Seren and Susanna spent some time playing, until Susanna had to go home and Seren had to do her homework.
Seren was the last one to learn to do her homework, as her parents had started with teaching her siblings.
Four kids and three adults meant someone had to wait, and Seren was busy making friends with Susanna anyway.
And after homework was done, it was time for playing.
And also time for dinner.
Not that anyone in the family (other than Nine) had any cooking talent at all.
Night came soon, however, and then it was time for everyone to sleep.
A sudden noise made Ryelle look up. She caught sight of Imshi winging towards her and smiled.
“Hello, Imshi! Welcome back!”
Imshi landed on her arm and she removed the message. “Thank you for taking this to the North Forest for me. How
was your trip?” She walked towards the tent, Imshi still perched on her arm. “Oh, lovely. And Vancelle, she was
“Sanar! Imshi is back!”
Sanar came out of the tent. “Oh good. It’s good to see you, Imshi.”
“Imshi says it’s good to see you, too.”
Sanar smiled. “Great. Have you opened the message?”
“Didn’t want to, in case Vancelle spelled it. You know my skills with magic.”
“You’re not that bad.”
“But nowhere near as good as you.”
“True. Well, let me see it.”
Ryelle handed Sanar the message, then cooed to Imshi while Sanar undid the spells on it. “Great! I’ll whistle if I
need you again. Good hunting, Imshi!” She lifted her arm and watched Imshi fly off, then turned to Sanar, who did
not look happy. “What does it say?”
“They’re not sending help.”
“What do you mean they’re not sending help?”
“Apparently there’s some half-breed running for Mayor out east, and they’re concentrating on that.”
“But…you said this was a Doran, right?”
“I did, Ryelle.”
“Then…this is absurd!”
“It is. I’m not any happier than you are, believe me.”
“If Mother were still in charge-”
“Your mother got kicked off the Council after her last plot to nab a Doran failed.”
“I know that, Sanar.”
Ryelle sighed, then sprawled in one of the folding chairs. “What are we going to do, then?”
Sanar sat down next to her. “We have three choices. We can give up and search for half-breeds elsewhere, and
hope the Council takes us seriously when we find them. We can head home. Or we can try and deal with this
“Let me see the message?” Sanar passed it over and Ryelle read it quickly. “They’re really…they don’t have enough
people, do they?”
“I think the sickness is spreading.”
“I don’t particularly want to go home only to get sick.”
“Nor do I.”
“And I don’t want to give up either.”
“Same. Stay here and investigate ourselves, then?”
“Yes. I’ll head over there again, see what I can find out. You check out the rest of the neighborhood?”
“It’s a plan.”
Mornings before school usually started with Seren wandering through the house, making first her bed, then her
siblings’, unless they bothered to do it themselves.
And then it was time to play and shower and get ready for
Playing, of course, took the most time.
“Hey, kiddo,” Maddie said as she came into Seren’s room. “You excited for school today?”
Maddie shook her head, laughing a bit. “My kids, excited for school. Who would’ve imagined?”
“You didn’t like school, Mommy?”
“Not when I was your age, I didn’t!”
“You’re weird, Mommy.”
“Of course I am. But so are you!”
Seren giggled and looked up at her mother. “Weirdness is goodness!”
“It is! So you’re excited for school…are you also excited for baseball?”
“Yes! I can’t wait to learn to play!”
“Best get showered and ready for school, then. The bus will be here soon!”
Seren grinned at her mother, then rushed into the bathroom to shower.
While the kids got ready, Maddie made sandwiches for their lunches.
Then she sent her kids off to school, her wife and the robot off to work, and took a long relaxing bubble bath.
And around the time that Nine came back from work, finally a Mad Scientist, Maddie headed in for her concert.
“Stella! Hey, STELLA!”
She’d finished work at four and, after changing out of her scrubs, came by the field where her kids were playing
baseball to pick them up. She hadn’t expected their coach to yell for her as soon as she got out of the car, but she
came over immediately, leaving the rest of the parents who were early to pick their kids up to talk by themselves.
“Stanley, hello. Is something wrong?”
“Your kids are great, don’t get me wrong, but…”
“Come and see.”
They walked over to a small group of trees on the side of the field, where Stella saw two of her children sitting in one
of the trees.
“I’ve been trying to get them down for almost an hour,” Stanley said quietly. “But I’ve also had to watch the other
“Seren, Ma’or, what are you doing up there and why won’t you come down? Mr. Legacy says he asked you to come
down a number of times already.”
Seren looked down at her mother. “It’s not our fault, Mummy!”
“How is it not your fault?”
“There’s a kitten stuck in the tree! We climbed up to get him, but then we couldn’t figure out how to get him down.”
“So we stayed up with him,” Ma’or added.
Stella and Stanley looked up at the kids. “They didn’t tell me there was a cat up there.”
“I’m not sure I see it myself.”
They looked closely at the tree. “I think - where the branch joins the trunk.”
“The big branch?”
“Yes. It’s dark, but now I can spot it. I’m amazed they saw it at all.”
“Same. Why don’t you go back to the rest of the kids, and I’ll try and get them down?”
“That sounds like a plan.”
As Stanley headed back to the main part of the field, Stella came closer to the tree. “You can’t get the kitten down?”
“No, Mummy,” Ma’or said. “Seren tried.”
“Well, I think this is a job for two people - one up there, and one down here. Ma’or, I want you to get closer to the
kitten.” He did so. “Now, pick it up.”
“What now, Mummy?” Ma’or asked. Seren watched closely.
“Drop the kitten into my arms.”
He nervously did so.
Stella managed to catch the kitten, who seemed a bit upset at having been dropped, even though it had been caught.
“Now climb down, you two.”
That they were able to do fairly nimbly, and soon they were all standing on the ground.
