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Annie hit save and navigated away from her text document to the web browser. She had a bit of time
before she needed to be downstairs for the evening festivities, and she could use it to catch up on her
email. Checking the in box she saw that there were now two new emails to join the one she had been
The first one, a message from her adviser, was quickly dealt with. A change in her class schedule that
would allow her to sleep later was more than acceptable.
The message from Moms was expected and typical of her mother. Annie had called home and left a
message that she'd made it back to campus safely, but her mother just wanted to be sure. There was,
along with the check in chatter, a layer of hurt over Annie's need to return early for rush weekend.
Though Debbie Stephens was proud of her daughter, and thrilled that Annie was taking full advantage of
college life, she missed her at home. Since her husband had been killed, Debbie's life had revolved around
Annie barely remembered her father. There were just vague memories of a tall blond man, one who
smiled a lot, but was rarely home. She could remember trying to stay awake at night until he got home,
and rarely managing to do so. Her mother claimed that Annie got her determination from her father.
Scott Stephens had been driven to succeed, to give his family the life he wanted them to have. He would
have done it, Annie knew, if he had lived long enough.
Annie's clearest memories were from the final family vacation in Three Lakes, just weeks before her
father's death. Though he had worked hard, he wasn't the type to forgo all pleasure. Three Lakes had
meant as much to Scott as it did to his wife, and daughter. He had meet Debbie there, while she was a
student on Spring Break with her friends. At the time he'd been working in the mills, saving money for
his exodus to the city, where he could fulfill his dreams. He wanted to write for a city paper, to report the
facts, but beyond that he wanted to tell the tales of the people behind the faces on the streets. He had
been doing just that at the time of his death. Following a lead to a story, in the wrong place, at the wrong
time, a victim of a mugging gone murder. That's what the cops had believed, and maybe that was the
Annie's mother had never believed that he'd been killed over the twenty dollars and change in his pocket.
She believed he had been on the trail of a story, a big one, one that would have given him the limelight he
deserved. When they'd returned home from that final vacation Scotty had dived back into his work with
a zeal. He had worked even longer and odder hours than before, often being gone all night, returning
home to sleep for a few hours with the dawn. He had hinted that he was on to something big, something
that would blow the socks off everyone, even the old money families that ran the town. But he wouldn't
explain, not completely and what he had said hadn't made sense to Debbie.
But after his death, no clues were found to signify what he had been working on. There was no notebook
on his body, nothing saved to the home computer and, according to his editor, none at the paper either.
The editor had denied knowledge that Scott had been investigating a story; he had hinted that perhaps it
had not been work that hat kept Scott away from home in those final weeks.
Once Annie had grown old enough to understand she'd asked her mother why she had never remarried.
At first her mother had brushed away the questions, saying that she didn't have time for romance; she
had to work, and a daughter to take care of, that was more than enough to keep her occupied. Later
though, Annie had come to realize that her mother felt guilty if she saw other men. It wasn't because she
didn't want to cheat on her husband's memory. It wasn't that she'd loved him so much that no one could
ever take his place, more that Debbie hadn't loved Scott as much as she thought that he had deserved to
Annie's mother had told her once that Scotty was a good man, he was easy to love, but he had never
replaced the memory of the boy she had first loved. When Debbie had told her that it had been in the
hopes that her daughter would not pursue the same path, would not hold so tightly to the dreams of her
youth, that she would be unavailable to other dreams.
Putting aside the possibilities and replacing them with alternative realities wasn't always the easiest
thing to do. Blocking them hadn't worked, and ignoring them wouldn't either. The final email in Annie's
in box had been sitting there unopened for a day, reminding Annie of her promise to read if Frankie
wrote. That promise had been easy to make, she had missed hearing from him, she wanted to know what
was going on in his life. She just hadn't expected him to write so soon.
Aloha from Twikki Island!
As I'm writing this I am sitting on a balcony, watching the sunrise over a beautiful stretch of white sand
and surf. There must be something about the air on Twikki, for the first time in my life I'm waking up
early and enjoying it. Our vacation is almost over, in a few hours we'll be catching a flight and returning
home. I'm sure that once I'm back on the mainland I'll return to my normal schedule of sleeping as late
as possible, leaving only enough time for a quick shower and shave before running to class. The last few
days have been nice though, I wonder if sunrise on the main land is as nice as it is here? The only times
I'm ever awake to possibly see a sunrise there, is when I've been up all night. In those cases, I doubt I'd
be in any condition to seek out a sunrise, the light it would burn!
We've spent the last few days doing all the tourist stuff available on the island. We've been to the board
walk and to the volcanic springs. We spent a day exploring the various ruins and temples. Yesterday we
went para-sailing and on Tuesday there was a glass bottom boat journey in order to better view the sea
life. We had a great time but the tour guides need more training. When we went para-sailing we ended
up being drug through a flock of seagulls. Not the techno type that have bad hair, but actual birds! We
were able to maneuver beneath them but you'd think the guide would have seen them coming and
avoided them in the first place. Better than that though was the boat, stupid captain ran over a reef and
punctured a hole in the bottom. Luckily Elisha had a pack of gum, so we were able to patch the hole
before we took on too much water, but again reefs are pretty big right? And they don't move all that
often, the captain should have known it was there! Eh, at least it was a bit of excitement. Sea-life isn't
that interesting close up, it's pretty but it's kind of boring. There weren't even any sharks.
When we were at the boardwalk, I took lessons from a break dancer. You remember that guy we saw in
the city? I could challenge him now!
On the second day we were here, we went down to see the Witch Doctor. Emilia wanted us to do his quest
and get a Mr. Mickles, she thinks I might need it next year. His quest is hardly a quest, he made us
repair all his appliances. You'd think a doctor could do that himself wouldn't you?
While we were there I tried to talk to him, cause I wanted his advice about something. Apparently he
wasn't in the mood to give advice because all he told me was “Ooh to the eeh the ooh the aah aah, To the
ting to the tang the wallawalla bingbang, Ooh to the eeh the ooh the aah aa, Ting tang wallawalla
bingbang” Maybe I need to brush up on my Twikkian and try again.
When we got back from the Witch Doctor's shack we took a few hours to just hang on the beach. Elijah
and I wanted to work on our tans, but Elisha kept nudging us and telling us to get up before we burned.
I guess we should have listened cause when we got up we were bright as berries. It's annoying how
often she's right about things.
That night some of the guys' fiances showed up from back home. They said they missed 'em, but I really
think they were just checking up on them, making sure they didn't get into any mischief. I guess that's
cool anyway. The guys were happy to see them and we all had a good time together, well most of us.
Elijah sulked a bit, I think he was jealous and missing his own girlfriend. Maybe if he got off his butt,
and proposed then she'd take the time and money to make a 3000 mile booty call.
The next day at the ruins, Egeus and I had a long talk. He's getting married this weekend, and the trip
was kind of his bachelor party. I'm gonna miss having Ege around, he's like everyone's big brother. It's
great that he's getting married though, he deserves to be happy more than anyone I know. He was
explaining to me the whole process that he and his husband are going to have to go through to get kids.
It's very complicated and I doubt I understand it all. I hope everything works the way they want it to, if
anyone should be a Dad, it's Egeus. I could only hope to be half as good at it as I'm sure he will be.
So yeah, once we leave here we'll be heading home for the weekend. Got to spend time with our folks and
attend Ege and Fran's wedding. Then on Sunday I'll head back to campus and classes start again the
following day. Junior year! It really has gone quickly hasn't it? Sim State is on a similar schedule right?
Did you do anything fun for semester break? Write back and give me the 401.
While we were at the shrine we decided to make wishes. Throwing money into a fountain in the hopes
that a wish will come true sounds silly I know, but the locals swear by it and hey it works on birthday
cakes! I stood there for a long time trying to decide what to wish for, and when finally I decided, I tossed
As I was tossing the coin into the fountain, my sunburn started to itch. A stray thought crossed my mind
that I hoped the sunburn would go away. Apparently that wish overrode the other one I was making
cause when the coin hit the water my sunburn vanished. I was glad to be rid of it, though I'd really like
the other wish to come true as well. At least it did prove that the shrine does work, at least occasionally.
I won't tell you what I really wished for, as I am positive that would be bad luck.
Following the day at the ruins we hit town and found a really cool night club. If you ever get to Twikki be
sure to seek out Waverunners. It's like being underwater the whole time you're there. If you walk out
the door it's only two steps into the ocean.
