Generation Eight Part Two


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Generation Eight Part Two

  1. 1. “Ow,” Stella said as she pushed herself up off the floor. Landing on the ship really hadn’t been all that pleasant, and she wondered if the humans found it just as uncomfortable as she did. If they did, it was no wonder many of them feared abduction.
  2. 2. “Hello,” Stella said when she managed to climb off the floor. The Pollination Technician on duty, Pollination Technician 367, had stood up to greet her. “I have orders to take you to the Council Room,” he said. “Of course,” she said, “I would not have been abducted otherwise.”
  3. 3. He led her to the Council Room, then turned around and left. Stella entered, suddenly feeling incredibly out of place in her tan skin, hair, and pink clothing.
  4. 4. The same people were sitting at the table as had been the last time she’d been in that room, and the same seat, all the way at the end, was empty.
  5. 5. “You called for me?” she asked.
  6. 6. “We did,” Leader 113 answered. “We wanted to know your impressions of Madeleine Doran. What is she like? Does she have magic? Has there been any sign of elves? Does she know you are one of us?”
  7. 7. “Well,” Stella began, as everyone turned to look at her, “Madeleine is a very…forward sort of person. She has many romances with many people, and has propositioned almost everyone, including me. Unless she has a magical talent to get people to woohoo with her, I have seen no signs of one, and if that is a power, it does not work on me. I believe it is not, in any case; she is simply a very convincing and sensual person. I have seen no sign of elves, and as far as I am aware, she does not suspect I am anything other than what I claim to be.”
  8. 8. “I am curious,” Researcher 92 said, “what do you think of the humans?” “What do you mean?” Stella asked. “So few of our people have gone down and actually spoken to humans. I would like to know your impressions of them.”
  9. 9. Pollination Technician 9 stared in shock, disbelieving that that question had actually been asked. Couldn’t the Researchers do their own research? Wasn’t that their job? “It is hard to give impressions,” Stella said, intentionally ignoring his response. “They are…humans, and very difficult to describe as anything other than individuals. They love, they fight, they live their lives. But I will tell you my impressions of the individuals who live in my dormitory, if you wish.”
  10. 10. They did wish to hear her impressions, so Stella told them about Frances and his awkwardness, Klara and William’s fights, Aldric’s pursuit of Blossom, Blossom’s penchant for telling dirty jokes, Almeric’s obsession with keeping himself fit, and how they all dealt with their schoolwork. When she was done, she sat quietly and listened to them debate anything else she should do.
  11. 11. Eventually it was decided that Stella should simply continue as she had been, watching Madeleine (and the rest of the humans), and avoiding mirrors whenever possible. They thought it was unlikely that they would have to abduct her again before she finished university, but told her to continue with her stargazing, so that she was available if necessary.
  12. 12. Pollination Technician 9 volunteered to walk her back to the abduction room, so they headed out and walked down the halls together. She told him things she hadn’t told the Council, about how much she enjoyed talking to Madeleine, and how that challenged her mind in a way few things ever had. He smiled and listened.
  13. 13. They were interrupted on their route by a youngling escaping from the room she was supposed to be in.
  14. 14. Pollination Technician 9 picked her up. “We should probably get this one back to where she belongs.” Stella smiled. “That’s probably a good idea.”
  15. 15. “500!” Adolescent 511 said as he came up to them, obviously chasing the youngling. “How are you?” The youngling squirmed to be let down and Pollination Technician 9 obliged. “I am well,” Stella said, watching the youngling. “Busy. How are you?” “Close to maturation. I am deciding what to do once I am an Adult.” “Oh,” she said. “I’m sure you will choose what is best for you.” “Yes.”
  16. 16. Adolescent 511 picked up the youngling, and Stella and Pollination Technician 9 continued to the abduction room. As they walked, Stella worried. It had taken her a moment to answer to 500; was she forgetting herself? And, unlike everyone else, she didn’t have a title. She was simply 500, or Adult 500 - not a Technician, not a Researcher, not an Educator. Would there be a place for her when she returned?
  17. 17. Pollination Technician 9 pulled her into an out of the way corner when they were close to the abduction room. He’d seen her worrying. “You know, if you ever need to talk about anything, I’m here for you.” “I know,” she said. He nodded. “Good. Because I’ll come visit you if I think you’re worrying too much.” That made her smile. “Thanks.”
  18. 18. They found Pollination Technician 367 still on his shift by the abduction room. Pollination Technician 9 impulsively pulled Stella into a hug. “Don’t be a stranger,” he said. “I am not a stranger.” He laughed. “It’s a saying. If you weren’t in disguise, I’d tell you to ask one of your human friends what it means. But I’m basically telling you to keep in touch.” “I can do that.” “I know.” ***
  19. 19. “Oh Plumbbob the ground is far down from here…”
  20. 20. As Stella stood up from where she’d fallen, she rubbed her back. That had been painful. Very painful. More painful than falling into the spaceship had been in the first place, and that hadn’t been all that pleasant either.