“Can we keep him, Mummy?”
“Can we please?”
Stella looked down at her children’s pleading faces, then at the kitten, who was rather cute. “Well, alright.”
“YAY!” Seren and Ma’or started jumping up and down. “Thank you, Mummy!”
“We do need to check its gender, though.”
“It’s a boy,” Ma’or said.
“Have you looked at it?”
“No,” Seren said, “but it’s definitely a boy.”
Stella checked, and found that the kids were right. “It is a boy. Well, let’s get your sisters over here and bring this
Stanley, Roxanna, and Astraea all came over.
“Is that a kitten?” Astraea asked, as she looked up at what her mother was holding.
“It is. Seren and Ma’or rescued it from the tree.”
“Are we keeping it?”
“We are.” There was mass cheering from the children.
Then Roxanna looked up at her mother. “Is it time to go yet?”
“Not enjoying baseball?”
“Astraea throws hard.”
Roxanna turned to Stanley. “Mr. Legacy, isn’t it not nice to throw really hard in baseball?”
“No, it’s not very nice.” He turned to Astraea. “Were you throwing hard at your sister?”
She looked up at him with wide eyes as Seren took the kitten from Stella. “But, Mr. Legacy, isn’t it part of the game?
If you’re not just playing catch, people throw really hard.”
“It is, Astraea, but you have to learn to catch with easy balls first. If you throw too hard, your partner will never
learn to catch at all, so you should be nicer to your sister.”
Roxanna looked closely at Astraea, then sighed. She really didn’t think Astraea was going to listen to Mr. Legacy.
“Alright, kids,” Stella said. “It’s time to head home.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Legacy!” Ma’or said.
“Goodbye. See you all tomorrow!”
And they turned and headed for home, bringing the new kitten with them, as Stanley greeted the rest of the parents
who were there to pick up their kids.
When Maddie got home from work, she took a quick shower, then headed downstairs.
There was a kitten in the old nursery, which had mostly been converted into a playroom.
She picked it up. “Well, now, where did you come from? And all of this stuff, too?”
Then she headed into the dining room. Nine had made burgers.
“So, I have to ask, when did we get a kitten?”
The kids all looked at each other, then the whole story came pouring out. “Mummy said we could keep it, Mommy,”
Ma’or finally said.
“Please?” Seren asked. “Can we please keep Hoshi?” They’d come up with the name on the car ride home.
“All of you want the kitten?”
“We do!” Astraea said. Roxanna just nodded.
“Well, then,” Maddie said. “I guess we have a kitten.”
After they put the kids to bed and tucked them in, Stella pulled Maddie aside for a quick kiss. “Thank you for being
so good about the kitten.”
“No problem. You couldn’t resist?”
“Not when they begged me together. Seren and Ma’or really wanted that cat.”
“Well, as long as they help take care of him!”
The day the kids all came home with A+ was a day for celebration.
Their parents even allowed them to invite their friends over, as long as they went home in time for the quads to do
their homework before bed.
There were games galore, and everyone had a wonderful time.
“Hi Mummy! Did you have a good day at work?”
“Well, Kimberly retired.”
“What does that mean?”
“She’s not working at the hospital anymore. So I’ve been promoted. I’m the Chief of Staff, now.”
“Is that good?”
“Congratulations, then, Mummy!”
Stella’s promotion was celebrated with a lovely Baked Alaska.
And the friends did leave in time for the kids to do their homework.
And a few quick games of red hands before bed.
Once the kids were in bed, Stella waited for Maddie to get home from work, repairing one of the toy robots in the
process. She wasn’t sure how it had gotten broken, but at least she could fix it.
When she heard a car outside, however, she headed for the front door.
“So,” Maddie said, when they finally had to pause for air, “what’s this for?”
“Can’t I just be happy?”
“Of course you can, but you usually don’t express it like this.”
“Kimberly retired. I’m Chief of Staff, now.”
“I’d like to take the celebration upstairs.”
“Works for me.”
The next day started with an early morning tickle fight.
“Come on, isn’t it fun?”
“Only kind of. I can’t breathe after a while though!”
“Oh, don’t be such a sissy, Roxanna.”
“I’m not a sissy. See you how you like it!” Roxanna suddenly tickled Astraea as fast and hard as she could.
“Okay, okay, I give! I won’t tickle you so hard again!”
After they showered and got dressed, they headed downstairs to hang out with their family for a bit before school.
Roxanna eventually ended up playing by herself in the old nursery, though, with one of the toy robots that Nine had
While there, she spoke to her imaginary friend again. “I do love Astraea, but sometimes she doesn’t know when to
stop. Maybe she’ll learn when we’re older. I hope so.” She zoomed the robot around. “I think she will, anyway.”
Meanwhile, Ma’or finally finished his painting in the study.
“Do you like my painting, Mommy?”
“What is it?”
“It’s you! See, that’s your green nightgown!”
Maddie squinted at the painting. If one looked at it through cataracts, it could conceivably be her. “It’s wonderful,
Ma’or. Looks just like me.”
They sent the kids off to school, and Stella went to work, and
then it was time for Maddie and Nine to spend the day relaxing,
both together and separately.
Maddie also sent off a report to the aliens while the others were gone.
She knew they wanted her point of view as well as Stella’s, and she agreed with her wife - keeping them out of their
lives as much as possible was all for the best.
The kids were a bit embarrassed to find Maddie sunbathing right by the bus stop when they came home, but there
wasn’t much they could do - or say - about it.
Besides, Susanna had come home home with them again, and Astraea was busy making friends with her.
“You like music? I love music! I have to listen to it very quietly, or Aunt Rosalie gets upset, but I have my own
stereo in my room. What’s your favorite station?”
“I love the classical station.”
“That’s good, but the oldies one is my favorite!”