I guess that's about everything exciting that has happened on Twikki. Other than the tourist stuff we've
mostly just hung around the house and played poker. I'm up a couple hundred, if I can get Zeke to pay off
his IOU's. He'll most likely try to get out of them. No matter, the games were fun.
There is one other thing that I want to tell you about. It doesn't have anything to do with Twikki.
However, I've come to a decision while here. I want to explain it to you. I want to be honest, so that in
the future you won't have a reason to believe that I have kept something from you.
Do you remember what you told me last week? About how it's not circumstances that shape a person but
what we do with those circumstances that matters? You were right. I've been taking this whole heir
thing the wrong way. Rather than fighting what I can't change, I should use it to bring about what I feel
What is needed is a way to open the source, in Three Lakes. In order to do it, we must bypass the wards.
According to Squatch, there is no one yet capable of doing so, though we should be close. Between what
he has told us, and what my cousin Emilia has discovered in her research, my belief is that an additional
infusion of alien blood is necessary. If I wish to see the opening of the wards in my lifetime, I need to be
open to a genetic merging with an alien.
I could spend the next twenty years hoping for an alien abduction, stargazing nightly. This however, does
not greatly appeal to me. My grandfather attempted it, but did not succeed until after he was an elder.
It could be that the aliens refusal to abduct him was calculated, and it was not yet the right time for an
infusion of alien blood. I might be luckier, then again I might not.
There is another way however. I have decided to pursue a relationship with a pure blooded alien woman
of my acquaintance. One that would be acceptable to the laws and traditions of the legacy I am tied to. I
don't yet love her, in truth I barely know her. I do however believe she would be the best match I could
make for my family's future.
I hope you don't think that I am being cold, approaching marriage in this way. I have to face the facts, I
am ready for my junior year in college. I have not yet met a woman that stirs my blood with whom I
could acceptably make a match. It's time to compromise and to do what's right. I can't have what I want,
but I might be able to live with having what I need.
Before he died my grandfather gave me some advice; he said that it's not always necessary to marry for
love. Grandpa told me to find someone that I liked well enough, and that if I were willing to work at the
relationship, to give it time, love would follow. I can only hope that he was as wise in this matter as he
was in others.
For the Familiar family, it was the wedding of the season. The first wedding of a first circle cousin for the
generation. Egeus Summerdream was marrying Frances Worthington and the family had turned out in
full force to help them celebrate. Due to the nocturnal needs of Egeus' Great-Great-Grandparents, Bob
and Sierra Familiar, the wedding was a nighttime event.
Alexander Goth and Encore Familiar, provided a variety of classic and not so classic melodies, as
accompaniment to the ceremony.
“It was no accident me finding you
Someone had a hand in it
Long before we ever knew
Now I just can't believe you're in my life
Heaven's smilin' down on me
As I look at you tonight.
I tip my hat to the keeper of the stars
She sure knew what she was doin'
When she joined these two hearts
I hold everything
When I hold you in my arms
I've got all I'll ever need
Thanks to the keeper of the stars” - Tracy Byrd, Keeper of the Stars
When the ceremony was over, and the grooms had made their way back down the aisle; the turned back
to the crowd and invited everyone to stay and have fun.
“It's time to party!” Announced Egeus as he turned on the sound system.
Being who they were, the guests quickly got into the spirit of things. Most of them didn't even move from
where they had been sitting before beginning to dance.
As the evening progressed, dances were had, and toasts were made. The cake was cut and shared, but
not shoved. All of the traditional aspects of a wedding were included in the celebration.
Throughout the festivities there were questions and speculations, who was the girl with heir Frankie?
Was the fact that Frankie had brought her to this family event a sign that he'd made a choice, or was he
just testing the waters. Those who knew who Stella was were, for the main, as confused as those who
had never before heard her mentioned.
“Why did you bring her?” Elisha Familiar grabbed Frankie as he walked towards the bufett.
“Why'd you bring Amin? Everyone else has a date, why shouldn't I have one?”
“Is that what this is? Are you really interested in her Frank?”
“Of course I'm interested in her, she's interesting, don't you think? I want to get to know her better, I'd
like for us to be friends.”
“You want to be friends with Stella? Why didn't you ask her to coffee or hang out on the quad? Did you
have to bring her to a family event, where everyone would scrutinize her and wonder?”
“If it were that easy I would have. Look Stella's only here because Emilia asked her to come. Stella has
never been to a wedding before, at least not one of ours. She's curious about our, sim rituals is how she
termed it, and so Emilia invited her and arranged things so that she'd allow me to be her escort.”
“You're going to do four hours of driving her back and forth to campus because she wants to study sim
rituals? You don't put that much effort into your own study projects.”
“Only two hours, she's going to stay at Uncle Puck's tonight and drive back to campus with the rest of us
tomorrow. Look, I wanted to spend some time with Stella, and she's not the easiest person to pin down.
Emilia invited her as a favor to me.”
“So she is the one huh? You really are thinking about her in that way. I hope you know what you're
“I think I do, look I know you don't approve,”
“How do you know I don't approve? This is the first time you've even hinted that you were thinking about
her. Or at least it's the first you've told me about it. You told Emilia, but you didn't tell me? I thought I
was your best friend Frank, I thought we talked about everything. Emilia was five thousand miles away
and you could tell her, but I was right here and you said nothing.”
“It wasn't that I didn't tell you, it's that I'm still thinking it all through. I told Emi cause I wanted her
opinion in a strictly academic sense. With her, I could lay out what I thought were the facts and she could
agree or disagree. You'd badger me over feelings and emotions and all that deep stuff, and I don't have
any answers for you, not yet. ”
“Then you're right, I don't approve. But, that doesn't mean I don't care, or that I don't want to know. As
your best friend, it's my job to tell you when I think you're doing something that's going to get you hurt or
that's going to make you miserable. It's also my job to be there for you and to help you out, even if I don't
approve. I can't do my job if you don't tell me what's going on. I expect a full report with all the details
once we're back at school. Right now though I'm going to go rescue Amin, he's been talking to Mom for
way too long.”
“You think she's giving him the third degree?”
“I'm pretty sure she's moved on to embarrassing childhood moments by now.” When Frankie laughed,
'Lisha poked him. “Don't laugh too hard bud, your Dad has Stella cornered. Better extract her before he
says something to blow the whistle on your 'date'.”
“It looked like Mom was giving you a rough time, sorry bout that. Moms, what can you do?” Elisha
apologized to her date and dancing partner, Amin Tricou.
“It wasn't that bad. I think she was running interference to keep your Dad away.” Amin said with a
wink. He liked 'Lisha's parents, he always had.
“I'll have to remember to thank her.” Elisha smiled up at Amin, “Daddy's not as bad as Elijah, but I'm
still his little girl.”
“I can't decide if it's easier or harder because they already know me. I mean there's none of those 'so
where are you from?' type questions cause, well they know. I'm pretty sure that they also know
everything I ever did to cause my poor parents heartache when I was young and stupid.”
“So now you're old and wise and know better.”
“Nah, now I'm just older, but I'm wise enough to cover my tracks. I could tell you that I don't have too
many tracks to cover but you already know me. Again, I can't decide if that makes it easier or harder. I
have to own up to my faults.”
“Minor, ” replied Elisha decidedly.
“Numerous, you're too nice.” Amin whispered as drew her closer and kissed her cheek. “See, I already
know you're too good for me, that's the downside.”
Frankie wasn't the only one causing speculation that evening. Emilia Summerdream was doing her part
to add rumors to the gossip mill as well. Her communications home from Takemizu during the past
semester had been filled with descriptions of her work and her studies. They hadn't included any
allusions to a brewing romance, yet here she was with an engagement ring on her finger and her arms
around a man that looked at her adoringly.
“Nick the Prick?”
“Yeah, let's not mention that nickname to him please Elijah.”
“Oh, I wouldn't think of it Emi. At least not until term paper time, you know how when I'm stressed I
tend to let things slip. Maybe if you'd see your way to helping me out, taking some of the stress away, I
won't slip up around Mr. Barthelet over there.”
“If you spent half as much effort doing your own work as getting out of it, you'd be a straight A student.”
“I'm quite comfortable coasting between passing and honors. I don't want people getting the idea that I'm
smart, when that happens they tend to expect you to help them with term papers and such.” Elijah
grinned at his cousin.
“Okay, okay I'll help but it won't be my best work. Wouldn't want anyone to start thinking you're smart.”
