obviously, they didnt, but they didnt get worse either, at least until a couple of years ago. It was touch and go until he found some new medicines and he does routine scans to monitor the tumors growth. It has been getting bigger each year, and hes said its just a matter of time... her voice trailed off as the thought of losing one of her feline friends sank in.
Nodding, Dean looked over at the sleeping cat. Well, she seems to be fine right now. But its a good idea to have her checked out. Im sure shell be okay.
They remained in each others arms, each silently contemplating the strange behavior of Sugar, when the newscasters next story caught their attention.
A bizarre double death has the police baffled tonight as they search for a reason. The victims are Edward Lowe and Angelina DiAngelo. The yearbook faculty pictures of Eddie and Angie flashed on the screen as the newscaster continued. The couple was found dead in their Falls Church apartment by a friend when they failed to show up for work for the second day. Both victims were employed by the Falls Church School District. The next camera clips were of the high school building where the two worked, followed by the morgue technicians loading the gurneys into the coroners van. The exact cause of death is still under investigation, and has the new Coroner, Doctor Evon Bell asking viewers to contact her at the number shown on the screen with any information on the activities of the couple for the last week. In other news
Wow, thats the young couple that we met in St. John, Katie stated as she sat up and turned down the sound. I wonder what happened?
Well, since theyre looking for information on their activities for the past week, I suppose we should give this Doctor Bell a call and fill her in on what we know.
Katie nodded in agreement as she reached for the phone. Dialing the number that had appeared on the television screen, she got the Doctors voice mail. At the tone she left their names and telephone numbers along with a short message before hanging up. Guess shes on the phone already, Katie told Dean as she put the phone back into its cradle. Slipping back into her previous position, Katie questioned aloud, Wonder why the Coroners baffled?
Guess well have to wait for her to call us. How about we get ready for bed. Ive got an early day tomorrow.
The two women reluctantly released each other and headed for their bedroom. Katie finished getting ready for bed first and was already dozing when Dean pulled the covers back and slid in next to her. As she reached up to turn off the bed lamp, she noticed the two marbles were not in their holders.
Now thats strange. They were here this morning when we made the bed.
Hmm? a drowsy mumble came from Katie. Whats missing?
Your marbles. I distinctly remember them being here this morning when we made the bed. Dean looked half-heartedly around the dim room. Ill bet the cats were playing with them.
Mmmphf, now youre saying Ive lost my marbles. Katie chuckled then yawned, yeah, well find them tomorrow. Now, how about turning off the light?
* * * * *
The squad car rolled to a stop in front of Deans driveway. The Occoquan PD Officer got out of the squad car and pulled out his Brinkman flashlight, flipping it on to guide him around the garage, but the motion detector floodlights came on when he got close to the building. He reseated the flashlight in its holder and as he rounded the back corner of the garage, he noticed the light at the back part of the house go out. Well, looks like the Colonel is still awake. He walked up to the door and pressed the doorbell.
A blonde head lifted off the pillow, Was that the doorbell? Katie asked as she watched Dean slip out of bed and put on her robe.
Last time I heard it, thats exactly what it sounded like, Dean quipped, earning a pillow thrown at her.
Wise guy! Katie responded as Dean neatly ducked. Now, who would be here at this hour of night? She lifted the covers and went to the chair that held her sweats. Quickly putting them on, she was right behind Dean as they walked to the intercom by the bedroom door.
Who is it? Dean asked as she pressed the talk button.
Its Officer DeVoe, Occoquan PD. Sorry to bother you so late, maam.
Is there a problem officer? Dean asked.
I hope not, maam. Would you mind coming to the door?
Just a minute, she replied as she looked over at Katie. Do you remember an Officer DeVoe? Dean asked the question while she walked over to her bedside table and removed her compact model HK USP9. It had a barrel length of 3.58 inches and weighed in just under a pound and a half, making it a very nice piece for up close personal protection. She checked the clip, replaced it, and made sure the safety was still on before slipping it into her robe pocket.
Katie thought for a minute, cocking her head to the side as she pondered Deans question. Yeah, I think so. Isnt he that cute redhead that took the initial report when my Chevy was bombed?
Ah, recognition dawning, the one with all the freckles!