“Oooh, that one’s good too.”
After Susanna left, it was time for games and homework.
Susanna never really enjoyed her visits with her parents.
Aunt Rosalie said she had to have them, and she somewhat understood why, but her parents still freaked her out.
Not because they were zombies.
No, Aunt Rosalie was also a zombie, as was everyone who lived in the house other than Susanna. Her parents being
zombies was quite normal to her.
What weirded her out was that she didn’t really know them, and, when she did get to see them, that they insisted on
calling her Francine.
“My name is Susanna,” she said, for the 8 billionth time.
“Francine, don’t say that,” her father said. “We’re your parents, and we named you Francine.”
“But Aunt Rosalie-”
“Rosalie is-” her mother cut herself off. Susanna glanced back at her father, to see that he’d made some sort of
gesture, but she couldn’t quite tell what. “Rosalie isn’t your mother,” her mother continued. “I am. And Frances is
your father. And we named you Francine.”
Sometimes it was just easier not to argue.
Not that she really had anything to talk to them about, anyway. After she spoke about her teachers, and her classes,
their conversations lapsed into silence, or old tales about how her parents had grown up.
Everyone in those tales never quite felt like real people to her. She didn’t know any of them, and probably never
There was no connection.
“Okay,” Aunt Rosalie said, opening the door, “visit’s up. Time for you two to go back to your room.”
Her mother started to protest, but her father stopped her. “Let’s go, Kendra.”
Susanna wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but all three adults were looking at her obliquely. Clearly it involved
When her parents were gone and locked up in their room - the comforting sound of the lock was very audible - Aunt
Rosalie came back into Susanna’s room. “How was your day, darling?”
“It was good. I wanted to ask, can I go to a birthday party tomorrow?”
“My friends, the quads. Seren, Ma’or, Astraea, and Roxanna. They’re becoming teens.”
“Of course, darling, that sounds lovely. What’s their last name, though? You haven’t told me anything about their
“Oh, that’s Doran. Their mother is named Madeleine and their other mother is named Stella.” She shrugged. “I
don’t get how they have two mothers, one of who’s green, but they do. Makes as much sense as me having zombies
for parents, I guess.” She looked up to see that her Aunt Rosalie had gone very still. “Is something wrong, Aunt
“Oh, no, not at all. Nothing to worry about, Susanna, darling.” Aunt Rosalie patted her absently on the shoulder,
then left the room, muttering to herself.
Susanna heard the noise of the lock once the door had closed.
Sometimes Aunt Rosalie freaked her out, too.
The day of their birthday party, Maddie greeted the kids as they came home from school. All of them had maintained
a constant grade of A+, and she was very proud of them.
“Hi, kids! Nine baked four cakes, so let’s invite everyone over and wait for your mum to get home, and then we’ll
have the party! How does that sound?”
“Great, Mommy!” Astraea said.
Ma’or nodded. “Sure.”
They’d brought their friends home with them on the bus - it was only their mothers’ friends who needed inviting - so
they spent the time waiting for Stella to get home playing and hanging out.
“Mummy!” Seren called when she heard Stella drive up. She pulled her mother into a hug. “Daddy baked us cakes!”
“That’s great, honey. And good that I didn’t have to.”
“Yeah, you can’t cook at all.”
“And neither can your mom, you know.”
“Yup! But Daddy makes great cakes.”
“That he does.”
They kept playing, waiting for everyone to arrive.
There was even an unexpected walkby.
Ryelle was somewhat surprised to see quite so many people at the Doran house. The last time she’d been there, it
had just been Maddie and the four toddlers.
And, if what she was seeing was right, the toddlers weren’t toddlers anymore.
“Hi, lady!” one of them said, running up to her. “Are you here for the party?”
“For me and my brother and sisters! We’re going to be teens today!”
Maddie came over, then. “Seren, Nine is setting up the cakes. Do you want to go get ready?”
“Okay, Mommy!” She ran off into the house, quickly followed by the rest of the kids.
“Hello, Ri, it’s good to see you.”
“You too, Maddie.” Her eyes followed where Seren had gone. “Your kids are so big!”
“That happens.” Maddie still felt somewhat odd about Ri, but, well, it was a birthday. “Would you like to stay for the
While Ryelle had somehow managed to get invited to the quads’ birthday party, Sanar was exploring the rest of the
It was generally a fairly boring place - a small town, with a few stores, and a couple of small residential
neighborhoods. A few of the houses were nice, but it really wasn’t very interesting.
She’d spoken to a few people. No one had anything at all exciting to say.
However, while walking around town, she did see one very unusual person.
Her eyes narrowed. “Is that a zombie?”
Above all, Sanar was a hunter. She discreetly followed the zombie as she did her shopping, occasionally catching
quiet mutters of the names “Stella,” “Maddie,” “Doran,” and, in a softer voice, “Susanna.”
Sanar knew those names - at least some of them.
When the shopping was done, the zombie headed back to one of the residential areas. Sanar followed.
They reached a house and the zombie was greeted by another zombie, who was clearly glad to see her return.
During the long walk, Sanar had been running through the magic that she knew. She quietly pulled on her magic and
placed a tracking spell on the first zombie.
Well, she tried to place one.
There was no reason whatsoever for the spell to fail, and yet it did.
She frowned, then tried the same spell on the second zombie.
It failed again.
Maybe it was a problem with the spell.
A dead zombie was no great loss, so Sanar prepared, then used, her strongest fighting spell - one that stopped the
heart and the lungs - on the first zombie.
The zombie shuddered once, then pulled out a gun and looked around wildly. “Who did that?”
“Who did what, Rosalie?” the second zombie asked.
“It felt like someone tried to stop my heart and lungs.”
Sanar tried to hide, but she really hadn’t picked a good spot for an unseen ambush, and it wasn’t long before she was
“Her! She was at all the stores I went to today!”
