Generation Eight Part Three


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Round Robin Generation Eight Part Three

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Generation Eight Part Three

  1. 1. Senior year started very differently from the previous years. “Hey, Stella, can I borrow your computer while you’re at class?” “Why?” “I wanted to write my term paper.” “We are not even a day into the semester, Madeleine. You usually wait longer before writing your papers, or asking others to write them for you.” “I know. I’m trying to be better about my schoolwork.” “Alright.”
  2. 2. Madeleine headed into Stella’s room to use the computer, noticing as she did just how empty - almost stark - the room was. Stella hadn’t added anything to the room other than the computer. There were no posters, no paintings, not even an interesting bedspread. She sat down at the computer and booted it up, opening a new document.
  3. 3. She wasn’t sure what she was doing. Writing a term paper really wasn’t all that easy, and to be completely honest, she hadn’t written a single one since starting college. She’d always flirted with people who would write them for her. But since she’d broken up with Kendra, she hadn’t dated anyone. Or even flirted with anyone. Which meant that she had to write her own term paper, and she might as well get that done sooner than later.
  4. 4. When she was finished, she clicked save with a sense of accomplishment, then emailed the paper to herself so she could print it at the library. She’d written her own term paper, and it hadn’t been that hard. Why hadn’t she ever bothered before? Oh yeah, she thought, because I was busy dating. Well, that’s not happening now.
  5. 5. Maddie wasn’t the only one working on schoolwork; Klara and Blossom both started studying fairly early.
  6. 6. And, once Maddie was done, Stella wrote her own term paper.
  7. 7. Maddie, meanwhile, headed for the piano once the paper was printed. She hadn’t even tried it out since they’d moved into the house, and playing it brought back everything she’d been missing. Romance was all well and good, but it wasn’t the only thing she wanted out of life. ***
  8. 8. That night, when Stella stepped up to the telescope to stargaze, she found herself immediately assaulted by bright lights. She hadn’t been expecting an abduction - they’d told her it would likely be after college before she was abducted again - but apparently she was needed, and it wasn’t her choice anyway. In seconds, she was gone.
  9. 9. She left behind three roommates, all of whom were confused at her abduction. “I do not believe this is supposed to happen,” Klara said thoughtfully as she looked up at the sky.
  10. 10. She went to the telescope and looked through it. She couldn’t even see the ship anymore, and there was still no explanation for Stella being gone.
  11. 11. When she went inside, she found Maddie and Blossom at the mahjong table, just starting a game.
  12. 12. “Something is strange about Stella’s abduction,” she said. “How so?” Blossom asked. “I remember Frances saying, back when Stella was abducted freshman year, that abductions don’t usually occur at universities. I did some research, and he was right. There are absolutely no records of abductions at universities.” “At all?” Maddie asked. “At all.”
  13. 13. Maddie looked down at her tiles, then back up at her friends. “I knew Frances thought there was something weird about Stella, but…” “Those things you guys always went to late at night?” Blossom asked. “Yeah. I don’t - they were always suspicious of Stella, and, I mean, I honestly think there was reason for them to be, because she’s clearly hiding stuff. But they went about it in totally the wrong way. I don’t know, that’s just what I think.” Klara nodded. “That makes sense, yes.” “What are we going to do about it, though?” Blossom asked. “I don’t want to scare her off, or force her to tell us, or anything like that.”
  14. 14. Maddie shook her head. “Me either.” “Perhaps one of us should talk to her?” Klara suggested. “Who, though?” Maddie asked. “You.” “Me?” “You are the closest with Stella. She is most likely to tell the truth to you.”
  15. 15. “I guess so,” Maddie said. “She’s probably my closest friend, especially since I stopped all the dating.” “Why did you stop, anyway?” Blossom asked. “Because it wasn’t working, you know? Flitting from one person to another, dating and not caring what happened, and then, well, there was all that with Kendra. We wanted different things, and she wasn’t right for me. I couldn’t belong to her, not the way she wanted.” “What’s she been up to?” “Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t spoken to her since she left after I broke up with her.” Klara yawned suddenly. “It’s getting late, and I have an early class tomorrow. You will talk to Stella?”