  21. 21. Practically everyone in the dorm was awake and waiting for her, but she ignored them all and headed inside. She didn’t want to deal with anyone right then.
  22. 22. Frances, meanwhile, stared contemplatively at the spaceship wreck across the road from the dorm. Why had Stella been abducted? Eventually, he gave up and headed inside. The predawn air wasn’t exactly warm. ***
  23. 23. Later that morning, Stella finally left her room to go grab some breakfast from the cafeteria. She found Madeleine sitting at a table, eating her own breakfast, and sat down with her. “So,” Maddie said. “Abduction.” “Yes. Abduction.” “I guess you really were looking to meet the aliens, huh?”
  24. 24. Stella decided to run with that. “Yes.” “Knowledge?” “Yes.” Maddie shrugged. “If it makes you happy, good for you. I can’t imagine it being all that fun, though.” “Parts were painful, yes. But it was worth it.” Maddie nodded, once. “Cool.”
  25. 25. Luckily, they’d gotten that out of the way, because when Klara and William came in and started arguing loudly about something completely pointless, it became hard to hear anything else.
  26. 26. And then Aldric and Blossom started telling each other dirty jokes, laughing loudly at each one, possibly as a way to keep from hearing Klara and William’s fight.
  27. 27. That night, Frances managed to pull Stella into his room for a conversation about her abduction. He had his job as RA to do, to provide an ear if someone wanted to talk - and everything Frances knew about abduction victims told him that Stella would be traumatized. But she wasn’t. She seemed completely unharmed from her experience, other than a bruise on her butt and some scrapes on her hands and knees, none of which were unexpected, but which were usually only the barest tip of the iceberg. He wasn’t sure how to deal with that, and what it meant about Stella. ***
  28. 28. Sophomore year went fairly similarly to freshman year. There was lots of mac and cheese and jello, sometimes with hot shirtless guys. Darts was still a favorite pastime for practically everyone.
  29. 29. The chess table was almost always occupied. Term papers were written and edited - either by the students themselves or by wiling victims.
  30. 30. And the cafeteria workers continuously set the place on fire.
  31. 31. Maddie also spent a lot of time in the hot tub - and out of it - with various attractive members of both genders.
  32. 32. Quite a lot of time, in fact.
  33. 33. And all three Fiesta Hall members of the Worthington Society also spent time there. The pool table was certainly a favorite.
  34. 34. Frances spent time training Francis Schultz, a junior, in what was necessary to take over running the house after his graduation.
  35. 35. Stella spent a lot of time chatting with Rosalie, who never seemed to mind her odd peculiarities.
  36. 36. And Kendra and Maddie were often told to get a room when they flirted everywhere.
  37. 37. However, Kendra also seemed to have something against Stella, though Stella was never quite sure what her issue was. Whenever possible, she avoided Kendra.
  38. 38. And there was at least one time where Frances was certain he spotted something odd about Stella out of the corner of his eye, though he wasn’t quite sure. ***
  39. 39. One day, while he was studying inheritances and trust funds, Frances found some interesting information. He immediately decided to use that information.
  40. 40. He looked up the number online, and Frances had the information to contact the clinic. They were appointment-only - at least for the purpose he needed - so making a phone call was necessary. And, luckily, he was successful. He had an appointment for that coming Sunday at two. Then, all he had to do was convince Maddie to go along. It took some doing, but he managed.
  41. 41. When they got to the clinic that Sunday, they were met by a blond man in a pink sweater. “Hello,” he said, “I’m Robert Austen. You must be Frances Worthington, and you must be Madeleine Doran.” Frances nodded and shook his hand, then Maddie did the same. “Yup, that’s me.” “Thank you for coming all the way out here on a Sunday; we hear from possible Dorans very rarely, and use this space as a regular clinic during the rest of the week.” “Not a problem,” Maddie said. “Shall we go inside?” When they nodded, he led the way to the doors, unlocking them and leading them in.
  42. 42. The clinic was empty, unsurprising since it was a Sunday. Robert led Madeleine to the examination room, where he drew her blood, while Frances waited in the lobby.
  43. 43. “Thank you, Miss Doran,” he said. “I have to run some tests on your blood and it will take about an hour; would you mind waiting in the lobby?” “Not at all,” she said.
  44. 44. She sat down next to Frances on the couch. “You know,” she said, “I still don’t get why we’re here.” “For money, of course.”
  45. 45. “Yeah, but why’s that important? I’ve got a trust fund, which is plenty for college, and I’ll be fine after.” “Madeleine, you can never have too much money.” “There are things money can’t buy, though. Dad always used to say that money can’t buy love, and then Mom would smile and they’d get sappy and head off to their bedroom. Hell, when I was little, we didn’t have all that much money, and I remember being happy.” “But there are things that money can buy. And this money is just sitting here unless someone claims it. You have the right. Well, you probably have the right. Why not take it?” “I guess,” she said.