The gun fired in her direction, but Sanar managed to avoid it. She whispered another spell, to make herself faster,
and was relieved that it seemed to be working.
She ran from the house faster than the zombies could shoot - and far faster than they could run.
A lot of people came to the quads’ birthday party - all of their parents’ friends, all of their friends, some of their
parents’ coworkers, and even a couple of walkbys.
Nine set up a table with the four cakes in the living room, as a central spot for the party, and everyone gathered
First thing, they blew out their cakes and grabbed slices for themselves.
They had the dining room to themselves, which was nice. It allowed them to be just them, and not the center of
“I like your outfit, Seren,” Roxanna said.
Seren rolled her eyes. “It’s nice, yeah, but I’m boiling. I mean, a scarf in summer? So not on.”
“Better than my sweatsuit, though! It’s tacky and warm!”
Astraea grinned. “This is fairly comfortable, actually, but seriously, these pants are ugly.”
Ma’or shrugged. “I don’t mind this at all.”
“Well, then, you win the outfit sweepstakes!” Astraea said.
Roxanna grinned. “We can all go change in a minute anyway. I just wanted cake first.”
“Can’t go wrong with cake,” Seren agreed.
When they were done with the cake, they stood up.
“Okay,” Roxanna said, gasping, “maybe you can go wrong with cake.”
“Owwwwww,” Seren moaned.
“It’s not my stomach that hurts, though,” Ma’or said, clearly trying to find some logic in the situation. “I mean, it
was, but it’s traveling up to my head.”
“I think I’m going to vomit,” Astraea said.
When they were done feeling sick, they stood up. “We don’t tell Dad about this. Agreed?” Roxanna asked.
“Agreed,” the other three chorused.
After they ate their cake and got over their headaches and stomachaches, they all headed upstairs to change their
clothes, and, in the case of the girls, their hair.
Seren and Ma’or finished first. Unsurprisingly, Ma’or didn’t care much about how he looked, as long as he was
presentable. Seren didn’t care much more than he did, so she threw on a nice outfit, stuck heir hair up, pulled her
brother out of his room, and went to rejoin the party.
Roxanna and Astraea, meanwhile, spent more time choosing their clothing. Eventually, Astraea was dressed, so she
redid her hair.
Roxanna looked over at her. “You’re leaving it in pigtails?”
“That makes you look pretty young.”
“Why would you want that?”
“Because, when you look young, you look innocent. It’s much easier to get away with things when you look like you
couldn’t possibly be the one to have done it.” She poked at her nose. “That’s also why I like my freckles.”
Roxanna shook her head. “I will never understand you.”
Astraea batted her eyelashes. “But you love me anyway!”
“You know I do, twin.”
They hugged tightly, then Astraea pulled her twin under her arm and gave her a noogie.
“Astraea! Stop it!” Roxanna finally managed to pull herself out from under Astraea’s arms and rubbed her head.
“That was painful!”
Astraea grinned. “Sorry.”
“Oh, get out of here so I can do my hair.”
Astraea waved and left.
Roxanna brushed her hair out, then pulled it back, letting it curl gently. It looked good like that. She examined her
face closely once she was done with her hair, then headed into her mothers’ room.
She pulled out Maddie’s makeup and put some on, then smiled. That looked good.
When she headed out into the hall, she found that two people she didn’t know had sat down at the mahjong table.
“Hello,” she said, “who are you?”
Seren and Ma’or headed downstairs and joined their friends, playing, talking, and hanging out.
Seren was very much in her element, loving the crowd, and the crowd loving her.
When he needed a moment of peace and quiet, he ducked into the old nursery and picked up Hoshi. “Hey, Hoshi, I’m
glad you’re at least quiet.”
He played with Hoshi for a bit, then the door opened and Seren stepped in. “I thought I might find you in here.”
“I needed the quiet. I don’t get how you can enjoy all the people.”
Seren shrugged. “I just do. I don’t get how you can’t.”
Ma’or smiled. “I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that.” He put Hoshi down and pulled his twin into
They were interrupted by the door opening. Ryelle walked in. “Hi, your robot said that there’s a bathroom in here.”
“Yeah, over there,” Seren gestured to the door.
As she walked into the bathroom, Ma’or’s eyes narrowed. “Something is odd about that woman.”
Seren shrugged. “If you say so. I don’t see it.”
“Trust me on this one.”
Suddenly, Ma’or’s head jerked back.
“Are you oka-” Seren began to say when she, too, felt it.
They both shuddered their way through the transformations until, suddenly, a dog and a cat stood where the teens
had once been.
Ryelle came out of the bathroom. “Where’d those animals come from?” she asked herself. She looked at them
speculatively, then shook her head. “No, better not.” She left the room.
The dog and the cat shuddered again, then turned back into Seren and Ma’or. They were on their knees, as they’d
stood as animals, but back to themselves again. Ma’or looked at Seren, eyes wide. “Did we just-”
“I think so!”
“We’ll have to tell our parents.”
“Later. After the party is over.” Ma’or nodded in agreement. “Speaking of-”
“Fine, fine, we can go back to the crowd.”
Astraea, meanwhile, grabbed a second piece of cake. It was pretty good cake, and, well, it wasn’t like she was going
to get more for a while.
By the time she was done, most of the kids had left to go play, leaving her with a bunch of adults. That was fine with
She liked watching, and adults were interesting to watch. Also, they often didn’t notice kids or teens.
She walked through the living room, observing the groups that were talking, and listening to their conversations. For
some reason, even when she got fairly close, no one really seemed to notice her.
She shrugged. It was nice, hearing things she wasn’t supposed to.
Susanna came into the room. “Has anyone seen Astraea?” she asked. “We’re having a water balloon fight outside
and Ziggy wanted her to join us.”