  16. 16. “Yeah, sure.” Maddie looked down at her tiles. “Hey, I won!” Blossom looked at her own tiles, slightly disappointed. “I guess it’s time for bed, then. See you guys in the morning.” “We’ll probably be woken by the spaceship dropping her off, like last time,” Maddie said. “See you then.” ***
  17. 17. Stella wasn’t expecting an abduction that night. They’d said they would wait until college was done unless she put up a signal, and she hadn’t. She was, therefore, understandably annoyed when she found herself in the abduction room. “What am I doing here? I thought they were going to wait!”
  18. 18. “You are needed in the medical wing,” Pollination Technician 367 said. She froze. There was only one reason she would be needed in the medical wing. ***
  19. 19. PT9 did not look healthy at all. Stella sat down in the chair next to his bed and waited for him to open his eyes. “Hello,” she said, when he finally did. “Hello, Stella,” he said. “Thank you for coming.” “I didn’t have much choice.” “No, I suppose not.”
  20. 20. “I would have come anyway, had I a choice. I am honored to act as your Observer.” He smiled. “Thank you.” She sat silently, listening to him taking slow, gasping breaths. She didn’t want to watch him die…but she didn’t want to miss it either. And she hadn’t been lying. She was very honored to act as his Observer, despite the pain of the position.
  21. 21. Others filtered through, getting last pieces of advice, wishing him well, and saying goodbye.
  22. 22. At the end of the long night, Stella was the only one left, as was customary. Only the Observer had the right - and the duty - to watch. “Stella,” he said, stunning her into movement. She hadn’t expected him to speak again. “If you want that girl, go for her.” “I will,” she said. “I will.” “Good.”
  23. 23. And with that, he was gone.
  24. 24. Stella stayed, sitting by his bed, until she was interrupted by Pollination Technician 71. “It is time for you to return,” he said. “It is dawn, then?” “Almost. If we keep you here longer, however…” “It will look suspicious. I know.” She stood up mechanically and followed him to the abduction room. ***
  25. 25. The sound of the ship woke Maddie, Blossom, and Klara, and all three headed outside in their pajamas to greet her. They waited for Stella to land, then, after cheering, Blossom and Klara headed back to bed.
  26. 26. Maddie, meanwhile, waited for Stella to stand up. “So,” she said, “what’s with all the abductions?” “What do you mean?” “You know Frances was suspicious of you, right? Apparently, the first time you were abducted, he said something about abductions not happening at universities, and Klara did some research, and, well, I trust her research, cause no way am I doing it on my own. You’re the first university student to be abducted, ever, and now it’s happened twice. This isn’t normal. What’s up, Stella? What are you hiding?”
  27. 27. “I am not hiding anything.” “Don’t give me that, Stella. I thought I was your best friend.” “You are.” “Then what’s going on with you?” Stella looked at Maddie, all of the emotions that had been building since she’d learned PT9 was going to die coming crashing down on her, emotions that she couldn’t let out while on the spaceship.
  28. 28. Maddie hesitantly put an arm around Stella. “I’m sorry? I didn’t mean to make you cry. Really, I didn’t.” “I know,” Stella wailed. Maddie patted Stella’s hand. She wasn’t sure what to do in a situation like this, or even what had set Stella off, but her friend was clearly upset, and, well, what could she do but try and help?
  29. 29. Stella just kept crying, though, and Maddie had no idea what to do.
  30. 30. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say anything. You don’t have to tell me, you really don’t.” “It’s not you,” Stella managed to say, in between sobs. “I just…something happened.” Maddie’s brow furrowed. What could have happened while Stella was abducted? She decided not to ask, however. “If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to.” “Maybe later?” “Of course. Whatever you want.”
  31. 31. “Thank you,” Stella said. Tears were still running down her cheeks as she hugged Maddie tightly. “Not a problem.”
  32. 32. She pulled back. “I should like to talk tomorrow, I think.” “Of course. Any particular time?” “Whenever is good for you.” “After your class, then.” “That will work.” ***
  33. 33. Maddie didn’t have a class until the evening, so she woke up late and took a shower, then waited on the couch for Stella to get back from her class.
  34. 34. When Stella got back from class, she joined Maddie on the couch. “So,” Maddie asked, “what happened last night? I mean, you got abducted, then came back and, well, you didn’t…you were crying everywhere. That’s not like you.” “No.” “Something is up with you, Stella, and I don’t want to be suspicious. I don’t. But something about all this feels off, and I want to ask you what that is before I do something you won’t like.”