That would be the one, Katie answered with a grimace. She watched Dean pocket the firearm. Expecting trouble?
Nope, but I dont trust anyone except you, love, Dean corrected and placed a quick kiss on Katies lips.
They walked to the front door, flipping on the house lights as they went. Dean looked through the peephole before opening the door, her right hand in her pocket firmly gripping the HK.
What brings you out here so late Officer?
Were checking out the neighborhood. Seems there was a B&E just down the road earlier this evening. The night watch told us to go door-to-door to see if anyone saw anything, the officer offered with a smile. Seems the thief did a nifty job of it. The owners didnt see anything askew until they were getting ready for bed. The wife went to put her earrings away and found theyd been cleaned out.
Bummer, Katie chimed in. Sure hope theyre insured.
Yes, Miss, thats a real bummer all right, he smiled again, and focused back on Dean. You havent noticed anything missing have you? I heard you were away for a bit.
Yeah, we were, but we dont have anything missing. Plus, my security system is really tight.
Thats right, it is tight, Katie said, remembering the sense of humor Officer DeVoe displayed the last time they met, but I do seem to have lost something.
Dean turned to look at Katie, one eyebrow hiked in question. Yeah? What?
Katie chuckled, winking at the officer and said, You just said I lost my marbles!
Excuse me, Miss? the officer cut in.
Cute, Dean commented before turning back to the officer, Oh, dont listen to her officer, Dean told him as she poked Katie playfully. Theyre just a couple of marbles we found on our trip. The cats must have been playing with them and theyre probably behind a piece of furniture or something.
I see, he responded, nodding his head in understanding. Well, you ladies lock up tight and have a nice night. He turned away from the two women and quickly headed down the path to the squad car.
Hmm, that was strange, Dean commented as she watched him leave. He never did ask if we saw anyone or anything unusual tonight.
Yeah, Katie agreed. And he didnt seem to recognize me either. He was flirting up a storm with me when he took the car bombing report, and tonight he hardly acknowledged me and he seemed to have lost his sense of humor too.
Ooo, do I detect a bruised ego? Dean teased as she closed the door and reset the security system.
Nooo. Its just that every time we went to the station, he always made an excuse to come over and talk to me. She thought a minute longer. In fact, I remember him telling me that he never pulled night duty alone because he had night blindness since birth. So, wheres his partner?
They both looked out the window and watched the squad car pull down the driveway. The spotlights were still on, and they could easily see that he was alone in the car.
Hmm, that is strange, Dean agreed as the car pulled out of view. Ill give Lieutenant Green a call in the morning and see whats up.
* * * * *
Friday, 0100 Hours
A loud splash went unheard as the Occoquan PD squad car landed in the middle of the Occoquan River, taking its occupants to a cold and watery grave. The spot on the river was remote and had one of the deeper channels. Its selection was intended to elude discovery for a long time and rescue personnel would have to contend with the stronger currents in this part of the river. A lone figure watched the vehicle submerge then headed down the path toward the main highway where a car was hidden behind a stand of evergreens. As he walked down the highway, he checked over his shoulder and then ahead of him for any late night traffic. With no cars in sight he ducked behind the evergreens and got into the late model Acura. The road was still clear of traffic as he pulled out and headed toward the Washington area. A smile of satisfaction was evident on his face.
* * * * *
Janai woke up out of a sound sleep, danger alerting her senses. She looked at the clock on the bedside table. It read 1:10 AM. The danger was very distant, she barely registered the disturbance, but she knew it was there. If she hadnt had her powers enhanced before they left Theilios, she never would have perceived the disturbance, but now she knew someone out there was using his or her powers. Powers she knew did not exist on this planet. She was now convinced that they needed to return to their homeland, but she worried she would not be able to convince Alana. Their scheduled pick-up would take place in nine earth days. Janai knew that might be too late. They may have to get to one of the alternate sites and use one of the emergency departure craft.
Ever since her people had been coming to this planet, they had seen the wisdom of securing these sites for emergency starcraft. In the three thousand years of visitations, these craft had only been needed a total of four times. Janai just hoped that the closest craft would be fully functional and they would not have to search for another one. She remembered the crash that happened the last time one was used. It had been several of their years now, and longer in earth years, but the pain of losing her parents in that crash was still fresh in her memory even though she had been just a toddler. It had occurred outside of a place called Roswell, New Mexico and the search parties that were sent had never found her parents bodies or the wreckage.