  46. 46. “Besides, think of all the things you can do with the money. You could support worthy organizations, or fund research. You could give money to your friends and buy nice gifts. You don’t have to keep it all for yourself.” Maddie nodded. That was much more to her taste. “I guess it is just sitting there, right?” “It is. Unless a descendant of Dominic Doran claims it, the money will never do anything. It won’t go to charity, it won’t be used by anyone. Even if you take your $50,000, there will still be a lot left.” She let the conversation grow quiet and sat and thought.
  47. 47. After an hour, they were joined by Robert. “Congratulations, Miss Doran,” he said as he sat down. “You are certainly a descendant of Dominic Doran and are entitled to $50,000.” “Thanks,” she said, somewhat hesitantly. She still wasn’t sure she wanted the money. “If you come over to the counter, we can fill out the paperwork.” “Yeah, sure.”
  48. 48. Maddie and Robert signed the paperwork, and she took the check for $50,000 with reluctance. She still wasn’t sure she wanted the money, even though she was entitled to it. It felt odd profiting from all of the bad things that had happened to her ancestors. ***
  49. 49. “So why did you pull me in here? I’m here to see Maddie, not you.” “She’s at class right now; we’ll be done before she returns.” Kendra nodded. “Okay. What did you want to talk about?” “How is your relationship going?” “My relationship? Fine. Why?”
  50. 50. “She’s gotten even more useful.” “What do you mean?” “We went to a clinic yesterday. She’s a descendant of Dominic Doran.” “Who?” Frances sighed. “Dominic Doran. The Hero of Bluewater. Go read a history textbook, I don’t feel like explaining it. Anyway, she’s got extra money.”
  51. 51. “I hope you don’t expect her to use all of it to-” “No, no,” Frances interrupted. “Not all, not at all. But she’s got a ton, and, well, I can think of a number of good uses for that money, especially if it’s invested well.” “She’s my girlfriend, Frances.” “And I hope you two have a long and happy life together.” He didn’t mention the love letter he’d found addressed to Maddie, or the fact that he wasn’t sure Maddie was as committed to their relationship as Kendra clearly was. Kendra nodded. “Fine. I’ll encourage her to use some of her money the way you want.” “Good. Now go wait for your girlfriend, she’ll be out of class in ten minutes.” ***
  52. 52. At the end of the fall semester, the group decided to use some of their grant money to buy some dance spheres, which were promptly put on the roof. Everyone enjoyed them, though some people found them more difficult than others.
  53. 53. And even those who fell off often found that they were getting more in shape.
  54. 54. Klara and William’s arguments continued to escalate.
  55. 55. They eventually ended up getting into a full-on fight, with varying responses from the watchers. At least, after that, they started ignoring each other.
  56. 56. Though schoolwork continued, it wasn’t the main concern of most of the students. That was enjoying college.
  57. 57. And they quite enjoyed it. They played chess, played music, played darts, played poker, played red hands and rock paper scissors - there was a lot of playing. Of course, some students also preferred other solitary pursuits, such as daydreaming and building robots. Nothing was off-limits. ***
  58. 58. “So, Almeric,” Blossom asked one day, “do you want to go out with me?” She’d finally gotten up the courage to ask. He awkwardly placed a hand on her shoulder. “I…no. I’m not interested in you that way, Blossom.” She smiled brightly, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Okay! Friends?” “Sure. Friends.”
  59. 59. “Blossom.” “Hey, Klara.” “How are you?” “Good. You?” “Fairly good. I hear you asked Almeric out.” “I did, yeah.”
  60. 60. “He was not interested?” “No.” “You are very pretty. He should be interested.” Blossom shrugged. “Sometimes you just don’t feel that way about someone, you know? Doesn’t matter how attractive they are, they just don’t interest you. And, I mean, it totally sucks that he doesn’t see me that way, but if he doesn’t, he doesn’t, and I’d rather know before dating than after and have a nasty break-up.” “I believe Aldric does like you that way.”
  61. 61. “I know. But the thing is, while I definitely like him as a friend, and sort of like him as a potential boyfriend, I’m not sure how much of that is the fact that he and Almeric are identical.” Klara shrugged. “He has been working out more, in order to look better for you.” “Yeah.” Blossom finished collecting the darts and headed back to throw them again. “Why does that matter to you, though?”
  62. 62. Klara blushed. “IthinkIhaveacrushonAlmeric.” “What?” “I think I have a crush on Almeric,” she said quietly. “Oh.” “Yes.” “Well, if he likes you, he likes you. I just…give me some time to think, okay?”
  63. 63. “Of course. I do not…I am not willing to ask him out. Not now.” “I totally get that. It took me a while to work up the courage.” Klara nodded. “Yes.” Blossom shrugged. “I’m not going to stop you. Just…be nice?” “Of course.”
  64. 64. And Klara was nice. She wasn’t ready to ask Almeric out yet, anyway, but she started spending more time with him, doing everyday - and not so everyday - activities. He seemed to have fun.