  35. 35. Stella stared at nothing. Should she tell Maddie the truth? Did she have a choice? Her options weren’t good. She could tell Maddie it was private, but while Maddie would listen and stop asking, it would also cause Maddie to be more suspicious, and possibly to do something rash. She could lie, but she didn’t have a good lie prepared - the one she’d been using clearly wasn’t working for her, and she couldn’t think of anything else. Or she could tell the truth.
  36. 36. “Okay,” she said. “I have not been telling you the whole truth. You know my cover story - that I am a part-alien who grew up in Madison, and who is attending university here. None of that is true. I am a full alien, and grew up on a spaceship. I have been abducted twice because it is the easiest way for them to contact me when I am needed.” “What are you doing here, then? Why come to LFT?”
  37. 37. Stella looked away. She couldn’t look at Madeleine while telling her this. “I was sent to watch you.” “Me?” “Yes. Your family is considered of interest to the aliens - to my people.” “But why?” “Because of your history. You are part-alien yourself, Maddie. And part-elf. You have been chased by elves for generations, and were attacked by witches as a teenager.”
  38. 38. “You know as much about my family history as I do.” “Only the facts. Not…my people, they don’t understand emotion.” “What do you mean?” “I didn’t realize it until I came down here, and spent time with you, and Klara, and Blossom, and the boys, and even Frances and the Worthington Society. It’s very cold up there. Not in the physical sense, but emotionally. There is no love, no joy, no life. No sadness. I was called, yesterday, to Observe as my mentor died. I could not cry there. I could cry here.” “That’s fucked up.”
  39. 39. Stella shrugged. “It is the way it has always been, for there is no change.” “Okay, I still don’t get that, but I guess it fits with all that sci-fi crap or whatever. But on to more important stuff - that whole thing about my family…that’s a bit creepy, you know. Watching us like that and all.” “It is, a bit. However, as far as I can tell - and it has never been mentioned, because it would be acknowledging mistakes - the Council lost track of your family after your great-great-grandfather was pollinated, as they were not considered important at that point, and only regained knowledge of your whereabouts after the confrontation in Belladonna Cove. The Dorans have caused trouble wherever they have gone, and the Council wants to watch them, I believe.” “Caused trouble? Really? As far as I can tell, we’ve been the victims of trouble more often than we’ve caused it. We’ve been chased by elves, the military, witches - and believe me, being spelled silent and told you’re gonna lose your soul is pretty damn freaky when you’re a toddler - are we going to have aliens coming after us too?”
  40. 40. “Not if I have any say in the matter.” Stella’s voice was strong and sure, and Maddie looked at her. “How can I trust you?” “By letting me tell you everything.” And she did. They sat on the couch for two hours while Stella told Maddie about how she’d grown up, about PT9 and his death, about her task, and her decision to remain down there even after her task was over. “I do not know what they will say when I tell them that. The Council has never been inclined to war. Humans are abducted, but that is because it is necessary in our breeding process, and not to cause problems.”
  41. 41. “So, let me get this straight. You’re planning on staying down here with or without this Council’s approval, because you like it down here better?” “I hope to eventually convince some of them that their way is not right. But I would like to remain here, yes.” Maddie nodded. “Aren’t aliens usually green? You’ve been talking about being an alien, and all that crap, but…you don’t look like a full alien to me.” “We are, yes. You have a mirror in your room - come with me.”
  42. 42. They headed into Maddie’s room and Stella stepped in front of the mirror. “Mirrors always show the truth. It is why Frances was suspicious of me, I believe. I have not always been careful enough. This is what I really look like.”
  43. 43. “I am truly sorry I have lied to you, Maddie,” Stella said. “I was following instructions at first, but there is little excuse for lying now.” “You’re right. There’s not.” “What can I do?”
  44. 44. “You’re going to have to tell them. Because, frankly, if I’m going to have aliens trying to kill me on top of whoever else is trying to, I have a right to know. And, anyway, at some point you won’t be able to lie to them anymore. You’re going to keep putting them off, and they’ll come after you, and I’ll get hit in the fallout.” “I do not believe they will come after you, though they may not be happy with me.” “Well that’s your problem, isn’t it? I want to know, and you’re going to tell me.” Stella nodded. “Alright. I will send a message and ask to be abducted tonight.”
  45. 45. Stella immediately went to her computer to beam up a signal asking to be abducted that night.