“No, sorry, haven’t seen her,” Maddie said. “Why don’t you check her room?”
Susanna nodded. “Okay!” She turned and ran for the stairs.
Astraea frowned. She was standing right there.
Then she looked down at herself and didn’t see anything. “Whoa,” she whispered. “I’m invisible.” A slow smirk
came across her face. “This is going to be so, so useful.”
She walked, invisibly, into the study, and forced herself visible again.
And when Susanna found her there, she joined the water balloon fight.
The couple at the mahjong table stared at Roxanna, clearly stunned by something. They looked at each other.
“I think so…”
“Amazing.” The woman turned back to Roxanna. “I’m Carli, and this is my husband, Doran.”
“My last name is Doran.”
“I know, my dear. Would you like to join our game?”
“Sure.” Roxanna sat down and started playing with them.
It was a quiet, peaceful game, and Roxanna was winning, when Susanna came upstairs, glanced into all the rooms,
and then came over to her. “Hey, have you seen Astraea? We’re having a water balloon fight, and Ziggy asked me
to find her.”
“No, haven’t seen her - not since she went downstairs after we changed clothing.”
“Oh. Well, then, do you want to join us? It’s got to be more fun than playing mahjong by yourself.”
Roxanna looked at Carli and Doran, who were both studiously looking at their pieces, then back at Susanna. “No
thanks,” she said, keeping her voice even by sheer force of will. “I’m not in the mood.”
Susanna shrugged. “Suit yourself.” Then she ran down the stairs, back on the hunt for Astraea.
When she was gone, Roxanna stood up. “Who are you two?”
“I told you, I’m Carli and he’s Doran.”
“That doesn’t explain anything. Why can’t Susanna see you? Why can I? What’s going on?”
They exchanged a glance again, then Doran spoke. “What do you know about elves?”
“Elves? Really, elves?” Roxanna shook her head and headed for the stairs. “Come find me when you have
something sensible to say.”
The party continued, with the adults mostly staying inside.
They also took care of the cleanup from the cake.
The kids, however, migrated outside, and, after a quick and dirty water balloon fight, took over the pool.
By the time Roxanna finished speaking with the two strangers and headed downstairs, the pool was full of kids and
That was fine with her.
As it got dark, the really little kids left, and everyone who was left had dinner, most of the teens still in their bathing
“Congratulations on learning to cook spaghetti and meatballs, Ma’or.”
“Thanks, Dad. I’m trying to get your cooking skills and not the moms’.”
“I hate to say anything bad about anybody-”
“No, Mom and Mum really can’t cook.” Ma’or smiled. “They’re good at everything else, though.”
After everyone finally left, it was time for the family to celebrate in their own way: with pillow fights galore.
Then they all headed upstairs and to bed.
Roxanna was extremely glad to see that the mysterious couple weren’t sitting at the mahjong table anymore.
“Humans age incredibly quickly.”
“The four toddlers? Are teens now. I got invited to their birthday party.”
“Sounds like you had an interesting day.”
“I really did. How was yours?”
“Did you know that zombies are resistant to magic?”
“There’s at least two zombies in Viper Canyon, and neither my tracking spell nor my heart and lung stopping spell
Ryelle sat down, hard. “Whoa.”
“I know. One of them pulled a gun on me. Luckily, I was still able to make myself faster, and I got back here
“Did you try using magic on the gun?”
“What do you mean?”
“Not on the zombie directly, but pulling the gun out of its hand. You’d be affecting the object, not the person, so
maybe it would work.”
“No. That’s a good idea, though. I’ll have to try it if I see them again. They’ll recognize me, now, and they definitely
didn’t seem the type to ask questions before shooting.”
Ryelle nodded. Then she sighed. “I’m not sure what to do now. There are four teens, not toddlers, and the family
has a robot.”
“What if - you know, that could work.”
“The zombies didn’t seem to like the Dorans any more than we do. What if we used them to kill each other?”
Aunt Rosalie was waiting for Susanna when she got home from the party. “How did it go, darling?”
“It went well. They’re teens now. I can’t wait until I’m a teen too.” Susanna looked down, then decided to go for it
and ask. “Can I have a party for my birthday tomorrow?”
“No, darling, I don’t think that would work.”
Susanna was disappointed, but she really hadn’t expected any other answer.
“Why don’t I get you a cake, though? We can even share with your parents.”
“Thank you, Aunt Rosalie.”
Rosalie hugged her, then drew her into the house. “Now, tell me all about your friends. How was the party?”
The day after the quads became teens, Stella found a message from the aliens waiting for her, requesting a meeting
and more information.
She wasn’t enthusiastic about either request, but decided to go with the lesser of two evils, and sent a bit of
She decided to say that they were too busy to meet right then, however.
Then she looked up at the sound of stomping above her head.
“I guess the kids are up,” she said, then checked the clock on the computer before standing up. “They’re lucky it’s a
Saturday, or they’d have to be up much earlier!”
As it was a Saturday, however, she didn’t object at all when the kids invited all of their friends over.
In fact, she decided to make it a fun day for everyone, and invited her and Maddie’s friends over as well.
It was a full house, but that wasn’t a bad thing.
There was a lot of playing, with their friends, with each other, and with the various objects around the house.
They even set up a new bubble blower and tried it out, though the teens were somewhat embarrassed by the fact
that their mothers were using it in their underwear.
They didn’t, however, spot the zombie watching them as they used it.
Rosalie watched them for a bit, but didn’t stay long.
She didn’t want to be spotted, after all, but it was good to confirm with her own eyes that both Maddie and Stella did,
in fact, live in that house, and that Stella was green now.
And, also, that they seemed to have a number of green children.
Later in the afternoon, Starchild found Ma’or filling the bird’s food dish.