  65. 65. Almeric turning Blossom down had one other result; it allowed the brothers to finally stop their jealousy and become friends. ***
  66. 66. Of course, even once the relationship drama calmed down, life at Fiesta Hall was never boring.
  67. 67. “Another fire?” Frances asked as he jumped from foot to food. “I thought the school hired you because you could cook!” “I make minimum wage, I got hired because I was willing to take the pay to feed you brats!” the cafeteria worker yelled. “You think I’d take this job if I could really cook?” Stella cowered. Fire was not her thing.
  68. 68. At least the dorm had a fire alarm, and they came fairly quickly. “Thanks,” Maddie said as she tipped Maura Simpson, “I’m glad the place didn’t burn down.” “No problem! It is my job, after all.” “Yeah, well, I’d really like to get back to my date.” Maura smiled and winked. “Have fun.”
  69. 69. And, though it was not as exciting as fire or relationship drama, most importantly of all, halfway into the spring semester, living plans for the next year were determined. ***
  70. 70. One night, almost at the end of sophomore year, Frances, Maddie, and Stella were spending time at the Worthington Society. As it was nice outside, everyone had migrated to the front of the house, where they were having fun in various ways - stargazing, playing catch, playing kicky bag, making out, and just hanging out and chatting with their friends.
  71. 71. During their time outside, Stella managed to wander into the fenced in area that housed the Worthington Society’s cowplant. She reached up to pet it and was noticed quickly by her friend Rosalie.
  72. 72. “Stella!” she yelled. “Stop!” She ran into the fenced in area and pushed Stella away from the cowplant.
  73. 73. As everyone else came running, Stella looked at the grave, then the cowplant, and then the others. She’d never seen a cowplant eat someone before. Never. Her people raised them, and she’d done a rotation working with them as an Adolescent. She’d gone up and petted them a few times and none had ever eaten her. But this one had eaten Rosalie. Maybe humans were more appealing to cowplants than aliens were?
  74. 74. When she left the pen, taking care to lock the gate behind her, Stella found herself face to face with Francis. And Francis was angry. “What the fuck were you thinking, going into a cowplant pen? That thing is dangerous! We keep it locked for a reason!” “I have never seen one eat a person before,” Stella said. “Yeah, well, they do that, and you should have fucking known that!”
  75. 75. Stella growled at Francis. “I had no idea they did that!” “And you should have!” “I’m sorry Rosalie died, I liked her too! If I could bring her back, I would!” That struck a chord in Francis’s mind, but she ignored it for the moment. “You’re not welcome here anymore. Go home. And don’t come back.” “Fine,” Stella said. “I won’t.”
  76. 76. And she turned around and left.
  77. 77. As everyone stood around, unsure what to do now that one of their own had died, Maddie turned to Kendra. “I should go after her,” she said. “Stay,” Kendra said. “We’ll deal with it. She’s not welcome here anymore anyway.”
  78. 78. Maddie glared at her lover. “Stella is still one of my friends, and you guys just kicked her out without trying to help her at all after she had an accident.” “And she got Rosalie killed!” “I liked Rosalie too! But isn’t Stella just as much one of us as Rosalie was?” When Kendra didn’t say anything, Maddie could feel herself getting angrier. “She’s not, is she? Am I, then? I thought you wanted us here, but now I guess you don’t.”
  79. 79. “Maddie, I love you.” “Well, you’re not acting like it right now. You’re acting like I belong to you, and the rest of them.” Maddie gestured at the rest of the Worthington Society members. “I don’t. I belong to me, and that’s it.” “Please, stay.” Maddie looked around. “If you people don’t consider Stella equal, you don’t consider me equal. Why am I here, anyway? For my money?” Kendra looked down.
  80. 80. Maddie crossed her arms. “I am, aren’t I? You people want me for my money, and not for me. Well, this is a fucking worthless society, and I’m leaving.” “Fine, go,” Kendra said. “Have fun with your little friends.” “I will.”
  81. 81. And she did.
  82. 82. Francis sent everyone home, then found herself in the kitchen watching Frances and Kendra argue. She’d been angry before, but Frances and Kendra were doing such a good job at that that she really didn’t have the heart to keep it going. “How could you let her leave?” Frances yelled. “She wanted to go after that part-alien bitch, how the hell was I supposed to stop her?” “Bribe her! Kiss her! I don’t care, but you were supposed to make her stay!” “Oh, like you could have done any better?” “I bet I could have!”
  83. 83. “Yeah right,” Kendra said. “Everyone knows Maddie wouldn’t date you. I wonder why.” Frances scowled. “That’s none of your business.” “Oh, like it’s none of my business that you want her in here for her money? She figured that out.” “What?” “She accused us of letting her into the society for her money. Which is all your fault, anyway, that we - that you - even need it!”