“So now that we've got that settled; tell me, how did you go from 'I hate you' to 'I want to have your
“I never hated Nick! I always admired him and respected him a great deal. I had a huge crush on him
from the moment I met him.” Emilia blushed, “He intimidated the hell out of me when I first started at
the institute. Nick is so intelligent that he can seem distant or cold, when really he's not he's just always
“Sounds like a fun guy.” Elijah said flatly.
“Give him a chance Elijah, he'll grow on you.” Emilia replied with a somewhat dreamy expression.
If Emilia had been more experience in romantic relationships, she might have been able to ascertain the
mutual attraction between herself and Nicholas Barthlet much earlier than she had. Not that she would
have had the nerve to do anything about it. Perhaps it would have explained to her those feelings of
nervousness, clumsiness, and her inability to think clearly in his presence.
“What is the fruit that is on this tree?” Was the question Nicholas had tossed at Emilia that day in the
“Ah, it's an apple, isn't it sir?”
“Nick.” He insisted before continuing his questioning. “Is it? Why do you say that?”
Any time Nick asked her a question, even in passing, she viewed it as a test. Was this the question that
her continuation with the program would hinge on? If she answered wrong would she be on the next
plane home in disgrace? The seemingly innocuous question asked with a slightly raised brow was exactly
the type of land mind Emilia had come to fear during her time at the institute. Time and again Nick had
stated that knowing the what of an answer wasn't nearly as important as knowing the why of an answer.
Emilia furrowed her brow and looked at the tree and at the fruit hanging from it.
“The tree is deciduous, the leaves are oval in shape with acute tips, they are alternately arranged and
look to be between one and three inches in length. The fruit is pomaceous, and is composed of carpels, the
red color of the skin,”
“It looks like an apple? And if it looks like an apple then it must be an apple, is that correct?”
“No sir, in order to correctly classify the fruit we would need to collect other data.”
“How about we taste it?”
Reaching up, Emilia plucked an apple from the tree. Knowing that Nicholas was proving a point, but not
sure what point, she examined the fruit again. It's an apple, thought Emilia with a shrug. Upon taking a
bite her taste buds told her differently. Her mouth puckered as the bitter taste of lemon filled her mouth.
“What is this?”
“Statistically, it's an apple.” Replied Nicholas with a smile, “but if you were to sell it as an apple at the
market, you'd probably be accused of false advertising. What it is, is the culmination of all the genetic
experiments and theories we've been discussing in the lab this semester. Here in the green house we've
put those theories to the test and using a combination of cross pollination and hybridization we've
developed a wide variety of subspecies fruits and vegetables.”
“For what purpose?”
“Like many of the other projects at The Institute the primary purpose of our greenhouse hybrids is to
prove and disprove possibilities. Of course there are, or will be once we can streamline cost effectiveness,
market feasible hybrids. Imagine a strawberry with the rind of an orange? Strawberries in their natural
packaging are difficult to ship, they bruise easily and spoil quickly. Due to the care and speed needed,
they are rarely shipped globally.”
“Those are strawberries?” Emilia asked wide eyed.
“Not yet, we're still perfecting the hybridization method. Not every species adapts well to the insertion of
foreign genetic material. I suspect that we will need to use surrogates for the SO-264.”
Emilia's brain was reeling It wasn't the possibility of strawberry-orange trees that shook her. It was as
if a flood gate had opened and a dam had burst open. She couldn't wait to get to her lab.
Over the next few days Emilia had spent as much time as possible holed up in the lab, she reviewed every
piece of data that she had brought with her to Takemizu. When she wasn't in the lab she was at her
computer, analyzing and comparing data.
When she had finished and had everything compiled, Emilia sat down and wrote a report. The report was
not for The Institute, or for any public consumption. It was for the eyes of one person only.
On the evening that the report was sent, received, read, re-read and digested; on that night and on many
evenings to follow, both the writer and the recipient would look to the stars and wonder. Wonder if there
was anyone up there looking down on them, looking down on them specifically.
Do aliens exist? A question pondered by many, but one that had never been asked by either Emilia or
Bob. The proof was their being. Their origins were not in question. The discovery of CIGAM had added
additional documentation but it had not been needed as 'proof'. CIGAM had confirmed for them the long
held belief that not only did aliens exist but that that they had a plans for the world they had left behind.
The exact nature of those plans were not yet known, however, they believed that they were getting closer.
Which each new piece of the puzzle came additional questions.
The largest question remained; When all was said and done, would those that were born on this world
benefit or be hindered by the goals of their celestial neighbors?
Lofty questions are good for the late night pondering of philosophers. But, when one is facing end of term
deadlines, personal projects get shoved to the back of the mind. There had been plenty to keep Emilia
occupied at the Institute, once she returned home she'd be able to stream ahead with her findings. That
was if the UA researchers didn't get a jump on it first. Knowing that others would get first crack at what
she considered her own had been difficult, but not sharing what she had found out would have been more
so. One thing that Nick and the rest of the Institute instructors had repeatedly pressed was the need to
report findings immediately. Hording data was wasteful and could be dangerous to the rest of one's team.
Teamwork. Not something Emilia had ever willingly participated in before. Now she was surrounded by
Amazingly, she had enjoyed working with her team at the institute.
They worked hard, sometimes too hard. By the end of the term everyone in the group knew of Knut's
propensity to pass out in the lab, that Lydia didn't speak before her first pot of coffee, that tapping Emilia
on the shoulder could cause beakers to break, and that when under pressure Corbin was more high
strung than his favorite lab rat.
They each had their own personal methods of relieving stress and pressure as well. By mutual
agreement they, as a group, had adopted the local tea ceremony for their post documentation turn in.
While it didn't replace meditation, marathon runs, tai-chi or woo-hoo for stress relief it was an acceptable
group wind down activity.
The documentation that the group had been compiling for most of the term was in the hands of the
project managers. While they would not be receiving standard grades for anything done during the term,
the reactions of the team leaders could weigh heavily on their future careers.
“I still say that we should have spent more time tracking down those variables.” Knut's familiar refrain
broke into the revelry of the moment.
“What time?” Replied Corbin, “the variables don't matter, the results do.”
“Everything matters, lets just hope those missing variables didn't skew things too much.” Emilia shook
her head, “we were in a time crunch. We made the right decision”
“We might have had time if we hadn't been sidetracked by that placebo Nick tossed at us.” Lydia was still
annoyed by the deliberate distraction.
“Yeah yeah, Nick the Prick stuck it to us at the last moment.” Corbin laughed, “but we did discover it and
we were able to recover. That's gotta count for something.”
“To hell with Nick, we're no longer under his thumb. What are you all going to do while we wait for our
results? I'm looking forward to finally getting to see more of Takemizu than the road between the
Institute and the student housing.”
“Me, I'm looking forward to seeing more of that little Geisha at the shrine.” Grinned Knut with a waver
of his eyebrows.
Emilia had been about to reply when her phone beeped. “Sorry, it's probably my Dad wanting to know
how things went today.”
“How did I know you were a Daddy's girl?” Corbin laughed.
But it hadn't been her father. Emilia's grin had turned to a frown when she heard the voice on the other
end of the line. “Ms Summerdream, I need you to report to my office in thirty minutes. I received
something today and I have some questions for you.”
“Mr. Barthelet! If there's a problem with our project, the team is here now we...” Emilia stammered
“Not the team, You. Half an hour Ms Summerdream.”
It hadn't taken her thirty minutes to get to Nick's office. She'd paced the hall nervously wondering what
could have caused him to call her in at this point. Finally he had ushered her into the room, pointed to the
couch and commanded her to sit, while he paced around the room.
“I'm wondering Ms Summerdream, if you have an understanding of the term confidentiality?” Mr.
Barthlet had stared at with an unreadable expression.
“Yes sir, of course I do sir,” Emilia replied, confusedly.
“And do you understand that upon your arrival at this Institute that you signed a non disclosure
agreement? An agreement that stated you would not upon threat of dismissal release information
regarding the Institute's programs to competitive laboratories?”
Emilia nodded, “Yes sir and I haven't done so. Is there a problem sir?”
“Why then did I receive a packet this afternoon from Dr. Robert Familiar of the UA Laboratories? In
which he quoted a document forwarded to him by you?”
Emilia closed her eyes. “Grandpa,” she said silently.
“Excuse me? I didn't quite hear what you said.”
“He's my Grandfather, kinda.”
“Kinda? Either he is your Grandfather or he isn't.”
“Great-Great-Grandfather if you want to get technical, it's complicated.”