  46. 46. Meanwhile, Maddie joined Klara and Blossom for a late lunch - they’d just gotten back from a baseball game with their boyfriends - and told them some of what Stella had told her. They all agreed to trust her for now, since she’d told them the truth, but not to trust any other aliens without proof. ***
  47. 47. As expected, Stella was abducted that night.
  48. 48. She was quickly ushered into the Council Room, where the same group as always awaited her. There was an empty seat, however, which PT9 had once occupied, and which no one had filled. “Why have you asked for us to meet, 500?” Leader 113 asked.
  49. 49. She took a deep breath. “Madeleine Doran has realized that something is odd about me, and told me to tell her the truth or face consequences. I did not have a lie prepared other than my cover story, and I suspect she would have determined that I was lying. I told her the truth.” There was an uproar from the table, and Stella waited for it to subside before pushing forward. “She wants to know if you are planning on chasing her and killing her the way the elves have, and told me to ask.”
  50. 50. Eyes narrowed. “You sound very much like Pollination Technician 9,” Leader 113 said. “He used similar words when we met to discuss sending you to watch Madeleine Doran.”
  51. 51. “Because I agree with him.” “What?” Once the words started, Stella couldn’t stop. “He was right. You do treat the humans like experiments. I understand it’s necessary for breeding purposes, but that only goes so far, and does not explain the infertile who are abducted. The humans are…they have emotions, and feelings, and lives in a way that we don’t, and we take them, get them pregnant, and then abandon them. Our society is perfectly logical, but that is not enough. There is so much missing, and the humans have it. If more of you spent time down there, you’d understand.” Everyone was starting at her, stunned. “And,” she took a breath, “I want it.”
  52. 52. That said, she got up, went swiftly around the table, and broke the communications devices. She’d spent multiple rotations training in technology, and took full advantage of that knowledge to make sure they were broken in such a way that even Technician 296 would need some time to fix them. Then she left the room and used her security codes to lock and jam the doors. Without communications devices, the Council would not be able to call anyone to open the doors, and would not be able to open them themselves.
  53. 53. As she stood outside the Council Room, she calmed her heart rate and her face, knowing that appearing rushed would make others suspicious. Then she headed to the room where they’d changed her skin the first time. She was lucky; it was unoccupied. She set the machine as the Technicians had, then climbed in, changing her skin back to green. If she was going to return to Maddie, she wanted it to be as her true self.
  54. 54. She walked back to the abduction room, where she found Pollination Technician 367, on shift once more. “You are green again,” he said. She shrugged. “Madeleine Doran has figured out that I am an alien; there is no point in hiding it any longer. I would rather appear the way I am.” “It is time for you to return, then?” “Yes,” she lied. “Send me back.”
  55. 55. When Stella left the spaceship, the Council had not even attempted to fix either the doors or the communications devices yet. Instead, they were still sitting in their seats, staring at each other, rather shocked by what Stella had just done. Pollination Technician 9 had not left so dramatically, and he had always stayed in communication with them. “Well,” Leader 113 finally said, “that was unexpected.” ***
  56. 56. When Stella returned, Maddie was waiting for her. “How did it go?” she asked. Stella sighed. “I possibly may have left before anything was decided.” “Why?” “Because I wanted to return and was not certain it would be allowed. I like being here, Maddie. I don’t want to be forced back there.” She nervously picked at her dress. “I still don’t think they’ll hunt you. Me, perhaps, but not you.”
  57. 57. “So basically you don’t know if I’m safe or not?” “I truly believe that my people are not a risk to you, Madeleine. If you have elves chasing you, or Kendra wanting revenge, that is another story.” Maddie nodded. “I’ll believe you, for now. But if anyone comes after me, I’m gone.” “Of course.”
  58. 58. “You know,” Maddie said, “I really like the green. It makes you seem more…you.” “Thank you. I saw no point in hiding. Not anymore.” “I’m glad.” “It is late, and I have an early class. I’ll see you tomorrow?” “Tomorrow.” ***
  59. 59. The next day started normally; Blossom, as the best cook in the house, made breakfast, while the others worked on assignments.
  60. 60. After the morning classes, Maddie cornered Stella. “So, I said last night, I like the green, but, you know, that hat is starting to look a bit odd.” “Is it?” “It’s not quite the same color as your dress.” “Oh.” “Want a makeover? I bet you’d look great in a new hairstyle.” “…Okay.”