When he was done, she pulled him into a hug. “You know, Ma’or, I think you’re hot.”
“You do?” he asked. “I mean, you’re really pretty and all, I’m not that hot…”
“You totally are.” She leaned forward and nuzzled his neck. He blushed. “Want to go out with me?”
“I, uh, sure!”
He grinned as she finally let go of the hug and held his hands. She really was quite pretty, and nice too, and she
clearly wanted him.
At least one of his sisters had noticed him and his new girlfriend, though, and that sister wasn’t happy.
Astraea pulled Starchild under her arm and gave her a noogie. “You know, Ma’or deserves a good girlfriend. If you
don’t treat him the way he deserves, I’m going to do a lot worse to you. And don’t think I can’t.”
“I’m not going to hurt him! I swear! I just want to date him!”
Astraea let Starchild up. “Well, if you do hurt him, I will hurt you.”
“I know! Trust me, I know.”
After Astraea moved away a bit, distracted by someone else, Ma’or caressed Starchild’s cheek. “I’m sorry about my
“No, it’s cool. I mean, Astraea clearly cares about you enough to threaten me, which is good, even though she’s
“You weren’t planning on hurting me, were you?”
“No. Definitely not. I like you a lot, Ma’or, and, well, I see us dating for a long, long time.”
“Then you have nothing to worry about.”
Astraea wasn’t paying any attention to them anymore, anyway.
“Damn, Astraea, you look good.”
“Of course I do. You just noticed, Susanna?”
“I just became a teen, of course I just noticed!”
“Does that mean you want to date me?”
In fact, Astraea was so absorbed in Susanna that she didn’t even notice Ma’or and Starchild kissing for the first time.
This was probably a good thing.
Their other sisters were busy elsewhere. Seren was having a blast on the bass, while Roxanna found that toy robots
really were quite fun.
The day ended with a nice dinner, though Astraea still wasn’t quite willing to be nice to Starchild.
The next morning found the kids splitting up to work on various projects. Roxanna took over the easel in the study -
she wanted the privacy to work on her painting.
“So, what are you painting?”
Roxanna glanced behind her, then turned resolutely back to her easel. “I’m not speaking to people who no one else
can see anymore.”
“Nothing to say to your old imaginary friend?”
She turned around. “That’s the problem. You’re imaginary.”
“We’re not, you know. You’re just the only one who can see us.”
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better? Because, newsflash, it doesn’t.”
She left the room and headed for the old nursery, the imaginary friend following her down the hall. “Roxanna,
Roxanna determinedly ignored him.
When she reached the old nursery, she found Astraea painting, Seren on the drumset, and Ma’or playing with Hoshi.
“Mind if I join you, Seren?”
“Sure, go for it.”
“Thanks. I wasn’t in the mood to be alone anymore.” She picked up the bass, waited for a good moment, and then
joined the music.
PT9 watched the four teens, all of them absorbed in their activities. “Roxanna,” he said. She didn’t say anything,
though she tensed, just a bit. “Whenever you want to talk to me again - I’ll be here.”
He left the room, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
Once it was a reasonable hour, they invited their friends over again.
Redwood and Ziggy had finally aged up, which meant that their whole group were teens and able to stay til pretty
They’d gotten a new pool table, which quickly became a group obsession - at least when the adults weren’t using it.
Ma’or made breakfast (and even managed to avoid burning it).
He wasn’t so certain about Seren getting a massage from Redwood - who wasn’t the nicest person in town - but
Seren was able to handle herself.
Roxanna, meanwhile, decided to take out her frustration with the invisible visitors on Ziggy, who didn’t mind the
somewhat violent pillow fight.
And Astraea cornered Susanna for their first kiss.
Another momentous event did happen that day. Hoshi became an adult.
Later, their friends went home (they all had homework due the next day, unfortunately), and the quads spent time
hanging out among themselves.
Soon, however, it was time for bed.
Getting enough sleep before school was unfortunately necessary, after all.
They were still students at the private school, and dressed in
their uniforms to head out.
Some of them were more happy about heading to school than
others, but they all understood its importance and went, even
those who didn’t want to.
While they were gone, the adults played pool.
And played with the cat.
This set a pattern for the next few days - the kids would go to school, and the adults would relax. Stella sometimes
had to work during the day, but both Maddie and Nine worked nights, and not every night, either.
After school was out for the day, they usually invited their friends over and hung out with them.
There was plenty of kissing, flirting, and hugging for the dating couples, as well.
However, their friends weren’t always able to come over, and that meant that the quads often spent time alone as
“Yeah, Seren?” He looked over from the painting he was working on.
“Didn’t Hoshi used to have gray eyes?”
“Doesn’t he still?”
“No. These are definitely green.”
He put down his paintbrush and came over to Seren and Hoshi. “Huh. You’re right.”
“How could his eyes change?”
“Why don’t we ask him?”
Seren rolled her eyes. “I can’t talk to animals, and neither can you, unless you’re getting more out of this than I
am.” Hoshi was loudly meowing, presumably asking to be put down (not that they could tell for sure). Seren put
him on the ground.
“Nope. But I was thinking, we turned into animals, right? Maybe we can understand animals when we are animals.”
“That’s worth a try, if we can figure out how to.”
Ma’or shrugged. “Reach for the feeling? Try and replicate how we did it before?”
“Worth a try.”
They both reached for that feeling, pulling hard, and changed forms.
“Finally,” a voice said. “I’ve been waiting for you to do that for ages!”
Ma’or trotted over to Hoshi and touched noses. “So we can understand you like this.”
“And I can understand you.”
Seren was slightly surprised that this had actually worked, but was happy it had. “So, Hoshi,” she said, “why did
your eyes change color?”
“I wanted to look like you. Now my eyes are like Ma’or’s.”