Her parents were on earth to study the ancients that had inhabited that area and the land to the south. Her people theorized that they were descendents of those ancients and her parents were part of a team dispatched to investigate the possibilities. Their trip was going well, until that last week when the town folk in that small remote place in southern Arizona became suspicious and they just barely got out of town in time. The team headed to the escape craft and had just relayed their departure information to the homeland when the craft lost power and crashed near Roswell.
Janai and her twin brother Kerris were toddlers at the time and were staying with their Aunt Tonis, their mothers sister, and her husband Varian. Aunt Tonis was a wonderful person and after hope of finding her sister and brother-in-law alive ended, she convinced her husband to adopt the twins. She took great care of the two children who grew up thinking that she and Varian were their real parents. Varian, on the other hand, had little time for raising a family, let alone someone elses children. It was only on their birthright celebration that they found out the truth about the tragic loss of their real parents. According to Theiliosian tradition, on the day of their birthright celebration, the parents of the celebrants declare their child, and in this case, their children, as adult members of Theilios. The celebration includes a verbal history of their family to be given by the celebrants as well as a vow of allegiance to the Emperor of the Realm.
Varian never had much interest in the children. He was on a fast track to higher positions in the government and unlike many of his colleagues he was very ambitious. Eventually, he did take an interest in her brother though, and had him enrolled in the elite youth project. Tonis was furious when he separated the two siblings and fought hard to have Janai admitted into the program too. As the two siblings grew older, they took separate paths in the youth project. Janai chose to become a 'protector' while Kerris chose the 'enforcer path. Many of the skills they learned were similar, and each was enhanced with many powers even the military did not possess, but both were virtually equal, save for their individual intelligences. Janai was had a keen intellect, while Kerris was a bit more average in that aspect. A point Varian would never let Kerris forget. As the years progressed, Janai and Kerris went their separate ways, only seeing each other on occasion. The last time she saw Kerris was at Aunt Tonis' death ceremony. Janai wasn't completely happy with the official reports on her Aunt's early death, and Varian and Kerris showed no sign of sorrow. Her investigations led nowhere and she finally had to give up even though she still was uncomfortable about the situation. The only thing that took her mind off further investigation of her aunts death was her new assignment as the personal protector for the princess.
Remembering the announcement of her assignment brought a sad smile to Janais lips. It was the happiest day in her life only she had no one to share her joy with. Varian was too busy climbing the political ladder and Kerris was off on another training mission. When the princess was born a few years after their adoption, Aunt Tonis was appointed as Alanas governess. She eventually gained the title of Seraph when Alanas mother died in childbirth a few years later. The entire family moved into the Emperors household, much to Varians delight as he saw it as an opportunity to enhance his political position. Janai grew up alongside Alana until she left for the elite youth project. When she came home during their study breaks their friendship would resume as though they had never parted. As both youngsters grew older, they remained in contact throughout Janais elite training. Becoming the princess protector was a natural progression in the bond that started at Alanas birth.
Thinking back, Janai would not have changed her course...especially after this evening. The only thing she regretted was the early loss of her parents. If things had been different on this trip, they may have gone to New Mexico to search for information on them, but now that would be impossible. "Perhaps another time." Janai uttered softly.
Her memories were interrupted by a soft voice from beside her in the bed. Another time for what? Alana asked.
Covering for her melancholy thoughts, Janai grinned at Alana, another time for us, she said in a low voice.
Alana knew full well that Janais mind had been somewhere else, but she wasnt about to forego another chance to entice Janai into making a commitment she wanted more than anything else in her life. I love you, Janai, she thought selfishly, and I want to experience that love as soon as possible.
* * * * *
Friday, 1000 Hours
Lieutenant Green stood on the bank of the Occoquan River and watched as the divers signaled the tow truck operator. The winch started up, pulling up the slack in the cable and snapping a spray of water into the air as the cable tightened. This was the second tow truck that had to be called to the scene. The first one was too light to pull the squad car out against the current so they had to call for one of the bigger rigs from the truck stop off Interstate 95 south of town.