  61. 61. Maddie led Stella into her room and sat her down at the dressing table. Then she did her hair and showed her how to put on a bit of eyeliner.
  62. 62. “Do you really think I look good like this?” “Definitely. The long hair suits you.”
  63. 63. Stella impulsively grabbed Maddie’s hands. “Thank you.” “It was no problem.”
  64. 64. Then they headed out into the hallway for a pillowfight.
  65. 65. Later in the afternoon, Maddie was practicing the guitar when Stella decided to join her on the piano. She’d never tried it before, but, well, if she was staying with the humans, she might as well learn more about the things they enjoyed, right? In addition, Maddie loved music, and Stella wanted to understand that love.
  66. 66. Playing music with Maddie was more fun than she expected.
  67. 67. In fact, it was such fun that, when they were done, Stella found herself pulling Maddie into a kiss, to share her sheer joy at the music.
  68. 68. “What was that for?” Stella took Maddie’s hand. “I like you. I really like you. You are beautiful when you play music. It makes you glow.” She took a breath. “You said, when I was interested in romance, I should come to you.” “You’re ready?” “I am. Are you?”
  69. 69. Maddie reached up and stroked Stella’s cheek. “I am. Let’s take it slow, though? I think that was a problem in my earlier relationships.” “Rushing into things?” “Yes.” “Then we won’t. Honestly, I do not believe I am ready to rush. Slow sounds good.” “Good.” ***
  70. 70. As the year continued, life went on. Aldric and Almeric both spent a lot of time at the house, often with their girlfriends, though also with the group as a whole.
  71. 71. Stella continued making robots, making more and more complicated ones.
  72. 72. And she took long baths every time. The robot station was very dirty.
  73. 73. Maddie, meanwhile, took over the tub for other purposes.
  74. 74. Blossom continued playing mahjong, and even managed to complete a painting.
  75. 75. Klara continued to spend the most time on schoolwork out of the four of them.
  76. 76. Stella also spent more time practicing the piano.
  77. 77. And Maddie attempted to understand what Stella found so interesting about the robot station.
  78. 78. She managed to build one toy robot, but she couldn’t quite get the appeal.
  79. 79. Maddie and Stella continued to take their relationship slow, though their normal activities that they’d always done together started taking on a romantic air.
  80. 80. And slow dancing in the living room was always fun too.
  81. 81. Soon enough, it was spring semester, and four term papers were written early.
  82. 82. Stella tried - somewhat unsuccessfully - to learn to cook.
  83. 83. Maddie wasn’t any more successful.
  84. 84. The boys kept coming over for visits.
  85. 85. Maddie and Stella both continued their hobbies. Eventually, Maddie maxed her creativity and Stella got a gold badge.
  86. 86. And they steadily got closer.
  87. 87. By the time the year was over, they were permanently a couple, and had made plans to move in together once college was done. ***
  88. 88. Soon enough, everyone had graduated, and the seven of them posed for a group picture in their caps and gowns.
  89. 89. “Congratulations on graduating summa cum laude, Maddie.” “You too, Stella. It’s been a great year, being with you.” “You too.” “Ready for the party?” “Certainly!”
  90. 90. The party started with all four girls, and the three boys, joining together for a water balloon fight, still dressed in the outfits they’d worn to the graduation ceremony.
  91. 91. And then, when the fight was done, Aldric and Almeric dropped, in unison, to one knee, and proposed to their girlfriends.
  92. 92. The answers, of course, were yes.
  93. 93. William was the odd one out, but he didn’t mind. He had his family’s business to work in, after all, and an older brother who already had children, leaving him free from the pressure of having to get married and continue the family. If he found the right woman, it would happen, but right then, he wasn’t looking.
  94. 94. After the water balloon fight, there was a group smustle in the living room.
  95. 95. And a group dinner.
  96. 96. And then Blossom and Aldric, then Klara and Almeric, headed for the hot tub, while William headed back to the party his sophomores were throwing in his honor.
  97. 97. This left Maddie and Stella alone in the kitchen. As they sat together, talking about inconsequential things, Maddie thought about everything they’d been through during college, from Frances and Kendra and the Worthington Society to Stella leaving the aliens and choosing to stay with Maddie to the proposals that day. She felt the weight in her pocket, and knew it was time.
  98. 98. “Stella,” she said, as she pulled out the box, “will you marry me?”