  84. 84. Frances glared at Kendra. “It’s not my fault that my parents were cheating on their taxes and had everything taken away when they were found out. I was lucky to be able to stay at LFT, even if I had to move into a dorm.” “Yeah, well, you’re the one who’s not supporting this society any more, so it’s your responsibility to find money elsewhere. And Maddie knows that’s why you want her.” “And it’s not why you want her?” “I happen to love her, and I’m going to get her back.”
  85. 85. Francis closed her eyes in frustration as they kept arguing. “Okay, you two, stop it,” she said. “I had an idea, anyway. We can bring Rosalie back.” Both of them turned to look at her in shock. “What?” they asked in unison. “The bone phone.”
  86. 86. Five minutes later, they were standing at the phone, and Frances, as the official head of the society, was dialing. “Hello? Yes, I’d like to bring someone back. Rosalie Rhodes. Yes, um…” He held the phone away from his ear. “How much money do we have?” Francis was in charge of the accounts, so she was the one who knew. “A little over $1200.” “That’s not much.” “No, it’s not.” Frances sighed, then held the phone back up to his ear. “$1200.”
  87. 87. “You brought me back?” Rosalie asked, looking at her body. “As a zombie?” Frances nodded a bit nervously. She smiled, but not with her eyes. “Someone is going to pay for this.”
  88. 88. And then she staggered out of the house, off to who knew where. ***
  89. 89. The next day, Maddie found herself being smooched rather enthusiastically by Kendra.
  90. 90. “Whoa,” she said, when Kendra finally let her up for air. “We’re not dating anymore. Not after what you did to Stella, and to me.”
  91. 91. Kendra took Maddie’s hands. “Please? I really do love you. And, well, I didn’t mean it. I was just upset last night. Rosalie was one of my best friends, and, well, she’s not here anymore. I didn’t…I do love you, Maddie. Really.” Maddie stared at Kendra in confusion. How could she just…act that way, then say that she didn’t mean it? And, of course, Kendra was standing there giving her puppy dog eyes. “Okay,” she said, “I get that you love me. I’m very lovable. But that doesn’t excuse the way you treated Stella, or me. If you want to keep dating…you’re better earn it.”
  92. 92. Kendra was very prepared to earn it, and spent most of the rest of the semester doing whatever Maddie wanted.
  93. 93. Finally, it was time for Frances to graduate and go home. All of his freshmen - well, sophomores, almost juniors - were there to see him off, along with Kendra, who was still dating Maddie. “Listen up, you guys,” he said, as they gathered outside the dorm. “You’re on your own, now, and while I’m sure you’ll be fine, I’ve left some housing information on William’s door. You’ve got each other, and you’ll do great.” “I’m sure we will,” Blossom said, ignoring the information about the housing - it wasn’t necessary - and cuddling into Aldric. She still wasn’t sure what she thought of dating Aldric, but he was pretty comfortable to stand against like that. “Enjoy the real world,” Almeric said. “I will, don’t worry,” Frances said.
  94. 94. Then he turned and left as everyone watched.
  95. 95. Afterwards, Kendra pulled Maddie to the side. “So, have you thought about housing yet? My friends and I have a spare room if you want to move in.” What she didn’t say was that the room had once been Rosalie’s. “Actually, I have,” Maddie said, very relieved. She liked Kendra…well, sort of liked…well, okay, she was a good kisser and fairly willing and usually available. But she didn’t want to live with one person she was dating when she was also dating a number of others. “I’m living with Stella, Klara, and Blossom in a house that Blossom found.” Kendra bristled at the mention of Stella. “On campus?” “Yeah. Aldric and Almeric have a house just down the street, actually, and William decided to work as an RA himself.” “Cool.” Kendra put her hand on Maddie’s cheek. “Kiss me?” ***
  96. 96. The house they got was fairly nice, and Blossom quickly took over the task of decorating, with occasional input by Maddie. Neither Stella nor Klara cared much, as long as everything was fairly new and neat. They often had the boys over - Aldric and Almeric’s house wasn’t nearly as nice, and while William liked his freshmen, he didn’t want to spend all of his time with them either. Frances was always busy when Blossom invited him back to campus, and Maddie usually breathed a sigh of relief whenever he said no. At least the group all hanging out together - while not all living together - made Klara and William stop their constant fighting and poking, though they would never be best friends.
  97. 97. On one such occasion, Blossom, Stella, and Aldric all had to leave for class, Maddie had a date over, and William had an outing with his freshmen, leaving Klara and Almeric alone together at the tail end of the gathering. “I should go,” he said, starting to get up. “No, stay.” As he obligingly sat back down, she gathered her courage and moved closer. “I like you, Almeric.” “I like you too, Klara.” “No, I…I really like you. Will you go out with me?” He smiled at her, then moved closer himself.
  98. 98. As he slid his arm around her, she smiled. She’d been wanting this for a while, and, well, if it made her act in ways that she normally didn’t…that was love, right? Or at least like.
