Generation Eight Part Six


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Boolpropian Round Robin Legacy: Generation Eight: Part Six

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Generation Eight Part Six

  1. 1. Stella was amazed, once more, at the silence of the spaceship. Even when she passed people in the hall, they simply nodded to her and continued to their destinations. There was no conversation, no warmth.
  2. 2. She reached the Council Room and paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. Then she walked in and sat down. Her usual seat had been pushed up against the wall, but PT9’s was empty. She sat gingerly, uncomfortable occupying his seat.
  3. 3. “Hello, 500,” Leader 113 said. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with us.” “I have some things to speak to you about, myself, but also look forward to hearing what you have to tell me.” Leader 113 nodded. “We shall begin. Researcher 92?”
  4. 4. Researcher 92 turned on the viewing screen. “We have been watching Viper Canyon, both to keep an eye on you and to learn more about the humans. However, while doing so, we have seen a few interesting things.” Stella chose to ignore the invasion of privacy that the aliens were clearly practicing - she really hadn’t been expecting anything else. Instead, she looked at the image, which was not exactly a close up. “That appears to be a tent.” “It is. We believe it is inhabited by elves.” “What?” “There has been magic usage, which has stopped our satellites from working when they are closer.”
  5. 5. “Do you have any better pictures of the people?” Stella could vaguely see that there were two people, but the image was too zoomed out to really see them. Even squinting didn’t help. “Unfortunately, we do not, due to satellite malfunctions. We do, however, have images of one other interesting group.” Researcher 92 flipped to another image, which was from a very different angle. Stella looked at the image, blinked, and looked again. “Shit.” She’d never cursed before, but the word summed up exactly what she was feeling.
  6. 6. She stood up and walked over to the screen. “When did Frances and Kendra become zombies?” She peered more closely at the third person. “Is that - is that Rosalie?” “You know who all of the people are?” Leader 113 asked. “I think so.” She gestured to each person as she spoke about them. “This is Frances. He was our - my and Madeleine’s - Residence Advisor the first two years at La Fiesta Tech. This is Kendra. She dated Maddie for a while before they had a falling out, when Maddie was dating numerous people at once.” She paused before moving on to the third person. “This is Rosalie. She was in the Worthington Society with us - and Frances and Kendra - until she got eaten by a cowplant. I thought she was dead.”
  7. 7. “Eaten…by a cowplant?” Technician 296 asked. “Yes. They apparently eat humans.” “How odd.” Stella took another long look at the screen, then returned to her seat. “Thank you for showing me this. I will definitely have to tell Madeleine.” Leader 113 turned to Stella. “You also had something you wished to tell us, 500?” “Yes,” Stella said, “I wanted to talk about my children.” ***
  8. 8. When Stella landed, she was somewhat surprised to see that everyone was still awake and clearly waiting for her. As her internal clock told her that it was well after three, she definitely hadn’t expected the quads to still be awake. Maddie got up from the bubble blower and came over to her. “I tried to send them to bed, but it’s Friday, and they want to have a family discussion now.” She kissed Stella. “Plumbbob, I’m glad you’re back.” “Did something happen?” “Oh, did it ever.” She looked over at the kids and Nine. “Come on, everyone! Family discussion in the dining room in ten!” “Oh good, I have time to use the bathroom.” “That was the goal.” ***
  9. 9. Maddie told her children - and Nine - her family’s history, from the tale of how her great-great-great-great-great- grandmother Carli had left the North Forest, through her many ancestors - Dom, Gethin, Ed and Ein, Ainsley, Sebastian, David - and finally down to her. She spoke about the various enemies they’d faced - the elves, the military, the witches. She spoke about their allies, and those who had helped them. She told the story of how she and her sisters had left Belladonna Cove and how she’d found La Fiesta Tech - and Stella.
  10. 10. Stella spoke about growing up with the aliens, and how she’d ended up with Maddie. She talked about the differences between humans and aliens, and how much she preferred her current life. She chose to wait to discuss what the aliens had shown her just hours before. She wanted to tell Maddie before telling the kids. With every word her mothers spoke, Roxanna’s eyes grew wider and wider, though she didn’t say a thing.
  11. 11. “The kids also have something to tell us, don’t they?” Maddie said when Stella was done. She looked pointedly at all four of her children.
  12. 12. Seren and Ma’or looked at each other. “Same time?” he asked. “Yup.” They reached within themselves and became the dog and the cat. Stella rubbed her forehead. “We have children who can turn into animals.” “Oh, it gets better.”
  13. 13. At that point, Seren and Ma’or became human once more. “We can’t understand human speech in those forms,” Seren said. “So if we’re going to participate in the conversation, it’s best for us to be human.” Seren looked around. “I’m guessing you guys have powers, too?” she said to her sisters. Astraea grinned. “Not exactly the same, but, yeah, I’ve got a power.” Then she disappeared.
  14. 14. Stella put her head on the table. “Astraea can go invisible.” “Yup,” Maddie said, pseudo-cheerfully. “Astraea, the child most likely to sneak out and get into trouble, can go invisible.” “Indeed,” Nine answered. “We are putting a bell on your door.”
  15. 15. Astraea pouted as she became visible once more. “Mum,” she said, “I promise to only use my powers for good.” All three of her parents looked at her. She sighed. “Fine. I know you’ll do it anyway.”
  16. 16. Roxanna had been silent throughout all of this. Her siblings could go invisible and become animals, and she saw people who weren’t there. Was that some sort of power? Or was she just crazy? “Powers are somewhat normal in our family,” Maddie said. “I should have known you’d all have them. The powers come from our elven blood. We don’t have much of it, but it’s still there, and it breeds true. It’s dilute enough that we don’t get much, though - as far as I’m aware, the only people in my family who had powers when we were just part-elf were my great-great-grandfather Ed and his twin Ein - they were telepathic with each other.” She looked around at her children. “The powers showed up in full force when Ed was abducted by aliens and married a half- alien. All three of his children had powers, and when my great-grandmother Ainsley married a half-elf, all five of their children also had powers. Adding in alien blood, and new elven blood, made the powers come out.”
  17. 17. “Since then, the powers have been disappearing as the blood has thinned. My father could walk through solid objects, and he said his older sister could talk to plants. But his brother and younger sister didn’t have any special powers.” She took a deep breath. “My sister Alice was the only one of the three of us to get a power, and I don’t know if it came from the elf blood, the alien blood, or the witches’ attack. Before hers showed up, my father was the only person I knew with powers, and to me, it was part of him. It wasn’t something that I really expected to have.” Stella placed her hand on Maddie’s. Maddie smiled at her, then continued. “As soon as I was old enough to really understand Alice’s power, I was glad I didn’t have one. She has the ability to borrow other people’s talents - powers, special skills, anything at all. She accidentally stole my piano skills a number of times, most of which were very annoying. It did save us, though, in the end. Eloise would be a vegetable without Alice’s powers.” She paused for a moment.
  18. 18. “I should have known you’d all have powers. I married an alien, after all.” She smiled at Stella, then turned to Roxanna. “We’ve seen your siblings. What’s your power?” Roxanna looked down. “I see people who aren’t there.” “Now that’s not true,” a voice interjected.