  99. 99. She sat there, nervous as anything, and realized that she was worried that Stella would say no. She really, truly, wanted this commitment, and was worried that it wouldn’t happen. How much had she changed in barely four years?
  100. 100. “Yes,” Stella said, “of course the answer is yes.”
  101. 101. After they changed out of their graduation gowns, Stella found Maddie and grabbed her hands. “I’m so excited!” “To graduate?” “No, silly! To marry you!” “I’m excited too!”
  102. 102. “And I think I’m ready.” “Ready? To get married?” “To woohoo with you. Shall we go to the hot tub?” “No. Not the hot tub.”
  103. 103. “You never take anyone into your bedroom.” “I haven’t, no. But you’re special, Stella. You’re the one that I want to be with forever. And I can’t promise that I’ll never notice other people. But I’ll be yours.” “As I am yours.”
  104. 104. Maddie was gentle, and loving, and made sure that Stella’s first experience of woohoo was a wonderful one. And, in the morning, they woke up, and left for their new home. ***
  105. 105. When Frances came back to life, the first thing he was aware of was a feeling of confusion. The second was a feeling of intense anger at whoever had brought him back.
  106. 106. The third was Kendra and Francis, looking equally dazed, and also very strange. It took a moment for him to realize that they were zombies.
  107. 107. It took a moment longer for him to look down at his hands and realize that he was a zombie too.
  108. 108. “Hello,” a cheery voice called. Rosalie came into view. “Welcome back to life!” All three of them exchanged a wary glance, and Frances was the one to finally ask the question. “Where are we?” “Oh, a small house I bought in Viper Canyon.” “Why did you bring us back?” Kendra asked. “I’m glad you asked! I want to get revenge on anyone who’s ever hurt me, and you are going to help!”
  109. 109. None of them were happy about this. Clearly, Kendra and Francis felt the same anger toward Rosalie as he did, and Francis was the one to say so. “What if we have no interest in working with you? You killed us and brought us back!”
  110. 110. “And I have no problem making you permanently dead.” She looked at the other two. “Understood?” “Understood,” Frances and Kendra chorused. Rosalie smiled, then left the room, taking the gun with her. They heard a ‘snick’ and knew they’d been locked in.
  111. 111. Frances collapsed onto a sofa. “We are completely screwed.” “Oh yes.” Kendra started pacing back and forth, carefully avoiding Francis’s urn, as Frances leaned farther into the sofa. “I’m not at all happy with you, you know.” “Why not?” “Why not? You set me at Maddie, knowing that she was sleeping with everyone in sight, didn’t you? You let the part- alien bitch into the society, and she’s the one who caused all this!” “Okay, first of all, I thought that maybe you would be able to stop her from cheating. I’d have dated her myself if she’d said yes!”
  112. 112. She laughed. “You tried? Frances, everyone knows you’re gay.” “I am not gay!” “You’re totally gay. Have you ever actually been attracted to a woman?” He didn’t say anything and she rolled her eyes. “You’re gay. And an idiot.” She sat down next to him. “Explain the part-alien.”
  113. 113. “I thought she - well, there was something weird about her. I caught flashes of green in the mirror a few times when she was near one, when nothing should have been green. She acted oddly and I’m not sure why. I was going to investigate, but…I got distracted and didn’t, after my preliminary searches found nothing.” “So we have to look that up, then.” “I thought you were angry with me.” “I am. I’m also terrified of Rosalie, and if we want to deal with her…” “We’re going to have to work together. Partners?” “Partners.” ***
  114. 114. “I hate this place.” Sanar sighed. “I know, Ryelle. Believe me, I know. This sand is horrible. But we have our orders.” “Do they really think we’ll find half-breeds here?” “Apparently.”
  115. 115. Ryelle looked at the cheap folding chairs, sniffed, and chose not to sit down. Instead, she pulled out a mirror and examined herself. “I can’t even see my ears with my hair like this.” “Part of the disguise, Ryelle.” “I know, Sanar. I still hate it. And this stupid clothing.” “I agree. But we have our orders-” “And we’re going to follow them.” ***
  116. 116. When they moved to their new house in Viper Canyon, the first thing Maddie and Stella did was look for jobs. The $50,000 Maddie’d inherited from the Landgraab trust, in addition to what she had left in her trust fund from her grandfather (quite a bit had been used up during college), was enough to buy the house, but not to fully furnish it. She couldn’t find a job in Music, and there wasn’t one in Medicine either, so Maddie took a job as a Comic Book Penciller, and Stella took one as a Fact Checker for the local newspaper.