The winch groaned as the cable slowly wound its way back to the truck and the operator watched attentively for signs of slippage. The bank was slick from a heavy frost that settled in overnight and he was hoping the blocks he put behind the rear tires would help stabilize the truck. He also had the cable from the front winch extended and wrapped around a solid oak tree.
So far, so good, Lieutenant, he commented as he looked over his shoulder at the somber officer.
Lieutenant Green just nodded as he waited for the vehicle to break the surface. The scene was full of emergency personnel, officers, and rescue workers, but there was total silence as they waited. The only sounds to be heard were the groan of the winch, and the movement of water as the divers maintained their positions in the river.
It took a good fifteen minutes to get the squad car to the shallows and another fifteen to get it up the steep embankment. As soon as it came to rest on all four tires, he hurried over to inspect the interior.
* * * * *
Earlier in the morning, Dean and Katie had spent a few minutes looking for the wayward marbles, but had not had any success in locating them. They decided that during their weekly cleaning, which was scheduled for this evening, they would probably turn up. After a hasty breakfast, the women headed off to work, looking forward to the upcoming weekend when they could kick back and relax. It seemed like they had been on a dead run since just before Thanksgiving, then the situation in the Bahamas was almost immediately followed by Natashas vengeful plot. Christmas didnt give them any breaks with friends and family all gathering with them, then the short trip to St. John. They were really looking forward to a restful weekend.
It was now nearly 1040 hours and Dean had just returned to her office from a staff meeting. She checked her voice mail messages hoping to find one from the coroner, but it wasnt there. Checking her watch, she decided that it was late enough in the morning to try reaching Lieutenant Green and follow-up on the house call by Officer DeVoe. She dialed the number for his cell phone and waited.
Lieutenant Green. His voice sounded weary. The bodies of the two officers had just been removed from the car, were put into body bags, and were being placed in the coroners van. He wasnt in the best of moods, but lightened at the sound of Deans voice.
Good morning, Lieutenant. This is Colonel Peterson.
Ah, Colonel. What can I do for you? Need another lift into DC?
Um, no, came the cautious reply, tucking the comment into one of her mental files for the moment. I was just calling about a visit we had last night from Officer DeVoe.
On the other end of the phone, Lieutenant Greens attention was at full alert. Officer DeVoe? When did he come by?
It was late, probably close to 2300. Katie and I had just turned in for the night and were surprised when he rang our doorbell.
You say he called at your house around 2300? The lieutenant was now very interested as he walked back to his car.
Yeah. He stopped by to see if we had seen anything or any strangers in the neighborhood. He said that one of our neighbors had reported a break-in and wanted to know if we had seen anything.
A break-in you say? Lieutenant Greens mind was processing the information rapidly.
Yeah. Thing is, it was all very strange. He acted like he never met us before and if you remember hes the one that kept flirting with Katie during the initial interview after the car bombing. Then he never finished the questioning about what we may have noticed that night.
Really curious, the lieutenant pumped Dean for more information. What do you mean?
Well, Dean continued, he told us about the B&E, then asked us if we noticed anything missing. Katie recognized him immediately as the officer who kept flirting with her and decided to be cute, Dean explained with a chuckle before continuing, and told him the only thing that was missing were her marbles.
Marbles? the lieutenant said in disbelief wondering where this was going.
Yeah, long story anyway, as soon as she said that, he never followed through on asking us about any strangers or what we might have seen that evening. Couple that with the way he acted, and it was all a little too strange.
Is that all? the lieutenant asked.
Well, no. The other strange thing was that he was alone. Katie remembered that he suffered from night blindness and could never go on patrol alone at night. Someone else would be needed to drive the squad car.
Yeah, thats right. So what makes that strange?
He was alone. The outdoor spots were on when we went to the door, and they were still on when he left. We could clearly see he was alone, and driving the squad car.
Dean, the lieutenant began. Theres an ongoing investigation right now, but I know I can trust you.
Let me guess, Dean began. There wasnt a break-in was there?
No, and Officer DeVoe and his partner were probably dead at 2300 hours last night.