  19. 19. Roxanna looked over at the empty seat to see her old imaginary friend sitting there. “Not you again!” “Yes, me again. We’re not imaginary. You’re not crazy. Your siblings have powers, and so do you.” “Prove it, then. What’s my power, according to you?” she challenged. He smiled. “You see dead people.” “What?” “Ghosts. Dead people. Whatever you want to call us. We sometimes stick around, and you can see us.”
  20. 20. To everyone else at the table, it appeared to be a one-sided conversation that Roxanna was having with thin air. Hearing only one half of the conversation really wasn’t helping with their comprehension.
  21. 21. “If you say I’m seeing dead people, prove it.” Everyone at the table gasped in unison. Roxanna and her imaginary friend ignored them. “You’ll have to relate my words, of course.” She nodded. “Tell your mother-” “Which mother?” “Stella. Tell her that PT9 - that’s me - says hello, and that I’m glad she finally married that girl.”
  22. 22. Roxanna told her family what PT9 had said. The reactions from her mothers made it very clear that PT9 was telling the truth. “You know,” Astraea said, letting their mothers have a bit of privacy to deal with their sadness, “your power is possibly more awesome than mine, though not so useful for sneaking out.” Roxanna smiled weakly. “Kind of freaky when you realize you’re talking to people who no one else can see.” Ma’or nodded. “I’d imagine it would be.” “Also, I can’t tell the difference between people who are alive and people who aren’t. They look exactly the same. So the only clue I really have is that no one else is reacting to them.” PT9 cleared his throat. “Actually, there is a way to tell.”
  23. 23. “Really?” “Mirrors.” “What do you mean, mirrors?” PT9 looked around at the group. “Actually, all of you should know this. I know you have mirrors in the room with the drumset. Let’s go there, and I’ll show you. It’ll be easier to see that way.” Roxanna nodded and stood up. “Where are you going?” Seren asked. “The old nursery. Come on.”
  24. 24. They all walked into the old nursery and, at PT9’s urging, moved the drumset out of the way. Roxanna stood in front of the mirror. “The difference between living people and dead people,” PT9 said, “is that dead people don’t show up in mirrors.” He walked over to stand next to her. Roxanna looked next to her - there he was, clear as day. Then she looked in the mirror. He didn’t show up at all there. She related his words to the rest of the family.
  25. 25. Stella smiled. “Of course. They told me that, when I changed my skin to come down here to watch Maddie. Mirrors show only the truth. Dead people are dead, so they wouldn’t show up, as vampires don’t.” She looked at her other three children. “This probably affects the rest of you, as well.” “What do you mean, Mum?” Seren asked. “Change in front of the mirror, you and Ma’or.”
  26. 26. They did so, and everyone looked. While there appeared to be a dog and a cat on the ground, in the mirror they could see Seren and Ma’or.
  27. 27. Seren and Ma’or changed back and moved out of the way. Roxanna poked Astraea. “Your turn, sis.” Astraea moved in front of the mirror and went invisible. As had happened with Seren and Ma’or, outside of the mirror, she couldn’t be seen at all - but in the mirror, she was very visible.
  28. 28. PT9 idly walked over to stand next to Astraea, and Roxanna looked at them. Out of the mirror, she could see her imaginary friend. In the mirror, she could see her sister. And yet, both were actually there. “Well,” she said, “I think I’m going to start carrying around a hand mirror.” ***
  29. 29. Once the kids were all in bed and Nine was busy at his robot bench, Maddie and Stella headed up to their bedroom. “The good news is that they won’t bother our children or Nine, though they’ll likely abduct either of us any time we stargaze.” “No stargazing unless I want to get abducted. Check.” Stella barely smiled at that, and Maddie knew something was wrong. “What’s the bad news?”
  30. 30. Stella told Maddie about the images the aliens had shown her - of the possible elves and their tent, of the three people they knew who had become zombies. When she was done, they sat in silence for a while. “The kids are going to have to leave soon,” Maddie said. “Tomorrow?” “Not that soon, I don’t think. They’re considerably younger than I was when the witches attacked. When we left. Alice said, then, that if we don’t leave on our own, something bad will happen.”
  31. 31. “You think they’re getting close to that point?” “Not quite yet, but soon. Like I said, they’re a lot younger than I was. And, well, bad shit happened, but it all turned out fine. I think we’ve got a bit of time.” “I hope so. I’d like them to be able to leave for college, and not because they have to run.” “Agreed. So we’re not telling them about the zombies or elves?” “No. We’ve still got time to deal with it, we’ll figure it out.” “We will.”
  32. 32. As neither of them had Roxanna’s power, they didn’t notice the man standing in their room, watching as they cuddled and talked. “That’s what you think,” he said. “I look forward to seeing how you react when, as you said, the ‘bad shit’ happens.” He smiled - a cold, cruel smile. “The clock starts ticking when the youngest child becomes a teen. And while your children are quite a bit younger than you were, Madeleine? They’re already quite a bit older than your baby sister was. That clock is ticking down, and it’s going to hit hard. And it’s just horrible that I can’t tell you, isn’t it? You’ll just have to find out when it happens.” He shrugged and left the room. “Too bad.” ***
  33. 33. The weekend started very calmly early the next morning, when Nine decided to teach Hoshi how to use the toilet.
  34. 34. In fact, everyone was up very early despite the fact that they hadn’t gone to bed until quite late the night before. “Why are you jumping on the couch?” “I’m excited!” “About what?” “I’m not crazy! You do not know how exciting this is, Astraea. I mean, I’ve been seeing people who no one else could! I thought I was going nuts.” “Nah, you’re already nuts. I should know, I’m your twin.” “Oh, be nice. Besides, jumping on the couch isn’t nuts; it’s fun!”
  35. 35. Roxanna made one last flip, then grabbed the other controller and joined Astraea in an SSX3 battle. “Hell, you enjoy having fun just as much as I do.” “True. Still allowed to tease you, though!” “Only if I can tease you back.” “It’s a deal.”
  36. 36. After they finished their game, they took showers and headed downstairs, joined by their other siblings. And, once it was light, they invited all of their friends - and their parents’ friends - over for the day.
  37. 37. Some of the parents were not all that bothered by their children’s amorous interactions.
  38. 38. Others most definitely were.
  39. 39. They didn’t spend all of their time in pairs. All of the teens hung out as a group for a breakfast that Nine had cooked.
  40. 40. And they played and talked with all of their friends - and alone, too.
  41. 41. However, much of their weekend was spent engaging in romantic pursuits.
  42. 42. “Mum, do you ever get sick of watching us?” “Sometimes, yes, but I’m glad you all are enjoying your teenage years.” “We are, yeah.” “And also that you’re enjoying learning.”
  43. 43. “I am. I like Redwood a lot, but that doesn’t mean I ever want to stop learning.” “Is your book interesting?” “It is. There’s a lot of info in here about fixing things. How’s yours?” “Quite exciting. I think I’ll experiment with lobster thermidor sometime soon.” Seren raised an eyebrow. “Try not to burn it.” “I make no guarantees.”