“Sir, I did send my grandfather a report from here a few weeks ago, but it didn't contain any detailed
information regarding research being done by the Institute. I forwarded him a report based on some
personal research that I undertook this term. We are allowed to work on personal projects aren't we? I
distinctly remember the guidelines of the program allow for personal projects.” Emilia was babbling,
Emilia never babbled.
“And you didn't mention myself or the genetic research that I'm conducting here at the Institute?”
“Only in the most superficial way, the way you do in letters home.” Dear Wright, surely her Grandfather
would not have quoted her almost fan-girly praise of Nick and his work, would he? “Umm I may have
mentioned that I was lucky to have an instructor with the amount of experience in my chosen field to
“Okay then, that's what I needed to know.” Nick smiled apologetically, “I'm sorry if I was rough on you. I
needed to be able to set aside any possible ethics breach in case there were questions later.”
“Sir, I promise you that I didn't tell him anything pertinent to the research here. Please don't send me
home, not now, not when we're practically done with the term.”
“Nick, my name is Nick. We've gone over that, repeatedly.” Nick sighed, “I'm not going to send you home
Ms Summerdream, that would be counter-intuitive. But you see, Emilia, I am in a bit of a quandary.”
All Emilia heard was that she wasn't going to be sent home, relief spread through her. “I'm not being sent
“Of course not, at least not until the proper time. Tell me, is your Grandfather prone to making rash
“What? Of course not, why would you even ask such a thing? He's one of the most brilliant people you'd
ever meet. Grandpa Bob's been almost everywhere, and done almost everything. He has more experience
in his pinkie than most people end up with in a lifetime.”
“It was just a question Emilia,” Nick laughed, “I wasn't intending to be offensive.”
“Why would you even ask such a thing?”
“Because he offered me a job.”
That made Emilia pause. “He offered you a job?”
“I got a packet today, outlining a research project that UA Laboratories is undertaking. Along with the
outline was a contract offering me unlimited resources for my personal projects if I would come on board
as project manager for the team he's hoping to put together. A team that will include you, starting next
“He wants you to be my boss?” Emilia was dumfounded.
“Would that be such a horrible thing? It's a chance of a lifetime but I'm not sure if I should take the job.”
“Why ever not? Familiarity isn't the most exciting place on earth but it's far less remote than Takemizu.”
“I don't believe the location would be a problem. I do however believe that I might have trouble
continuing to work in proximity to you. And not doing this.” Nick had taken her in his arms gently and
kissed her tentatively, “Do you know how often I've wanted to do that?”
It had felt so right to be in his arms. “Why didn't you?”
“Because you were my student and that would improper.” Nick had said dropping his arms, “Almost as
improper as it would be if I were your supervisor.”
Emilia had been surprised by her own boldness when she'd slipped back into his arms and said “you have
a year before you have to worry about propriety.”
“And the rest you might say is history.”
“Whirlwind romance doesn't seem your style Emi, are you sure about this guy?” Elijah asked
Emilia smiled, “Yeah I am. It's funny, I never would have pictured myself in this position either. It just
feels right you know? I always analyze everything to death, but sometimes you just gotta go with your
gut, don't you?”
Elijah's mouth formed a lopsided grin. “Yeah, sometimes I guess you do.”
“You'll give him a chance, won't you 'Lijah?” Emilia pleaded, “don't play the bulldog this time. Get to
know him a little bit before you play tyrant, please? He makes me happy, 'Lijah.”
“Why does everyone think I'm a tyrant?” Elijah sighed, “as long as he makes you happy Emi. You let me
know if he stops, making you happy that is, okay?”
Not quite half way through the evening's festivities a group of Familiar young adults gathered around the
dining table in Egeus and Frances' new home to refuel off the buffet. Frankie and Stella had eased into
the last two remaining seats, the rest of the seats were taken up by other current Greek House residents
and their dates. When they joined the group Ezra and Elisha were discussing the merits of buffet menu's.
“I don't know Ez, I mean this catering crew is pretty good, but it's just the standard stuff. I think they
should have gone with the other guys we recommend. Remind me, and I'll bring you one of their cards
home.” Elisha was advising.
“Safety with the known though isn't there? Do we really want the highlight of the wedding to be the
buffet? Shouldn't it be Elsie's dress?”
“Ezra, sweetie every detail about the wedding should reflect your bride. Just send her to talk to me, or
maybe I should go find her before we leave.”
“You don't have to go sales mode on Elsie, we're already going to use you as our planner.”
“Yeah 'Lisha, you've got all of our business.” Interjected his twin from Elisha's other side, “you did
promise us the family discount right?”
“Zeke!” Elisha laughed, “you're not even paying for anything, that's Uncle Dryas's job. He gets the extra-
special investor's discount.”
“I'm just looking out for my future father in law's pocket book. I have to earn brownie points somehow.”
“Are mating ritual's expensive?” Stella asked quietly during the lull
“What do you mean by mating rituals?” Asked Elisha pointedly.
“This,” Stella waved her hand “gathering.”
“This was a wedding.”
“Is that not the same thing?”
“No, it's not the same thing at all.” declared Elisha.
“Well it is kinda,” said Ezra with a smile for his cousin. Turning to Stella “I supposed it would depend on
what a mating ritual signifies. A wedding is more a formal declaration of a couples devotion to each other.
It's emotional, whereas a mating ritual I assume would be more primal.”
Stella nodded, “I understand.” Emotions again thought Stella, they are such confusing creatures. “But is
not the purpose the same? The wedding is a ceremonial prelude to bed-sport, correct?”
Chuckles answered her from around the table. “You don't need a ceremony for that here, Stella. Unless
clinking glasses and saying cheers is considered a ceremony.”
“Don't be crude Zeke,” his fiance warned him with a quick jab of her elbow to his ribs. “Or you won't be
getting any till after the REAL ceremony.”
“Marriage is about more than just mating. It's two people saying that they want to be with each other for
the rest of their lives. You don't need to have a ceremony to make the commitment but many people do, at
least around here. They have a ceremony so that everyone the know can witness and share their
“And it is expensive?” Stella asked getting back to her original question.
“It's the most important day of your life, cost shouldn't be a factor.”
“Spoken like a true saleswomen. No wonder the shop is doing so well.” Frankie laughed, turning to
Stella he answered simply, “It can be expensive. But since you hope you'll only do it once, people
generally don't mind spending the money. I'm going to clean up these plates, then we can dance.”
Stella nodded, “I would enjoy that.”
Patrica Wan had been hoping for a chance to meet her 'client' all evening. Elijah had promised to make
the introductions, but in true pleasure seeker fashion had kept being sidetracked. When Pat noticed Bob
and his wife separate from the crowd momentarily she'd grabbed Elijah's arm and propelled him towards
the vampiric couple. Taking the hint, Elijah briefly introduced his girlfriend to his 'Uncle', before
stepping aside to chat with Sierra.
“It's a pleasure to finally met you Ms Wan, I've had good reports on your work. We appreciate your
“I've been enjoying the job, but I do have to wonder where you're going with this.”
“I'm sure that you are curious. However, I'm not quite able to explain fully at this point. We should be
advancing to phase two shortly. When we closer to doing so you'll be given further details. I had hoped
that we would be ready before now, but with Gvaudoin out of the office things have been delayed.”
“Maternity leave can make things a bit chaotic. Gvaudoin is very good at keeping the office running
while she's away though.”
“I'm not complaining,” Bob smiled, “children are a blessing, grandchildren more so. I won't begrudge my
daughter in law time off in this instance. I'd like for us to move forward with the project, however the
work you are doing now is necessary and while it may be a bit boring at this point, it is necessary. The
data you've been gathering will be crucial to the success of our future plans.”
“It just seems that we aren't finding out anything new at the moment. I see the same people at the same
places repeatedly, very little variation. I realize that we are establishing patterns but I'm not sure why
“We need to know the patterns so that when we do approach the targets there won't be any surprises.”
“So you do plan do approach them?”
“Eventually.” Bob shook his head, “and that's all you need to know at this juncture. Let me introduce you
to my wife; Sierra is very interested in the project, you might say it's her pet.”
While Patricia was speaking to Sierra, Elijah caught Bob's eye and pulled off a ways for a bit of private
“I don't like that you've got her trailing those Vamps, Uncle Bob. What if one of them turns on her?”
“We've taken every precaution Elijah, as long as the operatives follow the guidelines we've set out for
them they should have no issues. They aren't following, they aren't even approaching, they just happen
to be at the same location on occasion. Even in the city you run into the same people time and again.”
“I just wish you weren't asking her to do this type of work. No matter what you say, it is dangerous, she
could get hurt. Or worse.”