  99. 99. She suddenly found herself on his lap as he smiled at her. “I think I’d like to try dating you,” he said. “I would, as well.” And from there on, they were a couple. ***
  100. 100. The next day, Blossom found Aldric hanging out at the house when she woke up - the boys had all stopped by early, and Klara, a habitual early riser, had let them in. “Hey, Aldric,” she said. He smiled at her. “How are you?” “I’m good, you?” “Good. Nothing new since yesterday.” “Yeah, true.” She took a step to head towards the table, and managed to trip in her bunny slippers.
  101. 101. She landed with her hand on his chest. “Wow,” she said, “you’ve been working out.” “I have, yeah. I wanted to get more in shape, look better…” “Attract the girls?” “Only you. It’s only ever been you.” She grinned at him, then leaned forward, taking the plunge.
  102. 102. The kiss was better than she’d expected, and she realized that yes, she really did like Aldric. And when he asked her out, she said yes. ***
  103. 103. The boys were not the only people who spent a lot of time at the house. Kendra was there fairly often as well. Most everyone other than Maddie often got very annoyed with her. And that wasn’t strictly true - even Maddie often got annoyed with her. But the kissing and the woohoo generally made up for the annoyances.
  104. 104. The blatant PDAs were a bit much, however.
  105. 105. And their usage of the hot tub pretty much made everyone else avoid it like the plague.
  106. 106. However, Kendra wasn’t the only person Maddie was dating, and everyone but Kendra knew it.
  107. 107. When all was said and done, Maddie had managed to fall in love (and have that love reciprocated) with twenty different people.
  108. 108. And yet, no matter who she took to the hot tub, she always went to bed alone. ***
  109. 109. Other than the dating, junior year went much as the previous years had done. Stella claimed the telescope as her domain. She watched the stars every night from midnight to one, but was not abducted that year.
  110. 110. She also continued building robots, often after her daily stargazing was done. Klara, meanwhile, found a new love in the dance sphere.
  111. 111. It never completely replaced her old love for chess, however.
  112. 112. Blossom also took up painting, though she wasn’t really all that good at it. It was a lot of fun, though.
  113. 113. All of the students studied and wrote term papers, though how much time they spent on such pursuits depended on their characters. To put it bluntly, Blossom and Maddie hadn’t even bothered getting their own computers.
  114. 114. They all learned to cook - at least simple foods, like cereal and lunch meat sandwiches - since they no longer had cafeteria workers around to fulfill their every food whim.
  115. 115. And they never ate alone. There was always someone in the house - one of the boys, one of Maddie’s dates, or someone who had just randomly stopped by - to share the food.
  116. 116. The mahjong table (a gift from Blossom’s parents) became a campus obsession.
  117. 117. Their pet bird was also popular.
  118. 118. And the musical instruments were never empty for long.
  119. 119. But for all of their popularity, they also enjoyed the time they spent as just the four of them. Throughout the year, they never managed to get sick of each other, and always enjoyed their time together. Admittedly, the single rooms helped. ***
  120. 120. One night, most of the way through Junior year, Kendra stopped by the house. She hadn’t seen Maddie in a full week, and it felt like forever. When she got there, she saw Maddie talking with a woman she didn’t know.
  121. 121. She ran up to Maddie and slapped her. “How can you kiss someone else?”
  122. 122. Maddie glared at her. “It’s taken you this long to realize that I’m not only with you? I’ve been dating other people for longer than I’ve been dating you.” Kendra reeled back. “I thought you were just with me!” “I’ve never only been with you. You’re the only one who was blind enough to think that.”
  123. 123. “I thought you loved me.” Maddie shook her head. “I did. For a while I did. But you’ve been basically stalking me, and it’s getting creepy. I’m not your possession. I won’t be anyone’s possession. Hell, you’ve tried to make me pick you over my friends, and I won’t do that. You make me choose…you don’t get chosen.” “But…” “You’re a good kisser, I’ll give you that. But you’re a creepy, stalkery, possessive person, Kendra, and I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
  124. 124. “You want a fight? You’ll get one.” “I don’t want a fight, Kendra. On the other hand, I also don’t ever want to see you again. Oh, and? You can tell everyone in the Worthington Society that they’re not going to see a penny of my money. Maybe if you people didn’t accept people just to get them to pay for stuff, you’d have better chances of keeping them in the society.”
  125. 125. Kendra glared at Madeleine. She was right about using people for money. But she wasn’t right about their relationship.
  126. 126. Then she turned and left, already making plans on how to win Maddie back.
  127. 127. Maddie, meanwhile, found herself pulled into a kiss by her date. “Hey,” Lilah said, “if she did all that, you’re totally in the right. She sounds like a stalkery bitch.” “She is, kind of,” Maddie said. “Very possessive.” “Did you check to see what she wants? Because those Family types…” “Damn it. I didn’t.” Maddie pulled back. “Look, Lilah, I’m not in the mood anymore. Maybe another time?” Lilah looked at her. “Okay. Call me whenever you want.” “Yeah. Will do.”