  44. 44. Much fun was had, whether alone or with their siblings and friends.
  45. 45. And Nine even taught Hoshi how to play dead.
  46. 46. At night, the telescope was usually occupied - Nine, Seren, and Ma’or all had quite a lot of interest in seeing the stars. There was some disappointment on all their parts when none of them were abducted, but the rest of the family only felt relief. It was a busy weekend, but everyone enjoyed it. ***
  47. 47. Monday started a long week of school and work. Some of the kids were more cheerful than others about attending classes. “Hey Dad! Have a great day recharging!”
  48. 48. And some were quite happy when the days were done.
  49. 49. On nice days, they did their homework outside - and most of the days were nice. That was the benefit of living in a desert. “I still don’t get how you guys find this stuff interesting,” Astraea said. “It’s boring as hell.” “Oh, come on, it’s not so bad,” Ma’or said. Seren nodded in agreement. “Besides, if we don’t do well, how will we get into college?” Roxanna looked at her siblings with wide eyes. “College?”
  50. 50. Roxanna and Astraea knew that their mum wanted them to go to college, but neither of them could quite see the point. Seren and Ma’or, on the other hand, were very enthusiastic about the idea. “You know, girls,” their mom had said, when they’d asked her about college - since she hadn’t been pushing them to apply, “college isn’t just about work. It’s also about having fun. Some of the best years of my life were at LFT, and I did meet your mum there. I can’t ever regret that. You’ll find things to do there, even if you won’t enjoy the schoolwork the way Seren and Ma’or will.” That had helped, a bit, but Roxanna and Astraea had agreed that they’d go to college to please their mothers - and spend as much time as possible having fun while there.
  51. 51. When the kids weren’t in school or doing their homework, they had their friends over, and there was much dating.
  52. 52. And also much playing.
  53. 53. They spent time doing a variety of things, most of them fun.
  54. 54. And, amazingly, Seren even learned to make grilled cheese without burning it. ***
  55. 55. All four of the kids took some time to experiment with their powers. Seren and Ma’or spent quite a bit of time playing with and talking to Hoshi in their animal forms. They left the house occasionally, to test their senses, and found that they basically were their animals when they were in those forms.
  56. 56. Seren also bought herself a bone to chew on while she was a dog. Her siblings teased her about that, but she pointed out that, as a dog, chewing was very enjoyable. Besides, Ma’or wasn’t able to stay away from Hoshi’s catnip mouse when he was a cat, so she just teased him back.
  57. 57. As threatened, bells had been put on Astraea and Roxanna’s door, which meant that Astraea really couldn’t sneak out at night anymore - at least not via the door. She became very good at climbing in and out of the window while invisible.
  58. 58. At times, she felt bad that she was sneaking out so much at night. On the other hand, she still had that urge to go wandering, and she knew she was just going to up and leave one day unless she did something to quell it. She noticed signs of it, at times, in Seren and Ma’or - though they seemed to quell it by becoming animals and running around. Invisibility wasn’t enough for her, though, which meant wandering. And her mothers would kill her if she played hooky from school to go out, so the middle of the night it was.
  59. 59. Roxanna also spent time exploring her power, now that she knew what it actually was. She carried a hand mirror everywhere, and used it to check if people were living or not whenever she met anyone new - even when they were her mother’s coworkers. She knew it probably made her look vain, but she didn’t care. It was very worth it to know for certain if anyone was living or not.
  60. 60. She found herself becoming close friends with Carli and Doran, especially now that she knew they were actually her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. They told her about her heritage, and she listened eagerly. And her siblings got used to seeing her playing mahjong by herself.
  61. 61. She learned about the other side of her heritage from PT9, who spent much of his time with her. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do now that he was dead, after all. “I mean, I get that you’re dead, and there’s not a lot to do, but…why me?” “Besides the fact that you can see us?” “You didn’t know that for a long time, though. I didn’t fully come into my power until I was a teen.” “I could see hints of it. You always seemed to know I was there, even if you couldn’t quite hear or see me.” “Yeah, true.”
  62. 62. “Besides, you’re my family.” “Are we?” “Not genetically. But Stella is the closest I have to a daughter, other than Jill, and she’s been gone for a long time.” “But you could go visit with her, right? Or your son. Didn’t you have a son?” “Johnny, yes. And I could go visit with either of them, yes. We’re all ghosts, floating around. But the living are far more interesting, and you’re the most interesting to me.”
  63. 63. “I’m not that interesting.” “Oh, but you are. You’ll be someone one day, Roxanna, and not just because you’re a Doran.” “I guess.” “I know you will. We ghosts, we tend to stay where we died, unless there’s someone who interests us. Usually, that’s family. That’s probably why Carli and Doran follow you. I consider you family, as well.” “That can’t be the only reason, though, right?” “What do you mean?”
  64. 64. “Well, you’ve seen the other ghosts. And, I mean, Carli and Doran, even Titania - from what Mom said, I can see why she’d consider us family, even if she doesn’t know I can see her or talk to her. But what about Oberon?” He thought for a moment, then spoke slowly. “I think, maybe - to Oberon, you’re important for a different reason. For vengeance, perhaps. You, your whole family, you’re a symbol of what he tried to prevent but couldn’t.” “We lived when he didn’t want us to.” “You Dorans are good at that.” ***
  65. 65. That Saturday, there were a number of events going on. Aldric and Almeric had a political event to go to, as they were both on Viper Canyon’s City Council. Naturally, their wives were invited. Stella had a hospital event, which she, as Chief of Staff, absolutely could not miss. Maddie, of course, would be going with her. None of the couples were willing to leave their children alone, despite the fact that all eight of them were teens. They knew the trouble that they could get into. Luckily, Nine was available, and agreed to keep an eye on the kids, so Aldric and Blossom’s three and Almeric and Klara’s one all came over to the Doran house for the night. They even brought pajamas, in case their parents were really late getting home.
  66. 66. Astraea, naturally, wanted one more friend to join them. “Hello?” “Susanna, hi!” “Hey Astraea.” “You should totally come over tonight. Starchild and Klara and Redwood and Ziggy are all over for the night, and we’d love to have you too.” Susanna looked out her window. It was still light out, but she didn’t think she’d be allowed out, and certainly not for the night. “I’ll ask Aunt Rosalie.”
  67. 67. “Aunt Rosalie?” Her aunt was in her bedroom, fixing her hair and makeup. “Yes, Susanna?” “Can I go visit my friends tonight?” “No. I need to send your parents out for something, and you know the rules.” “When they’re out, I’m in.” Susanna wanted to protest, but she’d seen enough of Aunt Rosalie’s temper to know not to protest. “I’ll go use the bathroom now, then.” “I’ll bring you a sandwich later.”
  68. 68. Susanna returned to her room and picked up her phone again. “Sorry, Astraea.” “Again? You’re never able to go out.” “I know. Believe me, I know.” “Your aunt is a bitch.” Susanna shuddered, glad that she at least had a cell phone. If her aunt had heard that by picking up a second line… “I’m sorry.” “Fine. Whatever.” Astraea hung up.