“It's understandable that you'd be concerned, I'd wonder if you weren't. From all reports, Patricia is very
good at the job she is doing. She seems to be able to handle herself just fine.”
“I'm honored that I have your confidence Mr. Familiar. It would be nice to receive the same from others.”
Patricia, having overheard a portion of the conversation broke in. “I'm sorry to interrupt, I need to steal
Bob gave a knowing smile and bowed his head slightly, “of course. In case I don't see you later; I'm happy
to have finally met you, and I'm looking forward to working with you in future Ms. Wan.”
“How could you!?!”
Elijah watched Patricia close her eyes, he could see her mouth moving but no sound was coming out. She
shook her head once and emitted a sound very similar to a growl, before turning and walking quickly
towards the front of the house.
“What's wrong Pat, where are you going?”
Elijah Familiar wasn't the most astute man on earth, however he was beginning to get the idea that his
girlfriend was upset. Weighing his options he came to the conclusion that the one with the least amount
of potential damage was to play along.
“I'll drive you, just let me say goodnight to my parents.”
“Where's Ferdie, Aunt Emma? I thought he'd be here, I was looking forward to talking to him about his
uh, trip.” Emilia asked with a smile.
“That's the thing Emi, he's feeling a little bit self conscious at the moment. This is the first time he's
really been on the receiving end of the gossip train.” Emma smiled a bit, thinking of the shock on Ferdie's
face when he'd returned home from school and announced how EVERYONE knew he'd been abducted.
“You mean he isn't excited? I know I'd be thrilled if it happened to me. He's obviously been selected by
the aliens for a special purpose. Do you want me to talk to him, I can explain what we know.”
“He's a teenaged boy, anything that makes him different from his friends is embarrassing. Once the
initial hoopla is over, I'm sure he'll be fine. I think we should let him recover from the experience a bit
before adding thoughts about future alien encounters.”
Knowledge Sims thought Emma with a shake of her head. She's so sure that being abducted is a
wonderful experience. Emilia didn't see the look on Ferdie's face when he was returned, the cross
between fear and exhaustion. She didn't hear the excitement in his voice. She hadn't caught the exact
moment when his voice had hitched and the wonder turned to doubt. That moment when Ferdie had
realized that he couldn't remember what had happened to him while he'd been gone.
Turning her thoughts inward Emma rubbed her eyes. Emilia, doesn't understand how terrifying it is for
a parent to not know what's happened to their child at the hands of others. That yet again a child had
been taken without warning.
“Shouldn't he be checked over by a Doctor? I could call Ted he'd make a house call, even at this time of
night.” Aldric had asked worriedly as Emma checked on Ferdie for the third time in the hour since he'd
fallen exhausted into bed following his abduction.
“If Ted came over he'd wouldn't find anything significantly wrong with Ferdie. Perhaps a slightly lower
body temperature and higher heart rate. There wouldn't be any visible signs that anyone had touched
him, no bruises, no scratches, no needle markings. We'll let him sleep it out and when he gets up we can
take him into Ted's office, but it doesn't matter how quickly the examination is done the results will be
“He isn't . . .”
“Not this time. I guess that's one thing we can be thankful for, they don't do that to kids.”
Emma had been right of course. The morning following his abduction Ferdie had slept late, the furious
honking of the school bus hadn't even stirred him. When he'd finally woken, he stumbled downstairs and
asked confusedly why his father hadn't woken him. “It's not a snow day is it?”
Aldric gave his son a once over and then a twice over before answering. “Snow is melting. By the time
we're done at Ted's office it'll probably be gone. Almost feels like Spring today.”
“Why are we going to the Doctor's? I'm fine Dad.” Ferdie looked at his father beseechingly.
“He's just going to check you over. We want to make sure, okay? It's standard under the circumstances.
Betcha you're hungry, aren't you? How bout I whip you up some Pancakes, does that sound good? Why
don't you go take your shower and I'll get them ready.”
After devouring not just one, but two plates of pancakes, Emma and Aldric had swept Ferdie off to his
Uncle's office. At the Doctor's he'd been poked and prodded; his eyes had been examined, he'd had his
blood drawn, X-rays, Sonograms and even a cat scan. Uncle Ted had asked him a bunch of questions,
pronounced him fit as a fiddle and offered him the standard lollipop. While Ferdie had munched on the
lollipop, a grape one, and read a car magazine his parent's had conferred quickly with Ted and then
announced that they'd drop him off at school if he thought he felt up to it. “You don't have to,” Emma
had told her son. “I think we could excuse you for the day if you wanted to home for a bit.”
Ferdie had rolled his eyes, “I'm not sick Mom!”
Arriving at school, Ferdie slipped into his seat just as the bell for third period had rung. He'd barely
gotten his books stowed before his seat mate, Edge, had nudged him and said “Way to make us all look
bad Ferd, betcha you'll get extra credit for discovering a UFO while the rest of us just identified the
Looking around the room, Ferdie realized that everyone was staring at him and that everyone knew
exactly how he had spent the previous evening. Sinking down in his chair a bit, he had wondered if it
was too late to take his Mom's offer to write him a note excusing him for the day. He was considering
escaping to the Nurses office when Mr. Nately cleared his throat and began the day's lecture.
“According to the syllabus we are supposed to be discussing Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and the other
primary Winter sky constellations. However, I'm sure the director's won't mind if I deviate from the
syllabus for one day. We have something much more exciting to discuss.” Mr. Nately looked around the
room, “It's not every day that we can have a first hand accounting of an UFO siting is it? Ferdinand, why
don't you come up here and tell the class about your experience?”
As Ferdie nervously stood up, he heard a few whispers behind him. “Wonder if the probing was as clinical
as they make it out to be in health class?”
Ferdie tried not to be nervous about telling the class. Apparently everyone knew anyway and besides
they were all his friends. Weren't they?
“I really don't remember all that much. I was looking through the scope trying to set it up properly with
frozen fingers and the next thing I knew there was a super bright light and I was being pulled upwards.
It felt kinda like being a pin in a magnetic field nothing I could do to control my movements. I can
remember going past the second story of my house, but after that it's pretty much a blank up until I was
dropped back off.”
“So what, does probing give Ferd an automatic entrance into the mile high club? Or does that only count
if you can name your partner?” Eustace Nova questioned the gathered lunch crew.
Erin Nova shook her head, “completely different Stash. Sides a space ship goes way higher than a mile.”
“So it's like the light-year high club or something?”
Erin rolled her eyes “No!”
“It's not sexual Stash.”
“How do you know that Ferd? You said you didn't remember anything.” Eagle Langarek asked quietly.
Ferdie's hamburger stopped midway to his mouth. “Just a feeling.” Ferdie took a bite and shrugged
while he chewed. After he swallowed he said, “I don't remember what happened but it doesn't feel like
they did anything bad. It's weird kinda like I get the feeling they didn't mean any harm.”
“Subliminal? Do you think?” Interjected Erin from the other end of the table.
“What do you mean?”
“Well they take you up there and you don't remember anything. Do you really think they kept you
unconscious the entire time. If they did then how come you feel like they meant no harm? You had to be
aware on some level, right? So did they wipe your memory or just feed you subliminal messages while
you were asleep?”
“I . . . I don't know.” Up until right that moment Ferdie hadn't had any misgivings about his experience.
He'd blithely put aside his parent's worry, his Doctor's concern and his friend's jokes. He'd felt mildly
euphoric and somewhat smug over it all, but now he wondered if that was the way he really felt or if he
only thought he felt that way because of something that had been done to him.
It had been that night, the second after his abduction, that the dreams had started.
How much of the dreams were memories and how much were fears?
Were they just figments of an overactive imagination? Or were they reflections of the truth?
“Congrats Man, you did it.” Erasmus Goth said with a grin as he pulled his best friend into a bear hug. “I
am both impressed and intimidated by your example.”
“How about inspired?”
Erasmus laughed, “I wouldn't go that far.”
“I saw you and 'Lani dancing earlier. The two of you seemed pretty content, it almost looked like you
were a couple.”
“We working on it, we might just make it this time.”
“Good, that's great to hear. Now you just need to realize
Erasmus interrupted his friend's train of advice. “She's pregnant.”
Egeus' face broke into a huge grin. “That's great! Congrats!”
“It's not mine.”
Frances cocked his brow at the news and decided that it would be best to leave the two friends alone.
“Hon, I'm gonna go make sure the caterers have uncorked the extra champagne. I think the two of you
need a little privacy.”