  117. 117. Stella got out of work earlier than Maddie did, so, when she was done, she set up her robot bench and started work on a special project.
  118. 118. Then she attempted to cook dinner. She was incredibly happy when it came out well.
  119. 119. And when the long first day of work was over, they went upstairs and to bed - though sleep was not what they did first. Maddie took the lead in their woohoo once more, though Stella responded ardently. ***
  120. 120. The next day started inauspiciously with a knocked over trashcan, which Maddie was careful to pick up. She wanted everything to be perfect for the event scheduled later in the day - her wedding. She still couldn’t believe she was getting married, but she also didn’t regret it at all. She did wonder who had knocked over the trash can, however.
  121. 121. As she had the day off, she spent it studying and taking care of the bird. She and Stella had taken him when they’d all graduated, as Klara would be too busy with work, and Blossom was hoping to travel at least a bit. She also checked the computer for new job listings.
  122. 122. And at four, when Stella got home from work, their friends came over for their wedding.
  123. 123. It was a small party. The only guests were Blossom, Aldric, Almeric, Klara, William, and one of Stella’s coworkers, who she’d invited on a whim. They didn’t have much, either - just the arch, a small buffet table, and chairs that would be used for both the ceremony and the food. That was fine with them. They didn’t need more than that.
  124. 124. Their vows were short and simple - to love and to honor, to cherish for life, and to be faithful. Stella took Maddie’s last name. Terrano was made up as part of her cover story, anyway, and held no real meaning for her. Doran, on the other hand, was important, and Maddie couldn’t imagine giving it up.
  125. 125. After the vows were said, there was cake. It was not baked by either of them.
  126. 126. Maddie shoved a bit of the first piece into Stella’s mouth, and Stella took it gracefully.
  127. 127. Maddie toasted her new wife during the cake eating. Then, as it got dark, everyone split up to have fun doing various things.
  128. 128. “I’m sorry to go, Stella, but…” “You have to work?” “There was an opening for a Studio Musician, and I want this.” “I know. Go. Have a good night at work. I’ll be here when you get home.”
  129. 129. “I love you.” “I love you too.”
  130. 130. With Maddie gone and the party over, Stella spent the rest of the evening working on her special project. ***
  131. 131. As Maddie worked nights - and had Wednesday off anyway - she spent the day brushing up her piano skills on their new baby grand. It had been a splurge, but it was worth it.
  132. 132. She was on the bed relaxing when Stella got home from work.
  133. 133. She was surprised when Stella took the lead, kissing her like her life depended on it, but she didn’t mind. It was good for Stella to start being more free with listening to her romantic urges.
  134. 134. She was even more surprised when Stella insisted on woohooing over and over again. She wasn’t exactly complaining, however.
  135. 135. And, well, if the woohoo made them hungry, there was always a late night snack available. ***
  136. 136. The next morning started inauspiciously, as Stella woke up early with an intense urge to vomit.
  137. 137. She wasn’t the only one, either.
  138. 138. Both of them had the day off, which was good, since neither of them felt all that well. They also both had an intense craving for sweets, and made four cheesecakes until Maddie finally succeeded at making one that was edible. Then they lazed around the house, occasionally snacking on some more cheesecake.
  139. 139. As night fell, they headed outside to watch the stars. Maddie enjoyed listening to Stella talk about where she’d come from, and how she’d grown up, and seeing all the stars that she’d visited - at least, the ones that she could point out.
  140. 140. It was a pleasant way to spend an evening.
  141. 141. Getting pulled up into a beam of light was not nearly so pleasant. “Stella!” Maddie yelled. “What’s going on?” “I don’t know!”
  142. 142. ***
  143. 143. “Ow. That hurts.” “It is quite painful.” Maddie looked around the room. “We got abducted, didn’t we?” “Yes.” “I thought that could only happen if you were at a telescope.” “I’m as surprised as you are.”
  144. 144. A throat cleared and they both turned to look at Pollination Technician 71, who was clearly waiting for them. “It is unusual but not impossible,” he said. “Telescopes are considered a signal that the person is willing to be abducted, and are easy for our sensors to lock onto. However, you both are recognizable, and we were able to find you without the aid of a telescope sensor.” “Damn,” Maddie said quietly. “Come with me,” he said, turning to leave. They exchanged a glance, then followed. They really didn’t have any other option.