  69. 69. Susanna used the bathroom, then sat down on her bed. She really did want to go out, but if Aunt Rosalie said the answer was no…the answer really was no. ***
  70. 70. “She said no?” “Again. I can’t believe it, Roxanna. She always says no!” “Well, maybe her parents are really strict.” “It’s all her aunt. Who is a total bitch, by the way.” “Well, look on the bright side - you can keep Katja company in the lacking-a-significant-other group!” “I’m not lacking a significant other. She’s just not here.” “I know. I’m sorry, Astraea.”
  71. 71. Astraea and Roxanna watched as Ziggy and Katja had a to-the-death SSX3 battle, while Seren and Ma’or and Starchild and Redwood played mahjong behind them. “I’m going to go find her.” “What?” “Susanna. I want to see her, and if her crazy aunt won’t let her out of the house, well, I’ll go to her.” “Do you even know where she lives?” “Well, no, but how hard can it be to find out?” Roxanna shrugged. “Don’t ask me. I’m not the computer geek.”
  72. 72. Ten minutes later, all eight of the kids had squeezed into the study. Katja had taken over the computer, with Astraea pulling a chair up next to her and the others standing behind them. “Okay, so, Susanna Rhodes, right?” “Right,” Astraea said. “I think the easiest way to get her address is going to be through the school, since they’ve got to have some official information.” As Katja spoke, she typed a lot, clearly getting somewhere. “Plumbbob, they’ve got horrible security. What kind of idiot makes ‘Password’ their password?” “A really stupid one,” Redwood answered.
  73. 73. Katja typed some more, and clicked on a few things. “Okay, it says here that she lives at 15 Mesa Drive.” Her brow furrowed. “Isn’t that right near you guys?” she asked her cousins. “Yeah, Mesa Drive runs near our backyard,” Ziggy said. “Alright, then,” Astraea said. “Time to go.” Just then, Nine stuck his head in the door. “What are you all doing in here?” “Nothing,” they all said. Katja hastily closed the windows on the computer. “I need to use the computer, if you do not mind.” “No, not at all.” They all left the room.
  74. 74. Nine sat down at the computer. He tried to see what they had been looking at, but Katja had wiped the browser history. On the other hand, she’d had barely a minute to do so, and probably hadn’t been able to do a complete job. His brow furrowed. “I suspect that was important. I shall have to try and retrace what they did.” ***
  75. 75. When they left the study, they all headed into the living room and gathered on the floor. “I’m going to go get her.” “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Astraea?” Roxanna asked nervously. “I don’t really care if it’s a good idea or not. I’m sick of sitting and waiting for something to happen, I need to do something.” “Yeah, but Dad’s here, how are you going to hide sneaking out from him?” “You’re going to cover for me.”
  76. 76. “What?” Astraea looked around at the group. “All of you are gonna cover for me, while I go get Susanna and bring her here. If Dad asks where I am, tell him I’m, I don’t know, in the bathroom. Or playing with invisibility. Or something.” “The study is right near the front door,” Ma’or pointed out. “Dad’ll hear you.” “Not if I go out a window.”
  77. 77. “At least take someone with you,” Roxanna pleaded. “Who? One of you? None of you can go invisible, and that’s how I’m going to travel.” Roxanna looked around, but none of her ghostly friends were there at the moment. She frowned. “We’ll go with you,” Seren said. “We will?” Ma’or asked. “As animals. We can sneak out and go with you, though we’ll have to be careful about sticking together.” Astraea nodded. “Okay.”
  78. 78. She stood up, looking down at Roxanna and the Davis kids. “You’ll cover for us?” Roxanna took a deep breath. “We will.” “Thanks.” “Go. Be safe.” “Don’t worry. We will.” Astraea went invisible, Seren and Ma’or became animals, and the three of them climbed out a window. ***
  79. 79. “You know, we should have left for the party at least an hour ago.” “Yeah, but we had fun, didn’t we?” Stella glanced at the clock, then out the window (it had gotten dark while they were woohooing) as she pulled her dress back on. “Yes, we did. Get dressed - we really need to go.” Maddie relaxed on the bed in her underwear. “Or we could just stay in bed all night. Nine is watching the kids-” “Who are downstairs-” “The hospital can live without you-” “I’m Chief of Staff. I really do need to be there.”
  80. 80. Maddie sighed as she stood up. “Oh, fine.” She pulled on her dress. “You do look hot in that dress, though. You should wear a sari more often.” “It’s not often that I have cause to, but they wanted a themed party.” “Around the world, yeah.” Maddie admired herself in the mirror. “I still have it.” “Yes, you do.” “Certain I can’t convince you to let me tear that off you again?” “Sorry, but no.”
  81. 81. They walked down the stairs and found Roxanna and Ziggy playing pool, Katja and Redwood playing chess, and Starchild playing with Hoshi. “Goodbye, kids!” Maddie said cheerfully. Stella looked around the room. “Where are your sisters and brother?” “Er, um-” Roxanna began. She was interrupted by Redwood. “Astraea tried to cook something, Mrs. Doran. We think it caused food poisoning.” “Good thing the rest of us didn’t eat it, right?” Ziggy added.
  82. 82. “Yeah, uh, don’t go into the bathrooms,” Katja said. “It’s not pretty.” Stella frowned. “Are you sure they’re alright? I’m a doctor…” “Yeah, they’ll be fine,” Roxanna said. Then her eyes narrowed. “Weren’t you two supposed to be at your party, like, an hour ago?” Stella blushed and Maddie smirked. “Oh Plumbbob, you were woohooing again? Can you please just go before you totally gross me out?” “You know, Roxanna, woohoo is a totally natural thing,” Maddie said. “But I don’t want to hear about it from my parents!” Roxanna shooed them off. “Just go, okay?” They smiled at each other, then left for the party.
  83. 83. When they were gone, the teens all breathed a sigh of relief. “Dodged a bullet there,” Roxanna said. “Thanks for covering, Redwood.” “No problem.” ***
  84. 84. Astraea managed to find Susanna’s house without a problem - being able to invisibly go and check the numbers was helpful. “Seren, Ma’or,” she said quietly. They couldn’t understand her, and she knew that, but they could recognize her voice and their names. She became visible just for a moment and gestured for them to stay. They both nodded, then started prowling around the house, clearly on guard duty. She went invisible again and opened the door, walking silently through the house.
  85. 85. While walking around the house, Seren and Ma’or saw some people who probably didn’t belong there. “Are you sure about this, Sanar?” “We need to deal with the zombies. And, hell, they know we’re strange.” “But showing ourselves to be elves?” “They’ll start chasing us, but we can run faster than their bullets, and take their guns-” “And lead them straight to the Dorans. Not a bad plan, Sanar.” “Thanks, Ryelle.”
  86. 86. The strangest part, to Seren and Ma’or, was that they could understand half of the conversation. They were used to not being able to understand humans while animals - but they could understand the blond elf. And she was definitely an elf. Her ears alone were proof of that. They looked at each other, then leaned in close and whispered, in case she could understand them too. “What the hell?” Seren asked. “I have no idea.” “That’s Mom’s friend Ri. She was at our teen birthday.”