  128. 128. Maddie changed into her nightgown and sat on the side of her bed. All in all, she was glad to be rid of Kendra. She just wished the breakup hadn’t been quite that painful. ***
  129. 129. While Maddie’s relationships were going badly, others had cemented their status as couples. Aldric and Blossom and Klara and Almeric were all steadily dating, and looked to be moving towards marriage.
  130. 130. Maddie started joining Stella in watching the stars, while the couples took over the house. It was a way to get away, and not be bothered by them.
  131. 131. And elsewhere? Life went on. Frances spent most of the year at work. He was progressing very well in the field of medicine, and making significant amounts of money - but it wasn’t really enough. Not compared to what he’d grown up with, or what he expected from life. His job, however, left him with little time to socialize, and he wasn’t sure of his welcome, anyway, so he avoided LFT. He’d have to trust Kendra’s assurances that things would go well. ***
  132. 132. “Hey, mind if I join you?” “I thought you had a final.” “In an hour, yeah, but that’s plenty of time to get there. And if I don’t know something now, I’m not going to learn it by then. I might as well play mahjong instead.” Stella nodded. “It’s the same for me, though my final is in two hours.” She set up the board.
  133. 133. “How are you doing?” she finally asked, after Maddie had been silent for a while. “I’m…okay.” “I have noticed you have not had many people over to the house recently.” “Yeah, I…yeah.” “Is there a reason why?”
  134. 134. “Well, you heard about that whole thing with Kendra, right?” Stella nodded. “I don’t…I wasn’t trying to lead her on. I’ve never really lied about being with lots of people, but I think she was intentionally avoiding noticing it, and I think it really did hurt her when she saw me with Lilah. I never meant to hurt anyone, even if she was stalkery.” “I know.” “Well, I decided to take some time off from, well, dating. See if anyone else got as stalkery as Kendra, or possessive in any other way, because, really, I can’t see myself long term with any of them.” “This is logical.”
  135. 135. Maddie smiled. “You and your logic.” Stella shrugged. “I prefer to be logical.” “I know. I like that about you.” “Are you flirting with me?”
  136. 136. Maddie flinched. “Maybe? I don’t…I don’t want a relationship, not right now. I mean, you’re pretty and all, but not right now. But flirting? Am I?” “You seem to be.” “I don’t know that I can help it.” Stella nodded. “Let’s remain friends?” “Yes.”
  137. 137. Then Maddie noticed the clock. “Shoot, I’ve got to go to my final. Want to continue the game later?” “Of course.”
  138. 138. After Maddie left for her final, Stella went into Maddie’s room and looked in her mirror. Was she pretty? She couldn’t tell. Either way, though, she was hiding her true self from Maddie, and that wasn’t good. Would Maddie want her when she found out the truth? Did she want Maddie to want her? Yes, she thought, and reeled back.
  139. 139. She quickly went back into her room and took out her phone. She looked through the pre-programmed numbers and paused for a second, then pressed one. “Hi,” she said. “It’s Stella. You told me to call you when…yes. Yes. Do you- Of course. Yeah, I know where that is. I can get there. You’ll be there? Today doesn’t work, I have a final- Lunch tomorrow works, yes. I’ll see you at noon.” She listened for a bit.
  140. 140. “Okay,” she said, “if you think that will work. See you tomorrow.” Then she left to take her final. ***
  141. 141. When Stella walked up to the restaurant, she found Pollination Technician 9 sitting on a bench, clearly waiting for her. His clothing looked like that of the humans, rather than what she was used to him wearing. He stood up as she came over, and, as they’d agreed, she hugged him. “Hey, Dad,” she said awkwardly. “Stella, hi. Shall we go eat?” “Sure.”
  142. 142. They got a secluded table, sat down, and ordered their meals from the waitress. “You were right,” she said abruptly. “Oh?” “About falling in love with the humans. I don’t - I didn’t realize I would, but I did. And now I don’t know what to do.” He looked at her shrewdly. “You really have, haven’t you?” Her brow furrowed. “Your speech patterns have changed.” Her eyes went wide. “Oh!”
  143. 143. “I bet you think of yourself as Stella, too, and not as 500.” “Do you - I mean-” “I never had to lie, but…Jenny always called me PT9. I got used to that.”
  144. 144. The waitress came and they accepted their food, but waited for her to leave before going back to their conversation.
  145. 145. “So why did you call me? Just to tell me about falling in love with the humans?” Stella sighed. “I don’t know what to do. I’m - I mean - it’s…” She took a deep breath. “I am in love with Madeleine Doran, and I think I want to stay here.” “They’re not going to like that, you know.” “I know.”
  146. 146. “Does Madeleine know how you feel?” “No. I know she likes me, but I will not be just another lover to her. There are a lot of them. I will not be one.” “Will you be able to stay away from her if she’s not right for you?” “Maybe. I do not know. But I’d rather be here, where people allow themselves to feel, than up there, where everyone is…cold.” “Cold is a good word for them.” “How can you stand it? You lived down here; how could you go back?” He smiled sadly. “They all died.”