  145. 145. As they walked to the Council Room, Maddie and Stella talked quietly. “Let me take the lead,” Stella said. “I know them better than you do, and they know me better. I can speak in language that they will understand.” “Okay, but if they start yelling…” Stella smiled. “You’ll be my knight in shining armor?” “Only without the armor.” “I don’t need the armor.” “I know.” ***
  146. 146. The same people sat in the Council Room as had every other time Stella had been there, though, this time, Maddie took PT9’s seat. “500,” Leader 113 said, “you confused us all when you left. Why did you leave so quickly? What about the humans makes you want to stay with them?” “I explained that when I left. They live in a way we don’t, and I wanted that. I wanted Maddie.” Maddie put her hand on Stella’s and smiled. “And I was lucky that she wanted me too.” Researcher 92 was feverishly taking notes, clearly interested in what Stella was saying. Everyone else sat in silence.
  147. 147. “Why have you abducted us?” Stella finally asked. “Are you going to separate us? Keep us both here?” An uneasy look was exchanged around the table, and Leader 113 spoke. “No. Clearly if both of the people we have sent down have fallen in love with the humans, there is a reason. We are researchers, not warmongers. We want to know, and to understand. We would like to remain in contact with you and learn more.” “What do you mean remain in contact with?” “Regular reports via the satellites. Observation. Abduction occasionally to ask for personal observations.”
  148. 148. Stella and Maddie exchanged a glance. “Can we have some time to talk about this?” “Certainly.” “Where should we go?” “Remain here. We shall wait in the control room until you are ready.” Everyone except for Maddie and Stella filed out of the room, leaving them alone.
  149. 149. “Want to make a run for it?” Maddie asked. “There is no point. They are probably watching the door, for the control room is just across the hallway. In addition…” she gestured to the communications devices, which had been repaired since the last time she’d been there. “The communications devices have been fixed. They will be able to hear what we say.” “Fixed?” Stella blushed. “I may have broken them when I left the last time.” Maddie grinned. “Way to go, Stella.” Then she sobered. “Well, even if they can hear us, this is as private as we’re going to get.”
  150. 150. Stella nodded. “So, do we want to report to them?” “Do we have any other choice? If they can abduct us without telescopes…” “We could remain inside all the time? I do not believe they can abduct while someone is inside a house.” Maddie shook her head. “I’m not willing to live my life like that.” “No. I suppose not.”
  151. 151. “Besides,” Maddie said cheerfully, “the reports don’t really sound that onerous, right? It could be a lot worse. Believe me, I know.” “I know. I am just reluctant to-” “To accept it?” Stella nodded, and Maddie patted her hand. “I want you, Stella, and if this is what I have to go through to keep you, I’m willing to do it.” “I am, as well. Shall we call them back in?” “Sure.”
  152. 152. Stella went to the door, unsurprised to see that everyone was outside, waiting to be let back in. The filed in silently and took their seats. “We agree to your conditions,” she said, once everyone was seated.
  153. 153. “Good,” Leader 113 said. “We appreciate your cooperation.” Maddie glanced at Stella, then back at the aliens. “I know you’re curious about us humans. Well, I’m curious about you. What is your society like? Stella’s implied that it’s different, but she hasn’t always said how.” Leader 113 leaned over and said something quietly to Pollination Technician 71, who nodded. “Pollination Technician 71 has agreed to take you on a tour of the ship, if you would like.” “Cool.” ***
  154. 154. Pollination Technician 71 led Maddie and Stella around the ship, showing them various rooms. Stella had already seen everything, of course, but she enjoyed Maddie’s reactions to such places as the cowplant growing area, the rooms studying such things as time/space theory and alternate universes, the living spaces, and the control room. Maddie was especially interested in the places Stella had spent time, so they also went to the room where Stella’s skin had been changed, and the rooms where younglings spent their days.
  155. 155. Finally, they arrived at the abduction room. “You have already seen this, for it is where you landed. It is the abduction room.” “So,” Maddie said, turning to Pollination Technician 71, “now that you’ve abducted me, are you going to get me pregnant? That’s what you do with humans, after all, right?.” “Oh, no,” he said. “No, there is no need. You and 500 - Stella - are both already pregnant.”
  156. 156. They looked at each other, eyes wide, then looked back at Pollination Technician 71. “WHAT?!” ***