Dead? Dean asked in amazement. But
I dont know who you saw, but it wasnt Officer DeVoe. The coroner has an initial estimate for their time of death around 2030 hours. DeVoes watch stopped at 8:30 PM, so thats what were using as a time of death for now.
What made the watch stop?
Broken crystal. Were assuming it happened on impact, but if you saw him at 11:00, well have to wait to get a positive time of death. He paused, Are you sure it was DeVoe?
Yes, Katie and I were sure that was Officer DeVoe its unbelievable that someone could have faked all those freckles and his bright red hair.
The coroner thinks the 8:30 PM time is reasonable, but they were pretty waterlogged when we found them. Hes doing the autopsy as soon as he gets them back to the morgue. They didnt respond to the dispatcher at 2100 and Officer Drake, thats Terrances partner, didnt call home after 7:30 PM. His wifes expecting any day now, and he would check in with her just about every hour. His last call to her was at 7:30 PM. She said they were just pulling over to help a disabled motorist in an Acura and would call back later on, only he never did. Were trying to locate the driver of that car to see if he or she can add anything.
You did say the bodies were in the water? In the Occoquan River?
Yeah. Im at the scene right now. The night dispatcher called them in missing when they didnt show up for the end of shift. We just recovered the car and their bodies. We never would have found the squad car, except that the new insurance carrier for the town cut us a deal on a new theft alert program. All of the town cars have sensors in them. We know where every car is at anytime of the day or night, including our police vehicles. Thats how we located the car. He paused, Funny thing about that. It was in the deepest part of the river channel, and get this there is no evidence on either bank, of its entry into the water.
Really? No tire tracks? Dean said in disbelief.
Nope, not even a crushed blade of grass! Its like it just floated through the air and landed in the river. We had a hell of a time getting it out of the channel. It took several hours, the EMS dive squad, and a eighteen wheeler tow truck.
Dean shook her head in disbelief on the other end of the line. This is really strange, Dean commented, then remembered the lieutenants initial remark. Hey, lieutenant. What did you mean about another lift into DC?
Momentarily lost, he finally remembered his opening remark. Oh, that. I was just wondering if you needed another lift to the Metro. You know, like yesterday morning.
Yeah, when I took you and Katie to the Metro stop at National.
Lieutenant Dean began.
You didnt go to National yesterday morning? he finished the sentence for her.
No. Katie and I were at work yesterday.
I knew it! Damn it I knew something was wrong! he spluttered angrily. Seems like theres more than Officer DeVoe look-alikes running around out there.
Meaning Dean led.
Meaning, I dropped off two dead ringers for you and Katie at the Metro stop at National Airport yesterday about mid-morning. He slapped his forehead as a piece fell into place. Something just bothered me about the whole thing, but I couldnt put my finger on it till now. Dean, he asked cautiously, what color are your eyes?
Blue, she responded immediately.
And Katies? he asked cautiously.
Green, Dean answered cautiously too.
Damn! Thats it! he nearly shouted in the phone. Their eye colors were exactly opposite! I should have caught that!
Lieutenant, whats going on? Dean asked now with a lot more concern than what had led her to call Lieutenant Green in the first place.
I dont know Dean. But someone or ones, are going to a lot of trouble to steal identities. I suggest you and Katie take every precaution from here on out.
Im way ahead of you on that one, she replied, already thinking ahead. Keep me informed, will you?
Absolutely, he replied. Same goes for you, he said before disconnecting.
* * * * *
Earlier that morning the stolen Acura was left in the long-term parking lot at Reagan National. The body of the salesman whose car had been commandeered was neatly tucked into the trunk. The alien knew it would be a long time before anyone noticed the car and the cold winter weather would keep the body from deteriorating too rapidly. He also assumed another identity with a quick bump of his target in the mens room. This time his donor was left unharmed as he was flying out of the area. Besides, he didnt want to alert Janai by using his full powers so close to the city.