  147. 147. “What?” “I was not young when I came down. I’d been a Pollination Technician for years upon years, and it took me a long time to actually get up the courage to leave, despite the fact that I’d been watching the humans and wanting to join them for ages. I finally left because of Jenny. I fell in love with her when she became an adult, and I joined her. We had a family. But…Stella, we don’t age the way humans do. Sixty human years passed, and while I had not aged much, Jenny had, and she died of old age. Our children passed before I did, and our grandchildren, and by then I was even older. So I returned to our people to live my last years in peace.”
  148. 148. Stella’s eyes grew wide. “They age that fast?” “Far faster than we do. Even our descendants - our part-breeds - they age like the humans do. It is hard to stay connected, and to watch them die.” “Madeleine…” “Will live less time than you will, yes. You’re lucky, though. The Dorans have elf blood, and that breeds true. Elves age slower, and their part-breeds inherit some of that ability. She will live far longer than normal humans.” “Oh,” she whispered.
  149. 149. They sat in silence as Stella thought. PT9 understood, and he let her have that time.
  150. 150. Finally she turned to him. “I still want to stay.” He smiled. “I thought you might. If more of them spent time down here, they would understand.” “They would, yes.” “Well, now you have to tell them. You can tell them the truth - which none of them will understand. Or you can lie.” She smiled slowly. “Madeleine needs more observation, don’t you agree?” “Of course she does.”
  151. 151. They paid for their meal and left the restaurant. As Stella turned to head back to LFT, PT9 stopped her. “Would you like to come with me?” “Where are you going?” “Strangetown Cemetery. It’s why I asked to meet you near Strangetown.” “Your wife?” His smile was bittersweet. “I want to visit her before I die.” “You’re not-”
  152. 152. “I am. I was old when I met Jenny, and I’m older now. I will die soon, Stella.” She blinked back sudden tears, then hugged him tightly. “I will miss you.” She took a deep breath. “Dad.” “I will miss you too.” He pulled back. “Come with me?” “Okay.” ***
  153. 153. “Did Rosalie call you, too?” Kendra asked when she found Frances and Francis at the same house she’d been asked to come to. “Yes,” Frances said. “She didn’t tell me why she wanted me here, though. Did she tell you?” “Nope,” Francis said. Kendra shook her head as well. “I guess we might as well go in, then.”
  154. 154. “Even though this place is kind of…creepy.”
  155. 155. When they entered, they found Rosalie standing on a balcony in a very empty room. She looked fairly good - still a zombie, but with a new hairstyle and new clothing. “Hello,” she said. “Hi,” they all answered, a bit nervous.
  156. 156. “So,” she said conversationally, “I bet you’re all wondering why you’re here.” Three nods answered her. “Well, you might remember when you resurrected me. I was not happy about that. I’m still not happy.” She smiled, but it wasn’t a nice smile. “You might also remember what I said when you resurrected me.” The three of them looked at each other nervously, then back at Rosalie. “That someone would pay?” Kendra finally ventured. “Right! I’m glad at least one of you was paying attention!”
  157. 157. They looked at each other, then back up at Rosalie. “What do you mean?” Frances asked. “Oh, nothing much,” Rosalie said. Then she pressed two buttons on a small controller she held in her hand.
  158. 158. All three of them jumped back, stunned by the sudden appearance of flames. Frances and Kendra managed to avoid the flames. Francis wasn’t so lucky.
  159. 159. “Shit, I’m on fire!” Francis screamed. Kendra reached for her, but still kept her distance. “I - don’t worry, we just need to put this out!”
  160. 160. Frances, meanwhile, ran for the door. He wanted to get out of this fire pit, and hopefully bring back help.
  161. 161. “Did I forget to mention?” Rosalie asked as she watched him fruitlessly try to open the door. “I locked the door.”
  162. 162. Barely seconds after she said that, Grim appeared, ready to take Francis away. Frances watched, shocked, while Kendra collapsed in a heap of fear. She fell right into the flames.
  163. 163. And Grim turned and took her too.
  164. 164. “Why are you doing this?” Frances yelled, as he tried desperately to avoid the flames. “You used to be a nice person!” “I was,” Rosalie said calmly, “until I died.” “You’re insane!” “Maybe a little. But if I am, you made me that way! You killed me! You brought me back to life! It’s all your fault!”
  165. 165. As Frances reached for her, he caught on fire. “We didn’t kill you! That was Stella Terrano!” “Oh yes, it was, wasn’t it? She’ll pay, too. They’ll all pay.”
  166. 166. Then she turned away. Frances wouldn’t even get the dignity of her watching him die.
  167. 167. When it was all over, she looked out at the three urns. She clicked the controller again, unlocking the door and turning off the fire jets. “That went well,” she said to herself. “Now to start dealing with everyone else who’s wronged me.” She frowned. “That’s going to take a lot of work.” And, as she looked at the urns, she smiled. ***