  87. 87. “She’s an elf, though. And chasing us.” “I figured that out.” “Why can we understand her?” “What Mom said about powers. Some elves have them, right?” “So like our - what was it…” “Our great-grandfather’s sister. She can speak to animals.”
  88. 88. Ryelle had noticed them. Her eyes narrowed. “A dog and a cat together? That’s unusual.” Seren and Ma’or exchanged a glance, then Ma’or started running and Seren started chasing him. “Dog dog dog dog!” he yelled. “Come back here cat and let me bite you!” Ryelle started to follow, but Sanar put a hand on her elbow. “We don’t have time to deal with animals right now, no matter how weird they are.” “I think they’re important, though.”
  89. 89. Ma’or came running around the other side of the house, Seren chasing him. They veered away from the elves, still running. Ryelle started walking towards them, and Sanar sighed and followed her. There was a loud crash. All four of them stopped in their tracks and turned to face the house. ***
  90. 90. When Frances and Kendra had reached town, off to get supplies that Rosalie wanted, they were intercepted by Madam Barbara. “You two owe me a favor,” she said. “You’re demanding repayment now?” Kendra asked. “I am.” “What do you want?” she said. “Hold on a second,” Frances said.
  91. 91. Both women turned to look where Frances was looking, which was across the street, at a car entering the hospital parking garage. “That’s Maddie and Stella,” he said. He turned to Madam Barbara. “Give us one more night. Then we’ll repay your favor.” “You will owe me double.” Frances and Kendra exchanged a glance. “We’re fine with that.” Madam Barbara nodded, then left. Frances and Kendra headed for the garage. ***
  92. 92. The house didn’t feel lived in at all. Astraea shivered a bit as she walked through the house, feeling instinctively that something was wrong about the place. The living room was empty, the kitchen looked like it was barely used, the bathroom was neat as a pin, and the room off of the living room was locked.
  93. 93. There was one last room on the floor, and Astraea decided to investigate it. This room looked like it had some use, at least. There was a large sofa, which looked fairly comfortable. And - was that an urn? Who had died here? She stepped into the room and went to look at the urn.
  94. 94. The door closed with a click. She looked up. “Well, hello, you must be one of Susanna’s little friends.” Astraea looked down at herself. She was still invisible, so how was this woman - this zombie - seeing her? “Oh, I can’t see you, not directly. But you’re perfectly visible in the mirror.”
  95. 95. Astraea looked behind herself. The entire wall was mirrored. She blanched. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you.” The zombie laughed. “Actually, I am.” She looked around herself. “DAVE!” she yelled. Another zombie came running up. “Yes, Rosalie?” “Bring me Susanna.” “She’s locked-” “Take my keys.”
  96. 96. A minute later, Susanna was standing next to the zombie. “Is this one of your little friends?” Susanna looked at Astraea’s reflection. Her face went completely white. “Aunt Rosalie-” “Did you tell them where we lived, you ungrateful little bitch?” She frantically shook her head. “No, Aunt Rosalie. I swear I didn’t. I just said I couldn’t come over today, they must have looked it up…” If this was Susanna’s Aunt Rosalie…well, Astraea suddenly understood why she wasn’t willing to disobey her.
  97. 97. “Well,” Rosalie said, clearly considering something. “Yes, I can use this.” She turned to look right at Astraea, a cruel smile crossing her lips. “I’ve wanted to hurt your parents for a long time, little girl. And do you know what will hurt them most?” She opened the door and stepped right inside it, blocking the entryway. Then she pulled something out of her pocket. Astraea’s eyes widened as she dove for the window.
  98. 98. Rosalie shot once, twice, and a third time. She blew on the gun when she was done and Grim was there, picking up Astraea, visible once more in death. “What will hurt them most, my dear? Your death.”
  99. 99. Susanna slid bonelessly to the floor. She’d just watched her aunt kill her girlfriend. She’d just watched her aunt kill her girlfriend. Rosalie came out of the room. “Your friends are quite useful, darling. Thank you for getting her to come over here.” “You’re welcome,” she said automatically. Rosalie’s head tilted. “They’ll come after us soon. Then I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.”
  100. 100. She left, headed for the front door, as Susanna began to weep. ***
  101. 101. Something made Roxanna look up. It felt like her heart had been ripped out of her chest, and she had no idea why. “What’s wrong?” Ziggy asked. It wasn’t like Roxanna to miss a shot. “I don’t know.” He peered at her more closely. “When did you get freckles? You didn’t have them ten minutes ago.”
  102. 102. Her heart stopped. “PT9!” she yelled. “Damnit, where are you!” He appeared. “Is something wrong?” “I don’t know. Go find - go follow Astraea.” “Where is she?” Roxanna shook her head. “I don’t have time for this.”
  103. 103. She took off running, through the house and toward Mesa Drive. The four Davis kids exchanged glances, then followed. PT9 did too.
  104. 104. Nine came out of the study just in time to see them pass him by. “Where are you all going?” he asked. He was about to follow when the phone rang. He hesitated for a moment, then picked it up. “Hello?” ***
  105. 105. “Stella! Madeleine! You’re late!” Maddie raised an eyebrow at Stella’s coworker Mal, who’d just gotten out of his own car. “And you’re not?” He shrugged. “Sabriel wasn’t happy about me leaving.” “Ah,” Stella said. “Ours are old enough that they welcome the freedom of us not being there.”
  106. 106. The door to the garage opened again, and all three of them looked over to see who was coming in. It wasn’t a car. Instead, Frances and Kendra stood just inside the doorway, and Frances was holding a gun. “Oh no,” Stella whispered. That was all she had time to say before Frances fired.
  107. 107. The shot went straight for Maddie, but it never hit her. Mal jumped into the path of the bullet. He screamed as it hit his shoulder. “Fire again, you fool!” Frances tried, but the gun was empty. A look of realization came over his face. “One bullet’s not enough to kill a zombie,” he muttered. Kendra got the same look. “Damn that Rosalie.” There was the sudden sound of more guns firing.
  108. 108. When the noise was over, Frances and Kendra lay, dead on the pavement.
  109. 109. Five people had come from the hospital, clearly called by the sound of the first shot. The three doctors rushed over to help Stella, who was already leaning over Mal trying to perform triage. The other two people walked over to look at the zombies. “Dead,” one of them said. “Nice shot, Andrew.” “Yours was just as good, Armando.” “What happened, anyway?”
  110. 110. “I think they wanted revenge,” Maddie said. She joined them, feeling utterly useless with the doctors who were working to keep Mal alive and healthy. “They’ve been holding grudges since college.” “On you?” “Yeah. Me and Stella. I - thanks, for taking care of them.” “It was our duty.” “You’re both police officers, right?” “We are.” “Viper Canyon Police Department at your service,” Andrew said, cracking a smile.
  111. 111. “I do have to ask, though - where the hell did you manage to hide a gun in that outfit?” “A policeman never tells!” One of the female doctors called over to them, then. “Can you come over here and help us get Mal inside?” “Is he alright, Bella?” “He’ll live, but he needs treatment now, and we don’t have time to get a stretcher. Help us get him inside, then you can return to finding out whatever the hell was going on.” Armando and Andrew nodded, then came around to help pick Mal up, along with the male doctor. “Fred, Stella, we could use you inside,” the male doctor said. “We’ve got great staff here, but more help is better.”