Egeus gave his husband a wink, “I'll be there soon.”
“He didn't have to do that, you'll just tell him later.” 'Ras smiled, “that's a given.”
“Of course it is. He's a bit proper though, my Fran.” Egeus' expression faded into confusion. “Start
explaining how you can look so damn happy about 'Lani having some other dude's kid.”
“Still working on that one,” Erasmus admitted. “Main thing is we're gonna work it out together. We're
talking about it, making decisions together.”
“And you're thinking in terms of we. That's progress buddy.” Egeus' face broke into a grin. “Now you just
have to keep in mind how much your life sucks without her, and make sure you don't lose her.”
“Yeah, I don't plan to. Hey look, I didn't meant to put this on your plate tonight. You've got enough going
“You would have told me later anyway.”
“That's a given.”
“So I'm glad you told me now.”
“But keep it close for now, okay. I mean she hasn't even told her folks.”
Egeus nodded, “You can trust me.”
“Another given, I'm gonna go claim my girl away from my Dad.” Erasmus grinned, when he'd last seen
Elani; she'd been trying not to laugh at his father's attempts to be charming, something that only seemed
to work on his Mom. “Go grab your guy and we'll all dance the night away. This is a party isn't it?”
“Hey” Tina Traveller called out as she entered the garage at her boyfriend's house.
Ferdie looked up from the engine he was working on. “Hey, what's up?”
“I think that's my line. What happened? I thought you were gonna call me.”
“I guess I got wrapped up in this. Dad said if I could get the engine running he'd pick up the glass for the
windows tomorrow. Frankie's gonna help me with the bodywork before he heads back to school.”
Ferdie smiled, “Sure”
One of the coolest things about Tina, as far as Ferdie was concerned, was her willingness to dive right
into any project. Lots of girls woulda worried about getting their hands dirty, but not Tina. She probably
knew more about cars than he did; not that he knew much, but he was learning. It wasn't just cars, it
was everything. She'd had an unusual upbringing and education before her family had settled in
Her parent's had practically been nomadic, and they'd taken her along on all their travels. By the time
she was eight Tina had seen more of the world than most eighty year olds had. She'd been everywhere
and done everything. That was before Mrs. Traveller had stated a desire for a real home and insisted
that Tina needed more than the 'school of life', she'd settled into the townie population in Familiarity and
eventually divorced her husband when he refused to stay tied to one place.
“Are you going to forgive me? I really didn't forget I just well, forgot.”
“It's okay, my Dad called so I talked to him for awhile.”
“Where was he calling from? Is he still in the Far East?”
“No, he picked up the trail of some artifact in the South Seas. He was calling from Twikki but that's just
a resupply stop, the island where he's gonna be is too remote for actual phone service it's all radio phone.
He'll be out of touch for awhile, but that's nothing new.” Ferdie looked over at her and saw a touch of
sadness flit across her face, “anyway I told him about your abduction. He was completely psyched over it,
told me how the artifact he's chasing is supposedly of alien origin. The natives of the island revere it
because they say it was touched by the Gods.”
“So tell me, were you touched by the Gods?”
“No, no way. Aliens aren't Gods, they're just,” Ferdie straightened up a bit while he considered. “I don't
know what they are, but they aren't Gods.”
“Good, cause Dad said that it was all bunk. I just wondered which way your impression leaned. Erin told
me about the whole subliminal thing, so I wondered.”
“Powerful yes, but not all powerful. If they were all powerful or believed themselves to be, why would
they need us?”
“Desperately.” Ferdie said with a nod.
The two of them worked companionably for a little while, talking about their friends and their plans for
the upcoming week. “Oh, I got my acceptance to Sim State today,” Tina mentioned casually.
When Ferdie heard that he lost his grip on the wrench, banged his knuckles on the carburetor and
slashed through one of the exhaust tubes. Jumping back from the smoke billowing up he choked out “Sim
“Yeah, I sent them one at the same time I sent in the app for FSU.”
“Why? I thought . . aren't you going to FSU?” Tina couldn't go to Sim State, she had to go to FSU. She
Tina jumped back coughing. “Careful there, Ferd.”
“Sorry, it slipped.” Ferdie said, quickly fixing the rip. “You aren't going to accept it are you?”
“No, it was just something I had to do. I had to make sure you know.” Tina looked at Ferdie and realized
that he really didn't understand. “I had to make sure that I could get in on my own merit, not just
because your Mom pulled strings for me. I mean I know I'm not stupid, but I don't have the same
educational footing that the rest of you guys do.”
Ferdie snorted, “Don't ever say that to my Mom okay? She's always going off about how the standard of
education is better in the public schools than it is at the Academy”
“She has to say that, it's her job!”
“Yeah, but she really believes it. I think that if it were up to her she'd pull me out of the Academy. Give a
show of faith to the system she's created. She doesn't have the heart to do it, the Academy is a tradition
that's hard to break.”
“And all your friends are there.”
“Not all of them,” Ferdie said with a smile. “I think we got it, should I go try and start it?”
“Fire her up, err not literally.”
Ferdie hopped into the drivers seat and turned the key.
“Hey, it started!”
“Of course it did, we're good.” Tina grinned, “keep it running for a minute and let me adjust the timing.”
Tina spent a bit more time diddling under the hood before pronouncing the engine ready for the road.
“The rest of the car, still needs a lot of work.”
“Once we have the windows in it'll go quick.” “I'll have her ready to go by Friday. We should take it for a
“Sounds like fun.” Tina said with a smile.
“I think it would call for a celebration, maybe dinner and a movie?” Ferdie took her hand, “Like a real
date and not just hanging out at the teen center or watching vids.”
“I like hanging out at the teen center and watching vids. Real date would be cool though.”
“We could test drive the backseat tonight. Just to make sure it works.”
“Yeah it'd be a shame is there was something wrong with the backseat. It's vital to the car's function.”
The drive, from Egeus and Fran's wedding to Patricia's apartment, in the city, had been brutal for Elijah.
He'd been expecting to spend at least half the drive listening to a run down of everything he'd done to
tick Patrica off, and the other half persuading her into forgiveness via laughter. Not this time. For the
entire drive Patricia had stared silently out the passenger window. Silent was not a trait the Elijah
would generally assign to Patricia. The two had been dating for quite some time and Elijah believed that
he knew most of her moods, all of which were accompanied by speech. Patricia got snippy when she was
hungry, she'd babble when tired, and could be downright snarky when she was mad at him.
Silence had never before entered the picture. Between the cold shoulder silence and the door slamming
in his face Elijah determined that he needed to update the list of moods.
“Yep, she's pissed.” He said with a sigh. “Remember Elijah, you don't fight with girls, you kiss them.”
Elijah squared his shoulders and opened the door to Patricia's apartment.
“If you don't want me here, you're going to have to do better than slamming the door in my face. You
gotta lock the door after you slam it. Since you didn't, I'm guessing you want to fight. Clue me in and tell
me what the fight is going to be about. Or just tell me to leave and I'll get out of here.”
Patricia spun around.
“You'd like that wouldn't you?”
“What's not to like? You pulled me away from a party, made me drive an hour in silence and then
slammed the door in my face. It's been a fun evening so far, but why don't you yell at me awhile? That
should make it spectacular!”
“Oh, it's been a stellar evening for me too, Elijah.” Patricia snorted, “Do you think I enjoyed being
embarrassed in front of my client? Do you think I liked having my ability to do my job questioned in front
of him? The best part of it was realizing that the man I love, that you, believes me to be reckless and
incompetent of handling myself. ”
“Maybe the next time you decide to listen in on a conversation you should actually listen.”
“So I can't hear either?” Patricia was aghast.
“I don't know, Patricia? Can you?” Elijah's speech grew louder and more cutting with each word. Biting
back an oath Elijah stopped and inhaled. In a more moderate tone he continued, “what you think you
heard isn't what I said. Can I come inside so that we can talk about this? Or do you want to amuse your
neighbors for awhile longer.”
“Don't try to act civil Elijah, it doesn't work for you. You aren't nearly so proper that you'd refuse a good
fight in public. At least here it's just the neighbors and not your entire family. Did you want me to make
a scene there? Would you feel better if you could toss that in my face? Would it have given you a
standard to fight under?”
“I don't know where you got the idea that we don't have fights in my family. Airing dirty laundry isn't
anything all that amazing. Dad says it proves the security of a relationship, Mom says it's a always a
good idea to have lots of witnesses. I think they fought about that once, maybe at a family picnic.”