Seren looked at her brother, then her pet. “I can’t see color, but they are the same shade.”
“I guess Hoshi must have pulled on whatever we’re doing when we do this to make himself match us,” Ma’or said, as
Hoshi nodded, “because they’re pretty close to yours, too, Seren.”
“I guess we both have green eyes, then, along with the black fur. Makes sense - we have green skin and black hair
and eyes as humans.” She looked at her foot, which was definitely dark, then back at her brother. “We should test
the language thing. I’ll go human, you stay a cat, and we’ll try talking to each other.”
Ma’or nodded, then watched as Seren became human again.
“So, Ma’or, Hoshi, can you two understand me?”
Ma’or turned to Hoshi. “I recognize my name, and yours, but other than that…”
Hoshi jumped up onto the scratching tree. “Same.”
Ma’or shook his head at Seren.
She shrugged, then became a dog again. “So?”
“Got the names and nothing else.”
“I couldn’t understand you either. I guess the language comes with the form.”
“But at least we can talk to Hoshi like this!” Ma’or idly jumped up a level and scratched at the tree.
They both looked up at the sound. “That’s Mom’s voice,” Seren said.
“We’d best change back, then.” Ma’or looked up at Hoshi. “Good to talk to you, Hoshi!”
“You too. Come back soon!”
They changed back, then another yell came. “Seren! Ma’or! We’re waiting for you!”
Susanna was the only person in the house who really needed to eat, so she usually found herself making dinner and
eating alone. Because of this, she didn’t exactly keep regular eating hours.
Therefore, when she got off the phone with Astraea, she made herself a sandwich and sat down to eat it.
“No, you idiot, I know that’ll get me a zombie. I want a zombie! Yes, $1000 is all I’m spending on her.”
Susanna glanced over to see her aunt on the bone phone, clearly intent on resurrecting yet another zombie. Two of
the other zombies - not her parents - were with her.
She shrugged and went back to her meal. She’d seen this before.
The new zombie was brought back to life, then steered through the kitchen to what Susanna thought of as the
orientation room. Her aunt gestured the other two to watch the new zombie, then sat down across from her. “How is
“Good, Aunt Rosalie. How are you?”
“Good, good. Another day, another zombie to add to the army.”
“Why are you building an army, anyway?”
Rosalie smiled. Susanna shivered internally, but stopped herself from showing it outwardly. “I have plans, darling.
Very big plans.” Rosalie stood up. “Do your homework, then go to bed. I’ll be up in an hour or two to lock you in.”
“Yes, Aunt Rosalie.”
“Do you ever get the urge to just wander?”
Astraea had asked the question at dinner that evening.
Her siblings had all shaken their heads, and she’d sighed and dropped the subjects, not noticing the slightly worried
look on her mother’s face.
She’d called Susanna after dinner. “Do you want to sneak out tonight?”
“I want to, Astraea-”
“I’m sensing a ‘but’ here.”
“But it would be a really, really bad idea. Aunt Rosalie can be kind of…strict.”
“Alright. I’ll see you at school, though?”
“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
She’d gone to bed as usual, but woke up at two, unable to fall back asleep, and with a serious urge to get out of the
She checked on Roxanna, who was buried in her covers, then slipped her clothes on and walked over to the window.
Climbing out wasn’t going to be easy. It would be better if she could use the door.
Astraea grinned. That was the benefit of being able to go invisible. She reached within herself for that feeling -
though she’d only felt it once before - then looked down at her hands and smiled when she couldn’t see them.
Being invisible seriously helped when it came to sneaking out. But it didn’t solve every problem. She couldn’t go
intangible, so she had to actually use doors and stuff, and people could bump into her. She also wasn’t inaudible - if
she walked or talked too loudly, someone would hear her.
Of course, Astraea was naturally a sneaky person, so being quiet and moving out of the way really wasn’t a big deal.
She walked past all of the doors in the upstairs hallway, hearing the breaths and movements of her mothers, Seren,
She honestly hadn’t expected any of them to be an issue. Her father, on the other hand…
When she got downstairs and could hear the noise of the robot bench, she breathed a sigh of relief. Dad was busy
with something noisy. That was good.
That also meant she had to use the front door, since the robot bench was next to the door to the garage.
She checked for her key, then eased the door open and left the house.
Luckily, once of the cars lived on the driveway, so Astraea was able to take it and head to town, visible once more.
Not that anything was open in town, but even just driving around helped quell that need to wander.
At about five, just before dawn, she returned home, parking the car and going invisible again to sneak back into the
house and her bed.
Morning - and school - came far too early, but the night out had refreshed her enough that she could deal.
Every since he’d become a teen, Roxanna had thought Ziggy was kind of cute.
She hadn’t quite gotten up the courage to ask him out, though.
That evening, she finally managed. “Do you want to go out with me, Ziggy?”
He smiled at her. “I’m not one for permanent relationships, Roxanna.”
“I’m not asking you for one. I just want to go on a date.”
“And I’m available?”
“Thanks, I think.”
“No, it was a compliment.”
He pulled her close. “I’m Romance, you know.”
“I do get that. I just want to have fun, and I think you’d be fun.”
“I would be.”
“Then do you want to date?”
“Sure, but not anything serious.”
“Definitely not anything serious.”
“Then the answer is yes.”
“So,” Astraea said before bed that night, “Ziggy?”
“Yeah. We’re dating.”
“You know he’s into a lot of girls, right?”
Roxanna shrugged as she sat on the bed. “We’re not serious. It’s just for fun.”
“If you’re sure.”
“You don’t need to look out for me, Astraea. I’m capable of handling my dating life myself. But thanks anyway.”
“I just want you to be happy.”
“And I am happy. I’m not expecting anything more than what Ziggy can give.”