  112. 112. Fred nodded. “I’ll get the doors, Arthur.” “Thanks.” Stella was about to follow when Maddie stopped her. “If they came after us - I want to check on the kids.” “Right.” Stella looked at the other doctors, who were halfway to the doors. “Can you manage without me for a bit? We want to check on our children.” “Sure thing,” Bella said.
  113. 113. Stella pulled out her cell phone and dialed home. The phone rang once, twice, three times, before it was picked up. “Hello?” “Nine. How are the kids?” “I do not know.” “What?” “Roxanna and the Davis kids just ran out of the house as though something was chasing them. I have not seen Astraea, Seren, or Ma’or in almost an hour, and suspect they are not here either.”
  114. 114. Stella put the phone on speaker and relayed his words to Maddie. “Fuck,” Maddie said. “Alright, Nine, do you have any clue where they’ve gone?” “They were doing an internet search earlier, and I managed to trace through their history - they were looking up one Susanna Rhodes, who lives at 15 Mesa Drive.” “Rhodes? Shit. We’ve got to go there.” Stella nodded. “We will meet you there, Nine, but there are a few things I want you to do before you leave.” “Tell me.” ***
  115. 115. Roxanna, PT9, and the four Davis kids stopped just in sight of 15 Mesa Drive. Starchild and Ziggy both panted from unaccustomed exercise. “In there,” she said to PT9. “Go find Astraea.” He nodded and left at a run.
  116. 116. “She’s got to be in there,” Roxanna muttered. “She’s got to be.” Ziggy awkwardly patted her on the shoulder.
  117. 117. When PT9 came out five minutes later with a sad look on his face, shaking his head, Roxanna collapsed to the ground. “No,” she whispered. “No. No no no.” ***
  118. 118. Whatever Rosalie was expecting when she came outside, it clearly wasn’t the elves. “You,” she said, her eyes narrowing at Sanar, “you tried to kill me.” “I did. And I’ll do it again.” “Didn’t work last time.” As Rosalie lifted her gun, ready to fire, when Sanar’s spell pulled it away from her, into Ryelle’s hands. Ryelle lifted the unfamiliar object, clearly uncertain what to do with it. “Going to fight us without your weapons?” she asked.
  119. 119. Rosalie laughed. “You think that’s the only weapon I have? You’re at my home.” She pulled a remote control out of her pocket and switched it on. Sanar and Ryelle went up in flames.
  120. 120. Seren and Ma’or, still in animal form, jumped back from the fire. They didn’t like the the elves, but they hadn’t expected them to die, not like that.
  121. 121. They slowly slinked away, trying to avoid the notice of the crazy zombie, who was now laughing madly. “We need to go in and find Astraea,” Seren said. “How are we going to get in there, though? That crazy zombie is blocking the front door. Along with the fire.” “Wasn’t there a back door?” Ma’or shrugged. “We can try, I guess.”
  122. 122. They headed around the house and found Roxanna on her knees, the four Davis kids watching her, clearly uncertain what to do - or even what was wrong. They turned back to human. “What’s going on?” Ma’or asked. Starchild shook her head. “I don’t know. She’s been - something happened, and we came running, and she spoke to one of the ghosts. And then she started saying ‘no’ a lot.” Ziggy looked over at them. “I have no idea.”
  123. 123. A car pulled up and Maddie and Stella piled out. Nine came running up mere moments later. All three of them stopped suddenly when they saw the kids, six of them surrounding Roxanna, who was still on her knees. “What happened?” Maddie asked. The kids shook their heads in unison. “We don’t know,” Ziggy said. “Astraea,” Roxanna whispered. Her voice came out strangled and full of grief. “Astraea.”
  124. 124. There was a moment of silence. Seren was the one to finally force out the word. “Astraea?” Roxanna shook her head and curled herself into a ball.
  125. 125. The back door to the house opened and Rosalie stepped out. “Well, isn’t this touching?” she said. “A Doran family reunion.” The four Davis kids instinctively took a step back, moving away from the Dorans. “Dave!” she called.
  126. 126. Another zombie came out of the house. “Yes, Rosalie?” “Bring me the urn.” “Uh, which urn? There’s two of them…” “The one closer to the window, you idiot!” Maddie’s eyes widened in horror. “No,” she said. She looked at Roxanna, still curled in a ball on the ground. “No.”
  127. 127. Seren and Ma’or grabbed each other’s hands. Nine knelt down next to Roxanna and brushed a hand through her hair. Stella put her arm around Maddie. All of them waited, knowing it wasn’t going to be good.
  128. 128. When Dave brought the urn out, there was a gasp of horror that spread through all the watchers. He handed it to Rosalie. She turned it over in her hands, smiling cruelly.
  129. 129. Then she smashed it on the ground.
  130. 130. Roxanna flinched, curling up tighter around herself. “Oops,” Rosalie said. “I must have dropped it. What a tragedy.” “You,” Seren said, her voice shaking, “are a monster.”
  131. 131. “Care to say that again, little girl?” Rosalie asked, pulling out a gun and aiming it at Seren. “The elves took that away from you!” Ma’or said. “You think I keep only one gun? Of course I don’t.” She looked around at the family. “So, who wants to be the first to join your sister?”
  132. 132. “You’re not the only one with weapons,” Nine said. He pressed a button on his arm, and seven robots flew towards them from the direction of their house, stopping in front of the Dorans and Davises in a guard position.
  133. 133. “Dave!” Rosalie yelled. “Get everyone! And get them weapons!” Then she started shooting at the Dorans. Each shot was intercepted by a robot.
  134. 134. Unfortunately, the shots could stop the robots, and the robots weren’t firing back. And there were more zombies pouring out of the house at every moment, some of them armed. Nine stepped up behind Stella and Maddie. “This will stop them for a bit, but I did not realize we would need robots with offensive capabilities. They will cause an electric shock if touched, but I doubt the zombies will touch them.” “We’re going to have to figure something else out, then,” Stella said. She wasn’t used to having to be the strong one - Maddie was usually so confident in herself - but right now, it was necessary. “Do you have any ideas?” “I sent the message.” “We’ve got no guarantees they’ll see it.” She turned to Maddie. “Have you got any ideas?”
  135. 135. “Seren, Ma’or,” Maddie said. They looked at her. “Change into animal form.” “But Mom-” “If they kill the rest of us, at least you can run.”
  136. 136. They looked at each other, nodded, and changed forms. However, instead of running away from the zombies, they ran towards them, snarling and biting. “Don’t!” Maddie yelled. “Seren! Ma’or! Don’t!” They managed to trip up two zombies, but the others were aiming at them, and most of the robots were down.