Humor usually worked with Patrica, but not this time. “This isn't funny Elijah. You already embarrassed
me to the tips of my toes, I wasn't about to add to that by causing a scene.”
“Yeah cause scenes are counterproductive. Not like freezing someone out for over an hour, that's gotta be
good for you.” Elijah looked down at his hands that that had clenched reflexively. Shaking out his fingers
he said, “next time just throw something, okay?”
“That would make it easy for you, wouldn't it?” Patricia shook her head, “Right now, making things easy
for you isn't on my agenda.”
“That sounds like you've already gotten this all planned out. You sat there in the car and rather than talk
to me you just got madder and madder. You probably think you know exactly what I'm going to say don't
you? Rather than fight with me, you fought it all out in your mind.” Elijah frowned, “How about you save
us some time, tell me how does it end? Do you throw me out or do I leave?”
Patricia started to reply but Elijah cut her off. “You know, never mind I can write that for myself. I'm
gonna leave and maybe by the time I drive back home, I'll be mad enough to turn around and give you the
fight you think you want.”
“You're just going to leave?” Patrica asked in disbelief as he turned on his heel.
“Looks that way.” Elijah said as he walked away. Glancing over his shoulder he tossed a barb. “Give me
a call when you get over your snit and you're willing to listen to what I actually said and not what you
think you heard.”
“I don't think you have to worry about me calling you in the future, Elijah. It's not going to happen, not if
you walk away like this.”
Elijah stopped walking, took a deep breath and ran his hand over his face. You don't fight with girls
Elijah, you kiss them. It looked as if he'd have to break that rule, if he wanted to kiss this one he'd have
to fight with her first. That made him mad, mad enough to fight.
“Fine you want a fight, let's fight. But we're going to do it inside, not out here on the balcony.”
“You know what Patricia? I don't like to fight with women. I kept my temper in check a damn sight
longer than normal cause I don't want to fight with you. Anytime I've ever fought with a girl it's been a
loosing situation, either they slap me or I end up with a boot to the face from their brother. Either way I
never seem to be with them when it's over. So I want to put it on record that you insisted on this; I don't
want to fight with you, but I'll fight for you.”
To Elijah's surprise, Patricia took a few steps backwards and burst into tears.
“Want to tell me what's going on here Frankie?” Aldric asked his son when they came across each other in
“Egeus and Frances' wedding party.” Frankie replied with a smirky smile.
“I mean with Stella Frankie, what are you thinking about in terms of Stella?”
“What's wrong with her, Dad?”
“I didn't say there was anything wrong with her, Frankie. I just wanted to know what you're thinking.
Are you thinking that she's someone you want to spend the rest of your life with?”
“Don't worry Dad, she fits all the requirements.” Most of them thought Frankie
“Are you in love with her Frankie? That's the only one I'm concerned about at the moment.”
“She's smart, she's pretty, she's legacy legal. Isn't that enough?”
“Not for me, Frankie.”
“There you two are, I was wondering where my guys had wandered off to.” Emma Familiar said as she
entered the kitchen behind her son. “You're looking kinda serious, babe. What's going on?”
“I was just asking Frankie some questions about Stella. I talked to her a bit earlier and frankly I have
“Don't press him Al, just because he brought a girl to a party doesn't mean he has to marry her.” Looking
at her son she continued, “take your time Frankie. If this Stella isn't the one, then you just keep looking.”
“I've looked, Mom. Just give Stella a chance, okay?”
“Of course we will, if you love her then I'm sure we will.” Reaching over she squeezed her son's arm, then
looked at her husband. “You promised you'd dance with me, the party is almost over, are you going to
keep your promise? Let Frankie get back to his friends.”
As his parents walked out of the room he heard his mother say, “it has to be his decision hon.”
“I know, I'm just afraid that it's the wrong one.”
As the wedding party was winding to a close, so was a toga party at Sim State. Rush weekend was in full
swing and even those folks immune to Greek life were taking advantage of the free food and cheap drinks
that the campus houses provided in an effort to up their membership rolls. Since this was Annie's first
year as a full member she was trying to take her role as recruiter seriously. She spent most of the
evening chatting up various girls and trying to weed out the serious pledges from the hangers on.
“Any prospects in there?” Brit Upsnott jerked a hand over his shoulder in the direction of the Greek
House, where the party was still going strong.
“Maybe a few, we'll go over the list of actual pledge prospects and see if any of them stand out in a good
way once the weekend is over. You know how it works.”
“Sure,” he replied jovially. “Just wondering if there was anyone I should a keep an eye out for when they
descend on us tomorrow.”
“Weed out the weak early, huh?”
Remembering her own first meeting with the sometimes prickly president of the brother frat Annie
winced. Her first party at the Sorority house had been a mixer for the two houses, and her first time to
meet most of the guys. She had been nervous, she'd been told how close the two groups were. Ashley
had introduced her to Brit and passed along the warning of 'don't let him bait you.' Annie hadn't
understood until Brit gone on attack. According to Brit she'd chosen the wrong major (poli-sci), but if she
had to be poli-sci then why was she taking Dr. Emery's class and not Dr. Murgo's? Looking hopelessly
over his shoulder she'd seen Ashley wink at her, and realized that it was some bizarre ritual that Ash had
seen repeatedly. Who was this guy? Why did they put up with him?
A year later, Annie could answer her own question easily. Brit Upsnott had become one of her closest
friends at Sim State. She'd never expected to like him, even after she'd realized that he was mostly hot
air, but she did. Undoubtedly he could be obnoxious, and he often spoke harshly. If he didn't like
someone, he'd tell them it to their face. Unsurprisingly there were a lot of people he didn't like, but those
he did like he supported completely. Brit wouldn't just help hide the bodies he'd do it so thoroughly that
even he wouldn't be able to find them again.
Once Brit had decided that Annie was his friend, she hadn't stood a chance. Between Greek functions
and basketball he'd had plenty of opportunity to prove the first impressions can often be false.
And it was completely safe to be friends with Brit. There were no undercurrents of romance in the
relationship. Brit was utterly in love with Gemini, the daughter of one of his father's business associates.
While Brit railed against his father's plans to force him into the business world, he'd fallen in line with
the arranged marriage that would be as much of a merger as a match. Annie had only met Gemini once,
when she'd come down from her finishing school for the Winter ball, but Annie liked her and had seen
immediately how good the girl was for her friend.
So while Brit's frat brother's romanced the girls in the Sorority house, he never did. While Annie had
dated occasionally during her first two years in college there hadn't been any boy that she'd liked well
enough to develop a relationship with. No one that could fill the hole that had been left in her heart by
“So he emails you to tell you that he's going to marry this other girl? One that he doesn't even know or
like but that's properly pedigreed and he says he's doing it because you told him to?” Brit asked while he
bounced the ball preparing for a shot. “Remind me why I'm not supposed to hate this guy?”
“Because he's doing what he believes is the right thing. It's like you and your father, you don't want to go
into the family business but you will anyway. You'll defy him just enough to keep true to yourself, but in
the end you'll do what's expected.”
“And where does that leave you?”
“Same place I've been for two years. Wishing I could forget about him and knowing I never will.”
Women, thought Elijah as he closed the door behind him, know how to fight dirty.
Slipping his arms around Patricia he held her for a moment while she cried. “I'm sorry I yelled at you. I
won't do it again,” he said softly.
“You think I'm crying because you yelled at me?” Patricia's shoulders shook a again, but this time with
laughter rather than tears. “You won't break me by yelling, I'm a lot tougher than that.”
“Then why were you crying?”
“It was what you said not how you said it.” Patricia bit her lip, “there I was yelling at you and goading
you and pushing you to fight with me. When you finally fought back, what did you do? You went and said
something so sweet that it was like a punch in the gut. It took the fight right out of me.”
“What did I say?”
Patrica narrowed her eyes, “You don't remember?”
“I know what I said, but I wanted to know what you heard. Cause apparently it sounded a lot better on
“You told me you love me, really really love me.” Patricia said with a wistful smile.
“I tell you that all the time.”
“This time I believed it.”
“So are we good here?” Elijah asked, “are we done fighting? Can we move to the making up?”
“I love you Elijah” Was Patricia's reply, “but I'm still mad at you. We can talk about it though, we don't
have to fight.”
“Okay, cause I got really lucky about the crying thing that time. I don't want to risk it again.”
“And that's the problem isn't it? We're back to the beginning aren't we Elijah? Here you are thinking I'm
some delicate flower that must be protected and kept safe. You won't break me by yelling at me, I'll just
yell back. I can take care of myself in a fight with you and I can take care of myself while doing my job.”