“Okay. But if you ever need someone to beat him up for hurting you…”
Roxanna smiled. “I will totally come to you.”
The next day, they brought their friends home with them from school once more.
There was lots of playing.
And, unfortunately, some homework.
They got it done, though, and then it was back to hanging out with their friends.
There was also dinner, and Seren was admittedly a bit appalled by Redwood’s lack of table manners.
She didn’t let that stop her from pulling Redwood in for her first kiss.
“So, Seren, do you want to go steady?”
“That would be totally awesome.”
“Hey you. Yeah, you, you little half-breed bitch. Having fun thwarting all my plans?”
The fact that Seren wasn’t responding to the man leaning over her told Roxanna that the man wasn’t any more real
than Carli and Doran - or her imaginary friend - had been.
She kept her eyes on her homework. She didn’t want the man to know that she could see and hear him. She didn’t
want that anger directed at her.
“Oh, Oberon,” another voice said. A woman entered the dining room. “Why do you persist in yelling insults at people
who can’t hear you”
He shrugged. “Because it’s fun, Titania.”
She sat down in the chair next to Seren. “Well, if you’re going to persist in yelling such trash, you can at least make
yourself useful. Give me a neck massage.”
“In front of all these teens?” He sounded, to Roxanna, like he was pretending to be horrified.
She shrugged. “They can’t see or hear us, dear.”
Roxanna stood up. Her sisters looked up at her. “I can’t concentrate. I’ll do my homework later.”
She left the dining room and sat down on the couch in the living room, her head in her hands.
Nine found her sitting like that and joined her on the couch. “Are you okay, Roxanna?”
She looked up at him. “Not really.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Thanks, Dad, but no.”
“If you do, I’m here.”
“I know. Thank you. Can we go do something else? Play darts, or music, or something?”
“Of course.” He grinned. “I challenge you to an SSX3 battle.”
“Can we get a telescope?”
Stella froze, then put the chess pieces away. She moved over to the couch and patted it. Ma’or sat down next to her.
“Why do you want a telescope?”
“I think it would be cool to meet the aliens. I mean, we’re green and all, but I’ve never met a real alien. Plus, I want
to learn logic.”
“There’s the chess board for that.”
He shrugged. “I like chess, but I still want a telescope. Seren agrees with me, by the way.”
“I’ll talk to Maddie, alright?”
That night, after the kids were in bed, Stella and Maddie sat down by the television.
“Ma’or asked for a telescope today.”
“He wants to meet a real alien.”
Maddie started laughing, so hard that she couldn’t easily stop. “A real alien?”
Stella was giggling too. “I know, right?”
They laughed for a while, then sobered.
“Are we going to allow this?” Stella asked.
“My first thought is no, but…”
“But if he gets a telescope elsewhere, he’ll probably get abducted. I don’t think they’ll be able to resist.”
“And our kids are determined enough to do that.”
“They are.” Stella took a deep breath. “Additionally, the aliens have been asking for a meeting. They want to know
how we and the kids are doing, and may have some news to pass on.”
“You think we should buy a telescope.”
“And I should use it first.”
Stella patted Maddie’s hand. “They know me better, and I know how to speak to them. As for why not both of us,
one of us should stay with the kids.”
“We could leave them with Nine.”
“He won’t know what’s happening any more than the kids will.”
Maddie sighed. “Yeah. Alright. You tell them to abduct you tomorrow, I’ll buy the telescope, and we’ll both stop the
kids from using it until after you do.”
The next night, Stella stepped up to the telescope somewhat hesitantly. She knew what was going to happen the
instant she touched it.
She was right, of course.
Barely two minutes after she’d started using the telescope, she was once more floating in space, being pulled to the
All four kids, Maddie, and Nine (and even Hoshi) came rushing out of the house in time to see her get pulled up into
“What’s going on?” Astraea asked.
“Did Mum just get abducted?” Ma’or added.
“That is awesome,” Seren said. Nine nodded in agreement.
Roxanna stared up at the sky. “Is she going to be okay?”
Maddie sighed. “She’s going to be completely fine, I’m sure. They’ll send her back down in a few hours, after they
speak to her. I hope.” She whispered the last sentence.
Her kids exchanged glances. “Mom,” Seren said, “has Mum been abducted before?”
“Yes. Four times that I know of.”
“Four times?” Nine asked.
“Amazing,” he said.
“Mom,” Roxanna asked, “why has Mum been abducted four - or five - times?”
“That’s a very, very long story, and I’d rather wait until she was back here to tell it.” Maddie looked up at the sky.
“And it’ll be quite late before she’s back. Why don’t you all go to bed, and we’ll explain tomorrow?”
They looked at each other, then all four of them looked at her and, in unison, rolled their eyes. “Mom,” Astraea said,
“it’s a Friday. No way am I going to bed without an explanation. Especially when we don’t have school in the
morning.” Everyone else nodded.
“Mom,” Ma’or said suddenly, “Mum looked really weird when I was talking about maybe meeting an alien, and you
said she’s been abducted a bunch of times.”
Maddie nodded. “Yes.”
“Is she a real alien?”
She took a deep breath. “Yes.”
There was a moment of silence, and then, suddenly, she wasn’t staring at her children anymore.
Well, Roxanna was still there, though she seemed to be having a conversation with someone who wasn’t.
But where Seren and Ma’or had been, there stood a dog and a cat.
And Astraea had vanished altogether.
Maddie rubbed her eyes, then looked again.
Her children were still like that.
“Well,” she said, sighing, “at least their powers don’t seem to be as bad as Alice’s.”
And we end with more stats!
Roxanna Doran Seren Doran
LTW: Professional Party Guest LTW: Mad Scientist
Astraea Doran Ma’or Doran
LTW: Celebrity Chef LTW: Mad Scientist