  137. 137. “We’re all going to die, aren’t we?” Starchild whispered to her brothers and cousin. No one was aiming directly at them, but they suspected it was only a matter of time. “Or they’ll make us zombies,” Ziggy said. “Not sure which is worse.” “Being a zombie actually sounds kind of cool,” Redwood said. The other three stared at him. “Or not?” “I don’t - I wish we had a way to help,” Starchild said. Katja nodded in agreement.
  138. 138. They weren’t the ones to offer help, however. A noise sounded and everyone looked up.
  139. 139. One zombie after another was pulled up into the spaceship, their guns falling to the ground as they found themselves floating and accidentally dropped them. Seren and Ma’or moved back to their family and became human again, standing with their mothers, father, and sister.
  140. 140. Rosalie continued shooting, downing all of the defending robots. When there were none left, she aimed at Roxanna and fired the gun. It clicked, the sound of an empty gun firing. She was out of bullets. She paled as she looked around her, at the floating zombies and the living Dorans and Davises. A click sounded, the noise of a gun ready to be fired.
  141. 141. Roxanna held one of the fallen guns as she faced Rosalie. “Do you have the guts to kill me, little girl?” “You deserve to die.” “Do I?” “You killed my sister. You killed her without remorse. You deserve to die.”
  142. 142. Then Roxanna knelt and placed the gun on the ground. “I’m not going to kill you. I am better than that.” She turned to look at her parents. “Mum? Have them take her?” Stella nodded, then signaled to the spaceship.
  143. 143. ***
  144. 144. After everything was over, Nine called Blossom, then met her at her house with her children and niece. Then he returned home. The Dorans needed to be alone that night.
  145. 145. They all immediately collapsed into bed.
  146. 146. Roxanna, however, took one look at her bedroom and refused to enter it. Instead, after she scrubbed off her makeup (it had started running, anyway, from the tears), she fell asleep on the couch by the TV, with Nine sitting next to her, watching over her as she slept.
  147. 147. When she woke, it wasn’t quite dawn, and Nine was gone, cleaning the house from the mess the teens had left before everything had happened. She wasn’t alone, however. Carli, Doran, and PT9 were at the mahjong table.
  148. 148. She quietly came over and joined their game, not saying anything at all. “How are you doing?” PT9 finally asked. She looked down, then back up. “Not well. But, I mean, I’ll be okay. I’ll get to see Astraea again, once she’s a ghost. I can live with that.” Uneasy glances were exchanged. “What aren’t you telling me?”
  149. 149. “I’m sorry, Roxanna,” Carli finally said. “No one has seen her.” “What?” “She - she doesn’t seem to have become a ghost,” Doran said.
  150. 150. Roxanna stared at them all, completely unable to speak. “We think the urn smashing may have stopped her from…from becoming a ghost,” Doran said. “You do not know how sorry we are,” Carli added. PT9 placed his hand over Roxanna’s.
  151. 151. She pushed him away and stood up from the table. “I’m sorry,” Carli offered again. Roxanna just left. “Should we follow her?” Doran asked. “I don’t think she wants comfort from us right now,” PT9 said. He looked after her with worried eyes. “I can’t really blame her.”
  152. 152. Roxanna went downstairs, trying her best to be silent. She wasn’t nearly as good at it as Astraea had been. The sudden grief of that thought stopped her heart for a second. She forced herself onward, then snuck out the front door.
  153. 153. She collapsed onto the stairs.
  154. 154. Maddie found her there, two hours later. Unusually for her, she sat down silently, and stayed silent.
  155. 155. Roxanna finally spoke, hours later, her voice full of grief. “Astraea hasn’t come back.” Maddie put her hand on Roxanna’s elbow. “They, they said, maybe because her urn was smashed, that maybe she wouldn’t. No one has seen her. I don’t - why can’t I speak to her? Why won’t she talk to me?” “Some people just don’t come back. I’m so sorry, Roxanna. I’m so, so sorry.” “It’s not your fault, Mom.” Maddie took a deep breath. “Actually, it kind of is.” ***
  156. 156. “And, so, that’s the part of the story that we didn’t tell you,” Maddie said. “The zombies and elves were after us, though they’re gone now. And if you don’t leave, something bad will happen. I…I guess we found out what.” Stella place a hand on hers. Maddie smiled weakly. Seren, Ma’or, and Roxanna all stared at their mother in shock. Seren found her voice first. “You didn’t tell us this?” “I didn’t think it would matter.” “Well, it did,” Ma’or said. “It mattered a whole lot.”
  157. 157. “I know,” Maddie said. “I know. And - any children any of you have, they’ll be under the same curse.” She took a deep breath. “I think that may have been why Astraea was feeling the wanderlust - as almost a self-defense mechanism, knowing that something bad was going to happen and wanting to avoid it. Roxanna, can you-” She cut herself off. “Never mind.”
  158. 158. Roxanna was ignoring them, but the ghosts were there, and Doran was nodding in agreement with Maddie’s words. “I hate that this has happened to our descendants,” Carli said. Doran patted her on the shoulder. “As do I. As do I.”
  159. 159. Seren and Ma’or exchanged a glance. “I suddenly have an urge to go,” he said. “Same. Let’s leave tonight.” She turned to Roxanna. “Are you coming with us?” Roxanna looked up at her. “I…yes. Yes. I’m coming.”
  160. 160. Nine leaned over to Maddie and Stella. “If the teens are going, what are we going to do?” “I don’t know,” Maddie said. She rubbed her eyes. “I just don’t know.”
  161. 161. There was a loud whirring sound outside the house, and then the sound of something hitting the ground. All six of them exchanged glances and stood up, heading for the front door.
  162. 162. “Stella! Dorans! Hello!” Stella looked, brow furrowed, at the person standing on her front lawn. “Ado- Adult 511, what are you doing here? And why are you dressed as a human?” He clearly wasn’t an adolescent anymore, but she didn’t know anything more about him. “There has been a lot of discussion about everything that you told us about how we treat the humans. As a new Adult, I was offered the position of finding the part-aliens and telling them the things we have discussed with you. I have decided to take it, and will thus be spending time down here explaining the biology to such people. Therefore, I have chosen to take a human name, and ask that you call me by it.” “What name?” “Call me Cassidy.”
  163. 163. “Why that name?” “I’m told it was the name of my part-alien sibling. Though he is most likely long dead, I wanted to honor his memory.” Stella came down the stairs and hugged him. “I’m glad you’re doing this, 5-Cassidy. Someone certainly has to.” “I also have a few messages for you, about the zombies and other options for you.” “Come inside, then.”
  164. 164. The whole family returned to the dining room, Cassidy in tow. “What did you want to tell us?” Maddie asked, once they’d sat down. “The Council has decided to try and rehabilitate most of the zombies, though there is one that they suspect they will not be able to rehabilitate, who may have to be put down.” “Rosalie, I assume,” Stella said. “I believe that is her name. The leader.” He paused for a moment. “There is also discussion of studying them to find out more about both zombies and humans. I do not know what has been decided, however.” Stella nodded. “This is not unexpected.”
  165. 165. “What else did you have to tell us?” Maddie asked. “The Council would like to invite your whole family to visit the spaceship for some time.” Maddie and Stella exchanged a glance. “That’s not a bad idea,” Stella finally said. “I’d be open to that.” Maddie turned to the rest of the family. “What about you, kids, Nine?” Nine nodded. “I would quite like to find out what it is like on a spaceship.” “Kids? It would be leaving. As you-” She took a deep breath. “As you have to.”