“No you can't! No one could! You've been lucky, either they haven't made you yet or they haven't been
willing to risk a public confrontation.” Elijah's voice had risen unconsciously. “The longer you mingle
with them, the more you put yourself at risk. And Bob's talking about stepping up the process, moving on
to the next stage. There's only a couple of things that could mean, and each of them lead to
confrontations with vampires. What do you know about vampires? Real vampires, not the ones you read
about in books that wax poetic while reading Longfellow or cry out in angst over unrequited love? ”
“I've done my research, I know how to protect myself against them.”
“What do you carry a flask of holy water, or a bushel of garlic in purse, how about a cross of silver and a
wooden stake? They won't work, not if a vamp really wants to get to you.”
“No they don't. But sunlight does, and I do carry that with me.”
“Did you really think that your Uncle would send us out there unprepared? Does he seem like the kind of
guy that would do that?:
“How do you carry sunlight with you? Don't tell me it's your sunny personality.”
Patricia rolled her eyes. “It's distilled and encapsulated. I'd show you how it works but it's for
emergencies only. Something that the research branch of the UA figured out, works on the same principle
that the sunlamps for plantsims do but instead of being a beam of light it's concentrated. If I get in
trouble I'm supposed to drop it on the floor and when it breaks there's a flash of sunlight. Not enough to
kill a vamp but more than enough to disable any in the vicinity long enough to make an escape.”
“Why didn't you tell me? I've been on the job with you tons of times and you never said a word.”
“Firstly, you never asked,” was the reply. “But mostly because it's top secret. If they knew we had this, if
they knew it was even possible to do what's been done, they'd use it themselves against people like your
Aunt and Uncle. This way it's safer for humans to track them than it is for other vamps. They'd make
another vamp immediately, but they might not make a human for a very long time, if ever. So you see I
can take care of myself, I don't need your protection or your interference with my boss.”
“Fine you don't need me, you made your point. I'm sorry that I was worried about you, I'm sorry that my
worry embarrassed you and made you upset.”
“You fool, of course I need you. I need you so much that it scares me silly most days. I need you to sing
bad karaoke with, to share horrible Chinese from Wu's, to keep me up all night playing SSX, to wake me
up with your snoring and to keep me awake with your kisses. I need you to love me, just love me.”
“I love you and because I do I'm not going to be able to stop worrying about you or wanting to protect
“You think I don't worry about you to, of course I do. That's part of the whole loving you thing. But
rather than jump straight from worry wart to protector can we try to pit stop off for discussion? If you
had told me that you were worried rather than confronting Bob with it we could have avoided all of this.”
As promised Frankie spent the day following the wedding helping his brother finish up bits and pieces of
bodywork on the car.
“You know this car was supposed to be mine, but I never took much interest in it. Too much work. I'm
impressed by your dedication to it. You've put a lot of time into this pile of metal.”
“I like doing stuff with my hands. Making stuff, fixing it up, trying to turn what I see in my head into
“Like your paintings,” Frankie nodded. “You've got some real talent there buddy.”
“Thanks, but I know they aren't that great.”
“Yes they are, don't belittle your talent.”
Ferdie shook his head, “Nah, I'm just being honest with myself. It's like I can copy something I see,
something that's real and in front of me. That's just spatial awareness combined with enough classes to
know something about technique. My other stuff, the original idea things, never turn out the way I see
them in my mind. Too crude.” Ferdie looked at his brother with a grin. “I was talking to my drafting
teacher about architecture, and he said that if I can get my mind around the math parts of it that I might
have a future there. I think that would be cool you know building houses and stuff.”
“If you want to do it go for it, you'd be good at it. Like with the car, dedicated to doing what you set out to
do, and to doing it right.”
Elijah Familiar, you are one very lucky man. What are you waiting for? Is it going to take a bolt of
lightning striking you down to make you move? Even numskull like you should have figured this one out
Sliding out of bed, Elijah went in search of his phone.
“What are you doing? Are you cooking?”
“Pancakes, you like pancakes don't you?”
“I didn't know you could cook.”
“I've cooked for you before. I made you cereal the last time you stayed at the Greek House. I decided that
if I were going to make a habit of waking up before you, I should learn to cook something a bit
substantial. I've upped my repertoire since then so we've progressed to pancakes. I called Dad for his
“Your Dad has a pancake recipe?”
“Yep, they're his specialty. Every Saturday morning he'd make pancakes for my sister and me, he'd load
us up with sugar and then send us out into the neighborhood to cause trouble. Once we were out of his
hair he'd take a tray upstairs to Mom.”
“Breakfast in bed? That's sweet.”
“I guess it was kind of their tradition, no matter how busy Mom was she always took Saturday mornings
off. Now days she's secure enough to take all day Saturday off, and even other days occasionally. They
still keep the tradition though.”
“Sounds like a good tradition to have. I guess it works, they always look so happy together.”
“They are, it's not that they're so much alike that they agree on everything. They balance each other.
When Mom gets knee deep in her work, Dad wades in and pulls her out and makes her play for awhile. It
goes both ways, Dad's done really well but he says he probably would never have gotten his first game
made if it wasn't for Mom's not so subtle pushing.” Elijah tipped the last of the pancakes out of the skillet
and onto the plate. “So I was laying there in bed this morning, watching you sleep and thinking about
how lucky I was to have found you and how well you balance me. So I called Dad and got his Pancake
“I thought it was time to start a tradition of our own. When our kids are my age, they can look back and
remember how Mom and Dad always took Sunday mornings off. I hope my pancakes stand the test of
time. What do you think?”
“I think I'd better get an exercise bike so that I can work off all the pancakes I'm going to be eating.”
By late afternoon the body work was finished, the glass finally in place in the windows and the paint was
drying. Satisfied with a job well done the brothers sat in the vehicle to admire their handy work.
“Mom said that you brought an alien girl to the wedding.”
“Uh huh, Stella's an alien.”
“Do you think it you asked her she'd tell you why I was abducted?”
“Probably not, I mean she probably doesn't know. At least not why you were abducted. I think that she
could tell us why abductions in general happen, but I doubt she would. Not yet.”
“I don't think she trusts me enough yet to answer those types of questions. She's really good at evading
when she doesn't want to answer specifics. I told her about your abduction and she seemed surprised, but
she didn't say much. Ended up asking me a question.”
“Is that why you're dating her? To get answers?”
“We aren't exactly dating. I was her escort to the wedding but we were invited separately”
“Now you're evading.”
“Do you remember what Squatch told us? About the wards?”
“Sure, he said that we couldn't open them.”
“Yet. We can't but our descendants could. He believes that the necessary bloodline is almost complete. If
neither of us can open them maybe one of our kids could. But only if their bloodline is stronger than
ours.” Frankie looked at his brother, “According to Emilia the genetic markers our blood are related to
the power of our bloodlines. Our abilities to use the power once the wards are brought down. Everyone
that has high marker levels, have had multiple infusions of alien genetics in their family tree. It goes to
figure that if we want to strengthen the bloodlines we need more aliens.”
“Squatch also said that maybe we shouldn't open the wards.”
“He said that it wasn't his place to make the decision for us. I'm just thinking we should cover the bases,
that way we're prepared.”
He was dreaming again wasn't he? The same dream that he'd had repeatedly since he'd returned.
He could hear the voices, telling him that he was fine. That he should rest easy and to just relax. No one
was going to hurt him. He was safe with them, he was one of them. They were talking to him, explaining
things. He could hear himself agreeing, yes of course. It seemed so simple the way they said it, so logical.
There was something missing, some piece that didn't fit correctly. A doubt that sat in the back of his head
and screamed NO!
And then everything went black and the only thing he could hear was his own heartbeat. Slow and
steady but so very loud.
When he'd wake, covered in sweat, shivering with cold he'd be his in own bed. There would be no going
back to sleep. If he tried he'd just lay in bed and stare at the ceiling till after the sun rose.
Rather than feeling security from the familiar, he felt apprehension from the unknown. It was as if he
were standing on the edge of a cliff. He could jump or he could be pushed. It was his choice.
Had he agreed? Or had he refused?
Did it really matter? The results would be the same.
He didn't need to be willing, they were in control.
And if not him it would be someone else.
It wasn't as if they had no other options.
Why couldn't he remember!
They need us, they need our help, why don't they want us to know what we're
helping them with?
Familiar Faces will be returning to the campus of FSU and Frankie Familiar's journey through young
Until then Thank You for reading and Happy Simming!