He also neatly picked the mans pocket and was pleased to see that he was now carrying the identity of another law enforcement officer. This time he was an agent with the FBI. Considering his good luck, he pocketed the ID, and went back out to the parking lot in search of another vehicle. He selected his new car in the outermost row. It was a plain late-model Ford. He didnt want to be conspicuous and his knowledge of American law enforcement dictated a non-descript vehicle. Lightly using his powers, he sensed that the princess and her protector were still in DC. He could almost feel their presence even without using his powers. Now he just needed to find them. A quick pass with his right hand over the door lock opened the drivers door on the Ford. Another pass with his hand had the ignition turning over. Checking through the front windows, and using the rear mirror, he drove the car out of its spot and headed for the exit. In twenty minutes he found himself in the capital city once more.
He pulled to a stop at a red light at 14th and Independence Avenue and looked around at the crowds of people. Even in the brisk winter weather, there were crowds walking the sidewalks, taking pictures, enjoying the sites. Hoping they were still in the same forms, he pulled out the picture he kept of the dive group to freshen his memory of the two women. Now, where would you two be off to? he said to himself as he tapped the picture.
* * * * *
Janai and Alana had risen later than they had planned. Neither had had a good nights sleep. Each spent half the night wondering about the new revelations they made to each other and how it was going to affect their relationship. Then after Janai was wakened by the presence of danger, she was unable to fall asleep again for a long time. Now however, they were driven by the need to take on some nourishment. After showering and dressing in their clothes from the day before, they decided to try the hotel restaurant before heading out.
"Alana," Janai began after the waitress left with their order, "Last night I awoke feeling a dangerous presence. It was distant, but it was very real. I would like you to reconsider cutting this trip short. We need to return home."
Alana returned her gaze from the window to her protector, a visible frown creasing her forehead. "What kind of a presence?" she asked as she considered the request. "What makes you believe it involves danger? And, why for us?"
"Alana, please understand I can't give you details...my enhanced powers just allow me to feel these things and, well, I just know."
"And this...danger...is directed at us?"
"I believe it is."
Alana nodded, her mind assessing the request. "And how soon do you think we should leave? Our pick-up is scheduled for what ten days from now? Can't we wait until then?"
"Actually, nine days from now, and no, we should head back now. The longer we remain on this planet, I fear the worst will come of it."
The waitress returned with their juice and assorted condiments, placing them on their table. "Your order will be out shortly," she said with a smile as she assessed their rumpled appearance. Thinking she would not receive much of a tip from this table, she hurriedly went back to the kitchen.
Alana waited until the waitress was gone before she spoke. "All right Janai. As you wish. But, she added quickly, I would like to spend the rest of today in this wonderful city. I would really like to visit the Air and Space Museum and see how these people started on their road to flight. I think we will both find it very interesting. And, we need some new clothes, she said plucking at her rumpled sweatshirt. We can leave for the closest starship in the morning." She sighed heavily as she returned her gaze to the sunlit streets of Washington. "I suppose we can always return some day. I'm really learning to appreciate these people and their planet. There's so much more I want to see and experience."
Thinking of her lost chance to find information on her parents, Janai nodded in agreement. "Yes, Alana. I would very much like to return some day too." Janai was not happy about the day delay, but knew that if she pushed too hard, Alana would want to stay the entire nine days and that would probably mean disaster. "Thank you my Princess, for trusting my instincts."
Alana smiled at the formal reference, shaking her head and turning toward Janai. She reached out and placed her hands on Janai's. "Janai, I've always trusted you and value your instincts. It's just that, after yesterday...and our admission to each other last night," she paused thinking of what could have been, "I'm just not eager to return home and to my royal duties. I want to have the freedom we have here to explore...these new feelings. And perhaps, to change your mind?" she added with a hopeful smile.
Janai turned her hands over to clasp Alanas, "My Princess..."
"Janai..." Alana said rather sternly, "please, haven't we shared enough now for you to drop the formality?"
Janai lowered her head, trying to reconcile her personal feelings with her duty. Lifting her head and staring into the other woman's eyes, she softened and gave in to her Princess' request. The love she felt for Alana was all consuming and the feelings rushing through her body were distracting and interfering with her concentration. She knew that even though it was her duty to protect Alana, she would do so now with increased vigor and heightened awareness...if only she could rein in those feelings.