  166. 166. The three teens looked at each other. Roxanna shook her head. “No.” Seren nodded, agreeing with Roxanna. “No.” Ma’or nodded too. “No. We’re not going to join you.” “It’s time for us to…to strike out on our own,” Seren said. “And who says that the spaceship will be any safer than Viper Canyon?” “It does sound interesting,” Ma’or said, “but it’s not for us. Not now.”
  167. 167. Cassidy nodded. “The option will remain open should you wish to join us in the future. All you - or any Doran - will have to do is send the Council a message, and then stargaze that night.” He told the teens how to signal the aliens, and all three memorized the instructions. Roxanna turned to her siblings. “We leave tonight?” “Yes.” “I’m going to go pack, then.” She left the room.
  168. 168. Everyone stared after her, worried looks on their faces. “You’ll take care of her?” Maddie asked. Seren and Ma’or nodded. “We will,” Seren said. “I can’t - I can’t imagine losing Ma’or.” “I don’t want to imagine losing you.” Ma’or turned to their parents. “We’ll take care of her. We swear it.” “Thank you,” Stella said quietly. Seren and Ma’or nodded to their parents, then headed upstairs to pack.
  169. 169. Nine turned to Maddie, Stella, and Cassidy. “Will we leave tonight, then?” “After the kids go,” Maddie said. “We’ll see them off, and then…I guess it’s time to explore space.” “But before then, we have to pack,” Stella said. “And I must resign from my job. I think Mal will be a good Chief of Staff.” ***
  170. 170. Later that morning, Seren and Ma’or walked over to Blossom and Aldric’s house, Ma’or carrying Hoshi in his arms. They’d asked Roxanna if she wanted to join them, to tell Ziggy she was leaving, but she’d just shaken her head, her eyes dead. “Which of us should speak to Ziggy?” Ma’or asked. “I will. Redwood and Ziggy are twins. They’ll get it. And, well, Redwood’s my boyfriend, so he’s mine to talk to.” Ma’or nodded. “Best to do them together, I suppose. And Starchild…” “She’s going to need you alone.” “She is.”
  171. 171. They met their friends at the door. Seren pulled the boys inside and up to their room, leaving Ma’or and Starchild standing and staring at each other, Ma’or still holding Hoshi. “So,” she said. “So.” “Do you-” “We should talk.” “Yeah.” She gestured to the side of the house. “Let’s go sit on the swings.”
  172. 172. Ma’or set Hoshi on the ground, then they sat down in silence and lingered for a bit. “We’re leaving tonight,” Ma’or finally said. “Me and Seren and Roxanna and-” He took a deep breath. “Me and Seren and Roxanna.” Starchild nodded. “I don’t want you to leave.” “I have to. Hell, I want to. You’re the only thing I’m going to miss about this town, Starchild.” “But not enough to stay.”
  173. 173. “No,” he said. “There is nothing that could convince me to stay, Starchild. The longer we stay, the worse it will get, and I will not be able to deal if it gets worse. Roxanna is barely hanging on by a thread, and Seren and I can only support so much.” They sat in silence for a while. “I have a favor to ask of you.” “What?” “Watch Hoshi for me?”
  174. 174. “You’re not taking him?” Ma’or shook his head. “We don’t know where we’re going, or how long it will take to get there. Please. Watch him, for me.” “Alright.” They stood up from the swings and hugged, Starchild clinging to Ma’or. “I’m sorry to leave you,” he whispered. “Kiss me once more before you go.”
  175. 175. ***
  176. 176. Madam Barbara tapped her foot as she surveyed 15 Mesa Drive. “This did not go according to plan. I should not have let them go.” Her eyes were drawn to a window on the second floor. The window was empty, but she knew who was in the room.
  177. 177. “I promised not to go after the child, yes. But you didn’t fulfill your end of the bargain.” She smiled. “The child, or perhaps a Doran. Any of them could work.” ***
  178. 178. Oh my fair North Star I have held to you dearly
  179. 179. I have asked you to steer me Til one cloud scattered night
  180. 180. I got lost in my travels I met Leo the Lion
  181. 181. Met a king and met a giant, with their errant knight
  182. 182. There's the wind And the rain And the mercy of the fallen
  183. 183. Who say they have no claim To know what's right
  184. 184. There's the weak And the strong
  185. 185. And the beds that have no answers And that's where I may rest my head tonight
  186. 186. I saw all the bright people In imposing flocks they landed
  187. 187. And they got what they demanded And they scratched at the ground
  188. 188. Then they flew, and the field Grew as sweetly for the flightless
  189. 189. Who had longing yet despite this They could hear every sound
  190. 190. There's the wind And the rain And the mercy of the fallen
  191. 191. Who say they have no claim To know what's right
  192. 192. If your sister or your brother were stumbling on their last mile In a self-inflicted exile Wish for them a humble friend
  193. 193. And I hope someday that the best of Falstaff's planners Give me seven half-filled manors
  194. 194. Where half-dreams may dream Without end
  195. 195. There's the wind And the rain And the mercy of the fallen
  196. 196. Who say, "Hey, it's not my place To know what's right”
  197. 197. There's the weak And the strong
  198. 198. And the many stars that guide us We have some of them inside us “Mercy of the Fallen” - Dar Williams ***
  199. 199. This has been a real rollercoaster ride of a turn, and it’s been a great experience, though also insane. I agree with everyone before me that it is totally worth it, and also totally crazy-making. However, it is time for my turn to be over, and time for the incomparable Stacie (swhedonberry) to take over for generation 9. She has, of course, already chosen an heir, and will let you all know which of these kids that will be. And, yes, I had approval from her (and the mods) for ALL of my plot. Though I’m fully expecting the rest of you to crucify me.
  200. 200. Of course, I also have to say thank you to a lot of people. First, and foremost, is Jamie. Without her, I wouldn’t have Maddie, and my generation would not be what it is. By extension, I’d like to thank the rest of the RR crew who came before Jamie, who gave me so much plot to work with, and so many places to go - and without whom, Maddie (and consequently the quads) would also not exist. Marina, Gin, Lark, Cait, Ori, Pen - thanks! Next, there is Stacie. She was an excellent plot-bouncing wall, and let me throw ideas at her until they stuck. Yet another thanks to Cait, who made Stella’s adult shirt for me when I couldn’t find the perfect outfit for her.
  201. 201. I’d also like to thank everyone who I stole sims from - there were a lot! I will be showing the cameos in my BTS, and discussing my reasoning for them. I fully intend to put up a BTS in the next week or so, which will be long, complicated, and somewhat crazy. It may take me a while. Next, I’d like to thank the cheer team, who got me through this, and reassured me that, yes, my plot would be fine, and no, they wouldn’t crucify me. I’d like to see if they eat their words! ;) And, finally, I’d like to thank the readers. Because, seriously, you are all awesome. So that’s all for gen 8 - stay tuned for Stacie and gen 9!