"Alana, last night was a very enlightening night. I wish we could remain here, but I fear for you...for your safety." She didn't say out loud that what she feared most was that once they resumed their normal forms, the love they expressed might not transfer with them. She was very aware that these heightened feelings might just be a by-product of the human's they adopted. As she looked into Alana's blue eyes, she was surprised by the smile that was fixed on that face. Confused, she raised an eyebrow in silent question.
"You forget my dear Janai, that I can read your thoughts with our contact if I wish to do so." She raised their clasped hands. "I don't have the same fear. I have felt this way about you for as long as I can remember. These human forms are presenting very pleasurable experiences, but I know that in our true shapes we will be able to 'feel' even more. We are more advanced in our capabilities, are we not?"
A somewhat embarrassed Janai returned the smile but the realization made her very concerned. "Yes, Alana. Youre right. But just this lapse," she held up their hands once more, "makes me realize that I need to be more vigilant. And, we should refrain from using our powers if at all possible. Even the slightest use might be picked up by whomever is out there." She lowered their hands and released their grip as the waitress brought their food. "For now, let's see how well these bodies enjoy this food," she stated as the waitress placed the tray on the folding rack that was set up next to the table.
* * * * *
Katie picked up her voice mail messages when she returned to her office at the mid-morning break. As soon as she recognized her veterinarians voice she felt a dread settle on her. Dialing the number, she braced herself for the bad news. All morning she had tried to speculate what could have caused Sugar's playful outburst and all she could think of was that is was the calm before the storm.
"Occoquan Veterinary Hospital. How may I help you?" the receptionist answered cheerily.
"Hi Mindy, this is Katie O'Malley. I dropped off Sugar for a check up this morning."
"Hi, Katie. Yes, Doctor Fabian is eager to speak to you. Hold on please."
Katie picked up a pencil and started nervously tapping on the desk with the eraser end. Doctor August Fabian had been her animals veterinarian for nearly twelve years and she knew him to be a caring, compassionate, and consummate professional. If the news was bad, she had resigned herself to have Sugar put to sleep and knew that Doctor Fabian would be the first to agree. Sugar had done so well controlling the seizures with medication, but if things were going to get worse, she didn't want to have to put the cat through the pain and suffering.
"Katie, Doctor Fabian here."
"Yes, doctor. What's the prognosis?" She tried to sound upbeat, but was shaking internally.
"Well," the doctor began, "I don't know how to tell you this, but..."
Katie interrupted, "It's bad, huh?"
"No! Its just the opposite. It's amazing!"
"Excuse me?" She was now really confused. What could be amazing about a cat having to be put to sleep?
"Katie, she's fine. She's more than fine. She's in perfect health!" the Veterinarian exclaimed.
"What? How can that be? She was just in for a check-up barely two months ago and the tumor was starting to grow again. Are you sure?
"Katie...," he began again, "I can't explain it. Her scans show no sign of a tumor. I repeated the program and came up with the same clear scan. No tumor. We ran a full series of tests--blood, enzyme levels, the works--she has the physiology of a year old cat in perfect health."
"But...how could that happen?" Katie stammered over the phone.
"I was going to ask you that. Have you changed her regimen? Tried a new therapy I dont know about?"
"No, nothing. The only thing new is the extended release medicine I got from you the last time." Excited, but still confused, Katie asked again. "How could this happen?
"Got me. Right now, Im chalking it up as a miracle. But she's as good as new. I've retained a few fluid samples and I'm sending them to the University for further study. Maybe they'll be able to tell us something."
"Wow," Katie smiled now, "wait till Dean hears about this."
"I'm sure she'll be pleased too. Anyway, you can pick her up anytime you want."
"Great Doc, thanks. I'll be by around 5:30 or so, maybe earlier if I can clear my schedule."
"Fine. She'll be waiting for you. We've been having a lot of fun playing with her. She has so much energy she's wearing us out!" They both chuckled at that comment and then said their goodbyes.
How could a tumor disappear in two months time? Katie asked herself as she replaced the phone in its cradle. Something weird is going on here. Maybe the guys fed her something new while we were gone. Well, Im not going to look a gift horse in the mouth! Shes healthy and thats what counts.
Katie reached for the phone to tell Dean the good news and jumped as it rang when she touched it. Picking it up, she answered, Agent OMalley.
Hey, yourself, Katie chuckled recognizing Deans salutation.
Ooo, youre in a good mood. Whatcha do? Beat up on some poor recruit? Dean quipped back.
Mmm, no. Better than that, Kate replied, opting to be coy.
Better? Dean questioned.
Yep! Definitely better, she said with emphasis. I just talked to Doctor Fabian and Sugar is just fine.
Well, thats a relief. Im sure that makes you feel better.
You bet. And, he said that not only is she fine, Sugar has no sign of a tumor! In fact, Doctor Fabian said that shes as healthy as a year old cat.
Dean paused for a moment then cautiously replied, Really? No tumor? Could it have been a false reading?
No. Doc said he ran the test program again and got the same clear results. He took a bunch of fluid samples and is sending them to the University for further study. Its like a miracle. He couldnt explain it, but Im really thankful. Sugar is healthy and theres no more tumor to worry about.
A miracle, eh? Hmm, there has to be a better explanation than that. Even though Dean had been reconciling with her ex-preacher father and had to admit that Reverend Lewistans psychic powers were unexplainable, she wasnt into accepting miracles just yet.
Well, Im settling for the miracle explanation right now. Bottom line though is shes healthy.
Okay, youve got a point there. Changing the subject, Dean filled Katie in on her conversation with Lieutenant Green and the deaths of Officers DeVoe and Drake.
Then who was at our door?
Well, thats just it. Nobody knows. At least not yet, anyway.
Geez, I kinda liked that guy. He was cute well, in an obnoxious kind of way. He never did connect the dots that you and I are together, though. Then she thought of the other officer. Its too bad about the other officer too. You say his wife is expecting?
Yeah. Hell of way to start out your life without a father.
Lets talk about that tonight. Maybe, we can do something to help her out, Katies mind started thinking of ways to help the widow get through the rough times ahead especially the financial burden shell be facing. After all, what good is all my inheritance if I cant help folks out once in a while? What was that line that Dolly Levi used to say? Oh, yeah, Money is like manure, you have to spread it around to help things grow. The thought made her chuckle and she decided that shed contact her bank at lunchtime and start the ball rolling. How about setting up a trust fund for the kids college? Katie suggested.
Yeah, thats a good idea, Dean agreed. Theres something else he told me thats also a bit weird. Lieutenant Green said he gave us a ride to the Metro at National yesterday morning.
Us? Was he hallucinating?
Nope, he said they looked exactly like us. Well, not exactly the eye colors were switched. He couldnt put a finger on it till just now when I told him we were at work yesterday.
Yipes! We have look-alikes? Katie exclaimed.
Thats what he said. They even knew about our trip to St. John. Your double told him all about it!
What on earth is going on Dean? Why would someone go to the trouble to look like us? This is just really too weird.
Yeah, the dead ringers for us, have me really worried. If I hadnt seen Natasha swallowed up by that whirlpool up in Niagara Falls, I would have placed money on it being a trick of hers. She sighed as the scene flashed before her again. Better be on full alert from here on out.
Thats the really creepy part. Why would anyone want to impersonate us? I mean, I can understand someone wanting to look like you with your intelligence position and all, but why me?
Well, Lieutenant Green said they were friendly and seemed to know quite a bit about us. Guess we just need to stay alert and pay attention to anything that may be out of place or out of sync. Both women paused in silence, thinking about the possibilities before Dean spoke again.
By the way, has that lady Coroner called you? Dean asked, interrupting Katies thoughts.
Um, she looked through her messages, nope. Not yet. Has she called you?
No. Ive got a meeting over at the FBI building at noon, so if she does call shell miss me.
Well, we can try again tonight. Im sure shes been busy. Hey, how about the homicide division? Maybe we could talk to someone there?
They chatted for a few minutes longer before saying their goodbyes.
Be careful driving over to the FBI building. This nice weather will have the tourists out, Katie cautioned.
Yeah, thats what I figured, so Im taking the Metro over instead. Might as well get some exercise while Im at it. Thought Id have a late lunch at the Old Post Office Pavilion.
Smart woman, Katie said, complimenting her lover, but then, I always knew that about you.
They agreed to leave a message for each other if they heard from the Coroner or talked to the homicide division before hanging up.
* * * * *
Continued - Part 3
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